The Most Dangerous Batters I Have Met
How "Joe" Tinker Changed Overnight from a Weakling at the Plate to
the Worst Batter I Had to Face--"Fred" Clarke of Pittsburg cannot be
Fooled by a Change of Pace, and "Hans" Wagner's Only "Groove" Is a
Base on Balls--"Inside" Information on All the Great Batters.
I have often been asked to which batters I have found it hardest to pitch.
It is the general impression among baseball fans that Joseph Faversham
Tinker, the short-stop of the Chicago Cubs, is the worst man that I have
to face in the National League. Few realize that during his first two
years in the big show Joe Tinker looked like a cripple at the plate when I
was pitching. His "groove" was a slow curve over the outside corner, and I
fed him slow curves over that very outside corner with great regularity.
Then suddenly, overnight, he became from my point of view the most
dangerous batter in the League.
Tinker is a clever ball-player, and one day I struck him out three times
in succession with low curves over the outside corner. Instead of getting
disgusted with himself, he began to think and reason. He knew that I was
feeding him that low curve over the outside corner, and he started to look
for an antidote. He had always taken a short, choppy swing at the ball.
When he went to the clubhouse after the game in which he struck out three
times, he was very quiet, so I have been told. He was just putting on his
last sock when he clapped his hand to his leg and exclaimed:
"I've got it."
"Got what?" asked Johnny Evers, who happened to be sitting next to Tinker.
"Got the way to hit Matty, who had me looking as if I came from the home
for the blind out there to-day," answered Joe.
"I should say he did," replied Evers. "But if you've found a way to hit
him, why, I'm from away out in Missouri near the Ozark Mountains."
"Wait till he pitches again," said Tinker by way of conclusion, as he took
his diamond ring from the trainer and left the clubhouse.
It was a four-game series in Chicago, and I had struck Tinker out three
times in the first contest. McGraw decided that I should pitch the last
game as well. Two men were on the bases and two were out when Tinker came
to the bat for the first time in this battle, and the outfielders moved in
closer for him, as he had always been what is known as a "chop" hitter. I
immediately noticed something different about his style as he set himself
at the plate, and then it struck me that he was standing back in the box
and had a long bat. Before this he had always choked his bat short and
stood up close. Now I observed that he had his stick way down by the
Bresnahan was catching, and he signalled for the regular prescription for
Tinker. With a lot of confidence I handed him that old low curve. He
evidently expected it, for he stepped almost across the plate, and, with
that long bat, drove the ball to right field for two bases over the head
of George Browne, who was playing close up to the infield, scoring both
runs and eventually winning the game.
"I've got your number now, Matty!" he shouted at me as he drew up at
I admit that he has had it quite frequently since he switched his batting
style. Now the outfielders move back when Tinker comes to the plate, for,
if he connects, he hits "'em far" with that long bat. Ever since the day
he adopted the "pole" he has been a thorn in my side and has broken up
many a game. That old low curve is his favorite now, and he reaches for it
with the same cordiality as is displayed by an actor in reaching for his
pay envelope. The only thing to do is to keep them close and try to
outguess him, but Tinker is a hard man to beat at the game of wits.
Many a heady hitter in the Big League could give the signs to the opposing
pitcher, for he realizes what his weakness is and knows that a twirler is
going to pitch at it. But, try as hard as he will, he cannot often cover
up his "groove," as Tinker did, and so he continues to be easy for the
twirler who can put the ball where he wants it.
Fred Clarke, of Pittsburg, has always been a hard man for me to fool on
account of his batting form. A hitter of his type cannot be deceived by a
change of pace, because he stands up close to the plate, chokes his bat
short, and swings left-handed. When a pitcher cannot deceive a man with a
change of pace, he has to depend on curves. Let me digress briefly to
explain why a change of pace will not make the ball miss Clarke's bat. He
is naturally a left-field hitter, and likes the ball on the outside corner
of the plate. That means he swings at the ball late and makes most of his
drives to left field.
How is a batter fooled by a change of pace? A pitcher gives him a speedy
one and then piles a slow one right on top of it with the same motion. The
batter naturally thinks it is another fast ball and swings too soon--that
is, before the ball gets to him. But when a man like Clarke is at the bat
and a pitcher tries to work a change of pace, what is the result? He
naturally swings late and so hits a fast ball to left field. Then as the
slow one comes up to the plate, he strikes at it, granted he is deceived
by it, timing his swing as he would at a fast ball. If it had been a fast
ball, as he thought, he would have hit it to left field, being naturally a
late swinger. But on a slow one he swings clear around and pulls it to
right field twice as hard as he would have hit it to left field because
he has obtained that much more drive in the longer swing. Therefore, it is
a rule in the profession that no left-handed batter who hits late can be
deceived by a change of pace.
