Tag Archives: Christy Mathewson

Wee Willie Sudhoff

19 Jun

William “Wee Willie” Sudhoff was in the midst of his best season.  The 28-year-old pitcher, who was 28-52 during his first three major league seasons, was on his way to his first 20-win season for the St. Louis Browns in 1903.

Born in St. Louis, Sudhoff was a local favorite.  The St. Louis Republic said about him signing with the Browns (NL) in 1897:

 

sudhoffpix2

Willie Sudhoff with the Ben Winklers, a local St. Louis amateur club circa 1895

 

“Although he had many chances to play with the big Eastern teams, Willy Steadfastly refused their offers and remained loyal to the city of his birth.”

On August 28, the Browns left Cleveland aboard a train carrying the ballclub and the Cleveland Naps— the teams were scheduled to play a doubleheader the following day in St. Louis.  In Napoleon, Ohio, the engineer misread a signal and the train derailed.

The Associated Press said:

“The Cleveland sleeper (car, the first sleeper on the special train that consisted of a baggage car and two sleepers) turned completely over on one side and the boys on the upper said were thrown over on top of those who occupied berths on the opposite side.”

The rear car, carrying the Browns, ended up in a ditch but did not turn over.

In what The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called, “(A) miraculous escape from almost total annihilation,” no players on either club were seriously injured.

Sudhoff was the most seriously injured player; he had a strained wrist and “had his hand cut,” and missed his scheduled start against Cleveland.

Despite the relatively minor injury, teammates and friends said Sudhoff was never the same after the derailment.

After ending 1903 with a 21-15 record and 2.27 ERA for the 65-74 Browns, Sudhof threatened to leave the Browns two weeks before the 1904 season opener.  The Post-Dispatch said he “Bolted from Browns headquarters,” but returned the same day to sign his contract.  The paper said:

“A baseball catastrophe was averted.”

sudhoffpix

Willie Sudhoff, 1903

By June, Sudhoff, struggling on his way to an 8-15 3.76 ERA season, was accused of underperforming to draw his release.  The Post-Dispatch said:

“This is the gossip of the bleachers, where the deep undercurrents of baseball diplomacy are as an open book.

“Sudhoff bears no more resemblance in his pitching this year to the Sudhoff of last year than a Parish League shortstop to Hans Wagner.  To all appearances, the little twirler is in excellent condition but he fails of delivery as to the goods nearly every time he goes into the box.”

The paper said, “Sudhoff indignantly denies that there is any truth to the story.”

The following season The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said the Browns had cut Sudhoff’s salary for 1905.  Team owner Robert Hedges remained hopeful about his pitcher’s future:

“Willie pitched good baseball at times last year, but he had so many misfortunes during the season that it discouraged him a bit.”

Hedges said two members of Sudhoff’s family had died and that he had also taken care of sick relatives.

And Sudhoff appeared to make Hedges look smart when he shut out the Cleveland Naps in his first start of the season.

He attributed his success to his new “Raising Jump Ball.”  He told The Post-Dispatch:

“It is different from the “raise ball” of Charley Nichols and the “jump ball” of Christy Mathewson but combines features of both.  It passes over the plate at a man’s shoulder and jumping rises, changing its course slightly as it passes him.”

The paper said Sudhoff believed his pitch “will revolutionize the theory of curve pitching.”

The pitch did not turn Sudhoff’s luck around; after winning his first two decisions he went 8-20 the rest of the season.

Beginning in July, it was rumored that Sudhoff would be sold to the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association, but Sudhoff managed to stay in St. Louis for the whole season.  In December he was traded to the Washington Senators for pitcher Beany Jacobson.

The Post-Dispatch said after the trade:

“Sudhoff does not like the stories being circulated about the alleged inefficiency of his arm.”

He told the paper:

“Why should I get out of the game so long as the public and the managers will stand for me?  I am still a young fellow…Watch me next year.”

One of the “stories” about Sudhoff’s arm was reported by The Washington Post:

“A St. Louis critic claims that Willie Sudhoff injured his pitching arm by indulging in too much bowling, which developed muscles that he had no use for in his work on the diamond.”

Sudhoff only lasted until July in Washington, in nine appearances he was 0-2 with a 9.15 ERA.

