#Hot Corner

"Has he any smoke?"

Mike Stobe

You've heard, I'm sure, that in today's game, pitching is all about the power. The older pitchers, and especially the older ex-pitchers, lament this development. Sure (they say), it's great if you can throw a hundred miles an hour. But that shouldn't mean there's not room for the crafty finesse guy, too. Yet today, it seems like scouts won't even look at those guys. Speed is the only real currency.

Two things about that.

One, I've been hearing that my whole life. And two, so has basically everyone who's alive today. To wit, a friend passes along this clipping from 102 years ago:

Cleveland, Ohio., Jan. 31 -- Christy Mathewson is of the opinion that the day of the slow ball pitcher in fast company is a thing of the past. "When I broke into the big leagues," said Christy yesterday, "Win Mercer, Clark Griffith, Red Donohue and other pitchers were getting away with their games and each one was depending upon a slow ball to a large extent. Billy Reidy and Dusty Rhoades followed them, but look over the list of pitchers in the two big leagues today and you will not find a single pitcher who is noted for his slow ball. There may be some who have a floater in their repertory, but they do not depend upon it to any extent.

"Today the big league pitcher must have speed. The majority of the big league pitchers are large men, but large or small they must be able to put steam on the ball or they go back to the minors. In fact, when a big league scout reports some minor league find to his employer, the first question the latter asks is 'Has he any smoke?'

"I have reasoned it out that the slow ball pitcher scarcely ever won his games by small scores and the clubs in the day when slow ball pitchers thrived generally had a lot of batters who won their games by big scores. It did not cause much damage if five or six runs were scored against a club that owned a slow ball pitcher if that team was able to go out and score seven or eight runs. But nowadays the scores are smaller and the man with the floater finds it difficult to stand the pace."

Has he any smoke? They were asking that question in 1911, and they're still asking it today. For the simple reason that pitchers who throw hard are, and always have been, more difficult to hit. Generally speaking.

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