Alabama: “The Cheap Seats”

For your listening (and viewing) pleasure, we have Alabama’s classic baseball song.  Enjoy!


This day in baseball: Pierzynski vs. Barrett

20 May 2006 — on this day at U.S. Cellular Field.  I’d say the video speaks for itself.

This bench-clearing brawl resulted in a fifteen-minute delay in this contest between the Chicago teams.  Four players were ejected from the game, and the White Sox went on to win it 7-0.

Video posted to YouTube by MLB.com


Diamond in the rough: Baseball during the Civil War

When one thinks of the American Civil War, a number of key themes come to mind: North vs. South; the Union and the Confederacy; slavery; race; Gettysburg; Appomattox; and so on… One rarely thinks of baseball, and yet the game provided entertainment and escape during this tumultuous period in our nation’s history.

Contrary to what the Abner Doubleday myth would have us believe, baseball was already well-established by the time the “War Between the States” broke out, and it is believed that President Abraham Lincoln may have been one of the game’s first fans. At the very least, many historians agree that Lincoln most likely watched, and possibly even played, the sport. There is no doubt, however, that the game was already making its way into the national consciousness. The political cartoon below show Lincoln with the other three Presidential candidates, John Bell, Stephen A. Douglas, and John C. Breckinridge, in the fall of 1860. The men are depicted as ballplayers, and Lincoln, of course, has his foot on home plate, representing victory. He smugly tells his opponents, “Gentlemen, if any of you should ever take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have ‘a good bat’ and strike a ‘fair ball’ to make a ‘clean score’ & a ‘home run.’”

“The National Game, Three Outs and One Run” (Source: New York Times)

Baseball was a pastime shared by both North and South, and officers on both sides touted the sport as a distraction from the horrors of war, as well as a means through which soldiers could exercise. Interestingly, the outbreak of war encouraged the growth of the sport, as large concentrations of young men gathered together in encampments often found themselves in need of a way to pass the time. To solve the problem of boredom, men from New York took to teaching their fellow soldiers, who came from areas throughout the country, the rules and play of baseball. What was once advocated as a “gentleman’s game” now spread amongst men from a wide variety of backgrounds.

One of the most famous games that took place during the war was between the 165th New York Infantry and the New York Regiment All-Star nine. Played in 1862, approximately forty thousand soldiers showed up to watch the matchup in Hilton Head, South Carolina. That’s a crowd that surpasses attendance at most Major League Baseball games today! As the war raged on and nationalism grew stronger, baseball became increasingly viewed as patriotic. Competitions were sometimes viewed as representative of the conflict between North and South.

Source: The Baseball Almanac

Playing ball in the middle of the war wasn’t always fun and worry-free, of course. Some soldiers learned to play the game in one of the many Civil War prisons. The teams of active regiments experienced constant changes in their rosters, as men were killed on the battlefield. Sometimes, the ballgames themselves were interrupted, such as one George Putnam wrote home about:

“Suddenly there was a scattering of fire, which three outfielders caught the brunt; the centerfield was hit and was captured, left and right field managed to get back to our lines. The attack…was repelled without serious difficulty, but we had lost not only our centerfield, but…the only baseball in Alexandria, Texas.”

When the war ended and soldiers returned home, many of them shared the game they had learned with their communities. A game that was once mostly confined to the New York area exploded throughout the country. Baseball became a force that helped to heal the rift in the country as many fans began to refer to it as “the national pastime.” Many new leagues formed throughout the nation. Referred to as the “Textile Leagues,” they resembled the minor league system of today. As baseball’s popularity became widespread, the foundation was laid for the establishment of organized and professional play.

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Sources:

Aubrecht, Michael.  “Baseball and the Blue and Gray.”  Baseball Almanac.  Baseball-Almanac, July 2004.  Web.  Accessed 17 May 2013.  http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/aubrecht2004b.shtml

Bluett, Terry.  “Baseball and the Civil War.”  Pennsylvania Civil War Trails.  PA Tourism Office.  Web.  Accessed 18 May 2013.  http://www.pacivilwartrails.com/stories/tales/baseball-and-the-civil-war

“Cartoon Corner: The National Game, Three Outs and One Run.”  Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom.  The Lincoln Institute, 2003-2013.  Web.  Accessed 18 May 2013.  http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/Cartoon_Corner/index3.asp?ID=97&TypeID=1

Kirsch, George B.  Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime During the Civil War.  Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton U P, 2003.

Rothschild, Richard.  “Lincoln was game for baseball.”  Chicago Tribune.  ChicagoTribune.com, 11 February 2003.  Web.  Accessed 18 May 2013.  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-02-11/sports/0302110160_1_16th-president-historian-jules-tygiel-abner-doubleday

 


Quote of the day

No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.

~Tommy Lasorda

 


This day in baseball: All aboard the “Ryan Express”

Nolan Ryan

Brittanica.com

On this day in 1973 in Kansas City, Angels pitcher Nolan Ryan threw his first no-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the Royals.  It would be the first of seven no-hitters that Ryan would throw over the course of his career — a Major League record.  His second no-no would come only two months later against the Tigers in Detroit.


“Analysis of Baseball,” by May Swenson

Here’s a poem written in 1978 by May Swenson that provides a simple, yet surprisingly intimate, look at the intricacies of the game.  I particularly enjoy the choppy rhythm of the piece, and it really feels like an accurate portrayal of the game.  Yes, baseball is, on the surface, a simple game.  But when you take the time to really delve into it, it is the details of the game that capture the hearts and imaginations of its fans.

*

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mitt.
Ball hits
bat, or it
hits mitt.
Bat doesn’t
hit ball, bat
meets it.
Ball bounces
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
ground (dud)
or it
fits mitt.

Bat waits
for ball
to mate.
Ball hates
to take bat’s
bait. Ball
flirts, bat’s
late, don’t
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(thwack) to mitt,
and goes out
(thwack) back
to mitt.

Ball fits
mitt, but
not all
the time.
Sometimes
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
meets it,
and sails
to a place
where mitt
has to quit
in disgrace.
That’s about
the bases
loaded,
about 40,000
fans exploded.

It’s about
the ball,
the bat,
the mitt,
the bases
and the fans.
It’s done
on a diamond,
and for fun.
It’s about
home, and it’s
about run.


This day in baseball: Foul call?

Source: historicballparks.com

 

Even early baseball history had its chuckle-worthy moments.

At South End Grounds in Boston, on 12 May 1884, Umpire Van Court calls a Detroit Wolverines batter out on a foul tip.  The Wolverines are enraged by the call, however, arguing that the ball clearly had not been caught by the Beaneaters’ catcher, Mike Hines.  Rather, the contested strike three ball was lodged in the Boston catcher’s mask.

I have to confess, part of my motivation for posting this story has to do with the team names.  You don’t see names as creative as the “Beaneaters” in Major League Baseball these days.