Tag Archives: Cy Young

Cy Young and the Hickory Bottoms of Hopedale

26 Jun

Before entering his twenty-first major league season in 1910, Cy Young “wrote” and article for the American Press Association about his career—most of the articles that appeared under Young’s byline were written by Sam Carrick of The Boston Post.

cy

Cy Young

Regarding his age, Young said:

“I am getting sort of weary of this “Old Cy” business.  I stand for what the women say on the question of age when they say they are just as old as they feel.  That’s me…But I guess most folks know I have passed the forty mark (Young had just turned 43).”

Next, Young talked about “The Hickory Bottom team.”

“Never heard of that team, hey?  I started playing ball with them, the good old Hickory Bottoms of Hopedale, Harrison County, Ohio.

“I had been pitching hay, playing ball with some of the farm hands, and we were having quite a time of it.  A little place called New Athens…had a college (Franklin) and some 500 folks.  They were rather chesty when it came to playing ball, and when the boys would drive into town on a Saturday afternoon we would watch the college boys play ball.

“They didn’t look much to me, so I got our farmer boys in line, and we hunted a long time for a name.  Big Stillwater and Little Stillwater were two creeks close by, and we thought we would call ourselves the Stillwaters but some of the fellows kick on that.  As we lived in part of the county called Hickory Bottom and our first bats we made ourselves out of good old hickory trees, we took up the name of the Hickory Bottom Baseball Club, and then we started.  Say, we didn’t do a thing to those college boys,  we just ate ‘em alive.”

cyyoung

Young

From there, Young said, the Hickory Bottom farmers went to Cadiz, Ohio:

“I was down to pitch, and all I could do was a throw a ball like—well, I could throw ‘em some in those days.  Did have an out curve, I guess, but I just counted on speed.  The Cadiz team had been cleaning up everything from Wheeling, Steubenville and on down the river, and to think the Hickory Bottom team would lick them!  Why, say it was a joke to those fellows.”

Young said of the game:

“We played on a side of a hill.  Never was a ball ground quite like that.  The only thing anywhere near level was the run from first to second.  You had to run uphill to first, uphill from third to home and downhill from second to third.

“The Cadiz team had a fellow they called Home Run Grimes.  He played shortstop, and his record was a home run or two every game.  Say, I fanned that fellow every time he came to bat, and we won 12 to 1.  Funny how they got that one run!.  It came in the second or third inning.  I forgot which.  But some of the Cadiz sports got to betting that I would blow up or kill our catcher, and that made me hot again. So I kept firing the balls in sort of reckless-like, and I hit two fellows, and one man got a base on balls. I hit the next fellow, and that forced in a run.  Then I settled down, and we won hands down.

The Cadiz Republican gave me a big write-up on the game, and the Canton manager got hold of it and  booked me.”

Young signed with the Canton Nadjys of the Tri-state League in 1890

“The boys told me how I went into professional ball on a hay wagon and there was a heap of truth in it at that.”

I would Pick the Country Boy in place of the City Chap”

9 Sep

In June of 1912, after being unable to return for his 23rd season, Cy Young headed to his farm in Peoli, Ohio, when he “wrote” an article for The Associated Press comparing players from the country versus those who grew up in cities:

“Other things being equal—and by ‘other things’ I mean natural ability, baseball brains and nerve—I would pick the country boy in place of the city chap for my ball team.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said:

“I am not saying this because I am from the country and return here on the slightest provocation.  Still, I believe the fact that I was born and raised on a farm (not two miles from this spot, by the way) is largely responsible for myself as a pitcher.”

Comparing himself to “city” pitchers, Young said:

“I was naturally rugged, and my farm work as a boy tended to make me more so.  I have seen other pitchers who seemed to have a lot more stuff than I had fail, for the reason that they were lacking in reserve power.

“They would go along splendidly for a few innings, but when the real test came they were lost sight of, and now are all but forgotten, whereas they had the same early training I received they might have remained in the game as long as I have.”

Cy and friend

Cy and friend

And Young was buying any claims that players from the city were smarter:

“The argument that city boys think faster and are more independent is not a good one.  In fact, I believe it is entirely wrong.  The country boy must think as fast and as often as the boy in the city, and he is thrown upon his own resources much oftener.

“All in all, give me the boy from the country—the boy who have survived the hard knocks—for a diamond star.”

