Monday, August 26, 2013

Charles Radbourn - "Old Hoss"

Charles Gardner Radbourn 

nicknamed "Old Hoss"
(December 11, 1854 – February 5, 1897)

Teams:  Grays/Beaneaters/Reds/Bisons 1880-1891
Win-loss record: 309-194
ERA: 2.68  Strikeouts: 1,830

At least one Hall of Famer also pursued the elusive goal of ambidextrous pitching

Charles Radbourn, at 5’9” and 168 pounds, entered baseball during the underhand pitching era. There is some evidence that he threw overhand at least occasionally.

Was Charles Radbourn ambidextrous?

Old Hoss - Boston
Washington Post article in 1883 claimed that, “Radbourn, pitcher of the Providence nine, can pitch either right or left handed.” There doesn’t seem to be much supplementary evidence to support the claim, but it seems like something such a resourceful pitcher might try. In the era of no gloves, the batter wouldn’t know which hand the delivery was coming from until the pitcher went into his windup.
A former infielder and outfielder, Rad was known as one of the top fielding pitchers of his era. He also controlled the pitch selection and gave his own signals throughout his career, even after it was common for catchers to give most of the signs. Typically, he only signaled for outside pitches, mainly the curve. 
Arm conditioning using a weighted ball and long toss
Rad practiced with an iron ball, throwing it underhand to develop arm strength. He also long tossed to get his arm in shape before taking the mound. He babied his arm, soothing it with hot towels and getting frequent messages. As a result and despite racking up more innings than most, he was one of the few major league pitchers prior to Cy Young to attain a good amount of success after age thirty.

Radbourn appeared in 83 games for Providence in 1882, 54 of them on the mound totaling 474 innings. 

In 1884, he tallied a 59-12 record with a 1.38 ERA in 678.2 innings! He threw 488 complete games over 11 years.

A Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball

Fifty-Nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had

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