Tag Archives: Rube Waddell

“There’s Always Been a Need in Baseball for Another Rube”

20 Sep

In 1944, Grantland Rice of The New York Herald Tribune lamented the inability of Lou Novikoff to live up expectations well into four seasons in the National League:

“It would have ben a big lift to big league baseball if…’The Mad Russian’ of the Cubs could only have approached his minor league average under the Big Tent.”

Novikoff

The reason was baseball’s need for “color;”

“There has always been a need in baseball for another Rube Waddell, another Bugs Raymond or another Dizzy Dean. They had more than their share of color. But they had something more than color—they were also great ballplayers.”

Novikoff, Rice said had “a gob of color,” but hadn’t come close to putting up the numbers he did the Pacific Coast League and American Association:

“Novikoff on the West Coast looked to be as good a hitter as Ted Williams…But he was no Ted Williams in the major show.”

Both Williams and Novikoff had huge seasons in the American Association after leaving the West Coast—Williams hit .366 in Minneapolis in 1938 and Novikoff hit .370 in Milwaukee in 1941—but as Rice concluded:  No one had yet “wipe(d) away the dust from his big-league batting eye.”

The loss of Novikoff to pick up where Dizzy Dean left off “in the headline class, “ was a loss for baseball, Rice said:

“Baseball can use more color than it has known since Dizzy Dean retired to tell St. Luis radio listeners that someone ‘sold into third base.’

“It could use another Rube Waddell, who split his spring and summer days three ways—pitching, tending bar, and going fishing. But it should be remembered Dizzy Dean and Rube Waddell were among the great pitchers of all time.”

There was none he said, as colorful as Babe Ruth. Ping Bodie “was never a great ballplayer, but he was good enough. He was another remembered character. There was the time he bought a parrot and taught the bird to keep repeating— ‘Ping made good.’”

Rive said Bugs Raymond had color and talent—but for too short a time before the color overtook the talent.

Bugs Raymond

“There was the time when Bugs was pitching for Shreveport. He made a bet that he could eat a whole turkey, drink two quarts of Scotch and win a double header. He won his bet tradition says.”

By “tradition” Rice meant Rice. He was the source of the turkey and scotch story as a young reporter covering the Southern League.

Rice’s dream team of colorful players would include:

“Babe Ruth, Rube Waddell, Dizzy Dean, Bugs Raymond, Larry McLean, Tacks Parrott, Arlie Latham, German Schaefer, Al Schacht, Crazy Schmidt [sic Schmit] Rabbit Maranville and one or two more. I wouldn’t however, want to be manager.”

Grantland Rice

While Rice valued color, he said “two of the greatest ballclubs” he ever covered we not at all colorful:

“One was Connie Mack’s Athletics lineup from 1910 through 1914, winners of four pennants in five years. The other was the Yankees after Babe Ruth left, a crushing outfit season after season.

“These two squads were composed of fine ballplayers who were rarely prankish or the lighter side of life—Eddie Collins, Eddie Plank, Stuffy McInnis, Jack Barry, Homerun Baker, Jack Coombs, Chief Bender, to whom baseball was strictly a business matter. The same went for Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Keller, Spud Chandler, Joe DiMaggio and others might have made up a session of bank presidents.”

Novikoff never lived up to his minor league hype. He hit a respectable .282 in five major league seasons but only played 17 games in the big-leagues after the end of World War II.

“Rube Prides Himself on his Strength”

27 Aug

After a six to three Reds victory over Chicago on August 7, 1901, The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune told the story of why Chicago’s Rube Waddell and several fans came late to the game.

Jake Stenzel, a Cincinnati native, had returned home after his nine-year major league career came to an end and opened a bar across the street from League Park:

Stenzel

“During yesterday’s game there was a counter attraction in Jake Stenzel’s saloon, where Rube Waddell was exhibiting feats of strength. Fifty or more people who came out in that neighborhood for the purpose of seeing the game found Rube’s exhibition entertaining enough, and, consequently, did not hand their coin into the little window of the ball ark entrance.”