Despite his desire to always return to farm at “the slightest provocation,” Young worked out throughout the summer of 1912 with designs on getting back to the major leagues.

He told a reporter:

“I am not broken down by any means.  I am still better than three-fourths of the pitchers in the league…I am going to get up a couple of country games and pitch them, too.  Then if I am right I am going to report to (Boston Braves Manager Johnny) Kling…(D)on’t think I am through yet.”

Despite his best efforts in the summer of 1912, the “country boy” had played his final major league game.

“Old Cy Young”

9 May

George S. Applegarth had a varied career as a journalist for papers in Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.  He covered sports, wrote humor columns, reported on WWI from the front lines in Europe, and wrote poetry.

He published two “sequels” to Ernest Thayer‘s “Casey at the Bat” in his 1918 book “Pep: The Red Book of Sports for Red-Blooded Readers.”  Both poems are from the point of view of the pitcher—who he named Jake Weinerkraut, and who was a frequent character in his baseball poems—“The Man Who Struck Out Casey,” is Weinerkraut’s account of the game, and in “Why Casey Fanned,” the pitcher tells how he used his glass eye to blind Casey before the final pitch.

In May of 1912, Cy Young, battling arm problems, left the Boston Braves; the 45-year-old spent the first month of the season with the club having not thrown a pitch.  His career over, Applegarth honored the all-time win leader in The Pittsburgh Gazette-Times:

Cy Young

Cy Young

Old Cy Young

Old Cy Young!  How the very name

Breathes of the zest of the baseball game,

Conjuring pictures of crowded stands,

Echoing voices and clapping hands;

Players striving with might and main,

Moments burdened with stress and strain,

Nerves as tense as a whipcord strung,

And right in the heart of it,

Parcel and part of it—

Old Cy Young.

Old Cy Young!  How men grown gray

Smile as they read that name today;

Smile when they see that sturdy frame

Looming still in the good old game,

Years roll back and they feel once more,

Thrills and throbs of the days of yore;

Tales come leaping to many a tongue,

Telling the fame of him,

Lauding the name of him—

Old Cy Young.

Old Cy Young!  What a name forsooth!

Yet a paradox that tells the truth;

Old in the annals of baseball fame,

Young as the day when he entered the game;

Old in the measure of full success,

Young in the spirit of youthfulness,

Long may the praise of his deeds be sung,

Here’s to good health to him,

Long life and wealth to him—

Old Cy Young

“Those $8 Diamond cuff buttons cost us the Championship”

11 Apr

Clark Griffith never got over losing the pennant to the Boston Americans by 1 ½ games in the American League’s first great pennant race in 1904.

Clark Griffith

Clark Griffith

Over the years, he wasn’t even able to decide which of his New York Highlanders’ three straight losses to Boston in October was the most “hard luck” game, and just who he blamed for letting the season slip away.

In 1914, Griffith told Stanley Milliken of The Washington Post that second baseman Jimmy Williams, who failed to heed his instructions at the plate during the game that gave the pennant to Boston on October 10—Griffith barely mentioned the wild pitch Jack Chesbro threw which allowed Boston to score the winning run.

But two years earlier, he told a different story to Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Examiner –in in this one he put the blame on himself and Chesbro, but not for the October 10 game:

“There never was any hard luck except mine.  Whenever I hear them tell hard luck stories I think to myself that they don’t know what it is.”

[…]

“The race had narrowed down to New York and Boston.  We both came east from our last Western trip with (a half game) separating us.”

Griffith said his club returned to New York believing all five games would be played in New York as scheduled, but discovered that New York owner Frank Farrell “not thinking we would be in the race at all, had in the middle of the season leased the Highlanders park to the Columbia University team for football on Saturday.”

As a result, the two Saturday games were moved to Boston.

“We beat Boston on Friday 3 to 2, and that put us where we only had to break even in the next four games to win.  Chesbro had pitched the Friday game.  I did my planning and decided to pitch Jack Powell the two games in Boston on Saturday, and to leave Chesbro at home to get a good rest over Sunday and to be ready to pitch the two games on Monday if it became necessary, knowing that with two days of good rest he could do it.”

chesbro2

Jack Chesbro

Griffith said his pitcher had other plans:

“When I got down to the depot that night there was Chesbro begging to go with us to Boston.  Some fool friends of his had notified him that they intended to present him with diamond cuff buttons in Boston, and he was wild to go.  I could not refuse him under the circumstances but those $8 diamond cuff buttons cost us the championship.

