Monday, September 13, 2010

King Short Stop

The greatest short stop in the business, taken as a short stop only, is John W. Glasscock, sometimes called "Pebbly Jack," and universally known as Jack. His habit of picking up pebbles, clods of grass and other things that he can seize when in his position earned him the nickname of "Pebbly Jack."

There are only two short stops who can approach Glasscock in fielding. These are Ward and Williamson; only one who can equal him in brilliant plays-Ward; none that can excel him in batting, and only one-Ward again-who can equal him in base running. Aside from short stops Kelly is the only base runner I know of that can touch Glasscock for daring on the bases. Many people think Ward and Kelly use better judgment, but on this point I am doubtful.

Glasscock is a peculiar man any way you take him. On the field he is never in repose. Always on the move, anxious, enthusiastic, spurring and inspiring, the universal opinion has always been that on a great team in a great city he would be the greatest ball player of the day. He is now in just that position, and as captain of the New York team it is my opinion that he will prove that, as a ball player, he is as great as any in America. Not even Ewing, Ward, Kelly or Anson will excel him.

Glasscock's disposition is little understood. He appears to be a man of morose and surly disposition, but this is but his outward semblance. He is uncouth, perhaps rough, but not near so black as he has been painted. Speaking of him, Charley Bassett, of the New York team, says "Jack is a hard man to understand. When I first played with him his apparent surliness used to break me up. But I soon learned to know him."

Beneath his roughness Jack is a good fellow, and can give some of his detractors points on manliness. He is a good friend and a bitter enemy. I have seen him when he appeared to be in a bad temper, when I knew he was just the reverse. When Jack was made velvet was left off. Hence he cannot gild his words like some other men whose hearts could not be seen if placed alongside his.

Glasscock is the most enthusiastic base ball player I ever knew. His peculiar temperament hides much of it. He is the ball player and nothing else when on the field. He is tricky-all great players are-to the verge of unfairness, and his anxiety to win, as is the case with Ewing, Kelly, Anson, Ward and others, often leads him beyond it; he seldom lets a point escape him; he has very little use for what he calls "mildness" in base ball; he believes in winning, fairly if you can, unfairly if you must and can get away with the umpire, but win, no matter how; a hard man to manage, and yet a good man to manage others, a driver always, and seldom a persuader; during a game lost to all but the thought of winning and the methods for doing so. Such is John Glasscock on the field. Away from it he is quiet and deep, not over talkative, not always agreeable, but on the whole an every-day, decent sort of fellow, gentlemanly and fairly entertaining.

Glasscock is a resident of Wheeling, W. Va., having lived in that city since a young man. He is now about 34 years of age. As a ball player he came into prominence when playing short stop and second base for the famous gilt-edged Cleveland team in the years 1881 and 1882. Previous to this he played with numerous minor organizations, none of which were of any prominence. With the Cleveland team he was immediately recognized as a superior fielder in the above positions and it was here that he gained the title of "King of Short Stops." His famous jump from the Cleveland team to the Cincinnati Unions is still fresh in the minds of base ball cranks. With the Cincinnatis he played only a few months, being transferred from that club to Henry V. Lucas' famous aggregation in St. Louis. This club was known as the Maroons, and under this name, in 1885, was taken into the League.

In 1886 Glasscock was transferred to Indianapolis, where he has since remained. Last season during the closing months he was manager of the Hoosiers and got better work out of them than anyone had ever been able to do previously. He is now captain and short stop of the New York League team.

Glasscock's punishment for his Cleveland jump was a fine of $1,000 and the necessity of playing for tail-enders ever since at a less salary than other men not half his equal were earning elsewhere. Surely he expiated that offense, which has always been the regret of his life. Glasscock is not ungrateful. He knew he was wrong and he realized that the League had treated him with great leniency. He hesitated when the Players' League scheme was presented to him. Finally he decided to remain with the League.

Glasscock and the Players' league men differ materially in their stories of his relation with the Brotherhood. Ward and others contradict him. They say he lies, and Glasscock returns the compliment. Among batsmen he stands foremost. He has always been well up in the averages, and generally stood quite as well from a utility and reliability standpoint. In 1886 he stood sixth with .325. In 1887, the year when "ghost hits" were in vogue, he stood twenty ninth, but in actual base hits he was up near the top. He was twenty sixth in 1888 and second in 1889 with .353, having made the largest number of hits, 209, made by any player for many years...

Glasscock's attitude at the bat is characteristic of the intensity with which he plays ball. He stands in a slightly crouching attitude, so much so that he appears round shouldered; he favors his left foot...and swings his stick clear of his body with a sort of menace that makes a pitcher hate to give him a ball that he can hit. When he hits square the ball goes to the field like a shot and the man who gets in front of it is often "sorry for what he has done." Glasscock, with his heart in his work as it was last year, as it is this year, ranks with Anson, Ewing, Brouthers, Kelly, Tiernan, H. Richardson and Connor as a giant with the stick. He is a more scientific hitter than any, barring Anson and Ewing, and fully the equal of either. His worst enemies admit that as a ball player he is a king. In my estimation he is the equal if not the superior of any in the land.
-Wheeling Register, May 4, 1890

This article, written by W.I. Harris, is just outstanding and gives us a fantastic portrait of Jack Glasscock. I don't think I've ever read a 19th century newspaper article that gave a better sense of the personality and character of a baseball player. I wish we had more articles like this one.

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