Were ballplayers of the 1950s … sissies?

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While doing what I do quite often — killing time over at Baseball Think Factory — I came across this Sports Illustrated article from 1954.  The headline: “Are Today’s Baseball Players Sissies Compared To The Old-timers?” Seriously!

Predictably, there was the usual assortment of “baseball is going to Hell” voices, two of which actually name-checked Old Hoss Radbourn:  Lefty Grove, Rogers Hornsby, Cy Young, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Foxx and Ed Walsh all thought that the young punks of the 50s were soft and spoiled.  Cy Young’s response was pretty par for the course:

“Yes. They can’t take it. I’ve seen some of them threaten the pitcher when a ball brushed them back. Most rugged old-timers took this as a part of the game. It’s the rule today to use several pitchers in one game. Iron Man McGinnity pitched 55 games for the Giants in 1903. He won three double-headers in one month.”

You can’t see me, but I assure you, I am rolling my eyes.  Still, you’ll be happy to know that not every former great who was asked pulled the “back in my day …” act.

Paul Waner, Al Simmons and Pie Traynor all agreed with the esteemed Herman Jacobs, more or less that the modern player was every bit as tough if not more so than the old timers.  Carl Hubbell and Frankie Frisch were a bit less committal, noting that there were a lot of differences between the modern game of the 1950s and the game back in their day (bonus: both claimed that a “rabbit ball” was in use in th 50s, proving that people have been complaining about jacked baseballs for decades), but at least they seemed to think about the matter rather than just react.

Anyway, I presume that, if I live long enough, I’ll see Jason Heyward and Justin Upton complaining about the players of the 50s one day too. The 2050s.

Tigers sign Edwin Espinal to minor league deal

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Free agent first baseman Edwin Espinal has signed a minor league deal with the Tigers, the infielder announced Saturday. The move has yet to be confirmed by the team.

Espinal, 23, capped a seven-year run with the Pirates’ minor league affiliates in 2017. He split his season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, batting a cumulative .294/.327/.447 with 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 532 plate appearances. While he’s raked at nearly every level so far, he also profiles well on defense, and rounded off his 2017 performance with a perfect fielding percentage, 208 putouts and a Gold Glove award.

Espinal is untested at the major league level and it’s not yet clear if he’ll make the jump in 2018. He showed some positional versatility during his time in the minors, however, and could take reps at third base or DH if necessary. The Tigers are reportedly on the lookout for pitching depth and left-handed bats — two bills the right-handed Espinal doesn’t fit — and presumably have a lot of moves left to make this winter.