In writing today about Jake Daubert’s untimely death in 1924, I was struck by the comments written about him and then I thought about Jay Bruce and his comments after losing the ball in the lights in last night’s Reds’ loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
About Daubert, from Total Baseball’s “Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia”:
“The National League’s best first baseman between 1910 and 1920, Jake Daubert played 15 seasons as a regular and helped two different teams win pennants. Talented, modest, and a bit colorless, he was often described as “nearly” as good defensively as Hal Chase. But Daubert was a better hitter, and unlike Chase, always played the game on the square. A quiet man, who led by example, Daubert captained the Cincinnati Reds from 1919 until his death in 1924.”
From “The Cincinnati Reds” by Ritter Collett and the Jordan-Powers Corporation: “A classy first baseman and consistent lefthanded hitter…one of the fanciest fielding first sackers in the game.”
From From “The Cincinnati Reds” by Donald Honig: “Gentleman Jake underwent an operation…complication set in…and Cincinnati’s modest and soft-spoken first baseman died.”
By all accounts, Daubert was the anti-Chase (Chase was sometimes called “The Prince of Darkness”) and both played for the Reds. Daubert had unusual skills for a first baseman. He was a singles hitter in a singles-hitting time that bridged over to the lively ball era. In a time where it was sometimes “rough and tumble” to be a major league player, Daubert was a gentleman coal miner from the mountains of Pennsylvania. Daubert is the second on the all-time major league list for sacrifice bunts and has an extremely low rbi/hit ratio, especially for a first baseman. But, he was a speedy player with great bat control who normally hit second in a lineup. From Bill James’s “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract:”
“Casey Stengel, quoted in Arthur Daley’s ‘Sports of the Times:’ ‘Jake Daubert was as good a bunter as I ever saw. He uster put a reverse twist on it like a pool ball. It would hit the ground and–oops–here it is coming back.”
I can think of some Reds players who need some lessons on bunting…
Oh, what does this have to do with Jay Bruce? After he missed the line drive in the lights last night he made no excuses. He said the ball was his to catch. He didn’t blame the lights, he said it was up to him to adjust to them. He didn’t blame the white towels flying throughout the stadium, he said he felt helpless. He added humanity to the game. His comment: “I felt pretty helpless,” Bruce said. “It’s embarrassing. Who knows what would have happened if I caught it?”
He’s right, but he made no excuses. He also wasn’t one to make excuses when he struggled against lefthanded pitching early in the year. He played through it. The young phenom didn’t seem fazed when inserted into the game as a late inning defensive replacement a few weeks ago and made a game-saving catch to preserve a Francisco Cordero save. After all, he was helping the team. He ended his season with higher marks versus left handed pitching than against right handed pitched. Against lefties he batted .277 with 12 homers (179 plate appearances), a .352 OBP, .547 SLP, and an OPS of .899. Versus lefthanded starters, his OPS for the year was .952. Versus righthanded pitching, Bruce batted .283 with 13 homers (394 plate apperances), a .353 OBP, a .459 SLP, and an .821 OPS. I, for one, feared he may be destined to be a platoon player. Those fears have been laid to rest. He obviously made the effort to make the adjustments necessary to win.
Cordero has not made excuses for his performance this year either. Cordero has been a stand up guy when he didn’t pitch as well as we wanted him to. It wasn’t easy to watch the games, but he didn’t blame anyone else.
Joey Votto learning the art of baseball cliches has been refreshing and a treasure for me to watch. Almost as much as watching him play so well that he needs to know all the cliches. But, he’s been honest and forthright with what he’s said.
Aaron Harang has been super-classy about his role on this year’s team after years of being the team’s rock solid anchor. Thank you, Aaron. I’m truly sorry about the timing of it all.
I wasn’t embarrassed about the Reds being no-hit by Roy Halladay in Game One. I tip my hat to Halladay; I wish he’d been on our team. But, I was embarrassed by the comments by Orlando Cabrera in blaming the umpire. The players get more than one pitch to hit. Where’s the veteran leadership?
I was embarrassed by the comments Brandon Phillips made about the Cardinals. Was it really necessary? I know many made fun of Chris Carpenter talking about having to explain the situation to his son, but I really didn’t enjoy having to explain to my son why Redleg Nation had to put asterisks on the page and ESPN couldn’t broadcast what Phillips said. Especially after my son had to use his imagination to come up with something else. I wish Phillips spent all of his time playing as hard as I’ve seen him play when he’s at his best.
I’m somewhat embarrassed by Jonny Gomes’s haircut and then I had to watch Fox Sports Ohio follow him to the barber shop. Well, I didn’t have to watch it; I walked out of the room. I was embarrassed, if not insulted, by Edinson Volquez’s explanations for his drug suspension. And, anyway, how would Bob Howsam feel about the Reds as portrayed in the caricatures published by the “Cincinnati Enquirer?” For the record, I think they’re well-done and great fun. But, it’s definitely different than Reds teams from days gone by. If I recall, facial hair wasn’t allowed by the Reds before 1999.
I was embarrassed by our loss in Game Two. The Reds gave away a winnable game and now we’re in a hole. We’re past time to step up to the plate. Scott Rolen hasn’t played well the first two games (0-7, five strikeouts, phyical and mental errors in the field). We need Rolen to be healthy and playing well. It’s time to rely on our young starting pitching like we’ve done all year. But, whatever we do, I want us to play, win or lose, with some class. Thank you, Jay, for accepting last night’s error and loss with class, with personal responsibility.
Now, it’s time for all of you guys to come back with a vengeance, to play with the pride of a Jake Daubert, who, while deathly ill, wanted to play one more game for the Reds. Daubert took the train ride back to Cincinnati but ended up in the hospital in a surgeon’s care instead and that didn’t work out so well. Let’s play with some pride, fortitude, and for the history of Cincinnati baseball.