Sunday, September 16, 2007

Silver Flint Part 2


By the fall of 1891, Flint, most likely as a result of his alcoholism and a “wide open policy” with money, was broke and homeless. He was also very ill. His former wife, M.S. Flint, found him wandering the streets and took Flint in, nursing him and paying for his doctor’s bills. By late October, he was bed ridden and diagnosed with tuberculosis.


Flint died on January 14, 1892 and he was laid to rest next to his parents in St. Peter’s Cemetery in St. Louis. At his funeral, Anson, who admitted that he had not treated Flint well in his final days as a player, broke down and wept like a child. In an obituary in the Herald Dispatch, of Decatur, Illinois, it was stated that “Flint was regarded for years as the best catcher on the diamond.”


Silver Flint had the reputation, through the first fifty years of baseball history, as one of the finest catchers to have ever played the game. It was proclaimed in the Indianapolis Star in 1915 that “(as) a fielder and thrower Flint might be compared to Buck Ewing…He was by long odds the greatest catcher of his day.” Anson also heaped praise on his former catcher. “(I) cannot see a catcher anywhere as good as Silver Flint,” Anson stated in 1895. According to George Gore, Flint was the greatest catcher of all time. “He knew more than any other man with the mask,” Gore said in 1912. “He had the greatest head of any man in the business. Nobody before or since could touch Flint…Every pitcher he ever handled he made a star…Once Frank took them in hand they all developed into stars. He could make cracks out of every pitcher who ever toed the slab.” Paul Hines also stated, in 1913, that Flint was the greatest catcher who ever lived.


Flint had a well earned reputation for physical toughness. In an article on Flint in an 1888 issue of the Decatur Weekly Republican, the headline simply states “He Is Tough” and the article goes on to say how it seems as if Flint was made of cast iron. A 1910 Washington Post article on Flint declared that “(he) was a horse for work. His stamina caused a feeling of awe among players and fans, for he caught incessantly in spite of many broken fingers and a smashed nose.” Flint, of course, was a catcher in the days before gloves, masks, chest protectors, and shin guards which added to the esteem in which he was held by more modern viewers of the game. The amount of abuse that Flint took behind the plate is illustrated by Flint’s admission to friends that he had broken every joint in every finger in both hands at least once, that his nose had been broken frequently, and that he had lost several teeth while playing the game. There are also several stories, that may be apocryphal but which added to Flint’s reputation for toughness, about how he had attempted to use a glove and a mask in a game but had tossed them aside after a few pitches, proclaiming them to be a hindrance.


One interesting note about Flint is how common stories about his hands are. Cap Anson was particularly fond of telling stories about Flint’s “money makers”. “Silver’s hands were battered into so many angles that when spread out they resembled pretzels,” he said in 1896. “Silver’s hands were one of the sights the sporting fraternity sought when visiting Chicago.” In 1904, Anson went on to say that Flint’s “fingers were like the gnarled and knotted branches of a scrub oak. Rheumatism in its worst stages never gave a person such a pair of hands.”


Toward the end of his playing days, a story made the rounds in the press about Flint meeting a surgeon while both men were waiting for a train. The surgeon got a good look at Flint’s hands and wanted to take him to the hospital, insisting that all of his fingers would have to be amputated. Silver Flint just laughed at him.

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