Stenzel and another man had lured Waddell into the bar by telling him fishing stories:

“Stenzel said he caught a bass weighing fourteen pounds, and Rube immediately went him four pounds better, and added that he caught the fish with his fingers.”

Stenzel then told Waddell that he caught his fish on property he owned in Indiana and was considering purchasing additional acres.

“’Well, if there’s fishing down there, Jake, it’s cheap, and you better buy it right away,’ advised Rube. ‘I am thinking of buying a place like that myself. When I do, I’ll stock with bass and give up baseball.”’

Rube

The paper said Stenzel’s friend told Waddell:

“’I don’t think you’re strong enough for a fisherman,’ and then the fun began, for Rube prides himself on his strength.”

Waddell responded”

“’Ain’t strong enough, eh? Well. Wait till I show you.’ And Rube rushed over to the end of the counter and raised it off the floor. Then he took a full keg of beer and lifted it over his head, and he wound up his exhibition by picking Jake Stenzel up bodily and throwing him to the pavement.”

With that:

“The crowd cheered, and Rube ran across the street to see the rest of the game.”

“He Would Deliberately Pitch Himself into a Hole”

25 Aug

Connie Mack never tired of talking about Rube Waddell and in 1925 told Frank Menke of King Features that the southpaw, “had an arm which was the remarkable of any pitcher who ever walked onto a diamond.”

Rube’s, “speed was blinding, his curves bewildering, and his control superlative.”

At his best—those six years in Philadelphia when he was 131-86, while going 62-61 in parts of seven seasons with other clubs—Mack said Rube could, “place a ball in exactly the spot where he willed to place it.”

Waddell, whose limited attention span caused him to chase fire trucks and dogs, would get bored on the mound, Mack said:

“I saw Rube go into games, again and again, have the opposition team at his mercy for four or five innings—and then deliberately let down for a while. He would deliberately pitch himself into a hole so that he might have the fun of pulling himself out of it. Oftentimes he purposely put over three bad ones on a batter so that he could put the next three in a groove and fan that man. He purposely put men on bases so that he could spice up the combat and have more fun retiring the side.”

Always broke and always on the make for money, Waddell engaged in elaborate schemes to make a buck. Mack told a story about Rube having run out of money while at a St. Louis amusement park:

“He spent some time in serous financial deliberation—and then embarked on the scenic railway.

“Near the end of the ride, when the train had slowed down considerably, Rube, who had been in the front seat, turned around, and in so doing, extended his left arm. The arm collided with one of the posts that railed in the tracks, whereupon the Rube let out a wild shriek.”

The owner of the park was summoned and realizing who the “injured” party was, assigned an employee to pay Rube up to $100 to avoid “unwanted publicity” for the park.

“The ‘fixer’ went into the office where Waddell had been taken (and) immediately upon his entry, Waddell began yelling in tones even louder than before. ‘Just calm yourself, Rube,’ said the ‘fixer,’ ‘I am going to call a doctor and have him fix you up.’

“’No, no,’ exclaimed the pitcher. ‘I’ll have my own doctor. I’m ruined—ruined for life. Let me out of here—I want a lawyer—I want a lawyer.’”

Waddell was offered $20, asked to sign a paper releasing the park from responsibility, and told if he didn’t, the police would be called for him having crated a disturbance.

Waddell responded, “you’re trimming me,” and said:

“Twenty dollars isn’t enough for a broken arm. Given me $50 and I’ll sign the paper.”

The man stood firm and Waddell accepted the $20; Mack noted that he signed the paper “using the hand of the ‘broken’ arm.”

Later, Mack said, as the employee told the park owner that Waddell accepted only $20, “and he trimmed me at that,” telling the owner to look over at the park’s bandstand:

“The owner looked—and there was Waddell in the bandstand, leading the orchestra and waving a cane in place of a baton—waving it vigorously and enthusiastically with the same arm that had been ‘broken’ a half hour before.”

