“Show Life”

29 Jan

Willie Keeler got a couple of details wrong, but told a reporter for The New York Daily News in 1912 about the two best pitchers he ever faced:

“I found during the long time that I was in the big leagues that Amos Rusie and Ed Walsh were the hardest pitchers for me to hit. I have gone through some seasons without striking out, but Rusie and Walsh have the distinction of making me fan twice in one game.”

Keeler struck out so infrequently that it may have seemed like he went an entire season without one, but while he only struck out 136 times in 9616 plate appearances–and from 1897 through 1901 struck out just 20 times–he never had a season with none.

Keeler

Keeler said ‘Rusie did the trick when I was with Baltimore in 1904;” it was in 1894.

“Amos could shoot them over. He had more speed on his curve ball than some of the present-day pitchers have on their fast one. When the big fellow, who was with the Giants, and was going right he was a wonder. How he could buzz them over the plate! I know for a fact that when he was going well it was not necessary for him to pitch any curves. That fast one always had a beautiful hop on it, and it was impossible to connect with it.”

Walsh, he said, had the best spit ball:

“I always thought Jack Chesbro had about the best I ever saw until I went against Walsh. Ed’s breaks better than any I have ever faced.

“Some days a spitball pitcher hasn’t the break on his delivery that he has on others. But when Walsh is good, he is a great pitcher. He may not be effective without the spitball, but they tell me that he still has the spitball going as well as ever.”

Five years earlier, “after much persuasion,” Keeler shared his baseball tips with The Washington Post:

Never–

Throw back your foot and step away from the ball.

Bend the back foot or shift its position as the ball approaches.

Lunge at the ball as if trying to make a homerun.

Strike at every ball that is thrown.

Lose your nerve after two strikes

Wait for instructions if you see a chance to win the game

Always—

Chop the ball so it will not pop up in the air

Step into the ball and meet it with your whole weight on your front foot. This puts your whole weight into the blow.

Watch the ball from the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand

Hit at the good balls only. Don’t be too anxious. Wait and you can rip out the good one.

Get into your position quickly when your side is out. Show life.

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