MAY: THE BASEBALL GURU ARTICLE FROM
BUCK EWING:1859-1906 LEVI MAYERLE:1845-1821
The 1870s and 1880s ..is for most of us a shadowy time in the history of baseball. The games were different and so were the players. The tempo of life in general produced quite a different world then we have today.
The telephone, light bulb, and the phonograph were invented in the mid to late 1870s followed by the first skyscrapers and the initial attempt to construct the Panama Canal in the early 1880s.
War, as it has throughout the history of man, permeated both periods. Bloody moments dominated the Boer & Franco Prussian Wars. Bulgaria and Rumania became independent after a protracted and vicious conflict against the Ottoman Empire
In the world of the Arts some momentous creations appeared on the scene. Mark Twain came out with his greatest novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and speaking of novels we also had The Brothers Karamazov by Doestoevsky, Robert Louis Stevensons Treasure Island and to top it off, his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.
Also Arthur Conan Doyle introduced us to a remarkable man in a series of stories involving Sherlock Holmes and his confidant Dr. Watson. Jules Verne added to his legend as a science fiction and fantasy writer by giving us Around the World in 80 Days. Thus Spake Zarathustra was Frederich Nietzsches gift to us. And last but not least, the first addition of the Oxford dictionary appeared.
A horrific event happened in 1838. In an explosion heard for thousands of miles, the volcano known as Krakatoa exploded in what is considered to be the loudest noise ever known in recorded history. Its estimated that over 35,000 people died in the eruption as well as in the Tsunami that followed.
And what of baseball? Well this is what the game was like at that time. First and foremost it was a gentlemans game. The unofficial. official rule called for pitching underhanded. You absolutely could not argue about a play on the field, spitting or sliding, or interfering with the players on the field was forbidden. The batter told the pitcher where to throw and what pitches he wanted. You walked on 3 balls and did strike out on three strikes but only after a warning strike first.
The period had its stars and lets look at two of them now Buck Ewing and Levi Mayerle
He was a child of his time. He set a standard of excellence in the game for that period and arguably has been considered to have been the best player around then.
BUCK EWING:BORN 1859: DIED 1906
In his prime he was the greatest player of the game from the standpoint of supreme excellence in all departments: batting, catching, fielding, baserunning, throwing and baseball brains, without a weakness of any kind. BASEBALL REACH GUIDE, 1919
If not that, then certainly the best catcher to have been seen up until the 1880s. It was not until the advent of Mickey Cochrane, Gabby Hartnett, and Bill Dickey that his skills were remotely challenged.
Where to start? We can mention that he has a lifetime average of .303 in 18 years in the Majors. In 1883 he set the record for most homeruns in a season at 10 which for that period was the equivalent of Ruths 60. In his time triples are what fans talked about and he excelled in that category, leading the league with twenty in 1884 and was quite often among the top batters in that area. We now know that he led baseball in stolen bases for most of his career, averaging 37 a season (stolen base records werent kept in those days). In 1888 he had a career high of 53 steals to lead the league.
He was the first catcher to start throwing runners out in a sitting position and also the first to make the Hall Of Fame. He was among the first group to be inducted, Cap Anson and Ewing were the first from the nineteenth century.
As a manager he ended up with a 489-395 record. At the age of 47 he passed away away from diabetis, an ailment he suffered from for most of his life.
LEVI MAYERLE: BORN 1845: DIED 1921
Mayerle was an awesome hitter in the earliest days of baseball. He holds the highest batting average for a single season in the game (if you consider the National Association a Major League) at an incredible .492. BASEBALL LIBRARY.COM
Levi Mayerle was born in Philadelphia on July 1845, raised in Philadelphia County, and was a product of a hard working , God fearing, conservative minded family that emphasized good manners, courtesy, and a layed back approach to life.
Farming made him strong and powerful. Early on he began to utilize that to good advantage on the athletic field. His first love was football which he excelled in. An injury curtailed that passion and he turned to baseball instead.
By 1871 he was playing with the Philadelphia Athletics of the National Association (a precursor of the National League). At 61 he was one of the tallest players in the league and certainly one of the strongest. His nickname (LONG LEVI) reflected that. His first five years he was part of the National Association and then ended up with the Philadelphia Athletics (later known as the Phillies) in the new National League. It was while he played for the NA that he set the all time baseball record for a season @.492.
Most of his career he played third base and was not known for his defensive skills. However he was versatile and played every position besides catcher. It was his hitting though that caught everyones attention. His lifetime batting average @ around .350 attested to that.
Unlike Ewing he had a short career. After eight years an ankle injury put an end to it. He was one of Philadelphias most popular players.