Tag Archives: Bill Dahlen

“Baseball is now Played by certain Mathematical rules and Regulations”

16 Jul

The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton concluded in 1906 that base running had “in a sense, become a lost art.”

“Baseball is now played by certain mathematical rules and regulations, and there is no more of the brilliant individual feats of the old days.  Everyone who plays now knows just what stage the game is in, what to do in that stage, and if he does not the signals from the batter to show him his duty.  In the old days most of them ran unaided by bunt, ‘squeeze,’ hit and run, or blocking or feinting to bunt to draw the fielders out of position.

“Teams still run, hoping to demoralize the opposition, but not to the extent that they did in the early years of the game.”

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

According to Fullerton no team ran wilder than the Chicago White Stockings of the 1880s

 “Mike Kelly was perhaps the most daring of all base runners.  He never was extremely fast, and in his later years grew extremely slow—but he stole almost as many bases when slow as ever he did.  Indeed, the best base runners the game has known were men of medium speed in running, and few of the really fast sprinters ever were good base runners.  Kelly ran bases with his head instead of his feet.

“One of the best trick that old team ever pulled off was against Boston in Chicago.  Kelly engineered the deal, although he was on first base, with a runner—(Tom) Burns, I think—on third.  One was out and the worst hitter on the team was up, with one run needed.  Kelly was standing on first, and as the pitcher prepared to deliver the ball Kel went dashing towards second, yelling at the top of his lungs.

“The pitcher took a glance to see if the runner had left third and saw him standing still, and to his astonishment saw Kelly still tearing towards second.  He hesitated, expecting Kel would stop or slow up—then threw, and threw high, while Kel, instead of sliding and reaching second in safety, merely touched the base and tore towards third at top speed, leaving the second baseman holding the ball in astonishment.  The runner at third had moved off ten feet as Kel came tearing towards him yelling commands, and catching the drift of the play, he sprinted for home.  The throw went to the plate ahead of him as he rushed homeward and seeing himself hopelessly out he slowed up a bit, and Kelly, coming on from third, slid around him, escaped the astonished catcher, who was tagging the other runner, and scored, evening up the game.”

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

Fullerton also wrote about the “Kelly Slide,” or “Kelly Spread,” the hook slide Kelly made famous, which also went by another name:

“Kelly invented the ‘Chicago Slide,’ which was one of the greatest tricks ever pulled off.  It was a combination slide, twist and dodge.  The runner went straight down the line at top speed and when nearing the base threw himself either inside or outside of the line, doubled the left leg under him—if sliding inside, or the right, if sliding outside—slid on the doubled up leg and the hip, hooked the foot on the other leg around the base, and pivoted on it, stopping on the opposite side of the base.

“Every player of the old Chicago team practiced and perfected that slide and got away with hundreds of stolen bases when really they should have been touched out easily  There are some modern players who make the slide something as it was done then, but Bill Dahlen of New York really is the only one in either big league who executes it regularly and perfectly.”

And, as with most Fullerton reminiscences there were stories about his personal favorite players; which may, or may not have actually happened on a baseball field somewhere, to someone.

Elmer Foster was a great base runner, after his style.  He ran regardless of consequences and perhaps no man that ever played in fast company ever took an extra base on a hit oftener as did Elmer.  He simply refused to stop at his legitimate destination, and kept right on.  When he got caught he always said:  ‘Why, I wasn’t a bit tired.  Why should I have stopped running?’

“On day Foster was turning third, trying to score from second on a short hit, when Billy Kuehne bumped him with his hip, threw him out into the grass, and forced him to stop.  Elmer was wild.  He kept yelling, ‘I’ll be around here again.’  The next time up he made a two base hit and he never stopped at second, but dashed on for third at top speed.  The second baseman, surprised, made a high throw to third and Kuehne stretched to get the ball just as Foster, leaping through the air, landed on his chest with both feet and kicked him half way to the grandstand.  Foster came home running backwards and yelping with delight at Kuehne—and then got sore because he was called out.”

Elmer Foster

Elmer Foster

“One of the funniest incidents in base stealing I ever saw happened in Chicago one of the yeas that Bill Lange led the league in base running.  It was a close race between Lange and (Billy) Hamilton for the honors and the season was drawing to a close.  The game was close, and Lange led off the eighth inning with a two bagger.  Anson went to bat and laid down a perfect bunt, intending to sacrifice.  He went out in a close finish at first, and looking up, discovered Lange still perched on second.  He was furious, but the condition was mild compared to what he experienced an instant later when Lange stole third—and took the lead fo the base running honors.”

 

“The Cleverest bit of Quick Thinking I ever Witnessed”

26 Nov

Hugh Fullerton was one of baseball’s most influential writers; his career began in 1889 and he was active into the 1930s.  Widely credited as the first writer to directly quote players and managers, he is the source of hundreds of stories. Some, like the story the story of Bill Lange’s fence-crashing catch, are likely untrue.  Others may be apocryphal, or exaggerated.

Hugh Fullerton

Hugh Fullerton

This one is about Hall of Famer John Alexander “Bid” McPhee:

“The cleverest bit of quick thinking I ever witnessed was years ago in Cincinnati, and Bid McPhee, the ‘King,’ pulled it off.  How fast he thought only can be guessed.  It must have been instantaneous.  Bid was on first base with nobody out, when somebody drove a ball straight at ‘Wild’ Bill Everitt who was playing first for Chicago.  Bill dug up the ball, touched first, and made one of his copyrighted throws to second to catch Bid, having plenty of time for the double play.

