The video is a bit long, but I promise it is worth the time to watch it. If you need something to do on this Friday (or this weekend!), grab yourself a hot dog and a beer, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy this Hall of Fame induction speech from one of baseball’s greatest pitchers. Inducted this past weekend and full of charisma and enthusiasm, it’s difficult not to root for Pedro Martinez, regardless of who your hometown team might be.
In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.
The Baseball Hall of Fame will be inducting four new members into its ranks later today: Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez. Looking at the pictures featuring these gentlemen, it sure is strange to see them all looking so young again.
Nevertheless, one can hardly argue that the initiation of each of these players into the Hall is well-deserved. While the celebration has been going on all weekend for this ceremony, the formal induction ceremony and the delivery of speeches by these four men will be taking place today, beginning at 1:30 eastern time. You can find complete details about the proceedings here.
On July 24, 1909, Nap Rucker of the Brooklyn Superbas struck out 16 Cardinal batters as Brooklyn defeated St. Louis, 1-0. Rucker asserted that he actually collected 17 K’s that day, but a careless official scorer forgot to record one of them. The southpaw finished the year second in the National League with 200 strikeouts (some sources say 201 strikeouts), in spite of Brooklyn’s dismal 55-98 season record.
The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor.
~ Cincinnati Gazette editorial, 1879
I sure am glad they were wrong about that!
Major League Baseball has yet to see its first woman player, but the Negro Leagues were ahead of the times in this regard. Three women played professional baseball in the Negro Baseball Leagues, the first of whom was one Toni “Tomboy” Stone.
Born Marcenia Lyle on July 17, 1921, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Toni Stone signed to play second base for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1953. It was a path that went against the hopes and dreams that Stone’s parents had for her and her siblings. From a young age, Toni Stone loved competition, and she excelled at a variety of sports as she grew up, including baseball, track, and ice skating. Her parents, who would have preferred that she focus more of her attention on her schoolwork, went so far as to set up a meeting for her with the local priest to try to talk her out of baseball, but by the end of that meeting, the priest had invited her to join his team in the Catholic Midget League.
By the age of fifteen, Stone had joined the Twin City Colored Giants, a traveling men’s baseball team. In the 1940s, however, she moved to San Francisco to help a sick sister, taking a brief hiatus from baseball. But then in 1949, she joined the San Francisco Sea Lions of the West Coast Negro Baseball League. In her first plate appearance with the Sea Lions, Stone earned two RBIs.
Being a black woman playing on a men’s team in Jim Crow America, Stone’s experiences playing ball weren’t always fun, of course. She often dealt with a barrage of jeers and insults from fans and players alike. Stone was quite proud of the fact that the male players were out to get her, however, wearing it as a sort of badge of honor. At one point, she said, “They didn’t mean any harm, and in their way they liked me. Just that I wasn’t supposed to be there. They’d tell me to go home and fix my husband some biscuits, or any damn thing. Just get the hell away from here.” As a woman, Stone was not allowed into the men’s locker room, but if she was lucky, she was sometimes permitted to change in the umpires’ locker room. In spite of the hardships, she took advantage of the exposure that she gained playing with the Sea Lions, and in 1953, the Indianapolis Clowns signed Toni Stone to its roster.
Stone appeared in 50 games that year. She hit .243, including getting a hit off the legendary pitcher, Satchel Paige. She also had the opportunity to play with the likes of Willie Mays and Ernie Banks. Stone’s time with the Clowns did not last, however, and in the off-season, she was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs. She retired at the end of her season with the Monarchs, however, due to age and a lack of playing time. Stone had compiled a .240 career batting average.
In 1985 Stone was inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation’s International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Then, in 1993, Stone was inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and into the Sudafed International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Toni Stone died of heart failure in 1996.
Here’s a song by the great Bob Dylan about the one and only Catfish Hunter. It’s short and laid back, and the mood of the song fits in well with Hunter’s modest background. The lyrics, however, speak to the acclaim that the right-handed pitcher earned over the course of his career.
Here’s a poem by Michael Ceraolo, recently published in the poetry journal Ygdrasil. Umpires serve as the police, judge, and jury in any given game, and while it sometimes seems dictatorial, it’s really more of a combination executive-judicial process, I think. The rules of baseball are already in place, and it is up to the umpires to ensure that the rules are followed, and to make decisions when unexpected questions are raised. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
One of the more egregious dictatorships
was the human home plate umpire,
disregarded the rulebook’s definition of a strike
in favor of a manifesto that said
a strike was whatever he said it was,
a ball was whatever he said it was
(a philosophy rigidly maintained
even when the pronoun changed genders),
not even a modicum of consistency
was shown in their calls
And this was made worse
by the fascist dictum that to even question
the umpire’s calls in this area
was to be exiled from that day’s game
This state of affairs went on for decades
after technology for calling balls and strikes
had been developed but went unused,
eventually the umpires’ union yielded
and the automated strike zone was a reality
It took about half a season
for the players to adjust to it
The home plate umpire remained on duty
to call safe or out on tag plays
Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.