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When baseball was young

The January 31 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a column that appeared to be a regular feature in the paper (I’ve seen it in other editions). It was one of the earlier examples of a frequently-employed theme in baseball writing – namely, that baseball was much better back in the day than it is now.

In particular, note the complaint about modern (i.e. 1927) gloves being like “divan pillows”. (For a sample of what a 1927 glove looked like, see this photo of pitcher Walter Johnson’s glove.)

The Baseball Reference website, the definitive on-line source for baseball statistics, has an entry for the 1883 Boston Beaneaters mentioned in this article. It lists twelve players on the team, not eleven – but one only appeared in fourteen games, so he likely wasn’t with the team for the full season.

I also found information on the two players quoted:

  • John Morrill (1855-1932), nicknamed “Honest John”, served as player-manager for the 1883 team for part of the season. His career as a professional player extended from 1876 to 1890. He hit 16 triples in 97 games in 1883.
  • Joe Hornung (1857-1931) played professionally from 1879 to 1890, and was considered one of the best outfielders of the 19th century. He had a habit of shouting “ubbo ubbo” whenever he got a hit or made a good play; this became his nickname.

John B. Foster (1863-1941), the writer of the article, was a sportswriter, the secretary of the New York Giants from 1913 to 1920, and editor of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide.

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