This day in baseball: Bucs debut at Exposition Park

The Pittsburgh Pirates made their debut at Exposition Park in Pittsburg on April 22, 1891, losing to the Cubs, 7-6.  Exposition Park had opened the previous year as the home of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the short-lived Players’ League.  The Bucs would call Exposition Park home until 1909, when they moved to Forbes Field.

ExpositionParkin1905

Exposition Park, 1905 (Wikimedia Commons)


“The Man Into Whose Yard You Should Not Hit Your Ball,” by Thomas Lux

I have known folks who mow their lawn this way.  Pine cones?  Run ’em over.  Thick coatings of leaves?  The mower can handle it.  Rocks?  Who cares if they go flying?

I don’t mow that way 1) because I don’t have the money to buy a new lawn mower every other month, and 2) because I learned in a most unfortunate manner what happens when the mower picks up a stray rock and sends it flying into a window.

Running over a baseball would surely wreak havoc on any mower, no manner how sturdy and well-built it may be.  And any mower would wreak just as much havoc on the poor baseball.

*

each day mowed
and mowed his lawn, his dry quarter acre,
the machine slicing a wisp
from each blade’s tip.
Dust storms rose
around the roar: 6:00 P.
M.
, every day,
spring, summer, fall.
If he could mow
the snow he would.

On one side, his neighbors the cows
turned their backs to him
and did what they do to the grass.

Where he worked, I don’t know
but it sets his jaw to: tight.

His wife a cipher, shoebox tissue,
a shattered apron.
As if
into her head he drove a wedge of shale.

Years later his daughter goes to jail.

Mow, mow, mow his lawn
gently down a decade’s summers.

On his other side lived mine and me,
across a narrow pasture, often fallow;
a field of fly balls, the best part of childhood
and baseball, but one could not cross his line
and if it did,
as one did in 1956
and another in 1958,
it came back coleslaw — his lawn mower
ate it up, happy
to cut something, no matter
what the manual said
about foreign objects,
stones, or sticks.


Rookie of the Year

rookie

Add this one to the list of movies that I watched multiple times as a kid.  I didn’t watch it as many times as I watched Angels in the Outfield, mostly because we didn’t own a copy, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy Rookie of the Year enough to give it more than one viewing.

Rookie of the Year revolves around twelve-year-old Henry Rowengartner, who, while he is a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, lacks the talent to be much more than a benchwarmer on his little league baseball team.  However, one day, Henry steps on a baseball while at a dead run, causing his to trip and break his arm.  After spending much of the summer in a cast, Henry discovers that his tendons have healed a little too tightly, turning his arm into a sort of biological catapult that allows him to throw a speeds around a hundred miles per hour.

Before long, Henry finds himself signed by the struggling Cubs, and he almost-single-handedly saves the Chicago team from its financial struggles by drawing sellout crowds to Wrigley Field for the rest of the season.  He gets to learn from his hero, Chet “Rocket” Steadman, gets signed to sponsorship deals, and experiences the highs and lows that come with overnight fame.  Henry’s mother’s boyfriend, Jack, serves as Henry’s manager, but it quickly becomes apparent that he merely wishes to use Henry as means through which to pad his own bank account.

The Cubs make it all the way to the Division Championship game (which, in this flick, is apparently just the one game).  Chet Steadman starts and puts in some solid work before throwing out his arm and opening the opportunity for Henry to pitch.  Leading by one going into the final inning, the Cubs run out to take the field, and Henry once again steps on a baseball, causing him to trip.  He falls on his arm in the same manner as when he first broke it, but rather than breaking the arm again, Henry finds that his ability to catapult a 100-mph fastball has vanished.  The Cubs as a team then have to get creative on how they will manage the final three outs of the game.

Watching this film again last night, for the first time since my childhood, I was able to catch on to some things that were totally over my head when I was younger.  For example, the movie plays off the Cubs’ long World Series drought, which was still ongoing at the time of the movie’s release.  As a kid, the biggest thing I got out of this movie was a twisted desire to somehow break my arm in hopes that I, too, would develop a slingshot that would turn me into a star ballplayer.  As an adult, I just had to marvel at the willingness of some of the adults to exploit a child all in the name of making a buck.


Quote of the day

The seductiveness of baseball is that almost everyone with an abiding interest in it knows exactly how it should be played. And secretly believes that he could do it, if only God had seen fit to make him just a little bit less clumsy.

~George V. Higgins

george-v-higgins

Llegeix Barcelona


“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (1927 version), by Jack Norworth

The original version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was released in 1908, written on a piece of scrap paper on a train ride into Manhattan.  Because one version of the song just wasn’t enough, in 1927 Jack Norworth changed some of the lyrics of this classic, set again to the music composed by Albert Von Tilzer.

Nelly Kelly love baseball games,
Knew the players, knew all their names,
You could see her there ev’ry day,
Shout “Hurray,” when they’d play.
Her boy friend by the name of Joe
Said, “To Coney Isle, dear, let’s go,”
Then Nelly started to fret and pout,
And to him I heard her shout.

“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”

Nelly Kelly was sure some fan,
She would root just like any man,
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along, good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Nelly Kelly knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song.

“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”


This day in baseball: Ruth’s NL debut

Babe Ruth made his National League debut on April 16, 1935 at Braves Field in Boston.  A band played “Jingle Bells” (I wonder whose idea that was?) as snow fell with near-freezing temperatures enveloping the field.  Ruth hit a homer and a single off Giants’ legend Carl Hubbell as the Braves beat New York, 4-2.

babe-ruth-boston-braves

nydailynews.com


Jackie Robinson, football player

Before Jackie Robinson made his mark by breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier, he was a four-sport star at UCLA, playing baseball, football, basketball, and running track.  He remains the only four-letter athlete in the school’s history.  In his final year playing football for the school, Robinson led the Bruins in rushing (383 yards), passing (444 yards), total offense (827 yards), scoring (36 points), and punt return average (21 yards).  You can see a bit of footage from Robinson’s football days at UCLA here:

Robinson even went on to play a bit of semi-pro football.  In September 1941, he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears for $100 a game. His career with the Bears was cut short, however, when Robinson was drafted into the Army during World War II.

After World War II, Robinson briefly returned to football with the Los Angeles Bulldogs.  He then was offered a job as athletic director at Samuel Houston College in Austin, and as part of that role, he coached the basketball team for the 1944-1945 season.

It was in early 1945 that the Kansas City Monarchs offered Jackie a place on their team in the Negro Leagues.  Robinson then signed with the minor league Montreal Royals following the 1945 season.

The rest, as we know, is history.

 

jackie-robinson

biography.com

 

Happy Jackie Robinson Day!