“Fraught with the Most Hard Work and Trouble”

7 May

After the 1908 World Series, Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers wrote an article that appeared in The Chicago Evening Post. Evers took exception to people who thought he had an easy job:

“When you hear a person give voice to the expression, ‘Ball-players have an easy time of it,’ you are doubtless inclined to side in with him an agree that we get our money without an awful lot of trouble. But permit me to say, you are far from the truth in your belief.”

Evers countered:

“(I)t’s safe to declare that of all the occupations entailing a remuneration of say $3000 per annum, that of the diamond artist is fraught with the most hard work and trouble.”

Johnny Evers

Evers allowed that baseball was “a good healthy game,” and brought “much enjoyment,” but:

“(W)hen you have to get out, day in and day out, for six or seven months, and play, think you not it is likely to grow rather monotonous and wearisome? No matter whether you feel lively or listless, so long as you can stand up, you have to keep at it and turn out mighty perfect work, or you’ll find yourself looking for new occupation. It’s no joke when you’re feeling in the dumps to trot out on the field, with the sun beating down on you, and the temperature at ninety or thereabouts and jump around and act as though the greatest pleasure in the world for you consisted of running your legs off, and getting in front of balls that are coming your way at the rate of a mile a minute.”

Evers said that “in most cases” a “brain worker…takes himself off to the country” to get away from his job, while the ballplayer, “has to stick right to his job, no matter how worked out he feels.”

He said success in baseball was dependent on “grey matter” not strength:

“It’s a case of think, think, all the time, and the fellow who trusts to luck and does not see to it that that he has his brains under full steam every minute will not last long.”

And thinking wasn’t limited to the field:

“You have to study both from personal observation and from books and newspapers, the peculiarities of every man who plays on any of the teams in the league with. You have to know just where this player is likely to hit an inshoot, and where he is likely to send a straight ball or an outshoot.

“You have to know how much a lead a certain player can be given off a base before you can catch him napping. You have to discover what player is likely to lay down a bunt, and what one will always hit it out. Then you will have to make a long exhaustive study of the pitchers, so that you will be able, once in a while, to out-guess them.”

And while some doubted the complexity of the Cubs’ signs; Evers said:

“(Y)ou have to get in your head a long and complicated series of signals, which cover almost every imaginable twist and turn of a baseball game. You have to have a pretty good set of brains to get a whole lot of signs down to such perfection that you can recognize them and act immediately, though you may almost be crazy with excitement, and have a mad mod of twenty or thirty thousand people shrieking at you.”

Then there was the pressure:

“The great uncertainty of baseball makes every player have the feeling that to him alone is likely to come the chance to make or mar the work of the entire season. A little error at a crucial moment, and everything will be lost.”

There was no greater strain than knowing, “upon you alone depends the winning of a game which may perhaps mean the capturing of the pennant and the addition of thousands of dollars to your employers’ profits, and the salaries of your fellow players and yourself.”

Evers said, “the great strain that the engineer on a fast train works under,” was no greater than that of a ballplayer:

“The engineer knows that if everything holds together, as he is almost practically certain it will, he is running no very great risk. The ball player on the other hand knows that there is no telling what is about to occur. For the engineer there are but two courses of thought, one—if nothing breaks, all is well; the other—if anything happens, jump.”

Evers said the ballplayer’s money “was well earned,” and:

“I might have touched on the fact that the ball player is the source of enormous profits to the one who employ him, and consequently should get his fitting share of the profits, but I do not wish to be put down as a knocker, because in reality, I’m an optimist.”

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