Little Bits of History

It’s a Tough Job

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2015
Brick Owens

Brick Owens

June 23, 1917: Brick Owens gets clobbered. Clarence Bernard Owens was a Major League Baseball umpire. He worked in the National League in 1908 and from 1912-13 and in the American League from 1916 through 1937. He was famous for officiating in the World Series in 1918, 1922, 1925, 1928, and 1934 (serving as crew chief for the last two). He also worked the All-Star Game in 1934 behind the plate for the last half of the game. Born in Wisconsin in 1885, he hoped to pursue a career in baseball. On July 4, 1901, he accidentally shot himself in the left hand, ending his hopes of playing professionally. He was supposed to play in a sandlot game and instead of staying home, he went to the game and when the umpire quit early in the game due to a dispute, Owens took over the position. The next year, his family moved to Chicago and he again umpired games for fifty cents per game. He soon raised his fee to a dollar and when he was noticed by minor league executive Al Tearney, he began to coach minor league games for $5 each.

These minor league games were far more contentious than those played in sandlots. At age 17 he was offered a position with the Northern League for $75 a month but got into so many fights that when he met the president of the league, Harry Pulliam, wanted to know if Owens had been in a train wreck. At one game, after calling a final player out on strikes, the player dropped his bat and got into a fight with Owens. A fan jumped from the stands, picked up the bat, and hit Owens over the head with it. The attacker’s father paid Owens $750 to not file assault charges. Owens got his nickname when angry fans began throwing bricks at the umpire and one struck him in the head. He was not seriously injured and returned to his position just a few days later.

On this day, the Washington Senators were playing against the Boston Red Sox. Babe Ruth was pitching. The first batter for Washington stepped up to the plate with Owens standing behind the plate as umpire. Ruth threw four pitches. All were called balls and the player was walked to first base. Ruth, never known for his calm demeanor, was irate. When he let his displeasure be known to the umpire, Owens threw him out of the game. Before leaving, Ruth punched Owens. Ernie Shore replaced Ruth and picked off the runner who had made his way to first base. He then retired the next 26 Washington batters. Shore regarded it as a perfect pitched game. Statisticians did not.

Shore was from North Carolina and played his first Major League Baseball game on June 20, 1912 with the New York Giants. He did not resign and was off for the 1913 season before Boston picked him up. He played for the Red Sox from 1914-1917 and then once again had a year off. The New York Yankees picked him up for 1919-1920. He won 65 games and lost 43. Since he did not strike out the first batter on this day, the game is credited as a no-hitter rather than a perfect game. Ruth was fined $100, had to make a public apology, and was suspended for ten games.

I didn’t mean to hit the umpire with the dirt, but I did mean to hit that bastard in the stands. – Babe Ruth

I never questioned the integrity of an umpire. His eyesight? yes. – Leo Durocher

Despite all the nasty things I have said about umpires, I think they’re one-hundred percent honest, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how they arrive at some of their decisions. – Jimmy Dykes

An umpire is a loner. The restraints of his trade impose problems not normally endured by players, coaches, management, press and others connected with organized baseball. He is a friend to none. More often he is considered an enemy by all around him – including the fans in the stands who threaten his life. – Art Rosenbaum

Also on this day: Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinied.
Clackity clack – In 1868, an improved typewriter was patented.
Lorena and John – In 1993, domestic violence made the world headlines.
Banff – In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act of Canada was passed.
Iced – In 1953, Zamboni received a patent for an ice cleaner.

The House that Ruth Built

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 18, 2013
Yankee Stadium opening day

Yankee Stadium opening day

April 18, 1923: Yankee Stadium opens. Also called “The House that Ruth Built,” the arena is home to Major League Baseball team The New York Yankees. The team itself was established in 1901 and belonged to the American League. It was one of the eight charter franchises. The Bronx team originally played in Baltimore, Maryland as the Baltimore Orioles because the New York Giants held enough power to keep the upstarts out of “their” city.

The Yankees came to the Bronx in 1903 and played at Hilltop Park as the New York Highlanders. The team changed their name to the Yankees in 1913. They were purchased by Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston in 1915. They put up the new $2.5 million stadium, taking huge risks. At the time stadiums held, at most, 30,000 seats. Their ambitious plans doubled the size. The Yankees were also the third team in New York City with both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants playing for the National League.

