Clark Griffith, “How I Win”

14 Mar

In 1910, Cincinnati Reds Manager Clark Griffith spoke to journalist Joseph B. Bowles for one of  a series of syndicated articles in which baseball’s biggest stars described “How I Win.”

“If a fellow is going to cut any ice he needs ice picks and the first way for a manager to win is to get men who can deliver, and men intelligent enough to take care of themselves.

“My theories in regard to what constitutes a winner are the only ones, and I use them in instructing my players what to do.  I used them in pitching, and they worked out, and I believe any player will succeed if he follows them.”

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Griffith said baseball was “Ninety-nine and fifteen sixteenths” courage and nerve:

“It is more than that—it is what ballplayers call ‘guts’—which is courage with aggressive confidence behind it…The first thing to do to win baseball games is to go after anyone who does not wear a uniform that looks like yours, and go after him hard.  Hand every opposing player anything that will make him weaken or show the yellow.  Anytime I can convince my men that they are going to win and the other fellows that they are going to lose, I’ll win a pennant.”

He believed his confidence could successfully intimidate opponents:

“The best system of winning games is to tell the other fellow that you are going to beat him.  Tell it to him before the game starts and tell him in a way that will convince him.  You cannot convince him unless you believe it yourself.  I keep telling them all the time, and I believe it myself until the game is over and sometimes even then.”

Griffith said what he wanted most was for his players to:

“Take chances; any chance to gain an inch of ground or a base…Go after the game with intelligence and force every point as hard as possible…The player who takes chances of hurting himself seldom hurts either himself or his opponent and he will make a weak opponent run away.  More players get hurt stopping up on their feet and giving up before they are touched than are damaged in sliding to bases.”

He said that aggressiveness should also be directed at umpires:

“Then claim every point and claim it quick.  Holler.  ‘No, no’ real quick and beat the umpire to it on every close play a la (Johnny) Evers.  The umpire may be perfectly honest and square but on a close play the fellow who yells quickest is much more likely to get the decision.  I do not believe in fighting umpires or nagging at them.  I believe in yelling quickly.  Yelling quickly beats yelling loud all to pieces.  It is not cheating a bit, but simply protecting yourself on close plays not so much to get the decision yourself as to keep the other fellow from getting it.”

Griffith led the Chicago White Sox to the inaugural American League pennant during his first season as a manager in 1901.  And despite not winning one since, was very confident about his “theories” for success:

“These things, taken together with a little good pitching and perhaps one star pitcher, will win any pennant if carried out correctly and persistently, regardless almost of the mechanical ability of the players on the team.”

In the end, Griffith was unable “to win any pennant.”

His Reds teams in 1910 and 1911 were both sub .500 clubs and finished in fifth and sixth place.  He joined the Washington Senators in 1912, and finally with “one star pitcher’ he managed the team to two-second place finishes (1912-13), but did not win a pennant there either.  He stepped down as manager after the 1920 season to devote himself full time to his ownership duties.

One Star Pitcher

One Star Pitcher

He ended his managerial career with a 1491-1367 record over 20 seasons.

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