This day in baseball: The first Ladies’ Day

The first ‘Ladies’ Day’ in major league history took place on June 16, 1893 when the New York Gothams (later known as the Giants) offered free admission to all women, both escorted and un-escorted, at the Polo Grounds. The lucky ladies had the opportunity to watch their Gothams defeat the Cleveland Spiders, 5-2.

Polo Grounds, View from Behind Home Plate

Polo Grounds (ballparksofbaseball.com)


This day in baseball: The first pinch hit

On June 7, 1892, the Spiders’ Jack Doyle became the first player to collect a pinch hit with a single, coming off the bench to bat for Cleveland hurler George Davies. The Spiders lost 2-1 that day to the Grooms at Brooklyn’s Eastern Park.  Doyle, a utility player, would finish his 17-year career going 3-for-5 (.600) as a pinch-hitter.

John Joseph

Jack Doyle (Wikipedia)


Infographic: Catching: A History

I haven’t had a chance to do much more than skim all the information on this infographic, but what I’ve noted so far is certainly fascinating.  Click on the image below for a (slightly) larger version — though even then, you might still need to zoom in on it.

catching infographic


A brief history of cleats

I remember my first pair of cleats.  I was nine years old, embarking on my first-ever season of organized ball.  My mom took my little brother and me shopping at a local Payless — the only place my folks, understandably, would buy any kind of shoes for our growing feet.  I was excited to finally be able to wear a pair of cleats.  I had seen the older kids wearing them, and they just seemed so cool.  After trying on multiple pairs, I wound up with a pair of black, low-top cleats with royal blue shoelaces and royal blue lettering that announced “Rawlings.”

It turns out, the concept of cleats has been around since the 1500s — and possibly even

1800s cleats

What Henry VIII’s football boots might have looked like

earlier than that.  King Henry VIII is documented to have owned a pair of “football boots,” created for him by the royal shoemaker, Cornelius Johnson.  These special “boots” were created from a strong material (most likely leather) for the purposes for playing “football” (by which Henry likely means some early version of soccer).  The earliest cleats typically featured leather, metal, or wooden studs.  For those who couldn’t afford to have a special pair made, they would create their own shoe enhancements with the use of metal plates or (cringe) nails.

The process of vulcanization, a chemical process for converting rubber into a more durable material, was developed in England and the United States in the 1840s.  Vulcanized rubber proved especially useful in producing shoes intended to protect the wearer’s feet, and, as a bonus, it was a much lighter material.  Furthermore, vulcanized rubber proved handy when the concept of studded or spiked shoes emerged.  The first known spiked leather running shoes were developed by a British company in the 1890s, and the first soccer-specific shoes were also developed at the end of the 19th century.

19th century football boots

c. 1905 advertisement for football boots

In the United States, meanwhile, metal spikes began to appear on baseball shoes in the 1860s, typically in a detachable form, and the first official baseball shoe appeared in 1882 when Waldo Claflin started selling leather shoes with built-in cleats marketed specifically to baseball players.  The emergence of American football in the early 20th century led to widespread recognition and popularity of cleats, the first football shoes actually being baseball shoes adapted to the new sport.  Over time, as sports in general continued to grow and with the advent of artificial turf, cleats evolved, and different types of cleats developed according to various sports and playing surfaces.  With safety in mind, Major League Baseball banned sharp, metal spikes in 1976, leading to further developments in the plastic studs we see on cleats today.


Portrait of a catcher

catcher loc

This photograph from the collections of the Library of Congress looks simple enough, but it prompts a lot of questions for me.  It is noted that the photo was taken between 1873 and 1916.  Given that the catcher’s mask wasn’t invented until 1876 and it wasn’t until a few years later that their use became common among backstops, we can eliminate the first few years of that range.  The mitt, meanwhile, resembles the one patented by J.F. Draper in 1899, so I think it is safe to say this photo is likely from the early 20th century.

My questions, however, involve the player himself:  Who is he?  Where is he from?  What team does he play for?  Is he really a baseball player, or merely a man off the street the photographer convinced to put on some equipment for a photo op?

And if he really is a ballplayer, what is he thinking?  He appears to be standing behind home plate, looking out at the field before him.  Is he deciding on what pitch to ask for next?  Is he unhappy with how the defense is arranged?  Or is he upset because that damned umpire called the last pitch a ball when it was clearly over the outside corner?

Its listing in the Library of Congress catalog doesn’t answer any of those questions, unfortunately.  I guess I’ll just have to continue to study the photo and wonder.


This day in baseball: The first Scot

On May 20, 1878, Jim McCormick became the first player born in Scotland to appear in a major league game.  In his debut, right-handed pitcher McCormick and the Indianapolis Blues lost to the Chicago White Stockings, 3-1.  The following season, the Scot would become the team’s manager as the team made its move to Cleveland.  At the age of 23, this made McCormick the youngest skipper in the game.

Jim_McCormick_baseball_card

Wikimedia Commons


Quote of the day

Baseball is the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century.

~Mark Twain

Image result for mark twain

Wikimedia Commons