In 1907 and 1908 Sudhoff signed with American Association teams—the Kansas City Blues and Louisville Colonels—but never played in a regular season game for either.

Sudhoff appeared in one more professional game—he gave up four runs in three innings pitching for the Topeka White Sox in the Western Association in July 1908.

He returned to St. Louis where he sold suits and pitched in the city’s semi-pro Trolley league in 1909 and 1910.

Late in 1911, The St. Louis Star reported that Sudhoff was planning a professional comeback:

“He is working hard this winter to get in shape.  He believes he can regain his cunning.”

The comeback never materialized and Sudhoff took a job as an oiler at the St. Louis waterworks Chain of Rocks Plant until July of 1913.  The Post-Dispatch reported that he had been admitted to St. Louis’ City Hospital, diagnosed as “Violently insane.”

The paper said it took two patrolmen to subdue Sudhoff, who was placed in “a dark padded cell to prevent him from injuring himself.”

According to the report:

“Sudhoff continually calls to everyone who comes within sight, saying he was a professional ballplayer and he will give $5 if the stranger gets him out.”

Mrs. Sudhoff told police her husband “acted queerly” for the previous three months, and “Monday evening he put on his old baseball suit and:

“(C)avorted about the yard, talking continuously about playing with the Browns.”

Sudhoff was transferred to the St. Louis City Sanitarium the following week.

There was speculation about whether it was a beaning in 1905 or the train wreck that contributed to Sudhoff’s insanity.

The paper said:

“Physicians believe (the) old injury to his head is responsible for his condition.”

And while the paper said no one present at the train wreck “(D)o not believe he received a blow serious to cause a permanent injury,”  some of Sudhoff’s former teammates, and Browns owner Robert Hedges “(R)ecalled an eccentricity that developed shortly after the wreck.  From that time on in a Pullman car, he went to bed fully dressed.”

A 1908 article in The Detroit Free Press about the train crash said:

“Sudhoff was so frightened that he could not utter a word for ten minutes, and from that time until he quit the league, ‘Wee Willie’ always sat up all night on a train.  He would do anything to get out of railroad traveling.”

Sudhoff never made it out of the city sanitarium; he died there on the morning of May 25, 1917.

He was survived by his wife and his son, Emmet Wallace, named after Sudhoff’s teammates Emmet Heidrick and Bobby Wallace.

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One Minute Talk: Christy Mathewson

17 Oct

In 1916, The Newspaper Enterprise Association ran a series of brief articles called “One Minute Talks with Ballplayers.”

Christy Mathewson, if the first days in his new role as manager of the Cincinnati Reds said:

“Of course I was willing to go to Cincinnati apropos of the deal which brought me there to manage the Reds.

Cartoon accompanying the announcement of Mathewson's appointment.

A cartoon accompanying the announcement of Mathewson’s appointment as Cincinnati’s manager

“The worries of management don’t appeal to me particularly, especially after knowing the hours that (John) McGraw has lain awake nights, but, on the other hand, I’m too fond of baseball to want to get out of it before I have to.

“The problem of building up a team that is in last place, watching it grow and learn baseball is fascinating and that, with my desire to stay in the game, makes me willing to tackle the job.”

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Christy Mathewson with John McGraw

Mathewson had a 164-176 record as manager of the Reds before stepping down in August of 1918.

President Taft “Not only Likes the Game, but Knows it”

5 Oct

taftbrown

President William Howard Taft,  above shaking hands with Cubs pitcher Mordecai Brown, attended the September 16, 1909 game at Chicago’s West Side Grounds.  Tickets for the game went quickly and scalpers who expected a windfall were foiled by Cubs’ management.

The Chicago Tribune said:

“Ticket scalpers who tried to dip their hands into the pockets of local baseball fans  through the opportunity offered to see President Taft at Thursday’s Cub-Giant game were foiled in a novel way by the Cub officials.  How thoroughly did not develop until (the morning after the game).”

The Cubs limited the number of tickets to three for each purchase, but “A flock of scalpers and their agents obtained a couple hundred seats in blocks of three,” but the paper said they were unable to sell most of them.

Taft attended a make-up game, necessitated by a June 9 postponement.

