Notable Instances Where The Inside Game Has Failed
The "Inside" Game is of Little Avail when a Batter Knocks a Home Run
with the Bases Full--Many Times the Strategies of Managers have
Failed because Opposing Clubs "Doctored" their Grounds--"Rube"
Waddell Once Cost the Athletics a Game by Failing to Show up after
the Pitcher's Box had been Fixed for Him--But, although the "Inside"
Game Sometimes Fails, no Manager Wants a Player who will Steal Second
with the Bases Full.
There is an old story about an altercation which took place during a
wedding ceremony in the backwoods of the Virginia mountains. The
discussion started over the propriety of the best man holding the ring,
and by the time that it had been finally settled the bride gazed around on
a dead bridegroom, a dead father, and a dead best man, not to mention
three or four very dead ushers and a clergyman.
"Them new fangled self-cockin' automatic guns has sure raised hell with my
prospects," she sighed.
That's the way I felt when John Franklin Baker popped that home run into
the right-field stand in the ninth inning of the third game of the 1911
world's series with one man already out. For eight and one-third innings
the Giants had played "inside" ball, and I had carefully nursed along
every batter who came to the plate, studying his weakness and pitching at
it. It looked as if we were going to win the game, and then zing! And also
zowie! The ball went into the stand on a line and I looked around at my
fielders who had had the game almost within their grasp a minute before.
Instantly, I realized that I had been pitching myself out, expecting the
end to come in nine innings. My arm felt like so much lead hanging to my
side after that hit. I wanted to go and get some crape and hang it on my
salary whip. Then that old story about the wedding popped into my head,
and I said to myself:
"He has sure raised hell with your prospects."
"Sam" Strang, the official pinch hitter of the Giants a few seasons ago,
was one of the best in the business. McGraw sent him to the bat in the
ninth inning of a game the Giants were playing in Brooklyn. We were two
runs behind and two were already out, with one runner on the bases, and he
was only as far as second. "Doc" Scanlon was pitching for Brooklyn, and,
evidently intimidated by Sam's pinch-hitting reputation or something,
suddenly became wild and gave the Giant batter three balls. With the count
three and nothing, McGraw shouted from the bench:
"Wait it out, Sam!"
But Sam did not hear him, and he took a nice masculine, virile, full-armed
swing at the ball and fouled it out of the reach of all the local
guardians of the soil.
"Are you deaf?" barked McGraw. "Wait it out, I tell you."
As a matter of fact, Strang was a little deaf and did not hear the shouted
instructions the second time. But "Doc" Scanlon was sensitive as to
hearing and, feeling sure Strang would obey the orders of McGraw, thought
he would be taking no chances in putting the next ball over the centre of
the plate. It came up the "groove," and Strang admired it as it
approached. Then he took his swing, and the next place the ball touched
was in the Italian district just over the right field fence. The hit tied
McGraw met Strang at the plate, and instead of greeting him with shouts of
"I ought to fine you $25, and would, except for those two runs and the few
points' difference the game will make in the percentage. Come on now,
boys. Let's win this one." And we did in the eleventh inning.
That was a case of the "inside" game failing. Any Big League pitcher with
brains would have laid the ball over after hearing McGraw shout earnest
and direct orders at the batter to "wait it out." Scanlon was playing the
game and Strang was not, but it broke for Sam. It was the first time in
his life that he ever hit the ball over the right field fence in Brooklyn,
and he has never done it since. If he had not been lucky in connecting
with that ball and lifting it where it did the most good, his pay envelope
would have been lighter by $25 at the end of the month, and he would have
obtained an accurate idea of McGraw's opinion of his intellectuality.
In the clubhouse after the victory, McGraw said:
"Honest, Sam, why did you swing at that ball after I had told you not to?"
"I didn't hear you," replied Strang.
"Well, it's lucky you hit it where they weren't," answered McGraw,
"because if any fielder had connected with the ball, there would have been
a rough greeting waiting for you on the bench. And as a tip, Sam, direct
from me: You got away with it once, but don't try it again. It was bad
"But that straight one looked awful good to me coming up the 'groove,'"
"Don't fall for all the good lookers, Sam," suggested McGraw, the
Strang is now abroad having his voice cultivated and he intends to enter
the grand-opera field as soon as he can finish the spring training in
Paris and get his throat into shape for the big league music circuit. But
I will give any orchestra leader who faces Sam a tip. If he doesn't want
him to come in strong where the music is marked "rest," don't put one in
the "groove," because Strang just naturally can't help swinging at it. He
is a poor waiter.
