Remembering 'Old Hoss' Radbourn

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Remembering 'Old Hoss' Radbourn

I've been in the journalism profession for more than 50 years so I wasn't surprised when a couple of readerscritics called me to task for presumably overlooking Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn in my survey of the greatest high school baseball players ever produced in Illinois.I didn't overlook Radbourn. Neither did I overlook players such as Rickey Henderson, Fred Lynn, Lonnie Smith and Bret Saberhagen, who were born in Illinois but left before they enrolled in high school.In hindsight, I should have listed Radbourn, a Hall of Famer, with Joe McGinnity, another Hall of Famer, as my second-tier pitching choices behind two other Hall of Famers of more modern vintage who established bigger reputations, Red Ruffing and Robin Roberts.But Radbourn was a product of the underhand pitching era. It is reported that he threw overhand only occasionally. The 5-foot-9, 168-pounder threw a fastball, screwball, sinker, slow curve and dry spitter. His career was over in 1891. He died in 1897 at age 42 of paresis or perhaps brain damage caused by syphilis.He was a fascinating and tragic story. Born in New York, his family moved to Bloomington, Illinois, where he played semipro and minor league baseball before making his major league debut with the Buffalo Bisons in 1880. A butcher by trade, there is no evidence that he ever played high school baseball.In his 12-year career with Buffalo, the Providence Grays, Boston Beaneaters, Boston Reds and Cincinnati Reds, he posted a 309-194 record with a 2.68 earned run average and 1,830 strikeouts.In 1894, he recorded a season for the ages, an achievement that hasn't been approached since and likely never will. He won 59 games, most ever in a single season, and lost 12, finished all 73 of his starts, had 11 shutouts, pitched 678 23 innings, struck out 441 and had an ERA of 1.38.In 1939, he was among 10 players who were inducted in major league baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Also included in the fourth class of inductees in baseball's shrine were Lou Gehrig, Eddie Collins, Wee Willie Keeler, George Sisler, Cap Anson, Charles Comiskey, Albert Spalding, Buck Ewing and Candy Cummings.That should tell you all you need to know about "Old Hoss" and his credentials for baseball immortality.Edward Achorn wrote an entertaining and no-holds-barred book about Radbourn and, according to Amazon.com, you can still purchase it. "Fifty-Nine in '84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had" provides wonderful insights into Radbourn's career and his once-in-a-lifetime season."It is the tale, too, of the woman Radbourn loved, Carrie Stanhope, thealluring proprietress of a boarding house with shady overtones, a marriedlady who was said to have personally known every man in the NationalLeague," relates the book description. It was published in 2010 by Smithsonian BooksHarper Collins.Achorn, the deputy editorial pages editor for the Providence (R.I.) Journal and a Pulitzer Prize finalist for distinguished commentary, is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan and a life-long fan of 19th century baseball. As a child in Westborough, Mass., he was astonished to learn that the nearby city of Worcester once had a major league baseball team. It led to his research on Radbourn and the 1884 Providence Grays."I was consciously trying to write a baseball 'Seabiscuit,' a story about a special time in America and some compelling characters who caught the public's imagination as much as about the sport I love madly," Achorn told book reviewer James Bailey, a former associate editor of Baseball America, in an interview in 2010. "Some pretty successful screenwriters in Hollywood have already expressed strong interest."It was a different game in those days. Talk about the "dead ball" era. In 1884, Radbourn's 59-victory season, baseball took a big step toward the product we know today by legalizing the overhand pitch. Until then, pitchers were allowed a running start within the pitcher's box and released the ball from no farther than 50 feet from home plate.There still is some discrepancy over Radbourn's victory total in 1884. At least two creditable sources, MacMillan's "Baseball Encyclopedia" and the current "Sporting News Baseball Record Book," claim he won 60 games. So does his Hall of Fame biography. Other sources credit him with 59. Older sources, including the plaque on his tombstone, claim he won 62.Radbourn would make for a very interesting character if portrayed accurately and realistically on the big screen. In 1886, he became the first public figure to be photographed extending his middle finger to the camera. When he retired and returned to Bloomington, he opened up a successful billiard parlor and saloon. He made some investments but lost most of his wealth in an economic panic.He always had a reputation for being a bit vain. He was seriously injured in a hunting accident, lost an eye, and spent most of the remaining years of his life shut in a backroom of the saloon, too ashamed to be seen after the injury. The name on his tombstone is misspelled.In the 1884 World Series, Radbourn pitched three complete-game victories in three successive days, allowing only 11 hits and no earned runs. Once asked if he ever tired of pitching so often, he replied:"Tired out tossing a little five-ounce baseball for two hours? I used to be a butcher. From 4 in the morning until 8 at night I knocked down steers with a 25-pound sledge. Tired from playing two hours a day for 10 times the money I used to get for 16 hours a day?"I wonder if Jack Nicholson is available for the role.

