Baseball isn’t just the stats. As much as anything else, baseball is the style of Willie Mays, or the determination of Hank Aaron, or the endurance of a Mickey Mantle, the discipline of Carl Yastrzemski, the drive of Eddie Mathews, the reliability of a (Al) Kaline or a (Joe) Morgan, the grace of a (Joe) DiMaggio, the kindness of a Harmon Killebrew, and the class of Stan Musial, the courage of a Jackie Robinson, or the heroism of Lou Gehrig. My hope for the game is that these qualities will never be lost.
This piece by Joyce Kessel was published in 2011 in Spitball Magazine. There’s a strong sense of nostalgia, especially in the language about attending minor league games.
I grew up a National League fan of the Pirates, Cards, Reds & Giants, not even knowing many decades before my Buffalo Bisons played in the Senior League well before becoming a minor league stalwart. So I’d pray for sunny skies over Forbes Field rather than Cleveland’s “Mistake by the Lake.” My rare defection to the American League came when the Orioles gained Frank Robinson in that lopsided trade and after, who couldn’t have appreciated Cal Ripken?
My dad & I would troll the minor leagues where for some reason affiliations didn’t seem to matter as much, at least not to me, who took in the green expanses beyond dirt as the glowing diamonds they were meant to be, even in parks that were bare shadows to Little League fields today.
In bandbox fields and open air bleachers we’d watch players with numbers, but no names on their uniforms, trading cards in their future or past or not at all, their talents raw and wild.
I learned a geography of Rustbelt cities: Toledo Mudhens, Columbus Clippers, Rochester Redwings, Syracuse Chiefs, Geneva Cubs, Oneonta Yankees, Niagara Falls Rainbows, a day’s ride away, hoping they’d play two, and mastering the geometry & hieroglyphs of scorecards.
On April 26, 1901 at Philadelphia’s Columbia Park, 10,547 fans witnessed Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics making their American League debut, losing to the Senators, 5-1. The Western League had been renamed the American League in 1900 by league president Ban Johnson and declared itself the second major league in 1901. Philadelphia’s new franchise, led by Mack, had been created to compete with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies.
At Schorling’s Park on Chicago’s south side, the minor league White Sox played their first game in franchise history on April 21, 1900. The Sox ended up losing the contest to Milwaukee, 5-4. The small wooden ballpark, located at 39th and Princeton, was also known as South Side Park, and would continue to be the home stadium for the team when they joined the American League the following season.
In honor of 4/20, here’s a brief overview on Major League Baseball’s policy regarding use of marijuana. In December 2019, MLB announced that it would be dropping marijuana from the list of drugs it would be testing for (while, at the same time, adding opioids and cocaine to that list).
A few weeks prior to the originally scheduled start of the 2020 season (which ended up not happening… thanks, COVID!), Dave Samson delved into the policy in a little more detail, and also overviewed the policies regarding the drug in other professional sports:
This poem by Jordan Deutsch was published in 1932, and you can see the history all over this piece. I really love the imagery of the sunrise, and the phonetic spelling out of the conductor’s pronunciations (“… Shecargo and Saint Louieeeeee”) just put a voice in my head yelling these cities out.
Up from the grasslands, The plains, the cities, Up from the vastness of the land itself: Up Up Up To the Great Mississippi.
Up to that First Field bathed in the sun, Basking in the glory of its birth Immersed in future time.
Further up slides the sun.
Up To the Red Stockings from Cincinnati, The original Magnificent Machine, The dynasty without a future. Up To the National Association, Swaying in its greatness.
Further up slides the sun.
Through the mouth of history slide provocative names Once breathed on the lips of dreamers.
In what fine grave do the Elizabeth Resolutes Troy Haymakers, And Lord Baltimores now rest?
Up moving up To expanding cities pocketed In gray concrete.
(Can you hear the shrill and melodic chant of the Train Conductor calling out his roll?) :NewYawkHartfordBosstonPhilaDELphia LouievilleCINCINnatiShecargo and Saint Louieeeeee.
President Warren G. Harding threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Washington Senators game held on April 13, 1921, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Washington ended up losing to the Red Sox, 6-3, making this the first time in six Opening Days contests the Senators have lost with the President of the United States throwing out the first pitch.