We boys hailed his coming with delight because he would always join us on the lawn. I remember vividly how he ran, how long were his strides, how far his coattails stuck out behind.
~Written about Abraham Lincoln in an early childhood letter
The author of the letter unknown, but Lincoln was known to play baseball on the front lawn of the White House. Lincoln even had a field, called the White Lot, constructed on White House property for ballgames. This field hosted a number of games between the Potomac Club and the earliest incarnation of the Washington Nationals (both teams formed in 1859). One more reason to love our 16th President!
This weekend I watched a short documentary produced by Major League Baseball, Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues. While the time period covered in the documentary spans from Moses Fleetwood Walker playing major league ball in the 1880s on up to the induction of Negro League players into the Baseball Hall of Fame starting in 1971, the documentary focuses primarily on the story of the Negro Leagues.
Dave Winfield narrates the documentary, and it includes footage from Negro League games, as well as some Major League games. It also features interviews with Negro Leagues players, including Buck O’Neil, Bob Mitchell, Willie Mays, John “Mule” Miles, Cool Papa Bell, and Ted Radcliffe. The interviews highlight just how good many Negro Leagues players really were, especially compared to white Major Leaguers, and it’s a lot of fun to see how much these guys light up when they talk about the level of talent.
The documentary touches on the racial struggles faced by black players. For example, many players accepted the fact that they would have to go around to the backs of restaurants to get food, and it was not uncommon to sleep on the bus because the hotels in a given town would not give them rooms. Nevertheless, the players talk about how much fun they had traveling and playing ball. The eventual recruitment of Jackie Robinson by Branch Rickey to break the color barrier, of course, receives due attention.
Overall, Pride and Perseverance is a fantastic overview of the history of the Negro Leagues. For a documentary that runs less than an hour long, it manages to cram a lot of interesting information into the film. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Yesterday I happened across a tidbit stating that one of the largest baseball card collections resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I’ve never been a card collector, so I suppose this might already be common knowledge and I’ve just been out of the loop. I did want to check it out all the same, so I poked around and discovered that the Met is in the process of cataloging the cards, all part of the Jefferson R. Burdick collection, online. You can find the collection here.
Just minutes of exploring has revealed some gems, such as this collection of cartooned baseball stars from 1943:
And these old school pennants from 1933.
And there are, of course, a myriad of traditional baseball cards:
I have to say, this is my type of card collection. A variety of cards, and yet virtual so that they don’t actually take up a bunch of physical space. Happy exploring!
On September 30, 1893, the last day of the season, rookie Duff Cooley of the St. Louis Browns collected six hits to help destroy the Boston Beaneaters, 16-4. The twenty-year-old utility player accomplished the feat by hitting four singles, a double, and a triple at Robison Field in St. Louis.
September 26, 1896 marked the season finale for the Cleveland Spiders, which they played against the Louisville Colonels at Eclipse Park. Cleveland outfielder Jesse Burkett collected three hits as the Spiders won, 4-3. Burkett thus finished the season with a .410 batting average, making him the first player to hit .400 in consecutive years, having batted .405 the previous season.
In a game between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Stockings on September 14, 1872, the Athletics led 4-1 in the seventh inning with runners on first and second. Fergy Malone popped up to shortstop George Wright, who caught the ball in his hat and then proceeded to throw the ball to third base. The ball was then thrown to second base. Wright claimed a double play has been completed, as a batter cannot be retired with a “hat catch,” and thus runners Cap Anson and Bob Reach should have been forced out. This naturally caused some confusion, and ultimately , the umpire decided to give Malone another at bat, declaring nobody out on the play. The Athletics won this game, 6-4.
Pitcher Mickey Welch of the New York Giants reached the 300-victory milestone on July 28, 1890, making him the third pitcher in baseball history to reach the mark. Welch defeated Pittsburgh 4-2 that day, and would go on to record seven more victories before retiring from the game.