The daffodils are popping up through the mossy ground outside my rain soaked patio. It’s rained so much this winter that the concrete out there has a slight green hue, one that is more rooted in water as its creator the other green in the yard, but make no mistake it is green out there and green and mid February means one thing, spring and spring means three things for me, one is playoff hockey, two is less rain and three is of course the beginning of baseball…. and with that comes so much more. Games to watch, players to follow, teams to surprise, disappoint and then there’s fantasy ball, Strat-to-matic, box scores and coffee, box scores and beer, west coast games, east coast games, Patriots day game at the dawn of crack on the left coast. There’s a bevy of things to ponder, the Rays, not the Devils Rays, the Nationals new park, all sorts of stuff that is not steroid related…. So if you’re looking for that try Google, they’re good at that sort of thing.
Spring of course starts with images, we as fans all have them, they lull us to sleep or through the day in the long dark hours of winter (and it’s dark up here in Portland, much darker than California where I lived for 20 years, but not as bad as Michigan where I cut my teeth as a child) anyway back to images… in the past (when ballplayers were not rich as crap compared to the average Joe) spring was a time when out of shape men who worked as salesmen or on a farm all winter came to together to hone their skills and bodies back into shape. Often the ways were primitive but hey…. Branch Rickey didn’t invent the sliding pit until 1914.. and for years that was considered odd, the game was about timing most of the time and not pulling muscles, vitamin drinks were mostly malt and hops based and rye was another popular body cleanser, but as we saw on TV last week, putting things in ones body has changed the game and the way it’s perceived.
So as camp begins the game is attempting to recapture some of the wonder that make sit better theater between the lines then in the courtroom. Like the players of yesteryear I am out of baseball shape, writing wise that is, so I’m breaking out the training materials and getting back in the cage to take some swings at the game and spring and nothing brings out the minutia like some spring photos.
With Arizona pushing hard for teams these days it’s hard to believe that Florida let their reign as Spring Training capital take such a hit. Back in the Bouton era it was pretty much Shangri La compared ot the desert. They even had nifty ads in The Sporting News.
Back in 1916, the great war of the day was engulfing Europe and eating up the thoughts of all of America and the press. But once spring came often these reports and thoughts were diverted to the grand old game.
As mentioned before primitive is a kind word for the training tools of the game back then, take this photo below of the old “medicine ball” routine at the Giants camp, note the bulky sweaters and the two ball movement they have going. It’s a wonderful shot of an ear deader then radio dramas.
Even richer is the participants, on the right is Christy Mathewson, several months prior to be traded to the Reds and being installed as manager. In the middle is John McGraw, legend…. What else need be said at this time? On the left is who one would term as the “Nobody” in this photo…but further examination would reveal that it was Rube Benton ( a collective gasp is heard as everyone again says… WHO?)
Rube Benton, pitcher…a man who began and ended his career with the Reds, and is still ranked as one of the teams biggest work horses. Rube is 1 of 24 Reds hurlers to throw over 300 innings in a season and he’s 17th in modern team history in innings thrown with 1504. Making it even more of a rarity is that Rube was a left hander, making him 1 of only 4 lefties to top 300 IP for the Reds in a season.
Some would say he’s just another pitching footnote in Reds team history, Rube was a league average pitcher in an era that rewarded superstar pitchers, it’s no wonder some would think that, it’s the same argument I’ve used against Tom Browning, who also was a league average hurler in an era that rewarded superstar pitchers greatly (not as much as the Deadball era)
INNINGS PITCHED YEAR IP RSAA 1 Noodles Hahn 1901 375.1 24 2 Pete Schneider 1917 342 22 3 Fred Toney 1917 340 14 4 Bob Ewing 1907 333 23 5 Dolf Luque 1923 322 66 6 Noodles Hahn 1902 321 47 7 Bucky Walters 1939 319 58 8 Orval Overall 1905 318 11 9 Ed Scott 1900 315 -17 10 Eppa Rixey 1922 313 11 11 Bob Ewing 1905 312 22 12 Noodles Hahn 1900 311.1 3 13 Eppa Rixey 1923 309 34 14 Paul Derringer 1938 307 24 T15 Jake Weimer 1906 305 31 T15 Bucky Walters 1940 305 42 17 Dolf Luque 1921 304 13 18 George Suggs 1912 303 5 T19 Rube Benton 1912 302 -1 T19 Bucky Walters 1941 302 22 T21 Pete Donohue 1925 301 31 T21 Eppa Rixey 1921 301 33 T21 Paul Derringer 1939 301 33 24 Fred Toney 1916 300 11 INNINGS PITCHED IP RSAA 1 Eppa Rixey 2890 174 2 Dolf Luque 2669 182 3 Paul Derringer 2616 102 4 Bucky Walters 2355 160 5 Joe Nuxhall 2171 53 6 Johnny Vander Meer 2027 48 7 Bob Ewing 2021.1 116 8 Pete Donohue 1996 34 9 Tom Browning 1911 -15 10 Jim Maloney 1819 115 11 Red Lucas 1769 53 12 Mario Soto 1730.1 54 13 Noodles Hahn 1678.1 147 14 Gary Nolan 1657 109 15 Bob Purkey 1588 78 16 Jim O'Toole 1561 47 17 Rube Benton 1504.2 5
When Bob Howsam took over the Reds he was surprised at the lack of quality materials the organization possessed, the office was thin in resources and the team itself was still in the dark ages in some of the training aspects they employed. This photo below is an example of what the Reds were working with in 1966, meanwhile the Dodgers had Dodgertown.
Man… times have changed… and spring is an event in two corners of the country now, because baseball is back.
Just in time.