Tag Archives: Joseph B. Bowles

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.”

George Davis: How I Win

30 Apr

“Think quick, act quickly, claim everything in sight and watch every point. Run out every hit, take any kind of chances on the bases, make the other side throw.”\

“That is the way to win in baseball.”

Said George Davis, 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.”

George Davis

Davis’ 20-year major league career had come to an end the previous season, and he was preparing to manage and play for the Des Moines Boosters in the Western League in 1910.

He said forcing the pace was key.

“(Making) the other club to give ground, assumes the aggressive end of the game and throws the other team on the defensive right at the start.”

He said during his time with the 1906 world champions, people “used to call the White Stockings ‘lucky’” because the team won close games:

“To one outside the game it really did look as if we were lucky, but the ‘luck’ was of our own making. We attacked so hard and steadily that the other teams threw away the game to us. That was one of the main reasons they called us the ‘Hitless Wonders.’ We did not rely so much on making base hits as we did upon forcing the other side to blunder.”

That, and pitching:

“One of the principal causes of victory to a pennant winning team is in the selection of pitchers to work against certain teams on certain days. The condition of the sky is studied, the lights and shadows on the grounds, the condition of the grounds and the force and direction of the wind before a final selection is made.”

David said he thought he understood “inside baseball and teamwork” before joining Chicago in 1904 and having the chance to “work with two such generals and (Charlie) Comisky and (Fielder) Jones.”

By 1906, he said:

“I do not think there ever was a team as perfect in defensive and aggressive teamwork as the White Stockings were under Jones. Our system of signals was perfect, and besides that we had men with wonderfully acute powers of observation, and everyone worked together. It would be betray secrets to tell how much our men knew of the opposing team. Everything we know was either from experience or from observation and the study of men.”

Yet, it could all be attributed to chance:

“And, after that is all done, and the manager has thought and worried gray hairs into his head, an umpire may miscall one strike and turn the entire game, which shows how much anyone really knows about how to win.”

Davis might have been presaging his tenure in Des Moines. The 39-year-old hit just .192 and led the club to a 72-96, seventh place finish.  He never played or managed again.

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.

I Have Yelled a lot of Games out of bad Umpires”

9 Jun

Wallace Louis Bray was so well known by the pseudonym Happy Hogan, that some sources still do not include his given name. The Santa Clara, California native spent his entire professional career as a player and manager on the West Coast.

He was popular enough to be featured as the only non-big-league manager to be included in a series of syndicated articles by Chicago journalists Joseph B. Bowles called “How I win.”

He wrote Bowles:

“I am willing to write what I know about winning ballgames to help out the young fellows and perhaps give them some points. I tell it to them so loud and so often I might as well print it.”

happyhogan

Happy Hogan

Hogan said:

“The difference between a winning ball player and a losing one is all in the disposition of the man himself. Almost any ball player who is skillful enough with his hands and feet to play minor league ball is good enough for the major leagues if he only will study the game, and has the courage and the nerve to go forward.”

He said the “great weakness” of most players was their lack of interest in studying the game:

“(T)o win a man must devote a lot of time and thought to every point of the game. I attribute what success I have had in the profession to the fact that I always have kept hustling and studying the game.”

He said that after he each game:

“I get out by myself and study it over, figuring how plays were made, and how they might be improved upon, and then I try to explain my theories to players. I find that when the manager can go into his own clubhouse and discuss plays with his men, he not only helps himself, but helps the team.”

Hogan said he believed in “strict discipline on ball fields, but I also believe in fighting the umpires when they are wrong.”

Hogan said he questioned calls before they were made:

“I believe claiming everything in sight and claiming it quick. If there is a chance for argument on a decision make the claim for decision before the umpire makes his decision and the chances are you will get the decision by thinking quicker than the umpire did.”

And once the umpire had rendered a decision:

“Yell real loud at the umpire and then quit, for there is no good nagging at a man, no matter how bad he may be. Let the yell be loud enough to impress him. I have yelled a lot of games out of bad umpires, but I claim I never yet have let out a yell when I did not think I was right.”

As for how to win on the field:

“I am a firm believer in doing the unexpected all the time and upsetting the other team by making plays for which they are not looking. Playing for one run at a time is my theory, and when runners are on bases, within scoring distance, I believe in abandoning all the rules of the game in order to get the runs home. It may be bad baseball to hit with three balls and no strikes, but if a hit will score runs I want the batters to hit. It may be bad baseball to refuse to sacrifice with men on bases and none out, but if the player sees a chance to hit through the field, let him hit. I try to place the responsibility on the player himself, and to rely upon his judgment as to when to hit, or not to hit.”

Hogan said, “The unexpected” is what wins “and breaks up games and makes contests more spectacular and exciting.”

Hogan managed the Vernon Tigers for six full seasons, never winning a pennant—his teams finished second  twice—his club was 16-18 in 1915 when a cold developed into double pneumonia and the man The San Francisco Chronicle called “unquestionably the most popular figure” in the Pacific Coast League, died at age 37.

 

 

 

“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.”

“I might now be a politician in Chicago”

1 Aug

As part of his series of syndicated articles asking major league players to describe “How I Win,” journalist Joseph B. Bowles spoke to Detroit Tigers infielder Charley O’Leary:

Charley O'Leary

Charley O’Leary

“I learned how to win from (Tigers Manager Hughie) Jennings.  Now before he came to Detroit the team was as flat as Aunt Jemima’s pancakes, but he threw about a quart of Fleishman’s yeast into us, and we rose.

