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  • #46
    What it was like? Well, I, for one, bet it was damn rough. You ever watch fast pitch softball? These guys were throwing smoke from 50 feet, and after Cummings and Goldsmith, they were throwing curves too. The pitcher had a 6 foot by 6 foot box that he could move around in, so he wasn't always coming from straight on, and it was only after 1879 that he actually HAD to face the batter before pitching. It was also eight balls to make a walk, so pitchers had the luxury of wasting a few pitches, or keeping it on or just out of the edges of the strike zone.

    Guys like Radbourn threw underhanded their entire career, even after 1884, but it was the case that- since even the curveball was new, virtually all pitchers then relied on speed to get by. John Clarkson was the first great overhander (yet another reason why I admire him more and more, the more I learn about him), and one of the first that didn't need speed to win. He threw a direct overhand curve ball that broke (apparently) straight DOWN. I read a thing that claims his break was almost unnaturally sharp because of the strength of his fingers- he supposedly could spin a billiard ball around the table with one twist and hit four banks. Look at his first few years once overhand was allowed- he came up late in 1884 and went 10-3, then won 209 games in five years after that, culminating in his 1889 triple crown year, one of the finest years ever. Nobody's won that many in five years (and I don't count Al Spalding)- not since 1876.

    But back to Ewing- he was catching bullets. Think what it must have done to his hands. I find it hard to believe that all his contemporaries were mistaken- he must have seriously been one of the all time best.
    "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

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    • #47
      Good pitchers and catchers tended to dominate the game until the pitching distance was moved back. So I think you could say that Ewing as a catcher had to rated right up at the top. That does leave several years where another player's production and defense could have made him the best overall player.
      "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
      "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

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      • #48
        many game accounts long ago would list the score and the battery and not mention any other players - maybe it's because they dominated as mentioned

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        • #49
          Originally posted by Buzzaldrin
          Post
          Buzz:
          I recognize that picture of Delahanty (saw it in one of the books- he's in a Senators uniform, right?). Is he one of your favorite oldtimers?

          For anyone interested in 19th century "Base Ball" and/or Big Ed, I'd recommend:

          Ed Delahanty in the Emerald Age of Baseball by Jerrold Casway

          July 2, 1903: The Mysterious Death of Hall-of-Famer Big Ed Delahanty by Mike Sowell
          Last edited by csh19792001; 01-10-2006, 09:08 AM.

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          • #50
            He's up there with Arlie and Sliding Billy if I have to really choose. Coming close on their heels are Tip O'Neill, Ross Barnes, Cap Anson, Asa Brainard, and Johnny Clarkson.

            I used to have Juan Marichal as my photo but it became Big Ed time. That IS Ed in a Senators uniform- you wouldn't think a guy that big could steal 50 in a season, hit 4 homers in a game (only two of them inside the park, not all four as popular opinion claims), hit .400 three times, and be one of the best fielders of his era, but he was all that.

            It's gonna be Eddie Plank time soon, though.
            "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

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            • #51
              The poll is closed so my vote for Buck Ewing won't be counted. I decided on him because I hold creedence to what his peers had to say, rewarded him for playing all nine positions, and felt his fielding as a catcher was an advantage over Anson's fielding as a 1B. His career OPS+ of 130 tells me he was no slouch with the bat too.
              "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
              "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

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              • #52
                Anybody Ever Hear of Charlie Ferguson?

                Introducing Charles J. Ferguson:
                Born: April 17, 1863, Charlottesville, VA
                Died: April 29, 1888, Philadelphia, PA, at age of 25, of typhoid fever
                BB/TR; 6'0, 165


                He attracted attention while pitching for the independent Richmond, VA team. He shut out Boston's ML team on 4 singles.

                In 1884, he signed with the Philadelphia Nationals.

