Tag Archives: George Gibson

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

cy

Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
cobb

Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday

“In Baseball Words, ‘I Wised up’”

17 Jun

Charles “Babe” Adams was on his way to an 18-9 season with a 2.24 ERA (on the heels of 12-3, 1.11) in his second full season in the major leagues.  The 28-year-old was asked by Chicago journalist Joseph B. Bowles to tell readers “How I Win,” for a series of syndicated articles.

Babe Adams

Babe Adams

Adams was initially reluctant:

“I have been asked to tell how I win, and it may sound immodest for a new man to try to tell such things.  You say it is for the benefit of young players, so I’ll tell some of the things I learned after coming to Pittsburgh.  The first thing I found out was that (Fred) Clarke was boss, and that he knew more about the game than I ever thought was in it. After a few bumpings, I learned that (catcher George) Gibson knew a lot more about what to pitch to batters than I did.  I think I began to improve as soon as I found out these things.  The next was that I had to have confidence in the team to make them have confidence in me.  In baseball words, ‘I wised up.’”

George Gibson

George Gibson

Adams’ view of what made a good pitcher was the same in 1910 as it would be nearly a decade later after he had been released by the Pirates and worked his way back to the team and reestablishing himself as an effective pitcher in his late 30s:

“Now a pitcher can have all the speed and curves and control in the world and still not be a good pitcher until he gets wise.  This Pittsburgh crowd plays the game to win, and it is because they work together, hit together, and because each man relies on the others, that they win.  At first, I thought Gibson made some mistakes in telling me what to pitch.  In fact, I was wrong most of the time.  He taught me what to do with a curve ball, and when my control was good enough to pitch where he wanted the ball pitched, things went right.   Sometimes I laughed at myself remembering the mistakes I used to make—some of them I still make…The pitcher must remember that the chances are the batter is as smart and experienced as he is, and keep thinking all the time;  trying to guess what the batter is thinking, and then pitching something else.”

Adams

Adams

Adams continued to credit his teammates for his success:

“It is a big help tp a pitcher to look around in a tight situation and see where Clarke, or (Tommy) Leach, or (Honus) Wagner are playing.  A fellow can learn a lot and get a lot of help by taking his cue from them and pitching the ball where they seem to want it pitched.  It gives a man confidence, too, to know he can make that batter hit the ball, and that back of him are a crowd of men who will come to the rescue and save him when he needs it.

“I think Gibson did more to make me a winner than anyone else.  He is a great catcher, and he rather inspires a pitcher, and makes him do better.”

Adams credited Gibson with his success in the 1909 World Series—when he won three games:

“In the World Series against Detroit, I made a lot of bad breaks in the first game.  Gibson steadied me up and coached me all the way.  He had a theory the Detroit team would not hit low curves , and after we began to study them and see how they hit, we fed them low curves , fast and slow, just inside the outside of the plate, but always low, and we beat them with that kind of pitching.”

Adams also shared a view of strikeouts that would be repeated by Hall of Famer Addie Joss during Joss’ final interview, two days before his death in 1911:

“I found out striking out batters is not the way to win, and that a pitcher must depend rather on making them hit bad balls or balls where the batter does not expect them to be, than in pitching himself out early in a game trying to strike out hitter.”

Addie Joss

Addie Joss

Adams, who won 194 games (losing 140) with a career 2.76 ERA, struck out  just 1036 batters in 2995.1 innings over 19 seasons.

Honus Wagner, “How I Win”

14 Dec

As part of a series of syndicated articles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win,” Joseph B. Bowles, a Chicago journalist, interviewed Honus Wagner before the 1910 season.

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Wagner said it was simple:

“The secret of winning at baseball is to be found in the first order given to a new ballplayer.  it is ‘Keep your eye on the ball.’  I believe there is such a thing as the instinct for playing the game, but the greatest success comes from quick eyesight and from never taking the eye off the ball for a moment, whether batting fielding or running bases.”

But, he admitted he hadn’t given the subject much thought:

“I never have written anything about baseball, and never have thought much about why a team wins or why a player is a winning player (until now).  It is hard for a player to explain how he wins than it is to win.  I think, however after thinking it over, that the eyesight has more to do with it than anything else.  It is the quick eye and the steady one that makes a man a winner.”

Wagner said this was especially true at bat:

“The batter who faces a clever pitcher is certain to be outguessed by him the majority of times. There is no way to overcome the pitcher’s advantage except to have an eye quick enough to see either from the way the pitcher wings or from the way the ball comes, what is pitched, and then have an eye quick enough to enable him to follow the course of the ball.”

