Tag Archives: Jake Morse

McGraw’s “Rubber”

2 Jan

In 1903 and ’04 the Boston Beaneaters finished sixth, and seventh, while the New York Giants followed a second place finish in 1903 by winning the pennant in ’04.

Jacob Charles “Jake” Morse of The Boston Herald said he it wasn’t just talent that made the Giants more successful:

“It is astonishing that so little attention is paid to the care of baseball players during the training season and the playing campaign, especially the former.  It is in the spring that arms need the most careful cultivation and a first-class expert is almost indispensable.

“A first-class ‘rubber’ ought to be taken by every club that goes South, and if this were done sore arms and muscles would be reduced to a minimum.

“Here in Boston neither club has what is called a trainer or a ‘rubber.’ The New York National League club has had the services of the well-known ‘rubber’ Gus Guerrero, for several seasons, and he has given satisfaction.”

Before coming to the Giants as the team “Rubber,” Guerrero had made a name for himself as a competitive walker and runner.  The San Francisco Call said of him:

“Back in the late (eighteen) seventies Guerrero was the one best bet when it came to a foot race, whether for one or for 500 miles, six-day match, or even if the proposition called for a jaunt from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast.  Anything went with Guerrero; he ran for 48 hours, making 300 miles flat in that time, and once in 1884 he trundled a wheelbarrow from San Francisco to New York City.”

Gus Guerrero

Gus Guerrero

Guerrero, often billed as “The Mexican,” and “The best athlete Mexico ever produced,” was actually born in Northern California.  He became an athletic trainer in New York in the 1890s and began working for the Giants in 1900.

John McGraw inherited Guerrero when he came to New York in 1902, and swore by his “Rubber.”

The Associated Press said, in 1904 when McGraw, trying to rehabilitate his injured knee, took Guerrero on the spring training trip south:

“Last year (McGraw) depended on local massage men to rub and bandage the bad knee, but they did not understand the job.  Guerrero, a professional, has been spending several hours per day solely on McGraw’s weak muscles and has succeeded in hardening them so that the joint is fairly protected and does not spring at a critical moment.”

The New York Press said of Guerrero:

“(He) wears a baseball shirt labeled ‘New York’ all the time.  McGraw says he believes Gus sleeps in it. As the men come in he looks them over, particularly the pitchers.  If a box man complains of a stiff arm the trainer attends to it as carefully as a physician looks after the throat of an operatic prima donna.  He makes the player strip, steams him, puts him on a slab, massages him, and then rubs in a liniment of his own concoction which he declares would take the stiffness out of a telephone pole.  It is equal parts of witch hazel and alcohol to a quart; with half a teaspoon of oil of wintergreen and a dash of something else that Guerrero says is his secret.”

While McGraw seemed impressed with Guerrero, it appears some of his players were not.

When the team was training in Birmingham, Alabama during the spring of 1904, The New York Globe’s Allen Sangree, who was traveling with the Giants, wrote about an exchange between Guerrero and Christy Mathewson:

“Mathewson, in particular, was feeling grouchy yesterday.  ‘How’s your arm?’ asked Gus Guerrero, the rubber, as he put the finishing touches on him…’Arm alright,’ said Matty, ‘but I don’t feel good.’

“’Well, what’s the matter?’ pursued the rubber.

“’Nothing, didn’t I tell you!’ yelled the big fellow, in exasperated tones.  ‘Just nothing, only I don’t feel good; and don’t bother me either.’”

Just after Jake Morse wrote about the advantage McGraw’s “Rubber” had given the Giants, it was announced that he would no longer be the team’s trainer.

The New York Herald said:

“Gus and the players could not get along well, so he resigned.”

McGraw, who remained “a strong believer in massage treatment for pitcher’s arms before and after the game,” and replaced Guerrero with Harry Tuthill—Tuthill had trained several fighters, including William “Young Corbett II” Rothwell, and “Mysterious” Billy Smith.   Tuthill was with New York until 1908 when he joined the Detroit Tigers.

Harry Tuthill, with Tigers pitcher Del Gainer

Harry Tuthill, with Tigers pitcher Del Gainer

Guerrero never worked for another major league club. He continued to participate in races, and eventually returned to California where he died in 1914.

The Human Rain Delay

7 Nov

 “Baseball stars may come and they may go, but the name of Nig Cuppy will live forever.  There will be greater pitchers than Cuppy—but no slower ones.”—The Pittsburgh Press, 1910.

George Joseph “Nig” Cuppy (born Koppe) lived in the shadow of teammate Cy Young—Cuppy won 150 games for the Cleveland Spiders and St. Louis Perfectos from 1892-1899, Young won 231.

While Cuppy was successful, he was best known for being the slowest working pitcher of his era.

How Slow?  “Painfully slow,” according to The Toledo News-Bee; other contemporary accounts mention crowds counting in unison as they timed Cuppy between each pitch.  It was not unusual for a Cuppy pitched game to last more than two hours during an era when shorter games were the rule.

George “Nig” Cuppy

Almost all mentions of Cuppy attribute his success to his slow work.  Jake Morse’s Baseball Magazine described the effect he had on batters:

“(Cuppy) stood holding the ball, and holding it, and holding it some more. The maddened batsmen fumed and fretted and smote the plate with their sticks; the umpires barked and threatened; the fans counted and counted, often up to 56 or 59—and then Cuppy let go of the ball. By this time the batter, if at all nervous or excitable, was so sore that he slammed wildly at the pitch, and seldom hit it.”

While Cuppy remained a very good pitcher throughout the 1890s, he never quite matched his rookie numbers (28-13, 2.51 in 1892), and suffered from the 1893 elimination of the pitcher’s box.

Cuppy’s numbers dropped off dramatically after 1896, and his career came to an end with his release from the Boston Americans in August of 1901.  He rejected several minor league offers and returned home Elkhart, Indiana.

Cuppy and his former catcher and fellow Elkhart native, Lou Criger opened a pool hall called The Lucky Horseshoe.  Cuppy operated that business and a cigar store until his death in 1922.

 

What Would He Think of the Ones They Use Now?

25 Sep

One constant in baseball is that every generation thinks the game was better in the past.

Jake Morse was one of the most influential early baseball writers who contributed to game’s popularity.  He was with the Boston Herald from 1884-1907 and founded Baseball Magazine in 1908.

By 1907 Morse longed for the early days and was bothered by the lack of hitting during the first decade of the 20th century –he blamed it on the baseball mitt:

“There is no doubt that patrons of the national game are becoming heartily sick and tired of the kind of baseball they compelled to see today. ..Who is there who has not noticed game after game how the infielder can block the hottest of driven balls and throw out a man after it?”

Morse went on to mention a play made by Cleveland Indians shortstop Terry Turner (who, incidentally made 39 errors in 1907):

Turner

Turner

“Turner blocked a ball that he could never have stopped but for the protection he wore on his hands.  Line ball after line ball is blocked and caught by the help of the mitt.”

What would Morse make of this?

1905 Rube Waddell glove