In a Players’ League game between the Buffalo Bison and the Chicago Pirates on September 15, 1890, Bison pitcher Bert Cunningham threw five wild pitches in the first inning at South Side Park. This performance established a dubious regular-season record, which would later be matched by Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel during a 2000 playoff game against the Mets.
Cunningham was nevertheless inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 1996.
On May 8, 1878, outfielder Paul Hines of the Providence Grays took part in what was believed to have been the first known unassisted triple play. Playing at home in the Messer Street Grounds against Boston, runners Jack Manning and Ezra Sutton were on third and second base, respectively. With no outs in the inning, Jack Burdock hit a short fly to left field that Hines ran hard to catch for an out, and he ran all the way to third base to get both Manning and Sutton out. Under the rules of the time, if both players had rounded third on the batted ball, by stepping on the bag, Hines got them both out for not tagging up. However, there is some debate as to whether or not Sutton actually rounded third on the play.
The publication date for this piece is unknown, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was written in the mid-to-late-1870s, around the time of the fall of the National Association and the beginnings of the National League. The poem is full of imagery and metaphor, speaking of “the collected debris of memories” and “New fortresses / Stretch their fledgling arms / And puncture the sky / With abbreviated zeal.” I can just imagine team owners clinking glasses to cheers of “Long live the National League!” as they concluded their meeting at the Grand Central Hotel.
No sun, Now rubble, The collected debris of memories Echoes An anguished ring through the corridors of Manhattan Canyons:
Where are we going?
From where To where Do we step?
December… a month… a day… a time logged on the fresh pages of history… the first and only real entry… a league …a new league… a microscopic legion of men bearing witness to the birth, unfurling its colors on an industrial land to detract
from the former failure…
The National Association is dead, Long live the National League!
From rubble to rubble, From dust to dust, New fortresses Stretch their fledgling arms And puncture the sky With abbreviated zeal.
Like so many transients Awaiting a derailed train, The others come And never go.
The American Association is dead The Union Association is dead The Players League is dead. All gone, All dead,
I haven’t done the research to determine just how far back the tradition of baseball teams wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day truly goes, but some believe that it may go back quite a ways. The 1899 Philadelphia Phillies introduced their new, green-trimmed uniforms on March 17th, a move that garnered headlines. Considering the Phillies wore these uniforms for the rest of the season, there remains some debate as to whether this could truly be considered a nod to St. Patrick’s Day. The modern tradition of wearing green on this day wouldn’t emerge until 1978, beginning with the Cincinnati Reds.
On March 15, 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the baseball’s first professional team when the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) agreed to allow compensated players to participate. Harry Wright assembled a ten-man team, all of whom were given a salary through November. The Red Stockings finished the season with a 57–0 record, marking the only perfect season in professional baseball history.
Shortstop George Wright signed with the Boston Red Caps on February 22, 1880 — his second stint with the team, having previously played with the Red Caps in 1876-1878. The 1880 contract allowed Wright not to travel with the team on western road trips, stipulating that he would participate only in games played in New England and Troy. The arrangement allowed the future Hall of Famer to devote more time to his sporting goods business.
William DeWolf Hopper was an American actor, singer, comedian, and theatrical producer during the late-19th and into the early-20th centuries. Born in New York Citty, DeWolf Hopper grew to become a star of vaudeville and musical theater, but he became best known for performing the popular baseball poem “Casey at the Bat.”
A lifelong baseball enthusiast and New York Giants fan, Hopper first performed Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s then-unknown poem “Casey at the Bat” to the Giants and Chicago Cubs on August 14, 1888. Co-performer Digby Bell called Hopper “the biggest baseball crank that ever lived. Physically, of course, he is a corker, but when I say big I mean big morally and intellectually. Why, he goes up to the baseball [Polo] grounds at One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street after the matinees on Saturday, and he travels this six miles simply to see, perhaps, the two final innings, and any one can imagine the rapidity with which he must scrape off the makeup and get into his street clothes in order to secure even this much. But he says the Garrison finishes are worth it, and he is perfectly right. Hopper always was a baseball crank, long before the public knew anything about it.”
Hopper helped make Thayer’s poem famous and was often called upon to give his colorful, melodramatic recitation, which he did about 10,000 times over the course of his career.
Tim Murnane was a former first baseman and center fielder turned sportswriter during the late-19th to early-20th century. He was considered the leading baseball writer at The Boston Globe for about 30 years until his death. While writing, he also organized and led professional sports leagues and helped govern the baseball industry. In 1946, the Baseball Hall of Fame established the Honor Rolls of Baseball and named Murnane one of twelve writers to be honored. He was also selected by the BBWAA as a recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for excellence in baseball journalism in 1978.
