“It was for Blood and not for Averages”

29 Apr

Pongo Joe Cantillon said in 1914:

“Let any baseball man of the country of the present day type pick out a ball club from players who have come up in the last fifteen years and I will pick one from the old school and presume that they play under present day rules. Then we can leave it to the judgement of the people who have watched baseball for the past twenty-five years and I believe the players of today will find that they are not in a class with the old school performers.”

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Joe Cantillon

Cantillon, manager and part owner of the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association was speaking to Billy Murphy the sports editor of The St. Louis Star:

“There are a great many arguments over old and new baseball between the players of today and the few of us that are left from the old school. As a member of both classes, I make the assertion, flatly, that baseball has not advanced in recent years from the brainy or playing standpoint.

“I have been in a baseball uniform every playing day since 1881, and during that time have seen many stars come and go. Some came with brilliant radiance and dies away as quickly as they came. Others came slowly but developed into some of the greatest stars the game has ever known.”

Cantillon said the players of the previous century were better in every aspect:

“The players of twenty-five years ago were just as nervy, just as fast, and just as brainy as they are today. They were better fighters and had far more interest in their play than the athletes of today. Formerly one never saw the members of the teams that were to play a series standing around together chattering and laughing and visiting before the game started. Every player in those days hated every man on the club to be played that day, and when the two captains came together to consult with the umpire it was like two bull terriers turned loose from the benches, and once the game started it was for blood and not for averages.”

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Pongo Joe

Pongo Joe compared the behavior of the behavior of contemporary players to the over-solicitousness displayed by two characters in the then popular comic strip:

“There was little consolation in those days for the player that had four hits if the club lost. There was not so much of the Gaston and Alphonse stuff in the olden times. There wasn’t so much of this ‘excuse me, dear fellow’ business. The old school of infielders made the base runners turn each base at a disadvantage by standing on the inside corners of the bags, and there no apology if by ‘accident’ they got in a fellow player’s way.”

There was, he said, “not one trick” in the current game that “was not pulled off” in the previous century, and the exception Cantillon would concede, he did not approve of:

“I will admit that the new school has brought the squeeze play into the game. I will also admit that it is the rottenest play in baseball when it fails.Furthermore, it is an admission from the player who makes it on his own accord that he cannot hit and when the manager asks for it he shows that he has lost confidence in the hitting of the player asked to squeeze.”

In fact, he concluded, current players offered little:

“I cannot recall a single player who in the last ten years has introduced anything new in the line of playing or has offered any new suggestion that would really improve the game from a playing or a rule making standpoint.”

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