One more Rube story Friday

“Wrecked the Morale of my Clubs”

23 Aug

In 1925, Frank Menke said in his King Features syndicated column:

“Rube Waddell sleeps his last long sleep, but the memory of him shall last through all the baseball years.”

Menke said Waddell was, “possessed of the mightiest arm the game has ever known,” but was, “handicapped by a brain eccentric to an extreme.”

Rube

Borrowing a phrase from Billy Murphy, the sports editor of The St. Louis Star, Menke called Waddell, “The Peter Pan of the National Game.”

Fred Clarke, Waddell’s first major league manager, told Menke his version of the story of the pitcher’s arrival in Washington D.C. to join the Louisville Colonels in August of 1897:

“’I climbed into bed about midnight, all in,’ related Clarke, ‘I was awakened out of sleep by a heavy pounding on my door. Striking a match, I looked at my watch and found it was 3:30 a.m.’

“’Who is it?’ I growled.’

“’Open up, it’s a friend,’ said a voice outside.

“’I opened the door—and a big, lanky fellow rushed at me, hand extended, and with a wide grin on his face.

‘’Hello, Freddie; hello, Freddie,’ he chuckled, ‘How are you old boy, how are you? Let me have $2 will you?

“’Doesn’t seem as if we’ve ever met before, ‘I said. ‘Would you mind telling me who you are.’”

“’Why, I’m your new pitcher—Rube Waddell; I’m surprised you don’t know me. Just got in town and I need $2.’

Clarke said he told Waddell he didn’t have the money, but “it is customary in the big leagues for a new player to visit all the older players on the team as soon as he arrives,” and sent Waddell to bother his new teammates.

Clarke said he “ducked my players” the next morning at breakfast because:

“(E)veryone had been visited by the Rube during the night and those fellows were intent upon murdering the man who had sicced the Rube onto them.”

Waddell appeared in just two games for Louisville in 1897 but returned to Clarke and the club in 1899 and then spent 1900 and part of the 1901 season playing for Clarke in Pittsburgh. Clarke told Menke that no player had ever caused him, “one tenth the trouble” that Waddell had:

“But some way, somehow, no matter what he did, it wasn’t possible to be mad at him for long.”

Clarke said Waddell, “wrecked the morale of my clubs to such an extent that I finally decided to get rid of him.”

The Pirates sold the pitcher’s contract to Chicago in May of 191, but Clarke said the Orphans were not the first club with which they had a deal for the sale:

“I sold him to Boston. The Boston club asked me to sign up Rube for them. The lefthander had been getting $1200 from us, Boston was willing to pay him more.”

Clarke said he presented Waddell with a $1500 contract:

“’No, I won’t do that,’ said Rube, ‘I’d rather play for you for $1200. I don’t want to go to Boston.”

Clarke said the offer was increased three times, to $1800, $2100, and finally $2400 but Waddell said:

“No, Freddie, I’d rather play for you for $1200.”

Clarke said:

“He flatly refused to go there, so the Boston deal was cancelled and a short time later we shipped Rube along to Chicago, which was a town he liked.”

Waddell was sent to Chicago in the midst of a eight game back to back home and road series between the two clubs—Waddell lost the first game of the game of the series pitching for Chicago and lost the fifth as a member of the Pirates.

Clarke said during that series Chicago manager Tom Loftus threatened Rube with a $25 if he ever fraternized with members of the opposing club on the field, and then told a story—the facts of which don’t square with any game played between the two clubs that season, but fits the pattern of the classic Rube Waddell story:

“When we made our next trip to Chicago we were fighting for a position near the top and every game counted. Chicago sent Rube in against us and he was pitching air-tight baseball. All during the game we tried in one way of another to talk to him, but Rube, remembering about the possible $25 fine, wouldn’t even look at us in a friendly way.

“Coming in from the field after the eighth, with the score 5 to 1 against us, I passed alongside Rube and said in a stage whisper:

“’Say, Honus Wagner, Sam Leever, and myself are going hunting for quail near your old town of Butler in the fall and when we do, we’ll let you know Rube, because we want you to come along with.’

