Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Foutz's Sharp Trick

I had read about Dave Foutz's unassisted pick-off of Pete Browning before and while browsing through The Sporting News archive I found their report of the play.

(During) Sunday's game between St. Louis (and) Louisville, and in the presence of 6,000 persons, Foutz played the sharpest trick ever seen on the ball field. Browning was on first base and Kerins on second, with no one out. Pete played far off from the base, while Comiskey took a stand back into right field. Pete had his back turned toward second base, and was keeping an eye on the movements of Comiskey, while he eagerly pranced back and forth to show the crowd that he was not afraid to steal off a bag. Foutz pretended not to watch Browning, but suddenly Bushong signaled, and Foutz dashed over toward first base with the ball in hand, touching Browning before the latter knew what had happened. Such a play was never before seen, and the spectators howled with delight. Pete was mighty mad, and, as he has a faculty for being caught napping, the play was doubly embarrassing.
-From The Sporting News, September 13, 1886

First of all, that's a great play. If memory serves me correctly, that's the only time a pitcher has ever recorded an unassisted pick-off. And what was Browning doing? With a man on second, it's not as if he was going anywhere.

I'm surprised that this play isn't better remembered. It's was a fantasticly unique play. It should have been remembered for the intelligence and athleticism of Foutz as well as the fact that it hadn't been done before and hasn't been done since. Foutz's unassisted pick-off should be remembered as the greatest play in the history of 19th century baseball.

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