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A Stolen Base That Was Found:

BOB BESCHER

         

    They aimed at his stolen-base record for half a century, but not until Maury Wills came along m 1962 did anyone steal more bases in one National League season than former Reds outfielder Bob Bescher.

 

Bescher rivaled the American League's legendary Ty Cobb on the base paths. He stole 81 in 1911 and that figure remained the National League standard until Wills passed him on his way to 104 some 51 years later.

 

Bescher's career with the Reds lasted six years - 1908 through 19\3. Four times he led the National League in stolen bases.

 

He was one of the biggest  players of his day, 6 feet and approximately 200 pounds. He wasn't a particularly good hitter, owning only a .258 lifetime batting average, but he could get on base. The year he stole 81 bases, he drew 102 walks. One other season he led the league with 94 walks.

He was noted for having a tremendous hook slide that helped him elude many tags at second base. In 1911 he was thrown out only three times in 84 attempts to steal.

 

Bescher was a switch-hitter who played left field and he was popular with the fans and press.

 

 

Jack Ryder, the long-time Cincinnati baseball writer, described Bescher after a double-header with St. Louis on June 1, 1911:

"The best feature of the team's play was the all-around performance of Mr. Robert Bescher, who shone at all angles. Bob got six hits and stole five bases in the two games besides fielding his position with a great deal of speed. He gave a better exhibition on sacks than anyone who has shown here for a long time."

Long before Knute Rockne was building a football institution at Notre Dame, the school was turning out athletes of prominence. One of them was Bob Bescher. He played the outfield on the Fighting Irish baseball team for three years.

 

Later, but before starting his professional baseball career in 1906, Bescher spent about a year on a Nebraska cattle ranch; then he returned to Ohio where he was a high-scoring running back on the football team for Wittenberg College in Springfield.


Bescher played baseball in Dayton for three years before he was sold to Cincinnati for $1,800 in September 1908. He made his debut on September 8. Before the end of that month, he had stolen 10 bases.

 

After Bescher left the Reds, he helped the New York Giants win the pennant in 1914, but he spent only one season with that club. He couldn't get along with the fiery New York manager, John McGraw.

 

Bescher went to St. Louis in 1915, and he finished up his career in 1918 with Cleveland.

 

One of the best ways to describe Bescher was hard-nosed. He never would avoid a fight. After being cursed by St. Louis manager Roger Bresnahan one day in Cincinnati, Bescher landed a haymaker to the mouth of the Cardinals skipper. According to newspaper accounts, Bresnahan spent the next morning at a Cincinnati dentist's office.

 

In the off-season, Bescher was an avid hunter. He was a native of London, Ohio, a small town in the central part of the state, and lived in his hometown after retirement and worked for years as an oil inspector for the state of Ohio. He died in 1942, killed when a train slammed into his car.

 

Hardly anyone is alive today from the Bob Bescher era. Even Edd Roush, the Hall-of-Famer who played in the teens and the twenties, recalls little about Bescher.  

 

         
       

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