Good job by you, Bill, stimulating this discussion. It happens to be perhaps my favoritre era in American history, period, baseball or not.
Let me say first, that I'm definitely with Sirmudgeon on that one point: Just because we're discussing the '20s here, and there did happen to be one particularly towering figure then, does not mean we have to digress into a forum on him. God knows, there have been countless threads on the Babe, and will continue to be. Personally, though I'm a big fan (plus a Yankee fan), I stopped visiting them quite a while ago.
Anyway, the '20s offer so much else--although I will grant you that it is nearly impossible to discuss that decade without at some point bringing Ruth's name into it. So I will do so, when necessary; after all, I'm not on some "Babe boycott" here.
As you point out, Bill, I think most of agree that the operative term for MLB in the '20s is "transition," or "change", if you prefer.
The two main areas of change were:
1.) Integrity of the game--recovering from the fix of '19, which made clear to all that this had not been an isolated incident, but actually the culmination--and logical end-result--of the basically corrupt nature of MLB all along. Or rather, a system in which the powers-that-were enabled such activity, if not actually perpetrated it. It became well known that this was not the first WS in which games had been fixed; it was at least the third or fourth, that we knew about, although it may have been the first in which the ultimate outcome was thrown over, making it, again, the worst development of this corrupt MLB structure.
2.) Style of play--evolving from the deadball style--based on pitching, defense, and a one-run-at-a-time style of offense--to the power-oriented, HR-based style (personified by Ruth, of course).
CHANGES IN THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME IN THE 1920s
Certainly, the throwing of regular season games had been commonplace since the professional game had been formed, and nothing had been done about it, just a lot of talk. The hiring of Judge Landis--never mind how flawed he would later prove--was at least a step in the right direction, in that he was someone who took an impartial view of the game (if it were possible for any American to do so). He more or less operated "from the perspective of a fan", as he often put it, which was a whole lot better than league committees that team owners would take turns chairing, and league presidents (Johnson) who, years and years into their regime, were found to have had a financial interest in one of the A.L. teams (Cleveland), which he chose to hide all those years.
At this point, I'll stop repeating basic history that you all know already, and begin my contribution.
Some of my past posts may have revealed something about my stance regarding this period of 1900-'30. Though I love these "two" eras, as I conveniently term them--the Deadball Era and the Dawn-of-Power 1920s--I have always had nothing but contempt for the administrative controls and gerrymandering that were foisted upon the game in its early, two-league days.
Consequently, this has caused me to take a somewhat sanguine attitude towards each and every story of player corruption that comes my way. Sure, we can all sit here in our moral ivory towers and proclaim that, throwing a game is wrong in any era, in any "civilized" society, and that sort of moral stance should exist in a vacuum, untouched by the tone of any times.
Well, sort of, I say. I definitely go for that opinion when it comes to murder, but gambling influences, and other such areas quickly get grey and murky when the folks running an operation--who are handing down both the rules of conduct and the punishments when those rules are broken--are breeching ethical lines each and every day. (And I don't think we have to debate that those in charge were doing this.) When people in charge don't practice what they preach, when things unravel below them, they have only themselves to blame for setting that sort of tone.
Ban Johnson, to me, is Exhibit A for all that was wrong with the game back then. I will always grant him his due for being a hugely important figure during the turn of the century. So much was wrong with the game right then--matter of fact, it was in grave danger of going under, with syndicate ownership, massive corruptions of all sorts--when he formed the Western League, with its clean image, and emphasis on simply playing the game and making the park a place where the fans, including women, would want to come again.
Later, Ban had the nerve, and the vision, to declare the Western League a second ML--the American League. He endured several years of salary wars, which enabled him to steal a number of N.L. stars to give the A.L. immediate legitimacy. Then, he had the sense to negotiate for peace, convincing the N.L. that these salary wars would prove their undoing. Under him, the ML agreement was formed, and the WS--a national institution--was begun.
Johnson gets full credit for establishing so much of what is still in place in the game. But to me, Johnson is an example of a great man gone bad. And since this is a thread on the '20s, and not the Ban Johnson era, I will not go into detail about his doings, except to say that the days of men who had personal interests/vendettas/stakes in the game making league- and game-shaping decisions for franchises became over with the hiring of Landis.
I will also propose, for this thread, an additional proviso (to the one about not delving too much into Ruth): that we also not get into the Landis decision re: the Black Sox. This is another one that has been debated endlessly--here and elsewhere. Of course, inasmuch as it represents the first major decision of the Landis regime, and the first stroke of the decade, we have to acknowledge it. But shall we agree simply to do so as a done deal, and look at its importance going forward?
And what I believe was so important for the game in his decision was that, henceforth, the game was going to take a hard attitude toward the existence of any gambling influences connected with the game. Now, certainly, there would continue to be such activity swirling around the game, and always would be--isn't Pete Rose Exhibit A for that?--but at least now, players did so at great peril, with full knowledge that there was a Commish who, despite extensive legal training, did not consider the rules of evidence that were standard in conventional jurisprudence, as being any kind of guide to his decisions in MLB.
So be it. Another thing I won't encourage here is individual examination of some of Landis' rather goofy, often grossly unfair, decisions rendered in the '20s.
The main point was clear: He put the fear of God into each MLB player, on this score, and others. And, if it had been me back then, I would have had additional fear, knowing that the guy in charge was a loose cannon, a legal cowboy, who had been given the kind of absolute power you never see anywhere else, except a banana republic, or a fascist dictatorship.
Much like you, Bill (I think) I have never gone for that "Landis saved baseball" with his Black Sox decision theory. I think that, one way or another, the bumblings of the existing power structure would have gotten around to banning some or all of those guys. Plus, in case none of us have noticed, BB has this amazing cat-like quality, whenever times get tough and it seems they have really done it to themselves again, to pull out yet another of their lives in the bank and forge on. I don't know if this says more about the American sporting public than it does about baseball, but we can't deny it's true.
I have always believed--and been hammered my fair share for it--that the 1919 fix has been overrated as a scandal capable of bringing the whole house down. I can't prove this, of course, except to say that it did not, plus to mention that, if in fact the public had been hurt by it, they certainly healed quickly, as 1921 and 1922 attendance figures will attest.
I do believe that what definitely helped baseball immensely was revamping the power structure to put someone like Landis in place. Someone who was not in the game, per se, and not in anyone's pocket, at least not in theory.