“(Cubs management) had no set of reserved and box seat tickets for (the make-up date).  Instead the regular set printed for the game of June 9, which was postponed, was revised for president’s day…when (scalpers) tried to hawk and dispose of them around the ‘L’ stations and elsewhere prospective buyers were seeing the date ‘June 9,’ became suspicious and would not buy.  Consequently, practically all the seats the scalpers purchased were left in their hands.”

taftcartoon

A syndicated cartoon that appeared the day before the game.

In addition to shutting down the scalpers, the paper said the Cubs went to great lengths to ensure that the game would be incident free:

“Few of those who thronged the park knew of the preparations made to insure safety not only of the nation’s chief but of every person present, nor how ‘carefully the seat reserved for President Taft was guarded from danger that might arise from the presence of any crank.

“On the day before the game the entire plant was inspected by the police and building departments.  Wednesday night three watchmen spent the night in the park.  From early morning two Pinkerton men remained beneath the section of the stand in which the president’s seat was located, and from noon until the president left the grounds there were twelve detectives and secret service men directly beneath that section of the stand.

“The actual number of guardians of the president was close to 500 aside from his own immediate bodyguard.”

The paper said the security force included 50 Secret Service agents, 60 Chicago police detectives and nearly 400 uniformed officers.

The overflow crowd 0f nearly 30,000 watched the Giants behind Christy Mathewson further dash the Cubs pennant hopes with a 2 to 1 victory–over Mordecai Brown–dropping the Cubs six and a half games behind the Pittsburg Pirates.

tafttenney

President Taft meets Giants first baseman Fred Tenney after the game.

The visit by Taft–and his interest in baseball in general–was, important for the game according to The Chicago Daily News:

“The prestige which baseball gains by numbering among its admirers a President of the United States who has graced three major league diamonds during the current season is inestimable.”

Taft attended games at Washington’s American League Park and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh in addition to his Chicago trip.  His presence sent a message to the public that:

“(I)t’s leading citizen, blessed with a clear mind and a great one, approves of its favorite pastime.”

The paper said that while at the game in Chicago, “Taft for an hour and 30 minutes…ate popcorn and drank lemonade as simply as a big boy enjoying a long-expected holiday.”

And, the paper said, his interest in the game was real:

“President Taft is not a baseball fan because it is the popular pastime, but because he is one and because he not only likes the game, but knows it.  That was manifest by the closeness with which he followed each play, scarcely ever taking his eyes off the ball while it was in action.  A leading constituent might be confiding an important party secret to the presidential left eat while another citizen whose name appears often in headlines might be offering congratulations on the outcome of the battle for revision downward to the right auricle, but while both ears were absorbing messages from friends both presidential eyes were steadily watching Christy Mathewson and the Giants revise downward the standing of the Cubs.”

Taft attended games at major league ballparks 10 more times during his presidency.

A Pair of Reveries

5 Sep

A couple of lost baseball poems on a holiday:

Grantland Rice, in The New York Tribune, 1919:

By Way of Revery

But yesterday I watched them start,

Young wonders all in serried row;

By now I’ve seen them all depart–

The years flow faster than we know

For I remember, young and slim,

How Matty gathered game by game;

Today how many mention him?

The years flow faster than all fame.

Matty

Matty

Where Wagner swung out for his blow–

Where Larry leaned against the ball–

How swift they were last week or so–

The years flow faster than them all.

Today, fresh from the corner lot,

We praise some youngster on the team;

Tomorrow’s page will know him not–

The years flow faster than we dream.

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

And five years earlier, Ed Remley of The Chicago Inter-Ocean was nostalgic for Cubs teams past:

Reverie

I was feeling both dusty and bare–

rocky and sober

And the stands were both

The stands were deserted and bare;

‘Twas a day like in lonesome October

And nineteen-fourteen was the year;

I was out at the Cubs’ lonely ballpark

And the ghosts of gone heroes were there;

It was out at the Cubs’ lonesome ballpark

And the Cubs played a ball game out there.

I was sleepy and fell in a trance;

I saw Tinker and Evers and Chance.

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Tinker, Evers and Chance

Is that Steinfeldt or just Heinie Zim?

