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Thread: Old Red Guard

  1. #1
    Five Tool Fool jojo's Avatar
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    Nov 2006

    Old Red Guard

    This thread couldn't be bumped so the link will have to do...

    The thread basically paints a picture of who Old Red Guard was and includes a few samples of his writing. Unfortunately there are precious few samples in the Archives.

    Here's a post from the above thread that cuts to the heart of the thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou;
    ORG, grew up in the Over the Rhine area in the late 20's and 30's.

    He lived in St. Louis with his son and unlike many older folks out there he found his way on the internet. he was a great storyteller and had the ability to not get bogged down in used to be's.

    Great historical perspective of the game.

    Many of his posts disappeared in the last server crash IIRC.

    This was one of his classics on training today vs back then.

    Might as well make my jaded commentary on this here thread which could be renamed "The Never Ending Story"

    People who don't think we're watching the greatest athletes in baseball history are just wrong - Reds Faithful

    Yep. Just about all the players from the 30s wouldn't do squat if they were transplanted into today's game as is. 20 year olds looked about 30, bodies were smaller overall, no one weight trained (Lord forbid that makes you musclebound don't you know). The most popular diet supplement was liquid malt barley in one form or 'nuther. Juiced meant a guy played better drunk, you slept on clanking, rocking, creaking trains and spent weeks on the road, living in pullman's and hotel rooms. Nutritional theory was the more fatty red meat the better and exercise was generally considered only in spring training if you weren't smart enough to get out of it then. If you pulled a muscle or tweaked a hammy you rubbed some homemade balm into it, gritted your teeth, shut your fool mouth and played the game. There was some kid playing out in the cornbelt who was hellbent to take your job and your boss was hellbent to give it to him if you faltered for a second. After all you were making 5 grand a year and he could pay that kid 1200 and a train ticket to do the same thing. You might be better but not if you're hurt - why give the kid any chance at showing his stuff. Keep playing. Sanitation was nonexistent. Well, okay, most guys washed their face once a day and a few bathed more than once a week, but only a few. Uniforms were worn until they could play the game by themselves. Don't tear it either - get a needle and darn it up - if the club has to buy another one for you before midpoint they'd deduct it from your check. Heck that's about 6 bottles of whiskey and a night with a Philly hooker! Players would have made good footballers though with all that weight. Wool uniforms full of sweat and 3 pounds of fermented dirt, heavy leather shoes with razored steel cleats, cotton unders and a patch of leather on your off-ham and you were playing with 20 pounds of itchy, scratchy, buggy, sometimes soggy, baggy mucilaginous fiber clinging to your every move.

    Compare that to today's featherweight outfits and shoes that weigh 6 ounces! Training equipment consisted of medicine balls, a big field and for pitchers, a wall to throw against. Knocking bottles off posts was a favorite way for kids to practice control, pitching off a concrete stoop and catching the rebounds, tossing at birds or rabbits and hitting rocks as far as you could were other disciplines of rigorous training. Stickball WAS great - it taught incredible bat control and concentration. You try hitting a small ball with a broomstick and see how well you do. Stickball in the streets is overlooked as a way to teach youngsters today. I'm seriuos. That's how I always coached my kids when I was involved in Pony baseball. I'd start out with stickball games and oven mitts for gloves. Bragging now but in twelve years coaching tykes we never once failed to win twice as many as we lost and a ton of my boys made allstar teams every year. Nothing special I did - just the stickball and oven mitts. Catch with an oven mitt and by gosh you WILL use 2 hands. Swing with a broomstick at a little rubber ball half the sizer of a baseball and by the time we played with real bats and balls and gloves the kids hardly missed anything. Easier to straighten out swings when they're hefting a broomstick, too. Helps them select the right weight bat, too. Most kids try to swing way too heavy.

    Anyway, drifting - back to former athletes.

    Today's players are far better athletes. Work regimens are religiously adhered to, scientific principles are utilized, professionals in kinesiology, nutrition, conditioning for specific functions, flexibility, even psychology are employed to help players train. In the 30s and 40s you were too busy at your 2nd job during the offseason to train much. During the season some guys main exercise consisted of bouncin a different Betty in every town you visited and brawling in saloons. There were lots of "good" guys, too, that had families and religion. They loafed around the hotel reading, writing letters and playing cards. Not every player was a hell-raiser but the ripsnorts probably got more exercise viz less sleep. Top it off with the fact that communicable diseases were widespread, nutrition from the cradle to grave was sometimes good but inconsistent. Food followed the economy - lots of people ate thin soup and litle else when times were slow. For lots of kids times was always slow. Then as now the greatest weapon against poverty was hard work but then as now there were lots of folk who ignored that fact.

