Tag Archives: Patterson Silk Weavers

Ed Barrow’s All-Time All-Stars

26 Mar

“The old-timers. They were better hitters! No question about it.”

Said Ed Barrow after he became president of the New York Yankees in 1939 and Jimmy Powers of The New York Daily News had the 71-year-old pick his all-time team.

Barrow

Powers said of Barrow:

“The beetle-browed executive, one of the few remaining links between the gas-lit, coach-and-four, Wee Willie Keeler era and the moderns, boomed at us across his wide, flat-topped desk in the offices of the New York baseball club.”

Barrow was “a great believer in ‘natural born’ stars,’ telling Powers, “A fellow has it—or he hasn’t it.”

He explained his theory:

“Once in a while a manager will make a few minor corrections in stance, or change something here and there, but if player hasn’t the natural coordination, the God-given physique, the reflexes for rhythm and timing, he’ll never get ‘em. Sometimes one man will get more mileage out of his talents than another because he will work harder. That’s why the old-timers were better hitters. They looked at better pitching, and they practiced and practiced and practiced.”

Barrow said there was one reason in particular for why old-timers were better hitters:

“The tipoff is in the strikeout column. The moderns strikeout oftener—and there’s your answer. The present-day hitter is so homerun crazy that half the time he closes his eyes and swings; four bases or nothing! Usually, it’s nothing.”

Barrow’s told Powers:

“Now, on my All-Star, All-Time team I’d put Cobb, Speaker and Ruth in the outfield. Chase, Lajoie, Wagner, and Jimmy Collins in the infield. Matty, Johnson, Waddell, and McGinnity, pitchers. And Bill Dickey, catcher…I’d put Joe DiMaggio on that team as utility outfielder. I’d put Lou Gehrig as substitute first baseman and pinch hitter. Bill Bradley, Eddie Collins, Swede Risberg, and Buck Weaver would also get contracts on this ‘Dream Team.’ Keeler would be another utility outfielder and Bresnahan would be my second catcher. Ruffing and Gomez would fill out my pitching staff!”

Barrow’s All-Stars

Barrow said he could offer “a million reasons’ for the rationale for each selected player. 

“(R)ecords can be misleading…I won’t quote you records of my All-Timers…A man must be in the dugout or in the stands to weigh the merits of a player and not be influenced by a record book.”

He said in choosing his team, he held “no grudges,” which is why he selected Risberg and Weaver, “Black Sox scandal or not.”

He said he would add Joe Jackson to the team, “if I thought he was smart enough. But Jackson, strange to say, was the only dumb one on that whole team. Up until 1938s Yankees—those Black Sox were the best team in baseball!”

As for some of his picks:

“Chase on first base! Nobody near him. He could throw a ball through a knothole, covered the whole infield like a cat, and remember he used a glove that just covered his fingers and seldom had a palm. The ‘peach baskets’ first basemen use today would have been barred years back, Chase could hit behind the runner, bunt, steal, fake a bunt at third and then bunt over the third baseman’s head. He could do all the tricks.”

Chase

He called Napoleon Lajoie “the most graceful second baseman I have ever seen. He had a rifle arm and was as slick as a panther,” and gave him the edge “by a slight margin” over Eddie Collins.

Honus Wagner, who Barrow signed for the Patterson Silk Weavers in 1896, “is my nomination as the greatest individual ballplayer of all time.”

Of his first impression of Wagner, he said:

“He was pretty terrible when I first ran across him, looked awkward as all get-out. But suddenly he would come through with a perfectly dazzling play that had everybody on our bench swallowing his tobacco cud in astonishment.”

Like Lajoie, Barrow said Jimmy Collins just edged out the second choice—Bill Bradley—because:

“Collins could make perfect throws to first from any position. When an infielder makes an off-balance throw today the crowd gives him a big hand. The old timers did it every play because the old ball was slow dribbling out there. Today the lively ball comes out fast in one or two hops, and this gives the third baseman a chance to make his throw from a ‘straightened up’ stance.…Remember, in the old days the ball was dark, wet with slippery elm juice; often it was smudged with grass stains, hard to follow.”

In the outfield, Barrow said, “I don’t think anyone will give you an argument on Cobb-Speaker-Ruth.”

He called Ty Cobb “the greatest hitter of all time,” with “a lightning-quick brain and plenty of gut.”

Babe Ruth, he said was, in addition to the being the “great slugger of all-time,” changed the game because of “His salary, his magnetic personality, and his publicity.”

Tris Speaker “was superb. A good hitter, a great fielder, a brainy man. He was so confident of his ability ‘to go back’ he practically camped on second base.”

Of the pitching staff, he said Christy Mathewson “could do almost everything with a baseball—practically make it talk.”

Of Walter Johnson he said:

“He had awe-inspiring speed. You’d stand up there watching and suddenly—pfffft—pfffft—pfffft. Three phantom bullets whizzed past. Too fast for your eyes to focus ‘em.”

Rube Waddell was “the best lefthander” he had seen.

Joe McGinnity appeared to be a sentimental choice:

“(He) was a work horse, a competent soul who loved the game so much I believe he’d work for nothing.”

Bill Dickey, he said was not “given the credit” he deserved:

“He’s a hitter. A workmanlike receiver. Handles pitchers marvelously. Has a good arm. Is fast. Is always one jump ahead of the opposition. Dickey does everything well.”

“Who told you you were a Ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

3 Oct

Leon A. “Lee” Viau (pronounced vee-o) was the first player from Dartmouth College to make it to the major leagues.

Listed at only 5’ 4” and 160 pounds Viau was 83-77 in five big league seasons.  The Cleveland Leader said of his time pitching for the Spiders:

“(Viau) with comparatively little speed but with curves well mixed with gray matter, got out of lots of tight places where an ordinary twirler would have been knocked out of the box.”

In addition to having attended an Ivy League school, he was best known for his looks, and for being one of the best-dressed players in baseball.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called him “The Adonis of the diamond.”  When he played for the Patterson Silk Weavers in the Atlantic League The Patterson Weekly Press called him “the Beau Brummell of the club.”

Lee Viau

Lee Viau

A story, perhaps apocryphal, made the rounds in several newspapers during the first decade of the 20th Century about how “the grandstand was filled with ladies…when the handsome Viau was in the box.”

On this particular occasion, as recounted in The Kansas City Star, Viau was pitching for the Spiders against “Cap” Anson and his Chicago Colts in Cleveland:

“The score stood 4 to 2 in the last half of the ninth inning, and in Cleveland’s favor.  There was a Chicago man on second and one on third, while Anson was at the bat.

“He was madly anxious to bring in those runs, and he swung viciously at the first ball pitched. ‘Strike one!’ yelled umpire (Thomas) Lynch.

“Anson gritted his teeth and waited for the next one.  Lee sent up one of those slow, deceptive drop balls for which he was noted, and again Anson swung wildly.  ‘Strike two!’ cried Lynch.

“At this there was a veritable uproar among the female occupants of the grandstand.

“’Strike him out Lee! Oh, do strike him out!’ they shrieked in chorus.

“Hearing these cries, the grim old Anson, with a sneer on his face, sardonically inquired: ‘Who told you you were a ladies’ man, Mr. Viau?’

“Lee maintained a haughty silence, wound his arm slowly about his head and then, taking a wide swing, shot the ball up to the plate, and Anson took the third swipe at it and missed.

“’Now’ remarked Lee, as he advanced toward Anson, ‘I will answer your question.  The same person who told you you could bat.’”

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders

Lee Viau, front row third from right, with 1892 Cleveland Spiders