Well, it looks much like Harry.  It’s him;

Old Mordecai Brown did a dance

On the rubber–a one-step and prance–

And the ball shot to Kling

Like a hell-possessed thing;

I saw all of this stuff at a glance.

But I woke–ouch, I woke from the dream

And I gazed at the laboring team–

Well, they looked pretty good,

But I wished that I could

See again the sweet team of my dream.

“Baseball will Never be a Science”

2 Sep

By 1912, Ed Remley of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had had enough of talk of “scientific” and “inside” baseball, which he called a “Figment  of writers’ too active brains:”

“This ‘Inside baseball’ stuff and statistical dope that is being given so much space in the low-priced magazines, makes us tired.  Yesterday we read a story in which an attempt was made to prove that when ‘Good Night’ (Frank) Baker came to bat against (Christy) Mathewson (in game 3 of the 1911 World Series) the chances were 367 and 2/5 to 1 against his making a home run.  Once we read a story by (Hugh) Fullerton and Johnny Evers in which those gentlemen attempted to prove that there were just three places, six inches each in width, where a ground hit ball could pass safely through the infield.

"Touching Second," Evers' and Fullerton's collaboration on "Inside Baseball."

“Touching Second,” Evers’ and Fullerton’s collaboration on “Inside Baseball.”

“This line of bunk listens well to the public who attend all their baseball games through the newspapers—we sometimes think they are a majority of the fans—but to the close follower of the game they look like far-fetched attempts to make a story where no story is.  Some of this stuff is so thin that even a schoolboy athlete will snort when he reads, but the magazine editors but it up and illustrate it with cuts borrowed from the sporting page.”

Fullerton

Fullerton

Remley said it wasn’t about baseball, but selling magazines:

“Five years ago about one baseball story in three years drifted into the covers of the big 10-cent monthlies.  Now scarce an issue of any of the popular ones is without its baseball yarn of some character.  It can betoken one of two things, either there is  a stronger interest in baseball  or else the magazine editors are just beginning to wake  up and see its possibilities as a feature.

“If baseball has become a magazine subject because of a natural public demand for that species of pabulum, well and good, and the more of it the public gets the better…On the other hand, if this writing all around the subject of baseball is a result of an exaggerated view of its value on the part of the editors it is going to do the game no good, for the public will soon tire of that kind of hysteria just as it does of anything else that is boomed too much—towns, religions, etc…”

The emphasis on statistics bothered Remley more than anything:

“Meanwhile the fact remains that you can’t reduce the game to figures.  Not even the most skillful statistician can make out the story of a game from the box score.  The figures are an interesting commentary, sometimes, but the real story of baseball will not fit within the box.

“Analyzing the factors which go up to make a successful baseball team, the following ratio is discovered: physical fitness, 20 percent; skill, 60 percent; chance, 20 percent.  That’s mere opinion, too, for the exact ratio never can be determined, but it is evident that some such ratio must obtain.  It is the existence of this large percent of chance in baseball which makes it impossible to reduce the probabilities of the game to figures.  By tossing a dime in the air 2000 times it will be discovered the coin will fall heads up approximately half the time.  Just so, by taking a large enough number of cases generalizations may be arrived at in baseball, but when the attempt is made to apply these generalizations to concrete  cases, the theory falls down. “

Remley concluded:

Baseball will never be a science, therefore, and the attempts to make it appear so are bound to be discredited sooner or later.  It is about time for the magazines to can this statistical dope from their pages.”

The following year, Remley left Fort Worth and joined the staff of The Chicago Inter-Ocean.  Tne Inter-Ocean and The Chicago Record-Herald were consolidated into The Chicago Herald in 1914, and Remley for a time–until his death from pneumonia in 1915–became a co-worker of Hugh Fullerton, whose “inside baseball” he so abhorred.

 

“Tell the Babe to Choke Up on his Bat”

15 Aug

While Babe Ruth kept a low profile—or as low a profile as he could—in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and occasionally New York, during the winter of 1922, he received hitting advice from Christy Mathewson.

Ruth struggled—at least for Ruth, 35/96/.315—all season after starting the year suspended by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis for barnstorming during the 1921 off-season.

