Tag Archives: Hugh Fullerton

“The Cream Puff Era in Baseball”

31 Mar

During his scouting trip to the West Coast looking for talent for the Boston Braves, Johnny Evers talked to Brian Bell, the Associated Press Bureau Chief in San Francisco:

“(He) has been sitting up late looking at games in the Pacific Coast League. The once great second baseman frankly is puzzled.

“Night baseball has turned the game topsy-turvy. A scout dislikes to recommend the purchase of an infielder or pitcher because with the lights the players have to adjust themselves to various conditions.

“’Recently, I looked at a promising shortstop.’ said Evers. ‘He was playing almost in left field. The next time I saw him in another park he was almost in back of the pitcher. When I spoke to him about it, he said that each park in the league has its dark spots and he has to play accordingly.’”

Johnny Evers

The shortstop Evers was scouting, according to The Los Angeles Express was Carl Dittmar. The club was said to be looking for a replacement for 39-year-old Rabbit Maranville, in order to move the veteran to 2nd base; the Braves instead purchased Billy Urbanski from the Montreal Royals.

Pitchers told Evers they would have to throw low pitches at the parks with lights mounted on top of the grandstand and high pitches at the parks with lower mounted lights:

“How can a scout tell whether these pitchers that are so good at night can pitch in the majors in the daytime?”

As for baseball as a whole?

“Evers calls the present ‘the cream puff era’ in baseball. ‘There’s no more fight in the game.”

He complained that one West Coast manager told him a player we wanted to scout had ‘a bad cold’ and would not be in the lineup:

“I cannot understand players staying out of a ball game because of a cold.”

 There were at least two players of “the cream puff era” that Evers approved of:

“Babe Ruth and Lefty O’Doul are the greatest hitters today. They realized that conditions are changing in baseball. Ruth’s mighty swings eliminated the bunt and put the homerun at a premium some years ago. With the slowing up of the baseball, Ruth is accepting the changed conditions.

“The big fellow of the Yankees now just meets the ball most of the time. Because of his strength, the ball leaves the bat like a shot and is past the infielders before they are able to take a full step.

“O’Doul is meeting the ball in a sweeping motion, which results in many base hits. He started the season in a terrible slump, but he was smart enough to discover the trouble.”

O’Doul

The scout, and co-author with Hugh Fullerton of “Touching Second: The Science of Baseball” remained a fan of the dead ball:

“Evers thinks the slower the ball the better the players and the game. Brainy players and plays have been sacrificed by the lively ball for fellows who can do nothing but ‘cut and slash.’”

.

“More Bunk is Written about Baseball”

22 Mar

Myron Townsend, the sports editor of The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune said:

“More bunk is written about baseball than any professional sport.

“In dwelling on the details of ‘Inside’ ball the scribes allow their imaginations to run away with them.”

In 1910, after the publication of Johnny Evers’ and Hugh Fullerton’s book, “Touching Second; The Science of Baseball,” talk of “inside baseball” was all the rage: or “a favorite subject of the space killers,” as Townsend put it:

“Many fans believe that baseball players are mental gymnasts. They swallow whole all they read about the ‘science’ of the game.

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

“For this reason, the speculative typewriter tickler never grows weary of pounding out epistles about the marvelous mental attainments of professional players.”

Townsend ridiculed the idea that, “According to the critics baseball is very complex. The moves and counter moves are fairly bewildering. A great chess master is a child when compared to a baseball manager.”

He said the baseball writer of the rival Cincinnati Times-Star had it right:

“No writer perforates the ‘signal’ theory more neatly or thoroughly than “Billy Phelon.”

Phelon had written on the subject:

“A kick of the coacher’s right foot means one movement for the batsman and baserunner; a kick of the left foot means another; pulling grass with the right hand means to do this and jerking it violently with the left hand means to do the other thing. If the manager on the bench shades his eyes with his palm it means a steal, if he hits the water barrel viciously with his left foot it means to sacrifice.

