Little Bits of History

August 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 20, 2017

1938: Lou Gehrig sets a new record. Henry Louis Gehrig was born in 1903 in Manhattan. He was the son of German immigrants and weighed almost 14 pounds at birth. His father was an alcoholic and often out of work, so his mother supported the family working as a maid. His two sisters and brother died early. Lou went by his middle name to keep from being confused with his father, who had the same name. Lou came to the attention of baseball fans at an early age. While playing in high school in front of a crowd of 10,000, 17-year-old Lou hit a grand slam completely out of the ballpark, an unheard of feat of prowess for someone so young.

Lou graduated from high school in 1921 and attended Columbia University on a football scholarship and studied engineering. New York Giants manager advised the young man to play summer professional baseball under an alias even before he started college. He did, but was found out and was banned from college sports for a year. He did play his sophomore year as fullback and in the spring played for his college baseball team at first base and as pitcher. On the day Yankee Stadium opened with Babe Ruth hitting a home run, Gehrig was pitching for Columbia and struck out 17 Williams College batters setting a team record.

Paul Krichell, a Yankee scout, had been watching Gehrig and liked his pitching, but not as much as he was impressed with Gehrig’s batting. Lou was hitting some of the farthest distance home runs of all time including a 450 foot home run at a home game, in which the ball landed outside the park at 116th Street and Broadway. Gehrig was signed to the Yankees on April 30, but played in the minors for parts of two seasons. He joined the New York Yankees part way through the 1923 season at the age of 19. He saw limited play in his first two years. In 1926, Gehrig really made it to the big times. During his first full season and playing at first base, the young man batted .313 with 47 doubles, 20 triples (leading in the American league), 16 home runs and 112 RBIs.

Gehrig played for the Yankees until 1939 and racked up an impressive number of records and awards. He played for the All Stars seven times and was World Series champion six times with being the American League’s MVP twice. He was an amazing batter and even hit four home runs in one game in 1932. He was captain of his team from 1935-39. On this day, he set a record for the most grand slams at 23. The record stood until 2013 when Alex Rodriguez surpassed the Iron Horse. Gehrig’s performance was sluggish in the last half of the 1938 season and by spring training the next year, it was noted that something was terribly wrong. On his 36th birthday, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or what came to be called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Two days later, he retired from baseball. He died on June 2, 1941 at the age of 37.

There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.

I love to win; but I love to lose almost as much. I love the thrill of victory, and I also love the challenge of defeat.

In the beginning I used to make one terrible play a game. Then I got so I’d make one a week and finally I’d pull a bad one about once a month. Now, I’m trying to keep it down to one a season.

I might have had a tough break; but I have an awful lot to live for. – all from Lou Gehrig



Whack, Whack …

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 16, 2015
Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio

July 16, 1941: Joltin’Joe sets a Major League Baseball record. Joe DiMaggio was born in California in 1914 as Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio. He was the eighth of nine children in the family. The father was a fisherman and hoped that his five sons would follow in his footsteps but young Joe would do anything to escape the boat. The smell of dead fish nauseated him. His father called him “lazy” and “good for nothing”. Joe began playing semipro baseball with his older brother, Vince, who talked the manager into letting his baby brother fill in as shortstop. Joe made his professional debut on October 1, 1932 at the age of 17. Between May 27 and July 25, 1933, Joe hit safely in 61 consecutive games, a Pacific Coast League record.

In 1934, Joe tore the ligaments in his knee when he misstepped while getting out of a taxi. It could have ended his career in baseball, but scout Bill Essick of the New York Yankees was sure it would heal and brought Joe in for a look. Joe passed the physical in November and the Yankees purchased his contract from the San Francisco Seals for $50,000 and five players. Joe stayed with the Seals for the 1935 season. He made his major league debut on May 3, 1936 batting ahead of Lou Gehrig. Joe played with the Yankees for his entire MLB career – 13 years. He led the team to nine titles during those years. He signed a record breaking contract in 1949 and became the first baseball player to earn over $100,000 for a year.

