Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting ready for the home opener, 1924

As the Seattle Indians came off a disaster of an opening road trip, going 3-10 in a swing through Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, they got some good news concerning aging starter Vean Gregg (who would parlay his season that year into a brief return to the majors). Gregg was one of the last pitchers, and maybe the final across the major and minor levels of professional MLB-associated ball,  to be granted a waiver to use a spitball (although the last pitcher to legally throw a spitball in an MLB game was Burleigh Grimes in 1934, not sure about the minors). I don't see Gregg's name on the list of pitchers at the MLB level who were legally allowed to continue throwing the spitter after Ray Chapman's death in 1920. That may have been purposeful, I would have to look into his signing in the off season to see if it was an issue. That may have hampered his return to the majors at age 40.

One of the more interesting features of this article is its descriptions of the players' reactions to playing at Bonneville Park in Salt Lake City. I've never seen exact dimensions on that stadium as it was in the 1920's, but it's interesting to read into the strategy and frustration players had there. The photo to the left is from the J. G. Preston Experience blog. Judging from the height of the players in the outfield, the left field wall was not only close in, but quite high. Looking at the manager Red Killefer's remarks below, the strategy employed by the hitters makes complete sense. Tony Lazzeri, the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season, must have had some opposite field power to swat the ball over that size of a fence. Ray Rowher and Jim Welsh both homered in the Salt Lake series, Welsh four times, and both were left handed batters. Sam Crane and Earl 'Red' Baldwin each had homer's as right handed batters, and the game narrative indicates Crane's was over the left field wall. Certainly, it seems that the Bees' hitters knew how to use the wall to create doubles. The thing I found most interesting was the large number of putouts by the catchers in every game, rather than the first baseman. There must have been a large area behind home plate which allowed catchers a better chance to catch popups. The catchers for Seattle were credited with 39 putouts for the SLC series out of a possible 150 (that may be off if someone took first on a K, and even with a tag or the occasional out at home, that still means a lot of popups, so why??? I ask....and SLC went to their half of the ninth only 2 of the 6 games, so that's 39 putouts by a catcher in 50 innings [x 3 outs]). That's fully 26% of possible outs made by the catcher.

Finally, the article also mentions the nifty new uniforms given out by team trainer Adolph Schacht. He was Athletic Director at the Seattle Elks Club by 1918, trainer for the Indians, refereed boxing matches for over 20 years in the Seattle area, and was, by at least 1933, also the trainer for the Chicago White Sox, though he maintained a home in West Seattle, and acted as a trainer in the off-season for the West Seattle Athletic Club. Schacht died in January of 1942, just as he was getting ready for the White Sox spring training that year in Pasadena. Follow that last link to read the story, which details some of his experiences in and involvement in Seattle baseball and athletics in general. The article refers to Jumbo Elliott's one year with the Seattle Indians, 1926, where he went 26-20, throwing 367 innings with a 2.55 ERA.

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