Thursday, October 16, 2008

Baseball Making of a Big Leaguer 3

Baseball Making of a Big Leaguer 3The American Magazine. Published by Crowell-Collier Pub. co., 1913. Item notes: v.76 1913 Jul-Dec. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Feb 5, 2008

Text by High S. Fullerton. Illustrations by G. P. Hoskins
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The Story of One of the Great Ball Players of the Country as Told by Himself to •
Hugh S. Fullerton With only one week of training, The move confused the catcher, the ball hit the edge of his mitt, the runner reached second, and scored when I cracked out a hit . Illustrations by G. P. Hoskins

With two boys batting the runner in One, Two, Three has little chance to reach the plate unless the fellow at bat gives him a chance. If Wiggle reached tirst I would poke my bat at the ball, not intending to hit it, but to confuse the catcher and let my partner get around the bags. Then he would do the same for me.

One of the greatest triumphs of my life was the day Wiggle and I took the bat at the start of recess and held it for half an hour without being put out. This triumph was greater than it seems to you, for Wiggle and I were "Country Jakes," and the chief reason that I became a ball player was that I desired to show the town boys a "Jake"
could play.

When I was fourteen years old the town team chose me as right fielder for the First Nine. It was proof that they regarded me as a good player, but even better proof that the manager did not know much about the game. In fact he did not. He was manager because he had collected the money to buy the uniforms. I muffed three easy flies in the first game and was heart-broken until the town paper praised me.

Evidently they didn't expect right fielders to catch fly balls. I often have wished for a critic like that. He spoke in glowing terms of the two runs I scored and neglected to mention the muffs, even in the error column.

Two weeks later we were going to play the return game in a rival town. The shortstop's "Paw" wouldn't let him stop thinning the corn, so they found another right fielder, put me at short, and forced my life's vocation upon me. Besides, I pitched the last three innings and, as we won 28 to 5, I became a hero.

Father came near spoiling a great ball player right then. He told me he didn't want any more of that ball playing foolishness except at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I hoed corn most of that season. I played a couple of games in the fall and a few more in the spring. I was pitcher and Wiggle catcher for the first town nine and, just for fun, we organized the Country Jake team to play the town boys. It was that game that made me a big league player.

We were pressed for players to fill the Jake team. Father had a hired man named Ned, a tall, quiet fellow with a pair of blue eyes that seemed always about to laugh but seldom did. He had been with us a year. He got drunk periodically, and after each spree Father hunted him up and brought him back to work. We asked him to play with us, and he laughed and said he reckoned he would try to play first base if "Paw" would let him off. I fixed it with Father, and Ned played first barehanded, making catches and stops that filled us with astonishment. Also he made five home runs, two into the railroad pond and three into the barn lot back of left field. Walking home that evening he told me he had played ball professionally, yet it was not until two years later that I learned he once had been a famous outfielder with a great team.

ED took much interest in our base- ball after that. Often, when we were resting while the horses finished their dinner, he would say, "Want to show me some more about that game, Jimmy?" and then proceed to show me how it should be played. Under his teaching I advanced rapidly and, at fifteen, was shortstop, change pitcher and change catcher for the town team.

I knew more baseball than any of the others, and was trying to teach them the things shown me by Old Ned (he was thirty-nine then, his career ended, money gone, and a farmhand). Whether Ned noticed natural aptitude in me or not is not certain. He coached me carefully, and seldom failed to be on hand when we played a match game. Our village was within one hundred miles of Cincinnati, and we commenced to read baseball in the papers.

Ren Mulford was my authority. Often Ned would sit with me at night explaining plays or, more likely, reading the story of the game and telling me not only what the players had done, but what they were trying to do. The American Magazine

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