It’s been quite some time, but I once posted a couple baseball jokes here. At the time, it was something I figured I could sprinkle in from time to time, just to shake things up a little. Evidently, though, the thought didn’t stick. But today, I attempt to revive that intention. Here are a couple new jokes to kick off the weekend.
A conceited new rookie was pitching his first game. He walked the first five men he faced and the manager took him out of the game. The rookie slammed his glove on the ground as he yelled, “Damn it, the jerk took me out when I had a no-hitter going.”
A small social club was trying to organize a baseball team. They could only muster eight players, but were hard put to find a ninth. In desperation, they called on a new member, an Englishman, to join their team.
During their first game, the Englishman came to bat. On the first pitch, he knocked the ball out of the park.
“Run!” his teammates cried. “For Pete’s sake, run!”
The Brit turned and stared at them icily. “I jolly well shan’t run,” he replied. “Why should I? I’m perfectly willing to buy you chaps another ball.”
The secret of my success was clean living and a fast-moving outfield.
Last week in baseball literature, we read Ring Lardner’s novel You Know Me Al. This story was actually first written as a series of fictional letters published in the Saturday Evening Post beginning in 1914.
The letters are written by Jack Keefe, a ballplayer who, at the book’s start, has made it to the Major Leagues as a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. He writes home to his good friend Al Blanchard in Bedford, Indiana about his experiences. As a reader, you pick up very quickly from the myriad of misspellings and usage issues that Jack is uneducated, gullible, and a bit of a rube. It also doesn’t take long to realize that, in spite of this, Jack is rather full of himself.
Jack’s first round in the majors does not go very well, and he is quickly sent back to the minors. In spite of his coaches insisting that he needs to learn to field his position and to hold baserunners, Jack stubbornly insists that he already knows how to do all that. As the professor for my class points out, Jack is a thrower, rather than a pitcher. At the end of the day, the only thing that seems to save his baseball career is his ability to throw a fastball.
Jack does make his way back to the White Sox organization, though it remains difficult to ever take him seriously as a ballplayer. He has no respect for the likes of Ty Cobb or Walter Johnson. He does manage to do well enough to boast of a 10-6 record at one point, although he insists that his six losses are the fault of his teammates while his ten wins are completely his own doing. One of his coaches, Kid Gleason, tries, but fails miserably, to guide Jack, insisting that he work on his weak spots and that he take better care of himself physically.
Off the field, it seems that everybody goes out of their way to take advantage of Jack’s ignorance and gullibility. Charles Comiskey continuously dupes him during contract negotiations. His teammates trick him into picking up the tab during a night out. He marries a girl named Florrie who becomes pregnant with what may or may not be his child.
In truth, I spent much of the book coping with a desire to punch every one of the characters in the story, including Jack himself. Jack is unabashedly rude to everyone he interacts with, including those who are trying to help him. He also proves that he is little more than a coward, often threatening to punch someone in the jaw, but never carrying out the deed.
It would be nice to be able to point to a fairy tale ending to this book, but with this set of personalities, I’m sure Lardner found such an ending impossible. Rather, the story ends with Jack, after much waffling back and forth, taking off for Japan on an exhibition tour. There is no true conclusion, the book simply ends.
In spite of my frustration with the characters, You Know Me Al nevertheless proved itself an enjoyable read. I polished off the book over the course of a weekend, eager to find out what kinds of messes poor Jack would get himself into next. It’s an easy read, and it’s not difficult to see why it was so popular even in its time.
Speaking of Tinker, Evers, and Chance, the legendary double-play combination completed their first-ever twin killing 113 years ago today, on September 15, 1902. As we know now, it was the start of a relationship that would become immortalized in Franklin Pierce Adams’s “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” as the Cubs defeated Cincinnati, 6-3.
By the way, if you’re interested, the Chicago Tribune published a short article about the story behind the poem here.
Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance played together in Chicago from 1902 until April of 1912. Together, they formed a double play combination that became immortalized in this poem, published in the New York Evening Mail in July 1910. The piece is written from the perspective of a Giants fan, moaning the luck of his team whenever one of them hits into this double play. This poem is often credited as being the primary reason that Tinker, Evers, and Chance were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.
These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double-
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
When you’re in a slump, it’s almost as if you look out at the field and it’s one big glove.
On September 11, 1886, catcher Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack, made his major league debut with the Washington Nationals (a.k.a. Senators). The Nationals defeated Philadelphia, 4-3, at Capitol Park in Washington.
Connie Mack went on to become the longest-serving manager in Major League Baseball history. He holds records for wins (3,731), losses (3,948), and games managed (7,755).
The longest game in the history of professional baseball took place in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, two teams from the Triple-A International League. The game lasted 33 innings and went on for a total of 8 hours and 25 minutes. Played at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the first 32 innings of the contest were played April 18th and 19th. The final inning of the game was played on June 23, 1981. Pawtucket won the game, 3–2.
A pair of future Hall of Famers took part in this marathon competition. Cal Ripken, Jr. batted 2–for–13 while playing third base for Rochester. (The following year, Ripken would be named Rookie of the Year in the American League.) Meanwhile, Wade Boggs played third base for Pawtucket, going 4–for–12 with a double and an RBI.
Here’s an infographic by Craig Robinson plotting out the day-by-day progress of the three main contenders in the 1998 home run chase. I had completely forgotten that Ken Griffey, Jr. was a part of this race in the beginning. He ended the season in pretty great shape, even if he didn’t pass Maris’s mark.
Click on the image for a larger view.
With baseball, it’s simple. There’s no mystery to what happens on the field because everything has a label — full count, earned run, perfect game — and there’s a certain amount of comfort in this terminology. There’s no room for confusion and Ryan wishes now that everything could be so straightforward.
~Jennifer E. Smith, The Comeback Season