"Rube" Ellis, a left-handed hitter of the St. Louis Club, entered the
League and heard complimentary stories about my pitching. Ellis came up to
bat the first day that I pitched against him wondering if he would get
even a foul. He was new to me and I was looking for his "groove." I gave
him one over the outside corner, and he jabbed it to left field. The next
time, I thought to work the change of pace, and, swinging late, he hauled
the ball around to right field, and it nearly tore Fred Tenny's head off
en route over first base. Five hits out of five times at bat he made off
me that day, and, when he went to the clubhouse, he remarked to his team
mates in this wise:
"So that is the guy who has been burning up this League, huh? We've got
better 'n him in the coast circuit. He's just got the Indian sign on you.
I did a little thinking about Ellis's hitting. He used a long bat and held
it down near the end and "poled 'em." He was naturally a left-field
hitter and, therefore, swung late at the ball. I concluded that fast ones
inside would do for Mr. Ellis, and the next time we met he got just those.
He has been getting them ever since and now, when he makes a hit off me,
he holds a celebration.
"Hans" Wagner, of Pittsburg, has always been a hard man for me, but in
that I have had nothing on a lot of other pitchers. He takes a long bat,
stands well back from the plate, and steps into the ball, poling it. He is
what is known in baseball as a free swinger, and there are not many free
swingers these days. This is what ailed the Giants' batting during the
world's series in 1911. They all attempted to become free swingers
overnight and were trying to knock the ball out of the lot, instead of
In the history of baseball there have not been more than fifteen or twenty
free swingers altogether, and they are the real natural hitters of the
game, the men with eyes nice enough and accurate enough to take a long
wallop at the ball. "Dan" Brouthers was one, and so was "Cap" Anson.
Sherwood Magee and "Hans" Wagner are contemporary free swingers. Men of
this type wield a heavy bat as if it were a toothpick and step back and
forth in the box, hitting the ball on any end of the plate. Sometimes it
is almost impossible to pass a man of this sort purposely, for a little
carelessness in getting the ball too close to the plate may result in his
stepping up and hitting it a mile. Pitchers have been searching for
Wagner's "groove" for years, and, if any one of them has located it, he
has his discovery copyrighted, for I never heard of it.
Only one pitcher, that I can recall, always had it on Wagner, and that man
was Arthur Raymond, sometimes called "Bugs." He seemed to upset the German
by his careless manner in the box and by his "kidding" tactics. I have
seen him make Wagner go after bad balls, a thing that "Hans" seldom can be
induced to do by other twirlers.
I remember well the first time I pitched against Wagner. Jack Warner was
catching, and I, young and new in the League, had spent a lot of time with
him, learning the weaknesses of the batters and being coached as to how to
treat them. Wagner loomed up at the bat in a pinch, and I could not
remember what Warner had said about his flaw. I walked out of the box to
confer with the catcher.
"What's his 'groove,' Jack?" I asked him.
"A base on balls," replied Warner, without cracking a smile.
That's always been Wagner's "groove."
There used to be a player on the Boston team named Claude Ritchey who "had
it on me" for some reason or other. He was a left-handed hitter and
naturally drove the ball to left field, so that I could not fool him with
a change of pace. He was always able to outguess me in a pinch and seemed
to know by intuition what was coming.
There has been for a long time an ardent follower of the Giants named Mrs.
Wilson, who raves wildly at a game, and is broken-hearted when the team
loses. The Giants were playing in Boston one day, and needed the game very
badly. It was back in 1905, at the time the club could cinch the pennant
by winning one contest, and the flag-assuring game is the hardest one to
win. Two men got on the bases in the ninth inning with the score tied and
no one out. The crowd was stamping its feet and hooting madly, trying to
rattle me. I heard Mrs. Wilson shrill loudly above the noise:
"Stick with them, Matty!"
Ritchey came up to the bat, and I passed him purposely, trying to get him
to strike at a bad ball. I wouldn't take a chance on letting him hit at a
good one. Mrs. Wilson thought I was losing my control, and unable to stand
it any longer she got up and walked out of the grounds. Then I fanned the
next two batters, and the last man hit a roller to Devlin and was thrown
out at first base. I was told afterwards that Mrs. Wilson stood outside
the ground, waiting to hear the crowd cheer, which would have told her it
was all over.
She lingered at the gate until the fourteenth inning, fearing to return
because she expected to see us routed. At last she heard a groan from the
home crowd when we won in the fourteenth. Still she would not believe that
I had weathered the storm and won the game that gave the Giants a pennant,
but waited to be assured by some of the spectators leaving the grounds
before she came around to congratulate us.
