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When Hitting Became A Science:



One of the oldest batting marks in the Cincinnati Reds record book is held by a player who started out as a pitcher.

Not even the hitting prowess of Pete Rose could match the one-season effort exhibited by

James Bentley "Cy" Seymour in 1905. That season Seymour batted a robust .377 to lead all National League hitters and set a standard that remains unequaled today in

the annals of the Reds.


Seymour was one of the most famous baseball players in the early 1900s. Four consecutive years after joining Cincinnati in 1902 from Baltimore, Seymour batted over

.300. He was one of the most respected hitters of those infant days of baseball.


After winning the batting championship, Seymour was asked by a newspaper reporter in Cincinnati to explain why.


Seymour said, "If I were asked to give two principal suggestions for good batting, they would be: Know your pitcher and keep close tabs on the position of the fielders."


Today, the hit-and-run game is an important part of baseball, but when Seymour played, few batters were able to master the art. He was one who did.


"I ascribe a large portion of my showing last year to the hit-and-run game. I would give the runner on first base his signal to steal and then aim to hit the ball through the shortstop's or second baseman's position, according as the one or the other left it open to cover the bag and catch the runner," Cy said, after winning the league batting crown .

A standard practice in the early days of baseball was that many hitters would run to the front of the batter's box to hit the pitch before it curved. Seymour had his own theory which was to counter that practice.

"I rarely or never seek to run forward past the plate and meet the ball before the curve breaks," Seymour said. "By playing as far back of the plate as possible, I get that much more time to be sure which infielder is going to cover second base. A large portion of my base hits were made in this way."

    Seymour was a scientific hitter. He even had different kinds of bats for different kinds of pitchers - highly unusual in an era when baseball was hardly as refined as it is today.


"I am not particular about using any special bat," Seymour said. "For a pitcher who serves slow ones and uses his head, I use a lighter bat; but when a pitcher relies mainly

on speed I find a heavy bat more serviceable. I do not grasp the bat at the end because I find I can control it better and meet the ball more accurately by holding the bat a few inches from the end .... It s a mistake to try and slam the ball with all your might. Hit it a good solid lick, but you can do better inside work if you don't try to rip the cover off every time you swing at it."

Seymour started as a pitcher and won 25 games for the New York Giants in 1898. As often as not, however, he didn't have the slightest idea where his pitch might end up. He walked 213 batters in one season, enough to send him to the outfield. Fortunately, he could hit.

Noting his batting prowess, the Giants began working their . left-hander occasionally into the· lineup. Then, after Seymour joined John McGraw, the manager of the Baltimore club, in 1901, McGraw converted Seymour into a permanent outfielder.

After his arrival in the Reds camp, he was one of the most coveted players in baseball. Halfway through the 1906 season, Seymour was hitting only .257. That was 120 points less than his previous year's mark and the Reds sold their left fielder to the Giants.





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