(Of course, anybody who remains in such a position of power for 27 years, as Landis did, puts the integrity of himself and the position at great risk. It will either leave you open to corruption and back-room dealing, or, quite the opposite but equally dangerous, make you feel so independent and all-powerful that you stop listening to either labor or management after a while. You start making decisions that do not reflect some sort of compromise between the two parties, as you generally should, but that reflect the workings of your own mind, and nobody else's.
I have no ready evidence that convicts Landis of the first condition--finding himself on the owner payroll--but I think it's a pretty clear matter of history that the Judge went off on his own power tangent in much of what he did. But running down the Landis regime is not the purpose of this thread, remember?)
THE CHANGE IN HITTING SYTLES DURING THE 1920s
I'll do this in a subsequent post, so as to keep each a reasonable length.
Thanks for listening!
Good posting, Rugbyfreak. Nice job. I agree with a lot of what you say. Although we should not let ourselves get side-tracked with things like Landis, B.Johnson, Black Sox, etc., we sometimes cannot go around them either.
Each, in its way, is a part of the fabric of the game, and there is nothing wrong with lightly touching on a subject. The danger is, some issues act like magnets, and result in a 25 post detour/hi-jack.
We will never all agree on stuff like Landis, Black Sox, etc. But if someone has something that is essential to a point they are making, let no fear stay your keyboard from asserting what you must. We will understand and not throw rocks, much.
I am hoping some members feel the urge to profile some of the players we often neglect, like Sam Rice, Hack Wilson, Chuck Klein, Al Simmons, Ken Williams, Cy Williams, Frankie Frisch, Lew Fonseca, Lefty O'Doul, Bill Terry, "Baby Doll" Jacobson, Joe Sewell, Max Carey, Johnny Mostil, Rabbit Maranville, Ross Youngs, Bucky Harris, Jimmy Dykes, Kiki Cuyler.
Lots of good guys who we all but virtually ignore. Now, here, is a chance to discuss some. A post for one of them would not be out of order.
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 12-07-2007 at 10:13 PM.
Many historians have asserted over the years that one of the reasons the Yankees were able to take a quick hold upon the A.L. during the '20s was an innate stubborness in many of the holdover stars from the Deadball Era, many of whom were now managing teams--to adopt the "new" baseball way. This meant an emphasis upon the longball as the driving force behind a team's offensive strategy.
First, there can be no question that, as the decade moved on, the HR became more important (and feasible) than ever in a team's attack, and this trend would continue to escalate into the '30s, when power numbers rose in an extreme fashion. But like any BB trend, smart management must assess it rationally, decide how much staying power they believe it to have, and then take measured, unpanicked steps to adopt whatever constructive parts of that trend they feel they should. Here is how I look at the decade in that respect:
--First, it's misleading to say that the Yanks "took over" MLB based on their Ruthian power strategy. They did win 6 pennants, but only 3 WS, meaning that their were 3 times where the N.L.'s supposedly backwards way of life had prevailed. Besides, let's not forget that, along with some added power, the Yanks were adopting other, more timeless BB wisdom to their rebuiloding efforts. Pitching, for instance. In their pennant-winning years, they finished the following in A.L. ERA: '21
(1st), '22 (2nd), '23 (1st), '26 (4th), '27 (1st), '28 (2nd). And though from this decade forward, as the Yanks dominated MLB in a huge way, and the HR would become an integral part of their team makeup, so, too, would pitching and defense. Look at those '29-'31 teams, which tore up A.L. pitching, leading the league in runs scored the final two years, but lost the pennant each year to the mighty A's. What did their pitching staff do those years? They were 4th, 6th and 3rd in league ERA those years. The A's? They finished 1st, 2nd and 1st in ERA in those years.
--The criticism leveled at some of the prominent players of that time, most especially the ones who were Deadball stars, for not suddenly changing their whole approach and "becoming" sluggers is a little naive, don't you think? Could we ask a point guard who had made a career of pass-first play to suddenly become a shooting guard? Similarly, could the likes of Roush, Wheat, Cobb, etc. all of a sudden abandon a way of batting that had sustained them all their career and try to become something they were not?
--Which brings me to my last general point. I guess the Ruth phenomenon must have seemed so radical that it took hold of everyone's brain at the time, and there may have been a mass panic to adapt. This would have meant forgetting something fundamental about BB: That over the years, as new styles and trends are either adopted and incorporated, or tried and rejected, certain solid truisms would always hold firm, and I would have thought people knew what they were.
In addition to pitching, which I already pointed out, some Deadball-isms would continue to be valuable, namely an attention to defense, and a team's ability to scratch for one run the old fashioned way (steal, hit and run, sac, taking the extra base, etc.) when their HR ability had gone south, which it inevitably would, with one never sure when it would return again.
Matter of fact, this simple fact still arises every year during playoff time: When pitching takes over in the post-season, and your team has been built solely on the longball, and suddenly you're not getting that, your team MUST be able to adapt. Or you will lose, and the Yankees of the past few years have proved that.
This is Deadball stuff, my friends, and if any jealous types during those '20s were disparaging the Yanks' success by dismissing it as longball nonsense, they were conveniently forgetting that the Yanks were building a legacy of top-notch pitching and airtight defense as part of the Yankee formula. That is stuff that any diehard Deadballer would have known already as crucial to a team's success. All the Yanks did was ADD the HR to their arsenal, and sure enough, it proved deadly.
POWER HITTING: WHO ADAPTED AND WHO DIDN'T?
This is one of the most popular debates about the '20s: Was a Deadball-type stubborness on the part of certain established stars and teams responsible for the game's slowness in adapting to the new style as quickly as the Yanks?
One of the favorite debates within this realm involves Joe Jackson, the fact that we will never really know fueling it further. He only played in 1920, then was banished. But he is held up as a Deadballer who was a "transitional" hitter capable of making the change; that is, he clearly had power beyond the chop-and-slap style so common in his era. I agree.
In 1920, Joe's power numbers all shot up, as he hit career highs in HRs (12) and RBI (121), while his SP was just one point below his career high. Several other categories were right up there with career highs, and I have always believed he was one of the few who could have made that "stylistic" transition that so many historians talk about. But he was a rare talent, and any rise in power numbers he accrued probably would have been due as much to game conditions changing (namely, more new balls in every game, far fewer spitballers, plus a new "lively" ball, if you happen to believe that myth), as any conscious change in his style of hitting.
Let's move onto Ty Cobb. Now, the man had been playing since '05, and was pretty much emblematic--iconic, in fact--of an era of the game, and its style of play throughout. To suddenly require a player of this stature to "convert" to a HR-hitting style--even if he could--was asking way too much. We can hardly fault him for rejecting this move--which he famously did--even if it were out of a bit of insecurity. He wasn't sure he could become a HR hitter (even if he wanted to), so why abandon a style at which he had been the best and arguably, still was?