“(Once in Boston) Chesbro was crazy to pitch, and he warmed up in Boston and declared he felt better than at any time during his life.  I was angry because I wanted him to rest, and refused him.   He almost cried and said he had repeated numerous times during the season and always had won.  I said ‘no’ that we couldn’t take the chance.”

But Griffith said his team pressured him:

“Chesbro got (Wee Willie) Keeler, (Kid) Elberfeld and all the boys to come to me and beg me to let him pitch.  (Jack) Powell came to me and said he would keep warmed up and ready to relieve Chesbro in the first game.  I fell for it, seeing Chesbro had already warmed up and my plan for resting him was spoiled. He was good for (three innings), but before anyone could relieve him in the next Boston made six runs and the game was lost (13-2)…Powell  and Cy Young met in the second game and Boston won 1 to 0.”

And Griffith was quick to blame that loss on his “hard luck” as well:

Griffith's "Hard Luck" Highlanders

Griffith’s “Hard Luck” Highlanders

“The one run was scored on the rankest kind of luck.  A ball thrown (by John Anderson) from the outfield to (third baseman Wid) Conroy got by him…allowing the run to score.  The ball would not have rolled five feet from Conroy, but the crowd had pushed up to within three feet of third base.

This made it necessary for us to win both games on Monday.  And in the first game, in the ninth inning, with two out and two strikes on (Freddy) Parent, Chesbro let his spitball slip for a wild pitch and gave Boston the game.  We won the next 1 to 0 but the pennant was done.

“If there ever was harder luck than that, I don’t want to hear of it.”

The Decline of Baseball, 1899

8 Jan

Late in the 1899 season, The Chicago Tribune editorialized on the state of the game.  The paper was convinced that baseball’s best days were behind it:

“Once upon a time this city put on mourning when its ball club lost a game and when the club returned from a victorious tour it had a Dewey welcome.  Men left stores and offices to go to the ball field.  They knew the players on the home team and exulted in their powers.  There is no more of that.  There is no longer any civic pride in the local team.  Business men no longer attend the games.  In this city and in other cities baseball has ceased to be a high-class sport.  It has become a low-grade pastime.  It is patronized by the class of people who are interested in bicycle races, long-distance pedestrian contests, gamblers, horse races and poolrooms.  Baseball, once the sport of men and women of taste, is now the diversion of hoodlums.”

As for why the game was no longer of interest to “men and women of taste,” The Tribune said:

“There is no room for doubt as to what has pulled it down from its former high state.  Commercialism in part has done it.  The players have become chattels.  Teams are bought and sold and are transferred from city to city as if they were livestock.  The men who are playing in Chicago this year may be playing in Cleveland or New York the next.  That cuts up all sense of local pride in a club…There have been teams which really belonged to Chicago.  Of late years, there have simply been organizations of hirelings whose owners instructed them to hail from here.

“Professional baseball is in the hands of a few men whose sole object is to make all they can out of a sport they have ruined.  There is no competition among them.  That championship, in the winning of which cities took so much pride once, has become a farce.”

The actions of Frank DeHass and Martin Stanford “Stanley” Robison was a particular source of the paper’s ire. The Robison brothers, owners of the Cleveland Spiders, purchased the bankrupt St. Louis Browns and transferred Cleveland’s best players, including Cy Young, Nig Cuppy, and Jesse Burkett to the St. Louis club, now called the Perfectos.  What was left of the Spiders finished with a 20-134 record.

 “Sometimes one man owns two clubs and makes draft on one to help out the other. If it becomes evident that Cleveland must be at the tail of the procession, its best men are shifted over to the St. Louis organization, both being under one ownership.  Requisitions are made on Baltimore for the benefit of Brooklyn and on New York for that of Boston.  No city can have any feeling of city proprietorship in a club under such circumstances.”

The 1899 St. Louis Perfectos

The 1899 St. Louis Perfectos

The behavior of fans was of equal concern:

“Rowdyism has come in along with commercialism and has finished what interest was left in the game. Quiet, decent people can no longer go to baseball games because of the vulgarity and ruffianism displayed there.”

