Tag Archives: Norwood Gibson

“That is something Mr. Chesbro”

5 Feb

In 1905, The Chicago Tribune promised readers that an interview would “Undoubtedly cause a sensation.”

The subject?

“Jack Chesbro for the first time tells of the ‘spit ball,’ by which he won forty-one victories last year”

According to The Tribune:

“All last summer Chesbro persistently refused to tell the secret. Manager Clark Griffith did not know how Chesbro got his control and scores of pitchers in the two big leagues vainly tried to emulate him.”

chesbro

Jack Chesbro

Chesbro attributed “over thirty of the forty-one victories” to his use of the spit ball, and the paper said:

“Many baseball pitchers will be surprised when they read Chesbro’s explanation, and, according to him, fans and experts who have thought they really knew something of the ball have been groping in the dark.

“The wetting of the ball by Chesbro is done simply and solely in order in order that the ball may slip off the index and middle fingers first and from the thumb last…It has been supposed that the spit ball must be pitched slowly. Chesbro, on the contrary, says the ball is only effective when pitched with speed.”

Chesbro told the paper:

“The spitball has come to stay and is easily the most effective ball that possibly be used. It is easy to pitch once you have acquired its secrets. I have never yet read an explanation of it that was anywhere near correct.”

Chesbro said he injured the fingers of New York’s catchers Deacon McGuire and Red Kleinow early in the season, but later he was able to let them know “just how far the ball would drop and whether it would drop straight or outside,” before throwing a pitch.

Chesbro said old time players would find the pitch impossible to hit:

“Cap Anson couldn’t hit the spitball in a hundred years. In fact, I would be willing to bet Anson couldn’t even catch it.”

Chesbro said Norwood Gibson of Boston had “better control of the ball” than any spitball pitcher he saw.  Chesbro said his wild pitch that “gave Boston the pennant” on the final day of the season was because “I simply put a little too much force on the ball,” and because Boston pitcher Bill Dinneen was throwing the spitball too, “so that it was slippery.”

norwood

Norwood Gibson

Chesbro who had seen Elmer Stricklett throw the spitball in Sacramento in 1902 and again in the spring of 1904, said of the second encounter:

“It was down at New Orleans last spring. I saw Stricklett throw one, and I quickly said: That is something Mr. Chesbro, that you must acquire. I watched Stricklett closely and noticed how he wet his fingers. I did the same and soon discovered it was the thumb that did the work”

The Tribune sad Chesbro was spending the winter tending to “two of the fastest horses in western Massachusetts,” one purchased for him by Highlanders owner Frank Farrell which “bears the name spitball.”

After revealing the secrets of his spitball after his 41-12 season in 1904, Chesbro was 66-72 for the remainder of his career which ended in 1909.