Tag Archives: Louis Lee Arms

“The most Aggravating Pitcher”

13 Jan

Louis Lee Arms, writing for The St. Louis Star in 1913, like many of his contemporaries, presaged the pitch clock when reporting on the ace of the Philadelphia Athletics pitching staff:

“The next time Eddie Plank pitches at American League Park many fans who desire to get home approximately during the same month that they started for the ball yard, so that their friends may not think they have been upon a European tour or some other long vacation, will forego the pleasure of watching even such  a brilliant baseball scientist as Plank in action.”

Arms called Plank “the most aggravating pitcher” in the league.

plank.jpg

“He draws himself within himself after the fashion of a mud turtle once he finds himself in a pinch and there is nothing but the shell.”

Arms said in his last start against St. Louis, Plank “consumed from thirty to sixty seconds” between each pitch:

“Plank’s reasoning is obvious. He figures that wit a man in the batting box anxious to hit, the longer he hesitates in throwing the ball the more perturbed and overwrought becomes the batsman, with the result that he cannot hit normally, highly psychological as anyone can see.”

plank2.jpg

Plank

Arms described Plank’s routine after a pitch:

“Receive the ball from the catcher.

Then drop it.

Rub dust on it.

Expectorate upon the glove.

Rub the ball vigorously upon the glove.

Turn and talk in an animated way to Eddie Collins.

Step upon the pitching slab facing the catcher.

Nod dissent to several signals.

Expectorate again upon the glove.

Nod an assent to the signal of the catcher.

Back off the pitching slab.

Pluck several blades of glass.

Walk up to it again.

Turn and gaze about the ball field to see that the outfield is properly placed.

Wave one outfielder into position

Make a sarcastic remark to the umpire.

Make ready to pitch.

Consume five seconds in looking steadfastly at the ground.

Pitch.”

Arms concluded:

“Exaggeration Not a bit of it. This is exactly what Plank did on several occasions Monday in the first and second innings when he was in a pinch.”

Plank slowly won 18 games and one more in the World Series for the World Champion Athletics.

When he died 13 years later, Umpire Billy Evans said of Plank’s routine:

“No pitcher in the history of the game ever kept the batter or umpire as much on edge.”

“The Spitball Suffers from Nothing so much as its Vulgarity”

10 Jan

Louis Lee Arms became well known for being the husband of actress Mae Marsh and publicist for studio head Samuel Goldwyn, but before the age of 30 he was sports editor for The St. Louis Star and a sports columnist for The New York Tribune.

arms.png

Louis Lee Arms

In 1918, after it was reported in The Washington Post that Pittsburgh owner Barney Dreyfuss and “other big league magnates (would be) behind a movement to legislate the spitball and other freak deliveries,” at that year’s winter meetings, Arms wrote in The Tribune:

“It is apparent that for the first time in its gay young life the spitball is going to be placed seriously on trial.”

Arms said there were good cases on each side of the debate over “the saturated slant.”

He laid out the arguments:

“Those most opposed to this effective style of delivery make general claims against it, as follows:

  1. From its nature it is not legitimate

  2. It leads to other illegal styles of delivery

  3. It retards hitting

  4. It mars fielding

  5. It delays the game by delaying pitching

Each one of these claims is more or less justified. In opposition, those who favor the spitball submit the following:

  1. From its nature it is NOT illegitimate

  2. It depends upon skillful manipulation

  3. It greatly increases pitching effectiveness

  4. It is an effective substitute for a pitcher who is unable to develop a first-class curve ball

  5. Its abolition would greatly weaken, if not destroy the major league usefulness of many established pitchers.”

Arms had a theory that the pitch was not so much targeted for extinction for baseball reasons, but for changing social mores:

“It is our humble opinion the spitball suffers from nothing so much as its vulgarity. As a nation we are being taught more and more that it is usually unsanitary and largely unlawful to spit in public places. A ballpark is certainly public enough for anyone.

“Pithy placards in our subways, surface cars, and ‘L’s’ and in theaters and public places remind us that two years in prison or $500, or both, may be the penalty for even a first offence. We think now ere we spit. Back in grandfather’s salad days the town bloods may have sat before the grocery store and spit with formality and greater accuracy. But if grandfather had happened along in 1918, he would have smoked Egyptian cigarettes and saved the coupons.

“Assuredly the spitball is vulgar, it is a highly effective pitching asset. Ed Walsh and Jack Chesbro will be remembered as among the greatest pitchers in baseball and the spitter made them that. Dozens of other pitchers have owed the greater part of their success to the (Elmer) Stricklett discovery.”

elmer.png

Stricklett

Of the pitch itself, he said:

“In effect, it is an artistic and astonishing delivery, as showing the ‘stuff’ that may be put upon a ball over a flight of sixty feet. There is no curve that has to it the arrogant viciousness of the spitter. No delivery is harder to control. By control we mean the ability to ‘break’ the spitter either way as well as to regulate the angle of the break.

“The spitter that carries the biggest break is not necessarily the most effective. It was only the other day that Miller Huggins was saying he had seen Bill Doak, eminent among modern spittists. Knocked from the box when his ‘spitter was breaking a foot,’ only to come back the next day with a delivery that jumped but a few inches and pitch unbeatable ball.

“It is unfair to the spitball to attribute to its influence the discovery of such illegal pitches as the resin and emery balls. Why not indict the knuckle ball on the same score? Yet no word is heard against the knuckle ball, which breaks like the spitter, requiring, albeit highly talented knuckles to control.

“We shall continue to believe the main objection its antagonists find against the spitball is that it isn’t polite. Yet they do not to be thought so softened by civilization as to admit that.”

It would take until the winter between the 1919 and 1920 seasons for the first stage of the spitball ban which allowed two pitchers per team to use the pitch, and the second after the 1920 season  which grandfathered in 17 pitchers.