Mar 21

Harry Wright on Dead Arms

Those of us who spent the summer of 2012 watching Ryan Zimmerman struggle with shoulder issues will not soon forget it. Zimmerman had to adjust his play at third to compensate for the problem. This article talks about the same problem faced by other major leaguers.

Harry Wright had a long illustrious career in baseball having tansitioned to the sport from cricket. Wright excelled as a player and manager. He also found time to write columns for Sporting Life. During the winter of 1889 he wrote this article reflecting on the shoulder problems that Sam Thompson, the young Detroit outfielder, was dealing with.

In Sporting Life, Harry Wright writes about the shoulder problems of Sam Thompson and how he might need to throw underhand. He goes on, “Take Jack Rowe for an example. He cannot throw naturally, and yet he plays a very good shortstop by snapping the ball with a peculiar wrist motion. John Meister throws in a similar fashion. John ‘Monte” Ward is another example of a man with a shoulder trouble can do. He had to quit pitching, and many predicted that he would never be able to play ball again. Ward thought differently, and he mastered a style of throwing of his own. He uses his body muscles to help him, starting the ball from his back. Jack Farrell plays shortstop and throws underhand. John Coleman last season threw a ball underhand 128 yards. Men who throw overhand seldom lame themselves, but such men do not make good infielders. Every man on the infield should be able to make a snap throw or jerk the ball underhand. Ed Delehanty is one of the best in the business at the latter style of throwing. He can make a ball sail. Andy Leonard was one of the most accurate long-distance throwers I ever saw. His ball seemed to sail. I can tell as soon as I see a man throw if he has ever had anything the matter with his arm. Now there is Al Reach. He can today line a ball form second home or from first to third with the same freedom of motion that he did twenty years ago. He never had a lame arm in his life, and his throwing shows it. Thompson by practice can learn some way of throwing that will not hurt his shoulder, eve should his old trouble return.”

Monte Ward excelled as a pitcher and a shortstop. A lawyer he led the ill-fated players rebellion
Jack Rowe not only played shortstop but he took turns behind the bat. A good payer he played from 1879 to 1890.

John F Coleman played eight years, his last in 1890. Versatile he played the outfield, pitched and played first base.

Jack “Moose” Farrell played eleven years in the majors. In 1886 and 1887 he spent time with Washington, batting .227 in 134 games.

This is the first I have read that Delehanty exhibited an underhand throwing motion.

Al Reach was one of the best players in the early days of baseball. Arthur Pue Gorman tried on several occasions to sign him for the Washington Nationals and failed. Reach might be called the first free agent.

Sam Thompson overcame his shoulder issues and went on to become one of the best players the game has seen.

Andy Leonard was a middle infielder from the early days of baseball. He had a long career in the majors. One of several players mentioned that are linked to Washington. He played on the 1871 Washington Olympic nine. Tim Murnane said of Andy in 1886, “Andrew Leonard at left field ten years ago was a daisy, and no mistake. His fly catches with his back turned to the audience on a dead run down the field, often having to jump in the air, were pictures, and then the way he would turn and duck his head, sending the ball to the home plate on a shooting bound not over ten feet from the ground, at any distance, will not soon be forgotten . . . Andy was a first-class base-runner and A 1 batsman.”

John Meister played two years in the majors but had a long career in the minors.