Tag Archives: How I Win

Willie Keeler: “How I Win”

2 Jun

As part of a syndicated syndicated series of articles asking star players and managers to explain, “How I Win,” writer Joseph B. Bowles spoke to the “brainiest outfielder in the business,” Wee Willie Keeler, then in his final season in the major leagues:

“The study of batting and of batters has done more for me in winning games and helping the team win than anything else.”

Keeler

Keeler said, “through long experience,” he knew where batters would hit “any kind of pitched ball,” but:

“(T)he modern game changes so rapidly a fielder has to keep studying all the time to keep up with it. The batters change their styles sometimes in a few days, and I have seen many games lost by fielders misplaying a batter who has changed his direction of hitting.”

He said he spent every morning reading and studying to see, “how each man is hitting and the general direction of his hits,” and who was pitching.

“At the end of the week I get all the scores in some sporting paper and take each man separately and go through all the games to study his batting. In that way I generally know just what each batter is likely to do, and I play for him accordingly.”

Keeler said in Brooklyn one season, after being out of the lineup for several days with an injury and not “studying box scores during the layoff, “It was surprising to see how many of them I misplayed when I got back into the game.”

The man nicknamed “Hit ‘em where they ain’t,” said, “The study of fielders by hitters is almost as important,” particularly for fast runners.

“Indeed, I think this is one of the most neglected points in baseball. No man can hit a ball to any point he wants to, but many can accomplish the feat a fair percentage of times.”

Keeler said throughout the game:

“I study the positions taken by the opposing players and very frequently it is possible to catch a player out of position or pull him out of position and hit into his territory.”

One of the “most effective forms of place hitting,” was drawing corner infielders in by feigning a bunt, “then poking the ball over his head or hitting it fast past him.”

Many players, rather than considering where they were being played, “see only the pitcher, and slam away at the ball without any idea of where it is going.”

He called himself an advocate for “hitting the ball squarely rather than hitting it hard,” and:

“If anyone will study how many hits are made after two strikes and the batter ‘chokes up’ his bat and hits squarely without swinging hard at the ball he will be convinced that style of batting is best.”

Mike Mitchell: “How I Win”

21 May

Mike Mitchell spent eight seasons in the major leagues with four different clubs; he hit .278 and one of the game’s best outfield arms. He also differed from most of his contemporaries who were interviewed by syndicated writer Joseph B. Bowles in 1910 for a series of articles where the game’s best players and managers explained, “How I Win.”

Mitchell’s explanation:

“Luck I think is the biggest element in winning baseball games, and in the success of any individual player. I have known many good ballplayers who were sent back to the minor leagues and have never arisen again because luck broke against them during their early careers, and they were never lucky enough to get another chance.”

Mitchell

He reasoned:

“Scoring runs wins, hitting scores runs and luck is the best part of hitting…There are mysteries in batting that even the batters do not understand…Often a man hit hard and steadily without getting safe hits for weeks and then suddenly the luck will turn and everything he hits will go safe.”

Michell hit .222 in his second season after a .292 rookie year, and rebounded in 1909 with what would be a career best .310:

“(In 1909) I stood up and hit that ball as hard as ever I did in my life and hit it steadily yet had hard work to get above .200 and the next season hits rolled out of the bats. I could not trace it to any fault of my own, for the swings and stride seemed the same.”

He also believed that, “There is no way for a man to learn to bat,” with one exception:

“I think left-handed batters who are extremely fast actually can be taught to bat whether they are natural hitters or not. They can learn to poke and push the ball and chop at it, mixing it up with their swings and by practice become pretty good hitters whether they were at the start or not.”

Despite it being luck, Mitchell offered some advice to hitters:

“Try to keep a steady footing, both feet on the ground but with the body balanced on the balls of the feet. Never hit flatfooted.”

He also preached contact over power:

“Notice the best major league batters. They may take two hard swings at the ball, then see them shorten up their grips on the bat and make sure of hitting the ball to save a strikeout.”

His advice to young players:

“Keep cool, watch closely and study all the time and you may hit—if you are lucky.”

Frank Chance: “How I Win”

13 Jan

“I don’t know how I win. As a fact, I don’t care how I win, if I win, beyond winning by clean methods and not asking favors”

Said Frank Chance, as part of a series of syndicated articles by Chicago journalist Joseph B. Bowles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win.”

“It is all in the man himself. There are many great ballplayers who are not winning ballplayers…I know I go into a game confident of winning and the confidence never ends. The harder they beat us the harder I work and if a manager keeps working and fighting all the time his players will be with him. If he quits or weakens, his men will do the same. I try to get the best work out of myself and my players, to fight and keep fighting to the finish, and then try to forget the game and work for the next one.”

Frank Chance

He said remembering the previous day’s game “is a bad thing,” and explained how he prepared for games:

“The first thing to do is to study the weaknesses of the other club and to recognize its strength and then, allowing for its greatest strength and least weakness, to figure out how to beat it at its best.

“I make a close study of opposing pitchers and plan the attack upon the weakest point of the other team. I always give the opposing team credit for having brains enough to strike our weakest point and try to fortify that point by adapting the team work to the conditions.”