“In short—according to the magazine writers and the brilliant critics of the day—baseball is controlled, all the way through the stages of the active play, by these intricate, complex, recurring, and crisscrossing signs and codes.

“All of which would be extremely instructive were it not for the fact that it isn’t so; and that, in all these stories, the writers either built upon their imagination; or—more likely—were ‘stung’ and ‘joshed’ by the ballplayers to whom they went for information”

Phelon said it was “a plain, hard fact, no ball team ever played the game under a long and complex code of signals.” He called it “an utter impossibility and mental absurdity.”

Instead, Phelon said:

“The generalship of the ballfield is an ever-shifting series of quickly devised schemes, not a fifth part of them figured out or practices before each individual game begins. The signal code of the ball field is limited to eight or ten simple tricks and must ever be so for the reason that the brain of the ballplayer is not that of Euclid, Plato or Archimedes.”

Townsend said, “Mr. Phelon is right,” and told Cincinnati fans to “disabuse their minds of all such rot.”

Reds Manager Clark Griffith, said Townsend:

“Does not have to tell (Bob) Bescher when to steal bases. Instinct tells the speed boy what to do when he reaches first. A certain amount of teamwork between batter and baserunner may be necessary, but as a third party a manager is a ‘butter in.’”

Bescher

The Commercial Tribune Editor accused Evers of attempting to “bunk the fans about the elaborate set of signs and counter signs the Cubs use.”

Townsend said the “brainy second baseman” said he and Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker “never made a move” with signaling one another. He contrasted that with the second baseman and shortstop of the 1904 New York Giants, Billy Gilbert and Bill Dahlen, who:

“(N)ever used a signal of any kind. The duties of their positions were second nature to them.”

Contrary to the trend, It was a game of spontaneity, not science:

“No one should underestimate ‘generalship’ and strategy as a component part of the game, but the decisive plays come up on the spur of the moment. They cannot be rehearsed in the clubhouse…’Inside ball’ will always be a favorite theme, but the speed boys and hard hitters, aided and abetted by a start staff of pitchers and a master workman behind the bat, will continue to win games, knowing nothing about the ‘signs and signals’ which ignorant fans imagine they are wise to.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #44

7 Jan

Flint’s Hands

In 1896, Hugh Fullerton said in The Chicago Record:

“It is not hard to tell ‘Old Silver’ (Flint) is a ballplayer.”

Silver Flint

Fullerton told a story about how a train carrying the catcher and the rest of the White Stockings had derailed during their “Southern tour” the previous season:

“The train jumped the track and several of the passengers were injured. Silver stood near the scene of the wreck watching the proceedings, when one of the surgeons who had tendered his services caught sight of Silver’s fists.

“’Too bad, my man, too bad,’ said the man with the scalpel, ‘but both those hands will have to come off.’”

King Kelly told Fullerton that Flint “had to shake hands with the doctor before the latter would believe that Silver’s hands were not knocked out in the wreck.”

Young’s Perfect Game

In 1910, The Boston Post said Napoleon Lajoie asked Cy Young about his 1904 perfect game while the Naps were playing a series in Boston.

Cy Young

“’Oh,’ remarked Cy in that native natural dialect that six years’ residence in Boston did not change, ‘there ain’t nothing to tell. Nothing much at any rate. They just ‘em right at somebody all the time that was all. Two or three drives would have been good, long hits if Buck (Freeman) and Chick (Stahl) hadn’t been laying for ‘em. I didn’t know nobody reached first until we were going to the clubhouse. Then Jim (Collins) told me.’”

Young beat the Philadelphia Athletics and Rube Waddell 3 to 0 on May 5, 1904; the third perfect game in MLB history; the previous two had both taken place 24 years earlier during the 1880 season–making it the first one thrown under modern rules.

The box score

Cobb’s Base Stealing

 Before the 1912 season, Joe Birmingham, manager of the Cleveland Naps told The Cleveland News that Sam Crawford was the reason Ty Cobb was a successful base stealer.

