The Gig-Lamp Brigade

Damon Runyon

New York American/January 13, 1917

One of our Bronx readers wants to know if there is any ball player in active service who wears glasses while at work, besides Lee Meadows, the bespectacled and very efficient young hurler of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Two others that we know of. One of them is Carmen Hill, pitcher, just released to the Birmingham club, of the Southern Association, by Jimmy Callahan, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Carmen goes to Birmingham as part of the deal for Burleigh Grimes, the promising propeller unveiled by Cal in the closing weeks of last season.

Hill is a Pittsburgh lad who has been the property of the Pirates for a couple of years. He was first discovered and recommended to Barney Dreyfuss while playing in semi-pro company around the Smoky City, and after being signed by the Pirates was sent to the Central League for development. He had a fairly good year in that league and was recalled by the Pirates only to be released to Birmingham.

Carmen has done no big league pitching, but he is said to be a pretty good prospect and may yet be found peering at the major maulers from behind his gleaming windshields.

The third pastimer who wears glasses while pursuing his avocation is one Watkins, known as “Ironsides,” a pitcher with the Beaumont club, of the Texas League. He is also a youngster who may have a big league future.

No Great Handicap

’Way back in a comparatively remote period of baseball, Will White, a spectacle wearer, was a great pitcher, but of recent years, until Meadows came along, baseball people were inclined to regard glasses as a handicap that could not possibly be overcome by a ball player, especially a big leaguer.

Meadows had to be a cracking good hurler to get any consideration whatever. Before his time few scouts would have wasted a minute on a player wearing cheaters; fewer men would have taken a second look at him. Now that Meadows has shown that his glasses are no particular handicap to him the baseball world scarcely notices his gig-lamps.

It is not unlikely that players other than pitchers will be eventually found in the big leagues wearing glasses. Not long ago Harvard had a first baseman who played his position behind specs—and played it well, too, as we recall the matter. We could name two or three pastimers now in major company who would improve 50 percent if they could figure out some way of employing the artificial visual aid without endangering their eyesight.

Specs are by no means unknown in other lines of sport. Several crack tennis players wear the while playing. Sammy Smith, a prize fighter, used to come into the ring embellished by huge cheaters, removing them just before the gong sounded. For obvious reasons, no fighter ever wore glasses in action, however.

Our American Game

Reference was made in this column yesterday to the signing of Vernon Ayau, a heathen Chinee, by the Seattle club, of the Northwestern League, only Vernon is not a full-blooded Chink and by no means a heathen, as we get it.

He is half Chinese and half Kankakee, and he comes from Honolulu, but he will probably be mentioned as a Chink to the end of his American baseball days, for that is the part of him that stands out, so to speak.

The same bulletin from minor league headquarters which promulgates Ayau’s contract, announces the signing with the Vernon club, of the Pacific Coast League, of one Del Crispi, and with New London, of the Eastern League, of Ramon Gonzales and Joaquin Rodis. On the list of the Vancouver club, of the Northwestern League, appears the name of Tom Lukanovic, while Pete Mestel, Frank Hagenbruch and John Ehresman are ticketed for Bloomington, of the old Three-Eyes.

All Are Represented

Little need to recount the French and German representatives—Lajoie, Wagner and such. Kohlbecker, Lambrick, Bieloeper, Weiss, Stutz, Grennaae, Horstman, Klein and Mehlhaf are a few of the potential major leaguers of the future as shown by the minor roll.

The Indian has long been part of the life of the big ring since the time of Sockalexis. John Tortes, otherwise Meyers, Albert Bender, Jim Bluejacket and Jim Thorpe are a few of the noble redmen who have worn big league uniforms.

Very few nationalities are unrepresented in the old American game. There are numerous Scandinavians. There are several Englishmen. The Doles and Murphys and Gilhooleys and the Collinses are thick on the big league lists, while coming up through the sticks we find strong reinforcements for the Irish brigade.

It’s a great game. It is restricted to the children of no one flag, and to no one country. They can come from any old place, and speak in any old tongue, and they all have the same chance. They but have to show the ability.

(Source: University of Wisconsin Library microfilm collection.)