On January 29, 1936, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and a special Veterans Committee selected Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson in the first-ever Baseball Hall of Fame elections. The enshrinement of these five greats, however, would have to wait until 1939, since the museum’s construction in Cooperstown had not yet begun.
I never imagined that M.C. Hammer would make his way into this blog, but it turns out, Hammer Time has a connection to baseball.
Stanley Kirk Burrell (M.C. Hammer’s given name) once upon a time served as a batboy for the Oakland Athletics. After seeing the 11-year-old break dancing in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum, A’s owner Charlie Finley offered him a role as a clubhouse assistant and batboy, and Burrell served as a “batboy” with the team from 1973 until he graduated from high school in 1980. Whenever Finley was out of town, young Stanley would be on the phone in the A’s dugout, relaying the play-by-play. Finley loved the boy so much, he gave Burrell the title of Executive Vice President for the organization, and Burrell was paid $7.25 per game.
As for Burrell’s future stage name, its origins come in part from Hank Aaron, a.k.a. Hammerin’ Hank, to whom many felt the young batboy bore a resemblance. Reggie Jackson, using the resemblance as inspiration, began calling Burrell “Hammer,” which stuck. He acquired the nickname “M.C.” for being a “master of ceremonies” when he began performing at various clubs while on the road with the A’s (and later in the military).
Burrell even tried to pursue a baseball career himself, having played second base for his high school team. He made it all the way to the final round of cuts with the San Franciso Giants. He did not make the team, however, and it was after this point that he turned his full attention to music and pursuing a career as a rapper. Nevertheless, Hammer has been a participant/player in the annual Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game wearing an A’s cap to represent Oakland and has returned to the Coliseum to throw out the first pitch on a number of occasions.
On January 21, 1953, Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean and A’s outfielder Al Simmons were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). Notably, Joe DiMaggio, who was in his first year of eligibility, was not elected and would instead have to wait until 1955, his third year on the ballot.
The philosophies of Stoicism and Zen Buddhism have piqued my interest lately, so when I discovered that Shawn Green had a book about his experiences with Zen while playing baseball, I had to check it out. The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness At 95 MPH is a hell of a catchy title, and in this short tome, Green talks about his experiences with finding Zen and stillness throughout his major league career.
Green mentions that he had had some previous interest in Eastern philosophies, but it was during his struggles at the plate early in his career in Toronto that he discovered how it could be applied in baseball. Green talks about hitting off the tee, repeatedly over weeks and weeks until it became a form of meditation. Hence forth, tee hitting became a staple in Green’s career.
When Green made the move from Toronto to the bigger stage in Los Angeles, he lost his hold on the stillness he had found with the Blue Jays. With a big contract and big expectations, Green found himself ruled by ego, pressuring himself to hit home runs, rather than just letting them happen. Consequently, his first year in LA turned out to be a disastrous season, and Green talks about the work it took to let go of the ego and return to stillness.
It’s a fascinating book, overall. If you’re familiar with the fundamentals of Zen, you won’t learn anything new about the philosophy in this book. It is interesting, however, to see those ideas applied to baseball. The book is short and a fairly easy read, too. If this kind of thing interests you, this one’s worth reading.
On January 10, 1945, it was announced that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) did not elect any new members for the Hall of Fame that year. The top vote-earners were Frank Chance (72.5%), Rube Waddell (62.3%), and Ed Walsh (55.5%). Though they fell short of the necessary three-fourths of the ballots to be selected, all three would become inductees when chosen by the Veterans’ committee in 1946.
When McGwire started the home run mania, attendance came back. The owners understood that the sudden spike in homers wasn’t accidental. All baseball knew it. But baseball is run on money, and home runs meant money. Baseball turned a blind eye.