The record he created on this day has remained unbroken. Beginning on May 15, 1941 (just weeks before Lou Gehrig died of ALS), Joe began his hitting streak when he was up against the Chicago White Sox and pitcher Eddie Smith. The previous record hitting streak in MLB went for 41 games and was held by George Sisler from his 1922 season. At first, Joe was not trying to break Gorgeous George’s record, but as he got closer both he and the press of the day began to speculate about the possibility. On June 29, Joe broke George’s record when he doubled in the first game of a double header against the Washington Senators and then singled in the nightcap game with a record 42 game streak.

There were close to 53,000 Yankee fans to watch Joe tie Wee Willie Keeler’s 1897 44 game streak. July began with this momentous statistic but Joltin’Joe wasn’t finished. He kept getting hits  and finally broke the 50 game level on July 11 against the St. Louis Browns. In his 56th game on this day, he again safely hit while playing against Cleveland. The next day, while once again facing Cleveland, his string was finally broken. He was walked, but did not get a safe hit. He made the next 16 games, as well and so make it to base for 73 games, 72 of 73 with a safe hit. Another record. He retired at age 37, announcing it on December 11, 1951. He lived to age 84, dying from lung cancer in 1999.

DiMaggio’s streak is the most extraordinary thing that ever happened in American sports. – Stephen Jay Gould

When baseball is no longer fun, it’s no longer a game. – Joe DiMaggio

‘m just a ballplayer with one ambition, and that is to give all I’ve got to help my ball club win. I’ve never played any other way. – Joe DiMaggio

We need a hit, so here I go. – Joe DiMaggio

Also on this day: Phony – In 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was published.
Calendars – In 622, the Islamic calendar began.
No Kissing – In 1451, King Henry VI banned kissing.
Lovely Rita – In 1935, the first parking meter was unveiled.
Hijacked – In 1948, a plane was hijacked.

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.

Perfect, Cyclone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 5, 2015
Cy Young *

Cy Young 

May 5, 1904: Cy Young pitches a perfect game. He was born in Gilmore, Ohio in 1867. He dropped out of school after the sixth grade to help out on the family farm. He played in many different baseball leagues as a child and also for the semi-pro Carrollton team in 1888. He pitched and played second base for them. He was offered a position in the minor league Canton team the next year. He began his professional career with that move. Although born with the name Denton True Young, when he threw a fastball at a fence, it looked like a cyclone hit it and Dent got the nickname, shortened to Cy. He used it for the rest of his life. He made his major league debut on August 6, 1890. He was playing for the Cleveland Spiders.

Early on, he was noted as being one of the harder-throwing pitchers in the game. Chief Zimmer, his usual catcher with the Spiders, often put some beefsteak inside his glove to help protect his catching hand against the pitcher’s fastball. Technology hadn’t advanced enough to get an accurate speed for his pitches. Two years later, rules changed the position of the pitching mound, placing it five feet farther from the plate. Part of the reason was the speed of the fastball thrown by Young and a few other hotshots in the game. On this day, he was playing for the Boston Americans. The game was played at Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston with 10,267 fans in the stands. The opponents were the Philadelphia Athletics. Young faced 27 players and none of them reached first base. The first perfect game in the modern era of baseball.

Young played professional baseball from 1890 to 1911 and racked up an impressive number of records. During his time on the mound, he managed 511 wins, the most in Major League history – and 94 games ahead of Walter Johnson who is in second place. He also had 315 losses, the most in MLB history as well. He pitched the most innings with 7,355 to his credit and started in 815 games, the most ever. He also pitched 749 complete games, another record. His 76 career shutouts are fourth on the list. He won 30 games in a season five times and managed 20 or more another ten times. As well as this perfect game, he pitched two more no-hitters. He also pitched 25 ⅓ consecutive innings without his opponents getting a hit. He won the World Series in 1903 as well as several other championships.