“I haven’t made such a statement without considering the matter.”

Birmingham said:

“Put Sam Crawford up behind any one of a half dozen players in this league and their base stealing records would increase immensely…In the first place, every catcher is handicapped almost five feet in throwing to second when Sam is up. You know Sam lays way back of that home plate.

“A catcher would take his life in his hands if he dared get in the customary position behind the plate, for Sam takes such an awful wallop. Five feet doesn’t seem like a great distance, but when it is taken into consideration that a vast number of base stealers are checked by the merest margin of seconds, five feet looms up as considerable distance.”

Cobb

Then there was Crawford’s bat:

“(He) wields a young telegraph pole. There are few players in baseball who could handle such a club. And Sam spreads that club all over an immense amount of air. It’s usually in the way or thereabouts. At least it’s a factor with which the catcher must always reckon. Finally, Sam is a left-handed batter. Any time a pitcher hurls a pitchout to catch Cobb stealing the catcher is thrown into an awkward position. He can’t possibly be set for a throw. There’s another portion of a second lost.”

Cobb and Crawford were teammates from 1905 through 1917; Cobb led the league in steals six times during that period.

Sam Crawford

Birmingham’s overall point was to suggest that Joe Jackson, of the Naps, would be a better base stealer than Cobb:

“Joe has shown more natural ability during his first (full) year in the league than Cobb did.”

Birmingham said Jackson was as fast going from home to first as Cobb and “No one can convince me to the contrary.”

While he said Jackson did not get the same lead off the base as Cobb, he said:

“When that is acquired you’ll find little Joey leading the parade or just a trifle behind the leader.”

In 24 season Cobb stole 897 bases; Jackson stole 202 in 13 seasons.

“His Jealousy Would Break Forth Violently”

28 Dec

“Ball orchards are the favorite breeding places of green-eyed monsters.”

So said Hugh Fullerton in The Chicago Herald in 1907.

Jealousy among players, he said often resulted in “ludicrous situations” on baseball teams.

“One of the funniest instances that ever came to my notice happened when (Cap) Anson was running the Chicago club.”

Hugh Fullerton

He said that spring Anson had brought in enough pitchers to fill “the whole West Side park.”

One of them was Walter Thornton, who Anson sent to the mound one day:

 “The big fellow was one of the best natural hitters…besides pitching fair ball he rammed out four hits.”

The response:

“The other candidates sat on the benches and looked at each other anxiously as Thornton banged the ball around the lot, and every hit he made caused them deeper woe.

“That evening, just as the sun was setting, a delegation of Cub pitchers slipped out to the clubhouse, ravaged Thornton’s locker, took out his bats, secured (groundskeeper) Charlie Kuhn’s saw and proceeded to saw up every bat Thornton owned.”

Then, said Fullerton, there was the case of, “Little Tommy Hess.”

As a 16-year-old, Hess got into one game for the Baltimore Orioles in 1892:

“There were two other catchers on the team (Wilbert Robinson and Joe Gunson) both veterans, and they would have lost an arm before they would have let Tommy have a chance. He sat on the bench week after week, eager and ready to jump in and prove his worth.

“Finally, he thought his day had come. One of the catchers had been laying off with a split hand—and the other was working. A foul tip in the first inning of the game put the catcher out of business. Before (manager Ned) Hanlon could say a word, Hess had on a protector and was starting for the plate, when the man with the split hand grabbed the mask and protector from him and went in. That broke Hess’ heart.”

Hess played pro ball for another 19 years but never again reached the major leagues.

Fullerton said one of his favorite subjects—Bill Lange—was the object of jealousy during his time in Chicago:

“It is a hard thing to prove, but there are cases where a man on first signaled the batter to hit, as he was going to steal, and then the batter deliberately let the ball go and the runner be thrown out at second. This happened on the old Chicago club so many times that Anson was forced to put one player on the bench for ‘double crossing’ Lange to let him be caught stealing.”

