The Tommy Barlow Story

Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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9 Responses

  1. Glyph says:

    “There is no hope for me,” he said. “I shall go along until it is time to commit suicide, and then I suppose I shall commit it.”


  2. Kolohe says:

    Props, by the way, to the Brooklyn jail. I would not have guessed anything so progressive as this existed at the time.

    They were into prison reform before it was cool.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    This is a really, really good essay.

    And the story it told feels like it could have been written about someone in contemporary times. Yesterday.Report

  4. Tod Kelly says:

    This was amazing, Richard. The story, the writing, the research you did, all of it.

    Fantastic piece.Report

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    As an addendum, to illustrate the dangers the catcher faced, here is a bit I just came across. It is from a game played July 12, 1877 between the Hartford and Cincinnati clubs:

    Hastings, who was playing close behind Start’s bat, was hit in the mouth by a sharp foul-tip. He fell senseless, as if shot, with his face in the dust and his arms extended. The players left their positions, ran to his assistance and carried him from the field. He soon revived, when his injuries were found to be severe, but not disastrous. None of the teeth were destroyed, but the upper lip was cut open in two places clear through to the jaw bone. He immediately left for the city to procure surgical aid in sewing up the woulds, while Booth took his place behind the bat. Hastings used no rubber between his teeth, else the injury might have been avoided. It is universally regretted in base-ball circles that he has thus been disabled for a day or two. Source: Cincinnati Enquirer July 13, 1877

    Gotta love that this counts for two days off, then get back in there. They had pluck.Report

    • I am reminded of the small Iowa town where my grandparents lived. Up through the 1930s, the town’s fortunes were based on the shallow local coal seams that provided fuel for two different Chicago-to-Kansas City rail lines. I remember asking my father once, “Why are so many of Grandpa’s friends missing some fingers or a whole hand?” Easy to get a finger (or more) caught in the various gears in those days.Report

    • Though ’77 was Hasting’s last year in baseball (at least in the majors), and he played in only 20 of Cincinnati’s 57 games that year.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        He in fact was back in the lineup for an exhibition game on the 17th, though playing center field. He caught against Boston on the 20th. Spot checking through August, he seems to be the regular catcher. How, then, to explain his only playing in 20 games for the season? The history of the Cincinnati Club in 1877 is, um…, complicated. I may write about that. In the meantime, just go with it. I don’t know if Hastings’ retiring from the game after the season had anything to do with his taking a ball in the face or not. He turned thirty years old in 1878. Lots of crazy shit that seemed like a good idea in your twenties suddenly don’t seem very smart in your thirties.Report

        • El Muneco in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          Much less your forties. I’m still willing to throw myself headlong in goal to try to tip a shot around the bar, even at pushing 49. But it takes an effort to close down an attacker knowing that there’s a decent chance that the block will be with my face. And going out into the scrum to deflect a cross, not knowing what will come from my blind side? That pretty much doesn’t happen anymore.

          I sucked behind the plate at 25, even if my noodle arm meant that I shouldn’t be there. I can’t imagine doing it at 35.Report