The Boston club lost eighteen straight games in the season of 1910, and as
the team was leaving the Polo Grounds after having dropped four in a row,
making the eighteen, I said to Tenney:
"How does it seem, Fred, to be on a club that has lost eighteen straight?"
"It's what General Sherman said war is," replied Tenney, who seldom
swears. "But for all-around entertainment I would like to see John McGraw
on a team which had dropped fifteen or sixteen in a row."
As if Tenney had put the curse on us, the Giants hit a losing streak the
next day that totalled six games straight. Everything that we tried broke
against us. McGraw would attempt the double steal, and both throws would
be accurate, and the runner caught at the plate. A hit and a run sign
would be given, and the batter would run up against a pitch-out.
McGraw was slowly going crazy. All his pet "inside" tricks were worthless.
He, the king of baseball clairvoyants, could not guess right. It began to
look to me as if Tenney would get his entertainment. After the sixth one
had gone against us and McGraw had not spoken a friendly word to any one
for a week, he called the players around him in the clubhouse.
"I ought to let you all out and get a gang of high-school boys in here to
defend the civic honor of this great and growing city whose municipal
pride rests on your shoulders," he said. "But I'm not going to do it.
Hereafter we will cut out all 'inside' stuff and play straight baseball.
Every man will go up there and hit the ball just as you see it done on the
Into this oration was mixed a judicious amount of sulphur. The Cubs had
just taken the first three of a four-game series from us without any
trouble at all. The next day we went out and resorted to the wallop,
plain, untrimmed slugging tactics, and beat Chicago 17 to 1. Later we
returned to the hand-raised, cultivated hot-house form of baseball, but
for a week we played the old-fashioned game with a great deal of success.
It changed our luck.
Another method which has upset the "inside" game of many visiting teams
is "doping" the grounds.
The first time in my baseball career that I ever encountered this was in
Brooklyn when Hanlon was the manager. Every time he thought I was going to
pitch there, he would have the diamond doctored for me in the morning. The
ground-keeper sank the pitcher's box down so that it was below the level
of all the bases instead of slightly elevated as it should be.
Hanlon knew that I used a lot of speed when I first broke into the League,
getting some of it from my elevation on the diamond. He had a team of fast
men who depended largely on a bunting game and their speed in getting to
first base to win. With me fielding bunts out of the hollow, they had a
better chance of making their goal. Then pitching from the lower level
would naturally result in the batters getting low balls, because I would
be more apt to misjudge the elevation of the plate. Low ones were made to
bunt. Finally, Hanlon always put into the box to work against me a little
pitcher who was not affected as much as I by the topographical changes.
"Why," I said to George Davis, the Giants' manager, the first time I
pitched out of the cellar which in Brooklyn was regarded as the pitcher's
box, "I'm throwing from a hollow instead of off a mound."
"Sure," replied Davis. "They 'doped' the grounds for you. But never mind.
When we are entertaining, the box at the Polo Grounds will be built up the
days you are going to pitch against Brooklyn, and you can burn them over
and at their heads if you like."
The thing that worried the Athletics most before the last world's series
was the reputation of the Giants as base stealers. When we went to
Philadelphia for the first game, I was surprised at the heavy condition of
the base lines.
"Did it rain here last night?" I inquired from a native.
"No," he answered.
Then I knew that the lines had been wet down to slow up our fast runners
and make it harder for them to steal. As things developed, this precaution
was unnecessary, but it was an effort to break up what was known to be our
strongest "inside" play.
Baseball men maintain that the acme of doctoring grounds was the work of
the old Baltimore Orioles. The team was composed of fast men who were
brilliant bunters and hard base runners. The soil of the infield was mixed
with a form of clay which, when wet and then rolled, was almost as hard as
concrete. The ground outside the first and third base lines was built up
slightly to keep well placed bunts from rolling foul, while toward first
base there was a distinct down grade to aid the runner in reaching that
station with all possible expedition. Toward second there was a gentle
slope, and it was down hill to third. But coming home from third was
up-hill work. A player had to be a mountain climber to make it. This all
benefited fast men like Keeler, McGraw, Kelley and Jennings whose most
dangerous form of attack was the bunt.
