Drawings of Players in the Baseball Hall of Fame
March 8, 2011 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Every Hall of Famer is a blog where Summer Anne Burton is drawing pictures of all 295 members of the baseball Hall of Fame. She started in January and plans to finish by the end of the year. Here's an interview with her about the project. The drawings include telling bits of information and cool quotes. It's a fun way to learn about baseball history. Here are three of my favorites so far: Charles Radbourne, Dan Brouthers and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
posted by Kattullus (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
59 wins? WTF?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:29 PM on March 8, 2011

Can you imagine how bad Dice-K would be if he pitched in that rotation?
posted by nathancaswell at 1:31 PM on March 8, 2011

who would have thought it'd be a boston player that was the first to give a camera the finger..
posted by k5.user at 1:36 PM on March 8, 2011

That's a lot of mustaches
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2011

Holy crap, Radbourne pitched 40 out of 43 games in a 2 month span.
posted by kmz at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2011

Ty Cobb: FTFY
posted by clearly at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

nathan, he pitched everyday. Another fun fact about Grover Alexander, he pitched for the "House of David" baseball team after his retirement and he was the one of the only players on the team not made to grow his beard long. And they played baseball while sitting on donkeys. true story, you could look it up.
posted by waitingtoderail at 1:43 PM on March 8, 2011

In the "dead ball" era of Major League Baseball, many pitchers would pitch every day. My understanding is the Cy Young frequently pitched both games of double headers. That's how one gets a record of 511–316 lifetime. More losses than many of the all time greats have wins. Or starts.

I can't say this with 100% certainty, but I believe that everyday pitchers didn't bear down and throw with maximum effort and velocity with every pitch, as often happens today. Pitchers back then must have thrown a lot of junk pitches - with lots of off speed stuff - and save their best effort for the better hitters and when they were ahead in the count.

Not sure how you get ahead in the count throwing junk pitches, but I guess its possible.
posted by Billiken at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2011

posted by nathancaswell at 1:51 PM on March 8, 2011

The Babe Ruth of Baseball. Love it!
posted by Danf at 1:52 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

And a great Grover Cleveland Alexander story...

Apparently while with the Cubs, the starting pitcher tired late in the game and ended up walking the bases loaded. Joe McCarthy called GCA in from the bullpen, where he was sleeping of a serious drinking binge from the night before. (He hadn't expected to pitch that day, not when replacing the starter was a rare situation.)

McCarthy met GCA at the pitcher's mound, where he told Alexander "We don't have any place to put this guy."

"OK," said GCA. "Then I guess I'll have to strike him out."

And he did.
posted by Billiken at 1:53 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure. Spitters, cut balls, scuffed balls - I imagine a lot of that went on. If they weren't throwing hard all the time, I imagine there was a lot of shenanigans on the mound.

Also, I don't think it was as common to change out baseballs in those days. The same ball could be used over several innings, and I imagine it could be hard to see with dirt and grass stains and such on it. Especially with a dark outfield fence.
posted by Billiken at 1:57 PM on March 8, 2011

While that was a great way to feel smug about my Kenesaw Mountain Landis hate, I was struck once again by my awkward admiration for Ty Cobb. Yes, he was a racist and an asshole and a violent SOB and whatnot, but he's also one of the Five Immortals for a reason. Many reasons. Sure I'd rather have dinner with Satchel Paige and Roberto Clemente, but from the safe and sanitary distance of history I can't help myself but feel a certain deference for the man. It's a shame his antics have overshadowed his ability.
posted by Chichibio at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2011

Ooh, this is great stuff. And just in time for Spring Training.
posted by JeffK at 2:26 PM on March 8, 2011

As a child, I used to be obsessed with baseball, watching Ken Burns' nine movie documentary countless times while using my finger to eat iced tea mix until my finger turned orange (to this day, if I see a clip featured in those movies, my mouth instantly tastes like iced tea powder). My family lived outside of America when I was little league aged, and so I had an inflated sense of my baseball prowess, twice becoming an Israeli Juvenile Baseball League All-Star.

Since my little league years coincided with my obsession of Ken Burns' documentary, I would watch the movies for inspiration. In one of the films about the 1910s, 20s or 30s, there was a quote from some guy who'd had a tough season and was now batting at a pivotal point of a game. Those documentaries always had these voice overs that really spoke to my 10 year old self, as it the camera scrolled over an old picture of a gruff looking guy at the plate, waiting for the big pitch and the camera zooming in on his face as the voice over actor says "C'mon, you sonuvabitch, c'mon... give yourself a chance, you sonuvabitch, give yourself a chance!"