After all, during the '20s, he still had one more .400 year left in him ('22, although he lost the BA title), did hit 100 RBI twice more ('21 and '25), a mark he hadn't hit since '17, and before that, '11. He also twice hit 12 HR's ('21 and '25), the first and only times in his career he had hit double figures. So, with those HR and RBI totals, he had, in a sense, become somewhat of a power hitter.
Besides, beginning in '21, Tyrus had managerial duties to attend to. And this brings me to my main point. Even if he only made a small adjustment to his own hitting, Cobb more than got with the '20s program in building those Tigers he managed. From '21 to '26, the years he managed, he built some Tiger lineups that still hold records. Let's look at a few numbers:
--The '21 team batted .316, which is still the A.L. record for a season. The '22 team batted .306 (2nd), in '23 .300 (2nd), in '24 .298 (1st), in '25 .302 (3rd) and '26 .291 (2nd). In runs scored, the rankings were: 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st and 3rd.
Pretty impressive mashing, huh? You could say that Ty, far from rejecting it, actually got right in step with the hitting trend of the '20s, by building his team in that fashion. I once tallied it up for a post on this site, that he coaxed 30-something
.300 seasons out of players during this period, and many of them were not named Harry Heilmann, Heinie Manush or Ty Cobb, but Lu Blue, Al Wingo and Del Pratt. I have called him, based upon a very small body of work, admittedly, one of the game's foremost batting coaches ever.
Now, with all this hitting, how did the Tigers finish those six years? 6th, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th. The closest they ever finished was 6 games out (1924), while in all of the other years the gap was double digits, including gaps of 27, 16 (twice) and 15.
So, we can say that while his managerial career produced some great hitting, ultimately it was a failure in terms of the real goal: contending for a pennant. Why? It seems that Ty got so wrapped up in the hitting craze of the times that he completely forgot to attend to pitching, a staple of Deadball ball. You would have thought that the King of Deadball ball would have known this simple fact.
Let's look at where Detroit's staff finished in those years in team ERA: 5th, 5th, 7th, 3rd, 6th and 6th. Incidentally, that year they were 3rd ('24), was the one year they contended at all, finishing 6 games back, and in not one year was their team ERA+ over 100. In other words, not once was their ERA equal to the league average.
So, to those of you who say that Cobb did not get with the times, I say the opposite. He overdid it, to the point of forgetting a very basic strategem of his beloved Deadball Era: Pitching wins championships, and always would.
His famous, sour grapes utterance that the Yanks were riding the exploits of that "big baboon" to their pennants was woefully uncognizant of the fact that the Yanks were building pitching staffs to go along with their slugging.
Poor Ty. He failed to do the same in Detroit.
Last edited by rugbyfreak; 12-07-2007 at 10:15 PM.
Thanks for listening!
Bill, you called me rubyfreak again. It's ruGbyfreak.
Thanks for listening!
I'm trying to go easy on Ty/Babe, but you did a nice job. I too once looked at those 20's Tigers teams. http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...04&postcount=6
One of TC's problems was not that he forgot about pitching, but he didn't know how to teach it. He didn't have a pitching coach, so he had to try to teach hitting, fielding, running all by himself. He succeeded in what he knew how, hitting. He could teach his pitchers what to throw, but not how. Didn't know how to teach them how to execute. How to throw the curve, steady their location.
Nice posting, Rugbyfreak!
Shoot, I've run into this in my HS BB coaching. I admitted from the start that I could not coach pitching--although I generally know good pitching when I see it. Luckily, these days, some kids who are serious about BB get personal coaching in the off-season. There are a number of personal pitching coaches a couple of my kids saw during the winter. This is a whole different level of youth BB that had been unfamiliar to me.
My feeling is that Ty should have been all over Tiger upper management to get some pitching--anything but what they already had in those years.
I also did not want to get into the traditional Ty/Babe battle, but I thought that by referring to his managerial skein--plus offering that, in terms of hitting, he had very much tried to revamp the Tigers in accordance with the trend--I was offering something a little bit new to the mix.
Thanks for listening!
I examined the HR totals for both leagues between 1901 and 1919. In 1901 the total was 455 followed by a steady decline to a low total of 245 in 1908. There was the big jump in home run totals in 1911 of 514. Then there was another decline until 1919 and then all hell broke loose. Most years in the 1920's the MLB totals hovered just above or just below 1000 HRs. Then in 1929 there was another big jump in HR totals to 1349 never to fall below 1067 in a non-war year. The HR totals then began a slow steady rise with an interruption during the war years with 1943 being the lowest with 905 total for both leagues. The year of 1947 saw the beginning of another rise in the HR totals.
Conclusion : It takes a certain kind of athlete to hit baseballs over fences regularly. Until the late 1920s there were not enough of them around to make a difference. Most teams in the 1920s and 1930s were doing well to hit team totals over 80 HRs for the season. Most of the power was concentrated in relatively few players and relatively few teams. Ditto for the war years when the best players were in uniform. Remember too, this is happening at the upper level of baseball and not at the grass roots level. The "normal" athlete can not hit the ball over the fence regularly esp. with a wooden bat. My "normal" athlete is much better off hitting for singles and high average than swinging for the fence. Matty Alou weighing in at a whopping 160 lbs. is a perfect example of a normal ball player that could hit .300 but not swing for the fences.
My theory:Baseball tactics aside ,it took awhile for the world to breed the athlete capable of hitting for power and esp. for average too and even then it's mostly at the elite level. The style of baseball began in the 1920s is what most of us play and have been playing for decades at the grass roots level b/c that is what is within our capability. Of the 40 games I umpired this year at the 13-18 level there was a grand total of one HR. I hope this makes sense to someone,you guys are awful smart.
There were some pitching coaches - Griffith, a pitcher himself, used Nick Altrock and others as his gofer/pitching coach/whatever since the time he arrived D.C.
As for the rest of baseball, it was left for them to find and develop young sluggers like him, which is why it wasn't until the '30s that MLB produced others like him (Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, etc.). Ten years is about natural for a trend to be adopted, copied and implemented.
It must be admitted, the Ruth explosion caught everyone a little off-guard, seeing as how he went from 29 HRs to 54 in one year. Then again, not completely out of nowhere, either, since that 29 was a MLB record, too. Since it had been done in 130 games (17 of them on the mound), you could do the math to figure it had to go up in '20, with Ruth in the OF full-time, and no pitching responsibilities.
