With performance enhancing drugs being one of the subjects in Ken Burns new documentary Baseball: The Tenth Inning, I wondered what previous generations of ball players did (legal or not) to give themselves an edge. Here’s an excerpt from an article I found in the book Gandy Dancers & Bearcats:Living in the 20’s, which is part of the Hearst Newspapers Decade Series.
Velvet McGoone-Catcher, 1919-1926 / Pelham Paint Pots (Northeast Patriot League)
When we used to play back to back double headers, some of the fellas who had weaker constitutions would gripe about feeling flagged. This was startin’ to be problem, so Mr. Stanton who was our clubhouse manager at the time rigged up something he called the wake-up seat. It was an old barber chair that he set up with some electrical doo-hickeys and made it into a kind of weak electric chair. He said that a weak charge of electric would give the guys some extra pep. Well it worked, ‘course I never did it as I was like an ox and a pot of coffee before a game was all I needed, well a pot of coffee and some of those pills that Mr. Culpepper would give us. Mr. Culpepper was our bookie and amateur sawbones. Anyhow, sometimes there was problems with the wake-up seat, especially when Mr. Stanton was on the drink, which was often. He’d make a mistake and give a little too much juice, make the seat a little too hot if you know what I mean. One time, we had a second baseman,Stabby Jackson, named because he got stabbed a lot. Well, Stabby got too much juice, not enough to kill him but boy did he howl. And he wound up completely hairless and pink like a baby, and he started speaking what we thought was swedish but later turned out to be just gibberish. On the plus side, he played like a house afire for about a week. Then we were playing the Rahway Turkey Vultures, or as everyone called ‘em the Turks and Stabby just fell asleep, right on the field. He wasn’t dead, but we couldn’t wake him. He was out like a light and our manager Mr. Freer was fit to be tied, he didn’t want any lollygaggers on the team. So he had the batboy take off Stabby’s uniform and he left him in his long johns on the floor of the dugout and we went off to our next game. I heard that Stabby woke up a week later and was none too happy, I never seen him again. Well, the fellas kind of felt a little scared of the wake-up seat after that and it didn’t get used as much and we just used it to electrocute mice we caught in the clubhouse.