When this song started playing, I had a vague impression that I’ve heard it before. As the song played on, however, I grew less sure. Regardless of whether I actually have heard it before or not, it’s a catchy tune with some fun baseball allusions. Enjoy!
After hitting his first home run ever (and winning the game with it, to boot), one certainly can’t blame Charlie Brown for wanting to revel in the feeling of baseball glory.
On May 24, 1918, right-hander Stan Coveleski pitched 19 innings in the Indians’ 3-2 victory over the Yankees at the Polo Grounds. Smoky Joe Wood hit a home run in the top of the 19th for the Tribe that proved to be the difference. Coveleski gave up 12 hits and 6 walks with 4 strikeouts over the course of the game.
Now obviously, in peacetime a one-legged catcher, like a one-armed outfielder (such as the Mundys had roaming right), would have been at the most a curiosity somewhere down in the dingiest town in the minors – precisely where Hot had played during the many years that the nations of the world lived in harmony. But it is one of life’s grisly ironies that what is catastrophe for most of mankind, invariably works to the advantage of a few who live on the fringes of the human community. On the other hand, it is a grisly irony to live on the fringes of the human community.
~Philip Roth, The Great American Novel
R.I.P. Mr. Roth…
I remember my first pair of cleats. I was nine years old, embarking on my first-ever season of organized ball. My mom took my little brother and me shopping at a local Payless — the only place my folks, understandably, would buy any kind of shoes for our growing feet. I was excited to finally be able to wear a pair of cleats. I had seen the older kids wearing them, and they just seemed so cool. After trying on multiple pairs, I wound up with a pair of black, low-top cleats with royal blue shoelaces and royal blue lettering that announced “Rawlings.”
It turns out, the concept of cleats has been around since the 1500s — and possibly even
earlier than that. King Henry VIII is documented to have owned a pair of “football boots,” created for him by the royal shoemaker, Cornelius Johnson. These special “boots” were created from a strong material (most likely leather) for the purposes for playing “football” (by which Henry likely means some early version of soccer). The earliest cleats typically featured leather, metal, or wooden studs. For those who couldn’t afford to have a special pair made, they would create their own shoe enhancements with the use of metal plates or (cringe) nails.
The process of vulcanization, a chemical process for converting rubber into a more durable material, was developed in England and the United States in the 1840s. Vulcanized rubber proved especially useful in producing shoes intended to protect the wearer’s feet, and, as a bonus, it was a much lighter material. Furthermore, vulcanized rubber proved handy when the concept of studded or spiked shoes emerged. The first known spiked leather running shoes were developed by a British company in the 1890s, and the first soccer-specific shoes were also developed at the end of the 19th century.
In the United States, meanwhile, metal spikes began to appear on baseball shoes in the 1860s, typically in a detachable form, and the first official baseball shoe appeared in 1882 when Waldo Claflin started selling leather shoes with built-in cleats marketed specifically to baseball players. The emergence of American football in the early 20th century led to widespread recognition and popularity of cleats, the first football shoes actually being baseball shoes adapted to the new sport. Over time, as sports in general continued to grow and with the advent of artificial turf, cleats evolved, and different types of cleats developed according to various sports and playing surfaces. With safety in mind, Major League Baseball banned sharp, metal spikes in 1976, leading to further developments in the plastic studs we see on cleats today.
This photograph from the collections of the Library of Congress looks simple enough, but it prompts a lot of questions for me. It is noted that the photo was taken between 1873 and 1916. Given that the catcher’s mask wasn’t invented until 1876 and it wasn’t until a few years later that their use became common among backstops, we can eliminate the first few years of that range. The mitt, meanwhile, resembles the one patented by J.F. Draper in 1899, so I think it is safe to say this photo is likely from the early 20th century.
My questions, however, involve the player himself: Who is he? Where is he from? What team does he play for? Is he really a baseball player, or merely a man off the street the photographer convinced to put on some equipment for a photo op?
And if he really is a ballplayer, what is he thinking? He appears to be standing behind home plate, looking out at the field before him. Is he deciding on what pitch to ask for next? Is he unhappy with how the defense is arranged? Or is he upset because that damned umpire called the last pitch a ball when it was clearly over the outside corner?
Its listing in the Library of Congress catalog doesn’t answer any of those questions, unfortunately. I guess I’ll just have to continue to study the photo and wonder.
On May 20, 1878, Jim McCormick became the first player born in Scotland to appear in a major league game. In his debut, right-handed pitcher McCormick and the Indianapolis Blues lost to the Chicago White Stockings, 3-1. The following season, the Scot would become the team’s manager as the team made its move to Cleveland. At the age of 23, this made McCormick the youngest skipper in the game.