- Series: 1880s: Diamond Duos
- City: New York
- Team: Giants
- League: National League
- Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame
William Ewing (1859-1906) was the premier catcher of the 19th century, honored for decades after his early death as even, perhaps, the greatest player of all time. A scourge at bat, Buck hit over .300 ten times. He played behind the plate with courage and style, crouching close to the hitter so as to shave precious seconds off his inerrant throws. Ewing had debuted with the remarkable Troy Trojans in 1880 and joined four future Hall-of-Famers in moving to NYC in ‘83. The sturdy catcher may have been the primary inspiration for Jim Mutrie’s “my Giants!” exclamation that led to the new identity of the Gothams. An arm injury on a raw spring day curtailed his tenure behind the plate from 1891 on. Such a magnetic figure couldn’t escape the turmoil of the Players’ League controversies and Ewing was sometimes pilloried for lax effort. Despite such caviling, Ewing left as indelible a mark on the game’s first century as anyone. Upon his induction to Cooperstown (among the first six of the “pre-modern” era), he was hailed by Connie Mack as the greatest catcher he had seen and he had seen most.
- “Buck” was a derivative of “Buckingham,” bestowed on the budding star by an admiring scribe who wanted to add gravitas to the youngster’s reputation
- Played all nine positions and managed 3 different teams over 7 seasons
- Was the first catcher elected to the Hall of Fame; and the second 19th century player elected (after Cap Anson)
- Elected to Hall of Fame: 1939
Master William Breslin was one in a line of NY Giants’ mascots in the 1880s, primarily due to HOF catcher Buck Ewing’s love of “hoodoos.” Superstition is still alive and well in baseball and goes back to its roots. In the old days it wasn’t rally monkeys, tomahawks or Phanatics–it was young boys recruited from the mean streets by ball players desperate for an edge. Lads such as “masters” Betsie and Preston prowled the NY dugout in 1886, preceded by an unknown “colored boy” that year. Any charm could do, though. Ewing seized on a yellow mutt, a ring-tailed monkey named “Mose,” or a toy barking dog. But no mascot seems to have gained the popularity and fame of Willie Breslin. He wasn’t the first to be given an Old Judge card (that was Willie Hahm in 1887), but he is the only one to have his own card as well as a famous pose with Ewing in a photo taken in 1884 and used on the OJ series of 1889. One of Buck’s proteges was Fred Boldt, a Chicago waif the team picked up on the road. Back in NY, young Fred ran up an account at a diner near the Polo Grounds and absconded with Cannonball Titcomb’s shoes.
- The Breslin Old Judge cards have become highly prized
- Sadly, biographical data for Willie and his cohorts is lacking. We trust he turned out better than young Boldt