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I woak y hitting ccessir!
twirler. You must remember that all the players Most of the base-ball population of the town on this team were grown men-several of them, gathered to see me get my tryout, and I pitched as I have said, with whiskers on their faces, and for two hours, while the critics stood around and roly-poly bodies--but I had always looked up watched me closely, to discover what I could do. to them as idols. When the team could find no They sent their best batters up to face the curves
I was throwing, and I was "putting everything that I had on the ball." After a full hour's dress rehearsal, and when, at last, I “fanned" out the captain of the team, he came up, slapped me on the back, and said:
“You 'll do. We want you to pitch this afternoon."
That, I am sure, was the very proudest day of my life. We had to drive ten miles to the opponent's town, and all the other boys watched me leave with the men. And you can imagine my pride while I
1 watched them, they stood on one foot and then the other, nudging one another and saying, “Husk’ is going to play with the men !" They called "Husk" in those days.
a big jump upward for me, and I would hardly look at the other youngsters I climbed into the carriage with the captain. If the full truth were told, however, I felt almost "all in" after the hard session I had been through in the morning.
I can remember the score of that game yet, probably because it was such an important event in my life. Our team gained the vic
tory by the count of 19 to 17 "I PITCHED FOR TWO HOURS, WHILE THE CRITICS STOOD AROUND."
- and largely by a bitof good pitcher, some one remarked to the captain : "That luck that befell me. With my hands awkwardly Mathewson kid can pitch pretty well." But the crossed on the bat, as usual, I just happened to backers of the team and the other players were swing where the ball was coming once, when the skeptical, and, like men who come from Missouri, bases were full, and I knocked it over the left"wanted to be shown." So they told me to come fielder's head. That lucky hit won the game; down on the main street in Factoryville the next and that was really my start in base-ball. morning, which was Saturday, the day of the This happened toward the end of the summer game-and take a "tryout.” The captain was there. season; and in the fall I went to the Keystone
"We want to see what you 've got," said he. Academy, after having completed the public
with: he cou? oth 17? a vist
school course, there being no high school in Fac- mer, I pitched for the Factoryville team, until it toryville at that time.
disbanded in August, which left me no place to I played on the Keystone team during my first play ball. And, remember, at that time I still would year at the academy, but I was still young, and rather play ball than eat, and, big, growing boy they thought that it was up to some older boy to that I was, I was decidedly fond of eating ! pitch, so I covered second base. I was playing But one fine day, the captain of a team belongball with boys sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen ing to a town about five miles away came to me years old at this time, and I was only fourteen. and asked if I would pitch for his nine.
The next year, however, I was captain of the “We 'll give you a dollar a game !" he said in team, and pitched (the natural result of being conclusion. elected captain, as any of my readers know who “What! How much ?" I asked, in amazement, may have led base-ball clubs !). While I was the because it was such fun for me to play ball, then, captain of this team, I hit upon a brilliant idea, that the idea of being paid for it struck me as which really was n't original, but which the other "finding money." boys believed to be, and so it amounted to the “A dollar a game," he repeated; "but you 'll same thing. When we were playing a weak team, have to walk over, or catch a ride on I put some one else into the box to pitch, and wagon." covered second base myself, to "strengthen the There was no trolley route connecting the two in-field.” We had a couple of boys on the team villages then. I told him he need n't mind how I who-like certain twirlers in every league - could got there, but that I would certainly come. pitch, but could n't bat or play any other position. So, for a time, I went regularly over to the I caught this idea from reading an article in a other town-Factoryville's old rival--and pitched newspaper about McGraw and the Baltimore every Saturday; and often I had to walk both "Orioles." I worshiped him in those days, little ways. But they always gave me my dollar, which thinking that I should ever know him; and it was was a satisfactory consolation and a good antibeyond my fondest dreams that I should ever play dote for foot-weariness. By this time, I was far ball for him.
ahead of boys of my own age, in pitching, and I was still batting cross-handed on the Key- was “showing them how to pitch," and rather restone team; but, in pitching, I had good control garding them as my inferiors, as any boy will, over my out-curve, which was effective against after he has played with men. the other boys. During the vacation of that sum- In 1898, I was graduated from Keystone Acad
emy, and as I had played foot-ball there, and was still playing with teams whose members were all a big, husky, country kid, I was regarded as a much older than I. And that was the second opdesirable student by several colleges, and urged portunity to pitch that came to me through a by friends at the University of Pennsylvania and "break in the luck," as ball-players say. by others at Lafayette College to enter one of At midsummer of that year, I went to Honesthose institutions of learning. But I finally de
But I finally de- dale, Pennsylvania, where I was given twenty cided to go to Bucknell.
