"The death of Buck
Ewing removes from the scene of earthly activity the only
absolutely perfect ball player the writer has ever seen in
action in a period of thirty years. He was, in his prime, in all
respects, the greatest ball player that ever wore a spiked shoe.
He was perfect in all departments and had not a weakness."
Those words were
written on October 27, 1906, by an unnamed editor of Sparring
Life, a sports-oriented weekly newspaper that circulated
throughout the East and Midwest in the early 1900s.
Buck Ewing, whom the
writer was describing, was a former Cincinnati Reds player and
manager. He was such an outstanding player that he was elected
to the Hall of Fame in 1939.
Ewing was born near
Cincinnati in 1859 and his family moved to the city when he was
two years old. He grew up on the city's East Side and played
baseball as a youngster when the
Cincinnati Red Stockings were being founded as the first
all-professional team in the late 1860s. He signed his first
professional contract for $85 in 1880.
Although Ewing's best
days were with the New York Giants from 1883 to 1890, he
continued to be an outstanding player when he was signed by
Cincinnati as a player-manager in 1895. He batted .318 as the
team's first baseman-manager and for years he had the Reds near
the top of the National League standings as their manager.
He was best known as
a catcher. "As a catcher," the Sporting Life editor
wrote, "he outclassed all we have ever seen. He was a sure
catcher, quick on his feet, alert in mind, a splendid coach for
a pitcher, a keen reader of batsmen and his swift, accurate
throwing was simply perfect.
"In addition, he was
a grand batsman, always ranking with the leaders; and as a base
runner he ranked always with the best. The player of this
generation nearest in calibre to Buck Ewing is Hans Wagner as a
batter and base runner and John Kling as a catcher."
Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop, is acknowledged as one of
baseball's all-time great hitters while Kling is
regarded as one of the best receivers.
right arm is said to have been one of the strongest in all of
baseball. When he played, his arm was in a class by itself.
Frequently, it has been written, he took no step when throwing
and never threw from over his shoulder or head, but snapped the
ball with a sidearmed swing that made the balls he threw "strike
a baseman's hand like a lump of lead."
He had a special play and used it often, hoping to
get opposing base runners to challenge his arm. He intentionally
would let the pitched ball bounce away from him at the plate,
hoping that the runner would try to
advance. If the runner did try,
most often he easily would be thrown out at second base, a
victim of Ewing's sucker tactics and strong arm.
For one season during
his playing career, Ewing
bolted from the National League and joined the New York team in
the Players League, a baseball circuit founded by prominent
players in protest over low pay and other shortcomings in the