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Boy Pitching Wonder, Pt. I

If there's anything I love more than newspapers, it's newspapers printed in 1907. Somehow, the newshounds of those days knew phrases that serve only the purpose of high amusement. Now I'm not trying to compare Stephen Strasburg with Walter Johnson (though you'd think the Nats are, based on Friday afternoon's bombastic welcome-to-DC news conference), but I took the Strasburg arrival as a cue to do a little Johnson research. Just for fun. Plus, I'll take any excuse to visit the Post archives. It's not all that often some esteemed young fireballing lad comes to our capital from the West. Take note of this dispatch from July 6, 1907:

"Walter Johnson, the boy pitching wonder who has signed with the Washington team of the American League, announced today that he would join the big league club in Detroit, Mich., on July 15. Johnson, who is but nineteen years old, is perhaps the most sensational pitcher that has ever come into prominence. If confidence counts for anything in the big league, Johnson is sure to make good. He believes he can beat any team he faces. When a base hit has been made off his delivery in the games here, he has attributed such a performance to sheer luck."

See the full page here.


By Chico Harlan  |  August 21, 2009; 3:16 PM ET
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Next: Lineups From Nats Park


Great sale on suits and hats, too.

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | August 21, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I went to the event. Smallish crowd, possibly a thousand, more likely several hundred. There were a bunch of fans down in the first rows near the field, but many more at the top of two or three sections in the shade.

Nice idea to have a town meeting, but it was cut short by the weather. Some pretty good questions and ok answers until they cut it off. Here's a few:

Fan: Since you evaluated Strasburg so carefully, what do you know about his hitting and fielding.

Rizzo: I've actually never seen him hit -- they have a DH in college. He's fields very well, good defense on the bunt, covering first etc.

Stan: Can you believe the guy just gave him $15.1 million and he's never seen him hit?

Fan: Stan, are you going to hold ticket prices constant or even decrease them in recognition of the investment that the fans have put into the team for the past five years with little return?

Stan: I'm not ready to make an official announcement yet, but I don't you'll be unhappy when I do.

Fan (I swear it wasn't me): Congrats Mike. How long will we have to endure Austin Kearns?

Rizzo: Let me just say about Kearns. I'm a big Kearns fan. He's a great guy, works hard, hustles, plays the field well, adjusted to his role comign off the bench, great in the clubhouse blah, blah, blah. And I want to remind you that he was playing hurt for a long time.

[I'll refrain from responding to this B.S. from the guy who supposedly "never lies." ]

Posted by: Section222 | August 21, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I love this headline:


Could not Stand Roasting From Bleacherites and Resigns."

Posted by: Juan-John | August 21, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I think that I will wear a Fancy Suit and Straw Hat to Stras' first start...

Posted by: OldDude | August 21, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Given Boz's column today, and based on his play ... "Tony Plush" does indeed begin to seem like a true "throwback" to 1909's "Spoke".

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow! A Pirates boxscore with Honus Wagner!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | August 21, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Huh. That's interesting. There's an Obama birth announcement tucked inside the Eiseman Bros ad.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | August 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Hrmmm... my kidneys _have_ been feeling a bit peaked lately...

Posted by: OldDude | August 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Can we safely assume that no blog (or it's equivalent)in the year 2109 will ever write:

"Wow, a Pirates boxscore with Lastings Millege!"

Wow! A Pirates boxscore with Honus Wagner!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | August 21, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: cdstej | August 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Love these blasts from the past, Chico. Must be fun digging through the archives.

I liked this:

"Bob Emslie, veteran umpire, tells what he does off the field--pays no attention to howl of fans, because he knows their peculiarity."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 21, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse


What!? No mention of "Five-Tool" Milledge a century from now?

I guess, if Lastings has five tools, he must be one of those "unflawed" players we've been hearing about...

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | August 21, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Also, who'd a thunk that the Treasury Department would beat the Navy? Evidently the Department of the Interior boys were a bunch of bums.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 21, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Heck, even the warblers would probably have soundly trounced the Department of the Interior...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 21, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

where's the shirley povich column?

