“We had to take a Bath with the Cows and the Pigs”

6 Jul

Johnny Evers was another in a long line of former players who felt baseball began to decline sometime around the day they stopped playing.

In 1931, he made his case to reporter James L. Kilgallen of the International News Service.  Kilgallen, called “an editor’s dream of a reporter,” by Damon Runyon, occasionally wrote about baseball in between covering, as he said, “every conceivable type of story in this country and abroad.” He was also the father of columnist Dorothy Kilgallen.

James L. Kilgallen

James L. Kilgallen

Evers told him:

“What a cinch they have nowadays.  And look at the dough they get.  Today everything is hunky dory for the ballplayer who makes the big league grade.  Fine hotels.  Excellent grub.  Best trains.  Pullman accommodations.  Taxi’s to the ballparks.

“What a difference from the old days, why, do you know when I used to play with the Cubs we had to take a bath with the cows and the pigs in that old West Side ballpark in Chicago.  No needle shower baths for us in those days.”

Kilgallen said of the former Cubs second baseman:

“I found Evers an interesting personality.  He did not display any bitterness when he compared the game today with his time.  Rather there was a note of surprise in his conversation because of the fact he does not believe the players now in the major leagues appreciate the easy comforts they enjoy in these times and the sensational salaries they receive.

“Evers used to be a slim, nervous, crabby little player, full of the old fight when he was in his prime.  The National League never had a scrappier player and he can be pardoned for showing impatience for the ‘easy come easy go’ attitude of some of the players of today.  Evers, now a middle-aged man is still well-preserved.  He is heavier of course but he has no paunch.  The glint in his light blue eyes is not as combative as it used to be but the old, aggressive underslung jaw of his suggests there’s a lot of scrap left in the old boy yet.”

Johnny Evers

Johnny Evers

As for that “easy come easy go attitude” of current players, Evers said “With a tinge of asperity in his voice:”

“It used to be an honor to break into the big leagues.  Nowadays, however, a lot of fellows who are signed up take it as a matter of course.  They don’t seem to feel the pride in our uniforms that we used to in the old days.  Today they play for a big batting average, knowing that when they talk salaries it’s their batting average that governs their pay to a large extent.”

The man who co-authored a book with the subtitle “The Science of Baseball,” had something to say about that as well:

“And if I do say it myself, we played as good ball—if not better—than they do today.  We played more scientific ball, at any rate.”

In the end, the not “bitter” Evers was convinced that many of the players who followed in his footsteps just didn’t care that much about playing the game:

“A stool pigeon is just what a lot of fellows in uniform develop into.  This type sit on the bench month in and month out, and don’t seem to care whether they are in the lineup or not.  They’d have to keep me out of the lineup.  That’s the way we all used to be.  Fighters for our place on the team.”

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