 The distraction worked. Clarke said:

“It is a matter of history we made six runs off Rube in that inning and won the game.”

In fact, Waddell lost three time to the Pirates in 1901—the 4 to 2 loss the day after Chicago acquired him, 6 to 1 on June 2 (Leever got the win), and 5 to 1 on August 11, but none of games match Clarke’s “matter of history.”

Incidentally, Waddell almost didn’t appear in the August 11 game. He was scheduled to pitch the day before—the game was rained out—but right before it was, The Chicago Tribune said he was detained by the police for some old debts incurred in Pittsburgh:

“After dodging constables for three days to avoid service, Manager Loftus was glad when two of the minions corralled Rube.”

Waddell told his manager he could “settle with them for $21.” Loftus paid the debt, and he was able to take the mound the following day.

More Rube Wednesday

“I’ve Seen him Throw a Ball out of the Park in a Spell of Anger”

20 Aug

Walter Johnson rated Rube Waddell the greatest pitcher he saw in a 1925 syndicated article. He listed Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, and Ed Walsh as his next three.

Cy Young came next.

Johnson acknowledged he had not seen Young at his best, “His greatest three years were back in 1891 to 1893…Yet 15 years later I worked many games with the grand old veteran when he was still effective against the best batters in the American League.”

Johnson said like Young, he, “had to use more curves,” later in his career, and:

“His work was always smooth and pleasure to watch. He seldom did the sensational thing on the diamond. But one thing he did that will always live—he won 508 [sic, 511] victories.”

Cy Young

Next was Eddie Plank who Johnson said had “The best cross-fire I ever saw,” and “He was simply a wonder on doping out the other club.”

Johnson said during the 1924 World Series, “(Plank) told me some things about (Frank) Frisch and (Ross) Youngs that helped a lot.”

Johnson said Bender was “always deliberate when pithing, “wasted few balls,” and threw “an inside ball,” that “The leading batters in the league couldn’t solve.”

Chief Bender had, “a good curve and wonderful fastball. Added to these qualities he was smart as a whip.”

Chief Bender

Johnson said his temper was as much as a detriment as his intelligence was a benefit though:

“I’ve seen him throw a ball out of the park in a spell of anger.”

Johnson said umpire Tommy Connolly told a friend Bender was capable of throwing as hard as Johnson, “but he would only let himself out once or twice during a game. Usually in a tight place with men on bases and two strikes on the batter.”

Johnson’s final three were Mordecai Brown, Jack Chesbro, and Bill Donovan.

Brown, owing to the injury that cost him parts of two fingers and earned him his nickname, made it, “possible for him to get a peculiar hold on the ball that produced a deceiving curve.”

Mordecai Brown

He also rated Brown and Bender the two best fielding pitchers.

Chesbro, who served as a coach early in the season for Johnson’s World Series Champion Senators in 1924.

Johnson said of  Chesbro, “I don’t believe he has ever outlived the sting of disappointment,” over missing out on a championship in 1904—Chesbro took the loss in two of the three straight games the Highlanders dropped to the Americans on October 8 and 10, giving Boston the pennant.

Johnson said he admired Wild Bill Donovan’s side arm fast ball but admired more the fact that he wore an “eternal smile.”

“He was peeved and Hughey Jennings, then Detroit’s manager, was walking by and tried to get him sore with a bit of joshing.

‘Hell, (Donovan) ain’t got nothing on the ball.’

“’No,’ was Hughey’s reply, ‘but he’s got a smile on his face.”’


Johnson said that smile, “made the batter feel there wasn’t any use trying.”

Just misses from Johnson’s ten were Smoky Joe Wood, Rube Marquard, Addie Joss, Urban Shocker, Babe Ruth, and Stan Coveleski.

“He had Everything the Ideal Pitcher Requires”

19 Aug

Walter Johnson “wrote” a series of syndicated columns during the off season between the 1924 and ’25 seasons.

