Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 7, 2008
BASEBALL: Kid Nichols in Action
There are any number of interesting things you can stumble across on the web, and this public-domain collection of old-timey (1880s-1910s, mainly 1901-06) baseball photos from the Boston Public Library is pretty impressive. Among others you can find Honus Wagner shaking hands with Nap Lajoie, a 1906 Cubs team picture, a picture of Hugh Duffy in mid-career, an 1895 picture of four of the stars of the old Baltimore Orioles, and a 1901 team picture with Cy Young at the center.
Below the fold you can see one series of pics from 1901 of Hall of Famer Kid Nichols demonstrating for a photographer his pitching grip & motion (granted, the motion's a bit artificial since it has to be stopped for still photos in a studio). Nichols, largely forgotton today, was easily one of the 10 best pitchers in the game's history - he won 63% of his career decisions with a 2.95 ERA pitching mainly in the offense-crazy 1890s, his career ERA+ of 140 means he was 40% better than the league for his career (among pitchers with over 3,000 career IP, only Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens can top that, and Nichols threw a thousand more innings than Grove), his average record from age 20-28 was 31-15, his decision to be a player-manager in the Western League for two years in mid-career is probably the only reason he didn't join Cy Young and Walter Johnson as a 400-game winner, and he was durable and tremendously consistent despite carrying a heavy workload from an early age (over 420 innings a year from age 20-24). The picture at the side here is of Nichols as a 20-year-old rookie in 1890. It's funny; I've known a fair bit about Nichols for a long time and this is the first time I've seen anything like action shots to give a sense of what he looked like on the mound.
Here's Nichols holding the ball low; he threw overhand, so this must be the start of his windup, although the picture isn't numbered and the next two are marked "1" and "3".
Here's Nichols in his windup - note the absence of a leg kick. I assume if he had one in his usual delivery he'd have tried to demonstrate that here.
Here's the delivery, presumably still a bit above the release point - Nichols seems to be twisting his wrist a bit.
And here's his grip, which looks like what I believe would now be described as a two-seam fastball.