All batters who are good waiters, and will not hit at bad balls, are hard
to deceive, because it means a twirler has to lay the ball over, and then
the hitter always has the better chance. A pitcher will try to get a man
to hit at a bad ball before he will put it near the plate.
Many persons have asked me why I do not use my "fade-away" oftener when it
is so effective, and the only answer is that every time I throw the
"fade-away" it takes so much out of my arm. It is a very hard ball to
deliver. Pitching it ten or twelve times in a game kills my arm, so I save
it for the pinches.
Many fans do not know what this ball really is. It is a slow curve pitched
with the motion of a fast ball. But most curve balls break away from a
right-handed batter a little. The fade-away breaks toward him.
Baker, of the Athletics, is one of the most dangerous hitters I have ever
faced, and we were not warned to look out for him before the 1911 world's
series, either. Certain friends of the Giants gave us some "inside"
information on the Athletics' hitters. Among others, the Cubs supplied us
with good tips, but no one spread the Baker alarm. I was told to watch out
for Collins as a dangerous man, one who was likely to break up a game any
time with a long drive.
I consider Baker one of the hardest, cleanest hitters I have ever faced,
and he drives the ball on a line to any field. The fielders cannot play
for him. He did not show up well in the first game of the world's series
because the Athletics thought they were getting our signs, and we crossed
Baker with two men on the bases in the third inning. He lost a chance to
be a hero right there.
The roughest deal that I got from Baker in the 1911 series was in the
third game, which was the second in New York. We had made one run and the
ninth inning rolled around with the Giants still leading, 1 to 0. The
first man at the bat grounded out and then Baker came up. I realized by
this time that he was a hard proposition, but figured that he could not
hit a low curve over the outside corner, as he is naturally a right-field
hitter. I got one ball and one strike on him and then delivered a ball
that was aimed to be a low curve over the outside corner. Baker refused to
swing at it, and Brennan, the umpire, called it a ball.
I thought that it caught the outside corner of the plate, and that Brennan
missed the strike. It put me in the hole with the count two balls and one
strike, and I had to lay the next one over very near the middle to keep
the count from being three and one. I pitched a curve ball that was meant
for the outside corner, but cut the plate better than I intended. Baker
stepped up into it and smashed it into the grand-stand in right field for
a home run, and there is the history of that famous wallop. This tied the
A pitcher has two types of batters to face. One is the man who is always
thinking and guessing and waiting, trying to get the pitcher in the hole.
Evers, of the Cubs, is that sort. They tell me that "Ty" Cobb of Detroit
is the most highly developed of this type of hitter. I have never seen him
play. Then the other kind is the natural slugger, who does not wait for
anything, and who could not outguess a pitcher if he did. The brainy man
is the harder for a pitcher to face because he is a constant source of
There are two ways of fooling a batter. One is literally to "mix 'em up,"
and the other is to keep feeding him the same sort of a ball, but to
induce him to think that something else is coming. When a brainy man is at
the bat, he is always trying to figure out what to expect. If he knows,
then his chances of getting a hit are greatly increased. For instance, if
a batter has two balls and two strikes on him, he naturally concludes that
the pitcher will throw him a curve ball, and prepares for it. Big League
ball-players recognize only two kinds of pitched balls--the curve and the
When a catcher in the Big League signals for a curved ball, he means a
drop, and, after handling a certain pitcher for a time, he gets to know
just how much the ball is going to curve. That is why the one catcher
receives for the same pitcher so regularly, because they get to work
together harmoniously. "Chief" Meyers, the big Indian catcher on the
Giants, understands my style so well that in some games he hardly has to
give a sign. But, oddly enough, he could never catch Raymond because he
did not like to handle the spit ball, a hard delivery to receive, and
Raymond and he could not get along together as a battery. They would cross
each other. But Arthur Wilson caught Raymond almost perfectly. This
explains the loss of effectiveness of many pitchers when a certain catcher
is laid up or out of the game.
"Cy" Seymour, formerly the outfielder of the Giants, was one of the
hardest batters I ever had to pitch against when he was with the
Cincinnati club and going at the top of his stride. He liked a curved
ball, and could hit it hard and far, and was always waiting for it. He was
very clever at out-guessing a pitcher and being able to conclude what was
coming. For a long time whenever I pitched against him I had "mixed 'em
up" literally, handing him first a fast ball and then a slow curve and so
on, trying to fool him in this way. But one day we were playing in
Cincinnati, and I decided to keep delivering the same kind of a ball, that
old fast one around his neck, and to try to induce him to believe that a
curve was coming. I pitched him nothing but fast ones that day, and he was
always waiting for a curve. The result was that I had him in the hole all
the time, and I struck him out three times. He has never gotten over it.
