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The Second Baseman






Second base is the prettiest position to play of the entire in-field. In
the number of chances offered it is next to first base, and in the
character of the work to be done and the opportunities for brilliant
play and the exercise of judgment, it is unsurpassed. It is true the
second baseman has more territory to look after than any other in-
fielder, but on account of the long distance he plays from the batter he
has more time in which to cover it. The last moment allowed a fielder to
get in the way of a ball is worth the first two, because one will be
consumed in getting under headway. Then, too, the distance of his throw
to first is generally short, and this allows him to fumble a hit and
still get the ball there in time. So that while much of his work is of a
difficult kind, he is more than compensated by certain other advantages,
and, so far as the percentage of chances accepted is concerned, he
generally leads every one except the first baseman.

The position should have a man of at least average physical proportions.
There are in every game a number of throws to second from all points of
the field, and with a small man there many of them would be wild, on
account of his lack of height and reach; moreover, a larger man offers a
better mark to throw at, and the liability to throw wildly is decreased
because of the increased confidence on the part of the throwers. Then,
too, a small man is not able to stand the continual collisions with
base-runners, and as a number of his plays are attempts to retire
runners from first, he grows timid after awhile and allows many clever
sliders to get away from him.

On the other hand, the position requires a very active player, and for
this reason, too large a man would not be desirable on account of the
large field he has to cover, he must possess the ability to run fast and
to start and stop quickly; he must be able to stoop and recover himself
while still running, and be able to throw a ball from any position. Not
all his throws are of the short order; sometimes he is expected to cut
off a runner at third or return the ball to the catcher for the same
purpose, and in these cases speed and accuracy are of the utmost
importance.

Because of the number and variety of plays that fall to his lot, he must
be a man of some intelligence. With runners on the bases, the situations
of a game change like the pictures in a kaleidoscope, so that there is
not always time to consider what is the best play to make; there are
times when he must decide with a wit so quick that it amounts almost to
instinct, for the loss of a fraction of a second may be the loss of the
opportunity, and that one play mean ultimate defeat.

The exact spot to play, in order best to cover the position, will be
determined by the direction in which the batter is likely to hit, by his
fleetness, and by the situation of the game. If there are no runners on
the bases the consideration of the batter will alone determine; if he is
a right-field hitter the second baseman will play more toward the first
baseman, the entire in-field moving around correspondingly; and if he is
a left-field hitter he will play toward second and back of the base, in
either case playing back of the base line from fifteen to fifty feet,
depending upon whether the batter is a very fleet or slow runner. If
there are runners on the bases this fact will have to be taken into
consideration; for example, with a runner on second the baseman must
play near enough to hold the runner on the base and not give him so
much ground that he can steal third; or if there is a runner on first
and the baseman is himself going to cover the base in case of a steal,
he must be near enough to get there in time to receive the catcher's
throw. On the other hand, he must not play too close or he leaves too
much open space between himself and the first baseman; and, though
playing far enough away, he should not start for the base until he sees
that the batter has not hit. It is not necessary that he be at the base
waiting for the throw, but only that he make sure to meet it there.
Pfeffer, of Chicago, plays this point better than any one, I think, and
in all respects in handling a thrown ball, he is unexcelled.

To catch a runner attempting to steal from first, most second basemen
prefer to receive the ball a few feet to the side of the base nearest
first and in front of the line. The first is all right because it allows
the runner to be touched before getting too close to the base and avoids
close decisions; but I question the policy of the baseman being in front
of the line in every instance. From this position it is extremely
difficult to touch a runner who throws himself entirely out and back of
the line, reaching for the base only with his hand. With a runner who is
known to slide that way, I believe the baseman should stand back of the
line; it demoralizes the runner when he looks up and finds the baseman
in the path where he had expected to slide, and it forces him to go into
the base in a way different from what he had intended and from that to
which he is accustomed. The veteran Bob Ferguson always stood back of
the line, and more than once made shipwreck of my hopes when I might
have evaded him if he had given me a chance to slide. The time taken in
turning around and reaching for the runner is often just enough to lose
the play, whereas, standing back of the line, this time is saved, and,
in addition, the baseman has the play and the runner's movements in
front of him.

With a runner on third and not more than one out, the batter may try to
hit a ground ball to the in-field, sacrificing himself but allowing the
runner from third to score. To prevent this the in-fielders will
generally play nearer the bat, so as to return the ball to the catcher
in time to cut off the runner, and how close they must play will depend,
of course, upon the fleetness of the runner. Even then the ball may be
hit so slowly or fielded in such a way as to make the play at the plate
impossible, in which case the fielder will try to retire the batter at
first.