The Orioles did not stop at doctoring the infield. The grass in the
outfield was permitted to grow long and was unkempt. Centre and left
fields were kept level, but in right field there was a sharp down grade to
aid the fast Keeler. He had made an exhaustive study of all the possible
angles at which the ball might bound and had certain paths that he
followed, but which were not marked out by sign posts for visiting
right-fielders. He was sure death on hits to his territory, while usually
wallops got past visiting right-fielders. And so great was the grade that
"Wee Willie" was barely visible from the batter's box. A hitting team
coming to Baltimore would be forced to fall into the bunting game or be
entirely outclassed. And the Orioles did not furnish their guests with
topographical maps of the grounds either.
The habit of doctoring grounds is not so much in vogue now as it once was.
For a long time it was considered fair to arrange the home field to the
best advantage of the team which owned it, for otherwise what was the use
in being home? It was on the same principle that a general builds his
breastworks to best suit the fighting style of his army, for they are his
But lately among the profession, sentiment and baseball legislation have
prevailed against the doctoring of grounds, and it is done very little.
Occasionally a pitching box is raised or lowered to meet the requirements
of a certain man, but they are not altered every day to fit the pitcher,
as they once were. Such tactics often hopelessly upset the plan of battle
of the visiting club unless this exactly coincided with the habits of the
home team. Many strategic plans have been wasted on carefully arranged
grounds, and many "inside" plays have gone by the boards when the field
was fixed so that a bunt was bound to roll foul if the ball followed the
laws of gravitation, as it usually does, because the visiting team was
known to have the bunting habit.
A good story of doctored grounds gone wrong is told of the Philadelphia
Athletics. The eccentric "Rube" Waddell had bundles of speed in his early
days, and from a slightly elevated pitcher's box the batter could scarcely
identify "Rube's" delivery from that of a cannon. He was scheduled to
pitch one day and showed around at morning practice looking unusually fit
"How are you feeling to-day, George?" asked "Connie" Mack, his boss.
"Never better," replied the light-hearted "Rube."
"Well, you work this afternoon."
"All right," answered Waddell.
Then the ground-keeper got busy and built the pitcher's box up about two
feet, so that Waddell would have a splendid opportunity to cut loose all
his speed. At that time he happened to be the only tall man on the
pitching staff of the Philadelphia club, and, as a rule, the box was kept
very low. The scheme would probably have worked out as planned, if it had
not been that Waddell, in the course of his noon-day wanderings, met
several friends in whose society he became so deeply absorbed that he
neglected to report at the ball park at all. He also forgot to send word,
and here was the pitcher's box standing up out of the infield like one of
the peaks of the Alps.
As the players gathered, and Waddell failed to show up, the manager
nervously looked at his watch. At last he sent out scouts to the "Rube's"
known haunts, but no trace of the temperamental artist could be found. The
visitors were already on the field, and it was too late to lower the box.
A short pitcher had to work in the game from this peak of progress, while
the opposing team installed a skyscraper on the mound. The Philadelphia
club was badly beaten and Waddell heavily fined for his carelessness in
disrupting the "inside" play of his team.
An old and favorite trick used to be to soap the soil around the pitcher's
box, so that when a man was searching for some place to dry his
perspiring hands and grabbed up this soaped earth, it made his palm
slippery and he was unable to control the ball.
Of course, the home talent knew where the good ground lay and used it or
else carried some unadulterated earth in their trousers' pockets, as a
sort of private stock. But our old friend "Bugs" Raymond hit on a scheme
to spoil this idea and make the trick useless. Arthur always perspired
profusely when he pitched, and several managers, perceiving this, had made
it a habit to soap the dirt liberally whenever it was his turn to work.
While he was pitching for St. Louis, he went into the box against the
Pirates one day in Pittsburg. His hands were naturally slippery, and
several times he had complained that he could not dry them in the dirt,
especially in Pittsburg soil.
As Raymond worked in the game in question, he was noticed, particularly by
the Pittsburg batters and spectators, to get better as he went along.
Frequently, his hand slipped into his back pocket, and then his control
was wonderful. Sometimes, he would reach down and apparently pick up a
handful of earth, but it did no damage. After the game, he walked over to
Fred Clarke, and reached into his back pocket. His face broke into a grin.
"Ever see any of that stuff, Fred?" he asked innocently, showing the
Pittsburg manager a handful of a dark brown substance. "That's rosin. It's
great--lots better than soaped ground. Wish you'd keep a supply out there
in the box for me when I'm going to work instead of that slippery stuff
you've got out there now. Will you, as a favor to me?"