Babe Ruth

Ruth

Mathewson was in New York in December promoting the sale of “Christmas Seals for the aid of others stricken with tuberculosis.”  He talked to Thomas Cummiskey, writer for the Universal Service syndicate:

“’Tell the Babe to choke up on his bat a little when pitchers start tossing slow balls at him next season, and to smash some of the floaters into left field.  If he does, he’ll cross up a plan to stop his home run hitting.”

Cummiskey noted that the New York Giants pitchers shut Ruth down during the 1922 World Series—Ruth was 2 for 17 with 1 RBI—because they “slow-balled him to death.”

As for Mathewson:

“(He) saw the series, the first games he witnessed in two years because of his battle with tuberculosis that kept him at Saranac Lake.  As always, he was a close observer of everything.

“Once he says he saw Ruth choke up on his bat, instead of making his ‘follow-through’ swing at the ball for a homer, and cross up the Giants by hitting the ball to left field.

“’He should do this every time a slow ball comes up,’ Matty declares.  ‘Next season, it is a 100 to 1 shot, the American League pitchers will try to stop his home run hitting with slow balls.  If Babe chokes up a little, as I saw him do once in the series, he’ll hit them, it’s a cinch.  Then the next thing you know, the pitchers will stop throwing them.’“

Cummiskey said:

“Matty paid Ruth the compliment of ‘being a natural ball player and wise enough to realize this.’  The tip was given for ‘old time’s sake.’  Matty wants the Babe to stay in the spotlight and ‘hit them out as of old.’”

Cummiskey asked Mathewson if he felt “Use of the ‘lively ball,’ and the fact that pitchers are not permitted to rough the surface of a shiny new ball (was) tough on the pitchers.”

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson, 1922

Mathewson said:

“Well, yes it is.  It is tough to see the ball banged out of the lot and around so much.  But they can learn how to pitch it.  They did when it came to Babe, didn’t they?”

He also said, “(I)n the old days if a batter swung like the home run leaders of the present day they would be fined.”

As for Mathewson’s health:

“Outwardly, he is robust and healthy.  He weighs 210 pounds, has a healthy color, his hand clasp is strong, his eyes clear.  Occasionally he is allowed to smoke a cigarette, but not to inhale.  Except for a slight slowness in his walk, as he tires easily, he appears ‘fine.’

‘’I haven’t a touch of T.B. anymore,’ he said.  “The X-ray and the stethoscope reveal no signs of it.  I am now a full exercise man; I can exercise all I want.  Until a few weeks ago I was restricted to twenty minutes a day.’

“He tires more easily than a man of his outwardly fine condition would indicate because he ‘has to get along on one cylinder as yet.’  This, he explained means that ‘one lung is flat but is receiving air treatment which is expected to make it function.’”

Ruth, of course, bounced back just fine from his disappointing 1922 season and World Series.  He hit .393 with 41 home runs and 130 RBIs and hit .368 with three home runs in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Giants.

Mathewson did not bounce back from tuberculosis and died on the disease in 1925.

Lost Pictures–The Mechanical Pitcher

20 Jul

mechanicalpitcher

Another in the long line of attempts to create a commercially viable pitching machine, this one from 1910.  The syndicated photograph from the Underwood & Underwood Bureau:

“It has remained for a sailor to add the newest thing to base ball.  P.H.Link, warrant officer, on duty at the Annapolis naval academy, is the man for whom is claimed an invention which comes nearer perfection than any other mechanical device intended to replace the pitcher.

“Link’s invention is in the form of a gun.  It is operated by compressed air and the ball can be controlled so that all speeds, from the most leisurely floater to the fast ball of Christy Mathewson, can be used at will.

By means of a strap which Link is shown winding around the sphere, the ball can be curved accurately.  Curves of eight feet have been fired.  Mounted upon a swivel the gun can be pointed in any direction, vertical or horizontal.

“In operating the gun the preliminary motions of the pitcher are gone through with, and as the hand shoots out, the finger touches a trigger, which releases the ball.  This gives the batter time to get set, something no other mechanical pitching devices provide for”

Like the Princeton Pitching Gun 13 years earlier, the mechanical pitcher and its inventor quickly faded into obscurity.

 

“You can’t Rattle Him”

1 Apr

luderuscoke

A 1916 advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring Fred Luderus:

“Here’s the First Baseman and Captain of the Champion Phillies in 1915–watch him this season.

