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
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
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
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.