In the meantime, where teams did try to catch up more quickly was in fielding more offensively oriented clubs, i.e. making decisions that favored a good bat over a good glove, which was not necessarily the case in the Deadball Era. Even if most teams did not see their HRs go up during the '20s, they all saw a rise in team BA.
So, good point on that. Changing a team philosophy requires starting at the develpmental level, not so much in asking existing players to change their own styles.
Thanks for listening!
Some of my theories explaining the transition are based more on genetics and demographics than others that are posting to this thread. I don't have time to explore those right now,but shall speak to that in the future if and when possible.
If I could illustrate my point by referring to the what I feel is the pivotal 1927 World Series between the "singles hitting" Pirates and the "slugging" Yankees. In its most simplistic form and with all else being more or less equal: The Pirates did not stand a chance because the Yankees were alot bigger. IMO October 1927 is when the worm turned and the stats seem to support this.
Though time, steroids and the creeping notion that "a good big man will beat a good little man every time" has chipped away somewhat at this feel-good outlook, I believe it will always retain an element of truth for baseball. Precision, execution and coordination will always remain the essential elements of baseball success, not physical force. If you happen to have these gifts, in addition to considerable size, so much the better.
But the long-held myth that smaller fellows were automatically better suited for baseball, since larger athletes were usually more clumsy, has pretty much gone by the wayside, since all athletes today, at all levels, are bigger than they were even a generation ago. Therefore, more athletes than ever are doubly gifted, meaning that these days, size does matter.
I'm not going to engage in the debate over whether today's top athletes are more talented than yesteryear's. But they are bigger and more powerful; of that, there can be no doubt.
I remember some time ago, sensing this was true, but never having really been shown it, I came upon a photo-article that settled the notion in my mind forever. Thanks to a little modern graphic artistry, the piece literally laid shots of today's baseball sluggers over those of previous generations. Like all of us, I grew up thinking of Harmon Killebrew, for instance, as a monster. Not today! Many middle infielders today would tower over the 5'11", 213-lb. Twin masher. Not that he was so small, but to look at him, you also see that he had little or no tone to him. He was just an good ol' fashioned, corn-fed slugger, but you don't see much gym-time there. For one thing, he had little time, since he held a winter job, so any muscles he had were acquired helping with his old man's refigerator business, not with his personal trainer at SportsPlex. Nearly everyone on a MLB roster today would be more ripped than Harmon or any of his contemporaries were.
Jimmy Foxx, a.k.a. "The Beast"? Old-timers marvel at how he made pitchers quake at the sight of him. Today, at 6'0", 195, he looks like Wayne Terwilliger, although as I said, he may still crush the ball like it's 1933.
I also found out that Derek Jeter, who does not stand out on today's Yanks for his size, would have been the biggest (6'3") guy on any of the '50s Bomber teams, if not quite the heaviest. (Of course, in a brawl, my money's on Bauer to kick his ass!)
And on and on. You mentioned the '27 WS, and the myth about how the Yanks psyched out the Pirates before Game 1 with their imposing size and their BP display? We've been hearing that story forever, and believing it for quite awhile. But it always sounded like one of those tales--and all the Pirates denied it to their grave--so I started doubting it for a time. But now, I'm not so sure it wasn't true after all. I mean, some of those Lawrence Ritter rocking chair yarns must be true, right?
The Yankees were way bigger than everyone else back then, and even if the Yanks did only hit 2 HRs that series (both by Ruth), they made quick work of the Bucs, the N.L.'s top-hitting club that year, holding them to a .223 mark on just 29 hits. Whatever reason you want to give, The Waner Bros. & Gang never really seemed to show up.
This was still early in the power era, remember; hadn't Ruth himself outhomered every A.L. team that year? And though such psychological advantages based on size would soon prove short-lived for the Yanks, as before long every team would feature a big bat or two, I wager that in '27 the Bombers were still larger than life. Their continued edge throughout their dynasty would soon be marked by flawless, business-like execution, and supreme self-confidence in what they were about, qualities that championship teams from any age have always shared.
I have a feeling, though, that as you move down the chain, size becomes proportionately more of an intimidating factor in a baseball game. Think about Little League. Is there anything more frightening than the sight of some hulking, early bloomer glaring down from the mound? Or a 12-year-old giant, already shaving, stepping to the plate against a skinny hurler still waiting for his voice to change?
Even in HS ball, you still see some dramatic growth-rate differences. Personally, I had my biggest growth spurt right before sophomore year in college, and I was a way better hockey player than I had been in HS. Once everyone was finally adult-age, however, the assumption was that any discernible mental intimidation based on size largely ebbed away.
Then the steroids era hit, and for a short while, the Oakland A's of the late '80s paraded about, looking like a bouncer's convention--the Bash Brothers--and it was 1927 all over again. You could swear they were striking fear in grown men around the league. Though they didn't have quite the run it appeared they might (three straight pennants, but chopped down to size in two of those WS), they were quite a spectacle, and for a short time, they were ahead of the size curve.
But boy, did the rest of baseball catch up quickly in the '90s, with each spring training featuring countless new members of the Tollbooth Head Club, with cartoon-like muscles, bragging that they had put on 30 lbs. of muscle weight, just like that.
Up till then, I had always known that sluggers were born from an early age. I never knew any slap hitters from the sandlots who "became" a slugger later. Now, as we discovered, it was possible to make oneself a HR king through these marvelous, mysterious winter training programs. If it had merely been bona fide sluggers increasing their output (like McGwire and Bonds, whose rookie baseball cards I would take out time after time to be sure we were talking about the same guy), our suspicions may have been delayed a bit more. But we had the Brady Andersons of this world joining the 50-dong club--up from 16 the year before! Even the sleepiest observers had to wake up over that one, and many others like it.
We would soon discover how artificial and unreal the whole thing was. In a normal paradigm, I still believe that sluggers are born, not made, that the swing required is a different animal from the "batsman" style. Maybe someday, if this testing program really succeeds in eradicating PED's from the game, we will return to that more balanced time when 40 HR's was really something, but even those guys don't do it every year. Back to a time when the rest of the guys focus on getting better at what they do best--putting the ball in play--rather than re-inventing themselves through one vigorous winter at some high-tech Bay Area chem lab into a slugger that no one--not even themselves--recognizes any more.
