Baseball is deservedly known as our national sport, for in the World Series just ended in triumph for the Athletics it was evident that the games contained most of the characteristic phases of American life. The factors which went into the final decision were shrewdness, skill, sentimentality, and downright luck. Politics, industry, and the arts are made up of these selfsame elements.
Perhaps luck should not have been placed last in the list. On the whole the business of master minding was jolted. In this scientific age we are inclined to find the hidden hand of the efficiency even in the most unlikely places. Indeed, baseball was glorified as the acme of precision long before the magazine writers began to proclaim that Henry Ford was our equivalent for Goethe and Thomas Edison a greater public benefactor than Spinoza. It was Hugh Fullerton who began, many seasons ago, to act the role of baseball’s Roger Babson. Not content with the comparatively easy task of picking a winner in the annual sporting classic, Mr. Fullerton undertook to tell in advance the score of each game. By some mysterious system of calculation each individual player had an index number, and by the simple process of adding the digits it was no trouble to foretell the winner.
Of course, the guesses generally did not come out precisely, but if the prophecy was even close we all sat back convinced that baseball was an exact science rather than a game. In the beginning of the series just concluded, the efficiency men had reason to chortle. Connie Mack began with an aged and supposedly ailing pitcher and Howard Ehmke struck out thirteen Cubs for a new world-series record and brought in a decisive victory. In the regular season Ehmke had pitched only two full games, and shortly before the pennant was won by the Athletics he was publicly sent home in disgrace as a player who had failed to keep himself in condition.
This was master minding with a vengeance, for it was pointed out that Mack had made this surprising selection because Ehmke had a peculiar underhand delivery which would be difficult to hit in the Chicago park with the background of moving rooters in the center-field stand. Ehmke’s motion was designed to make the ball come up to the plate as if it were merely another bobbing head in the distant bleachers. Indeed, the story was that Mack’s happy thought was based upon guile extending over weeks not days. Rumor has it that Ehmke was never really in disgrace. He was left home not because of failure to obey the rules of training but as a scout to spy upon Chicago batters.
But after such a promising beginning chance had its day and upset the predictions of those who thought of baseball as a combination of organic chemistry, dynamics, and the psychology of Dr. Sigmund Freud. After all, the critical fourth game, in which the Athletics made their amazing ten-run rally, depended upon the incalculable factor that the sun shone full into the eyes of Hack Wilson as he was about the make an easy catch. A sure putout became a home run and a lead of eight runs was swept aside.