An old base ball enthusiast who has followed the game very closely from its infancy got to talking about his favorite sport the other day. He is a Missourian, and 27 years ago was living in St. Louis. He seldom was absent from a big game in those days, and, being a player himself, he mingled considerably with the boys...
Made Grandstand Catches.
“There was a player on the St. Louis team at the time named Ed Cuthbert. He was a left fielder, and his great delight was to play to the grandstand. He would make every chance he [had] look as difficult as possible, just to induce the spectators to shout at what seemed to them a brilliant fielding effort...It was Cuthbert's habit to stand very deep in the field, at least 20 or 30 yards farther out than the average would stand. He had a very accurate eye and could gauge to a nicety just where the ball would drop.
“When a hit was made, instead of getting under the ball as quickly as possible, he would stand where he was, quietly watching it. Then suddenly he would spring forward like a cannon shot, as if he had misjudged the length of the hit. He would catch the ball when going at full speed just when it seemed that it would be too late. Of course, everybody would cheer and clap, and then he would be satisfied. Sometimes I have seen him, when he knew the ball was going to fall just where he stood, run back 15 or 20 yards and then, taking another squint at it, run as hard as he could to his old position and make what looked like a very difficult catch. Cuthbert was a very nervous fellow. If he had stood still while waiting for a fly to drop, he would have been sure to miss it, and he therefore [played] in that fashion to insure getting it.
-The Sporting News, November 17, 1900
It's not a particularly flattering profile of our boy but it's interesting because we rarely get such details, from this era, about a player's style. Reading the article, you get a really great sense of Cuthbert in the field and how he played defense.
I'm not sure exactly how to take this article. There have been a lot of outfielders over the course of the history of baseball who have been accused of showboating and, specifically, of making easy catches look hard. Usually it's good outfielders who are accused of this kind of thing. Bad outfielders never get accused of showboating and playing to the crowd. I give you exhibit A:
But, in the end, we should probably accept the eye witness account and say that Cuthbert was a good outfielder but a total hot dog. He was Hollywood Jim Edmonds before there was a Hollywood Jim Edmonds.