People compared Carey to a gazelle. Not only was he vastly more graceful than the Chief, but also his background was more interesting. Carey had given up divinity school for baseball and continued to be a keen student of chess strategy and of ancient Greek and Latin texts. Back in Germany the family name had been Fleischmann, but generations back some classicist had Latinized it to Carnarius. Legend has it that the first time Max checked into a professional game, the umpire couldn't deal with the name Carnarius and changed it to Carey. Sportswriters began to call the centerfielder Scoops and (after the name of his former seminary) the Concordia Comet. Until Willie Mays came along, Carey was the most celebrated defensive centerfielder in National League history.
But in 1912, Wilson's annus mirabilis of triples, the Pirates did a strange thing. They moved Carey over to left and put Wilson in center. That year Carey led the league with 369 putouts. 45 more than Wilson could scrape together. It is almost unheard of for a leftfielder to outrange a centerfielder, but that is what Carey did to Wilson in 1912. Here are three possibilities as to what went through Wilson's mind in centerfield that year:
1) Wow! There sure is lots of room out here for a fellow to hit triples.
2) When I leave my glove out here at the end of the inning [as outfielders customarily did in those days], maybe if I place it strategically, opposing centerfielders will trip over it and I'll get a lot of triples.
3. That damned Teutonic/Roman/Irish springy-horned-animal former seminarian who translates dead languages is covering ground that I, a Texas farmer, am supposed to cover. By heaven, I will come up with something he can't beat with a bat.
Of these hypotheses, the first doesn't hold up because Wilson had been in centerfield before; the second seems unlikely (there are hardly any accounts of gloves in the field affecting play); the third must be correct. The thing Wilson came up with that Carey could not beat was triples. Thirty-six of them. The next year Wilson was moved back to right and hit only 14 triples, and the next year, 1914, he was traded to the Cardinals, for whom he played his last three seasons, hitting 12 triples, six triples, two triples. Wilson died in 1954 while working in a pasture of his ranch near Bertram, Texas.
The prolific Fred Lieb says in his history of the Pirates that their manager in 1914, Fred Clarke, justified trading Wilson away because "the Chief lacked fire and never could get himself sufficiently aroused at a ball game. 'Wilson can't get sore enough at rival players—or umpires,' said Fred."
Now, what chances, realistically, do Olerud and Sanders have of becoming the Webb and Wilson of our day? Olerud, a first baseman, has no grounds for defensive jealousy—except that people do say that first base is where slow outfielders go to die. In fact, when it comes to range, a first baseman might envy everybody else on the field. Olerud is playing on artificial turf, which speeds the ball into the gap, and he's a fine line-drive hitter with short-of-triple speed. Is he thinking double?
"I've stopped at second a few times when I considered going to third," he says, "but a lot of times the situation dictates staying at second—you don't want to make the first out of the inning at third, or the second out. I remember a game at home against the White Sox when I made a mistake—should have gone to third, the ball was off the top of the fence."