On January 24, 1973, Warren Spahn was elected to the Hall of Fame, making him only the sixth player elected in his first year of eligibility. He received more than 82% of the votes cast by the BBWAA. Warren Spahn recorded thirteen 20-win seasons with the Braves, making him the winningest left-handed pitcher in big league history with 363 victories.
Charles Stoneham, the owner of the New York Giants baseball team, passed away on January 6, 1936. Stoneham was the last remaining owner of the trio (along with John McGraw and Frank McQuade) that purchased the team in 1919. He passed the team on to his son, Horace Stoneham, upon his death. During his time as owner, Stoneham saw the Giants win the World Series in 1921, 1922 and 1933.
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!
On December 26, 1934, Matsutaro Shoriki, the head of Yomiuri Newspapers in Japan, announced the formation of Japan’s first professional team, the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants. The team consisted of players signed to compete against the American all-star team (originally called the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club). However, professional league play, with six teams, would not begin until 1936 with the formation of the Japanese Baseball League.
Today, the Yomiuri Giants are considered “The New York Yankees of Japan” due to their widespread popularity, historical dominance of the league, and their polarizing effect on fans.
I can’t help but chuckle inwardly a little bit whenever a documentary or book declares itself “definitive” or something similar (really, can any biographical account ever truly be definitive?). Nevertheless, this documentary on Mickey Mantle is a good one, and a person can get a good solid overview of his life and career from it.
Even better, if you find yourself unable to get your hands on a copy, you can watch the film through YouTube.
Depending on how he gripped the ball and how hard he threw it, Satchel Paige had pitches that included the bat-dodger, the two-hump blooper, the four-day creeper, the dipsy-do, the Little Tom, the Long Tom, the bee ball, the wobbly ball, the hurry-up ball and the nothin’ ball.
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.