Bill Lange

In Fullerton’s last example he failed to mention the player in question, but it was likely John O’Neill, an outfielder with the 1906 World Series Champions:

“There was a certain outfielder on the White Sox team not long ago who was jealous of (outfielder/manager Fielder) Jones. The man should have been a great ballplayer, but because of his disposition more than anything else, he fell short of being great.

“When this man was not hitting well, he quit…he would let Jones race across his field and get flies and never move. But when that fellow began to get base hits and move up in the batting average, his jealousy of his manager would break forth violently. His criticisms of Jones were bitter, and he refused to permit the manager to take one step into his territory to get a fly ball.

“The beauty of Jones’ character was never better shown than during those times.”

Fielder Jones

O’Neill appeared in 94 games for the 1906 Sox, hitting .248.  Jones used him in only one game during the World Series and O’Neill never played in the major leagues again—spending the last four seasons of his career in the American Association.

“The Nearest Approach to a Baseball Machine ever Constructed.”

18 Dec

After the Pirates barnstormed in several Midwest cities before the 1912 season, The Pittsburgh Press acknowledged that an out of towner’s assessment of the city’s biggest star revealed that local reporters, “have seen so much of him that they ceased to marvel at his astounding stunts, and take many of them as a matter of course.”

The sports editor of The Kansas City Star wrote several articles about Wagner, and, “The Kansas City man points out several things which have seldom been commented upon by local writers, who have come to regard ordinary doings by Wagner as of little importance, and only mention him particularly when he pulls off some herculean—something which no one else would attempt.”

Among the observations in The Star:

“Hugh Fullerton, who writes once in awhile on baseball topics, has said that Hans Wagner is the nearest approach to a baseball machine ever constructed. ‘Constructed’ is good. Wagner is put up solidly, after the fashion of government architecture.”

Wagner

And, he was built, “like a piano mover above the waist and below it resembles a pair of parentheses.”

Wagner, said the paper:

“(H)as as much fun playing ball as a kid on a corner lot. He romps about and kids the opposition, most of whom are ex Pirates in this town, and nags good naturedly at the umpire. For Hans is field captain this year and feels that he must do some beefing. But beefing is hard word for Hans. He is too good natured.”

He was a dichotomy; “a born comedian, though so bashful he will hide himself under a bat rack if he sees a reporter coming.”

The Star marveled at the 38-year-old’s fielding:

“He has a style that is all his own. No bush leaguer would dare try to play short like Hans Wagner. He plays wherever he pleases, frequently retreating to the edge of the outfield, whence only his mighty arm would carry to first in time to head off a fast runner. When he goes after a ground hit, he goes after it like a runaway gondola loaded with coal—but he gets it if it is getable. And when once one of those ponderous hands clamps down on the pellet there it remains quietly until the great shortstop wings it on its way.

“Wagner’s pegging is something to ponder. Several times in the Kansas City series he would field a sharply hit drive lazily, merely lobbing the ball over to first and beating the runner only by a step.

“’Shucks,’ remarked some of the bugs who were watching Honus for the first time, ‘that guy’s as slow as molasses: A fast man would have beat him.’

“Wait a bit, though. There goes a fast man—and his hit was a slow one. But he’s out by the same distance. And if you want to see Honus really peg, watch him finishing up a double play. The big frame moves like a streak. He gets the ball away in a twinkle—and it nearly knocks the first baseman off the bag.”

At the plate, “He is one of the few celebrities who can stand bowlegged and pigeon-toed at one and the same time, and he does it with ease and aplomb…He steps into the pitch with a long, swinging stride and meets the ball with a heave of his whole powerful frame.”

Off the field, The Star noted that Wagner, “can’t bear to see a dog hungry. If he can’t provide for them elsewhere he ships them home…And he is a great old boy, is Honus.”

“If he Started Drinking, they were to lay their Bets”

9 Dec

Hugh Fullerton wrote about pregame “jockeying…that count(s) for much in a championship race” for The Chicago Herald Examiner in 1919.

