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good first baseman, a fine fielder. ball. I will save my strength.” And ninety-eight times out of a hundred, Saier would have fielded the ball cleanly, if once he got his hands on it. But this happened to be one of the other two times. And Evers was right where he belonged, backing Saier up. He fielded the ball which got by Saier, made the out at second, prevented one and perhaps two scores, and held the runner at third. It is plays of this sort that make Evers such a famous second baseman Now, of course, it is not always possible for infielders to back each other up on every fielded ball. The balls come too fast, and there are too many other things to do. It would be foolish, indeed, for one player to back up another when he has work of his own to do in covering a base. But there are nine men playing a defensive game, and it is a rare play which engages more than three or four of them at once (outside of a runout between bases), so there is usually some one so entirely out of a play he must either stand and watch or put himself in position where, if anything goes wrong, he will be of some use to his team. Perhaps only once in a hundred times will his effort bear fruit, but he has the satisfaction of knowing that he is playing the game; and the hundredth time, when he manages to pull off the unexpected happening, he will be more than repaid for the effort he has put into his many correct but unproductive “backing-up plays,” by the satisfaction of having played the game as well as it could be played. Outside of the mere mechanical perfection of the fielder's work—his ability to “scoop up” balls, throw from curiously distorted positions, pick up grounders with unerring accuracy, etc., -the beauty of playing any infield position lies in its head-work; in a knowledge of how to “play the ball,” and what to do with it after you get it. Often the latter knowledge is easier to come by than the former. Many a man who has a quick brain, a fine throwing arm, and a world of ability in handling the ball after he gets it, fails as an infielder because he lets the “ball play him,” instead of “playing the ball.” “Playing the ball,” not letting the “ball play you,” is nothing more than base-ball language for “going after it.” There are times, of course, when the fielder is lucky if he is able to get hold of the ball at all. But there are plenty of other times when he has a great choice as to where he will meet the ball, whether he will play back and let the ball come to him on a bound, or run in and scoop it up before it has a chance to bound more than once; and on this decision, occasionally, may rest the game ! That, too, is one of the beauties
He ‘ll get the
of base-ball: the entire game, at times a championship even, may depend, though the player knows it not, on any play he makes. There never was a close-score game played which could not have gone the other way had some one single play been otherwise accomplished. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the making of double plays, those spectacular performances in which, with the bases full and one out, for instance, a most unfavorable situation is turned to the advantage of the defending team by two men being retired at once; or that equally interesting situation, “two on, none out, and a
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.” This famous double play was achieved so often that the phrase in the score has become a byword. One reason why it was so uniformly successful, whether started by Tinker to Evers, or Evers to Tinker, was that both “played the ball" —neither let the ball play him./ In the diagram, Tinker runs in on the ball and cuts off two or three bounds. He saves half a second. Had he let the ball “play him,” and remained at the position “A,” both runners would have been safe. As it was, both were out, simply because Tinker ran in on the ball and saved that half-second of time.