    There was no foodstamps, no unemployment checks, no welfare boards to take up the slack for the children. If your parents were unlucky, or bums, or down and out, then you didn't eat much. You spent your hours in the streets, playing stickball, pitching against that stoop, playing burnout with your buddies and breathing, sleeping, dreaming baseball. Then you're 16 and good - you play on a town team or maybe a factory boss pays you 3 bucks a game to play on their team and gives your old man a job to boot. You learn the game the hard way against guys who'll spike you, crash into you, trip you and rag you unmercifully -nothing sacred, mothers not spared. You small and young and facing a hulk of a pitcher who throws 85 ( fast enough back then) and spits tobacco with every pitch. He's dug a rut 6 inches in front of the rubber, too and pitches from there - the umps are scared of him so who's going to stop him? You know you can't pull him so you slap at the ball and poke it into left with a bit of spin - the ball caroms off into foul gorund after striking fair and you run like a jackrabbit, skipping over the first baseman's extended foot, ducking the elbow aimed at your ribs the 2nd sacker points your way and you slide into third with your spikes up and slashing. Not trying to hurt the guy, just keeping him from getting close enough to stomp on you when he sweeps the tag.

    A couple years of this and a scout sees you and signs you for a ticket and fifty bucks and sends you to Red Oak, Iowa to play. You're 18 and weigh 140 sopping wet. Your face is drawn and you look 30 by today's standards but everyone in Red Oak calls you Cheeks because they think you have a "babyface". You're scrawny, undernourished, wiry strong but no one today would call you an athlete. Didn't then, either - you are a ballplayer. Big difference. Athletes are born - ballplayers are forged from runny gruel, concrete stoops, bouncing balls, broomsticks and hard knocks. You know all the dirty tricks - better known as essential survival techniques. At 21, you make the show. You do well, you're a 2nd baseman. You get on base any way you can, you holler at the pitcher, you steal when you can but only when its necessary.

    Go the other way, bunt, squeeze, and you've learned to swing from the heels when the pitcher is predictable. You use whatever you've been given, and you learn everything you can, every nuance possible. You are successful and your twetnies are golden years. Then you're 30. Within 2 or 3 years your career will be over. Your joints hurt, you've lost a couple of steps. You've played through aches and strains, and punished yourself for a decade to fend off the stream of prospects trying to unseat you. And now it happens. You're traded for no one inparticular to a terrible team. You play a couple years, your numbers aren't that bad but thwe little things are gone. You can't steal anymore, triples are doubles and doubles are singles and that kid up from Tuscaloosa that throws 92 just blows it by you. You retire at 33. You are old, ancient by baseball standards. You've never touched a weight set, never taken a vitamin or mineral supplement, never even heard of yoga or yogurt, never had a personal or team trainer, you have the beginnings of gout, and have had chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, and a variety of flus during your career.

    Mostly you played through it all and let your natural vitality cure it. You have a permanently bent finger from the time you broke it on a ball that jammed it, then you taped it, grimaced and played on. You have hammer toe because you played in second hand shoes for all those early years and the toe was too tight. You don't even know its why you couldn't run worth a damn anymore when you were just 30. You were a ballplayer. Now you're 33 and you're nothing. No job, no other skills, no player's association to write you a check. You take a job as a coach. You'll teach the same misguided theories and scoff at new advances in nutrition and training for years, delaying major advances in your sport until the mid to late 60s when rising salaries and advancing knowledge begins to change the way athletes take care of themselves and baseball begins to scout athletes for their potential instead of ballplayers for their skills. The theory is you can teach skills but you can't teach speed or genetics.

    In the back of my mind, this old man realizes they are right, but I miss the pure ballplayers. The ones who raised hell and tripped guys as they rounded second. The ones who took whatever you gave em and used it against you. When I was a child I watched ordinary men with extraordinary skills playing a game I loved. Today, I watch demi-gods of athleticism with lithe, muscular bodies play my beloved sport. The hope for the everyday joe, who works hard, who hones his skills fanatically, to play at the highest level, is almost gone. Yes, today's athletes are incredible and outclass their counterparts of yesteryear. They are not nearly as much fun to watch or follow.
    The hope is with this thread, some more of ORG's posts could be uncovered where they could again populate the archives for all to enjoy.

    If anyone has a favorite ORG post saved in a folder somewhere, please share. It would be a joy to read.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner


    Revering4Blue (07-11-2020),Ron Madden (10-01-2019)

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  4. #2
    Socratic Gadfly TheNext44's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
    Los Angeles

    Re: Old Red Guard


    Being a newbie, I never got to know the Old Red Guard, but just knew that this board was unanimous in it's admiration of him. Now I know why.

    He was a truly wonderful writer, with a lot to teach.

    "Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

  5. #3
    Member Captain Hook's Avatar
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    Dec 2008

    Re: Old Red Guard

    I wonder if he was talking about someone in particular?