In one he said he received, “About a hundred letters,” asking him to name the greatest pitcher of all time.

Johnson acknowledged:

“I risk endless criticism.

“But my reply is—Rube Waddell.”

Rube

Johnson defended his pick:

“After making all allowance for his wild habits, if I were a manager and had my choice, the late Rube Waddell would be my first choice of all the pitchers I have ever seen work. And that, of Course, includes the best in both major leagues during the past twenty-five years.”

Johnson called Waddell, “the pitcher’s pitcher.”

He said he left off A. G. Spalding, Amos Rusie, John Clarkson, “and other famous pitchers before my time,” but said that should not diminish the pick of Waddell:

“(C)ertainly the general run of pitchers in any generation would be about the same, and on that basis, it would take a strong argument to make me believe there was ever a man capable of being as near to the perfect pitcher as the famous George ‘Rube’ Waddell. He had everything the ideal pitcher requires except, of course, his one great failing—discipline.”

Johnson said he wouldn’t burden readers with a recitation of “all the scrapes and eccentric stunts,” of Waddell’s career because they were well known, “so I will confine these comments to his record as a pitcher.”

Walter Johnson

Johnson based his opinions, he said, less on “the way of averages,” and more on “personal experience or observations.”

Rube, he said, “had the two chief requirements,” for a great pitcher:

“(A) real curve ball and a real fast ball. And speed—no man ever lived with greater speed! If that big lefthander had possessed a little common sense, no pitcher in history could have compared with him.”

Johnson’s next three were Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, and Ed Walsh.

“Alexander is one of the smartest f all pitchers. He has a lot of good stuff…Some experts have called Alexander the best of all curve ball pitchers. Wonderful control has always been his chief asset…Alex’s slow ball is a dandy, and his disposition—so necessary to a winning pitcher—is ideal.”

Johnson called Mathewson, “An eight-letter word ending in ‘Y’ meaning to break a batter’s back.” He attributed his success to the Fadeaway:

“Whenever that word is mentioned by the fans or players, it suggests the name of Matty before any other figure in baseball. Of course, he has a good fastball, but he always held that more in reserve. Matty’s control was the best in either big league, and his knowledge of rival batters was greater perhaps than any pitcher of his day. But it was the ‘fadeaway’ that made him famous.”

Walsh was an “iron man,” said Johnson:

“The spit-ball and overwork, almost to the point of slavery, cut short his wonderful career. Walsh ought to be in there yet. He was a powerfully built fellow and one of those pitchers who needs hard work, and lots of it. But he worked too hard and too often.”

Ed Walsh

Johnson called it a “calamity” that Walsh, with “such an arm and such a disposition” had his career shortened by overwork.

More of Johnson’s top picks tomorrow.

“I Know I Made a Bum Play”

4 Jun

Harry George “H.G.” Salsinger spent nearly 50 years as sports editor of The Detroit News and was posthumously honored with the J. G. Spink Award in 1968.

In a 1924 article he said:

“Baseball historians, setting down how a pennant was won, often point to one series that was the break in a season’s race. One can point to a certain game as the deciding one of that particular series and that game probably had one play that was the break of the game and that one play came on a certain pitched ball.”

Salsinger said in the Tigers 1907 pennant winning season:

“All who studied the matter were agreed that one series decided the pennant, a series between Detroit and Connie Mack’s crack Philadelphia machine, played late in the season (September 27 and 30). And one game decided that series, a 17-inning tie that broke the Athletics.”

The pennant, he said, was won because “that game was snatched from Philadelphia” when Ty Cobb hit the game-tying home run off Rube Waddell in the ninth.

“The most important hit of the season of 1907,” was “because Cobb outguessed” Waddell.

The story of how the pitcher was “outguessed” was told to him by Waddell himself:

“Up comes this Cobb, and I feeds him a fast one on the inside where he wasn’t supposed to particularly like to see ‘em pitched. I always figured that if this fellow had any weakness is was on a ball pitched close in. The way he stood at bat made him shift too quick to get a good hold of the ball.