The Tribune felt current players were of lower moral character than those of the previous generation:

The morals of the players have deteriorated.  They used to try to behave like sportsmen.  They act now like foul-tongued bullies.  When a question comes up for the umpire to settle, the players surround him and blackguard and threaten him.  He is fortunate if he escapes without bruises.  Fair decisions cannot be expected from a man in danger of being mobbed.  Occasionally the contending players come to blows and the spectators, who went to see a game of ball, have to witness a game of slugging, garnished with profanity.”

How low had the game gone?

“Baseball has fallen so low that gamblers do not think it is worth paying any attention to.  They have not dropped it because they fancy it is not ‘on the square,’ but because it has become an uninteresting, second-class sport.  It does not interest them now any more than a race between professional bicyclists does.  Baseball has become a recreation of the people whom commercialism, vulgarity, and Rowdyism do not displease.”

The Tribune continued their crusade against the “uninteresting” sport a month later, with an “account of the more disgraceful of the many rows witnessed by spectators of baseball games.”

“Those Freak Balls have no Place in the Game”

16 Dec

Billy Evans, “The Boy Umpire,” was a newspaper reporter in Youngstown, Ohio before he worked his first game as an umpire and continued writing about baseball in syndicated articles throughout his nearly 50-year career as an umpire and front office executive.

Billy Evans

Billy Evans

In January of 1917 he wrote about a conversation he had the previous summer with Cy Young, the 49-year-old former pitcher, out of baseball for five seasons:

“I met him in the lobby of a Cleveland hotel.  Jokingly, I asked him how his arm felt and if he would be able to pitch that afternoon.  He looked as well as ever.  His waist line alone showed the effects of not being in constant training. At the mention of his arm and the chances of him pitching, Cy’s eyes flashed with the old spirit.”

Young told Evans he was “ready and willing:”

Cy Young

Cy Young

“’Honestly Bill, the old arm feels as good as ever,’ was his reply to my query.  ‘Never hurt me in my life, don’t know what it is to have a pain in that good old right arm.  When I quit I had more speed and a better curve than a lot of fellows who are still big leaguers, and I didn’t develop that curve until I had been a big league pitcher many years.  You know, it was excess weight, and not a glass arm, that made me quit pitching. My fielding failed me long before my arm showed signs of weakening, and when I was in my prime I was hardly (Napoleon) Lajoie on ground balls, bunted ones in particular.  During my last two or three years as a big leaguer the boys were wise to my inability to field, even as well as I once did, and they made life miserable for me in many a game.  You might say I was practically bunted out of baseball.”

Young said control “more than any other feature” was the key to his longevity:

“I saw many a pitcher come and go and it was lack of control that started most of them on their way to retirement or to the bushes.  Wasted effort ruins man a pitcher’s arm.  I never used any more energy than was necessary.  I have known a lot of pitchers who invariably did enough pitching for three games every time they were called.  It seemed as though they would have three balls and two strikes on every batter. “

Young said early in his career he learned to warm up differently than most pitchers:

“In the old days pitchers when warming up prior to pitching used to do so at random.  They would hurl the ball to the catcher without any definite purpose.  The sole aim was to get the muscles of the pitching arm loosened.  When I warmed up I always had the catcher take off his cap and set it on the ground for an imaginary home plate.  I figured this scheme would not only loosen up the muscles but help my control, for instead of throwing every ball aimlessly to the catcher, I made an effort to get every ball over the plate…Many pitchers used to warm up from any old distance.  They might pitch from forty to sixty feet.  I always insisted on warming up from the regulation pitching distance.”

[…]

“That I was right in many of my theories has been proven by the methods now used by every major league club.  Practically all have regular places for the pitchers to do their preliminary work.  I mean they have the distance carefully measured to conform to the rules, and have regular pitching rubbers and home plates.”

Evans asked Young what he felt about “new fangled” pitches like the spitball and emery ball:

“’I don’t think about them,’ answered Young.  ‘I just laugh.  We didn’t have to resort to that stuff in the old days, and there were some pretty good pitchers serving them up then.  Speed, curves and a change of pace ought to be enough for any pitcher.  Those freak balls have no place in the game, but it is a pretty hard matter to legislate them out.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #16

21 Oct

Pirates Slump, 1921

The first place Pittsburgh Pirates were preparing for a doubleheader with the New York Giants on August 24, 1921, when the team took time out to pose for a photo.  The Pittsburgh Leader said:

“Someone happened to mention, as the photographer moved away, that for a whole team to watch the little birdie at once was a jinx.”

