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Mac Farlane never batted against Walter Johnson, but he knew plenty of people who did. "From the tip of his finger to his wrist was 14 inches. People say he came over the top, but he threw sidearm. And he'd whip those long fingers around.... Three guys gave up and left the plate against him with only two strikes."
I don't remember how Johnson came up, but we got into Rube Waddell when I was reading "Gossip of the Players" from 1908. During the off-season in those days The Sporting News had four great tidbits columns: "Gossip of the Players," "Scribbled by Scribes," "Tips by the Managers" and "Said by the Magnates." I find it interesting that the money men have always had an important place in Sporting News coverage. This headline appeared on Nov. 24, 1910:
O, YOU MAGNATES! CONTINUE TO OCCUPY LIMELIGHT WITH THEIR TROUBLES.
But "Gossip of the Players" was by far my favorite. I was reading some 1908 quotes from Waddell, whom I always loved as a kid because his legend had to do with his chasing a fire engine or playing catch with kids or wrestling alligators when he was supposed to be pitching. As recorded by some period scribe, this is what Waddell was saying in 1908:
I have had good luck fishing, so far, and ought to be satisfied, but since I have been associated with that advanced financier, Jack O'Connor, I have developed a hankering for lucre. Jack has drilled it into me that I owe it to myself to go get the money. He may be right, but it is not clear to me how a fellow can owe himself anything in any way.
Ah, Rube. Here he was a few weeks earlier.
I want to call attention to the fact that few freak or fool stories were printed about me [during the preceding season] in the papers. Why up to this year I never knew when I got out of bed what I would read about myself.... I am not conservative or discreet, but I am not 'bughouse,' but if I have done all that has been said or written about me, I ought not to be at large.
Did Rube really talk like that? Well, did Samson or Delilah really talk the way they do in the Bible? All we can say is this: that legendary sports flakes have been saying that last thing (if they had really done all that has been said or written...) at least since Rube Waddell. After that winter Waddell pitched only two more years in the big leagues, and six years later, at 37, he was dead of tuberculosis. Cocaine was not a problem among players in those days, but liquor was. I read Waddell's quotes to Mac Farlane.
"One time," said Mac Farlane, "a detective brought Waddell into the hotel lobby and told Connie Mack he was arresting him. Said Rube had been making fresh remarks to ladies and disturbing the peace. Mack asked if there was any way to keep Waddell out of jail. The detective said, well, he supposed if Mack paid the $10 fine.... So Mack did. A little later Mack walked past a saloon down the street and through the window he saw Rube and the 'detective'—he was no detective, he was a friend of Rube's—drinking up Mack's $10."
The Sporting News was founded by Al Spink as a local magazine of all sports. In 1886, there was an item about W.C. Manning, THE CHAMPION ONE-LEGGED WRESTLER OF THE WORLD, which declared, "Manning has never been thrown, though he has met several two-legged men."