Brown beat the Giants a hard game one day in , pitching against me. He had a big curve, lots of speed, and absolute control. The Giants [Pg 83] could not touch him. Next day McGraw was out warming up with Arthur Wilson, the young catcher on the club. Finally he decided:.
Brown is my idea of the almost perfect pitcher He is always ready to work. It is customary for most managers in the Big Leagues to say to a man on the day he is slated to pitch:. He likes to pitch and is in chronic condition. It will usually be found at the end of a season that he has taken part in more games than any [Pg 84] other pitcher in the country.
He held the Chicago pitching staff together in Besides being a great worker, he is a wonderful fielder and sure death on bunts. He spends weeks in the spring preparing himself to field short hits in the infield, and it is fatal to try to bunt against him. This play is with men on first and second bases and no one out or one out. The batter tries to sacrifice, but instead of fielding the ball to first base, which would advance the two base runners as intended, Brown makes the play to third and thus forces out the man nearest the plate.
This is usually successful unless the bunt is laid down perfectly along the first base line, so that the ball cannot be thrown to third base.
It was evident that the batter would try to sacrifice. Brown walked over to Steinfeldt, playing third base, pulling out a chew of tobacco as he went. Then he put the chew of tobacco in his mouth, a sign which augurs ill for his opponents, and pitched a low one to the batter, a perfect ball to bunt. He followed the pitch through and was on top of the plate as the batter laid it down.
The ball rolled slowly down the third base line until Brown pounced on it. He whirled and drove the ball at Steinfeldt, getting Cobb by a foot. That play carried Detroit off its feet, as a sudden reversal often will a ball club, when things are apparently breaking for it. This pitcher can afford [Pg 86] to waste a ball—that is, pitch out so the batter cannot hit it, but putting the catcher in a perfect position to throw—and then he knows he can get the next one over.
Brown helps a catcher by the way in which he watches the bases, not permitting the runners to take any lead on him. All around, I think that he is one of the most finished pitchers of the game. Russell Ford, of the New York American League club, has a hard pitching motion because he seems to throw a spit ball with a jerk. He cannot pitch more than one good game in four or five days. McGraw had detected this weakness from watching the Highlanders play before the post-season series in , and took advantage of it.
Make him pitch every ball you can. In the eighth inning the score was tied when [Pg 87] Devore came to the bat.
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No crack in Ford was perceptible to the rest of us, but McGraw must have detected some slight sign of weakening. By the time the inning was over, the Giants had made four runs, and eventually won the game by the score of 5 to 1. When he jumped from the National League to the Boston American League club some years ago, during the war times, many National League players thought that he was through.
Why, he was done when he jumped the National. He depended on his speed. The old pitcher was wise enough to realize, when he began to lose his speed, that he would have to develop a curve ball or go back to the minors, and he set to work and produced a peach. He is still pitching—for the National League now—and he will win a lot of games yet. When he came back in , the American Leaguers said:.
One never can tell. Anyway, he has taken a couple of falls out of Pittsburg just for good luck since he came back to the National League. Some pitchers depend largely on their motions to fool batters. Such an elaborate wind-up is developed [Pg 89] that it is hard for a hitter to tell when and from where the ball is coming.
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Why, he has so little on the ball that it looks like one of those Salome dancers when it comes up to the plate, and actually makes me blush. But Sallee will take a long wind-up and shoot one off his shoe tops and another from his shoulder while he is facing second base. He has good control, has catalogued the weaknesses of the batters, and can work the corners. With this capital, he was winning ball games for the Cardinals in until he fell off the water wagon.
He is different from Raymond in that respect. When he is on the vehicle, he is on it, and, when he is off, he is distinctly a pedestrian.
The way the Giants try to beat Sallee is to get men on the bases, because then he has to cut down his motion or they will run wild on him. But Sallee won several games from the Giants last season because we could not get enough men on the bases to beat him. He only gave us four or five hits per contest. Sallee, in particular, had him scared. It cured him of being afraid of Sallee. The Giants never regard Sallee as a left-hander with men on the bases. Most southpaws can keep a runner close to the bag because they are facing first base when in a position to [Pg 91] pitch, but Sallee cannot.
On the other hand, Leifield uses almost exactly the same motion to throw to first base as to pitch to the batter. These two are so nearly alike that he can change his mind after he starts and throw to the other place. He keeps men hugging the bag, and it is next to impossible to steal bases on him. If he gets his arm so far forward in pitching to the batter that he cannot throw to the base, he can see a man start and pitch out so the catcher has a fine chance to get the runner at second.
If the signal is for a curved ball, he can make it a high curve, and the catcher is in position to throw. Leifield has been working this combination pitch either to first base or the plate for years, and the motion for each is so similar that even the umpires cannot detect it and never call a balk on him.
A busher broke into the League with the Giants one fall and was batting against Pittsburg. There was a man on first base and Leifield started to pitch to the plate, saw by a quick glance that the runner was taking too large a lead, and threw to first. The youngster swung at the ball and started to run it out. Every one laughed. But most of his effectiveness resides in that crafty motion.
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He won ball games for the last two years he was with the club on his peculiar, whirling motion, but as soon as men got on the bases and he had to cut it down, McGraw would take him out. That swing and his irresistible good nature are still winning games in the International League, which used to be the Eastern. So if a pitcher expects to be a successful Big Leaguer, he must guard against eccentricities of temperament and mechanical motion. As I have said, Drucke of the Giants for a long time had a little movement with his foot which indicated to the runner when he was going to pitch, and they stole bases wildly on him.
But McGraw soon discovered that something was wrong and corrected it.
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The bench! To many fans who see a hundred Big League ball games each season, this is a long, hooded structure from which the next batter emerges and where the players sit while their club is at bat. It is also the resort of the substitutes, manager, mascot and water cooler. But to the ball player it is the headquarters. It is the place from which the orders come, and it is here that the battle is planned and from here the moves are executed.
The manager sits here [Pg 94] and pulls the wires, and his players obey him as if they were manikins. Louis; Wiltse and Meyers for New York. He repeats the order when they come to the bat for the first inning, because he knows that Sallee has two weaknesses, one being that he cannot field bunts and the other that a great deal of activity in the box tires him out so that he weakens.
A bunting game hits at both these flaws. As soon as Bresnahan observes the plan of battle, he arranges his players to meet the attack; draws in his third baseman, shifts the shortstop more down the line toward third base, and is on the alert himself to gather in slow rollers just in front of the plate.
The idea is to give Sallee the minimum opportunity to get at the ball and reduce his fielding responsibilities to nothing or less. He is not half as effective with men on the bases, for he depends largely on his deceptive motion to fool the batters, and when he has to [Pg 95] cut this down because runners are on the bases, his pitching ability evaporates. After the old Polo Grounds had been burned down in the spring of , we were playing St. Louis at American League Park one Saturday afternoon, and the final returns of the game were about 19 to 5 in our favor, as near as I can remember.
We made thirteen runs in the first inning.