With runners on first and third the one on first will often try to steal
second, and if the catcher throws down to catch him, the one on third
goes for home. To meet this play on the part of the runners is by no
means easy, but it can nevertheless be done. If the one run will not
affect the general result of the game, it may be well to pay no
attention to the runner from third and try only to put out the one from
first, thus clearing the bases. But if it is necessary to prevent the
run scoring, the second baseman must be prepared to return the ball to
the catcher in case the runner starts for home. In order to gain as much
time as possible, he should take as position to receive the catcher's
throw ten feet inside of the base-line; keeping one eye on the ball and
the other on the runner at third, if he sees the runner start for home,
he must meet the throw as quickly as possible and return the ball to the
catcher; if the runner does not start, the baseman should step quickly
backward so that by the time the ball reaches him he will be near enough
to the base-line to touch the runner from first. The play is a difficult
one and requires more than the ordinary amount of skill and practice.
There is another and, I think, better way of making this play, which
will be spoken of under The Short-stop, because that player is
principally interested.

Before the enactment of the rule confining the coachers to a limited
space the coacher at third base sometimes played a sharp trick on the
second baseman. When the catcher threw the ball, the coacher started
down the base-line toward home, and the sec-mid baseman, seeing only
imperfectly, mistook him for the runner and returned the ball quickly to
the catcher. The result was that the runner from first trotted safely to
second, the runner at third remained there, and everybody laughed except
the second baseman.

In fielding ground-hits the second baseman, because of his being so far
removed from the bat, has a better chance to judge a hit. He is able
either to advance or recede a step or more to meet the ball on a high
bound; and on account of the short throw to first he may take more
liberties with such a hit; it is not absolutely necessary that he field
every ball cleanly, because he may fumble a hit and still make his play.
In general, however, he should meet a hit as quickly as possible, so
that if fumbled he may have the greatest amount of time to recover and
throw. He should also, if possible, get squarely in front of every hit,
thus making his feet, legs, and body assist in stopping the ball in case
it eludes his hands. When not possible to get directly in front of the
ball he must still try to stop it with both hands or with one, for he
may then recover it in time to make the play.

Having secured the ball, he should wait only long enough to steady
himself before throwing. He should not hold the ball a moment longer
than is necessary. In some cases he has not time to straighten up before
throwing, but must snap the ball underhand; and where he gets the hit
near enough to the base he should not throw at all, but pitch the ball
to the baseman; this makes the play much safer. When there is a runner
on first and the ball is hit to the second baseman, he tries for a
double play, and there are four ways in which it may be made. First, if
he gets the ball before the runner from first reaches him he may touch
the runner and then throw to first base before the batter gets there.
Second, if the runner from first stops so that he can't be touched, the
baseman drives him back toward first as far as possible and throws there
in time to put out the batter; the other runner, being then caught
between the bases, is run down, completing the double. Third, if the hit
is near enough to the base he may touch second and then throw to first
to head off the batter. And, fourth, he may first pass the ball to the
short-stop, who has covered second, and the latter throws to first in
time to put out the batter. In nine cases out of ten the last is the
safest play; it makes sure of the runner to second and is more likely to
catch the batter, because the short-stop is in better shape to throw to
first than the baseman would be if he attempted to make the play
unassisted.

The second baseman should take not only all fly hits in his own
territory, but also all falling back of the first baseman, and back of
the short-stop toward centre field. In all these cases he gets a better
view of the ball than either of the other players named, because,
instead of running backward, as they would be obliged to do, he runs to
the side, and the catch is thus easier for him. If the hit is one which
can be reached by an out-fielder, and the latter calls that he will take
it, the second baseman will, of course, give way, because the fielder
has the ball in front of him, in a better position even than the
baseman.

With a runner on second he must be on the lookout for the catcher's
signal to the pitcher to throw to second, and on seeing this he must
start at once for the base to receive the pitcher's throw. He must also
watch for the catcher's sign to the second baseman notifying him of an
intention to throw, and while the ball is passing from the pitcher to
the catcher, get to the base to receive the throw.

He should back up throws to the first baseman whenever possible,
leaving his own base to be covered by the short-stop. He should assist
the right and centre fielders in the return of long hits, running well
out into the field to receive the out-fielder's throw. When plays arise
other than those here mentioned his judgment must tell him what to do,
and, without neglecting his own position, he must not hesitate to take
any part to advance his team's interests.





Next: The Third Baseman

Previous: The First Baseman



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