The team promptly went out and dropped the doubleheader, then lost three more to the Giants.  The paper said of the five straight losses:

“It doesn’t prove the jinx exists.  But it does prove that to imbue a man or a team of men, with the idea that they can’t win a ballgame generally means that they won’t win.  For their pep and enthusiasm has been stolen.”

The Pirates finished second, four games behind the Giants.

Anson’s All-Time Team, 1918

While visiting St. Paul, Minnesota in the summer of 1918, Cap Anson was asked by a reporter for The Associated Press to name his all-time all-star team.  The reporter said the team was most “notable for including in its makeup not one” current player:

"Cap" Anson

                        “Cap” Anson

“According to Captain Anson, at  least four outfielders of old times are better than (Ty) Cobb or (Tris) Speaker and (John) Clarkson, (Amos) Rusie, and (Jim) McCormick, he thinks were better pitchers than (Grover Cleveland)  Alexander  or (Walter) Johnson.  His line-up would be:

Catchers—William “Buck” Ewing and Mike “King” Kelly

Pitchers—Amos Rusie, John Clarkson, and Jim McCormick

First Base—Captain Anson, himself

Second Base—Fred Pfeffer

Third Base—Ned Williamson

Shortstop—Ross Barnes

Outfielders—Bill Lange, George Gore, Jimmy Ryan and Hugh Duffy

Cy Young’s Five Rules, 1907

Forty-year-old Cy Young won 21 games for the Boston Americans in 1907 and his longevity became a popular topic of newspaper copy until he pitched his final major league game four years later.

Cy Young

                                             Cy Young

During that 1907 season he gave a reporter for The Boston Post his advice for young players:

“(T)o the young player who seeks his advice about getting in condition and being able to stay in the game as long as the veteran himself, Cy lays down a few simple rules, which are as follows:

  1.  Live a temperate life
  2. Don’t abuse yourself if you want to attain success
  3. Don’t try to bait the umpires; abusing the arbitrators does a player no good and harms him in the eyes of the umpires, players and public in general
  4. Play the game for all you are worth at all times
  5. Render faithful service to your employers

Regarding his “rule” about umpires, Young said:

“What’s the use in kicking?  The umpire won’t change his decision, and kicking will give him another chance to get back at you for your silly abuse.”

Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up”

10 Aug

In December of 1917, thirty-eight-year-old sportswriter Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune enlisted in the army–he spent fourteen months in Europe.  Before he left he laid out the case, over two weeks, for an all-time all-star team in the pages of the paper:

“As we expect to be held to a restricted output very shortly, due to the exigencies and demands of the artillery game, this seemed to be a fairly fitting period to unfold the results.”

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

Rice said the selections were “not solely from our own limited observation, extending over a period of some eighteen or twenty years,” but included input from players, managers and sportswriters, including  “such veterans” as Frank Bancroft and Clark Griffith, and baseball writers Joe Vila of The New York Sun, Bill Hanna of The New York Herald and Sam Crane, the former major league infielder turned sportswriter of The New York Journal.

Rice said only one of the nine selections “(S)eems to rest in doubt.  The others were almost unanimously backed.”

The selections:

Pitcher:  Christy Mathewson

A. G. Spalding, John (Montgomery) Ward, Larry Corcoran, Charley Radbourn, John Clarkson, (Thomas) Toad Ramsey, Tim Keefe, Bill Hoffer, Amos Rusie, (Mordecai) Miner Brown, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh–the array is almost endless.

“In the matter of physical stamina, Cy Young has outclassed the field.  Cy won more games than almost any others ever pitched.

“(But) For all the pitching mixtures and ingredients, stamina, steadiness, brilliancy, brains, control, speed, curves, coolness, courage, is generally agreed that no man has ever yet surpassed Christy Mathewson…there has never been another who had more brains or as fine control.”

 

[…]

“It might be argued that Radbourn or (Walter) Johnson or (Grover Cleveland) Alexander was a greater pitcher than Mathewson.

But we’ll string with Matty against the field.”