As for his approach at the plate:

“In batting a player should stand firmly on both feet.  It does not matter what his position at bat is, and he ought to take his most natural position, but he must stand on the balls of both feet to get the force of his body, arms and shoulders into the swing of the bat.  Every batter has a different style, but the good ones swing with a steady drive, backed up by the whole body.  I think there is a lot in the way a man holds his bat.  It is impossible to tell a young player how to hold his bat.  He must use his own motion and grip.  He can, however, learnt o shift his feet in hitting.”

On defense, Wagner said:

“(T)he quick eye saves many hits…Perhaps one in five ground balls hit to an infielder bound crooked or shoot in unexpected directions, and a quick eye and a good pair of hands will save the team.”

Wagner was also quick to credit his teammates:

“I think the big reason for Pittsburgh’s success has been first that we’ve played together a long time and know each other and second, and greater, that every man is there to win for the team, no matter what he may do himself.  Last year (George) Gibson caught the greatest ball of any catcher living, and he enabled all the rest of us to play team ball all the time because he was in the team work every minute.  Besides (Fred) Clarke is the greatest manager in the business and a great leader.  No one knows how good Clarke is until he has played with him.”

Bowles spoke with one other Pirate player for his series.   Second baseman John “Dots” Miller was the 22-year-old rookie second baseman who played alongside Wagner on the 1909 World Champions.  His answer to “How I Win:”

“I win by watching Wagner.

“When asked to tell how I won I was going to refuse because it does sound ‘swelled’ for a young fellow to tell such things or claim to win until I remembered how it was.

Dots Miller

Dots Miller

“I win because Honus Wagner taught me the game, showed me how to play it something after his own style, so in telling how I win I am only praising the teacher and the man I think is the greatest ballplayer of them all.”

“The Game is Stricter and Better now”

8 May

Honus Wagner was an exception.  Unlike most of his contemporaries, he didn’t spend his later years complaining that the game was just not the same and that current players would not be able to compete with the stars of his era.

Financially strapped as a result of the Depression, Wagner was offered a job by the Pittsburgh Pirates to join Manager George Gibson’s staff.   While in California with the team for spring training he spoke to Russell Newland of The Associated Press.   Wagner said:

“We’ve got more good players than we ever had.  That’s because there are more strong leagues.  The game is stricter and better now.  You can’t bully the umpire any more.  The boys used to be a rough and ready lot.  Now the umpire is a real authority and it’s all for the best.”

Wagner

Pirates Coach Honus Wagner

Wagner also felt that pitchers had to work harder than they did when he played:

“Our pitchers had the advantage of a dead ball and used the spitter, the shine ball and the emery ball.  They worked the old bean ball overtime.  All that’s out now.  Nowadays a pitcher has to throw a lot more balls.  He has to work the corners because that lively ball sure sails when the boys get one in the groove.  Actually he pitches a couple of games in nine innings, compared to the chuckers of my day.”

Wagner had no complaints about the comparatively large money stars like Babe Ruth were paid either:

“That $50,000 they’re offering the Babe reads like a lot of money to me, but if he can get them to raise it, I say ‘more power to him.’”

Wagner was also optimistic about baseball’s future:

“’Baseball is O.K.,’ he said as he crossed the most famous pair of bow legs in the history of the pastimes.  ‘They’ll be playing it a long time from now.”

Lost Advertisements–George Gibson for Coca-Cola

13 Oct

gibsoncoke

Pittsburgh Pirates Catcher George Gibson was coming off one of the most impressive seasons ever–he caught in 134 straight games and a total of 150 for the World Series Champions–when this advertisement appeared:

George Gibson of the Pittsburgh Nationals

(Champions of the World)

led the league as a catcher with a percentage of .983 and caught more games than any other catcher last year.  He writes us that he is enthusiastic about Coca-Cola.  You, too, will like Coca-Cola, because it relieves fatigue, refreshes, quenches the thirst and is absolutely wholesome.

The Coca-Cola Company wanted to attribute Gibson’s iron man performance in 1909 to his choice of beverage, but before the season Gibson, from his home in London, Ontario wrote to Barney Dreyfuss, Pirates president and told him about his secret for getting in shape for the campaign.  The Pittsburgh Dispatch printed the letter:

I had a letter from (Pirate outfielder John) Chief Wilson the other day.  All he writes about is hunting.  He says the quails are so thick down where he is (Bertram, Texas) that you have to cut a path through them when you go hunting.  Nothing like that up here.  I have seen a lone jack rabbit this season and I have been chasing him to keep in condition, but to date I have not captured him.  He is the limit for speed.  One jump and he lands in the next town.  He would make a good trainer.  If I can catch him alive I will take him to Hot Springs and let the boys get in condition by chasing him.”