Saturday, September 15, 2012

Metaphorically Speaking

The baseball accounts from the dead-ball era were often unusually and excessively descriptive. The writing certainly played an important role regarding perceptions of baseball in an era before radio and television. The newspaper descriptions about the games of the Red River Valley League are a key piece in understanding the flavor of the league. Here are some of the more entertaining gems:

During the summer of 1897, several pitchers who struggled to control their pitches were deemed to be "as wild as a March hare" by the Sunday Argus. Among the out of control rabbits were Wahpeton-Breckenridge's Ollie Berg, Grand Forks pitcher Charlie Hutton, and Fargo's Gus Munch. On a separate occasion, during a particularly poor weather day in which Ollie Berg surrendered 15 runs, the weather was described as "being as wild and wooly as Berg's delivery."*

Solid pitching performances elicited even richer descriptions. Deacon Phillippe was credited for being "as steady as a clock" in a game in late June. Wahpeton-Breckenridge pitcher O'Donnell's alertness in a game in late May caused The Moorhead Independent to credit him for watching base runners "like a hungry hyena".** Moorhead's Pike Mullaney was complimented for a start in which he "shot the ball over the plate with Denzer-like steam," a reference pitcher Roger Denzer, who threw for the St. Paul Saints and Chicago Colts in 1897.*** Moorhead's other ace, Bob Brush, pitched an impressive game allowing hits and runs "as scarce as mosquitoes in January."**** Perhaps the most creative embellishment of a pitcher's dominance came courtesy of the Sunday Argus. The paper remarked that Pike Mullaney's pitching against the Wahpeton-Breckenridge club "had the Methodists feeling around as aimlessly as pedestrians trying to escape the Fargo street sweeper, or huge cats from whose muzzles the whiskers had been cleanly shaven."*****

*The Moorhead Independent June 11, 1897
**Independent May 28, 1897
***Independent June 25, 1897
****Independent June 11, 1897
*****Sunday Argus May 30, 1897

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