Only recently I saw Seymour, and he said:
"Matty, you are the only man that ever struck me out three times in the
He soon guessed, however, that I was not really mixing them up, and then I
had to switch my style again for him.
Some pitchers talk to batters a great deal, hoping to get their minds off
the game in this way, and thus be able to sneak strikes over. But I find
that talking to a batter disconcerts me almost as much as it does him, and
I seldom do it. Repartee is not my line anyway.
Bender talked to the Giant players all through that first game in the 1911
world's series, the one in which he wore the smile, probably because he
was a pitcher old in the game and several of the younger men on the New
York team acted as if they were nervous. Snodgrass and the Indian kept up
a running fire of small talk every time that the Giants' centre-fielder
came to the plate.
Snodgrass got hit by pitched balls twice, and this seemed to worry Bender.
When the New York centre-fielder came to the bat in the eighth inning, the
Indian showed his even teeth in the chronic grin and greeted Snodgrass in
"Look out, Freddie, you don't get hit this time."
Then Bender wound up and with all his speed drove the ball straight at
Snodgrass's head, and Bender had more speed in that first game than I ever
saw him use before. Snodgrass dodged, and the ball drove into Thomas's
glove. This pitching the first ball at the head of a batter is an old
trick of pitchers when they think a player intends to get hit purposely or
that he is crowding the plate.
"If you can't push 'em over better than that," retorted Snodgrass, "I
won't need to get hit. Let's see your fast one now."
"Try this one," suggested Bender, as he pitched another fast one that cut
the heart of the plate. Snodgrass swung and hit nothing but the air. The
old atmosphere was very much mauled by bats in that game anyway.
"You missed that one a mile, Freddie," chuckled the Indian, with his grin.
Snodgrass eventually struck out and then Bender broke into a laugh.
"You ain't a batter, Freddie," exclaimed the Indian, as he walked to the
bench. "You're a backstop. You can never get anywhere without being hit."
If a pitcher is going to talk to a batter, he must size up his man. An
irritable, nervous young player often will fall for the conversation, but
most seasoned hitters will not answer back. The Athletics, other than
Bender, will not talk in a game. We tried to get after them in the first
contest in 1911, and we could not get a rise out of one of them, except
when Snodgrass spiked Baker, and I want to say right here that this much
discussed incident was accidental. Baker was blocking Snodgrass out, and
the New York player had a perfect right to the base line.
Sherwood Magee of the Philadelphia National League team is one of the
hardest batters that I ever have had to face, because he has a great eye,
and is of the type of free swingers who take a mad wallop at the ball, and
are always liable to break up a game with a long drive. Just once I talked
to him when he was at the bat, more because we were both worked up than
for any other reason, and he came out second best. It was while the Giants
were playing at American League Park in 1911 after the old Polo Grounds
had burned. Welchonce, who was the centre-fielder for the Phillies at the
time, hit a slow one down the first base line, and I ran over to field the
ball. I picked it up as the runner arrived and had no time to straighten
up to dodge him. So I struck out my shoulder and he ran into it. There was
no other way to make the play, but I guess it looked bad from the stand,
because Welchonce fell down.
Magee came up to bat next, threw his hat on the ground, and started to
call me names. He is bad when irritated--and tolerably easy to irritate,
as shown by the way in which he knocked down Finnegan, the umpire, last
season because their ideas on a strike differed slightly. I replied on
that occasion, but remembered to keep the ball away from the centre of the
plate. That is about all I did do, but he was more wrought up than I and
hit only a slow grounder to the infield. He was out by several feet. He
took a wild slide at the bag, however, feet first, in what looked like an
attempt to spike Merkle. We talked some more after that, but it has all
been forgotten now.
To be a successful pitcher in the Big League, a man must have the head and
the arm. When I first joined the Giants, I had what is known as the "old
round-house curve," which is no more than a big, slow outdrop. I had been
fooling them in the minor leagues with it, and I was somewhat chagrined
when George Davis, then the manager of the club, came to me and told me to
forget the curve, as it would be of no use. It was then that I began to
develop my drop ball.
A pitcher must watch all the time for any little unconscious motion before
he delivers the ball. If a base runner can guess just when he is going to
pitch, he can get a much better start. Drucke used to have a little motion
with his foot just before he pitched, of which he himself was entirely
unconscious, but the other clubs got on to it and stole bases on him
wildly. McGraw has since broken him of it.
The Athletics say that I make a motion peculiar to the fade-away. Some
spit-ball pitchers announce when they are going to throw a moist one by
looking at the ball as they dampen it. At other times, when they "stall,"
they do not look at the ball. The Big League batter is watching for all
these little things and, if a pitcher is not careful, he will find a lot
of men who are hard to pitch to. There are plenty anyway, and, as a man
grows older, this number increases season by season.
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