Bid McPhee

Bid McPhee

“The ball disappeared.  (Bill) Dahlen, who was on second, never saw it.  He thought the ball had hit Bid.  The umpire, crouching to see the play at the base, lost the ball.  Bid hesitated at second, glanced around, saw the entire Chicago infield running around wildly and tore for third.  At third, after turning the base, he hesitated again, looked back, and then tore for home.  From his actions both at second and third any spectator would have sworn Bid was as ignorant of the whereabouts of the ball as were the Chicago players.

“The Chicago team was wild with excitement and the crowd was mystified.  No one knew where the ball was.  The only clue was a yell of amusement from the Cincinnati bench.

“The ball had disappeared utterly and the umpire threw out a new one.  After the game we learned what had become of the ball.  Everitt hit Bid with it.  The ball had struck him under the arm, and holding it tight against his body Bid carried it entirely around the bases and to the bench while acting as if he didn’t know where it was.”

“In the ‘90s Nobody ever Thought Anything of telling the Manager to go Chase Himself”

6 Nov

Bill Lange played only seven seasons in the National League—all with Chicago–but his reputation lived on long after he walked away from the game in 1899 at 28 years-old.  Two of his biggest supporters, Connie Mack and Clark Griffith, remained influential until their deaths in the mid 1950s, and both helped to keep Lange’s legend alive until his death in 1950.

Long after his retirement to enter the insurance and real estate business in his native San Francisco, Lange remained extremely popular in Chicago;  he was frequently quoted by Chicago sportswriters (most often his friend Hugh Fullerton), and was even retained The Chicago Examiner’s  “World Series expert” in the early and mid teens.

Bill Lange

Bill Lange

In 1909, when the White Sox were training in San Francisco, Lange told a reporter for The Chicago Inter Ocean that “the batsmen of the present time had not advanced in any way” over the hitters of his day—and Lange felt they took too many pitches:

“I have noticed that the habit nowadays is to be altogether too scientific.  And that science is ruining the batters.  There used to be such things as .400 hitters in the big leagues and now the managers are spending fortunes in the hopes of finding a .250 hitter.  The reason they are so hard to find is because the batsmen don’t follow their natural inclinations to wallop the ball, but stall around at the plate in the artificial hope of drawing a pass instead of breaking a board in the back fence.

“No batter, who has any eye at all, ought ever to wait when he has three balls and one strike on him, unless the pitcher is uncommonly wild.  Think of the advantage of hitting when three balls have been called.  You are dead sure that the next one will be over the plate if the pitcher can get it there.  If he doesn’t, let it go and take your base.  But if you let a good one go then you are up against another proposition.

“Then the batsman is in a worse hole than the pitcher and his chances of making a safe hit are at least 4 to 1 against him, for a nervy pitcher will take a chance on a curve or a high one in the hope of making the batsman bite.  He wouldn’t dare do that very often when the count was only three and one.  The batsman who waits too long is just giving himself the worst of the deal.”

Unlike many players of his generation, Lange did note that some aspects of the game had improved since he played:

“We didn’t hustle like the players of the today do.  We would shirk morning practice all the time, so we could sleep late.  And take it from me, a lot of us needed the sleep, for most all of the boys belonged to the Ancient Order of Owls.

“The teams of today report at the grounds at 9:30 in the morning and work to beat the band for two hours. In the old days, after we had stalled the manager off as long as possible, we would finally show up for morning practice.  I don’t know all the systems the players on other teams had for dodging morning work, but with the old Chicago bunch we left it up to (Bill) Dahlen to break up the practice after about ten minutes of hustling.

“Dahlen could turn the trick might easily.  All he had to do was whiz four or five low throws at Anson’s shins.  ‘Pop’ used to bawl Dahlen out for a few minutes, but Bill would keep up the bum throwing until Anse would say ‘Enough.’  Nothing like that goes in the big or small leagues now.  It is a question of work and buckle down to business.  In the ‘90s nobody ever thought anything of telling the manager to go chase himself.  I haven’t heard of anybody doing anything like that in late years, and getting away with it.”

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

Lange on pitching, tomorrow.

“A Heart-Breaking Play, Engineered by Wagner”

29 Mar

The defending World Series Champion New York Giants had gotten off to a fast start in 1906; on May 15 they were 19-7, the Chicago Cubs were 21-9, when they arrived in Pittsburgh for a four game series.

The Giants were shut out by the Pirates in the first two games.  In the third game of the series Christy Mathewson blew a three-run lead and the Giants trailed 7-5 heading into the top of the eighth inning..

Outfielder Sam Mertes walked, moved to second on Bill Dahlen’s single and scored on a two-out single by second baseman Billy Gilbert.  The Giants were behind 7-6 with runners on first and second; manager John McGraw was about to send Sammy Strang to pinch hit for Mathewson, when, according to The New York Times:

“A heart-breaking play, engineered by (Honus) Wagner in the last second of the eighth inning, beat the Champion New Yorks…It was a hard game to lose, and might not have been lost had Dahlen not fallen a victim to the wiles of Wagner.  The big Dutchman was guilty of the trick of hiding the ball, and when Bill stepped off second base, thinking (pitcher Albert “Lefty”) Leifield had the ball, Wagner, who had concealed it, touched Dahlen, which made the third out.”

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

The Pirates held on to win 7-6; The Times said of Dahlen:

“The New York shortstop felt so bad that he fairly wept.  McGraw, too, was angry, and it was said tonight he fined Dahlen heavily for his bit of carelessness.”

The Giants were unable to keep pace with the Cubs who finished 20 games ahead of New York for National League Pennant.

The Box Score

The Box Score

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