O’Leary played three seasons with the Tigers under managers Ed Barrow, Bobby Lowe and Bill Armour before Jennings arrived in 1907—those teams finished in seventh, third and  sixth place.

“The recipe for winning is to mix ginger, yeast and horseradish with horse sense and keep stirring all the time.  Thinking and hustling, figuring on every point, watching all the time for an opening and taking all sorts of chances is what wins.  One man can’t win—unless he happens to be the fellow who can stir up a dozen others and keep them fighting all the time and never giving up.  Without a leader, the best team will slack up the pace once in a while and maybe get discouraged.”

As for individual achievements , O’Leary said:

“All the success I have had has come from studying batters while I was in the infield and studying base runners when they got on the bases.  A player almost can tell from the way the batter and the base runner act what they are trying to d, or going to try to do if he only keeps his eyes open.”

O’Leary said he never attempted to steal signs, but:

“(I) can tell by the actions and the situation what is coming off.  Then (when playing short) I want a second baseman alongside of me who understands me and whom I understand, so we can work together.  There are some men who prevent each other from doing their best work.

“I make a study of where batters hit, and every day I get the fullest accounts possible of all the games played and study out where the balls were hit to.  Batters change rapidly.  Sometimes a player hits to left field for weeks, and the next time we meet him in a series, he is hitting to right field.  I find it important to know all the time, for sometimes it is five or six weeks until we play against him again, and in that time he may have changed completely.  I keep talking to pitchers who have worked against certain men and reading about them to see how they are batting.  Then too, lots of times, a weak batter will have a batting streak and a pitcher and infielder ought to know this before starting a series against him.  The best part of my success, I think, has been in being where the ball was hit, and a whole lot of this has come from studying batters.”

O'Leary

O’Leary

O’Leary, who had a reputation as a hot head early in career, said something else contributed to his success:

“I used to think fighting umpires helped win, but I want to say that is a mistake.  Playing square with the umpires and treating them decently and playing fair with opponents is the only way to win.  Fair play ought to be the foundation of the game.  I play as hard and fight as hard for a game as anyone, but would rather lose than hurt another player, or try to make an umpire look bad to a crowd.”

1909 Tigers. O'Leary is far right, bottom row. Jennings is at center of bottom row holding dog.

1907 Tigers. O’Leary is far right, bottom row. Jennings is at center of bottom row holding dog.

O’Leary did not make his big league debut until the age of 28 in 1904, and the Chicago native later told a reporter for The Detroit News that he nearly gave the game up for years earlier during his first professional season—with the 1900 White Sox, in the not yet a major league American League:

“The first team I ever played on, outside of (amateur teams) around Chicago, was the White Sox, and they took me to Detroit with them to play a Sunday game.  I nearly quit right then and there.  If I had I might now be a politician in Chicago.

“It was one of those games played out at Burns Park (Burns, just west of Detroit’s city limits, opened in 1900 to host Sunday games and circumvent Detroit’s blue laws).  We won by one run and as we left the park the crowd came at us with beer bottles.  It was the bottom of the bus for everybody , and as I was the most scared I got there first, I guess.  Anyway, everybody else pulled on top of me, and we rode into town that way.

“I was nearly smothered.  They had a hard time inducing me to believe that that was not an everyday occurrence.”

“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.

Nap Lajoie “How I Win”

13 May

Napoleon Lajoie spoke to Joseph B. Bowles in 1910 for one of the syndicated journalist’s series of articles called “How I Win.”

Lajoie said:

“It is hard to tell how any man wins a ballgame, because winning depends so much upon other members of the team.  I think that the biggest factor in winning, in my case at least, is in having what I think is the baseball instinct.  Whether that instinct is natural or acquired, or merely the result of quickness of eye, or what I do not pretend to know.  But I believe that a great part of a ballplayer’s success both in batting and in fielding is the result rather of instinct than of anything else.  Many times players  do things almost without thinking that are exactly right, and many times when they think out a thing carefully they do exactly the wrong thing.”

Napoleon Lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

But after saying he wasn’t sure how he won, Lajoie decided he did know:

 “As far as I am concerned, I win games by hitting.  It seems to me I always could hit, and in spite of the fact that some pitchers think otherwise, I hit almost any kind of ball equally hard.  I have often wondered why this was.  Perhaps it was natural.  I never want to know what a pitcher is going to pitch and would much rather figure out for myself what ball is coming than have a coacher or anyone else tell me.”

Lajoie said he had determined that his ability to hit was “a natural gift” which required practice to refine:

“Position at the bat is a big thing in hitting.  A batter should be firmly on his feet, with the balls of his feet holding the ground tightly, and he should not shift position while striking. ..I do not try to hit the ball as hard as possible, but rather to meet it squarely, and in this I think a quick and steady eye helps.”

laj

Lajoie’s eyes

Lajoie said he was “striving always” for an advantage at the plate:

“It is a guessing match between the pitcher and the batter at the best, and experience ought to show a batter just what a pitcher is likely to pitch to him on any given ball.  When runners are on bases batting becomes more of an art…I think my position at the bat and long, steady, sweeping stroke helps me very much in the hit-and-run game, for I am able to hit balls that other batters would miss entirely.  Even if I am certain of missing the ball I swing at it hard so as to cause the catcher to lose a step or a foot or two of ground in making his throw.”

Lajoie

Lajoie

In the end, the man in the midst of a season in which, at age 35, he led the American League in games, at-bats, hits, doubles, total bases, and batting average, said:

“Keen eyesight, close observation and attention to every detail is necessary to win ballgames.  Anyone who grows careless or indifferent ceases to be a winner.”