Posted by: surly_w | August 21, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Section 222

I hope for your sake that nobody at your job asks how long they have to endure you. Humiliating someone is not my idea of fun, humor, or sport. Treat Austin Kearns like a fellow human being and ask how you would like to be treated. Golden Rule time.

Posted by: WashOut | August 21, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Courtesy of Wikipedia, I like this quote from Ty Cobb about Walter Johnson.

"On August 2, 1907, I encountered the most threatening sight I ever saw in the ball field. He was a rookie, and we licked our lips as we warmed up for the first game of a doubleheader in Washington. Evidently, manager Pongo Joe Cantillon of the Nats had picked a rube out of the cornfields of the deepest bushes to pitch against us... He was a tall, shambling galoot of about twenty, with arms so long they hung far out of his sleeves, and with a sidearm delivery that looked unimpressive at first glance... One of the Tigers imitated a cow mooing, and we hollered at Cantillon: 'Get the pitchfork ready, Joe-- your hayseed's on his way back to the barn.'
...The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him... every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park."

Posted by: psubman | August 21, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

washington was holding up the rest of the american usual.

Posted by: surly_w | August 21, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Boz, "the Mayor", and Chico need to write more like this ...

Of all the counterfeits that the overs of the fistic game have been touted against in recent years, Squires is perhaps the worst that has ever stepped into a ring. A novice could not have made a worst showing, and yet Squires had a record. Australian to be sure, which warranted his being matched against one of the first raters in this country, all of which speaks none to well for the present crop of Australian pugilists.

Squires, it develops, has not the slightest knowledge of modern pugilism. He is nothing more than a rough-and-tumble fighter, who might lick some troublesome drunk or a barber, but could stand no chance with a goool-headed man who knew enough to wait for his rushes and plant his fists on a vital spot.

Cue up the Rocky lead-in ...

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the "typo-s". 'overs' should be lovers and 'goool' should be 'cool'.

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse


Could not Stand Roasting From Bleacherites and Resigns

Wow I wonder what he would have done if it had been George E. Jessel

BTW Strausburg and Johnson are 100 years apart in age.

Posted by: CBinDC1 | August 21, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

We are exceptionally lucky to have Boz and Chico writing about our team. Love Tracee Ham and Eggs too.

Dynamite articles recently. Thanks for them.

Chico a few days ago, reported: Because of Strasburg, Carolyn Johnson Thomas, 86, the daughter of Washington Senators Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, woke up at 11:30 p.m. Monday, walked to her computer, and Googled "Stephen Strasburg," just to see if he'd signed.

Great stuff.

Speaking of Jarrah Bergmann, is our own (the Wizards’, actually) Alexa Steele, former WaPo Production Assistant, now Editor, Alexandra Steele the smoking hot, slam-dunk-over-Wendy-Reiger-meteorologist-which-is-a-hard-thing-to-do-babe? Prolly not, but if so, how’s your new baby Alexa? Hope it was a girl!

Now BinM will post that I am a sexist. Guilty.

Posted by: nova_g_man | August 21, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh my the box scores:

first base on balls.
sacrifice hits.
two-base hits.
left-on bases.

and wait; Umpires-Messrs. Grans and O'Louglin.

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

They did not call him Big Train for nothing.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | August 21, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Wendy Reiger is a tad "cougar-ish" Nova G Man ...

Have to give her points for getting better with age.

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

In the grand tradition of
Tristen "Spoke" "Gray Eagle" Speaker

--- Nyjer "Tony Plush" Morgan.

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I love that the bottom of the column talks about the Cleveland Naps. A newspaper contest to rename the team after Nap Lajoie joined got them that name for something like 10 or 11 years. Imagine if we had that here. The Washington Strasburg? How about The Washington Zimmerman(n)s? At least it's not entirely inaccurate.

Posted by: CharlieF | August 21, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

What the heck are serges?

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

serge 1 (sûrj)
A twilled cloth of worsted or worsted and wool, often used for suits.
[Middle English sarge, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *srica, from Latin srica (vestis), silken (clothing), feminine of sricus, silken, from Greek srikos, of the Seres, silken, from Sres, a people of eastern Asia, perhaps China.]