“Well, I shoved the first one in over the inside corner of the plate an’ he never looks at it. The umpire calls it a strike, but he pays no attention to it. I immediately figures this bird is looking for a certain ball, thinking I’d give him just what he wanted on the next one or the one after that. He figures I’m going to be working him. So, I see my chance to cross him up. I says to myself, ‘I’ll feed this cuckoo on in the same spot an’ get him in a hole then guess what’s coming.’”

Rube

Waddell threw the next pitch:

“Once more I shoots a fast one for the inside corner an’ the second the ball leaves my hand I know a made a bum play. This Cobb, who didn’t seem to have noticed the first one, steps backlike he had the catcher’s sign, takes a toe hold and swings on her. I guess that ball is going yet.”

Waddell told Salsinger he talked to Cobb about the pitch:

“Later on, I meets this Cobb on the street, and I says to him, “Listen here Cobb, it’s all over an; everything, an’ there ain’t no hard feelin’ or nothin’, so tell me, why don’t you swing at that first one, the fast one I sends over. You don’t give it a look an’ you’re all set for the same thing when I repeats. Did you have the catcher’s signal or something.”

“An’ this Cobb says to me: ‘Why I figures if I lets the first one pass and makes out I don’t notice it and is lookin’ for somethin’ else, you’ll try to cross me up and shoot the next one over the same spot, feeling sure you double crosses me. I feel so sure that so soon as the ball leaves your hand I jumpback, take a toe hold an’ swing. Sure enough I was right. You hand me the same thing back.’

“An’ I says to this Cobb, ‘Kid you had me doped 100 percent right, an sure enough the lucky stiff did.”

Cobb

Cobb, Salsinger said, “made this observation,” to the reporter, about outguessing pitchers:

“Most pitchers follow a set system of pitching to you. You can get them once or twice. If they throw you a fast ball, slow ball, curve, fast one, in that order the first time at bat it is almost certain that they will throw you the same thing in the same order the next time you come up. Few pitchers vary from the system, and the few that do are the leading pitchers.

“Knowing what is coming is one thing but hitting the ball is another. You often know just where the ball will be pitched, but often it carries so much stuff that you cannot get the proper hold on the ball and you fail to hit safely even when you have the advantage of knowing what it is.”

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.”

Jim Nasium on Rube

10 Mar

Edgar Forrest Wolfe—who wrote and drew cartoons under the pen name Jim Nasium for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Sporting News, among others—said in 1931:

“I knew Rube Waddell before he ever broke into the big leagues.”

Rube

Wolfe recalled a game Waddell pitched in “an open field” in Butler County, Pennsylvania:

“A friend of his drove into the field in a buggy. This fellow drove up along the third base line and yelled to Rube, who was in the box pitching at the time.

“’Hey, Rube!’ he called, ‘come on and take a buggy ride!’

“Rube immediately dropped the ball and walked over and climbed into the rig and taking the lines from his friend’s hands he drove out of the baseball field and left the ballgame flat. All the entreaties of the other players couldn’t get him out of that buggy.”

On another occasion, Wolfe said Waddell was hired to pitch for the Homestead Athletic Club in a series versus their rival the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club:

“Each of those organizations supported strong semi-pro baseball teams that would be the equal of the average minor league clubs of today.”

Waddell was expected ‘to pitch one and possibly two of the games,” in the four-game series and was not scheduled to pitch in the opener:

“But when the regular star pitcher of the Homestead team walked out into the middle of the diamond to pitch that opening game, the Rube walked out and took the ball away from him. He had been hired to come down there and pitch and he was going to pitch. And what’s more he did pitch—and how? He shut out (Duquesne) with two hits, fanning 16 of them.

“When they got ready to start the game the next day, there was Rube marching out to the pitcher’s box again. They couldn’t get him out of it.”