Young died at the age of 88 in Newcomerstown, Ohio. A year after his death, the Cy Young Award was begun. It is given each year to the best pitchers in MLB with one going to the best in the American League and one to the best pitcher in the National League. Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick began the annual award in 1956 (when only one winner was awarded) with Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers taking the trophy. In 1967, it was decided that two awards would be given, one for each league. The current winners are Clayton Kershaw for the National League (LA Dodgers) and Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians) for the American League.

One of the fellows called me ‘Cyclone’ but finally shortened it to ‘Cy’ and it’s been that ever since.

A pitcher’s got to be good and he’s got to be lucky to get a no hit game.

Too many pitchers, that’s all, there are just too many pitchers Ten or twelve on a team. Don’t see how any of them get enough work. Four starting pitchers and one relief man ought to be enough. Pitch ’em every three days and you’d find they’d get control and good, strong arms.

I thought I had to show all my stuff and I almost tore the boards of the grandstand with my fastball. – all from Cy Young

Also on this day: Monkey Trial – In 1925 John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution.
Cinco de Mayo – In 1862, the Battle of Puebla was fought.
Turning Straw Into Gold – In 1809, the first patent was granted to a woman in the US.
Music Hall – In 1891, what we know as Carnegie Hall opened.
The End – In 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte died.

Three All Alone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 19, 2014
Neal Ball

Neal Ball

July 19, 1909: Neal Ball makes an unprecedented play while playing for the Cleveland Naps. Neal was born in Michigan in 1881 and began playing baseball in the minor leagues for the Montgomery Senators of the Southern League. In 1907 he was signed with the New York Highlanders (now the New York Yankees) where he played until 1909 when Cleveland picked him up. The Cleveland team was founded in 1894 and would eventually come to be known as the Indians. Neal moved from Cleveland in 1912 and played for the Boston Red Sox until retiring in 1913. His usual position was shortstop, but he was also played at second and third base as well as the outfield.

Neal was the first of only fifteen Major League Baseball players to make an unassisted triple play. For this to be even possible, there needs to be no outs in the inning and at least two runners on base. Usually, the play is made when an infielder catches a line drive (first out) and then double off one of the base runners and tags out a second runner for the second and third outs. Of the fifteen men who have accomplished this rare feat, eight of them were shortstops, five were second basemen, and two were first basemen. The Indians are the only team in the franchise to have three players do this while playing for them: Neal Ball, Bill Wambsganss, and Asdrubal Cabrera.

In May 1927, Jimmy Cooney got an unassisted triple and the very next day, Johnny Neun did, too. This is the closest together this has ever happened. After Neun’s triple play, it took more than 41 seasons before Ron Hansen also got a triple, that time on July 30, 1968 – which is the longest time between the spectacular play. The last time it was done was on August 23, 2009 when Eric Bruntlett managed to again make a triple. Only Neun and Bruntlett made their astounding triples as the last plays of their game. Neun was playing for the Detroit Tigers and Bruntlett was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies.

After Neal’s playing days ended, he became a coach for the then minor league team, the Baltimore Orioles. He was coaching there when a new kid came out of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys and Neal said the kid was “the dumbest and yet the strongest player” he had coached. The kid? Babe Ruth. The two remained friends even after Ruth broke into the Majors. The two baseball players even had a friendly bowling match in 1923 with Neal winning four of the seven games. In the 1950s, Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Newfield Alleys named a tournament after Neal to honor their famous citizen. In February 1952, Neal became seriously ill with a heart condition and died five years later at the age of 76.

