Friday, April 29, 2011

An Ode To The Second Baseman

The second baseman of to-day is an entirely different unit in the field work of a team than was his fellow-tradesman of ten years ago. There is a wide difference between the play of a Beals, a Farrell and a Burdock of 1873 and a Dunlap, a Farrell and a Burdock of 1883. Not only has the area of territory over which the second baseman of the first class does not permit a grounder to pass grown larger, but the work in throwing and attention to fly balls has increased nearly as much. To the shortstop and second baseman has gradually been assigned the work of attending to all fly balls "between the fields," as the gap between the infielders and outfielders of a team in play is called. And well have the men filling the positions grappled with their task. Years ago it was a wonderful feat for a fielder to capture a fly running with the ball. Now it is an every-day occurrence, and by that means and fast backward running many an apparently safe "pop fly" has been captured. The picking up of grounders has also improved of late, some of the short bound stops being marvelous, and by skillfully placing the ball when first batted many a difficult stop is made with no seeming effort. The second baseman has fully half of the infield hits to attend to on an average, faces all kinds of wild, swift throwing by the catcher, is expected to make quick pickups and lightning and accurate throws for double plays and run-outs, and must never loose his head or the game goes with it. Added to this he must always stand the brunt of rough base-running and hold his ground and the ball after a touch and a tumble. All this is done by the majority of the leading second basemen, and with all the advances in the game, the players of this position have advanced. There is no doubt but that the most brilliant work of the infield is done by the second baseman.-[Cleveland Herald.]
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 25, 1883

This is a nice little article about the evolution of second base play but let's not kid ourselves. This is all about The Second Baseman: Fred Dunlap. First mentioned among the "second [basemen] of the first class" and "the leading second [basemen]," he is the once and future Kingpin of Second Basemen. And he was coming to St. Louis.


Ted Yemm said...

This is a very interesting passage. For those of us trying to re-create the earlier 1860's style game, passages like this help us extroplate the tendencies of fielders from that era. Thanks!

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I think the Cleveland Herald might have been running a series, position by position. Not absolutely certain about it but I know they did run a similiar article on shortstop play the next day. If you have access to the 19th century newspaper database, it might be worth looking at.

Ted Yemm said...

How does one get access to the 19th century newspaper database?

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Try checking with your local public library; they might have it as part of their online services. If not them, then a local university library should have it. I don't think that it's part of the Proquest package but it's similiar. I'd just check all the libraries in your area and see who has it.

I'm lucky enough that I have access to it online, through a library in Missouri; but they no longer offer the out-of-district card that I have. I'm very thankful that I'm grandfathered in and continue to have access to all of the databases in the comfort of my own home.

Your other option would be to go about it the old fashioned way and see if you can find a library that has the Cleveland Herald on microfilm.