“Squeeze that Bird, there’s $30,000 Depending on it”

17 Aug

In 1922, Eddie Collins—billed in the byline as “World’s Greatest Second Baseman-“wrote a syndicated article about his post-season experience:

Collins

Collins

“Frequently I have been asked the question, ‘How does it feel to play in a World Series?’  I can at least say, ‘not monotonous, even tho I have participated in six.’

“The toughest part of any World Series, as far as the mental or nervous strain is concerned, that I have experienced has been when I was out of uniform.  Once in my baseball togs out on the field and in the game, I’ve never felt it any different from any regular season affair.  But in between games, especially if a postponement occurs, or the team is idle traveling, that is when I’ve felt ill at ease, with a longing for it to be over and to be miles away from baseball.”

Collins said the 1911 Series—with six consecutive days of rain between games 3 and 4, the longest delay in Series history until 1989—was “(T)he worst in this respect…I remember some of our team went to Cuba after the series, but I was so glad to be thru with baseball for that year I wouldn’t have gone for a mint.”

Collins said a World Series could “make or break a promising player,” and used his former teammate Wally Schang as an example:

“In 1913, in his first game the first time he came to bat against the Giants, (Jack) Barry was on first, no one out. ‘Shangie’ leaned over the bench and said to Manager (Connie) Mack. ‘What shall I do?’  Meaning whether to bunt or hit.  Connie hesitated for a fraction of a second, then said to the kid, ‘You go up there and use your own judgment.’

Schang

Schang

“Schang attempted to bunt the first, fouled it off, and on the very next ball flashed Barry the hit and run sign.  And bang went a base hit to center to center on which Barry made third and ‘Schangie’ pulled up at second on the throw in.  That play alone I honestly believe gave Schang more confidence than base hit he ever made before.”

Collins said another question he was often asked was:

“’ Do you think the fact they are playing for big stakes has any effect on the players and do some often see a dollar sign coming their way instead of a ball?’

“In general, I’d say no, because every player is too absorbed in the game itself, striving to win, rather than figuring on his share of the gate.”

Collins said some players remained loose, even during a stressful post-season game:

“I do recall a certain bit of jest that was pulled by Amos Strunk in 1913 on the play that ended that series and one that afforded three or four of us a good laugh afterward.

Strunk

Strunk

“It was on the Polo Grounds, and Larry Doyle hit a high fly toward short right which Eddie Murphy caught.

“Amos, McInnis and I were close to him when he was about to make the catch.  Just before he did ‘Strunkie’ hollered, ‘Squeeze that bird, there’s $30,000 depending on it.’  Which had reference to the (Fred) Snodgrass muff of the preceding year.  Needless to say ‘Murph’ squeezed it, and the game and series were over.”

The excitement of the World Series even overcame the taciturn Connie Mack on one occasion according to Collins:

“Mack so forgot himself, so enthusiastic and joyful did he become, as to do a miniature war dance on the bench in the eighth inning of our final game against the Cubs in 1910.  Once later, I remember, he got up to get a drink of water during a game against the Giants, but these are the only two instances I can recall where he ever moved from his usual place on the bench.”

Collins summed up his World Series experience:

“It’s great to be in a series, but take it from me, it’s greater when it’s over—and you have won.”

In his reminiscences of his six World Series appearances, Collins made no mention of 1919.

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