Maybe that day will come in our lifetime, but don't count on any significant let-up in the covert chemical warfare. Human growth hormone (HGH) looms as the next threshold, and I have said many times that baseball's drug war is in its infancy. This testing program is only the first of many to come, and will need to be revised many more times. Each round of testing will not eliminate the cheaters, but merely shift them to new and more sophisticated methods. They are about 20 years behind track and field in this regard.
If you want a good living example of how drugs can render a sport to near irrelevance, look no further than cycling. In this country, this may not be saying much, since the sport will always be marginal, but for Europe to at the breaking point is nothing short of a major crisis. It took the unthinkable--a Tour de France champion stripped for doping up--for them to realize just how close to the end they were. The main reason the sport is hanging on by its fingernails is that its biggest icon--Lance Armstrong--was never caught, a piece of extraordinary luck that seems secure now that he is retired. That, and the fact that Euros seem to have an unworldly forgiveness threshold that rivals ours for baseball, because the cycling tour has been so overtly dirty for so long, it's downright comical.
Similarly, our passion, baseball, may have woken up just in time themselves (although typically, not through any moment of clarity, per se, but from being backed into a corner). I'm told, though, that it may be many years before a reliable urine test for HGH can be developed. There is, however, a blood test that could be used right now, if the union can be convinced to go for it. They will have to ask themselves what's more important, a point of civil rights and privacy protection, or the future of their sport? Let's hope that their priorities have changed since the last time they faced this crossroad, when getting them to agree to even a once-a-year-per-player program (which in the first year was "experimental" and carried no penatlies) seemed as difficult as asking them to abolish free agency.
So size is important, even in baseball, although it took the steroids era for us to realize just how important. I know that I, like so many others, took too long to wake up to it, since I continued to believe certain obsolete myths, namely that, for a timing and precision discipline like hitting, overdeveloped muscles were a hindrance, so why would they bother? This, of course, was nothing more than a logical extension of the previous generation's belief--that any weight training at all was to be avoided by serious hitters. My generation had long since rejected that perception, and had embraced moderate, clean weight training as a must for serious athletes, so exactly why we wouldn't simply assume that the next step also held true is beyond me.
The good news is that there is still a place for players of all sizes in baseball, as long as drugs are not in the mix. Or rather, as long as they are not running the show, as they were during the '90s. They will always be in the mix to a certain degree, as long as there are certain players for whom a minefield of back zits, possible sterility, double knee replacements before age 50 and an ever-escalating hat size are a small price to pay for that brief fling at HR glory.
I know that one of the most popular exercises on this site is devising new and better ways to level the playing field so as to make more valid player comparisons across the ages. In general, this is a great thing. But I have seen threads where people propose whether the Babe and stars like him would have indulged in steroids had they been available back then.
This has, at times, raised some serious emotions among posters, especially from the fans of these guys, who insist that their heroes were way above that sort of thing. You know what? I won't even go there, because I know what I might be thinking, and I don't want to even admit that I'm thinking it.
Buit I am.
Last edited by rugbyfreak; 12-09-2007 at 09:39 PM.
Thanks for listening!
I haven't addressed this topic recently, so I thought I'd take another crack at one of the more relevant issues. When the Babe introduced his cutting edge new tool, the 'grooved power-swing', it took some time before the other hitters jumped on his bandwagon. Ruth's first peak, 1918-21, didn't inspire many imitators. Everyone kept waiting for the pitchers to 'get his number'. It didn't happen. When Babe was suspened for the first 50 games of 1922 (along with Bob Meusel), he didn't get his conditioning phase. Hence, when he was let back in, he wasn't sharp and had a sub-par season, for him. Everyone thought he finally flopped and had his come-uppance.
But it was not to be. He roared back, had 2 amazing seasons in 1923-24, and then, everyone realized he was for real. And hence many other hitters started to develop their own power-swings, in addition to their normal, controlled, contact swings.
In time, the others who started included power-swings were: Gehrig, Foxx, Hack Wilson, Ken Williams, Cy Williams, Dixie Walker, Joe Hauser, Chuck Klein, Babe Herman, Gabby Hartnett, Simmons, Dale Alexander, Jack Fournier, Leon "Goose" Goslin, Chick Hafey, Tony Lazerri, Jim Bottomley, Bob Meusel & Mel Ott. I'm not clear if Rogers Hornsby adjusted his classic level swing to include an upper cut. It's possible he did, but all the photos I've seen of his swings were completely level. Hornsby thread
It remains an historical fact that the pitching guild eventually found the historical remedy to the grooved power-swing. They just never found it before The Babe retired in 1935.
That remedy was the wide variety of breaking balls. The screwball, forkball, knuckleball, slider, sinker. These pitches took decades to evolve, and finally brought the premium offensive eras to an end.
There were a few isolated pitchers who came up with some breaking balls but seldom the full range.
Christy Mathewson came up with a reverse curve and was savvy enough to reserve it for very few pitches in a game, so the hitters couldn't get adjusted to it.
Carl Hubbell came up with the same pitch as Mathewson, only he was a lefty. Hub Pruett of the St. Louis Browns came up with an unusual pitch and gained baseball fame for strikeing out Babe Ruth many time in 1922. I suspect it was a knuckleball, because they said it was not fast and was 'dinky'. I also suspect that Eddie Cicotte came up with the same pitch earlier. Some folks called him Knuckles Eddie.
So, let's talk about pitching. From my readings, I was impressed with 2 early pitchers as having enviable, well-rounded pitching repertoires. Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander. Cy Young might deserve to be included with them but I am less familiar with Cy.
Christy Mathewson He had around 6 pitches in his arsenal to keep his hitters off-balance.
1. His best speed of fastball. Reserves for maybe 10 pitches of important, strategic game moments.
2. His normal fastball.
3. His slowball, normally called his changeup.
4. His normal curveball.
5. His reverse curveball, called his fadeaway.
1. 1. His best speed of fastball. Reserves for maybe 10 pitches of important, strategic game moments.
2. His normal fastball.
3. His slowball, normally called his changeup.
4. His normal curveball.
5. His sinker, which they called his best pitch. His bread and butter pitch.
In later eras, 3 pitchers struck me as having admirable, well-rounded pitching repertoires.
Warren Spahn - In addition to his normal fastball, curve and slowball, he added a screwball, slider. He had exquisite control and ignored the center of the plate and focused on the 2.5 inches on each side. He also perfected throwing all his pitches with the same motion. All his pitches had an idea behind it.
Tom Seaver - He had a classically compact windup, powerful delivery featured by great leg thrust. All the Met pitchers were taught leg thrust, including Nolan Ryan. Fastball, slider. Threw low strikes, fast, on both sides of the plate.
