Many thanks to all who serve!
A few weeks ago, a co-worker came by my office and mentioned that she would be going on a day trip to see the world’s biggest baseball. She knew the information would interest me (it did), and it amazed me to discover that this baseball resides just over an hour’s drive from where we stood, in Muscotah, Kansas. Muscotah also happens to be the birthplace of Joe Tinker, the famous Cubs shortstop of the renowned Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combination of the early 20th century.
I learned in my research that the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Baseball is not really a baseball. Rather, the people of Muscotah took an old water tank to create the twenty-foot diameter ball, using rebar to fashion the stitches. The eventual goal for the project is to create a Joe Tinker museum on the inside of the hollow, steel baseball. As things stand, my co-worker informed me the week after her visit, the World’s Largest Baseball isn’t much to look at. Nevertheless, I knew I wanted to check it out for myself, and I took advantage of the opportunity to do so this weekend.
I left in the morning, shortly after breakfast. The route consisted primarily of small, winding, two-lane highways through rural Kansas. I took a couple wrong turns along the way, thanks to some confusion in the directions, so the trip took slightly longer than anticipated, but fortunately I had no reason to hurry. I passed through a number of small towns on the drive, though I noticed that Muscotah never appeared on any of the highway distance signs. The population of Muscotah, it turns out, was a mere 176 people as of the 2010 census.
When one finally reaches the city limits along highway US-159, one of the first things you notice is the welcome sign:
I continued driving for a couple more blocks, and the giant baseball itself proved hard to miss. I turned off the highway onto Kansas Avenue, where the ball stood, and maneuvered my car into an acceptable parking position in the tall grass along the side of the street.
As for the World’s Largest Baseball, well, it definitely looks like a very large, steel baseball:
I walked around and poked my head into the entrance of the hollow tank, and while it seems it’s still going to be quite some time until any kind of museum takes shape, there was at least the faint promise of it in the form of building materials on the interior floor:
Not too far from the steel baseball stood a trio of baseball player silhouettes, no doubt intended to represent the threesome that was Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance.
As my co-worker forewarned, there really wasn’t much to see beyond the baseball and the silhouettes. It would have been easy (and it was tempting) to just hop back into my vehicle and head home straightaway, but I decided to walk around for a few minutes to stretch my legs. But in truth, there doesn’t seem to be much to Muscotah itself.
Some of the older, run down buildings do seem to carry echoes of a more vibrant time in the town’s past:
And I do have to comment that this is quite possibly the smallest post office I have ever seen:
All in all, Muscotah is just a quiet, rural Kansas town, silent and still with sleepiness on this warm May weekend. I certainly wouldn’t say that the World’s Largest Baseball is a “must-see” attraction worth traveling halfway across the country to catch a glimpse. However, for any hardcore baseball fans who just happen to be in the area, it does make for a different and relaxing daytrip destination.
These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
~”Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” by Franklin Pierce Adams
When you turn on a Major League Baseball game, you can often tell within moments which team is the home team and which is the away team. The common practice by teams in the MLB is to wear white (or mostly white) uniforms at home and to wear gray (or mostly gray) unis when on the road.
While this is a regular exercise now, baseball legend has it that this tradition began due to the fact that visiting teams had no access to laundry facilities, and so the players were not able to clean their uniforms. The darker uniforms, or the “road grays,” could conceal the dirt and grass stains better than white uniforms.
Not every team does this today, of course. And given better access to laundry facilities, they don’t need to. But it’s an interesting story and practice, all the same.
I’m not certain of the original source of this graphic, but I do find its content interesting. The face that average game play time was once a mere hour and 53 minutes is stunning compared to today’s game lengths.
Most kids play wiffle ball at some point or other growing up, but who knew you could play it competitively as an adult? You can tell these guys are completely passionate about this game. What’s more, you can tell it’s not just an easy, social way to pass the time. The way some of those pitches break is enough to make a person’s head spin.
I love this video. The environmentalist in me has always felt guilty about supporting a game that uses up so many trees. I’m glad to see that there are folks like Mr. Uratani who have found a way to further make further use of all those broken bats.
Unfortunately, I am not getting out of work today, but I am still joining in the collective sigh of relief and happiness that Opening Day has finally arrived! And yes, the Royals-White Sox score will be up someplace where I can check in frequently.