Was William Gummere the First to Hook-Slide?

From SABR member Brian McKenna at Glimpses Into Baseball History on September 8, 2011:

What kind of a damned fool trick is that?

Legend holds it that in the spring of 1870 Bill Gummere, an outfielder with the Princeton nine known as the Nassau Club, was the first man to slide or hook-slide – into second base avoiding the tag of the great Al Reach after a high throw. The above quote was supposedly the second baseman’s response to the bold and surprising athletic act.

William Stryker Gummere was born on June 24 or 25, 1850 in Trenton, New Jersey, the third of eight children. His father, Barker Gummere, was from “prominent Quaker family of Burlington County.” (Keasbey) He was a local lawyer and Clerk of Chancery Court for a time and a leading member of the state bar. His father, also named Barker, served in the Revolutionary War in a New Jersey regiment. William’s mother was Elizabeth Chambers Stryker.


The story of Gummere as the inventor of the slide or perhaps the hook-slide has some color to it. The story is first highlighted in print in his obituary in The Sporting News on February 22, 1933 and repeated 20 years later in Lee Allen’s anecdotal work The Hot Stove League from 1955. It even comes with a little bantering between the Princeton boy and one of the early greats of the game who was among the first professionals, second baseman Al Reach.


Anecdotal stories/evidence that are brought up years and even decades after the fact are in and of themselves suspect – especially if they are self-serving and self-aggrandized and, more so, considering that Reach himself was around the game for decades but did not lend a corroborating word. That however does not mean that there is no truth to it. It was further alleged in the obit that the Athletics adopted the style for themselves. The implication being that Gummere’s quick thinking altered the baseball’s community’s approach to sliding. This is the crux of the story, for a boast to be good, the bigger the better. Peter Morris in A Game of Inches states, “For one thing, the description does not sound like a hook slide. More important, there is no evidence that the Athletics adopted any kind of slide…” As this points out, all is said about the slide is that it was feet first and that Gummere protected his face, a defensive maneuver learned in the school of hard knocks.

Read the full article here: http://baseballhistoryblog.com/3195/william-gummere-the-first-to-hook-slide/

Originally published: September 9, 2011. Last Updated: September 9, 2011.