Tag Archives: Notre Dame

“In Baseball there is no such Advantage”

8 Oct

John Henry Mohardt was, with George Gipp, a member of the backfield on Knute Rockne‘s undefeated 1920 Notre Dame football team, and would go on to play for the Chicago Cardinals, Racine Legion and Chicago Bears in the NFL.

He also played baseball in at Notre Dame and was a highly sought after prospect.  Contemporary reports said he received offers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indiana, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers.  He signed with the Tigers and manager Ty Cobb.

When it was announced that he would open the season as a member of the Tigers Mohardt was asked by reporters which sport was more difficult:

“Baseball, of course.  Football is team play, baseball largely individual effort.

“In football there is time enough to get set after each signal.  The calling of the signal tells you just what you are expected to do to put over the play.  Every player has a chance to firmly concentrate on his task.

“In baseball there is no such advantage.  There is never an opportunity to get set.

“In baseball the great weight is on the individual.  When I go to bat I am up there along.  I cannot depend on anybody but myself for help. “

Johnny Mohardt

Johnny Mohardt

Mohardt had never played football before entering Notre Dame and “Inside a week he was a first-string player,” as a result he said:

“It is easy to make football players, but from what I know of baseball it is necessary to have natural ability and also be able to think quickly.  Developing football players is easy.  If a fellow is physically fit the coach will do the rest.

“I have seen Coach Rockne make stars almost overnight at Notre Dame.  Every season brings forth scores of new stars in the football world.  In baseball I understand a new star a year is the exception.”

Mohardt was not the exception; he was 1 for 1 with a walk and 2 runs scored for the Tigers in five games in April, and after he was released hit .185 in 21 games for the Syracuse Stars in the International League—then returned to football.

Mohardt became a physician, served in the military in World War II and died in 1961.

An excellent biography of Mohardt written by Dan Cichalski appears on Gary Joseph Cieradkowski’s Infinite Baseball Card Set blog.

Count Campau Explains the “Science of the Sport”—the Battery

20 Mar

Charles Columbus “Count” Campau earned his nickname because of his regal appearance and his background; he was a member of a prominent Detroit family and educated at Notre Dame, and was regarded as one of the smartest players of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

His Major League career was brief, just 147 games with the Detroit Wolverines, St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators, but he was one of the best known, and highest regarded minor league players for 20 years.

Charles Columbus "Count" Campau

Charles Columbus “Count” Campau

Campau was especially popular in New Orleans, where he played for parts of four seasons, managed for one, and adopted as his home.

In 1893 Campau, who The New Orleans Times-Picayune called “one of the best students of baseball,” wrote an article as “Advice for Amateurs” about the “Science of the Sport:”

 “Many a time I have been asked for my views on the successful way to make a good ball player.  From a player’s standpoint a ball player is born and not made.  But with continued practice and coaching from and older and experienced head the amateur will probably reach the top notch in the profession.  There are two things, when combined, (which) will make a good ball player.  A practical and intellectual knowledge of the pastime or sport will aid the amateur.”

The New Orleans Pelicans captain explained what passed for “scientific baseball” in 1893; position by position:

“The most important position is the pitcher. For three reasons he ranks as the most important player on the team. He is the pivot upon which the victory of the team rests.  Should he be slightly disabled or out of condition all hopes of victory would go glimmering and the rest of the team would not put up a good game of ball.  A good pitcher, with fair fielders, is better than a poor pitcher with brilliant fielders.  With a weak pitcher, a fast fielding team would make a sport, and with good hitters would likely win one game out of ten.”

Campau blamed pitching for the Pelicans slow start that season; in spite of being “as hard a batting team” as there was in the league, they “could not win for the reason that the box was decidedly weak.”

“Another important factor in a game is the catcher…A catcher with good judgment and a quick brain will prevent the speedy base runner from advancing, and will lessen the work of the pitcher by watching the bases.  A good battery, with judgment, will work a hard batter, and the chances are that he will pop up a fly or send a grounder to short.  The catcher’s work does not only consist of receiving the delivery of his pitcher, for such a catcher is not worth the chest protector he wears, and will never become a success…(Charlie) Bennett(Jack) Clements, (Buck) Ewing and (Morgan) Murphy are catchers who watch every point of the game.  They back up the first baseman at every safe opportunity.”

"Count" Campau

“Count” Campau

More from the “Count” next week.