by Frank Hyde
June 9, 1955
Big Swish Compares Favorably with Fabled Jarrin' Jawn of '41, '42 Pennant Winners
Today two questions lay before the Royal Order of the Grandstand Managers and the Association to Beat-Down-the-Top-Guy, both incorporated.
- Is Dale Ferris a better hitter than John Newman?
- What does organized baseball mean to a city like Jamestown?
The Brotherhood of You-Ain't-Got-Nuttin'-No-More will come gunning if the answers to the first are not couched in the right terms.
Question No. 2 is apt to get only a shrug and a "so what?" out of those patient enough to read this far, Jamestown being what it is -- a city with much to be proud of but seldom showing pride in what it has.
Ferris, in case you haven't heard, is leading the Detroit minor league chain with his .427 average which is only a secondhand honor because that .427 is second in the National Association of Professional Baseball. Leading Detroit's limited roster of minor league clubs is a distinction in itself, but being No. 2 man in the entire world of professional baseball outside the majors is enough to make a died-in-wool, he-rippin' hometowner who has enough gumption to stand up and tip his hat, really howl.
Ferris' figure, of course, is being compared with minor league players who have appeared in at least 32 games. Ed Kellman of Laredo in the Mexican League is tops with a .433 average. The latest issue of The Sporting News showed Francisco Hernandez of Mexico City in the same loop topping all minor leaguers with a .455 average. Hernandez has run into misfortune since those averages, which included games of May 31, and is now batting .402.
Some of our baseball absentees deny losing interest because of other activities and lean on the old saw: "We don't come any more because you don't have a Johnny Newman."
We never saw Big Jawn in his prime, only during his declining years, but even then he was an awesome slugger. Fans who refuse to discard memories of his Bunyan-like feats for a rank newcomer must be lauded not criticized. Memories are a wonderful thing, and nowhere in sports are they as sacred as in baseball.
But we do believe our oldtimers are making a mistake in brushing off lightly this new "Splendid Splinter" of baseball. We'd compare Newman and Ferris like this, admitting a limited knowledge of former feats from an eyewitness viewpoint:
- Newman would hit the home run ball more consistently.
- Over the long haul, Ferris will compile the better average.
- Ferris will strike out more often than did Ol' Jumbo in his prime years, but that comparison must be taken lightly because John, in his period of pink, was older and had more experience than the current first sacker.
- Newman won the batting title in 1941 with a .358 average and in 1942 with .353. He was hitting.317 after 32 games in '41 and .323 after a like number in '42 compared with Ferris' present 32-game .412. We predict Ferris will bat .385 for the 1955 campaign.
Ferris, a lefthanded batter, is handicapped before the home folks because he has to shoot at the 360-foot barrier. Newman, who swatted them from the right-hand stance, was firing at 341 feet on the line. But added indications of Ferris' ability as a swatsmith is the fact The Swish has changed his stance slightly in order to aim at the shorter barrier. Any lefthander with guts enough to move around in order to try to knock 'em over left field at the risk of impairing his effectiveness, is okay in our book regardless of what the oldtimers say. To date, Big Dale has belted three over the left field confines at the Stadium, two in one game. He has hit 11 homers for the season and his present rate will easily surpass Newman's old record of 31, which stood for years until Ted Sepkowski wrecked it twice.
Long live memories of the greats like Newman. But let's not refuse to give credit to the stars of today when we are fortunate enough to have one in our midst. Newman, pudgy, wide and mighty performed in the post-Ruthian era when visions of the immortal Babe Ruth were fresh in man's memory. Built like Ruth, Jawn hit like the Bambino. He performed when baseball was new to the area and during a period when baseball had little competition in the entertainment field. I doubt that even the awesome Newman could add much to the gate receipts in these days, absentee claims to the contrary. The Ferris story is a counterpart of Joltin John's great chapters. He sharply resembles Ted Williams, facially and at the plate, and is performing at a time when one of the game's all-time greats is playing out his sunset years. Like Newman, he'll be an important part of the PONY League's memory lane in the years to come -- if there is a PONY league then.