Juan Marichal - A high kick and smooth, graceful delivery. He threw overhand, three-quarters, and sidearm. Fastballs, curves, sliders, screwballs, change-ups. All with expert pinpoint control.
Pitching artistry can embody many things. But for me, it is most sublime when a man can bring together different pitches, control, brains and heart to keep his hitters off-balance. Greg Maddux is one such pitching artist.
So, all these things is how the Pitchers' Guild finally constrained and neutralized the Hitters' Guild.
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-31-2012 at 09:44 AM.
How about John McGraw with his small ball play winning back to back world series in 1921-22 and making it again for a 3rd straight time in 23 and then one final one in 25.
I've always thought that Hack Wilson was very overrated. I think the Super-juiced ball of 1930 in the NL greatly overinflated Wilson's career stats.
If you toss out 1930, then Wilson's career road stats are:
.294 AVG, 84 HRs in 2074 AB(1 every 22.98 AB), with a .498 slugging pct.
I.e, he hit only slightly above the league average with decent power. He was terrible in the outfield and he wasn't a good baserunner.
Wilson feasted in the 3 small parks in the NL, but was rather ordinary elsewhere. Had Wilson played for the Senators for his career, he probably would have hit .280 with a career .460 slug%.
Here are Wilson's stats per ballpark:
Code:park AB HR ab/HR slug% Braves 307 7 43.8 .446 Cubs 1678 109 15.4 .600 Reds 341 7 48.7 .428 Giants 642 21 30.5 .478 Ebbets 770 39 19.7 .495 Philly 363 28 12.9 .722 Pitts 329 6 54.8 .441 St lou 330 27 12.2 .630
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-21-2012 at 12:13 AM.
So do you all agree that the 2 best players of the 1920s was Ruth with his great home run totals for the AL and Rogers Hornsby and his 3 seasons of over .400 in the decade for the NL or do you have somebody different?
I wish to correct a misunderstanding of long standing. It is commonly assumed that the baseball powers-that-be changed the ball, juiced it, to allow Babe Ruth to shine. That is completely inaccurate.
1919 - During WWI, the baseball world was deprived of the usual high-grade of yarn from Australia with which to wind their baseball cores. The Reich Company in Philadelphia had to make do with whatever other sources that they could find. The good yarn went to the US Army. But when WWI ended suddenly and unexpectedly with the Armistice of November 11, 1918, the high-grade yarn once again became available to baseball.
During the war, using the inferior-grade yarn, the Chicago office of AL President Ban Johnson got many complaints that the balls were becoming grossly misshapen during the later part of games.
That was due to the ball cores needing to be wound at lower / looser settings. It resulted in the balls not being able to hold their shape for the full games, especially when a lot of hitting happened in games.
So, when the high-grade yarn became available to baseball in time for the 1919 season, the Reich Company saw to it that they set the ball-winding setting at a tighter wind, and they had new machines, too.
The baseball powers-that-be and the owners were truly surprised and caught off guard by the big increase in hitting stats. Under normal circumstances, they almost certainly would have moved to constrain the 'vulgar' explosion of offense. They normally would not have condoned or tolerated such a big change in the traditional balance between offense / defense.
But this time, one factor changed this normal, traditional knee-jerk reaction. And that factor was a big surge in game attendance. Game attendance swelled from 3,031 fans per game in 1918, for a 130 game schedule, to 5,842 fans per game in 1919, for a 140 game schedule! This was seen as an explosion! The attendance went up in direct response to the increase in hitting stats. The correlation was too obvious even for conservative, business-type men to ignore. So, due to the swelling of attendance, the distortion to the delicate balance of offense / defense was allowed to stand, at least for the immediate future. They would see what happened in 1920. It was by no means a forgone conclusion what would happen to either the stats or the attendance.
Here are the attendance numbers that allow one to see how the numbers went up.
Year - ML attend.--games--per game
1896 -- 2,900,973 - 1,306---2,221 fans/game.
1913 -- 6,358,336 - 1,234---5,152
1914 -- 4,454,988 - 1,256---3,546
1915 -- 4,864,826 - 1,245---3,907
1916 -- 6,503,519 - 1,247---5,215
1917 -- 5,219,994 - 1,247---4,186
1918 -- 3,080,126 - 1,016---3,031 fans/game. (130 game season)
1919 -- 6,532,439 - 1,118---5,842 fans/game. (140 game season)
1920 -- 9,120,875 - 1,234---7,391
1921 -- 8,607,312 - 1,229---7,003
1926 -- 9,832,982 - 1,234---7,968
So, the owners went into the 1920 season with high hopes and open minds. They had no idea what to expect.
1920 - But, just to make sure they encouraged the new trend, during the winter league meetings, 1919-1920, they decided to enforce the rules against the pitchers abusing the balls. They banned doctoring the balls with any foreign agent, or any other fooling around with it. And THIS enforcement DID NOT necessarily have to do Babe Ruth, but was trying to protect, promote and stimulate the new hitting revolution in general. Since Ruth had hit 19 homers in 1919, he was probably in mind, but not exclusively.
But by the end of the 1920 season, the stats had so exploded that the fans had turned out in record numbers! The owners must have been flabber-ghasted with delight. To see their net worths all exploding right before their eyes must have been almost more than they could believe!
But by the end of 1920, Babe Ruth had assumed the human face of the hitting revolution. The figurehead. Its living face and flag.
1921 - On August 18, 1920, during a game between the Yankees and the Indians, a pitch by Yankees' pitcher Carl Mays struck Cleveland Indians' shortstop, Ray Chapman in the temple and he died the next day. During baseball's winter league meetings, 1920-1921, the baseball powers-that-be used the Ray Chapman tragedy to create a new rule. The new rule said that if a ball smudged in any way, it had to be replaced with a shiny new ball. It was known that hitting balls took some resiliency out of the balls.
This rule was almost certainly to stimulate more hitting. The official excuse never made much sense. And it was almost certain to have something to do with Babe Ruth.
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-24-2012 at 08:33 AM.
For a long time, I have asserted that 1919-1938 represented a premium offensive era in baseball. Just as the 1993-2012 era does today. That is my personal opinion. No one has to agree with me.
This morning, it seems to me that the hitters of 1919-1938 also enjoyed some other advantages.
1. These hitters had a ball that went faster and farther than for the hitters before or after.
2. They also enjoyed much thinner competition than the hitters from 1960 on. The lack of blacks, hispanics, etc. let them contrast their stats to their massive advantage. We require a League Quality Adjustment.