Radbourn was the second choice.  Bancroft said:

“Radbourn was more like Mathewson than any pitcher I ever saw.  I mean by that, that like Matty, he depended largely upon brains and courage and control, like Matty he had fine speed and the rest of it.  Radbourn was a great pitcher, the best of the old school beyond any doubt.”

Catcher:  William “Buck” Ewing

“Here we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) Bergen(Johnny) Kling, (Roger) Bresnahan and various others.

“But the bulk of the votes went to Buck Ewing.”

Buck Ewing

Buck Ewing

[…]

“Wherein did Ewing excel?

“He was a great mechanical catcher.  He had a wonderful arm and no man was surer of the bat…he had a keen brain, uncanny judgment, and those who worked with him say that he had no rival at diagnosing the  weakness of opposing batsman, or at handling his pitchers with rare skill.”

Kling was the second choice:

“Kling was fairly close…a fine thrower, hard hitter, and brilliant strategist…But as brilliant as Kling was over a span of years, we found no one who placed him over the immortal Buck.”

1B Fred Tenney

First Base was the one position with “the greatest difference of opinion,” among Rice and the others:

“From Charlie Comiskey to George Sisler is a long gap—and in that gap it seems that no one man has ever risen to undisputed heights… There are logical arguments to be offered that Hal Chase or Frank Chance should displace Fred Tenney at first.

But in the way of batting and fielding records Tenney wins….Of the present array, George Sisler is the one who has the best chance of replacing Tenney.”

2B Eddie Collins

 “There was no great argument about second base.

“The vote was almost unanimous.

“From the days of Ross Barnes, a great hitter and a good second baseman on through 1917, the game has known many stars.  But for all-around ability the game has known but one Eddie Collins.”

Rice said the competition was between Collins, Napoleon Lajoie and Johnny Evers:

“Of these Lajoie was the greatest hitter and most graceful workman.

“Of these Evers was the greatest fighter and the more eternally mentally alert.

“But for batting and base running, fielding skill, speed and the entire combination, Collins was voted on top.”

 SS Honus Wagner

“Here, with possibly one exception, is the easiest pick of the lot.  The game has been replete with star shortstops with George Wright in 1875 to (Walter “Rabbit”) Maranville, (George “Buck”) Weaver…There were (Jack) Glasscock and (John Montgomery) Ward, (Hardy) Richards0n, (Hugh) Jennings, (Herman)Long, (Joe) Tinker and (Jack) Barry.

“But there has been only one Hans Wagner.”

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Jennings and Long were rated second and third,  “But, with the entire list  considered there is no question but that Wagner stands at the top.”

3B Jimmy Collins

Rice said:

“From the days of (Ned) Williamson(Jerry) Denny, and (Ezra) Sutton, over thirty years ago, great third basemen have only appeared at widely separated intervals.

“There have been fewer great third basemen in baseball than at any other position, for there have been periods when five or six years would pass without an undoubted star.”

The final decision came down to “John McGraw vs. Jimmy Collins.”  McGraw was “a great hitter, a fine bunter and a star base runner,” while “Collins was a marvel and a marvel over a long stretch…he was good enough to carve out a .330 or a .340 clip (and) when it came to infield play at third he certainly had no superior…So taking his combined fielding and batting ability against that of McGraw and Collins wins the place.  McGraw was a trifle his superior on the attack. But as a fielder there was no great comparison, Collins leading by a number of strides.”

 

OF Ty Cobb

“The supply here is overwhelming…Yet the remarkable part is that when we offered our selection to a jury of old players, managers and veteran scribes there was hardly a dissenting vote.”

[…]

“Number one answers itself.  A man who can lead the league nine years in succession at bat.

“A man who can lead his league at bat in ten out of eleven seasons.

“A man who can run up the record for base hits and runs scored in a year—also runs driven in.

“Well, the name Ty Cobb answers the rest of it.”

OF Tris Speaker

 “The man who gives Cobb the hardest battle is Tris Speaker.  Veteran observers like Clark Griffith all say that Speaker is the greatest defensive outfielder baseball has ever exploited…Speaker can cover more ground before a ball is pitched than any man.  And if he guesses incorrectly, which he seldom does, he can go a mile to retrieve his error in judgment…And to this impressive defensive strength must be added the fact he is a powerful hitter, not only a normal .350 man, but one who can tear the hide off the ball for extra bases.”