If you rush in and out of the clubhouse, you rush in and out of baseball. – Pee Wee Reese

The big tragedy in baseball is that the amateur spirit has gone out of it to a large extent. – Larry MacPhail

Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing. – Bill Buckner

You never really know baseball until you put on a pair of cleats and get out and play it; and if you play for five years, you still don’t really know what it’s about. – Waite Hoyt

Also on this day: Tennis, Anyone? – In 1877, Wimbledon championships are first held.
SS Great Britain – In 1843, the largest sailing vessel in the world was launched.
First Teacher – In 1985, Christa McAuliffe was selected to be the first teacher in space.
Raining Rocks – In 1912, Holbrook, AZ is pelted with the fall out of an exploded meteorite.

Fenway’s First

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2014
Hugh Bradley

Hugh Bradley

April 26, 1912: Hugh Bradley hits the first homerun ever at Fenway Park. Bradley was born in Grafton, Massachusetts in 1885. The 5′ 10″ right handed player began playing for the Minors in 1906 at the age of 21. He moved up to the Majors in 1910 when the Boston Red Sox picked him up. During his five years of Major League Baseball, he played first base and a right field. He was with Boston for two years and then was traded first to Pittsburgh, next to Brooklyn and finally to Newark. His batting average was .261 and he batted in 117 runs over his career. He had exactly two home runs during his tenure in the major leagues with one of them being this illustrious first ever at the new home of the Boston Red Sox.

Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912. It has been home to the Boston Red Sox ever since and is the oldest ballpark in MLB. The Red Sox moved here from Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. The year before, the owner of the club, John I Taylor, purchased the land on which the new stadium was built. He claimed the name came from the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, which got its name from the filling in of marshlands or “fens” to create the Back Bay Fens urban park. It is also to be noted that the Taylor family owned the Fenway Realty Company. Like many older stadiums, Fenway was built on an asymmetrical lot which gave it asymmetrical field dimensions.

On April 20, Boston mayor John F Fitzgerald threw out the opening pitch and Boston won the game in 11 innings. They were playing against the New York Highlanders who would be renamed the Yankees the next year. While this was exciting news, it was overshadowed in the press by the continued coverage of an even bigger story, the sinking of the Titanic just a few days earlier. Boston might be known today for holding the record for consecutive sellouts of their stadium (456th, which beat out the Cleveland Indians). The sellout streak ended on April 11, 2013 after 794 regular season games and 26 post-season games. The lowest paid attendance for the stadium came in 1965 when under 500 people showed up for two regular season games.

The stadium has been renovated, improved, enlarged, and upgraded several times in the over 100 years of its existence. The first was in 1934 when an iconic hand-changing scoreboard was added as were lights to indicate strikes and balls. In 1946 and upper deck was placed and the next year arc lights were put in. Only two other teams had not yet made this improvement. In 1999, auxiliary press boxes were added and at the turn of the century, a new video display (23 feet x 30 feet) was put in center field. Almost yearly since then, something new or upgraded as been added or improved. Today, the stadium hold 37,071 people during the day and 37,499 for night games. Play ball.

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is. – Bob Feller

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. – Ted Williams

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

Baseball is like church. Many attend few understand. – Leo Durocher

Also on this day: Chernobyl – In 1986, there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.
Police – In 1933, the Gestapo was formed.

Safety in Sports

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2014
Early catcher's mask

Early catcher’s mask

April 12, 1877: A catcher’s mask is first worn during a baseball game. Baseball is a bat and ball game played between two nine-player teams. The offense is the team batting or hitting the ball while the defense has positions in the field to prevent a score. The batter, getting a legal hit will advance through the four bases and after completing the diamond, scores a point. The fielding positions are numbered for scoring purposes with the pitcher as 1, catcher as 2, bases as 3, 4, 5, short stop as 6 and the outfield as 7, 8, and 9. The game’s first appeared in type before becoming the game we know today. In 1344 there was an illustration of a game that resembled what is today called baseball. In England, in 1744 a game was called base-ball. Historians tend to agree that the game we have today was one of many regional variations and originated in this form in America.