Fullerton

Both stories Fullerton told in the column were likely apocryphal—at least in terms of the participants mentioned—but like many Fullerton tales, worth the retelling.

The first involved two Fullerton story favorites, John McGraw and Rube Waddell:

“I remember one day getting to the Polo Grounds early. The Giants were to play, and Rube Waddell was expected to pitch against them.”

The two could not be the participants if the story is based on an actual incident given that Waddell pitched in the American League from 1902 until his final game in 1910 while McGraw was managing the Giants.

 “A batter was at the plate driving out flies and in right center John McGraw was prancing around catching flies and throwing the ball back to the catcher, it is not fun to watch a fat man who has retired from active survive shag flies in the outfield.”

Rube

Fullerton said McGraw’s long throws to the plate “were not fun” to watch, but “McGraw kept it up patiently and gamely.”

At this point in Fullerton’s story, Rube Waddell walked towards McGraw in the outfield.

“Rube looked interested, stopped and talked.

“’I’ll bet you five you can’t outthrow me,’ snarled McGraw in response to Rubes ‘kidding.’

“Rube grabbed the ball and threw it to the plate. For ten minutes they hurled the pill, then McGraw reluctantly admitted that the Rube could outthrow him and paid over the five dollars.

“Rube went to the slab and lasted the greater part of the first inning. McGraw had laid the trap, had kidded Waddell into making six or seven long distance throws and had won a ballgame thereby.”

The second story was about another Fullerton favorite, Bugs Raymond:

“There was a bunch of petty larceny gamblers who hung out around the West Side park in Chicago for years looking for the best of it, who got caught in one of their own traps once.

“The St. Louis club was playing in Chicago and poor Arthur Raymond, better known as ‘Bugs,’ was to pitch a game. The gamblers knew Bugs and knew his weakness.

“Just across the street from the park was a bar kept by a fine little Italian, as grand a little sportsman and a square a man as ever lived. In some way he overheard the plot of the cheap sports, which was to waylay Raymond and invite him to drink. If he started drinking, they were to lay their bets.”

Fullerton said the plan unfolded:

“Raymond was greeted by a bunch of admiring ‘friends,’ who led him to the bar more than an hour before game time. The ‘friends’ invited him to have a drink, and the proprietor winked at Raymond. Bugs was not as foolish as many believed. Without a minute of hesitation, he grabbed the cue as the bartender reached for a bottle a bottle labeled gin. The crowd drank. Bugs invited them to join in, but they insisted he was the guest of honor.

“In the next half hour, he swallowed more than half the contents of the bottle. The plotters exchanged winks and an agent was rushed out to place the bets, Meantime, the others remained to buy more for the Bug. He swallowed three or four more doses and finally said:

“’Say, fellows, I’ve got to break away. I’m pitching today.’

“With that, he lifted the gin bottle, poured all the contents into a tumbler, drained it off at one gulp and walked out on them.”

Bugs

Of course, said Fullerton

“Raymond beat the Cubs in a hard game. It was all over before the pikers realized that the little saloon man had given Raymond a bottle of plain water instead of gin and that Arthur had gone through with the play.”

Like the Waddell story, the facts don’t square with Fullerton’s story; Raymond never beat the cubs during the Cubs in Chicago during his two seasons with the Browns.

“The Realization of Their Carelessness”

1 Jun

After the 1910 season, Hugh Fullerton, writing in “The American Magazine” said baseball had no universal language.

“Each team has its different system of coaching, its different language of signs, motions, cipher words, or phrases, and no one man can hope to learn them all.”

Fullerton said the “worst of trying to study” the signs of various clubs was trying to track when they changed:

“If Arlie Latham jumps into the air and screams ‘Hold your base!’ it may mean ‘Steal second,’ today and tomorrow it may mean ‘Hit and run.’ One never can tell what a sign means. Hughie Jennings hoists his right knee as high as his shoulder, pulls six blades of grass and Jim Delahanty bunts. You are certain that Jennings signaled him to sacrifice, so the next day when Ty Cobb is bat and Jennings goes through the same motions, you creep forward and Cobb hits the ball past you so fast you can’t see it.

