Tag Archives: Tip Wright

“Baseball has Kept me so Happy”

27 Sep

Like every ballplayer of his era, Jim O’Rourke spent a lot of time in his 1910 interviews with Tip Wright of The United Press comparing the current game to his days on the diamond:

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Jim O’Rourke

“They talk about their speed and curves these days, but the raise ball little (Candy) Cummings—he weighed only 115 pounds—used to throw is a lost art.

“The present day men can’t do it.  The nearest thing is a little upshot, which (Joe) McGinnity of Newark through last year.  You simply couldn’t hit Cummings’ raise ball squarely.  It was bound to climb the face of the bat, and the best you could get was a little pop-up.”

O’Rourke told Wright, “The greatest catcher I ever knew was ‘Buck’ Ewing,” of his former Giants teammate, he said:

“He led in batting, running, catching, fielding and base-stealing, and he could think quicker than any other man I ever saw in a game.”

As for pitchers:

Amos Rusie leads them all, and he promised to make  a record no pitcher in baseball, unless he were a genius could outdo; but poor old Amos disappeared!  I think Tim Keefe was a great curve pitcher, but for endurance I have to hand the laurels to Charles Radbourn, of the Providence Nationals.  In 1883, when his team was after the pennant, Radbourn pitched 72 games [sic 76] 37 of which were consecutive, and of the 37 games 28 were victories (Radbourn was 48-25, Providence finished third).

“If you ask me the difference between the pitchers of today and the pitchers of former days, I would say that the pitchers today have the cunningness not to go into a box oftener than once or twice a week, while the old timers used to think nothing of pitching six or seven games a week.”

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“Old Hoss” Radbourn

O’Rourke saved his greatest praise for his Boston Red Stockings teammate Ross Barnes.  He told Wright:

“Before telling you about Ross Barnes as a batter, I want to tell something about his work at second base…Barnes had long arms that he could snap like a whip.  His throws from second to the plate were the most beautiful I have ever seen.

“His speed was so tremendous that the ball did not seem to have any trajectory at all and it landed in the catcher’s hands at the same height it started from.”

O’Rourke said, Barnes was “even more wonderful,” at the plate:

“It was Barnes’ wonderful third base hits that caused the rule to be made that a ball, even if it struck within the diamond, must be declared a foul if it rolled outside the baseline…He had a trick of hitting the ball so it would smash on the ground near the plate just inside of the third base line, and then would mow the grass over the line (in foul territory)…No third baseman could get away from his position quickly enough to stop one of Barnes’ hits.”

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Barnes’ “third base hit”

O’Rourke mentioned two other “wonderful hitters” he saw “when a mere boy;” Dickey Pearce and Tom Barlow:

“I have seen these men with little short bats, which I believe were later ruled out of the game, make the wonderful bunt hits which we have taken to calling a modern institution.”

O’Rourke said both became “ordinary players” after they were no longer able to use the shorter bats, “not realizing that a bunt could be made with a long bat.”

And, like all old-timers, O’Rourke knew how to “fix” the modern game:

“The one big question in baseball today is how to make the game more interesting.”

O’Rourke advocated for removing the foul strike rule to increase hitting and wanted to “place the pitcher farther away from the plate.”

O’Rourke summed up his forty plus years in the game to Wright:

“Baseball has kept me so happy and healthy that there is not a minute of my past life I would not willingly live over.”

 

 

“The Brutality of Baseball During the Constructive Period”

24 Sep

In 1910, after close to 40 years in baseball, Jim O’Rourke talked to Tip Wright, a former Cleveland baseball and boxing writer, then with The United Press, about his life in baseball:

“As I like back to the day before we wore gloves I can scarcely understand how we went through the ordeal of a game. Before gloves were used, the catcher suffered unbelievable torture. On a hot day, when the blood circulated freely, the catcher’s hands would swell about the third inning. When the swelling started, the pain caused by the impact with the ball decreased, because the swollen flesh made sort of a cushion.

“But on a cold day, when the blood did not course freely, and the hands would not swell, the pain was intense. I have seen catchers hold a piece of soft rubber in their mouths, and whenever the ball was pitched they would screw up their faces and bite on the rubber as hard as they could to offset the pain.”

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Jim O’Rourke

O’Rourke said that when the weather was warm it was sometimes said by catchers:

“Oh, I am getting along fine—my hands are swelling up in great shape.”

In addition to the scars carried by catchers, O’Rourke told Wright about the many players he saw “knocked senseless many times,” and that he still suffered from the effects of those early days:

“Talk about the roughness of football in these days, and the hopelessness of trying to stop it, but it is nothing compared to the brutality of baseball during the constructive period .

“My head has been so sore from being hit that I could not think and my hands so sore from catching that I could not hold an orange tossed from a distance of six feet.”

O’Rourke told Wright about joining the Boston Red Stockings as a 22 year-old in 1873, and his relationship with another Wright—Boston manager Harry:

“They called me ‘Harry Wright’s boy.’ He took me to live with his family, and, had I been spoilable, I would have been spoiled in a short time. But the things my mother taught me kept me straight. I never touched liquor or tobacco in my life. I never dodged temptations; in fact I exposed myself to them. When the boys went out they asked me to go along, knowing I would care for them when they got into difficulty.

“Had I headed wrong at this time my bright future would have been ruined…I advise young ballplayers that if they leave liquor alone they can dodge the other evil—late hours and loose living—that have ruined so many bright players.”

Of his brief stint as an umpire in 1894, O’Rourke said:

“I couldn’t stand it—I wouldn’t be an umpire for anything, so I went to Bridgeport, and because I could not keep out of the game, I played that year with the St. Joseph’s Temperance team.”

As for young players, O’Rourke said most didn’t compare with his son—James “Queenie” O’Rourke was in 1910, a 26-year-old infielder and outfielder for the Columbus Senators in the American Association:

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Queenie O’Rourke

“I think James is as steady as I was. Every year when he leaves home, I say to him, ‘Now, James, if you will just leave stimulants alone, no harm can come to you. You can’t help but being a good man.’ And up to this time he has not touched either liquor or tobacco, and I know he won’t.

He kisses his mother goodbye each year, just as I used to kiss mine. I often look at the young fellows and wonder why they do not behave.

“Maybe one reason is they have too easy a time, compared with we old veterans, as many of the hardships of baseball have been removed by appliances and safeguards.”

More from O’Rourke on Thursday.