Tris Speaker "hardest hit"

Tris Speaker 

OF “Wee Willie” Keeler

Mike Kelly and Joe KelleyJimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill LangeBilly Hamilton.

“The remaining list is a great one, but how can Wee Willie Keeler be put aside?

“Ask Joe Kelley, or John McGraw, or others who played with Keeler and who remember his work.

“Keeler was one of the most scientific batsmen that ever chopped a timely single over third or first…And Keeler was also a great defensive outfielder, a fine ground coverer—a great thrower—a star in every department of play.

“Mike Kelly was a marvel, more of an all-around sensation, but those who watched the work of both figure Keeler on top.”

Rice said of the nine selections:

“The above is the verdict arrived at after discussions with managers, players and writers who have seen a big section of the long parade, and who are therefore able to compare the stars of today with the best men of forgotten years.

“Out of the thousands of fine players who have made up the roll call of the game since 1870 it would seem impossible to pick nine men and award them the olive wreath.  In several instances the margin among three or four is slight.

“But as far a s deductions, observations, records and opinions go, the cast named isn’t very far away from an all-time all-star round up, picked for ability, stamina, brains, aggressiveness and team value.

“If it doesn’t stick, just what name from above could you drop?”

“He Drinks one Glass of Whiskey a day while Training”

8 Apr

The Associated Press (AP) said in 1912 that 45-year-old Denton True “Cy” Young “(B)aseball’s most interesting veteran has gone  to Augusta, Georgia, to join his teammates of the Boston Nationals at their training camp.”

Young had gone to Augusta from Hot Springs, Arkansas, where The AP said he had spent several weeks performing his annual ritual for getting into shape, “He started going there years ago.”

Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

Cy Young, third from left, with Bill Carrigan, Jake Stahl, and Fred Anderson at Hot Springs in 1912

Among his secrets: “He drinks one glass of whiskey a day while training.”

Young shared his training regimen with the wire service:

“First week:  The regular daily baths at Hot Springs.

“Second week:  Baths and road work.  He dresses in flannels and sweater and does 10 to 15 miles on the road.  He tramps, sprints and climbs hills. He does not touch a baseball.

“Third week: He continues baths and road work.  He fields and tosses the ball. He handles bunts to reduce his stomach.  At the end of the third week, he pitches his first ball.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said after he began throwing pitches, he had no set rule for one to begin throwing hard:

“Young doesn’t attempt a fastball until he is just right and no one but himself can tell when this will be.  He says he doesn’t know how he knows when the moment arrives, but he just naturally begins to speed them across and perhaps to put ‘something on the ball’ at the correct time.  The result is you never hear of Cy Young complaining of a sore arm, or wrenched back, as many youngsters do.”

Young, by all accounts, pitched fairly well in  games in Georgia and went north with Boston.  But, he never appeared in a game.  An April story that said he was retiring to take a baseball writing job at The Boston American proved untrue.  Finally, on May 23, Young was scheduled to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The AP said:

“The veteran was sent out to warm up to pitch for Boston against the Pirates…but his salary wing refused to behave.”

Young vowed to return to his farm “and get into shape,” in order to return before the end of the season.

His training regimen finally wasn’t enough.  His career was over.

Hearing that Young was returning to his farm, his Boston teammates took up a collection “to defray Cy’s expenses and $44.39 was raised.”  The AP said some of the young players didn’t realize the collection “was a joke…He is worth $75,000 and owns 160 acres of land in Ohio…Cy smiled and spent a good hour hunting up the younger players and returning their money.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #12

3 Nov

The Cost of Superstitions, 1913

John Phalen “Stuffy” McInnis his .324 and drove in 90 runs for the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics, but the first baseman hit just .118—2 for 17—during the World Series.

Stuffy McInnis

Stuffy McInnis

The Washington Post told how one superstition among the athletics players might have contributed to McInnis’ slump:

“Those boys believe that they can change the luck at a crucial moment by hurling their bats in the air and letting them fall where they will.  Probably you fans have often seen them do it.  They also believe that they can keep up their good luck by continuing this practice.

“During the first game, in which (Frank “Home Run”) Baker hit a home run, the Athletics started tossing their bats the minute the ball was hit.  As the bats came down Stuffy McGinnis couldn’t get out of the way in time and one of them struck him in the ankle, causing a painful bruise.  He limped to first base and for a while (Connie) Mack was afraid he couldn’t go on with the game.”

