At Schorling’s Park on Chicago’s south side, the minor league White Sox played their first game in franchise history on April 21, 1900. The Sox ended up losing the contest to Milwaukee, 5-4. The small wooden ballpark, located at 39th and Princeton, was also known as South Side Park, and would continue to be the home stadium for the team when they joined the American League the following season.
This poem by Jordan Deutsch was published in 1932, and you can see the history all over this piece. I really love the imagery of the sunrise, and the phonetic spelling out of the conductor’s pronunciations (“… Shecargo and Saint Louieeeeee”) just put a voice in my head yelling these cities out.
Up from the grasslands,
The plains, the cities,
Up from the vastness of the land itself:
Up Up Up
To the Great Mississippi.
Up to that First Field bathed in the sun,
Basking in the glory of its birth
Immersed in future time.
Further up slides the sun.
To the Red Stockings from Cincinnati,
The original Magnificent Machine,
The dynasty without a future.
To the National Association,
Swaying in its greatness.
Further up slides the sun.
Through the mouth of history slide provocative names
Once breathed on the lips of dreamers.
In what fine grave do the Elizabeth Resolutes
And Lord Baltimores now rest?
Up moving up
To expanding cities pocketed
In gray concrete.
(Can you hear the shrill and melodic chant of the
Train Conductor calling out his roll?)
LouievilleCINCINnatiShecargo and Saint Louieeeeee.
Up up up
To the Great Mississippi.
Happy Jackie Robinson Day! In celebration, here is a video biography of Robinson, posted by Biography this past January.
Here’s a cool, animated graph that shows the change in the ethnic makeup of MLB since the late 1940s. The number of African-American and Latino players drew even in the early 1990s. The percentage of Asian players is still barely more than a blip on the graph, but that does seem to be changing.
Babe Ruth made his first career start on the mound on March 25, 1914 for the Boston Red Sox. The 19-year-old pitcher defeated the world champion Philadelphia Athletics, 6-2, in an exhibition game played in Wilmington, North Carolina. Prior to this game, Ruth had faced 29 batters in relief, allowing just six hits, thus earning his spot in the starting rotation.
On March 16, 1932, Babe Ruth signed a deal for $75,000, a five-thousand dollar pay cut from the previous season and 25 percent of the Yankees net receipts from exhibition games. The pay cut came in large part as a result of the Great Depression. Legend has it the Bambino signed a blank contract, with the amount filled in later by Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert.
While I have more of a never say never attitude towards records, all these numbers are impressive, and it is going to take some truly exceptional ballplayers to break these.
On February 20, 1923, Christy Mathewson and Giants attorney Emil Fuchs put together a syndicate to buy the Boston Braves for $300,000. Mathewson would become the principal owner and team president. However, the future Hall of Famer’s deteriorating health reduced him little more than a figurehead, and the presidency would be turned over to Fuchs at the end of the season.
On February 13, 1964, Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs died at the age of 22 when the red and white Cessna 172 plane he was piloting crashed a quarter-mile south of Bird Island in Utah Lake in the midst of a winter storm. Hubbs had taken flying lessons for the previous two off-seasons to overcome his fear of flying, obtaining his license just the previous month. Ken Hubbs had been the1962 NL Rookie of the Year.
I recently finished making my way through Al Stump’s biography on Ty Cobb, simply titled Cobb: A Biography. I am aware of the criticism this book has received — Stump, it seems, went out of his way to cast Cobb in a less-than-flattering light, even embellishing or making up stories as he did so. Nevertheless, I found this biography intriguing.
Al Stump had actually ghostwritten Ty Cobb’s autobiography, My Life in Baseball: The True Record. According to Stump, Cobb was far from being an easy individual to get along with, and there seems to be a consensus that Cobb’s autobiography had been sanitized considerably in order to paint Cobb in a better light. Stump claimed that his motivation for writing this biography after Cobb’s death was to share his own perception of the Georgia Peach. That being said, while it is widely-accepted that Cobb had many faults, this book reads like a revenge. In fact, the original title of this book, when it was first published in 1994, was Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man in Baseball. The current title actually belongs to a reworked and expanded edition of the book, published in 1996 after Stump’s death.
As a man, Stump paints Cobb as extremely combative, impossible to please, and unreasonably demanding. Clearly, Cobb’s life was a tortured one, what with the strange circumstances surrounding his father’s death when Cobb was still a young man, and his displeasure with the hand dealt him came out in his racism and in how he treated his own wife and children. On the other hand, Cobb the baseball player had an unmatched work ethic, demanding the best of himself as well as of those who played around him. Stump put a lot of focus also on the rivalry between Cobb and Babe Ruth, but in spite of the animosity between the two men, I also sensed a grudging respect between the two. In addition, Stump spent a lot of time exploring Cobb’s business ventures, investments, and his talent for making money.
As a reader, I confess to enjoying the journey through this book. The character of Cobb, as depicted in these pages, is a fascinating one. And while many of the stories in said pages have been discredited, no doubt their presence in the book is part of what makes it so fascinating. I have yet to read Cobb’s original autobiography, and while I’m at it, Charles Leerhsen’s 2016 biography, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, is also on the to-read list. It seems to me that one simply cannot read one without also delving into the other two — at least, not if one wants a truly well-rounded picture of the great Ty Cobb.