“Fred Luderus drinks Coca-Cola.”

Christy Mathewson told Harold Dekalb “Speed” Johnson of The Chicago Record Herald a story about an attempt by Giants Manager John McGraw to rattle Luderus at the plate:

“‘I hear you can kid Luderus along,’ said the Little Napoleon to (catcher John) Chief Meyers.’

“‘Josh him a little when he comes to bat.’

“‘Ludie lumbered to the pan in the second round toting a heavy bludgeon and an innocent smile.  Meyers was ‘set’ for him.  He fixed his fingers in a fake signal and then addressed Ludie.’

“‘Look down into my glove,’ invited the noble redman.  ‘The best hitters steal the signs, you know.’

“‘Luderus didn’t answer.  The pitcher wound up and buzzed one over the outside corner.  Fred’s mace swung around with a crash and he meandered nonchalantly around the circuit for a homer.’

“‘I don’t need to steal the signs to hit that pitcher,’ he told Meyers as he crossed the plate.  ‘Besides, they pulled that gag on me in the bushes long ago.’

“‘I don’t want you to talk to that fellow anymore,’ ordered McGraw when the Chief finally got back to the bench.  ‘You can’t rattle him.”

Luderus

Luderus

Incidentally, in a case of plagiarism or great minds thinking alike, the lede of Johnson’s story read:

“He’s no Chase on the defense, nor a  Daubert in batting, nor a Merkle on the basepaths, but he’s the most underrated star in baseball today.”

Nearly a year earlier, John “J.C.” Kofoed of The Philadelphia Record wrote in “Baseball Magazine:”

“He is not a McInnes on the defense, nor a Daubert in batting, nor a Merkle on the basepaths…He is the most under-rated man in baseball today.”

 

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18

7 Mar

Tener on Anson

In 1917, John Tener wrote an article in “Baseball Magazine” about Cap Anson, his former manager with the Chicago White Stockings.

John Tener

John Tener

The former pitcher and outfielder, who went on to serve in the United States Congress and as Governor of Pennsylvania, and who in 1917 was president of the National League said:

“Pop Anson was the Greatest Batter who ever lived.  You may look up his record, compare it with others and draw your own conclusions.  When I say this I am well aware of the claims of Ed Delehanty, Hans Wagner and many other great hitters.  I give them all due credit, but in my opinion, Anson was the greatest of them all.

"Cap" Anson

Anson

“He was, first of all, a free hitter. He loved batting…He had that true eye which enabled him to hit the ball squarely on the nose.  His hits were line drives.  They were solid smashes with the full force of his muscular shoulders behind them.”

[…]

“He was an excellent judge of the precise fraction of a second that he needed to swing that heavy bat of his against the best the pitcher could offer.  He didn’t exactly place his hits, but he contrived to drive the ball behind the base runner about where he wanted to drive it…He was big and strong and heavy.  Some hitters of the present day fatten their averages by their nimbleness in reaching first.  Anson drove the ball solidly into the outfield and took his time in going to first.”

Conte on Mendez

Jose Pepe Conte was a well-known sportswriter in Havana, Cuba. Frank Menke of Heart Newspaper’s International News Service (INS) said of him:

Jose Pepe Conte

Jose Pepe Conte

“Pepe is a fellow who knows heaps and heaps about ancient history, European customs, chemistry, baseball and prize fighting.”

The Pittsburgh Press called him:

“(A) Cuban newspaperman, political personage, and unearther of baseball talent.”

In 1912, the INS distributed an article Conte wrote about the pitcher he thought was the best ever:

“American baseball fans can talk all they want about their (Chief) Benders, (Christy) Mathewsons, (Ed) Walshes and (Mordecai) Browns, but down in our country we have a pitcher that none of the best batters in the country can touch. This is the famous Black Tornado, (Jose) Mendez.  Talk about speed.  Why, when he cuts loose at his hardest clip the ball bounces out of the catcher’s mitt Talk about speed, Mendez has to pitch most of the time without curves because we haven’t a catcher who can hold him.  To make things better, Mendez can bat like (Ty) Cobb.  He has won his own games on various occasions with smashes over the fences for home runs.  He weighs about 154 pounds and is a little fellow.”

