The Post-Journal

Johnny O'Neil Writes

Johnny "Scooter" O'Neil, one of Jamestown's favorite Falcons of 1941, now with the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, writes us a most interesting letter from his home in Lexington, KY, where he is enjoying a few days rest before starting the spring training season.

Scooter, who many will argue, was the best shortstop of any who have performed for the Falcons, discusses his favorite subject, baseball, as you might expect, comparing coast league ball with that played in the PONY.

Writes Johnny: "As for comparison of the coast league and the PONY, it is hard to describe.

"In both leagues, I found some pitchers harder to follow than others. Of course, lack of experience has a lot to do with that in the case of the Class D men. When they get older, most of them lose their fast ball and get smart as to pitching on the corners and controlling their curve, slider and knuckleball much better.

"All the pitchers in the PONY throw only two pitches, the curve and fast balls; that is except for a very few change-up pitchers. Double A pitchers have a greater variety than the boys in Class A. I saw several boys in the PONY in '41 who could pitch even in Double A.

"Take Wargo, Clark and Mikan of Hamilton; Belforti of Bradford, Cardoni also of Bradford, and several others. Of course, they would learn from fellow pitchers and in due time they would win plenty. They were as fast as any starter. Most were pitchers rather than throwers.

"In the fielding department lies the big difference between grades of baseball. It was an every day occurrence to see at least three hits per game in the PONY that would have been fielded in Double A. The infielders can go farther to field balls and they play the hitters smarter, which is the important thing in fielding.

"The outfielders can travel and catch that fly ball. There are at least two good outfielders on each club and three on most. All the catchers can throw and those pitchers don't give you that big lead.

"As for hitting, the difference is also great. In the PONY League, there is an average of three to five good hitters on a club, but in Double A there are eight men who can hurt you at any time. There is usually one fellow on a Class D club who can hit the ball out of the park. In Double A there are at least four or five who can hit the long ball at any time.

"All in all, I think that fielding is the greatest difference, with hitting next and pitching last of the big three in drawing comparisons between D and Double A ball.

"You mentioned the training grind. To me it has never been a grind but a privilege to get myself in shape, at the club's expense, to play the game I love for money. The Beavers report at the park at 11 A.M. sharp in uniform. That means getting to the park about 10:15. Then comes the hardest part for me, that is, running.

"After about five or ten laps around the park, we play pepper for 30 minutes. Pepper is the best conditioner. Bending over, getting set to throw and getting set to field again. After the pepper practice comes batting practice of about three or four rounds.

"During batting practice, the infielders and outfielders have a coach or pitcher hitting ground balls and fly balls to them. Then, after batting practice, an infield workout, and a lap around the field and, last but not least, comes the shower, the best refresher in the world."

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