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Perceptions, a Young Rookie Comes to Town
It is chilly afternoon, the calendar is open to the date of 8 May 1891. Not a lot of spectators pay attention to the young 21 year old pitcher about to take his place in the box. He was small, just 5-6 in height and not an impressive physical specimen. He also has no reputation to speak of. Not like those of the recent past like Phenomenal Lee Richmond or Tom Lovett. He pitched three years for Milwaukee in the Western Association putting up good but not great numbers. Some District fans might have known about him because the 1890 Brewers had former Washington players, Gus Alberts, Tom Morrissey and George Shoch on the roster.
Charlie Comiskey signed the young pitcher for his 1891 St. Louis Association Club. It was a strong club but pitching was a little weak. They featured pitchers were Jack Stivetts, a pitcher who could also swing a bat and teenager Willie “The Wizard: McGill. Also taking turns are Joe Neale who bounced around like a rubber ball and George Rettger a rookie
St. Louis got off to a 5-2-1 start during their first home stand but faltered on their eight game road trip falling to 8-7. A return home and the record improved to 11-8. The players packed their bags and head off on another road trip. The four game series with Kelly’s Killers is a draw but the players were looking forward to the four games in Washington and a chance to improve the record and gain ground on Baltimore and Boston.
The team arrives in Washington late on 5 May. The weather is cold and raw; a cold spell has been in place for several days. It is doubtful if the players took the time to tour the city during this stop like is the custom. The first game on 6 May is a 4 to 3 win thanks to the brilliant pitching of Wizard McGill.
In the second game of the series, Joe Neale starts and enjoys a nine run second inning. Comiskey elects to put Jack Stivetts in the box. Our young rookie must have wondered when he would get a chance. The big news! In the second inning, John Munyan, the St, Louis catcher had his cap fall while chasing a foul ball thus exposing his bald head. A local paper adds, “After that there was something to wish for, that he might show it again.”
Finally on 8 May, our young rookie makes his first appearance in a game in Washington. Jack Stivetts and Jack Boyle are pulled by Comiskey after four innings and our young pitcher and John Munyan take their place. Here is what the locals will read the next day, ““Oh! It was Pitiful!” The spectators in Washington witness a 20-4 defeat of their home town nine by St. Louis. Jersey Bakley gets the loss. Standing at the head of this tale of a melancholy event is a sketch of the only man who participated in it who played ball. His name is McGuire, and he was noticeable for his conspicuous ability in the midst of a lot of miserable failures. Even Munyan’s bald head did not suffice to make the game interesting.”
Our young pitcher will soon develop lameness in his pitching arm and after a record of 11-8 will be released in July. He signs on with the Boston Association team and goes 3-1 with them.
The few spectators on hand to watch our young pitcher make his first make on Washington were no doubt unimpressed. Each generation has their own perceptions. Those who saw Cecil Travis after the war saw a vastly different player than those from the pre-war period.
The young pitcher in out tale would go on to find success on the mound, winning 237 games and would be known for this by a later generation. Others would remember him as a manager and later still an owner. Different perceptions for each generation. Who on 8 May 1891 would have known that the young 21 pitcher who made a later appearance in the game no one wanted to remember would in time loom over the baseball world in the District like the Colossus of Rhodes.
All would know of course known about Clark “The Old Fox” Griffith but no one would remember about Munyan’s bald head.