This day in baseball: High-hit shutout

In the second game of a doubleheader on August 12, 1921, the Phillies’ right-handed pitcher George Smith gave up 12 hits, and yet he still managed to pitch a shutout against the Boston Braves, winning 4-0.  Smith had also started the first game of the doubleheader, but in that game, he gave up three runs on four hits and was taken out in the second inning.

george smith

Baseball Reference


This day in baseball: Johnson’s first win

Walter Johnson won his first major league game on August 7, 1907.  At the age of 19, Johnson led the Senators to a 7-2 victory over the Indians. He would go on to compile a 417-279 (.599) record during his 21-year career, with an ERA of 2.17.

walter johnson


Batter Up! LoC webinar, part two

For those who might be interested in viewing the Library of Congress webinar I wrote about a couple days ago, the LoC has provided a link to access a WebEx recording of the webinar here: http://login.icohere.com/vploc?pnum=IEJ61530.

For some folks, the link does bring you to a page that asks you to “log in” (by which they mean provide your name and email).  I don’t know if you would be prevented from viewing the presentation if you did not participate in the original webinar, but I suppose it is worth trying.

Their instructions:

WebEx will want you to download a player to display the recording. In our experience, using Internet Explorer as your browser is the easiest option if you do not already have a WebEx player on your computer or do not wish to install anything, though all major web browsers are supported. If you are asked to provide a name and an email address, type in the same ones that you provided with your registration. You may find that you have to wait a minute or two before the recording begins; if so, you may see a message that it is “buffering.”

If you find you are unable to view the presentation, LoC has also provided a .pdf of the presentation slides here: https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/baseball/BatterUp.pdf.  You don’t get the audio descriptions that accompany it, but you can at least scroll through the visuals of the items they shared from the library’s collections.


Batter Up!: Baseball at the Library of Congress webinar

Yesterday, I took part in the Library of Congress’s online webinar entitled “Batter Up! Baseball at the Library of Congress.”  Hosted by Peter Armenti of the LoC, the webinar covered the early years of the game, sharing a variety of slides from the LoC’s collection.

Bat and ball games have been around in a variety of forms for a long, long time.  What I didn’t realize was that versions of bat and ball games went back as far as ancient Egypt (though, the concept of hitting a ball with some form of club is honestly very elementary, so I don’t know why this surprised me).

ancient egypt bat and ball

Library of Congress

The webinar debunks the Abner Doubleday myth, which claimed Doubleday invented the game in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, pointing out that early incarnations of baseball existed well ahead of the time of Doubleday’s supposed founding of the game.  For example, a game known as “Base Ball” was referred to in The Pretty Little Pocket Book in 1787, though the images of the game in said book look nothing like today’s pastime.

1787 Base Ball

Library of Congress

Base Ball gets referenced in a number of sources after that, including this 1823 article:

1823 Base Ball

Library of Congress

Industrialization and urbanization in the nineteenth century contributed to the rapid growth of the game.  Other sports, including horse racing and boxing, were popular at the time, but the appeal for these did not match the appeal of baseball.  Over time, the separation between work and play grew more pronounced in America, and baseball became a popular form of leisure in the off hours of industrial workers.  Over time, the rules of the game evolved, and in the mid-nineteenth century, the New York Knickerbockers were founded, leading to a greater standardization of baseball rules.

1862 Elysian Fields

The webinar goes into the development and codification of rules, including the establishment the 90-foot distance between bases, nine players per side, the elimination of “soaking,” and so on.  There were two versions of the game at first, the Massachusetts and the New York games, but in the end, the New York version of baseball won out.

Massachussetts vs New York baseball

Library of Congress

In the meantime, baseball spread rapidly, including a club in San Francisco in the mid-1800s that became California’s first (known) ball club.  The outbreak of the Civil War also contributed to the spread of baseball’s popularity.

Baseball was also being played within the black population in the late-nineteenth century, and women also participated in the game as well.  The webinar did not go into a lot of detail regarding these, but it did at least touch on them.

19th century black baseball

Library of Congress

In 1868, it became allowed (publicly) for players to get played (some players had been receiving under-the-table compensation prior to this).  In September of that year, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional ball team, bringing an end to the amateur baseball era.  The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players then became established in 1871, then today’s NL was established in 1876.

The Doubleday myth, as we know now, was the brainchild of Albert Spalding and the Mills Commission at the turn of the century.  Spalding despised the idea that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders, as was argued by Henry Chadwick, and thus he set out to prove its American origins.  Spalding released the commission’s findings of baseball’s origins in 1905.  The results were deemed official by the end of 1907, then published in Spalding’s Base Ball Guide in 1908.

Spalding

Library of Congress

The webinar picks apart the arguments of the Mills Commission, pointing out that it is not possible that Doubleday could have invented baseball.  Doubleday’s own lack of mentioning the game aside, the events outlined by the commission regarding baseball’s findings did not match up with the events of Doubleday’s life.

The webinar concluded with a brief question-and-answer session.  The bit about ancient Egypt aside, I can’t say I learned much new from the session, which naturally is going to happen when you attend a webinar about something you like to study anyhow.  However, it’s always nice to get a refresher on things, and the Library of Congress did a great job with this.


This day in baseball: Twenty-one hits

On July 30, 1917, the Tigers collected twenty-one hits en route to a 16-4 rout of Washington.  Ty Cobb, Bobby Veach, and Ossie Vitt, who were batting second, third, and fourth in the order, respectively, each came up with a 5-for-5 day at the plate.

Bobby_Veach_1925

Bobby Veach (Wikipedia)


Ted Williams documentary on PBS

Ted Williams American Masters

I managed to watch PBS’s documentary on Ted Williams last night: American Masters – Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.”  I found the documentary fascinating, even learning a couple things along the way.

The episode opens with Ted Williams’s return to civilian life after the Korean War.  After seriously considering spending the rest of his life fishing after the war, Williams opted to return to baseball.  Ted Williams, the documentary shows, was so obsessed with baseball, and especially with hitting, that his obsession permeated all aspects of his life.  He also was infamous for his temper, often getting into it with reporters and refusing to tip his cap.  These things combined made him, at times, a difficult man to get along with, even within his family.

The episode covered, briefly, some details of Williams’s youth, including his strained relationship with his parents.  It also touches on many of the things you would expect a Ted Williams documentary to cover, including the 1941 season, his service in two wars, comparisons between him and Joe DiMaggio, and the final season — and at-bat — of his career.

Something I learned — which I was glad about, as I’m always happy to learn new things — was that Ted Williams was also quite the fisherman.  According to the documentary, Williams is in two fishing halls of fame (which halls of fame was either not mentioned or I missed it).  He was so meticulously detailed about this hobby that he would cut fish open to see what they ate in order to create baits that mimicked those foods.  He would then keep a log to determine what worked and what did not work.  It was the same kind of obsession and attention to detail that contributed to his success as a hitter.

The documentary includes interviews with Williams’s daughter, Claudia, and other family members, as well as with various baseball personalities: writers, historians, broadcasters, and former and current players.  If there is a shortcoming, it is that the documentary seems to bounce around quite a bit, which made it feel somewhat scattered.  I think part of this was due to the brevity of the show.  One hour is hardly long enough to go into any real depth regarding any one man’s life, especially a man like Ted Williams.


This day in baseball: Hendrick the hero

On July 21, 1930, Harvey Hendrick of the Brooklyn Robins entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.  He hit a three-run homer to give the Robins a dramatic 9-8 come-from-behind victory at Ebbets Field in the first game of a double-header.

Harvey Hendrick

Hendrick (Wikipedia)