“I’ve Seen him Throw a Ball out of the Park in a Spell of Anger”

20 Aug

Walter Johnson rated Rube Waddell the greatest pitcher he saw in a 1925 syndicated article. He listed Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, and Ed Walsh as his next three.

Cy Young came next.

Johnson acknowledged he had not seen Young at his best, “His greatest three years were back in 1891 to 1893…Yet 15 years later I worked many games with the grand old veteran when he was still effective against the best batters in the American League.”

Johnson said like Young, he, “had to use more curves,” later in his career, and:

“His work was always smooth and pleasure to watch. He seldom did the sensational thing on the diamond. But one thing he did that will always live—he won 508 [sic, 511] victories.”

Cy Young

Next was Eddie Plank who Johnson said had “The best cross-fire I ever saw,” and “He was simply a wonder on doping out the other club.”

Johnson said during the 1924 World Series, “(Plank) told me some things about (Frank) Frisch and (Ross) Youngs that helped a lot.”

Johnson said Bender was “always deliberate when pithing, “wasted few balls,” and threw “an inside ball,” that “The leading batters in the league couldn’t solve.”

Chief Bender had, “a good curve and wonderful fastball. Added to these qualities he was smart as a whip.”

Chief Bender

Johnson said his temper was as much as a detriment as his intelligence was a benefit though:

“I’ve seen him throw a ball out of the park in a spell of anger.”

Johnson said umpire Tommy Connolly told a friend Bender was capable of throwing as hard as Johnson, “but he would only let himself out once or twice during a game. Usually in a tight place with men on bases and two strikes on the batter.”

Johnson’s final three were Mordecai Brown, Jack Chesbro, and Bill Donovan.

Brown, owing to the injury that cost him parts of two fingers and earned him his nickname, made it, “possible for him to get a peculiar hold on the ball that produced a deceiving curve.”

Mordecai Brown

He also rated Brown and Bender the two best fielding pitchers.

Chesbro, who served as a coach early in the season for Johnson’s World Series Champion Senators in 1924.

Johnson said of  Chesbro, “I don’t believe he has ever outlived the sting of disappointment,” over missing out on a championship in 1904—Chesbro took the loss in two of the three straight games the Highlanders dropped to the Americans on October 8 and 10, giving Boston the pennant.

Johnson said he admired Wild Bill Donovan’s side arm fast ball but admired more the fact that he wore an “eternal smile.”

“He was peeved and Hughey Jennings, then Detroit’s manager, was walking by and tried to get him sore with a bit of joshing.

‘Hell, (Donovan) ain’t got nothing on the ball.’

“’No,’ was Hughey’s reply, ‘but he’s got a smile on his face.”’


Johnson said that smile, “made the batter feel there wasn’t any use trying.”

Just misses from Johnson’s ten were Smoky Joe Wood, Rube Marquard, Addie Joss, Urban Shocker, Babe Ruth, and Stan Coveleski.

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