Guerrieri: Bonesetter Reese and the (mostly) painless birth of sports medicine

From SABR member Vince Guerrieri at Deadspin on October 10, 2019:

Honus Wagner’s career hung in the balance. In 1901, the superstar shortstop was in his second season with his hometown Pirates. But a wrenched knee suffered on the turf at Exposition Park—the Pirates’ home on the north side of Pittsburgh, a few hundred feet from where their current stadium stands today—along with rheumatism threatened to send him back to the coal mines from whence he came as a promising semipro ballplayer less than a decade earlier.

He was told he was getting a visit from “Bonesetter” Reese, a millworker-turned-healer from Youngstown, Ohio, just across the state line. “I never heard of him,” Wagner recalled decades later. But Reese stormed in and cleared out the locker room, even throwing out team trainer Ed LaForce.

He was a tall man with a mustache (contemporary accounts said he resembled Mark Twain), enormous hands and deep blue eyes—so deep that Wagner said he thought he was going to be hypnotized.

“Bonesetter” had earned his nickname in his native Wales. (It was somewhat of a misnomer. He didn’t actually set broken bones.) Although Major League Baseball was in its infancy, Reese was already acquiring a reputation as the last-ditch healer for major league ballplayers who wanted to stay on the field and for whom all other treatment had failed, the Dr. James Andrews of his day.

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Originally published: October 10, 2019. Last Updated: October 10, 2019.