When a presbyopic sports fan tells me that athletes are no longer what they should be, I don't argue. It's much easier to agree with him. It's also more fun. Sometimes I even tell a story, such as one which typifies the spirit of Bull Hargan, scrappy manager of the famous old Spike-eaters baseball team of the gaslight era. The first day Hargan took over the reins his star center fielder, Tom Calligan, hit a homer into the bleachers. Calligan trotted around the bases, doffing his cap, and grinning contentedly as he loped over home plate. Instantly Hargan, blazing mad, stormed out of the dugout and slapped a $50 fine on him. "When anybody on this team comes into home plate," he stormed, "I want them to slide!"
That was the kind of ball Hargan taught—hard fighting ball until the last man was out, and sometimes until the police had cleared the field. However, Hargan went in for strategy too. Many's the time his infielders knocked the wind out of opposing base-runners digging elbows in their stomachs. And many's the time he stopped enemy catchers from snagging foul flies by throwing a bat under their feet. In fact it was Hargan's zealousness in this respect that led to the 1887 rule change forbidding throwing bats at catchers. The game, regrettably, has since softened up in many other respects as well.
Hargan had a great knack for turning a phrase, coining such baseball maxims as: "They can't beat you if you score more runs than they do," and "You can't get to second unless you get to first first." But it was his insistence on sliding that was Bull's outstanding trait. His players slid into all bases. They slid into the dug-out. They slid into restaurants and Pullman cars. Later in the season they slid into the second division and ended up in last place. Unfortunately Hargan had one weakness on which his opponents eventually learned to capitalize. He insisted on pitching every game.