Pack up his bats, pick up his glove, For him the Game is done; At last the stars peep out above The setting of the sun. Once more the field, serene at night, Is still, and hushed the shout. The Presence chokes us as we write Just this: “He ran it out.”
Above the plate Time held the ball: He turned the last gray bag With stride that weakened not at all. His spirit did not lag, But proudly Homeward bound he sped, Nor feared the final rout. High flung at last the silver’d head, Unbowed “he ran it out.”
Doctoring the baseball is something that has existed pretty much as long as the sport itself has existed. But what does it mean to doctor a baseball?
In short, to doctor the ball is to apply a foreign substance to the ball or otherwise alter it in order to put an unnatural spin on a pitch. A doctored baseball, therefore, is more difficult to hit.
The most notorious type of doctored baseball, of course, is the spitball. As the name implies, the spitball involves applying saliva to the surface of the ball. Other substances utilized in doctoring baseballs have included Vaseline (petroleum jelly), pine tar, sunscreen, and shaving cream. Altering the baseball isn’t just limited to applying a substance to it, though. Other forms of doctoring a baseball include scuffing it with sandpaper or an emery board or rubbing vigorously to create a shiny area on the ball (known as a shineball).
Prior to being banned, doctored baseballs gave pitchers all kinds of advantages, and the practice was rampant. In the period known as the Dead Ball Era, game balls were in short supply, which meant that dirty baseballs were commonly used throughout ballgames. On top of this, pitchers slathered mud on balls to make them even dirtier and, thus, harder to see. They rubbed wax, soap, or grease on them, or they would scuff or cut up a ball using sandpaper, or a tack, or anything else they could find. As a result, pitchers could make pitches drop, fade away, or ride in on hitters all while using their same old throwing motions. Thus, the Dead Ball Era was characterized by low-scoring games and a lack of home runs.
Then, in August 1920, Ray Chapman was killed when he was struck in the head by a spitball thrown by pitcher Carl Mays. After the 1920 season, the use of the spitball was banned with the exception of a group of 17 existing spitballers, who were grandfathered in and permitted to throw the pitch legally until they retired. With the league now cracking down on doctored baseballs and using clean balls throughout games, the live ball era was born.
The spitball hasn’t been legally used since Burleigh Grimes retired in 1934. That’s not to say that baseballs never get doctored today, of course. Doctoring pitches can help extend the career of an aging pitcher, helping him to maintain am edge on the mound. There’s an old saying that says that it’s not illegal if you don’t get caught, and that mindset can be found all over the league.
(a) (1) bring the pitching hand in contact with the mouth or lips while in the 10-foot circle (18-foot circle in Intermediate (50-70) Division/ Junior/ Senior/ Big League) surrounding the pitcher’s plate; EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire, prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his/ her hands while in the 10/ 18-foot circle.
PENALTY: For violation of this part of the rule the umpires shall immediately call a ball and warn the pitcher that repeated violation of any part of this rule can cause the pitcher to be removed from the game. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batter, or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation.
(2) apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball;
(3) expectorate on the ball, either hand or the glove;
(4) rub the ball on the glove, person, or clothing;
(5) deface the ball in any manner; or
(6) deliver what is called the “shine” ball, “spit” ball, “mud” ball, or “emery” ball. The pitcher is allowed to rub off the ball between the bare hands;
PENALTY: For violation of any part of Rules 8.02( a)( 2) through (6) the umpire shall: Call the pitch a ball and warn the pitcher. If a play occurs on the violation, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire of acceptance of the play. (Such election must be made immediately at the end of play.)
NOTE: A pitcher may use a rosin bag for the purpose of applying rosin to the bare hand or hands. Neither the pitcher nor any other player shall dust the ball with the rosin bag; neither shall the pitcher nor any other player be permitted to apply rosin from the bag to their glove or dust any part of the uniform with the rosin bag.
(b) Intentionally delay the game by throwing the ball to players other than the catcher, when the batter is in position, except in an attempt to retire a runner, or commit an illegal pitch for the purpose of not pitching to the batter (i.e. intentional walk, etc.)
PENALTY: If, after warning by the umpire, such delaying action is repeated, the pitcher can be removed from the game.
(c) Intentionally pitch at the batter. If in the umpire’s judgment, such violation occurs, the umpire shall warn the pitcher and the manager of the defense that another such pitch will mean immediate expulsion of the pitcher. If such pitch is repeated during the game, the umpire shall eject the pitcher from the game.
On April 16, 1895, the Detroit baseball team became known as the Tigers. The team was renamed after a year of being known as the Detroit Creams, inspired by owner George Vanderbeck who boasted the Western League team would be the “cream of the league.” When Detroit Cost-free Press editor Philip Reid headlined a story, Strouthers’ Tigers Showed Up Very Nicely, the team’s new moniker was born.