The world’s largest ballplayer, 1908

I came across this photo last night, depicting the world’s largest baseball player in 1908.  This young man weighed 450 pounds and played for the Citizens Baseball Team in Emporium, Pennsylvania.  I wish I could find more details about this guy, such as his name and maybe even a few statistics, but haven’t had much luck with my search.

“Kasey At The Bat (A Communist Fable),” by Robert L. Harrison

Given the long history between the United States and Russia/U.S.S.R., I could not help but chuckle in amusement as I read this piece.  In this poem, Robert L. Harrison parodies the classic poem to give us an idea of what it would have looked like had Casey played in the Soviet Union.


The game was going badly for the Moscow Nine
That day,
For Gorky Park had no lights and darkness was on
Its way.
While the sun was setting only Kasey was left
To bat,
A former little leaguer from a Georgia team
At that.

A Cossack got fed up and soon
He disappeared,
The rest clung to their commie hopes for losing was what
They feared,
They thought if only comrade Kasey could get a whack
At that,
We’d bet every ruble now with Kasey at
The bat.

And by the old Russian Gods was that Popovich
On third,
A speck of a human shadow who was faster than
A bird.
So while Kasey missed a bunt, in came
flying “Pop”,
Who was tagged out as poor Kasey took
A flop.

Now the reds were quiet in this adventure
Towards eve,
Until Ivan, a party member shouted
“We gotta believe.”
Then that peasant Kasey took another swing
And missed,
Causing every commissar to scream
“You son of a vitch.”

Then from the Cuban advisors there rose up a
Spanish curse,
That caused the K.G.B. agents to make a
Body search.
Which embarrassed every player, so they covered up
Their ears,
For they and the might Kasey only
Wanted cheers.

There was ease in Kasey’s manner as he showed his
Yellow teeth,
Even his manager smiled while surrounded by the
Secret police.
But the vodka was not selling and soon it would
Be dark,
So that bear of a pitcher unloaded his
Next dart.

Now fifteen-thousand matches struck to light up
That stadium,
As the umpire from Chernobyl lit up with
Some radium.
So now this baseball drama unfolded in the good
Old U.S.S.R,
And “playball” they did on land that once belonged to
The Czar.

Now future visions of his own dacha dangled in
Kasey’s head,
Helloooooooooooo to glasnost thought this
Friendly red.
Then Kasey prayed for his wood to meet
It’s mate,
For life for him forever would be a piece
Of cake.

Now in the dusk, the wind did stir and electrify
The air,
And in the sky, the Cossack caps were flying without
A care.
For contact was made with Kasey’s bat, a sphere flew up into
The night,
And a roar came from the bleacher seats, to the Moscow
Nines delight.

But where the hell was Kasey? On the bases
He disappeared,
Even the Cuban advisors stopped looking and had
A beer.
Then Radio Free Moscow quit transmitting
The game,
So patrons in the Red Square would soon forget
His name.

Oh, somewhere icons are tearing and refusenicks
Picket on,
And soldiers fight for the party, not knowing they
Were conned.
But what about poor Kasey, why did he never score
At all?
The next day by second base they found him, he was hit by his
Own ball.

Now somewhere in Siberia, where the snow is wet
And wild,
Where the timber wolf howls at the moon, and children
Never smile.
Somewhere in that frozen place, before the
Bering Sea,
You’ll find the mighty Kasey, playing on a
Gulag team.

Manfred’s first day

Today is the day that Rob Manfred takes over as Major League Baseball’s first new commissioner in 23 years.  It will be interesting to see what changes might (or might not) be in store for the sport.  As part of his vision for the league, Manfred has talked about reaching out to the game’s younger fans, improving on the technology provided by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, and continuing “modernization” of the game.  This third point both intrigues and worries me, but it’s much too early to pass judgment.  About the only thing we really can say for sure right now is that today marks the beginning of a new era for baseball.

CBS Sports
CBS Sports

RIP Ernie Banks

Lately, I seem to be catching all the big news while on the treadmill at the gym.  The problem with that is that I find myself having to be careful not to trip over my feet when a headline like the death of Ernie Banks flashes across the screen in front of me.

Ernie Banks became the Cubs’ first African-American player on Sept. 17, 1953.  He went on to win the National League Most Valuable Player award twice and was an eleven-time All-Star.  Over the course of his career, Banks hit 512 home runs and had 1,636 RBIs, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.  He passed away yesterday, Friday, January 23, in Chicago at the age of 83.

Farewell, Mr. Cub.

Chicago Mayor's Office
Chicago Mayor’s Office

Quote of the day

If you could equate the amount of time and effort put in mentally and physically into succeeding on the baseball field and measured it by the dirt on your uniform, mine would have been black.

~Mike Schmidt

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library
National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

This day in baseball: Feller’s request

Here’s a story you don’t hear every day:

On January 18, 1950, Indians pitcher Bob Feller suggested to team management that he take a pay cut because he did not feel that his 15-14 record from the previous season merited an increase.  Feller was granted his request, and his salary was cut $20,000 to $45,000.  The following season, however, Feller made a comeback, finishing with 16 wins and a 3.43 ERA.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons