EDDIE WELLS: Back then, slugger, you had a whole lot more fastball pitchers than you have today. I mean, they were fast. Good mercy. Waite Hoyt -- he had one of those high, hard ones. I was one of them. Lefty Gomez, Bob Feller, Wes Ferrell, Ted Lyons. Overhand high-hardball pitchers. You don't see that now. It's low, low and away. You got those sinkers, that's what they have now. We called it a two-bit curve.
Now, Walter Johnson, he only had one pitch. He was up there twenty-two years and it was twenty years before he had anything besides a fastball. His biggest worry was hitting someone. He wore a size fifteen shoe, was six-foot-two, and he could stand up straight and the tips of his fingers would touch his kneecaps. That's how long Walter Johnson's arms were.
There was some good hitters then. Now, this is funny. Remember Eddie Collins of the White Sox? Second baseman, lefthanded hitter. He was always chewing gum. Every time he come to the plate, he'd take the gum out of his mouth and put it on top of his cap. Good luck, you know. I could never get him out. He was always good for three or four hits off me. Another one was Al Simmons of Philadelphia. His real name was Szymanski. Doggone, I couldn't get him out either.
We had some good ball players on Detroit: Johnny Neun, Heinie Manush, Harry Heilmann, Earl Whitehill. Lu Blue was one of the finest first basemen in the big leagues. And Bob Fothergill -- he was that line-drive hitter. Hit nothing but line drives. George Dauss was a very good pitcher. He had that fadeaway. He was a prince of a fellow. Most of these boys are dead.
» Noun's unassisted triple play, one of only nine in major-league history, occurred at Navin Field on May 31, 1927, in the ninth inning of a game won by Detroit, 1-0. Ironically, the previous day Chicago Cubs shortstop Johnny Cooney had accomplished the same feat against Pittsburgh. Neun had read newspaper accounts of Cooney's triple play before taking the field against Cleveland and was well aware of its rarity. Neun could easily have tossed the ball to shortstop Jackie Tavener, who was standing on second base awaiting the throw, for the third out. Instead, he waved off his teammate and outraced the lumbering Glenn Myatt to the bag to complete the triple play, incredibly yelling, "I'm running into the Hall of Fame!" |
Johnny Neun ... I saw him make an unassisted triple play once against Cleveland. There were men on first and second and Homer Summa hit a line drive right along the line. It went right into his glove. All he had to do was touch Charlie Jamieson, who was on first. Two out. Then the man who was on second -- Glen Myatt -- was rounding third. Johnny Neun trots down to second and touches the base. You could hear him all over the park: "Triple play unassisted! Triple play unassisted!"
You know, Earl Whitehill was killed in an automobile accident out near his home years ago. Whitehill was a lefthander. He had a crackerjack of a curveball. Later he went to Washington, won twenty-two games, and pitched them into a World Series. He didn't talk very much. Clean-cut fella. He was from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I never will forget, about 1925 I was rooming with Whitey in the Fort-Shelby Hotel. It was the middle of July and he was really winning some ball games. Frank Navin called him out to the ballpark one morning, and when he came back he was all smiles. He said, "Ed, look at this." He got a check for one thousand dollars, a bonus. Man, a thousand dollars. He'd like to have passed out. That was a lot of money. That sure was.
Could you imagine how much money Ty Cobb would make today? Good God! And Babe Ruth. Whoooo! Dave Winfield makes a million and a half a year. Good mercy.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.