“I Know I Made a Bum Play”

4 Jun

Harry George “H.G.” Salsinger spent nearly 50 years as sports editor of The Detroit News and was posthumously honored with the J. G. Spink Award in 1968.

In a 1924 article he said:

“Baseball historians, setting down how a pennant was won, often point to one series that was the break in a season’s race. One can point to a certain game as the deciding one of that particular series and that game probably had one play that was the break of the game and that one play came on a certain pitched ball.”

Salsinger said in the Tigers 1907 pennant winning season:

“All who studied the matter were agreed that one series decided the pennant, a series between Detroit and Connie Mack’s crack Philadelphia machine, played late in the season (September 27 and 30). And one game decided that series, a 17-inning tie that broke the Athletics.”

The pennant, he said, was won because “that game was snatched from Philadelphia” when Ty Cobb hit the game-tying home run off Rube Waddell in the ninth.

“The most important hit of the season of 1907,” was “because Cobb outguessed” Waddell.

The story of how the pitcher was “outguessed” was told to him by Waddell himself:

“Up comes this Cobb, and I feeds him a fast one on the inside where he wasn’t supposed to particularly like to see ‘em pitched. I always figured that if this fellow had any weakness is was on a ball pitched close in. The way he stood at bat made him shift too quick to get a good hold of the ball.

“Well, I shoved the first one in over the inside corner of the plate an’ he never looks at it. The umpire calls it a strike, but he pays no attention to it. I immediately figures this bird is looking for a certain ball, thinking I’d give him just what he wanted on the next one or the one after that. He figures I’m going to be working him. So, I see my chance to cross him up. I says to myself, ‘I’ll feed this cuckoo on in the same spot an’ get him in a hole then guess what’s coming.’”

Rube

Waddell threw the next pitch:

“Once more I shoots a fast one for the inside corner an’ the second the ball leaves my hand I know a made a bum play. This Cobb, who didn’t seem to have noticed the first one, steps backlike he had the catcher’s sign, takes a toe hold and swings on her. I guess that ball is going yet.”

Waddell told Salsinger he talked to Cobb about the pitch:

“Later on, I meets this Cobb on the street, and I says to him, “Listen here Cobb, it’s all over an; everything, an’ there ain’t no hard feelin’ or nothin’, so tell me, why don’t you swing at that first one, the fast one I sends over. You don’t give it a look an’ you’re all set for the same thing when I repeats. Did you have the catcher’s signal or something.”

“An’ this Cobb says to me: ‘Why I figures if I lets the first one pass and makes out I don’t notice it and is lookin’ for somethin’ else, you’ll try to cross me up and shoot the next one over the same spot, feeling sure you double crosses me. I feel so sure that so soon as the ball leaves your hand I jumpback, take a toe hold an’ swing. Sure enough I was right. You hand me the same thing back.’

“An’ I says to this Cobb, ‘Kid you had me doped 100 percent right, an sure enough the lucky stiff did.”

Cobb

Cobb, Salsinger said, “made this observation,” to the reporter, about outguessing pitchers:

“Most pitchers follow a set system of pitching to you. You can get them once or twice. If they throw you a fast ball, slow ball, curve, fast one, in that order the first time at bat it is almost certain that they will throw you the same thing in the same order the next time you come up. Few pitchers vary from the system, and the few that do are the leading pitchers.

“Knowing what is coming is one thing but hitting the ball is another. You often know just where the ball will be pitched, but often it carries so much stuff that you cannot get the proper hold on the ball and you fail to hit safely even when you have the advantage of knowing what it is.”

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