Chance said “the hardest work” of a manager was how to use pitchers:

“I want to know exactly the condition of the pitcher who is going to work, and if there are two or three in top condition, I study which one is best against the team we are to play.”

During a game, he said he tried “to outguess the other said all the time and to do things and have my men do things,” that would not be expected:

“I believe in taking chances at bat, in the field, and especially on the bases, and I think taking chances with men in games has won for me…I and my team have won because we have worked harder and more earnestly to win than other teams have. It isn’t ‘swelled headedness’ to say that. We have worked all the time and I believe that hard work and constant practice, condition and working together for the good of the team rather than for the good of ourselves, has been the secret of the past successes of the Cubs.”

Chance won his final pennant that season.

Fred Clarke: “How I Win”

17 Sep

“Hit and hustle.

“The whole secret of winning is contained in those two words.”

So said Pittsburgh Pirates manager Fred Clarke, 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 Clarke before the 1910 season.

Clarke

Clarke said:

“There is less difference between the ability of players to perform than most persons think. The great difference is in their courage, nerve and determination to win.

“I believe in hitting and in hitting to help the team, for after all the work of the individual player is not worth much unless he directs every effort to helping the other players on the club. The thing that makes (Honus) Wagner the greatest hitter in the world is his willingness to help baserunners, combined with his ability to help them. He is the best man playing the hit and run game, either on the bases or when at bat, in the world, and his willingness to spoil his own record to win for the team shows the difference between him and some others.”

Clarke told Bowles that style of play is how his team won the 1909 World Series and “is the way every winning team I ever have played with or against has won.”

A team was like a machine, he said, and “One might as well throw a wrench into the engine as to put a discordant player into a good club.”

Clarke addressed “much talk” of the importance of intelligence players:

“Of course, a player must have intelligence and be able to think and remember, but I think the greater part of baseball ‘brains’ consists of close attention to the game every instant, and both on and off the field. The worst mistakes made by players are not those that come from lack of brains so much as from lack of attention to what his own team or members of the other team are doing or trying to do.”

As for his managerial style:

“My players think I am something of a crank on discipline, and on keeping in condition. Perhaps that is so. I believe in careful training in the spring, and still more careful training and conditioning during the entire season.

‘The modern player must study himself if he is to succeed and continue to succeed. He must know his own condition and avoid either growing stale or indulging himself too much either in eating or drinking. I think cigarettes are the worst things possible for a player, both for his wind and for his eyes.  If a player takes a drink of ale or beer, he ought to do it after a hard game, or when he feels himself in danger of going stale.”

Clarke with a different take on smoking, three years later

Finally, of what it takes to win; Clarke said:

“Also, a winning team ought to fight for every point; claim it and go after it; not rowdyism, but aggressiveness is the point. It makes the other side less confident and helps get an ‘even break’ which is all any team should ask.”

Clarke’s defending World Series champions slipped to an 86-67 record and third place finish in 1910.

“How I Win” Germany Schafer

14 Jun

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 Herman “Germany” Schaefer before the 1910 season.

germany

Germany Schaefer

“Work hard and think hard, and keep working and thinking all the time, whether you are winning or losing, is the way to win in baseball.  I have been with losers and been with winners, and my system of losing is the same as that of winning.

“People have an idea baseball players are some special make of men.  The fact is that hard work and steady practice is what makes one man better than another in the game, provided they start with equal strength, health and speed, and have determination and grit and no strain or streak of yellow.

“Anyone who is timid, who gives up quickly or lacks gameness never can become a winning player.”

Germany Schaefer

Schaefer

Schaefer said when he played with the Tigers, the players had a code of honor about their individual “gameness;”

 “We had a test with the Detroit team that proved good.  Every man in the team was supposed to take chances in preventing the other players from running.  In blocking runners or in sliding a player voluntarily risks getting hurt and it was a point of honor with the players not to whimper if they got cut or bruised.  The ones that complained did not last long.”

Schaefer said keeping his head in the game and self-confidence were his best attributes:

“I think my best success as a player has been in keeping thinking all the time, both at bat and in the field and in trying to keep the spirit of the team up when we seemed licked.

“When I was a boy I played on a team in Chicago that lost 14 games and won two, and after every game, I had a battle with anyone who said our team wasn’t the best. I guess that is what makes winners, never knowing when they are beaten.

“I think the way I have won (which is too seldom) has been by hard work and studying the game all the time, taking advantage of every new thing that comes up.  When I was in the minor leagues I must have been a bad ballplayer, as several clubs released me, but I never thought so, and kept up both ambition and confidence.  If a fellow loses either of these I think he is gone, and I would rather lose a foot than either.

“I try to keep in condition, to be there every day, and work hard and keep fighting until the last man is out, and then go back at them just as hard the next day.  If there is any other way of winning I don’t know it.  I have found that the coolness and ability to keep my head in exciting situations helps a lot to win, especially if the other fellows get excited.  The cool-headed player may make a play that will turn the whole game, just when the excited team has its best opportunity to win.

“I’d rather be a good loser than a bad winner, and win or lose; I believe a fellow ought to come out of every game feeling he has done his best.  If he feels that way all the roasting the crowd can give don’t hurt.”