dollars a month and my board, to pitch for the During that summer, I happened to be in team there. This seemed to me then a princely Scranton, Pennsylvania, soon after school closed. salary, and I began to speak of "T. P. Morgan It looked a big city to me then, and the buildings and me." seemed to be very high. As I was only there for In 1898, I matriculated at Bucknell, and played the day, I made up my mind that I would make foot-ball there. It was then a college of less than sure of seeing the Y. M. C. A. team play ball, two hundred male students, but the class of men which it did every Saturday. At the hour ap- was generally high. The next summer I went pointed for the game, I was sitting in the grand back to Honesdale, after having played on the stand munching peanuts, when it was suddenly Bucknell base-ball team. And, in the middle of discovered that the Y. M. C. A. pitcher was miss- the season, I was offered ninety dollars a month ing, and they began to look around for some one to pitch in the New England League, a salary to twirl.
which turned out to be only on paper, for the One of their players, it seems, had seen me
Taunton club disbanded before I was ever paid, pitch in Factoryville, and, having recognized me and I received only an occasional five or ten dolin the stand, he went up to the captain of the lars, which promptly went to the landlady. team, and said: “There 's a kid up there who can Honescale proved to be an important mile-post pitch."
in my base-ball journey. Two things I learned "Where 's he from?" asked the captain. during my stay there, and both have been of great “Factoryville," replied my friend.
value to me. First, and most momentous, I dis"I don't think he'll do,” said the captain. covered the rudiments of “the fadeaway”; and, “Those small-town pitchers don't make good second, I stopped batting cross-handed. This corwhen they stack up against real ball teams. But rection of my hitting style was the result of ridiI 'll remember him, and I may have to try him if cule. I was very large by this time-almost as the regular pitcher does n't show up."
big as I am now-and when I came up to the bat, The regular pitcher did n't "show up," and the with the wrong hand on top, and swung at the
“ result was that the two players came over to me, ball, I looked awkward. The players on the other some ten minutes later, where I was still munch- teams and the spectators began to laugh at me ing peanuts in eager anticipation of the game, and “guy" me. “Look at that big kid trying to and began a conversation in this wise:
hit the ball!” they would shout as I missed one. "Can you pitch ?" the captain asked me.
I made up my mind to change my style, and I "A little," I replied.
started to try to hit with the right hand on top, “Want to work for us this afternoon?"
standing up to the plate right-handed. It was I was startled. Then, “Sure I do!" I exclaimed, very hard for me at first, and for a long time I and promptly climbed down over the front of the could n't hit nearly as well that way as I could stand, leaving quite three cents' worth of peanuts with my hands crossed; but I stuck to the new on the seat, which was no compliment to my natu- style, knowing that it would be a big improveral country thrift, and indicated that I was ex- ment in the end. I had batted the other way so cited. They handed me a uniform, very much long that it was hard for me to correct it. That too big for me, the one that the regular pitcher is the reason I advise all boys with a tendency to usually wore, and as I was putting it on in the hold a bat with the wrong hand on top to change dressing-room, I began to wonder if the job would immediately, because the longer they keep on hitbe as much too large. When I came out and the ting in that way, the harder it will be for them to crowd got a look at me, everybody began to ask adopt a new style. No one will ever be a hitter, who the big country boy was, with the misfit uni- swinging in this awkward manner, because the form.
hands cannot guide the bat accurately. Since I But I "had something" that day, and struck changed my batting form, I have developed into out fifteen men.
a fair-hitting pitcher. "You're a pitcher !" said the captain to me In Honesdale, there was a left-handed pitcher after the game, and he ordered a uniform made named Williams who could throw an out-curve to to fit me. I was seventeen at that time, and was a right-handed batter. Now the natural curve
for a left-handed pitcher is the in-curve to a in base-ball circles as “Phenom John” Smith, right-handed batter, and Williams simply exhib- came around to see me. He was an old pitcher, ited this curve as a sort of “freak” delivery, in and had picked up the name of "Phenomenal practice, over which he had no control. He (shortened to “Phenom") John” in his palmy showed the ball to me, and told me how he threw days in the box. He had been the manager of it, and I began to wonder why a right-handed the Portland club in the New England League pitcher could n't master this delivery, thus getting during the previous season, and had seen an in-curve to a right-handed batter on a slow pitch with the Taunton nine. ball, which surely seemed desirable. Williams “Mathewson," he said to me, “I 'm going to pitched this ball with the same motion that he Norfolk in the Virgina League, to manage the used in throwing his in-curve, but turned his club next season, and I 'll give you a steady job hand over and snapped his wrist as he let the at eighty dollars a month. I know that your conball go. He could never tell where it was going tract called for ninety dollars last season, but you to break, and therefore it was of no use to him in will surely get this money, as the club has suba game. He once played a few games in one of stantial backing." the Big Leagues, but lasted only a short time. I signed the contract then and there. The colHe did n't have enough control over this freak leges were n't as strict about their men playing ball to make it deceptive, and, as far as the rest summer ball at that time. Now I would advise a of his curves were concerned, he was only a boy who has exceptional ability as a ball-player, mediocre pitcher.
