There was a time in baseball where it was common practice that while running the bases you were to keep one eye on the ball and the other eye on the umpire. If a player saw the umpire’s attention diverted elsewhere, a baserunner would often take the liberty of cutting 10 or even 20 feet in front of second or third base (missing the base completely) towards his next destination.
How did they get away with it? Is the obvious question. The early Detroit Tiger teams with Hall of Famer Sam Crawford, and of course, Ty Cobb, were notorious for using this method of cheating the rules. But it was not limited to just one team, they did it everywhere.
I guess the rules were more loose back then? It was easier to question the umpire’s authority, I guess? If the ump didn’t see it, then who is to say the player didn’t touch the bag (a manager would probably argue)?
Whenever I ran the basepaths in a game, it never occurred to me to do something like that. Maybe, its because I’m not a good thief. I did get caught stealing a hot apple pie from my high school cafeteria, but thats another story. Following the basepaths in an orderly fashion seems so basic to the integrity of the game, doesn’t it? Although, back then players were always trying to cheat and tamper with the game. Not entirely unlike the way players used steriods in the 80’s and 90’s. Cheating and baseball are one in the same.
Anyway, I’d love to see a player actually try this techinque, we’ll call it, in a modern game. Although, today there are more umpires, instant replay boards and the umpire’s authority is more absolute. It would make for good comedy, though on a ball field.
Going through some of MLBlogs the other day, I noticed that there is a blogger named Ty Cobb that does community work for the Omaha Royals. She was named after the hall of famer, born on his birthday and takes lots of pride in baseball tradition and her name. Here is the link to her blog:
Anyway, navigating through her blog motivated me to construct a Ty Cobb entry. He is an
extremely facinating man, so I thought I would share a design (notice the peach colour overlay), and some on-the-field ledgendary Ty Cobb stories.
There was no doubt that Cobb was a deeply troubled man, that led, and was handed, a deeply troubled life at a very young age. Virtually driven out of his home town by a highly scrutinized and controversial trial that involved the murder of his father, by his mother. There will never be another person that will play the game like him. He was the ultimate intimidator, competitor, hitter, basestealer and all out gamer! You have to give him those things, despite all the negatives about his life.
There are many unflattering negatives that Cobb will always be remembered for (i.e. dirty player, cheater, gambler on baseball, racist and murderer). Regardless of these labels, the man lived with great passion and played baseball with maybe the greatest of passion. To him, baseball was a contact sport, and he like no other, he embodied the all the competitive aspects of the game.
Here are some stories of Cobb’s intimidation on the field. I won’t go into some of the off-the-field stuff, but it is well known that he used his intimidation everywhere. These, along with some more Ty Cobb stories can be found in:
Orkent, Daniel and Steve Wulf. Baseball Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press,
“During the 1909 season, Cobb-as he would acknowledge in his own autobiography-decided to scare off Boston pitcher Cy Morgan, who had, Cobb insisted, been throwing at his head. Standing on second base when Morgan threw a wild pitch, Cobb determined to charge all the way home, anticipating a colision with Morgan as the pitcher covered the plate. Cob was barely three steps past third when Morgan was ready at the plate with the ball, but still he charged forward. “As I came doewn the line and went whipping at him with my steel showing,” Cobb wrote, “Morgan … turned and actually ran away from the plate. I scored, and Morgan was released by Boston that night.”
Example of how much the man could intimidate other pitchers:
“His psychological gamesmanship was so finely tuned that Cobb could win a battle with the best of pitchers without even acknowledging the other man’s presence. In a 1917 game against Chicago, Cobb entered the batter’s box to face Eddie Cicotte (sidenote: you may remember him being involved in the Black Sox scandal). Immediately upon settling his feet he turned towards Sam Crawford, in the on-deck circle, and engaged him in conversation. Cicotte waited briefly, but then proceeded to pitch to Cobb, whose back remained turned – four straight balls whizzed past while he continued his artfully distracting conversation with his teammate.”
“Over the length of his career, Cobb batted .335 against the great Walter Johnson. Always crowding the plate against the Washington pitcher, Cobb claimed that he knew Johnson would never pitch him tight because his knowledge of phrenology had enabled him to read Johnson’s features, which showed the pitcher to be mild-mannered and gentle.”
It is amazing how he was apparently able to use this to his advantage!