Positions: Catcher; Infielder; Outfielder
Teams: Troy Trojans, 1880-1882; New York Giants, 1883-1889, 1891-1892; New York Giants (PL), 1890; Cleveland Spiders, 1893-1894; Cincinnati Reds, 1895-1897
Manager: New York Giants, 1890, 1900; Cincinnati Reds, 1895-1899
Managerial Record: 489-395
Sportswriter Francis Richter wrote
that Buck Ewing was "without a
weakness of any kind."
At a glance, Buck Ewing’s career seems noteworthy but in no way extraordinary. He led the National League in home runs in 1883 and in triples in 1884, but his accomplishments otherwise appear to have been on the modest side.
In 1919, however, Francis Richter, one of the leading sportswriters of his day, deemed Ewing, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner the three greatest players in baseball to that time.
Richter went on to say that Ewing might have been the best of them all according to “supreme excellence in all departments -- batting, catching, fielding, baserunning, throwing, and baseball brains -- a player without a weakness of any kind, physical, mental, or temperamental.”
William Ewing (1859-1906) was one of the first players from the Cincinnati area to become a major-league star. A weak hitter early in his career, Ewing batted only .178 in a brief trial with Troy in 1880 and finished at an even .250 the following year in his first full big-league season. Any hitting Buck did was a bonus, however. From the very outset of his career, he was viewed as an outstanding defensive catcher.
Ewing was one of the first catchers to catalogue each opposing batter’s weakness and then share the knowledge in pregame meetings. John Foster wrote that “as a thrower to bases, Ewing never had a superior. Ewing was the man of whom it was said, ‘he handed the ball to the second baseman from the batter’s box.’”
Great as Ewing was behind the plate, he could not play there every day. The position was so physically taxing that catchers in the 19th century seldom worked more than half their team’s games. While most backstops simply took that day off, Ewing customarily played another position.
So versatile was Buck that he could fill in anywhere on the diamond. In 1889, with the Giants in a drive for the pennant, Ewing even pitched and won two complete games. He jumped to the Players League the following year and was named manager of the New York Giants. The 1890 season was Ewing’s last as a regular catcher.
Ewing finished his playing career in Cincy in 1897. A player-manager at the time, he remained with the Reds for two more years as a manager. A diabetic, he succumbed to the disease on October 20, 1906, at age 47. In 1936, he tied for first place in the initial vote of the Old Timers for the Hall of Fame. Buck was inducted in 1939.
Here are Buck Ewing's major league totals:
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