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.