Despite McInnis’ slump, the Athletics beat the Giants four games to one.

The Case against the Spitball, 1905

Baseball’s greatest pitcher hated the games most controversial pitch.  In 1905 Denton True “Cy” Young was quoted in The Sporting Life saying it wouldn’t be long before the pitch disappeared entirely:

“I don’t think the ‘spit ball’ is going to cut a much a figure as was thought early in the season.  Many of the pitchers that were using it at the start of the campaign have cut it now, and from now on the twirlers that use it will be dropping it one by one.  I used it against Philadelphia and Washington and had it working nicely, but it hurt my arm and I have cut it altogether.  An old pitcher like myself has no business using it at all.”

Cy Young

Cy Young

Young said the pitch injured his forearm and said he was not alone.  He claimed Jack Chesbro, George Mullin, (Guy) “Doc” White all received similar injuries.   And Washington’s Case Patten, who a year earlier so loved the pitch The St. Louis Republic said he was often “giving the ball a shower bath preparatory to flinging,” was now saying the pitch “lamed his arm.”

Young said even for those who weren’t injured, the spitter would ultimately lead to pitchers losing “control of his curve ball and his fast ones.”

While Chesbro disagreed with Young’s claim that his arm problems were the result of throwing spitballs, his effectiveness diminished greatly after the injury.

Young’s prediction of the demise of the pitch was premature.  At the time of his statement, Chicago White Sox pitcher “Big Ed” Walsh was perfecting the pitch, which he learned from teammate Elmer Stricklett—who had also been instrumental in Chesbro’s use of the spitter.   Walsh started throwing the spitball regularly in 1906.

Ed Walsh circa

Ed Walsh circa

A month before his death, on his 78th birthday and bed-ridden, Walsh remained an advocate for the pitch Cy Young detested.  He told a reporter for The Associated Press:

“I admire the pitchers today who throw the pitch.  Some people call ‘em cheaters.  They’re not.  They’re just guys doing everything they can to win.”

Wahoo Sam’s Scouting Report, 1914

Coming off of the New York Giants off-season world tour with the Chicago White Sox, the consensus opinion seemed to be that Giants Manager John McGraw did not make a mistake in signing Jim Thorpe, the world’s greatest all-around athlete, to a three-year contract worth–depending on the source—from $5,000 to $6,500 per season.  Many doubted Thorpe’s prospects after he hit just .143 in 19 games for the Giants in 1913.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

But, not to worry, said McGraw:

“All Thorpe needed was every day action, instead of idleness, although of course sitting on the bench all summer gave him a chance to learn lots of things that will stand him in good stead later on.”

The baseball world generally agreed with McGraw’s assessment.

Hugh Fullerton predicted Thorpe would be “the most sensational baseball player of 1914.”

Damon Runyon declared Thorpe was “now a star.”

Gustave (G.W.) Axelson, Sports Editor of The Chicago Record-Herald, who traveled with the teams, said of Thorpe’s development during the trip:

“The fans in the United States will see an entirely different kind of player when Thorpe Lines up for the season. “

White Sox pitcher Joe Benz, who played against Thorpe on the tour, agreed saying Thorpe “improved greatly” and would be of “great assistance to the Giants,” in 1914.

But, “Wahoo” Sam Crawford, the Detroit Tigers outfielder who traveled with the tour as a member of the White Sox disagreed with all the glowing accounts of Thorpe’s progress.  The Detroit Times said:

“Thorpe’s speed is all that commends him, according to Sam.  He is not a particularly good fielder, and he cannot hit.  He is not a natural hitter at all, but he gives the bat a little upward chop as he swings at the ball in a way that Crawford never saw any man do before.

“Furthermore Thorpe doesn’t seem to have that baseball instinct that is so necessary for a big league player, say Crawford.  He is a very chesty fellow for a man who has yet to prove that he is of big league caliber, is the assertion made by Wahoo Sam.”

Sam Crawford

Sam Crawford

Crawford’s assessment was the most accurate.  Despite the fanfare that accompanied Thorpe’s return from the tour, Thorpe was never better than a mediocre outfielder (career .951 fielding percentage) and he hit just .252 over parts of nine major league seasons.