This Kauff is Some Hitter

Damon Runyon

Salt Lake Tribune/January 24, 1916

Where Will Baker Get Off?

J. Harry Smith, debonair backstopper, who was once with the Giants and later with the Brookfeds, was up in the American League office yesterday, paying a belated New Year’s call, or something of that nature, when he was summoned to give testimony before an informal inquiry of baseball writers.

The first question asked him was the first question which is always asked of the gents who pastime with the late Feds by those who were not in close touch with that lamented league, the interrogation being as follows: “Can this guy Kauff really hit?”

“He can,” said J. Harry, emphatically. “And he can hit anything. He’s the hittenest hound you ever saw in all your born days. Try to pitch out on him and he’ll knock it over the fence. Try to toss one over his head, and he’ll reach up and tear the cover off the pill. Lay one over the plate, and—oh, well, that’s murder, that is. And he hits with three and nothing, or two and one, or any other old way.”

“I saw him once,” said Wild Bill Donovan, horning into the scene, “and he’s a wild swinger. I don’t believe he can hit a slow ball much. I’d like to see him batting against Nap Rucker’s slow one a few times.”

“No!” said J. Harry. “Well, over in Chicago toward the close of the season he ran into that same Bailey again and, as I recall it, he got four hits. But he was only up four times. Oh, he can hit! I don’t think he’s as valuable a ball player in an all-around way as Lee Magee, but he can everlastingly hit. Don’t make any mistake about that. Left-handers, right-handers—they’re all the same to Benjamin. He was born hitting, that’s all.”

Smith says the best catcher in the Federal League last season, in his opinion, was Bill Fisher, the New York lad who was produced by John Pollock down around the Avonia A.C., and who pastimed with Your Uncle Wilbert Robinson over in Brooklyn for a spell. Coming from a catcher, this is quite a boost for young William.

As to Frank Baker

Lee Magee, at $20,000 or even more, should prove a fine investment for the Yanks. He may not do as well in the American League as he did in the Federal League, perhaps, but he is an all-around ball player, fast, intelligent enough, and a constant hitter. Moreover, he has some personality, and will undoubtedly prove a drawing card. He is only twenty-six years old and his baseball future is before him.

It is rumored that the Yanks are now after Frank Baker, the semiretired third baseman of the Philadelphia Athletics. Just where Baker would fit into the Yanks lineup is not clear. Third base is about the only position he has ever played as a phenom. Fritz Maisel is not a real good third baseman, but he plays the bag about as well as Baker, at that.

Baker can—or, at least, he could—outhit Maisel by a wide margin, but he was never at any period of his career as fast as Fritz. There is some talk that Wild Bill Donovan intends putting Maisel in the outfield if he gets Baker, which would indicate that the Yank manager plans to play Magee at second base, for Hugby High and Gilhooley are regarded as outfield certainties right now. The plan may work out all right, but it must be regarded as an experiment. Maisel at third is no experiment.

Thirty years old, slow afoot, and always lacking in baseball personality, with a season’s layoff from big league work behind him, Baker may prove a very expensive purchase if he is finally taken on by the Yanks. Connie Mack is sure to want a big price for him, and Baker is certain to demand a large salary. We must confess we cannot see him, at any considerable price.

Bid for Koney

It seems that the Yanks did put in a bid for Doug Konetchy, the former St. Louis and Pittsburg first sacker, when they filed propositions for Fed players, but just why they would want Koney is not clear. It must be they are after him for trading purposes, as it is not likely that Donovan would replace such a promising youngster as Walter Pipp with a veteran like Koney.

According to the ball players who made the barnstorming tour with Frank Bancroft last fall, Pipp will be the best first baseman in the land next season. Maybe they are a bit over-enthusiastic, but Walter was coming along so well during the regular season that his later form is not surprising. Koney is a good hitter, and might be used in the outfield, but this thing of trying to convert a player from one position to another late in his career is not always successful.

The White Sox need a first baseman, and so do several other clubs in both leagues, but the Yanks seem to be fairly well fixed in that department just at present. A second baseman and a couple of hitting outfielders are would be more welcome than players for any of the other positions.

There was some talk that Donovan might put Maisel in the outfield if he landed Baker, but, as Baker now seems to be a very remote prospect, Fritz will probably again be found looking over the hot ones from down around third.


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