batting rally starting,” which is nipped at the beginning by a double play that cuts off the two budding runs ! “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” the lilting little line written in the score so many times when the great Chicago Cubs were winning four pennants and three World Championships, was possible, and became famous, for no other reason than
that Evers and Tinker—as clever a second base
man and short-stop as ever played the game—are both like wildcats in their quickness, both alert, aggressive, and hungry for work, and both pastmasters of the art of “playing the ball.” Consider the diagram in Fig. 4. Devore is on first, Snodgrass is at bat. The score is a tie, the inning the ninth, one out, and one run wins the game for New York. Snodgrass hits a swift ground ball which goes leaping and bounding over the turf. The infield has been playing deep, expecting a hit-out rather than a bunt. Tinker runs lightly in, but very swiftly, watching the ball, and calculating to a nicety just how many times it will bound, where it will bound, and where he will meet it. He knows that the least “wobble” will mean a man on second or third, and still only one out. What he wants is, “no one on and—every one out !” So he cuts in on the ball and saves, perhaps, half a second. He meets the ball, scoops it up, and whirls it over to Evers, who has lost no time getting on second base. The scooped ball is a little to Evers's right-hand side; Tinker is an artist. It is n't too hard for Evers to meet with both bare hand and glove at once, it is n’t so hard a throw as to make a muff probable, yet it is swift—for those precious pieces of seconds that Tinker has saved by “playing the ball” and not waiting for it to “play him,” must be utilized. Evers, getting the ball on his right side, has no need to move his arm far; he steps on the bag, turns his body, and the ball flies straight for Chance's mit, for Chance has covered first with the crack of the bat. Twice the umpire waves a thumb over his shoulder—“Out—out,” he calls, mits are unexcitedly thrown on the ground, the Cubs come to bat and have another chance to win, and “Tinker to Evers to Chance” appears in the box score under the heading “double play.” Had Tinker waited at A in the diagram for the ball to come to him, his half-second would have been lost, Devore would have slid in under his throw to Evers, and Evers's throw might well have landed in Chance's mit after Snodgrass had crossed the bag; and then there would have been two on and still but one out, and there would have been no “Tinker to Evers to Chance” in the box score The great Cub machine is not what it once was. Chance, the “Peerless Leader” has had to retire from active work, head trouble, due to being hit by pitched balls, making it impossible for him to stand the strain and heat of play. Nevertheless, “Tinker to Evers to Saier” appears reasonably often in the box score at that. And the Philadelphia Athletics, with their stars at short and second, are establishing a catch-line of their own. While “Barry to Collins to McInnis' lacks the lilting measure of the older, more famous, line, it is very much to the point—indeed, “Fletcher to Doyle to Merkle” is a frequent score phrase !
But whenever such a phrase appears, some one has “played the ball” instead of letting it “play him.” Had the first man to get an assist in the double play waited for the ball, there would have been no double play to tell about. Hence it behooves all young infielders who study this diagram to study also the multitude of plays of which it is a type, and learn to judge the bounding ball, and meet it and play it as soon as it is possible to do so, never forgetting for an instant that every second means at least twenty feet for a tearing base-runner; that a quarter of a second clipped from the time in which the ball is played means five feet. The time has gone by, and long ago, when an outfielder was merely a human ball-basket and catapult. Mere ability to catch fly balls, gallop over the turf and turn drives into outs, and then line the ball back to the diamond, even, with a strong throwing arm, to the plate, is not enough. Nor does adding a batting record of more than .300 to fielding and throwing ability make a player into a real outfielder—a Cobb, a Wheat, a Speaker, a Magee, a Milan, a Clarke, a Lewis, a Schulte. It takes more than batting, fielding, and throwing to make a real outfielder. It takes a head Look at the records of the great outfielders now playing the game, and you will see just what a quick brain means in outfielding. Oh, yes, we must start with Cobb The player who led the world at the bat, in 1911, and his league, in twobase hits, three-base hits, greatest number of runs, and most stolen bases, can hardly be mentioned second to any other outfielder Cobb had the greatest number of put-outs of all outfielders in the American League last year. Now there are other outfielders who are just as sure and certain judges of fly balls as Cobb—a number have higher fielding percentages. But Cobb adds to his speed instant judgment, and a splendid knowledge of batters; and he got the put-out record, regardless of the number of games played, solely on those things—judgment (head-work)
Murphy, of Philadelphia, had the greatest number of assists: thirty-four for 1911. Incidentally, Murphy is captain of the Athletics this year, the veteran Davis being now manager for Cleveland. It may be stated that Connie Mack does n't pick the least brainy of his outfielders for his field captain
