Further Thoughts On Ballplayers of Yesterday

Dick Wakefield is an Archetype of the Modern Athlete. He made too much money too soon. $52,000 was a lot back then. Once he was fined for walking around the locker room in spikes. He just peeled off the fine from his roll and kept walking. He was a clubhouse cancer of sorts, dressed gauchely, and the press didn’t like him.

Willie Mays combined the power of Ruth with the speed of Cobb. There were predecessors who did that as well. Ken WIlliams (the St. Louis Brown, not the current White Sox GM) comes to mind. But none did it at the level of Mays. I mean, I consider Ruth the all-time best player in baseball. But you can make an argument for Mays.

He didn’t always play the Right Way. He’d use the basket catch. It was unorthodox, but it had panache. I could be wrong, but I think he was also one of the first players to catch the ball with just the glove hand. Youths were chided to use two hands even years after that. That admonishment might have made sense back when gloves weren’t as big; when they were the size of gardener’s gloves. But baseball is a conservative game that way and sometimes takes years to adapt.

I once saw Ozzie Smith do a behind the back flip to Tommy Herr to force a guy out at second. It might be on YouTube for all I know. I don’t think I imagined this


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