“The Old-Fashioned Pitcher,” by George E. Phair

I discovered this piece in the book Baseball: A Literary Anthology, which contains not only poetry, but also short stories, articles, and excerpts from larger pieces, all having to do with the game of baseball.  We don’t get the opportunity to absorb many complete games pitched in the modern era of baseball.  Most managers hope for a mere five or six innings from their starting hurlers before turning the contest over to the hands of the bullpen.  While this approach does have its strategic benefits, especially if you happen to possess a strong collection of relievers, sometimes the old-fashioned complete game offers a gem to behold.


How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned hurler
who labored all day on the old village green.
He did not resemble the up-to-date twirler
who pitches four innings and ducks from the scene.
The up-to-date twirler I’’m not very strong for;
He has a queer habit of pulling up lame.
And that is the reason I hanker and long for
the pitcher who started and finished the game.

The old-fashioned pitcher,
The iron-armed pitcher,
The stout-hearted pitcher,
Who finished the game.

8 thoughts on ““The Old-Fashioned Pitcher,” by George E. Phair

  1. You’ve touched on a nerve, Precious….I’ve been griping about this for years! I’m not sure when it was determined that a starter can’t complete a game, or a reliever can’t pitch to more than three batters, but the whole idea of bringing in a brigade of pitchers to complete a game is totally wacko. Old timers like Walter Johnson completed 65% of their starts and routinely pitched well over 300 innings a year…and their careers lasted more than 20 years! This year, Greg Holland, our best closer (before Injury) pitched only 44 innings and he made $8.25 million dollars. Wade Davis pitched 67 innings and he made $7 million. Great work, if you can get it. 🙂

    1. I figured I’d hear from you on this :). I hadn’t thought about the earnings per inning of work for pitchers, but you’re right, it’s pretty astronomical. I can understand the idea behind limiting starters — in that it’s a way to help preserve their arms so that they can be effective for a longer period of time, career-wise. A lot of times we let science and medicine dictate these things. I would be curious to hear about the state of Walter Johnson’s arm as he went through pitching so many innings. I think part of it also is that pitchers today throw so much harder — fastballs in the upper-90s are more common than they used to be. That will tear an arm up pretty quickly.

    1. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on here before, but I rather like the idea of players working in the off season in jobs like that. It adds a kind of romanticism to the game that gets lost with the million-dollar salaries.

  2. Anyone know WHEN George Phair wrote this poem (and its companion, the Old Fashioned Batter, below??)

    How dear to my heart was the old-fashioned batter, who scattered line drives from the spring to the fall.
    He did not resemble the up-to-date batter, who swings from the heels and misses the ball.
    The up-to-date batter, I’m not very strong for; he shatters the ozone with all of his might.
    And that is the reason I hanker and long for –
    Those who doubled to left, and tripled to right.
    The old-fashioned batter,
    The eagle-eyed batter,
    The thinking-man’s batter,
    Who tripled to right.

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