to sign no contracts, and to take no money for But it was here that I learned the rudiments of playing, until he has finished college. Then, if he the fadeaway, and I began to practise them with cares to go into professional base-ball, all right. great diligence, recognizing the value of the "I 'm going out to see you play foot-ball this curve. I also started to pitch drop balls while I afternoon," said Smith, as he put the contract in was in Honesdale, and mixed these up with my his pocket. fast one and the “old roundhouse curve." I only I was lucky that day, and kicked two field goals used the drop when the situation was serious, as against Pennsylvania, which was considered to be that was my very best, and a surprise for all the a great showing for a team from a small college, batters.' Few pitchers in that set, indeed, had a in an early season game, regarded almost as drop ball.
practice contest. Field goals counted more thenThe part of the summer with the Taunton team five points each-and there were few men in the apparently did me little good, beyond teaching country who were good drop-kickers. Hudson, me the style of base-ball played in the New Eng- the Carlisle Indian, was about the only other of land League, and proving to me that there is my time. Those two field goals helped to temper sometimes a great difference between the salary our defeat, and we lost by about 20 to 1o, I think. named in a contract and that received. When I got back to the hotel, “Phenom John" was matter of fact, however, that portion of a season there again. spent in the New England League was going to "You played a great game this afternoon," he have a great influence on my future, although I said to me, "and, because I liked the way in which could not foresee it at the time.
you kicked those two field goals, I 'm going to I returned to Bucknell in the fall, where I make your salary ninety dollars instead of eighty played full-back on the foot-ball team; and, oddly dollars.” enough, I was much better known as a foot-ball He took the contract, already signed, out of his player at this time than as an exponent of base- pocket, and raised my pay ten dollars a month ball. Probably this was because I developed some before I had ever pitched a ball for him! That ability as a drop-kicker, and, at college, foot-ball contract is framed in Norfolk now, or rather it was considered decidedly the more important was when I last visited the city with the “Giants" sport. Moreover, I received poor support on the on a spring-training trip. The old figures remain, college base-ball team; and no pitcher can win with the erasure of the eighty and the correction games when his men don't field well behind him, of ninety just as “Phenom John" made them with or when they refuse to bat in any runs.
his fountain-pen. In the fall of 1899, the Bucknell foot-ball team As you will easily believe, I went back to Buckwent down to Philadelphia to play the University nell very much pleased with myself, with two of Pennsylvania eleven, and this proved to be one field goals to my credit in foot-ball, and in my of the most important trips that I ever took. pocket a contract to play base-ball for ninety dolWhile our players were waiting around the hotel lars a month. in the morning, a man named John Smith, known The rest of my Minor League record is brief.
Then, if ail right Ot-balta contract
I went to Norfolk the next summer, and won tunity to "break into the Big League"—the dream twenty-one games, out of twenty-three, for the of my life. Only one year before, I had stood team. And on a certain day in the midsummer of outside the players' gate at the Polo Grounds, on
my way to Taunton, and had lingered to watch Amos Rusie, the great pitcher of the Giants, make his exit, so that I could see what he looked like in his street clothes, and also contribute a little hero-worship in the way of cheers. Now I was going to be a member of a Big-League club myself!
“I 'll let you know in a couple of days," I told Smith, in reply to his question about my choice of the two clubs.
Then I began to study the list of pitchers with each team. The Giants were vastly different organization then from that of to-day, and were usually found near the bottom of the list toward the end of the season. But they were in need of pitchers, and so I decided that, if I went with New York, I, a youngster, would have
a better chance to pitch regularly. They had n't much to lose by making a thorough trial of me, and they might give me an opportunity to work, was the way I reasoned it out.
“I 'd like to go to New York," I told Smith; and, needless to say, I have never regretted my decision.
That is how I became a Big-League pitcher, in the middle of the summer of
1900, at the age of nineteen "I PROMPTLY CLIMBED DOWN OVER THE FRONT OF THE STAND."
years. George Davis (SEE PAGE 609.)
the manager of the New
York club at the time, and 1900, “Phenom John” Smith came up to me, smil- the first thing he did when I reported for duty ing in the friendliest way.
was to summon me for morning practice. “Matty," he began, “I've never regretted chang- “Now," he said, “I 'm going to order all our ing that contract after it was signed. You have fellows to go up to the bat, and I want you to played good ball for me, and now I have a chance throw everything you 've got." to sell you to either the New York National He started off himself, and I was League club or the Philadelphia club. Which enough, facing the manager of a Big-League team would you rather be with ?"
team for my tryout. I shot over my fast one This came to me as a great surprise, the oppor- first, and I had a lot of speed in those days.
ore the jeg in
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