3. The cutting-edge technique, the 'grooved, power-swing had not yet become evenly-distributed among the leagues. Only a relatively handful of hitters had adopted it in this time-period.
4. The pitchers had not yet come up with the remedy to the live ball. Eventually they would. The variety of breaking balls.
So, due to these historical factors, Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Hornsby, Hack Wilson, Hank Greenberg, Ken Williams, Cy Williams, Bob Meusel, etc. were able to run up the score on an unprepared league caught napping, and lock in a hitting stat separation from their contact-swinging peers.
Like I listed in the first page, post #3, my short list of those who tried to hit HRs during the 1920's included: Ruth, Hornsby, Gehrig, Foxx, Hack Wilson, Ken Williams, Cy Williams, Dixie Walker, Joe Hauser, Chuck Klein, Babe Herman, Gabby Hartnett, Simmons, Dale Alexander, Jack Fournier, Leon "Goose" Goslin, Chick Hafey, Tony Lazerri, Jim Bottomley, Bob Meusel & Mel Ott.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not even suggesting that these fine players did anything wrong. In fact, they did things right. They did right by their jobs and took full, fair advantage of the historical opportunities that this window of opportunity offered them. It was just a historical anomaly that allowed a small class of forward-looking, 'visionary' hitters to separate themselves from their more conservative peers.
But it was an opportunity that the future never offered the next generation of hitters.
So, the raw, naked numbers represent a real distortion of true greatness. We need more specialized numbers, that index numbers to the leagues, like OPS+ to get a more balanced perspective, but not even that accounts for the tremendous stat separation of that small group of hitters.
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 06-23-2012 at 09:54 AM.
I'd like to flesh out the factors that allowed the 1919-1938 era to become such a premier hitting era. Previously, the superstars, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb perfected the game as they found it. They didn't really change the way the game was played all that much. They refined it and brought it to its highest point of refinement. But they were not pioneers.
Babe Ruth, on the other hand WAS a pioneer. He played the game differently than anyone who played it before him. He took the game as he found it and approached it differently, played it differently, and succeeded at it to an astounding degree.
He had extremely strongly muscled arms, shoulders and chest. He was very strong. So strong, in fact, that he was able to use the heaviest bats on record, and swung it in a huge arc, as hard as he could. His bats were normally over 40 ounces. And he also had extremely fine eye-sight, hand-eye coordination, reflexes and explosive fast-twitch muscle fibers that allowed him to explode in a violent physical movement, like pitching or swinging a heavy bat. Most hitters before Babe, if they swung as hard as they could, lacked the physical abilities to control their bats and connect with the ball. Babe not only was able to connect with the ball as he swung as hard as he could, but he had that rare, almost unique gift for centering the ball on the sweet spot on the bat. That allowed him to hit the ball so hard it actually disappeared from eyesight.
Babe was fortunate in several other ways, too. In the winter meetings between 1919-1920, the owners decided to disallow the pitchers from abusing the balls anymore. So, starting with 1920, Babe and his imitators didn't have the blackened balls anymore. The defaced, fluttering balls anymore. Before that, all of the best hitters like Wagner and Cobb had to swing at blackened flutterballs, which surely shaved several points off their BAs.
Going forward from 1920, the league's outlawed the abuse of the ball, and they also decided to keep fresh ball in constant supply. No more retrieving foul balls from customers, and using only 4-5 balls per game.
The hitters had it all their way 1919-1938. And the obvious reason is that the pitching guild had not had time to develop the remedy to the live ball, the wide assortment of breaking balls that would come much later.
If the pitchers of Babe Ruth's day had had that assortment of breaking balls, 1919-1938 would have been quite different. As it were, they didn't. They had their fastballs, curves and change-ups. For the overwhelming majority of ML pitchers, that was the standard pitcher's repertoire. And to contain the live ball, it wasn't nearly enough to hold the line against a huge increase in hitting stats.
If the pitchers had had the split-fingered fastball (forkball), the screwball, and above all, the knuckle-ball, the power hitters could and would have been contained. The Babe Ruths, Mickey Mantles, Ted Williams and Roger Hornsbys were not accustomed to or fond of such specialized, highly effective pitches.
The proof of this is how Hub Pruett, of the St. Louis Browns, held the Babe helpless in 1922. Babe just couldn't adjust to a dinky little breaking ball. To this day, no one is quite sure what it was. It might have been a screwball or possibly a knuckle-ball. But whatever it was, it was a highly-effective remedy to a fantastic hitter. Later, Carl Hubbell held power hitters helpless in an all-star game.
The pitchers of the 20s and 30s were mostly throwing fastballs in the 80-90 mph range. Perfect for power hitters to tee off against.
But the main point I'm trying to make is that if the pitcher's guild had evolved breaking balls as they later did, but in the 20's, the 20's hitters would never have been able to lock in those OPS+ stats for all time, thus making themselves appear like hitting gods from on high.
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-15-2013 at 12:51 AM.
The issue with the forkball is that its grip makes it inferior to the splitter. The two are nearly identical, but the forkball is more unwieldy than its cousin and its break is more of a tumbling, gradual version of the splitter. Thus it is less effective because hitters can follow it more closely than the more sudden dip of the splitter. Only Joe Bush used it this timeframe with any real success because his actually moved in splitter fashion.
However, the pitches you mention, forkball/splitter, screwball, and knuckleball, are rather rare pitches. The splitter has grown somewhat more used since the 1970s, but in the grand scheme not too many have used it. Hardly anyone depended on the knuckler. Even fewer deployed the screwball.
The real game changer was the slider. Breaking on nearly the same plane as it is thrown, it moves more sharply with more velocity than any curveball. Whereas a hitter may see the loopy curve of an Uncle Charlie, they're more likely to lose the sudden dip of a slider. It generally breaks quicker than a curve, so hitters are more likely to swing for one breaking low and away or low and in than they are to swing at a curve dropping into the dirt. There is also the possibility of throwing a backdoor slider, which is much easier than the backdoor curve and more effective because sliders break more sharpy. Plus, a mistake in location of a slider isn't nearly as devastating as a hanging curveball. The slider by itself is a superior pitch to the curveball.
Pitchers caught on to this quickly. A slider is almost as easy to learn as a curveball, yet it it is so much more powerful. It isn't coincidence that the batter vs. pitcher duel leveled out after pitchers began using it more regularly in their repertoire in the late '30s (also the end of the hitter timeframe you mention). Not until George Blaeholder and George Uhle did the baseball world recognize it, approximately 1936-1938. It was then known as the "slide-ball" or the "sailer." It also isn't coincidence that its most prominent users had all-star success going into the 1940s and 1950s: Bob Feller, Johnny Sain, Mel Harder, Johnny Allen, Larry Jansen, and especially Bob Lemon.
