“He Seems to Possess a Sixth Sense”

4 Dec

In 1912, the Continental News Service which served several newspapers in the South and Midwest, published a long interview with 24-year-old Cleveland Naps outfielder Joe Jackson.

“The lanky Southerner’s prowess with his formidable black bat has won him an enviable niche in the baseball Hall of Fame, and his work in the outfield is only slightly less remarkable. He seems to possess a sixth sense—a sort of second sight—that enables him to guess just where a given batsman will place a hit, if it is in the direction of right garden, where Jackson holds sway.”

Jackson was asked, “how he sizes up the intentions of an opposing batter, as it appears from the different positions he takes as various men com to bat, he seems to sense just where each man will hit.”

His response:

“I’m not any surer than you where any particular player will hit, but a man isn’t in the game very long before we learn his failings and endeavor to use them to his disadvantage.

“With such men as (Ty) Cobb, (Joe) Tinker, (Heinie) Zimmerman, (Tris) Speaker and other well-known sluggers I know that if they hit out of the infield I have got to be playing deep in order to stand  any chance of getting them. On the other hand, I also know certain players who never hit further than back of the bases. These hitters cause the fielders more trouble than the sluggers because it’s anybody’s ball. That is to say, a baseman may be just as close to it as a fielder, and where two men are going after the same fly the chances of a collision sometimes causes an easy out to be turned into a safe drive. A fielder coming in on a ball has a much better chance of getting it than a baseman who has got to run back for it, even though the latter has a shorter distance to cover.”

Jackson

Jackson said while less balls were hit to right; it was the most difficult position:

“Balls hit to right field if not caught are always dangerous, and especially so when there are men on bases. I am so far from third that the average runner can easily go from first to third if I am not able to make a quick recovery and return.”

Jackson said even as a child he never liked playing infield and:

“Center and right field are the only two positions I have ever played (he had played three games in left field for Philadelphia in 1909)…I was always considered a speedy runner and won many a sprint race back home before I took to playing ball for a living. My father was, and is today, opposed to the playing of the game for money, but as I have six other brothers, all ballplayers, two of whom are in the minor leagues. It looks as though he’ll have to get used to it. Last Fall was the first time he ever saw me in a game, and then only because he had a business engagement in Cleveland.”

Jackson recounted his greatest play in right field:

“I have made several ‘grandstand’ catches in the outfield but the one I feel the proudest about occurred when I nailed (Del) Gainer’s drive off the cement wall in our home grounds.”

Jackson said Cobb was the fastest player he had seen going from home plate to first base:

“Still, a Cleveland fan claims that he clocked me going from home plate to first, and that I covered the distance in less than three seconds. It may be possible that I did, but I rather think the watch or something else was out of order.”

Jackson said the claim made him curious and he tested his speed from hoe to first:

“I got a stopwatch and made several trials. The best I was able to do was a fraction over three seconds. It’s just possible that the excitement of the game may have made me go faster than I did in practice, but with all due respect to the gentleman who timed me I hardly think there is a player in the game today that can hit and make first in less than three seconds.”

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