Thursday, January 2, 2014

On the plaque: Old Hoss Radbourn

Radbourn's Hall of Fame
plaque, which declares him
"the greatest of all 19th century
Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn.
Let's say it up front: There's a lot we don't know for sure about Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn, starting with the spelling of his last name. Is it Radbourn or Radbourne? The consensus spelling today omits the "e," but his gravestone, and his Hall of Fame plaque, include it.

Nor is there complete consensus on his statistical record, which is hardly unusual with 19th century players. It does seem pretty well settled, however, that he won 59 games in his remarkable 1884 season, not the 60 he is sometimes credited with.

Nor is it certain that the term "Charley horse" originated with Radbourn's aches and pains in that iron man season; there are other competing versions that have nothing to do with Radbourn. And he may or may not have been the first to be photographed flipping the bird.

But there is sufficient photographic evidence to support this assertion: Old Hoss didn't look anything like the image that adorns his Hall of Fame plaque. That face looks like a cartoon image from an illustrated "Casey at the Bat" kids book. One wonders where they got the grandiose moustache and the chiseled, jutting jaw.

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