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Where the Cubs needed a Javier Baez basket shot to beat Johnny Cueto last October – the swing that might have changed the entire direction of their World Series run – Kyle Schwarber left no doubt with this one.

Schwarber launched Cueto’s 91-mph fastball out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue on Tuesday night, setting the tone in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a mammoth home run that Statcast measured at 470 feet.

“Whoa, it got small fast,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek’ when it came on and the Enterprise would just fly by the screen and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it. It was there – and then it was gone.”
 
Cueto, the funky right-hander with the dreadlocks, rocker steps and quick pitches, is now dealing with blisters on his middle and index fingers, which may partially explain his 4.64 ERA and San Francisco’s 20-27 record.  

Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo jumped Cueto first pitches in the second and fourth innings, with balls landing in the right-field basket and right-field bleachers as the Cubs (23-21) played perhaps their most complete game this season.

Schwarber’s batting average will read .186 on the big video board the next time he steps into the box at Wrigley Field. But Ben Zobrist’s production as a leadoff hitter could make Schwarber more comfortable and settled in the No. 2 spot. And teams still have to account for Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed power (seven homers) and overall patience (25 walks and 4.22 pitches per plate appearance).

“It’s a continuous process,” Schwarber said. “I’m still going to work every day and trying to figure this thing out. I’m going to go up there every day and be confident.”

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

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USA TODAY

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Dylan Covey exited Tuesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with left oblique soreness.

The short-handed White Sox won’t know until Wednesday at the earliest how long they might be without their Rule 5 starting pitcher. Covey sustained the injury in the third inning of a 5-4 loss to Arizona in front of 17,865 at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks homered twice off the right-hander, scoring four times in 2 1/3 innings. The bullpen pitched well enough to allow the White Sox to rally back but they fell just short despite the 100th home run of Jose Abreu’s career and loading the bases in the eighth inning.

Though both James Shields and Carlos Rodon are on the mend, the White Sox are already down two starting pitchers. Rodon is further along having thrown off a mound four times, including 60 pitches in a simulated game on Monday. But the White Sox don’t have a lot of depth in the farm system as they’re not willing to forgo development to fill a need in Chicago.

Covey exited the game after he recorded the first out of the third inning. He induced a ground ball and signaled the bench, which brought out manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider. Covey, who allowed two more home runs on Tuesday, didn’t attempt to throw any warmup pitches before he exited.

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The right-hander brought an 0-3 mark and a 7.64 ERA into the contest. Paul Goldschmidt tripled in a run off Covey with one out in the first inning ahead of a two-run home run by Jake Lamb. Chris Herrmann also blasted a solo homer to left to start the second inning. Covey, who had made only six starts above Single-A before the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft last December, has allowed 13 home runs in 37 2/3 innings this season.

The White Sox bullpen picked up the slack as Chris Beck, Gregory Infante, David Holmberg and Tommy Kahnle combined to allow one run over the final 5 2/3 innings.

That allowed the White Sox to work their way back into the contest. Melky Cabrera homered in the second inning to make it a two-run game. After Arizona scored in the bottom of the second, Todd Frazier’s two-run homer made it a 4-3 game in the third inning.

Abreu blasted a solo shot off Jorge De La Rosa in the eighth to get the White Sox within a run. They loaded the bases with one out but J.J. Hoover struck out Omar Narvaez and Yolmer Sanchez to maintain the one-run lead for Arizona.