“The Brilliant Ignoramus of The Sun.”

1 Feb

The New York Sun took up the issue of “Scientific batting” in 1884. The paper said:

“(O)f course scientific play at the bat is not to be learned in a day, as hard hitting can be. Take a muscular man and place him at the bat for the first time, and the chances are five to one that he will make a home run the first hit he makes. But the skill to face for position in batting and to place a ball is an art that requires practice, and no novice can get into it at a jump as he can in home-run hitting.”

The Chicago Tribune was having none of it and suggested that “Somebody—probably “old Chad,” Henry Chadwick—was writing a “column of foolishness on the subject of scientific batting.”

The Tribune wasn’t done, and said, “It is hard to believe that the person who wrote this ever saw a professional game of ball,” and set out to correct “the brilliant ignoramus of The Sun.”

A first-time batter, no matter how “muscular” facing “the delivery of (Larry) Corcoran or (Old Hoss) Radbourn,” could not “hit clean for four bases once in 200 ties trying.”

The paper cited “a friendly dispute” between Corcoran and Cap Anson.

 “Anson, who is considered to be the most skillful batsman in American as regards ability to control the direction of the ball when hit, and whose average of right-field hitting is probably greater than that of any right-hand batsman, asserted that if he chose, he could place the ball in the direction of the right field any time.”

Cap Anson

Corcoran bet Anson he couldn’t do it half the time and offered to bet. Anson refused the bet but said he would prove his point the next day against Stump Weidman of the Detroit Wolverines.

“Out of five times at bat Anson went out on a fly twice in left-center and once in right field, was once thrown out at first base by the second baseman, and once popped on an easy foul fly. The result of the special effort to ‘place the ball’ was that he made not a single clean hit in five times at bat.”

Over the next fifteen games the White Stockings played in Chicago, the paper said Anson had fourteen hits in 65 at bats for a .215 average; he had six hits to right, three to center, and five to left and of his 51 other at bats, three were fly balls to left field, and 13 were ground balls to the right side. The conclusion was that Anson’s hitting suffered when he made a “systematic effort” to hit to right.

The Tribune said the current “swift curve throwing” that batters faced forced batters to focus on having “the judgement and patience to wait for a good ball, the skill to get it on his bat, and the strength to hit it hard.” This differed from when the “old-fashioned straight-arm pitching was in vogue it was quite possible for a skillful batsman to govern in a measure both the direction and force of the ball.”

The paper concluded that “Hard, clean hitting is what is wanted, and, as a rule, direction is of far less consequence than force.”

Henry Chadwick

The “ignoramus of The Sun” did not respond.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s