The catcher, position #2, is placed behind the batter standing at home plate and in front of the umpire. The catcher’s primary duty is to receive the ball from the pitcher. As the only defensive player able to see the entire field, the catcher is in position to direct actions out on the field. The catcher will often use hand signals to let the pitcher know what type of ball to throw. This means the catcher must know both the pitcher’s and the batter’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how the activity on the outfield is shaping up. When a foul tip, or a ball struck by the bat that is not in fair play, occurs, it is also up to the catcher to attempt to catch the ball while still in the air to effect an out. Because of the catcher’s precarious position, he or she is given protective gear which from this date forward featured a mask. Also included today are chest and throat protectors, shin guards, and an extra-thick glove.

Because catchers need such a wide range of skills and knowledge to be effective in their job, they are often given some slack if their offensive activity isn’t as great as that held in other positions. Like the pitcher, low batting statistics are less important. Also, because of their great knowledge of so many aspects of the game itself, there is a disproportionately large number of retired catchers who end up being managers of baseball teams in both the major and minor leagues.

Before the US Civil War, pitches were lobbed to the batter underhand. Because of this type of pitch, many foul tips were hit and the catcher was placed about 20-25 feet behind the batter in order to catch the foul balls. He also wore no protective gear at the time. As pitches went to overhand throws the catcher’s duties and position changed. Pitchers were now trying to strike out the batters by throwing balls that could not be hit and it became a rule that a strike for a missed pitch could only be counted if it was caught by the catcher, thus forcing him to move in closer. Soon, they needed to wear a glove and then the mask followed. At first, this led to having a catcher’s courage questioned but the efficacy soon made it part of the routine uniform. Soon, other protective gear followed.

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets. – Yogi Berra

There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens. – Tommy Lasorda

Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world. – Babe Ruth

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

Also on this day: Jerry Did Good – In 1996, Yahoo! goes public.
Polio Vaccine – In 1955, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved.
Union Jack – In 1606, Great Britain adopted a new flag.
The Columbus of the Cosmos – In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space.

All Wet All-Stars

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2012

1961 All-Star Game

July 31, 1961: Baseball’s All-Star Game ends in a tie. The game was played at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The game was played in front of 31,851 fans with Jim Bunning the starting pitcher for the American League and Bob Purkey the starting pitcher for the National League. The American League team scored on a home run hit by Rocky Colavito in the first inning and remained ahead until the score was tied in the sixth inning as Eddie Mathews crossed home plate. The game was called after nine innings because of a downpour. This was the first, and until 2002, the only All-Star Game to end in a tie.

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is also called the “Midsummer Classic” and is played between players from the National League and the American League. The players are selected by a combination of fans, players, coaches, and managers. The game is usually played in mid-July, the halfway point of the baseball season. The game is usually played on a Tuesday, and both the Monday and Wednesday surrounding the big game are left unscheduled. The Monday and Wednesday surrounding the All-Star Game are the only two days of the year without a regular or pre-season game scheduled for any major professional sports leagues in the US.

The venue for the game changes with stadiums from the National and American Leagues alternating years. This system has twice been broken, first in 1951 when the Detroit Tigers hosted the game in conjunction with the city’s 250th birthday and again in 2007 when the San Francisco Giants were hosts. Since 2008, the American League hosts on the even numbered years with the National League having the odd numbered years. The games are not scheduled out past 2012. On July 10, 2012 the game was held at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2013, the game is scheduled to be played on July 16 at Citi Field in New York City, home of the Mets.

There are no special uniforms for the game with players wearing their normal team uniforms instead. Sometimes there is a uniform error, usually when a batter dons a different team’s batting helmet. After 82 All-Star Games played (two in 1959-1962) with the National League winning 42, the American League winning 38, and 2 ties. In 1961, the American League had Yogi Bera, Mickey Mangle, and Roger Maris as some of their biggest-name players. The National League had Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Mays playing. The American League placed three pictures on the mound while the National League used four. There was no Most Valuable Player named that year, as the custom started in 1962.