Wolfe said Waddell won again, but Duquesne scored one run, “which so riled Rube that he went out and shut them out,” in the third game.

Later, Wolfe said while Waddell was pitching for the Athletics:

“Rube had just pitched the first game of a double header on a torrid July afternoon with the thermometer around 100 in the shade–and no shade. He had pitched such air-tight ball in this game, shutting out his opponents and striking out most of them, that Connie Mack thought he would kid him a little as he walked into the bench after retiring the last man.

“’Do you think you could pitch the second game Ed?’ Connie asked him.

“’I don’t know Connie, till I get warmed up,’ replied Rube.”

“A Colorful Critter”

17 Feb

John Walter “Duster” Mails was another left-handed pitcher with talent who never lived up expectations and was labeled “eccentric,” or “Another Rube.”

John B. Foster of The New York Sun said:

“Mails’ ability is conceded so far as his arm is concerned, but when it comes to the illuminated phases of baseball Duster must have the center of the stage or he moans in a corner like a monkey with the pip. If he’d make the best use of his left arm, he should be able to win two games for every one he loses.”

Billy Evans, the American League umpire, and syndicated newspaper columnist called him, “A colorful critter.”

In 1925, when the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Mails from the Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League for what would be Mails’ third and final shot at the big leagues, Evans wrote:

“Walter Mails has as much natural ability as Rube Waddell and no southpaw ever had more stuff than George Edward.

“Mails has a dazzling fastball. I umpired back of Waddell when he was at his best. If anything, Mails’ fastball had something on Rube’s.”

Mails

Evans concluded that Waddell “seemed to have uncanny control” of his pitches, which Mails lacked.

He argued that given Mails’ personality quirks, he would be “rival Babe Ruth” as a newspaper copy generator if he could recreate his short period of major league dominance in 1920:

“Joining Cleveland late in the season, when the Indians were on the ropes because of lack of pitching, Mails proved the man of the hour.

“Taking part in nine games he turned in seven victories and didn’t suffer a single defeat.”

The Indians won the pennant by two games over the White Sox.

“Late in the season when Cleveland met Chicago in the final and all series between the two clubs, Mails remarked to me before the first game:

“Those birds are made to order for me; If (Tris) Speaker starts me against them I won’t be satisfied with anything but a shutout.”

Mails shut the White Sox out and beat Urban Faber 2 to 0; the September 24 victory increased the Indians lead over the Sox to 1.5 games.

“In one inning, after walking three men a la Waddell, he continued Rube’s trick by striking the next three out.”

Evans’ recall was slightly off.

In the fifth inning, Mails retired Swede Risberg, then walked Ray Schalk, Faber, and Amos Strunk. 

Mails then struck out Buck Weaver and Eddie Collins, The Chicago Tribune said, with a full count, Collins:

“(H)it three fouls in succession, swung at a bad ball and struck out.”

Mails’ dream season continued through the World Series, he relieved Ray Caldwell in the first inning of game three, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2 to 1 loss to the Brooklyn Robins.

Evans said Mails told him:

“If Speaker had only started me that one run we made would have been enough to win. He says he is going to give me a chance against (Sherry) Smith the next time he starts. Those birds will be lucky any time they score on me.”

He shut out the Robins and Smith 1 to 0.

Mails posted a 1.85 regular season ERA in 1920 which ballooned to 3.94 in 1921 and 5.28 in 1922, before he was sold to Oakland.

Mails’ final big-league stint ended like his first two, flashes of brilliance punctuating an overall lack of control and discipline.

He returned to the minor leagues for another decade. 

Early in his career, Mails tried to explain his control issues to The Spokane Spokesman Review:

“In my younger days, my folks used to live just a short distance from the San Quentin penitentiary. It was always a hobby with me to throw stones at the guards on the ramparts to kid them. One day I thought I could get control by aiming at them, but the darn fools always used to be on the move and even today when I am out on the mound pitching, the home plate seems to act like those guards, always on the move. So, you can see I have an excuse coming.”