Kid Elberfeld's Influence - Ty Cobb

Source: "Tricks That Won Me Ball Games." Life 32 (March 24, 1952): 63-64f.

Tricks That Won Me Ball Games

By Ty Cobb

They Don't Play Baseball Any More - The Conclusion

A lot of today's base runners don't even know how to slide very well, and I would say that nearly half of them make the elementary time-killing error of running right over the top of the bag and going wide on the turns. The old boys could slide from any direction and they cut the corners like a razor, pushing their left foot against the inside of the bag for a quick turn.

In my own base running I started out as a head-first slider but was cured of it on my second day in the big leagues. I tried to steal second and went in head first against Kid Elberfeld, the tough little shortstop of the old Highlanders. He politely brought his knee down on the back of my neck and my forehead went smashing into the dirt, leaving most of the skin behind. I never tried it again. In fact the very next time I went into second against Elberfeld, I slid feet first, caught him by surprise and knocked him sprawling. Since players in the golden era could take it as well as dish it out, the Kid patted me on the back and said, "That's the way to play, sonny boy."

After learning to slide feet first I soon learned something else: by watching the eyes of the man covering second, as he waits for the throw, you can tell where the ball is coming from and aim your slide in the other direction to stay as far away from the tag as possible. Then I learned to watch the third baseman's eyes on plays at that bag. Especially if the throw is coming from right field, you can line your body up with it as you approach the bag and try to let it hit you. If you're lucky enough to have it carom off one side of your body, you may make it all the way home. Even if the ball doesn't hit you, at least you get in the third baseman's line of vision.