                In 1884, he went 21-25 for them. 3.54 ERA;

                In 1885, he was 26-20. 2.22 ERA. In 61 games, he hit .308, .368, .379

                In 1886, he was 30-9. ERA - 1.98. Finished with 11 straight wins.

                In 1887, he was 22-10. 3.00 ERA; In 72 games, he hit .337, .417, .470, which included 14 doubles, 6 triples, and 3 homers, in only 264 ABs.

                Now one might say that he was a fairly good pitcher, but others were even better. And you would be right. But, . . . pitching wasn't all of Charlie's talents.

                He was a superlative player in the field too. In fact, when he wasn't pitching, he was doing duties elsewhere, and very well at them too.

                He played OF 53 games, 2B 27 games, and 3B 8 games. His versatility was rare, even for a league in its formative stages, where specialization hadn't locked in yet, and many players were noted for their ability to be plugged in to a variety of utility positions, including pitching.

                Twice he hit over .300 with power. He covered CF with good speed.

                At the end of 1887, his team had the chance to finish 2nd. So Charlie played 2B for the final 17 games, when he wasn't pitching. He won 7 games, hit .361 and fielded .963. His team won 16 of its last 17 games and came in 2nd.

                --------W-----L------PCT------G-----SH------INN-------BB----So----ERA
                -------99-----64-----.607-----183----13-----1514-------290---726---2.67

                Bill Hanna had this to say about Charlie, in a June, 1924 article for Baseball Magazine I posted earlier in this thread, post #23.

                "Ferguson belongs in the "twenty-five" because he was the game's best all around player. There have been men who could look after as many positions, but none who could play them all so well. Ferguson was a good (garbled) regular of any ball club of the present; he was a good second baseman, not just a fill-er-in, but good: he could play the outfield well enough to make the absence of the regular no handicap, and he was a first class batter. There hasn't been an all around man since his day to equal him."

                Wilbert Robinson had this to say about Charlie. In June, 1931, rated him 5th greatest player of all time.
                "Hans Wagner was one. Back in the old, old days the Phillies had a man who could pitch like a streak and play the infield, too. His name was Charley Ferguson. You can't leave him off. There's Hughey Jennings, too. He was an unbeatable shortstop. As I said before, it's unfair to name just a few. Think of the many good ones I've never seen! But if I have to name the best five you can put down Cobb, Keeler, Ruth, Wagner and Ferguson for me."

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                • #53
                  player or teacher?

                  I guess if you mean overall player, than Willie Keeler or Hughie Jennings... but both were schooled by the greatest mind in baseball...Ned Hanlon. I guess if the question was "who has the biggest influence on 19th century baseball" then Ned would be the hands down winner..... as far as play goes..... its Willie or Hughie....FN

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by foxy ned
                    I guess if you mean overall player, than Willie Keeler or Hughie Jennings... but both were schooled by the greatest mind in baseball...Ned Hanlon. I guess if the question was "who has the biggest influence on 19th century baseball" then Ned would be the hands down winner..... as far as play goes..... its Willie or Hughie....FN
                    Keeler played over half of his career in the 20th century, though. But his best years were in the 19th. Jennings was definitely the greatest SS of the 19th. I haven't made my vote yet, cuz it's very hard to choose from this list. Need more time.

                    The 19th century stats are great eye candy, the likes of which we'll never see again. Duffy's .440, O'Neill's .435, Radbourn's 59 wins, and the list goes on.....
                    Red, it took me 16 years to get here. Play me, and you'll get the best I got.

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by torez77
                      Jennings was definitely the greatest SS of the 19th.
                      You are probably right, & Hughie was a great defensive player also. But for defense only, don't forget the great Herman Long. Many considered him the greatest SS ever until the coming of Honus Wagner. If Long had hit better, (he was a leadoff man), he'd be up much higher in general.

                      Bill

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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by ElHalo
                        There's several common answers.