It also isn't coincidence that users of the slider before it became a widely known pitch had great careers. Here I agree 100% with your assertion, Mr. Burgess, that a huge problem with pitchers during 1919-1938 was their lack of repertoire, something pitchers boasted as part of the dead-ball era. Those who did feature something outside the typical fastball, curveball, and change up were much more likely to have success (Carl Hubbell, Joe Bush, Freddie Fitzimmons). Before pitchers realized the potential of the slider and it became part of the regular arsenal, Red Ruffing used it to Hall of Fame success. The other user, whose version was very tight and almost like a cut-fastball, is sometimes argued as the greatest pitcher of all time: Lefty Grove.
When the slider did enter baseball vernacular, the pendulum swung a little towards the pitcher. By the 1950s, baseball achieved its most balanced state ever if we look at runs scored per game. Why? The slider, easily learned yet so effective, had taken over. On 1950s pitching, Sal Maglie said, "All pitchers today are lazy. They all look for the easy way out, and the slider gives them that pitch." Ted Williams, heralded as one of the greatest hitters ever, said that the slider was the most difficult pitch to hit because even when he knew it was coming he said it troubled him.
My point is to agree with your claim, Mr. Burgess. If we do go that route, we cannot ignore the profound impact of the slider, a single pitch that changed the game.
Thanks, Tyrus for the support. I sincerely mean that. Most are mostly silent or quiet when I try to sort out the issues that dictated the game. The hitters pretty much ruled the roost from 1919-1938. Today, it is designated as a premier hitting era, just as the 1900-1918 era is designated as the Dead Ball era, with 1900-1910 the deadest of all. And even in these 'eras', there was some flucuation.
1908 was the bottom of the Mariana Trench for hitters. In 1910, they introduced the livelier ball in the 1910 World Series and didn't tell anybody. From 1911-1913, the hitters used that cork-cushioned ball and had better results.
In the 20s, the hitters had it all their way, but in 1930, they livened up the ball yet again, resulted in LiveBall Era II, giving some hitters a much more gracious descend path to their declines. Babe Ruth's decline path was softened by this gift to all the hitters, while the pitchers had to bend over and take it up the caboose.
I agree that the pitches I pointed out, the fork-ball, the knuckle-ball, the screw-ball, are all highly specialized pitches. Almost novelty pitches. Few mastered them with total mastery. Roy Face is always associated with the Fork-ball. Hoyt Wilhelm with the Knuckle-ball, and Carl Hubbell with the screwball.
The overwhelming majority of ML pitchers could not master them at all. They may have feared the stress on their arms or elbows. There were other specialty pitches that similarly few could master. The sharp-breaking curve ball was such a pitch. Rube Waddell and Dazzy Vance were 2 who did master that pitch, probably because they had the velocity to make the ball break sharply down. Feller was another.
My big picture point is that when the ball was juiced up in 1919, the pitchers had no answer to it. They lost the ability to mess with the ball, starting in 1920, and they also lost the spitball, which was thrown out, starting in 1921, except for a few whose career depended on it. And that is why the pitchers had no way to cope with Babe Ruth and those who copied him. It took time to evolve the slider, and the sinker.
I have always believed that there were 2 pitchers, who, if they had pitched in the 20s and 30s, would have been able to hamstring those 20's hitters. The 2 that come to my mind are Christy Mathewson and Warren Spahn.
Those 2, if they had been able to be time-machined into 1920-1938, would have had the wide repertoire to deal with those hitters. Why? Because they had the width and breath of pitches that would have presented unsolvable problems. Matty had his regular curve, his screw-ball curve (fadeaway), his regular fastball and his best fastball, and his change-up. And he had the pitching intelligence in how to set up his hitters. He cateloged their hitting weaknesses and he had a photo-graphic memory. His photo-graphic memory allowed him to be an expert checkers player, chess player and whist player, also.
Spahn had his regular fastball, his best fastball, his curve, a screwball, his change-up, and both he and Mathewson had absolutely perfect control. They not only knew which part of the plate to hit, but spots in the strike-zone. It is common baseball lore that control masters like Matty and Spahn painted the corners. That means that they could throw balls over the edge of the plate that were hittable balls, but pitcher's balls, not the ones the hitters preferred. The hitters couldn't afford to take them, for fear of being called strikes. So, Matty and Spahnie threw their pitches to spots that were more likely to go where they wanted the hit balls to go, rather than where the hitters wanted. Hence, the pitcher controlled the situation.
In 1958, Whit Wyatt helped the 37-year old Spahn to master the slider. According to Wyatt, one of Spahn's strengths was his ability to throw slow curves and sliders for strikes when behind in the count. His kick was high and he was able to throw all his pitches with the same motion. Willie Mays said, "He keeps you off balance with changing speeds all day." Juan Marichal and Tom Seaver were 2 others who had wide repertoires.
Both Matty and Spahn preferred the hitter to hit the ball. Why waste 3 pitches on a batter when 1 would do?
My point being, if the pitchers of 1919-1938 had had the repertoires of Mathewson and Spahn, it wouldn't have been a hitter's era, but a pitchers' one.
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-15-2013 at 10:18 AM.
In addition to what you said on Matty, he also had pinpoint control. And by pinpoint I mean pinpoint. Even a significant portion of his pitched balls were intentional as to set up stage for an out. He, like Charlie Radbourn and John Clarkson before him, relied on his fielders to make the outs. A strikeout was simply a present. Also like them, he could change his point of delivery to throw off the batters. He truly possessed every possible blessing a pitcher could hope for, thus allowing him to carve out a legendary career.
Another thing that severely hurt the pitchers of this era was the lack of relief pitching. Maybe you mentioned this and I missed it. Pitchers were still expected to finish what they started. After being pounded for 6 or 7 innings (subsequently throwing a lot of pitches) wasn't enough, they typically went the distance for the complete game. As if hitters weren't already having a field day, they were able to beat up on fatigued pitchers in late innings or late in the season
Good point, Tyrus. I had honestly forgotten the lack of relief pitching. That was a very big disadvantage. Today's guys are expected to give a strong 6-7 innings, depending on how strong they are going.
To be exhausted, and still expected to continue on, taking it for the team, was just so illogical, compared to today. That must have really run up their ERAs on those occasions.
Good, incisive point, Ty! Thanks for the great assist. I sure need them!
Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-16-2013 at 09:45 AM.