But they also had The Babe, The Sultan of Swat, or The Bambino. George Herbert Ruth, Jr. – aka Babe Ruth – played for The Yankees. He was purchased from the Boston Red Sox in 1919 for $100,000 (the contract itself sold at auction in 2005 for $996,000). He was a phenomenon. He was the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season (1927) – a record that stood for 34 years and was finally broken by Roger Maris (1961). His lifetime record of 714 home runs held from his retirement in 1935 until 1974 when Hank Aaron finally topped it.

The first game played at the new stadium was a 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox, a team that Ruth played for from 1914 until the end of 1919. A crowd of 74,200 fans saw Ruth hit his first home run in his new home. The stadium closed September 1973 and reopened after a $48 million face lift on April 15, 1976. A new stadium opened on April 2, 2009 when the team hosted a work out day for fans. The first game played in the new stadium was a pre-season game against the Chicago Cubs the next day. The first regular season game was played on April 16 against the Cleveland Indians. The $1.5 billion stadium has 50,086 seats and with standing room, holds 52,325.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

“I had only one superstition. I made sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.”

“If I’d just tried for them dinky singles I could’ve batted around .600.” – all from Babe Ruth

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Babe Ruth was born in 1895 in a rough neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Of his seven siblings, only one survived infancy. His childhood is cloaked in mystery including how he ended up at St. Mary’s School for Boys at the age of seven. The school was a reformatory and orphanage and although they provided some education, the students/inmates were also required to work. This was especially true after the boys reached the age of 12 and that is how Babe Ruth became a shirtmaker. He also learned carpentry while there. The boys did most of the work required to run the school, including renovations to the school in 1912. Ruth began playing baseball while at the school.

Also on this day: The Great Quake – In 1906 a large earthquake devastates San Francisco.
One if by Land; Two if by Sea – In 1775, Paul Revere took a ride through the countryside.
Suicide Bomber – In 1983, the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was destroyed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 11, 2012

Babe Ruth

August 11, 1929: Babe Ruth starts a new club. George Herman Ruth was familiarly known as Babe Ruth, the Bambino, and the Sultan of Swat. He was born February 6, 1895 in a rough section of Baltimore, Maryland. Although there were eight children in the family, only he and one sister (Marnie) survived past infancy. At the age of seven, Ruth was signed over to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage. He spent the next twelve years there, although he was able to visit his family on rare occasions. While there, he was introduced to baseball – and tailoring; he became a qualified shirt maker.

In 1913, while playing ball for St. Mary’s, Ruth was noticed by Joe Engel who was an alumni and now a pitcher for the Washington Senators. Jack Dunn, manager of the minor-league Baltimore Orioles, came to watch Ruth pitch. Dunn signed Ruth to a $250 per month contract ($5,500 per month in today’s dollars), beginning in February 1914. Ruth was only 19 and so Dunn became his legal guardian (the age of majority was 25 at the time). The new kid was nicknamed “Jack’s newest babe” and the name stuck.

In July 1914, Dunn attempted to sign Ruth and two other players with the Philadelphia Athletics. His asking price was too high. The Cincinnati Reds also passed on Ruth, but the Boston Red Sox signed him for a disputed amount. Ruth played for the Red Sox until 1919. It was during that time, his emergence as a strong hitter began. He was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919 and played for them from 1920 to 1934.

So what club did the Sultan of Swat start? The 500 Home Run Club. He was the first player to achieve this goal. The next person to join the club was Jimmie Foxx on September 24, 1940. Foxx played for the Boston Red Sox. Gary Sheffield joined on April 17, 2009, the latest to join. Babe Ruth’s career record was 714 home runs which stood until Hank Aaron surpassed it in 1974. Today, Barry Bonds, with 762, is the home run leader.

As soon as I got out there I felt a strange relationship with the pitcher’s mound. It was as if I’d been born out there. Pitching just felt like the most natural thing in the world. Striking out batters was easy.

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.

You just can’t beat the person who never gives up. – all from Babe Ruth

Also on this day:

The Rock – In 1934, Alcatraz opens as a federal prison.
Shop Til You Drop – In 1992, the Mall of America opened.
Watts Riots – In 1965, the Watts Riots began.