John Brinsley “J.B.” Sheridan wrote for several St. Louis newspapers and The Sporting News from 1888-1929.
In 1917 he asked in The St. Louis Globe-Democrat:
“How is it that two young chaps come up together, one lasts a year or two, the other keeps on playing until he meets his sons and the sons of his pals coming up?”
Sheridan noted that Bobby Wallace was 43-year-old and in his twenty-fourth season–albeit as a reserve who appeared in just eight games for the Cardinals–while contemporaries like Jimmy Collins were out of the game for nearly a decade. (Sheridan failed to mention or notice that Wallace was three years younger and started his professional career at age 20 while Collins began his at 23):
“Wallace has had a great career in baseball. Only one man, A. C. (Cap) Anson has played longer than Wallace in the major leagues (Sheridan didn’t mention Deacon McGuire who also had Wallace beaten in years of service with 26—but he only played a total of 20 games in his final eight “seasons”) Anson did twenty-seven seasons, but had he not been his own manager he would not have done so many. The old man could hit to the end, but for the last ten years of his major league career Anson was so slow and stiff that it is doubtful if any manager, other than himself would have employed him.”
Sheridan neglected to mention that “slow and stiff” Cap Anson managed to play in more than 1100 games in those last ten seasons when no manager “other than himself would have employed him,” and hit better than .330 in five of them–and would contradict himself on the “slow and stiff” part later in the same article.
He said, “Jack O’Connor did twenty-two years in the majors and was useful to the end.” (O’Connor only hit better .250 twice in his last ten seasons, never appearing in more than 84 games during that period)”
Despite the many misstatements, Sheridan’s article included interesting character sketches of several 19th and early 20th Century players (the veracity of those sketches can be judged with the above misstatements in mind).
“O’Connor was a really wonderful man. He always retrained his diet during the playing season, but gave it full rein during the off season. O’Connor had some appetite, too. Usually he put on 20 pounds of extra weight every winter and regularly took it off every spring. O’Connor must have taken off 500 pounds of flesh in the twenty-two years of his baseball playing. He ate and drank like Gargantua during the winter, but denied himself like a monk in the spring, summer and fall.
“(Napoleon) Lajoie, who did his 20 years [sic 21] in the majors, was like Wallace and (Jake) Beckley, an iron man. (Lajoie) came from Breton peasant stock…The Bretons lived off the rocks and fishing grounds of Brittany, beaten by Atlantic spray long before the dawn of history. No wonder then, that Lajoie is a hardy man (who) needed no conditioning in his youth. He threw a couple, hit a couple and was ready for the fray.”
Sheridan said O’Connor’s former battery-mate Cy Young was “another physical wonder” despite being “rather soft and inclined to obesity later in life.”
“Cy never cared much for beer, the beverage of the old-time ballplayer, but he did not mind a little ‘red eye’ now and then In fact, the old boys say the farmer could pack more whiskey about him than any man they had ever known.”
As an example of Young’s prowess Sheridan said O’Connor told him a story about a night out in Boston:
“I drank beer while Cy drank whiskey. Drink for drink with me, but the last thing I remembered that night was that Cy put me to bed.
“I got up the next morning looking for sedlitz powder and something cooling. I got the powder and I went into the breakfast room to get a grapefruit. Then I saw Young behind a big plate of beefsteak with onions. I turned and ran for the fresh air…Cy ate the entire steak, all the onions, a lot of bread and butter, stuck a strong cigar in his mouth and joined me on the sidewalk.
“What made you quit so early last night, Jack? I was just getting’ goin’ good, when you said ‘Let’s go home I’m sleepy.’”
Sheridan compared Young’s career to that of Bill Dinneen:
“Dinneen came into the game seven [sic–nine] years after Young, was Cy’s teammate for four years [sic–five and part of a sixth] then dropped out (Dinneen played three more seasons with the St. Louis Browns, but his career was over after 12 seasons at age 33)
“Dinneen ate too well, and what ballplayers call the ‘old uric acid’ got him in the arm. Yet Dinneen was one of the finest physical specimens that ever played ball.
“Some big fellows look strong but prove to be soft and unenduring. Jack Chesbro was one of these. Chesbro had three great years as a pitcher, and then broke down. Jack was a soft-boned boy, with bad ankles and could not stick the route.
“Some men hold out in arm, legs and bone, but lose the keenness of vision essential to good batting, Willie Keeler, was one of these. Keeler’s legs were good to the end and his arm worked all right, but his eyes went back on him and he had to quit…(Art) Devlin was one of the three great third basemen of his time. He was a star, but endured only a few years. Bad Digestion stopped him when he was at the height of his fame, and when he should have been good for many more years.”
Sheridan claimed to know the secret of a ballplayer’s longevity: the waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
“Each January 1 for twenty-two years saw (Young) at Hot Springs…O’Connor and (Jake) Beckley were always at Hot Springs, too. These three men never missed a season at the Arkansas resort, while they were playing ball…Fred Clarke, too, was a great advocate of Hot Springs as a training resort, and the Pirates always fitted in there when Clarke was manager. That took (Honus) Wagner, another long liver, there too.
“Anson always took a season at Hot Springs. It is pretty well established that the Arkansas resort is the location of Ponce de Leon’s famous “Fountain of Youth.” It may or may not be a coincidence, but the fact remains that Young, O’Connor, Beckley, Anson, Clarke, Wallace and Wagner, men who played from seventeen to twenty-two years of major league baseball, have all been frequenters of or habitues of Hot Springs.”
The St. Louis sportswriter was certain the springs were a magic “Fountain of Youth, “and said he was only aware of one exception to his rule:
“Every iron man of baseball, except Lajoie, has been a yearly visitant.”