Thereafter, all the pitchers got to carrying rosin or pumice stone in
their pockets, for the story quickly went round the circuit, and it is
useless to soap the soil in the box any more. There are many tricks by
which the grounds or ball are "fixed," but for nearly all an antidote has
been discovered, and these questionable forms of the "inside" game have
failed so often that they have largely been abandoned.
One Big League manager used always to give his men licorice or some other
dark and adhesive and juicy substance to chew on a dingy day. The purpose
was to dirty the ball so that it was harder for the batters to see when
the pitcher used his fast one. As soon as a new ball was thrown into the
game, it was quickly passed around among the fielders, and instead of
being the lily-white thing that left the umpire's hands, when it finally
got to the pitcher's box it was a very pronounced brunette. But some
eagle-eyed arbiter detected this, and kept pouring new balls into the game
when the non-licorice chewers were at the bat, while he saved the
discolored ones for the consumption of the masticators. It was another
trick that failed.
Frequently, backgrounds are tampered with if the home club is notably weak
at the bat. The best background for a batter is a dull, solid green. Many
clubs have painted backgrounds in several contrasting, broken colors so
that the sunlight, shining on them, blinds the batter. The Chicago White
Sox are said to have done this, and for many years the figures showed that
the batting of both the Chicago players and the visitors at their park was
very light. The White Sox's hitting was weak anywhere, so that the poor
background was an advantage to them.
Injuries have often upset the "inside" play of a club. Usually a team's
style revolves around one or two men, and the taking of them out of the
game destroys the whole machine. The substitute does not think as quickly;
neither does he see and grasp the opportunities as readily. This was true
of the Cubs last season. Chance and Evers used to be the "inside" game of
the team. Evers was out of the game most of the summer and Chance was
struck in the head with a pitched ball and had to quit. The playing of the
Chicago team fell down greatly as a result.
Chance is the sort of athlete who is likely to get injured. When he was a
catcher he was always banged up because he never got out of the way of
anything. He is that kind of player. If he has to choose between accepting
a pair of spikes in a vital part of his anatomy and getting a put-out, or
dodging the spikes and losing the put-out, he always takes the put-out and
usually the spikes. He never dodges away from a ball when at bat that may
possibly break over the plate and cost him a strike. That is why he was
hit in the head. He lingered too long to ascertain whether the ball was
going to curve and found out that it was not, which put him out of the
game, the Cubs practically out of the pennant race, and broke up their
Roger Bresnahan is the same kind of a man. He thinks quickly, and is a
brilliant player, but he never dodges anything. He is often hurt as a
result. Once, when he was with the Giants, he was hit in the face with a
pitched ball, and McGraw worried while he was laid up, for fear that it
would make him bat shy. After he came back, he was just as friendly with
the plate as ever. The injury of men like Chance and Bresnahan, whose
services are of such vital importance to the "inside" play of a team,
destroys the effectiveness of the club.
Once, in 1908, when we were fighting the Cubs for the pennant at every
step, McGraw planned a bunting game against Overall, who is big and not
very fast in covering the little rollers. Bresnahan and O'Day had been
having a serial argument through two games, and Roger, whose nerves were
worn to a frazzle, like those of the rest of us at that time, thought
"Hank" had been shading his judgment slightly toward the Cubs. In another
story I have pointed out that O'Day, the umpire, was stubborn and that
nothing could be gained by continually picking on him. When the batteries
were announced for that game, McGraw said as the team went to the field:
"We can beat this guy Overall by bunting."
Bresnahan went out to put on his chest protector and shin guards. O'Day
happened to be adjusting his makeup near him. Roger could not resist the
"Why don't you put on a Chicago uniform, 'Hank', instead of those duds?"
he asked. "Is it true, if the Cubs win the pennant, they've promised to
elect you alderman in Chicago?"
"Get out of the game and off the field," said O'Day.
Bresnahan had to obey the injunction and Needham, the only other available
catcher, went behind the mat. "Tom" Needham never beat out a bunt in his
life, and he destroyed all McGraw's plans because, with him in the game
instead of Bresnahan, the style had to be switched. We lost. Bresnahan, a
fast man and a good bunter batted third and would have been valuable in
the attack best adapted to beat Overall. But his sudden demise and the
enforced substitution of the plodding Needham ruined the whole plan of
campaign. Therefore, frequently umpires upset a team's "inside" game.