  6. #4
    High five! nate's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Irvine, CA

    Re: Old Red Guard

    I wasn't here when ORG was but I always enjoy reading this post.
    "Bring on Rod Stupid!"

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Re: Old Red Guard

    phenomenal writing... I wish I was around back then.
    2010 Mock Draft Selections (picking for Rays)

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  8. #6
    Member Phhhl's Avatar
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    Jul 2000

    Re: Old Red Guard

    I could read this 100 times. Poetry.

  9. #7
    We Need Our Myths reds1869's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Downtown Cincinnati

    Re: Old Red Guard

    That was wonderful. Thanks so much for posting!

  10. #8
    Pagan/Asatru Ravenlord's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Williamsburg, OH and the wilds.

    Re: Old Red Guard

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Hook View Post
    I wonder if he was talking about someone in particular?
    i've wondered that several times myself over the years. i'm fairly certain its not himself he's talking about (from posts his son made several years ago), but i do get the impression its a close family member.

    or that he had the potential to be one of the greatest writers in the 20th century.
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  11. #9
    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Sep 2001

    Re: Old Red Guard

    I saved this off for myself in Feb 2007. This was posted by RedlegJake, Old Red Quard's son.

    Imagine the street, in a Norwood neighborhood in the early forties. Boys are playing stickball , three, maybe four boys to a squad, with the use of ghostmen and "called" fields. The Reds are recent two time champs and the imagined World Series between the Reds and Indians isn't a stretch at all. Baseball is the king of sports, unchallenged in its primacy - nearly every boy with any athleticism at all imagines himself a baseball player - and the boys who aren't that gifted just imagine all the harder. It was these streets and these games, played until the sun went down and mom's were hollering for the boys to come in, that Charlie and Russ and Jackie Elledge honed their skills in. All of them remembered those games vividly all of their lives, and Charlie wrote this years later:

    Our Stadium was thronged with folks:
    Maples, poplars, elms and oaks,
    All waving limbs and whistling boughs.
    What we saw were cheering crowds!

    Where homeplate was a paper plate
    I'd take my hero's stance and wait
    For taped up ball to hurtle in
    Mighty Feller was the pitcher then!

    Where Nicky waited with firstbase mitt
    To try and rob me of my hit
    A rock marked first, and every base -
    Crosley Field we named this place!

    Where the world series of the streets
    Was played each day til time to eat,
    And here I waited with broomstick bat -
    This game to win with mighty whack!

    My team was 'skins' and we were down
    And dinner bells were soon to sound,
    The sacks were jammed from first to third -
    The cheering crowd was all I heard!

    Billy Dell was on the mound,
    The fastest Feller in our town!
    He kicked his leg and spun and threw -
    One more strike and I was through!

    It seems a dream but I recall
    I swung my stick and cracked that ball -
    Around the bases the runners flew,
    2 ghostmen and Stevie, too!

    I stood to watch and savor glory,
    The receding ball, a game of story
    When around the corner came disaster
    The game stayed tied forever after!

    Returning home came Tommy's father,
    He drove without a care or bother,
    turning right in 'centerfield'
    He caught my drive on his windshield!

    The rules were clear and all agreed -
    The ball was dead for Iron Steeds.
    To think a Chevy caused our trouble -
    My homer ruled a ground rule double!


    Ron Madden (10-01-2019)

  13. #10
    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001

    Re: Old Red Guard

    This was posted to Redszone in Feb 2007 by RedLegJake, Old Red Guard's son.

    It was written after he began slowing down and was reminiscing about his years coaching youth:

    Furnace Winds

    Dust gathers itself in the furnace noon,
    as twistlets whirl and dance like mating birds,

    boys chase flying hats and recall that fans
    aren't the only blowhards in Kansas.
    Winds have hot air too, except cursing them

    won't change the mind of the Umpire
    who sent them, nothing for it but hunkering
    down and squinting hard. Red eyelids

    gritty, full of visions of light tunnels:
    After images of the last thing seen
    before the breath of Him halted the game.

    Now the moment when each is a hero:
    Eyes squeezed tight, seeing the ghost
    of himself blown across the plate!

    CE 1995

  14. #11
    Strategery RFS62's Avatar
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    Apr 2000
    Naples, Florida

    Re: Old Red Guard

    Jojo, thanks so much for posting this thread.

    WOY and Gonelong, thank you two for preserving that marvelous poetry and prose.
    Ban pre-shredded cheese. Make America grate again.

  15. #12
    Back from my hiatus Mario-Rijo's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    Springfield, Ohio

    Re: Old Red Guard

    Great stuff! If you aren't careful you can drift away and darn near shed a tear over yesteryear reading that stuff. I am a much younger guy but I get it.
    "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

    --Woody Hayes

  16. #13
    Member Ron Madden's Avatar
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    Nov 2003

    Re: Old Red Guard

    It's a shame so many great post by ORG have been lost.

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