Tag Archives: Pop Corkhill

“Pioneers of Baseball Methods were so Often Overshadowed”

3 May

John B. Foster writing in The New York Sun 1927, said:

“When the theory of baseball playing differed greatly from the methods that are used now, the idea of an outfielder was that of a portly individual who carried with him a great expanse of shoulder blade, a pair of arms that looked as if they could knock the horns off a crescent, and the ability to shoulder a bat that weighed more than the captain of a winch”

He said Cap Anson, “had a lot to do with that theory” becoming a trend. “All of Anson’s outfielders were big men when he could get them,” because the White Stockings manager would say, “They can hit the ball out of the lot, and it’s the hitters that count.”

Foster said, “Anson’s long batters and big men,” became less critical as, “Fielders found their way into the game who could run back to the fences and get the ball…There was the beginning of a system which has not changed much since, although it has been improved.”

One of the first of the new “system,” said Foster, was:

“Honest John Corkhill…They called him ‘Pop’ as he grew older in harness.”

Corkhill

Corkhill, he said was the first outfield who tried “coming in” on balls and was “a great exponent of that kind of fielding and, combined with his ability to bat well, was one of the great players of the big game.”

Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Enquirer agreed with Foster’s assessment. During the outfielder’s final season, he said:

“Corkhill always was a sensational catch. He was wont to make connection with flies that most outfielders could not reach.”

And said Mulford in recalling Corkhill fifteen years after his big-league career ended, said:

“What a fellow Corkhill was on those forward running catches! He could skate in on his breastbone and snatch flies off the grass.”

But Foster said, Corkhill was never “given due credit for his skill, his intelligence, and his daring. The pioneers of baseball methods were so often overshadowed by the big deeds of the really big men physically that they were overlooked.”

The one thing written about Corkhill as much as his fielding prowess was his baldness and sensitivity about it. Foster said:

“As he grew older, he acquired a bald spot. When he donned his frock coat, his shiny bald head, combined with a huge mustache made him appear like a professor.”

After the 1889 season, Corkhill’s former teammate Hugh Nicoll was “wintering in Kansas City” and told The Kansas City Star a story from the previous season when Corkhill played for the Bridegrooms:

“One day when the Cincinnatis were playing in Brooklyn and the old man lost his cap while sliding to second and it rolled about ten feet away from the base. (Bid) McPhee had the ball and John was in a sorry fix. He could not get the cap without being put out and to get up would reveal his baldness to the thousands of people looking at him, but he was a sly old fox, and he got the headgear and yet he did not show his baldness.

“’Get that cap,’ he whispered to McPhee as he laid on the ground; but McPhee refused just to worry him. Then John began to writhe as in great pain and the Brooklyn players ran out to him with a bucket of water. One of them tossed the cap to him and as he got up all the players laughed.”