And so, licking the sweet, sweet iced tea powder off my fake-tan-looking finger, I repeated those lines, first in my head, and then out loud. Whenever I would go up to bat, I would whisper those words to myself, you sonovabitch give yourself a chance, swing and miss and say it again, cry at the end of the game as the Israeli settler team coach with his Uzi slung over his shoulder clapped with his team.

When my family moved back to America and I was forever on B teams (or JV-B teams, as the case was when they had too many cuts in high school so they just made another, lowest rung team), I still repeated those words to myself sometimes, trying to regain the glory of those days playing with arbitrarily placed bases on soccer fields with glass, when I had a chance.
posted by Corduroy at 3:34 PM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]

Also, this site is a reminder that Major League Baseball players used to looking fucking cool.
posted by Corduroy at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

That is a fantastic story, Corduroy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:49 PM on March 8, 2011

Incidentally, the movie "Cobb" starring Tommy Lee Jones is really great. One of the few baseball films that doesn't drown in a sea of "mom and Apple pie and OMG the heart of America" and actually takes a realistic look at the game and one of its greats. Even if you don't care for baseball it's just a good movie.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking of pitching feats during the early era... In September 1908 the Washington Senators came to New York to take on the Highlanders, better known now as the Yankees. On Friday, September 4th Walter Johnson threw a five-hit shut-out. The next day Johnson allows only three hits and no runs. Sunday baseball wasn't legal in New York so Johnson had a day of rest. The rest did him good because on Monday he threw his third consecutive shut-out, this time a two-hitter. That's right, over four days Walter Johnson threw 27 straight scoreless innings, giving up only ten hits.
posted by plastic_animals at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, he was a racist and an asshole and a violent SOB and whatnot, but he's also one of the Five Immortals for a reason.

"Cobb is a prick. But, God can that man hit." - Babe Ruth
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on March 8, 2011

The style of art works so well! Thanks for the link.
posted by meta87 at 6:50 PM on March 8, 2011

Why pitchers threw more in the Dead Ball Era:

1. You'd often play with one ball, and the ball would get dirtier and darker as the dirt and spit and chaw accumulated on it.

2. The seasons were shorter. The 1884 NL season was 116 games long; the modern season is 162 games. Sure, you're pitching 50 games, but you're starting in May and finishing in September.

3. The batters, save the immortals, sucked. So you could save your strength for Buck Ewing and Roger Connor by soft-tossing to Ed Caskin, who never had an OPS above .600 and yet played 6 seasons in the NL.

4. A lot of the breaking pitches we take for granted today weren't around then. Candy Cummings had his curveball and Christy Mathewson threw a "fadeaway" (aka a screwball), but most players just threw fastballs and changeups, neither of which put a lot of violent torque on elbows or labrums.

5. Baseball as a business wasn't at the level of today. You paid a few thousand for a great pitcher. Nowadays a middling starting pitcher makes as much per pitch as a great starting pitcher made 100 years ago. In arguably Cy Young's best season, 1901, he made $3000. Felix Hernandez, who won the 2010 AL Cy Young award, made $9612. Per out. All 749 of them. When you're investing that kind of money, of course you want to baby your pitchers.

6. Honestly, we were just stupid then. There was no such thing as sports medicine. You threw until your shoulder gave out.
posted by dw at 7:07 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't sum that litany up.

Pitchers threw more because we didn't know any better, but because the quality of competition was lower and the ball was harder to see later in the game pitchers didn't have to labor all that much. In addition, they weren't throwing many pitches with violent mechanics like the screwball, the season was shorter, and owners didn't need to feel any need to protect their investments since they weren't investing nearly as much as modern teams do.

All that meant that players threw until their arms fell off, but it took longer for their arms to fall off.
posted by dw at 8:05 PM on March 8, 2011

And off of this blog, I discovered someone making Moleskine sized scorebooks, and they're downright pretty.
posted by dw at 8:06 PM on March 8, 2011

Before Babe Ruth, home runs were incredibly rare (a good TEAM hit 30 in a year), so pitchers only had to bear down and throw in a way that could cause long term damage to your arm when a runner reached second base, which was a few times per game.

This a wonderful find. However, I'm pretty indifferent to any baseball players and stats before 1906. Sure the stats are still called Batting Average and ERA, but they are meaningless when compared to 20th century numbers.

Also really related to her saying she cried while drawing Gehrig. Fuck ALS.

Oh man, I could go on for hours...
posted by dry white toast at 8:17 PM on March 8, 2011

This is great, but I don't get what kind of weird self-restraint or faux-respectfulness would lead someone not to call "Old Hoss" Radbourn by his nickname, which is one of the best in the history of baseball nicknames. I had no idea his real name was Charles.
posted by RogerB at 11:07 PM on March 8, 2011

I'm going to take it for granted that we all agree Pepper "The Wild Horse of the Osage" Martin had the best nickname in the history of EVER.
posted by Chichibio at 10:12 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

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