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
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
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.
"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
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
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
every time you swing
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