                        The contemporary opinion was Buck Ewing. For all the reasons Bill said. However, a catcher catching from 50 feet against guys throwing underhand bears so little resemblance to what I think of when I think of a "catcher" that I find it very difficult to even consider him to have played the position as I define it, must less to be one of the greatest of all time.
                        Catchers in Ewing's day did not have the protection that modern catchers have. I'm not sure what kind of glove Ewing used, but I do know that Silver Flint never wore a glove at all. I just wonder how they did it sometimes receiving a 90 mile-an-hour fast ball bare-handed from just 50 feet away. Could today's catchers do it, or want to do it?

                        Also don't forget the greatest team of the 1890's: the Boston Beaneaters.
                        Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-13-2006, 02:29 PM.

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                        • #57
                          Originally posted by SABR Steve
                          Catchers in Ewing's day did not have the protection that modern catchers have. I'm not sure what kind of glove Ewing used, but I do know that Silver Flint never wore a glove at all. I just wonder how they did it sometimes receiving a 90 mile-an-hour fast ball bare-handed from just 50 feet away. Could today's catchers do it, or want to do it?

                          Also don't forget the greatest team of the 1890's: the Boston Beaneaters.
                          Buck Ewing wore a pillow-style catcher's mitt. It had no webbing. The ball had to be caught in the pocket, which was about the size of the ball. And the catcher had to catch the ball with both hands, exposing his bare hand to foul tips, which caused many catchers to end up with gnarled hands, and many broken bones.

                          Today's gloves catch the ball in the webbing, with a nice creased hinge action, which closes the glove on impact, saving the catcher's bare hand.

                          And the old catcher's had nowhere near the quality of body armour worn today. No steel-reinforced shoes, poor bird-cage quality mask, thin chest protectors, NO shin-guards, probably no jock-cup.

                          I do believe that catchers always wore gloves. I think, but am not sure, that they were the only players who were allowed to wear a glove. Possibly the 1st basemen wear allowed to wear gloves too, but again am not sure.

                          Pitchers were required to throw below the waist until 1883, and for 1883, they could throw up to the shoulder, which we call side-arm.

                          And you are correct that it was not until 1884 that pitchers could throw any way they wanted to.

                          With respect to Buck Ewing, he was catching underhanded pitching from, 1880-83. But the majority of his career was after that.

                          But even underhanded pitchers were allowed to snap their pitches. And we know that Carl Mays from a later time, could throw REAL hard. We don't know how the pitchers from 1880-83 were throwing. And I sure wish I knew more about that particular issue

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                          • #58
                            Ewing, I think, caught a lot of pitches on the bounce. Years ago I saw a picture showing that method. I believe they moved up behind the batter once a batter reached base, and even then didn't crouch low as they do today.

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by SABR Steve
                              Ewing, I think, caught a lot of pitches on the bounce. Years ago I saw a picture showing that method. I believe they moved up behind the batter once a batter reached base, and even then didn't crouch low as they do today.
                              I highly doubt that Ewing caught the ball on the bounce. He was right up there, and he was famous for throwing out runners. His secret was that he had a huge forearm muscle, which allowed he to fire from his squat.

                              He didn't come up to throw, but slung it sidearm like a bullet. Anymost no other catcher could do that. He threw out that forearm muscle in the spring of 1892, and that ended his effectiveness. Which is why he caught so few games. He hardly caught after that. He played OF.

                              But you are quite right that many catchers did not squat all the way down, for many decades to come. But Ewing was one who did. He, King Kelly and Charlie Bennett defined great defensive catching in that era.

                              Bill

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by ElHalo
                                However, a catcher catching from 50 feet against guys throwing underhand bears so little resemblance to what I think of when I think of a "catcher" that I find it very difficult to even consider him to have played the position as I define it, must less to be one of the greatest of all time.
                                --------------------------Many Underhanders, But None Like Mays
                                --------------------------John B. Foster Tells How Pitching of the Yankees'
                                --------------------------Submarine Star Differs From those of Old Boys


                                -------------------------(The Sporting News, Thursday, November 24, 1921, pp. 8)


                                Those of the younger generation of baseball patrons and players who see Carl Mays pitch for the first time marvel thereout and exclaim "How funny!" One or two of our modern essayists on the national game have been moved to say that Mays is the only pitcher of his peculiar style in baseball history. That is modern enthusiasm carried away with a peculiar desire to deny antiquity any claim of parity with the present, writes John B. Foster in the New York Sun.