No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined. – Paul Gallico

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

I don’t want to play golf.  When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. – Rogers Hornsby

Say this much for big league baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America. – Bruce Catton

Also on this day:

Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history.
Who Knows? – In 1930, The Shadow came to radio.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.

Ray Chapman

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 16, 2010

Ray Chapman

August 16, 1920: Ray Chapman is struck in the head with a fastball delivered by pitcher Carl Mays – he will die the next day. Chapman is the only person to die as the direct result of a baseball injury. Chapman, the short stop for the Cleveland Indians was crowding the plate, waiting for a pitch. His patience at the plate was one of his great strengths. Carl Mays threw a spitball, still legal at the time, and struck Chapman in the head with his pitch, just barely out of the strike zone.

Spitballs have since been banned from the game. The spitball was coated on a portion of the ball with some slimey substance – grease, oil, lard, peanut butter, or rarely, spit. This made the ball’s path erratic and also made it more difficult to hit effectively. Batting helmets became mandatory in Major League Baseball in 1971 after many more head injuries – none of the others resulted in death.

Chapman was a much loved player and his death resulted in a team slump that went almost unnoticed by the grieving fans. Mays was almost as disliked as Chapman was loved and it was felt by some that the pitch was a deliberate attack. This has never been proven. The Indians came out of their slump, ending the season first in the American League and went on to win the World Series 5-2 over the Brooklyn Robins, later to become the Dodgers.

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” – Walt Whitman

“When you’re in a slump, it’s almost as if you look out at the field and it’s one big glove.” – Vance Law

“Baseball is a game where a curve is an optical illusion, a screwball can be a pitch or a person, stealing is legal and you can spit anywhere you like except in the umpire’s eye or on the ball.” – Jim Murray

“It’s hard to win a pennant, but it’s harder losing one.” – Chuck Tanner

Also on this day, in 1819 the Peterloo Massacre leaves hundreds wounded after cavalry charges a crowd near Manchester, England.

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No Joy in Mudville

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 3, 2010

Ernest L. Thayer

June 3, 1888: Casey at the Bat is published in the San Francisco Examiner. The work was published by William Randolph Hearst in the paper his father had given him to run. Hearst had experience with the Harvard Lampoon, where he was editor. He brought some of his staff with him to California. Ernest L. Thayer was one of his college friends. The poem, written by Thayer but signed as Phin, concerns an iconic baseball player who can win the baseball game for the home team in Mudville. He doesn’t swing at the first two pitches and they are called as strikes. Casey, believing completely in his ability, swings mightily at the final pitch. And misses.

Baseball has been called America’s national past time. Like other games such as cricket or rounders, the game of baseball originated in less formalized folk games. The first mention of the game was in 1744 in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book by John Newbery. The book not only contained a description, but a picture of the modern looking baseball field. The first written rules appeared in 1796 in a German book that labeled the game “English base-ball.”

In the early 20th century, Al Spalding, an American sporting goods merchant, started the myth about Abner Doubleday creating the American game in 1839. Doubleday left no evidence of this in any of his extant writings. In 1845, the New York Knickerbockers rules were published with Alexander Joy Cartwright as the author. The evolution of the modern rules from then to the present time is well documented.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings were the first team with salaried players in 1869. By 1871, professionalism took over the game and the National Association was formed. Today, the American League has 14 teams; the National League has 16. Baseball belongs to the world with a World Cup or World Championship series held yearly since 1938. Baseball is also now an Olympic sport.

“Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.” – Yogi Berra

“To be good, you’ve gotta have a lot of little boy in you.” – Roy Campanella

“Most ball games are lost, not won.” – Casey Stengel

“Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its somber story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.” – Albert Spalding

“Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being sooner ended.” – George Bernard Shaw

Also on this day:
In 1969, the
HMAS Melbourne collides with the USS Frank E. Evans.
In the early 1950s,
Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bride.