Road to Baseball Fame

Sioux City Journal/November 12, 1912

Pitching Is Said To Be The Easiest Route

More Chance For Youth

Youngsters Break Into Ranks Every Season—Highest Salaries Paid to Twirlers—Few Veterans Still Remain on Top

If your young son manifests an insurable desire to become a baseball player, and you find him fooling around first base, or the out-field, or the second or third, or even peering with infantile eagerness through the meshes of a mask, lead that youthful party out behind the barn and have a speech with him.

Put on a catching glove, and examine the condition of his shooting arm. He may have a wholly unsuspected hop to his fast ball, along with a nice curve and some change of pace. Such being the case, it becomes your parental duty to admonish him to enter life as a pitcher of baseballs.

Speak to him as follows:

“Son, there is a great deal of class to a Cobb, but consider the skinned thighs which come from the sliding appertaining to the running of bases. Consider too, the daily labor—the 154 games of baseball, during which the man who would be a Tyrus must pound the pill for better than .400, or lose caste among his people.

“Consider the enormous amount of energy which must be expended every two hours out of the twenty-four by the Hal Chases, and the Honus Wagners. and the Larry Doyles of our time. Each and every day they have the same old strain and worry; each and every day they must perform their work with marvelous efficiency or be panned to a whisper. No alibis go in their cases.

Pitcher’s Life of Ease

“And then, my son, pause and think of the life, of the slothful ease of the pitcher, who works two or three times a week, but who gets practically as much money, and eke as much fame. He wins his game and the labors of the Cobbs and the other men behind him are forgotten in the gossip of his prowess; he loses and the men are sacrificed for their shortcomings, and he is excused on the ground of an off day.

“Be a pitcher, my son—be a Mathewson, or a Wood, or a Johnson and you will find the path to the vaudeville stage as easy from the mound as it is from the outfield.”

Having concluded your lecture, all you have to do is to turn your son loose with a baseball in his hand, and let him wander through the bushes until such time as some big league manager locates him on the advice of friends. A big league scout may stumble across him accidentally, but nowadays the manager usually hears about the phenoms and then sends the ivory hunter to confirm or deny the news.

The demand for pitching material is never satisfied in the big leagues. The box is the surest short cut to fame. A manager may have two or three men sitting on his bench who are better in sheer ability than men playing in his regular line—and the manager may know that to be a fact—but lack of experience, or other reasons, may keep them long in the background, whereas the pitcher usually finds big league opportunity crowding him at all stages.

Even Break for Youngsters

It is sometimes only after two or three years or steady playing that an infielder or an outfielder reaps the reward of ability, whereas a young pitcher may step immediately into the limelight. Claude Hendrix, a two-year man, and Larry Cheney and Jeff Teserau, who have had only a year of big league experience, are the pitching leaders of the National League. Hugh Bedient gained great fame after a few months on a major bench, while Jimmy Lavender, another first year man, mopped up much glory this last season.

Of course a Ty Cobb or Tris Speaker cannot long be denied, but these are exceptional cases. Every big league manager is grooming youngsters who will one day be stars of the baseball word, but meanwhile, while they are gaining their education, young twirlers, who joined on after they did, are slipping into sudden fame.

It might be argued that while the pitcher does not work as hard as the other players, neither does he last as long in the big league, but that argument is answered by the fact that several of the foremost figures in the game today are veteran heavers.

Christy Mathewson has been pitching for twelve years, and is today one of the highest salaried men in the game. He is accounted well off in this world’s goods. He is good for several years more. Ed Walsh is a comparative veteran, and still one of the five greatest heavers in the world. There is no reason why a man like Walter Johnson should not go on as long at Mathewson, or why Marquard should not last as long as Eddie Plank, who is an old-timer as ball players go, but who finished second among the twirlers of his league last season.

Good Team Not Essential

Of course, a man’s team may make a good deal of difference in respect to both gold and glory, but Nap Rucker, for instance, is probably as well paid as any high class twirler in the league with the possible exception of Mathewson, and is certainly as well known. He has missed only the added emoluments of a world’s series.

Now the pitching staff is not the whole team by any means, but nowadays the manager who wins a pennant must have exceptional pitchers. He may be able to get along with mediocrity in other positions, as some managers are doing right now, but he must have the best quality of boxmen.