                                Back in 1880, there were scores who pitched like Mays. Burkalow, who threw the ball for the Hop Hitters team about that time, stooped so low with his underhand delivery that he had to wear blinkers on his knuckles to keep the skin intact, because he scraped his hand so often on the ground. Jim McCormick, who was one of the great pitchers of baseball and who died not long ago in Paterson, N. J. pitched underhand when he began and if he had been pitching today he would have been a leader in one of the major leagues.

                                In 1878 and 1879 they were just beginning to break away from underhand pitching. Side arm pitching came in almost that time. Umpires not only had to watch the ball in the days when underhand pitching was the only kind that way legal, but they were also compelled to keep an eye on the pitcher's arm and tell him not to get it about the waist.

                                It was as common to yell at the umpire, "Make him keep his arm down, Mr. Umpire," as it is common now for the coach to yell at the batter, "Make it be over, old boy; the good one's left."

                                ---------------------------Curves It From Below
                                Wherein Mays is not like the pitchers of the days that have gone to join Ptolemy and Julius Caesar, is the fact that he pitches a fast curve with an underhand motion. The old boys who threw underhand years ago did not know much about the curve and if they had known anything about it they would have had a lot of trouble to counterfeit Mays' curve.

                                Analyze pitching to its final separation of twists and squirming and you will find that there is really but one positive curve in baseball.

                                There is a heap of talk about screws, shoots, twists, slants and various other departures from a straight and narrow line, but there is just the one curve which the right-hand pitcher pitches to the right-hand batter, and which the left-hand pitcher pitches to the left-hand batter. The right-hand pitcher can throw the ball with a lot of speed so that it bears in toward the batter and the left-hand pitcher can throw the same way to make a left-hand batter gasp twice before the ball gets by him, but there is no positive curve to it.

                                The ball does drop. That isn't a curve. It is the application of the break of reverse English. If you are clever you can make a billiard ball do stunts of that character on the billiard table. There is no up curves and the nearest thing any pitcher ever came to one was Billy Rhines of Cincinnati. Not long ago a learned dissertation was written on Rhines' pitching by one who never saw him pitch, but a little thing like that doesn't matter between friends.

                                -------------------------------Same Principles After All

                                Mays excels because he curves the ball outside to right-hand batters and at the same time makes it break down like a drop ball. He is not the only pitcher who can do that, but he is one of the few pitchers who can do it with speed, and it is the ability to put smoke on the ball that is one of his great assets.

                                A. G. Spalding used to pitch the ball and put speed on it. He didn't throw it. He had the best record of any pitcher in the history of baseball and he served the ball to the batter exactly as you might start a ball up a bowling alley. All the pitchers in his day had to deliver the ball in that manner.

                                Some old fellows who are about 60 now can remember when they had to pitch like that, and they were good pitchers, too. It would surprise some of the haughty latter day ball players who become tragedians and all that sort of thing, if they got out on the ball field and tried to bat against some of those old boys. They would find that a little thing like curving the ball underhand with a straight arm delivery, just as if you were throwing knots down from the top of the woolpile, would stand them first on one foot and then on the other trying to hit safely." (The Sporting News, Thursday, November 24, 1921, pp. 8)
                                ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Author's Note:

                                Pitchers were required to throw below the waist until 1883.

                                For 1883, they could throw up to the shoulder, which we call side-arm.

                                From 1884 onward, pitchers could throw any way they wanted to.
                                Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-11-2006, 11:17 PM.

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