Milan, of Washington, had thirty-three assists for the year, and was second only to Cobb in the number of put-outs he had to his credit—347. But Milan's fielding percentage for the year is the same as that of Cobb, and he was second in his league in the number of stolen bases, getting
doing the stunts which require heads as well as feet and arms, and to lend a point to the base-ball incident illustrated in Fig. 5. This particular incident, moreover, shows one play in which Cobb was both outguessed and outplayed—and those incidents, it must be stated, happen but rarely to the wonderful player generally conceded to be the equal, if not the superior, of any man who ever played the game. Cobb was on first base, Crawford at bat, one out. It is a bad combination for the team on the defensive. Crawford has a mighty bat, and mighty arms, and many, many mighty hits are stored in both ! The outfielders play deep for him, usually. This particular day he sent a slashing single to left of center. Milan, center-fielder for the Washington team, galloped over and
grabbed the ball after a bound or so, and turned to throw to hold Cobb at second. But he saw that Cobb had turned second, already taken a lead, and was facing the outfield. Milan knew what was going to happen. Cobb was going to “sprint” for third the instant he, Milan, let the ball go. So he made a bluff throw. That is, he motioned, but did n't throw. Cobb laughed, and danced back a little toward second. His eye is too quick and his intelligence too keen to be fooled like that. So Milan inched in and toward left field a little, and bluffed again, this time toward second base; and Cobb increased his lead. Four times they went through this performance, Cobb seeming to dare Milan to throw to either base, Milan angling in and toward left field, seeming to dare Cobb to sprint. Of course Milan could have thrown to third at any time and thus have made Cobb retreat to second or try to beat the ball. But Milan did n't want to. He is rightly proud of a throwing arm which has few equals, and while acknowledging Cobb as a great player, he did n't exactly feel that his arm should be made a mock of in that style ! So he held his throw and angled always in and toward left field. You can see in the diagram how he did it—he started from A with the crack of the bat, went to B and got the ball, then loafed over to E, and finally to F, while Cobb, who had come from C to D with the hit, was increasing his lead toward third, going to G, and finally to H. And there they stood: the great base-runner almost half-way to third; a great outfielder trying to outguess him. And he did, too ! Cobb was a little too daring with the throwing arm that Milan wields. Cobb suddenly started for third, like a shot. But Milan threw, and the ball beat the runner, and in the midst of a cloud of dust, little Kid Elberfeld, at third, was seen jabbing a ball on the ribs of the famous runner | Cobb went to the bench, “out,” amid the noisiest demonstration from the stands ever heard in Washington— greater than when a game is won 1 It was brains that created that contest; brains which gave Milan thirty-three assists from the outfield in a year, and brains in Cobb which dares so great a chance, and “gets away with it” nine times out of ten. If he always got away with it, he would n’t be human | That he does it so often makes him the great player he is. And the “fine points” of playing the outfield— far beyond the mere mechanical ability to run, judge flies, catch them in spite of the handicaps of wind and sun, to throw cleanly, accurately, quickly, and strongly—are found in the brains and the wit, the keenness, of those men whose playing the outfield positions has made them famous. Not only in outguessing the runner, but in knowledge of the batter and the effect of the pitch, are outfield brains shown. Cobb's 376 putouts in 1911 came as much from his deep study of every batter—his knowledge of how they would be likely to hit each sort of pitched ball, and where it would most likely be hit—as from his speed and skill. Study the batters who play against you; study your own pitchers and what they pitch; learn which man bats an in-curve to right field and which to left; where he bats outcurves and straight balls; and then, knowing what is to be pitched, place yourself so that the hit, if made, will be but a single, and the seemingly safe line drive one of many unexpected and brilliant outfield put-outs. That, too, is playing the game !
It is not expected that you can emulate all that Cobb, or Milan, or Wheat, or Speaker does in the
outfield. Neither in mechanical ability, in knowledge of the game, or in completeness of knowledge of batters, can you really compete with men who make a business of what to you is play. But you can try steadily to make of your play something besides mere mechanical brilliance—something besides a mere catching of the ball and returning it to the base ahead of the runner. In playing the outfield, strive to outguess the runner, and get as many assists to your credit as you can ; and even if most of them result merely because the runner tries to stretch a single into a double, a double into a triple, or a triple into a home run, now and then will come the chance to outguess and outwit the batsman, and then you can feel exultant in the thought that you, too, like Milan and Cobb, have played the game with brains and with wit as well as strength and skill.
THE LIMITATIONS OF KNOWLEDGE NO TALKING SHOP