Tag Archives: Fred Goldsmith

“The ‘Deacon’ Seemed to Have Been Entirely Overlooked”

6 Sep

Deacon White died on July 7, 1939, just after being snubbed for inclusion in the Hall of Fame—a move that The Sporting News, among others, had campaigned for.

The Associated Press said, “By strange coincidence,” they had sent a reporter to interview the 91-year-old on “the eve of his death.”

deaconwhite

Deacon White

White was living on his daughter’s summer home, 45 miles west of Chicago:

“The gentle tapping of a cane on the stairs became more distinct.

“In the living room doorway, presently, appeared a bent, aging figure—James ‘Deacon’ White, 92 years old [sic], and the oldest living player of baseball, which this year is celebrating its centennial.  The ‘Deacon’ seemed to have been entirely overlooked in the hullabaloo.

“Slowly, the bespectacled old gentleman lowered himself into his favorite chair.  Almost as old as the game itself, the ‘Deacon’ was hard of hearing, his memory was uncertain, but he loved to talk about the game he learned from a union soldier, just returned from the Civil War.”

The reporter, Charles Dunkley, said, “White’s gnarled fingers—he was a barehanded catcher—bore trademarks of the game.”

White, who appeared in his final game in 1890, said:

“’Batters of my day would have little success with present day pitching, but by golly, you haven’t got any better fielders now than we had in the first days of the game.  We fielded bare handed and that took a lot more skill than the present day fielders need with their gloves.’

“’The science of batting and pitching have advanced a long way in 70 years.  When the game was first originated, we never had fast ball pitching as the pitchers do today, when they wind up or throw overhand or sidearm.’”

White also weighed in on the origins of the curve ball:

“’(Arthur “Candy” Cummings) was one of our first great pitchers and I know that he used to curve a ball as early as 1868, but not in regulation games because the rules prohibited them.’”

White dismissed the suggestion that Fred Goldsmith introduced the curve ball:

“’I knew Goldsmith as an infielder and later as a pitcher,’ recalled the old-timer, ‘and if he threw curves before Cummings, he must have kept it a secret.  But in my day, all the young pitchers were learning to throw curves two years before the rules permitted them.”’ (and presumably before Goldsmith demonstrated the pitch to Henry Chadwick in 1870).

White, who said he hadn’t attended a major league game “in several years,” was scheduled to attend a “a celebration in his honor and in honor of other old time stars,” in Aurora, Illinois.  But died just two days before the event.

white.jpg

White

White closed his final interview attributing “his longevity to the fact he never smoke or drank,” and:

“(White) always practiced clean, simple living.

“To the present crop of young players, he gave this advice.

“’Live a clean life and keep in condition.  You’ll never regret it.”

 

“Never a Backstop ever Lived could touch Frank Flint.”

6 Apr

George Gore spent 14 seasons in the major leagues, hitting .301—most notably, he led the National League with a .360 average in 1880 as a member of the Chicago White Stockings.

George Gore

George Gore

After his retirement, Gore was a regular attendee of baseball’s winter meetings.  In 1910, he spoke to a reporter from The Washington Evening Star at the 1910 gathering at New York’s Hotel Breslin.  The paper called him “one of the finest fielders, heaviest hitters, and finest ballplayers,” of his era.

Gore, however, didn’t want to talk about his abilities, but instead was making the case for one of his former teammates, Silver Flint:

Silver Flint

Silver Flint

“Frank Flint of our team was the greatest catcher who ever lived.  He knew more than any other man with the mask.  He had the greatest head of any man in the business.  Nobody before or since could touch Flint.

“Every pitcher he ever handled he made a star.  Look at Fred Goldsmith and Larry Corcoran.”

Fred Goldsmith

Fred Goldsmith

Gore noted that neither pitcher “ever showed much” before or after playing with Flint; although he did leave out that both were still teammates of Flint when they began their steep declines in 1884 and 1885.

“Once Frank took them in hand, they all developed into stars.  He could make cracks out of every pitcher who ever towed the slab.  Show me the backstop today who can take any pitcher and make a marvel out of him.”

Larry Corcoran

Larry Corcoran

Of Flint’s role in both pitchers’ success, Gore said:

“Goldsmith was able to pitch for us for several years after his arm was like a plate of ice cream because he had Flint behind the bat.  Corcoran, you know, was a slightly built man (5’ 3” 125-130 pounds) and as cranky as the dickens.

“The White Stockings were out in California at the time that (William) Hulbert was president of the club.  Corcoran had been heard about by our team, but his sour disposition had queered him with a number of them.  Hulbert was a trifle loath to take him.  However, he talked with ‘Silver’.”  ‘Get him,’ said Frank, ‘and I’ll do the rest.’  So Hulbert took Larry.’”

Gore, who likely exaggerated concerns about the highly prized 20-year-old Corcoran, said of Hulbert’s first meeting with the pitcher:

“The boss called Corcoran to him ‘Look here’ said the president, pointing to Flint:  ‘That fellow is your boss.  You do everything that he asks you, and don’t you disobey, or I’ll fire you right off the reel.’

“Corcoran started.  He obeyed implicitly, and everything went along finely.  Larry was soon one of the best twirlers in the league.  One day, though, he got one of his cranky fits on.  He wouldn’t obey the signals and crossed ‘Silver’ several times.”

Gore said Flint went out to speak to his ‘cranky’ pitcher:

“’Larry,’ he said quietly, but his eyes were snapping, ‘you either do what I say or you  go straight into the clubhouse—I don’t care a d— which you do. Now get busy.’”

Gore said Corcoran complied:

“After the game, Hulbert was sitting in the grandstand.  Corcoran came out of the clubhouse dressed, and the boss was waiting for him.  He called the pitcher to him.  ‘Look here Lawrence,’ sa id the old man, ‘didn’t I tell you that Frank was your boss?  Now if you let another yip out of you like you did today you’ll be fired so quick that your head will swim.’”

Gore said Corcoran again complied, and from that point on Flint had him “trained to the minute.”  Corcoran was 175-85 with a 2.26 ERA from 1880 until the White Stockings released him in 1885—his arm dead.  Despite the numbers, Gore called Corcoran “only a fair twirler” but for Flint.

Goldsmith, a claimant to the invention of the curveball, had a similar fate. He was 98 and 52 with a 2.57 ERA from 1880 through 1883 with Chicago; in 1884, he began to struggle and was 9-11 with a 4.26 ERA when the White Stockings sold him to the Baltimore Orioles in August.  His career was over at the end of that season.

Corcoran’s big league career was over at age 27, Goldsmith was 28.

Whether Flint deserved as much credit as Gore gave him for their brief, incredible success, is open to debate, but in 1910, the former outfielder was certain in his praise for his former teammate, who had died in 1892:

“Yes, there was never a backstop ever lived  could touch Frank Flint.”