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The Old Hidden Ball Trick

Salience Peripheral
Tags Base Ball Stratagems
Location Greater New York City
City/State/Country: Brooklyn, NY, United States
Game Base Ball
Immediacy of Report Contemporary
Age of Players Adult

"STAR (OF SOUTH BROOKLYN) VS. ATLANTIC (OF BEDFORD).-- ...Flannelly, the first striker, was put out on second base by a dodge on the part of Oliver, who made a feint to throw the ball, and had it hid under his arm, by which he caught Flannelly-- an operation, however, which we do not much admire."


New York Sunday Mercury, Oct. 23, 1859


The first known use of this stratagem, but apparently not original. Conceivably, it's use preceded the Knickerbocker rules.

See below for later observations about the sneaky move in 1876 and later.

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Submitted by Bob Tholkes
Submission Note 4/5/2014
Has Supplemental Text Yes


<comments voting="Plus" />

Supplemental Text

Who doesn't love the hidden ball trick? Anson, apparently:
[Chicago vs. Hartford 5/25/1876] "On Spalding's hit to Burdock, McVey was put out at second by Carey, and with one man out and two on bases, things looked badly. But Carey held the ball, walked slowly down to third base, apparently to speak to Ferguson but in reality to give him the ball, which he did, unobserved by the Chicagos. He then walked back to his position and Bond took his place between the pitcher's points. As soon as he did this Anson stepped from the base, and Ferguson very coolly touched him with the ball, putting him out. The play was the greatest surprise, probably, to Anson, who for an instant did not comprehend the play, but when Ferguson
 showed him the ball, as the boys say, "he tumbled." The play received round after round of applause and probably earned the game." Hartford Daily Courant May 26, 1876.

(Posted to the 19CBB List-serve by Richard Hershberger, April 3, 2014.)

Anson's gripe wasn't the only one.  The Sporting Life,  in 1905 quoting The Boston Journal, noted that: "It was the late Harry Wright who insisted that the trick was unprofessional and he would not allow his players to attempt it on opponents.  Mr. Wright argued that the spectators were entitled to see how each man went out, and could not be expected to follow the ball when it was juggled by the players."  Reference: The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, 2009, page 403.