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

[…]

“No one has been found who can hold him when he really extends himself.  He has shown his skill in the past when he has faced the best batters of the Cubs and Detroit teams when those teams were champions, and when the Athletics went there last year.  Mendez has more curves than any pitcher in America, and if some inventive genius could produce a whitening process whereby we could get the fellow into the big leagues he could win a pennant for either tail-end team in either league.”

Sullivan on Comiskey

In his book, “The National Game,” Al Spink said Ted Sullivan was “the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true.”

Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan

Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and in 1921, he wrote a series of articles for The Washington Times called “The Best of my Sport Reminiscences.”  He said of Charles Comiskey, who he was crediting with “discovering” at St. Mary’s College in Kansas:

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

“As a player, Comiskey was easily the best first baseman of his time…His intuition in defining the thoughts of his opponents and making his play accordingly placed him head and shoulders over any man that played that position before or after.

“Comiskey was with John Ward and King Kelly one of the greatest of base runners.  I do not mean dress parade base running, either, merely to show the crowd he could run.  Comiskey’s base running was done at a place in the game when it meant victory for his side.  He was far from being the machine batter that Anson, Roger Connor and some others were; but as a run-getter, which means the combination of hitting, waiting, bunting and running, he outclassed all others.  Jack Doyle, when in his prime with Baltimore and New York, was the nearest approach to Comiskey in brainwork.  There are no others.”

Lost Advertisements–Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sweet Caporal

19 Feb

alexandercaporal

A Sweet Caporal advertisement featuring Grover Cleveland Alexander:

  “Sweet Caporals have led the smoke league for a great many years.  For real flavor and satisfaction you can’t beat them.”

Shortly before the 1915 season, Damon Runyon, writing in The New York American compared Alexander and Walter Johnson:

Damon Runyon

Damon Runyon

“Whenever we see Grover Cleveland Alexander pitching at top form, we conclude that he is the greatest right-handed pitcher in the land, and we cling to that conclusion until Walter Perry Johnson comes along with a line of his best pelting.  Then we decide that Walter is the greatest, and we hold that decision to the day that ‘Alex’ reappears.

“In short, our mind–probably none to stable at best–does a heap of vacillating between these Western wonders, and we are certain of only just one thing with respect to their ability–which is that it’s either Grover or Walter who is the greatest righthander…You may think that (Christy) Mathewson, or (Dick) Rudolph, or Bill James or Willie (Bill) Doak is greatest, and we have no doubt that you can produce just as many arguments in support of your belief…but it is our opinion that Johnson and Alexander today stand head and shoulders above all the rest.”

Runyon said that neither, however, were better than Mathewson when Matty was at his best:

“They are both great pitchers, but there have probably been many just as great–and there has been only one Mathewson.”

Runyon also claimed that players who faced both Alexander and Johnson agreed that one was the better pitcher:

“Ball players who have hit against both men–or rather who haven’t hit against them, for there is never much hitting against Walter or Grover–say that the Nebraskan is the better of the two.  They say he has as much ‘stuff’and knows how to use it better than Johnson.”

Morris' ride, Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Most important to Runyon, he said, was that he preferred watching Alexander pitch:

“As a matter of personal choice, however, we would rather watch Alexander work than Johnson:  To us, it seems that he has more natural grace in the box…than the big Washington propeller.  There are mighty few pitchers who come under the head of things of beauty when they are working, but ‘Alex’ is one of them.”

As for a forecast for the coming season, Runyon said:

“Some fans are dreaming this year of seeing Alexander and Johnson as opponents in the first game of the 1915 world’s series, but they are mostly Philadelphia and Washington fans who are having those dreams, and we doubt if the dreams will come true.”

Both pitchers were dominant that season.

Johnson was 27-13 with a 1.55 ERA for a team, true to Runyon’s prediction, could only dream of a pennant–finishing fourth.

Alexander, however, was 31-10 with 1.22 ERA and did pitch the first game of the World Series for the pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies–he won the opener 3 to 1, beating Ernie Shore and the  Red Sox, but Boston came back and won four straight, including Dutch Leonard‘s 2 to 1 victory over Alexander in Game 3.