One of McGraw's schemes back-fired on him when Luderus, the hard-hitting
Philadelphia first baseman, broke into the League. Some one had tipped
"Mac" off, and tipped him wrong, that this youngster could be disconcerted
in a pinch by the catcher discussing signs and what-not with him, thus
distracting his attention.
"Chief," said McGraw before the game, "if this Luderus gets up in a tight
place, slip him a little talk."
The situation came, and Meyers obeyed instructions. The game was in
Philadelphia, and three men were on the bases with two out. Ames was
"What are you bringing the bat up with you for?" asked the "Chief" as
Luderus arranged himself at the plate.
Then Meyers gave Ames his sign. Next he fixed his fingers in a fake signal
and addressed the young batter.
"The best hitters steal signs," said the "Chief." "Just look down in my
glove and see the signals."
But Luderus was not caught and kept his eyes glued on Ames. He hit the
next ball over the right field wall and won the game. As he crossed the
plate, he said to the "Chief":
"It's too easy. I don't need your signs. They pulled that one on me in the
bushes long ago."
"After this, when that fellow bats," said McGraw to Meyers later, "do as
exact an imitation of the sphinx as you know how. The tip was no good."
The trick of talking to the hitter is an old one. The idea is for the
catcher to give a wrong sign, for his benefit, after having flashed the
right one, induce the batter, usually a youngster, to look down at it, and
then have the pitcher shoot one over the plate while he is staring in the
"Steve" Evans, the St. Louis right-fielder, tells a story of a fan who sat
in the same box at the Cardinals' park every day and devoted most of his
time to roasting him (S. Evans). His favorite expressions in connection
with Evans were "bone dead," "wooden head," and so on. He loudly claimed
that "Steve" had no knowledge of the game and spoiled every play that
Bresnahan tried to put through. One day, when the Giants were playing in
St. Louis, some one knocked up a high foul which landed in this orator's
box. He saw it coming, tried to dodge, used poor judgment, and, realizing
that the ball was going to strike him, snatched his hat off, and took it
full on an immodestly bald head. "Steve" Evans was waiting to go to the
bat. He shifted his chew to his other cheek and exclaimed in a voice that
could not have been heard more than two miles away:
"That's the 'gink' who has been calling me a 'bone head.'"
"Steve" got a great laugh from the crowd, but right there the St. Louis
club lost a patron, for the bald-headed one has never been seen at the
grounds since, according to Evans, and his obituary has not been printed
"Al" Bridwell, formerly the Giants' shortstop, was one of the cleverest
men at the "inside" game that ever broke into the Big Leagues, and it was
this that made him valuable. Then suddenly his legs went bad, and he
slowed up. It was his speed and his ability to bunt and his tireless
waiting at the plate to make all toilers in the box pitch that had made
him a great player. He seldom swung at a bad ball. As soon as he slowed
up, McGraw knew he would have to go if the Giants were to win the pennant.
He deeply regretted letting the gritty, little shortstop, whose legs had
grown stiff in his service, leave the club, but sentiment never won any
"Al," he said to Bridwell, "I'm going to let you go to Boston. Your legs
will be all right eventually, but I've got to have a fast man now while
you are getting back your old speed."
"That's all right, 'Mac,'" replied Bridwell. "It's all part of the game."
He did not rave and swear that he had been double-crossed, as many players
do under the same circumstances. I never heard Bridwell swear, and I never
found any one else who did. He had been playing for weeks, when every time
he moved it pained him, because he thought he might have a share of the
money that winning a pennant would mean. It was a staggering blow to him,
this sending him from a pennant possibility to a hopeless tail-ender, but
he took it gamely.
"I guess I was 'gumming' the inside stuff," he said.
And he did get some of the prize money. The boys voted him a share.
It will be seen that the "inside" game sometimes fails. Many a time I have
passed a catcher or good batter to take a chance on a pitcher, and then
have had him make a hit just when hits were not at all welcome. I walked a
catcher once and had the pitcher shove the ball over first base for a
single, when he closed his eyes and dodged back in an effort to get his
head out of the line he thought it was pursuing before it curved. In
ducking, he got his bat in front of the ball, a result he had never
obtained with his eyes open.
Once I started to pass "Hans" Wagner in a pinch to take a chance on the
next batter, and was a little careless in throwing the ball too close to
the plate. He reached out and slapped it for a single. Again the "inside"
game had failed.
Speaking pretty generally, most managers prefer to use this "inside" game,
though, and there are few vacancies in the Big Leagues right now for the
man who is liable to steal second with the bases full.
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