Posted by: periculum | August 21, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice the story at the bottom of the page? Cleveland beats New York 2-1 on a fluke home run by Lajoie. His ball hit the wire fence in centerfield with such force that it stuck there and could not be dislodged! I'm guessing that's a ground rule double in the modern game, but still -- priceless!!

@washout -- I didn't ask the question about Kearns -- honest. If I had, I might have done it more delicately. But leaving that aside, I didn't make $8 million this year, and 20,000 people a night aren't expected to pay between $10 and $300 to watch me peck at my keyboard and talk on the phone. If they did, and if I was terrible at my job (which I'm not) for which I was way overpaid (which believe me, I'm not), they'd have every right to ask that question, and to expect an honest answer from my employer who is taking their money day in and day out.

Posted by: Section222 | August 21, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Have they announced where they might build Stephen Strasburg High School?

Posted by: AsstGM | August 21, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Held for approval, eh? Got something against etymology? harrumph...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 21, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed the umpire bit because I just finished reading "As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires." Which, by the way, was a good read. I now see a lot more of what umpires are doing on the field and it's fascinating.

It also thrilled me to find yet another facet of baseball that has hundreds of subtleties you'd never imagine. Who knew so much could be going on on the field and you never even notice them!

It makes me wonder what else I might be missing. Any books out there like "Catching Heat: The Life of a Bullpen Catcher"? or "Turbo Dirt: Getting the Stains out of a Major League Uniform"? I'd read them in a heartbeat.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 21, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

If Walter Johnson was the Big Train, maybe Strasburg is the Money Train.

Posted by: AsstGM | August 21, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

coincidence that the metro station closest to strasburg (formerly natstown) is the GREEN line?

Posted by: surly_w | August 21, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

That is totally unfair 202. We bash Rizzo for being hard on his plays and here you are criticizing him for not sinking to the level of an immature, vulgar question.

If someone was that insulting about anyone who work for me regardless of how I felt I would defend my staff and respond with a short phrase ending with the word 'off'.

Posted by: soundbloke | August 21, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: leetee1955 | August 21, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse


i doubt you would be dishing out $8 million to any employee and especially one who sucked as much as Kearns.

Posted by: artvandelay2 | August 21, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. The box scores of the time listed AB, H but then defensive Outs, assists and errors.

I wonder when the change to all-offense occurred. Perhaps sometime in the 20s when offense started dominating the attention of fans?

Posted by: B2O2 | August 21, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff, Chico.

I assume you've read, "You Know Me, Al" by Ring Lardner. (A great sportswriter.) Priceless.

Posted by: JohnRDC | August 21, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Can we safely assume that no blog (or it's equivalent)in the year 2109 will ever write:

"Wow, a Pirates boxscore with Lastings Millege!"

Posted by: cdstej | August 21, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Okay, that one made me REALLY LOL!

Posted by: MikeH0714 | August 21, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Something else I noticed in the box scores--time of game. The pro games were all finished in 2 hours or under. (And did you notice Ty Cobb listed in right field for Detroit?)

There were also results from Wimbledon and Henley as well as a story about Barney Oldfield.

I'm absolutely fascinated by these old papers; they give us such an amazing look at the past. Thanks for the link!

Posted by: wocoliz | August 21, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Kearns--I am sure that no one is as unhappy with his performance as is Kearns himself. The Post article this week on the Nats' wives and girlfriends noted that Kearns's son was diagnosed with autism this summer. Does Kearns need any more smart-a$$ comments from fans whose own job perfomance doesn't occur in real time in front of some 20K people? Sometimes I think that some people forget--or don't care--that ballplayers and other wellknown people (in any field) have feelings.

Posted by: Section109 | August 21, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm always shocked to see a sports section from the Post without some kind of Redskins story running. Sure, this one came out around 30 years before the Redskins were born, but it's still shocking.

The Belgians winning at Henley, the comment about the the Aussie boxer who "might lick some troublesome drunk or a barber". Man, I guess if you got a bad haircut back in 1907, you threw down.

Posted by: gmwelch | August 21, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm with 109 and others. They aren't players in your fantasy game. They're real people, just like you.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 21, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

That was a fun read. Thanks Chico.

Posted by: thegraneys | August 21, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Ty Cobb goes 3 for 5.

Posted by: psoltau | August 22, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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