“If Connie Mack tilts his hat over his eyes and Eddie Collins steals second as the next ball is pitched, naturally you watch the hat, and lo, Jack Barry plays hit and run. You hear Clark Griffith yelp ‘Watch his foot!’ and see two of his players start a double steal. The next time he yells ‘Watch his foot!’ you break your neck to cover the base, and both players stand still.”

latham2

Arlie Latham 

Fullerton said most fans gave up trying to figure out signs but they “mustn’t do that. Someday right in the middle of a game, you’ll strike the key to the language and read through clear to the ninth inning.”

He compared that moment to getting “away one good drive,” in golf, “forever afterward you are a victim,” and can’t stop.

“Did you ever watch Hugh Jennings on the coaching line near first base during a hard-fought game? He doubles his fists, lifts one leg and shakes his foot, screams ‘E-yah’ in piercing tomes and stooping suddenly plucks at the grass, pecking at it like a hen. It looks foolish. I have heard spectators express wonder that a man of ability and nearing middle age could act so childishly. Yet hidden somewhere in the fantastic contortions and gestures of the Tigers’ leader there is a meaning, a code word, or signal that tells his warriors what he expects them to do.”

Jennings said of his signs:

“I change almost every day. I change every time I suspect there is a danger of the meanings being read. I am a believer in as few signals as possible and of giving them when they count, and I find that a lot of antics are effective in covering up the signals.”

Fullerton said Mack was “one of the most successful men” at “interpreting” opponents’ signs:

“Before the Chicago Cubs went into their disastrous series against the Athletics they were warned that if such a thing were possible Mack would have their signals. At the end of the game they called a meeting to revise signals, changing entirely, being certain the Athletics knew almost every kind of ball that was going to be pitched.”

Fullerton allowed that the Cubs instead might be tipping their pitches, because he was sitting with Ty Cobb during the series, and:

“(He) repeatedly called the turn on the ball that would be pitched before it was thrown, judging from the pitcher’s motion, and the Athletics may have been doing the same thing.”

Fullerton also said of the Cubs, that although they were “the cleverest baseball team in America, composed of smart men and a great manager, for years paid less attention to active coaching on the baselines,” than other teams.

“Possibly the reason was the confidence in their own judgment and their continued success, Frank Chance’s men made few blunders and the neglect was not noticeable, except to constant observers until 1908. Any player who happened to be idle went to the coaching lines and most of the time inexperienced substitutes did line duty. In 1908 during their fierce fight for the pennant, the realization of their carelessness was brought home to them and since then Chance has employed quick-thinking, clever men on the base lines, principally relying on (Ginger) Beaumont and (John) Kane.”

john kane

John Kane

Fullerton dated Chance’s new appreciation for competent coaching to July 17, 1908; that day the Cubs beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 1 to 0 on an inside the park home run by Joe Tinker. Heinie Zimmerman was coaching third base for the Cubs.

The Chicago Inter Ocean described the play:

“Joe, the first man up in the fifth, hit one of Matty’s best as far as any ball could be hit in the grounds without going into the stands. Where the center field bleachers join the right field 25 cent seats is a V-shaped inclosure. Joe drove the ball away into this dent, and it took Cy Seymour some time to gather the elusive sphere. When Cy finally retrieved the ball, Tinker was rounding third.

“Zimmerman grasped this as the psychological moment to perpetrate one of the most blockheaded plays ever pulled off. He ran out onto the line and seized Joe, trying to hold him on third, when the ball was just starting to the diamond from deep center field. Joe struggled to get away, as his judgment told him he could get home, but Heinie held on with a grip of death. Finally, Tink wriggled away and started for the plate.”

