Thursday, April 09, 2015

REA: Dickey Pearce - The Greatest Shortstop You've Never Heard Of

I was going through the current REA auction, searching under Brooklyn, and came across a circa 1908 cabinet card of a former player that I had never heard of named Dickey Pearce.

I thought to myself, "who is this Dickey Pearce guy and what does he have to do with Brooklyn?

Naturally,  I did a little bit of research, and what I found was spectacular.

(Circa 1876)
Born in Brooklyn, Dickey Pearce was a legend.  Short and stout, he battled against men bigger and stronger than he.  Nevertheless, Pearce would be revered as one of the greats to play the game.  Dickey came onto the scene during the middle of the 19th Century and along the way revolutionized the shortstop position, was one of the first to be paid to play the game, and no doubt to the consternation of todays statheads invented the modern bunt (bunt for a hit, that is - not as a sacrifice).  Furthermore, he became one of the more famous and popular players in the game as a member of the Brooklyn Atlantics from the 1850's to 1870's. (Not exactly a part of the Dodger franchise, but certainly a precursor to them)  Although currently not a member of the Hall of Fame, he is oftentimes found on the shortlist of players who should be.

Via John Thorn at his blog "Our Game":
That accidental chance to play made Dickey Pearce. He was put on the regular team and placed at shortstop, for the reason that he was considered to be too short-legged to cover ground in the outfield. It was a fortunate selection, for Dickey took to shortstop like a duck to water, and in the first game he played in that position, he showed such ability that none of the old-timers on the team had a chance to beat him out of the job. And none did that that for years and years. Dickey Pearce’s name at shortstop for the Atlantics was stereotyped, and the scorecards always had his name in that position as long as he played baseball with that club, and that was for many years.
Unfortunately, statistic during the time he excelled on the diamond are virtually nonexistent.  What we do know is that he was an able fielder with an uncanny ability to get on-base.  He was the first person to place the shortstop position where it is today and revolutionized how you hit by utilizing the bunt and placing a batted ball in areas fielders where not stationed.  In other words, he was an early innovator of the scientific game.

Per Bill Whelan at Wareham Village Soup, "Baseball legend called Onset home":
"Yes I was the first to introduce the bunt hit," Pearce said in a 1905 article in The Boston Globe.  "While with the Brooklyn Atlantics, in 1867, the idea came to me, and I figured out just how a ball would bound when met from different angles. First I practiced bunting, then hitting the ball on top so that it would carom from the fair ground to the ground back of third base."
"I played ball about 20 years too soon."
Below are some links and articles about Dickey Pearce that I thought you should check out:

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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