So the scouts range far and wide through the tall grass looking for pitching talent, and so it is that hundreds of young pitchers are picked up every year and scrutinized by the league managers. Two hundred and thirty-two “kids” and veterans passed through the big league mill last season, after the opening games had been played, but you can almost count the really notable pitchers of the game on the fingers of your hands.

Two pitchers have commanded the highest prices ever paid for ball players. John T. Brush gave up $11,000 for Rube Marquard, and Barney Dreyfuss, of Pittsburgh, paid a price generally placed at $12,500 cash, and ball players representing nearly as much more for Marty O’Toole. Mathewson is believed to get all of $10,000 a season, and makes a considerable amount on the side every year, while Walter Johnson is reputed to draw down $7,000 a season.

Big Prices for Twirlers

There is many a pitcher whose talent is buried with poor clubs who might be a great star with a first class team, but as a general proposition the crack pitchers show their class regardless of their backing, as witness Rucker and Walter Johnson. The latest was an acknowledged marvel when Washington was nowhere in the race. Russell Ford and ‘Lefty’ Hamilton are conceded to be great pitchers, even though their clubs are neighbors to the tail end of the American League. The fame of Grover Alexander, Tom Seaton, “Slim” Salee, Vean Gregg, and several others is not submerged by the positions of their clubs.

All figures cited hereafters are taken from an unofficial summing up of the season, and while they may not be absolutely perfect, they are close enough to give a general line on the situation.

During the regular season of 1912, the two big leagues handled approximately 474 baseball players of one kind or another, of which number 122 were pitchers who did not appear in fifteen or more games. They pitched in anywhere from one to fourteen games, but did not attain the magic fifteen, which is the number that gives them place as recognized toilers on the mound.

Some of the 122 were recruits who came late in the season, and worked just enough to show flashes of future promise. Others were boys who were tried early in the year and failed to display enough form to warrant retention in the big league. Still others were veterans who were unable to work regularly on account of illness or injury.

Out of 118 pitchers enrolled in the National League during the season, but 52 worked in fifteen, or more games. Of 124 twirlers who wore American League uniforms only 48 passed the fifteen mark. And of the 100 pitchers in the two leagues who might be accounted regulars, quite a number were released after working in more than their fifteen games.

Five on Major Staffs

The average big league staff of pitchers who worked in turn numbers about five. Most managers feel they are blessed by the baseball gods if they have three good pitchers, or one real star and a couple of twirlers of ordinary ability. Manager McGraw of the Giants won a pennant in 1911 by expert juggling of a brace of luminaries—Mathewson and Marquard—while in 1912 he was fortunate enough to pick up a crack recruit in Tesreau.

Jake Stahl, of the Boston Red Sox, was lucky during the run of the season in having five unusually steady pitchers, one of whom approximated greatness. He had Joe Wood, Collins, Bedient, O’Brien and Hall, but when it came down to the world’s series he had to rely on two and one of them—Bedient—turned out to be a real “find” in an hour of great need.

In 1911 Connie Mack had a trio of great heavers in Bender, Coombs and Plank, but when two of that trio failed him in 1912 he lost a pennant. With Bender and Coombs in their 1911 form, it is reasonable to presume that the Athletics would have made a much better showing this year.

Clarke Griffith made a grand run with but one star pitcher. Given a Marquard, a Wood or a Plank to support Walter Johnson last season and the “Old Fox” might have been in the running until the last game. The Chicago White Sox have long been supported by the wonderful pitching of Ed Walsh, who will ever be classsed with the truly great. With a Walsh, a Joe Wood, a Johnson or a Mathewson heading their crumbling pitching staffs, or even with Mordecai Brown at his best, the Chicago Cubs might have beaten the Giants out of first place, because in Lavender, Cheney and Richie they had sufficient pitching support to carry a star through.

The Pittsburgh Pirates developed a man last season who bears the earmarks of a great pitcher, but his case demonstrates that pitching alone cannot carry a club to a pennant, even when backed by tremendous hitting. Claude Hendrix, a young spitballer, led the National League twirlers, and associated with him were three other unusually good heavers in Camnitz, Adams and Robinson, with the best hitting club in the league behind them, but it took the slow footed Buccaneers so long to get started that the pitching and the hitting were of little use.

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