 

heinie

Zimmerman

The paper said Tinker would have been thrown out had Al Bridwell’s throw to the plate been on target:

“Had Tinker been caught at the plate the 10,000 frenzied fans would have torn Zim limb from limb. Chance immediately sent Evers out to coach at third base and retired Zim to the dark confines of the Cubs’ bench.”

Thus, said Fullerton:

“Chance began to develop scientific coaching, and discovering its full value, took the lead in the matter, employing skilled coachers.”

“Fifty bucks, Buck”

10 Feb

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune called Buck Ewing “the greatest of them all,” after Ewing died in 1906.

Fullerton said, “Ewing stories will be told for generations,” and shared one about a bet with Mike “King” Kelly.

”It happened back in the days when the players of the different clubs were friendly and met at night to discuss and argue over their games instead of sulking separately and discussing their woes.”

ewing

Ewing

He said that day, Kelly had stolen two bases “off the king of catchers,” and Kelly, “kept harping on it until Buck was a bit nettled.”

Ewing told Kelly:

“Well Mike, if Danny Richardson plays second tomorrow, I’ll bet you $50 you don’t steal a base.”

Kelly took the bet, and Fullerton said the following day “three or four of us who knew of the bet sat together in the stands.”

 

kelly

Kelly

Kelly singled in the third inning:

“(O)n the first ball pitched; he tore for second with a fair start. Buck threw. The ball went like a shot, straight towards the bag, perhaps three feet up the line towards first, a perfect throw to catch any runner—except Kelly. Richardson got the ball five feet ahead of the runner. He was stooped over and swung his body quickly to tag Mike, he expecting the King to make one of his famous twisting slides. Instead, Kelly leaped, jumped clear over Richardson, and lighted flat on his back on top of second base.

“Above the roar of the crowd arose Kelly’s voice, and what he said was this:

“Fifty bucks, Buck.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate. He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand. And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As for his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

Slagle Climbs a Hill

20 May

Wilbur Goode had just been traded to the Chicago Cubs by the Boston Rustlers in an eight-player deal in June of 1911, when Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Record-Herald asked the 25-year-old to describe the greatest play he had ever witnessed:

“Of course, I haven’t been in fast company long enough to tell much about great plays, maybe not long enough to pretend to judge which are really great.”

goode.jpg

Goode

But Goode said Jimmy Slagle, his teammate the previous season with the Baltimore Orioles in the Eastern League made the greatest play he had ever seen:

“The play was made on the Rochester grounds and by Jimmy Slagle. The fans in the big circuit know Slagle perhaps better than I do and they have seen him make some wonderful plays—but perhaps never one under such circumstances.”

Goode said Slagle still had enough speed to live up to his nickname “Rabbit” even though he was 36 and playing his final season of professional baseball.

He said the field conditions in Rochester were thus:

“The grounds are rather strangely laid out. The diamond and outfield are cut down to a perfect level, and to make the outfield level part of a hillside was scraped down, leaving a terrace around the field, which in some spots is six feet higher than the field itself.”

Goode said it was late in a game with the Orioles holding a one-run lead over the Bronchos; Rochester had runners on first and second with no one out:

“The next batter raised the ball high and far to left center.

“Slagle had been playing deep, expecting a long fly, or at least to prevent a long hit from going through and beating us right there. The ball went high and on the line. There was a row of carriages and autos on the terrace. The runners held their bases for an instant, saw that the ball was going far up on top of the terrace, and believing no one could reach it, they both started for the plate.”

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Slagle

Slagle raced to the base of the terrace:

“He leaped, put one foot against the side of the embankment and leaped again, shooting himself upward and landing on top of the terrace. The ball was going over and straight at a big red automobile. I remember the women in the machine screeched and dodged. Just then Slagle came bounding up onto the terrace, leaped again, stuck up both hands and grabbed that ball.”

After making the catch:

“Slagle ran to the edge of the bank, shot the ball in, and although the runner got back to first, the one returning to second was doubled and the game was saved.”