“Pace is what decides Pennant Races”

28 Oct

Joseph B. Bowles ran a newspaper syndication service in Chicago during the first two decades of the 20th Century.  His content was mostly religion and baseball.  One series of articles he published asked players and managers to explain “How I Win.”

Hugh Duffy, the new manager of the Chicago White Sox was the subject of a 1910 article:

“There is an element in baseball which is not on the surface, and which players, spectators, lovers of the game and often managers themselves do not realize or understand.  This element is pace.

Hugh Duffy

                            Hugh Duffy

“Pace is what decides pennant races.  The team that is fast enough, well conditioned enough and smart enough to set the pace, and force the other clubs to play at top speed all the time to hold in the race, is the pennant-winning team unless it cuts out too fast a pace and breaks itself.  In races where all the clubs start slowly and are a long time rounding into true playing condition, some flash in the pan club may win by a spurt of speed, but in most races the conditioned, fast team plays steadily and forcing the pace against its closest competitors, wins.

“Ability to hold the pace is the test of the gameness and the fighting spirit of a club and no club can win a pennant, or be a consistent winner unless it is courageous enough to stand the strain and fight every step of the way.

“Pennants usually are won by the gamest club, rather than by the fastest ones or the best ones.  Before a season starts each manager calculates the strength, the speed, and the hitting and fielding ability of the men under him and calculates what sort of pace is best suited to his team.  If he thinks his club is strong enough he may force the speed from the start, trying to spread eagle the other clubs and win away by himself.  Sometimes this is the best policy, for often an inferior club, if permitted to gain a big lead on the others, will get so full of confidence that nothing can stop it.  There have been such cases but they are seldom, and the manager who strains his pitching staff and risks damaging his team in order to gain an early lead is likely to find himself in mid-season with a crippled and broken club.  On the other hand, the manager who strives to hold back and save the strength of his team for a hard finish is liable to have a discouraged and beaten club on his hands just at the time he is ready to make his spurt towards the lead.

“The manager must strive to strike the happy medium, to reserve the strength of his team, especially of pitchers, without falling completely out of the race.  Above all, he must keep the spirit and the condition of his men to a high standard.  The well-conditioned club, composed of players working in unity, and with brains enough to keep themselves in condition all the time, will beat much better ball clubs in a bruising race.

“As for individual standards, I want brains on my ball club.  The smart ballplayer, who keeps thinking all the time, who is looking for an opening, and out thinking his opponents, is a much better player than the men who can out bat, outrun and outfield him.  Speed and hitting ability are the main essentials of a team.  I do not claim that twenty reporters, who probably know the game better than any twenty ballplayers do, could win a pennant, but the brains must direct intelligently the actions of trained hands and feet and if, combined with brains, hands and feet, a player has the quality known as aggressiveness, he is a winning ballplayer.  The manager cannot think for twelve men.  He can correct their mistakes, or tell them about their blunders, may order their plays and discipline them, but there are a hundred times in each game when the men must think for themselves and if they do not, then defeat is to be expected.”

Duffy was unable to find the “pace” with his White Sox, who finished in sixth place with a 66-85 record. Late in the season, The Chicago Daily News placed the blame on the manager, saying it was:

“(A) generally recognized fact that President Charles A. Comiskey’s 1910 White Sox are a dismal failure…Lack of teamwork and the inability of Hugh Duffy to manage the team properly are the real causes of the disgraceful showing.”

In eight seasons as a major league manager he never finished better than fourth place—he did win two championships in the minor leagues, with the Milwaukee Creams in the Western League in 1903 and the Portland Duffs in the New England League in 1915.

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One Response to ““Pace is what decides Pennant Races””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Rube Waddell, “How I Win” | Baseball History Daily - December 9, 2015

    […] Joseph B. Bowles, a Chicago journalist, produced a series of syndicated interviews with baseball sta….  Among them, Rube Waddell on “How I Win:” […]

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