Henry Chadwick and the box score

In 2009, NPR’s Morning Edition did this short report on Henry Chadwick and the creation of what many consider to be the first box score:

The box score, as well as the various statistics that exist in the game, have evolved tremendously over the years. But it’s pretty commonly accepted that Chadwick is the man we have to thank for getting the ball rolling on the mathematical record-keeping side of the game.

You can find the full NPR story, including the text portion, here.


This day in baseball: Cy Young’s final game

Cy Young pitched his final game on October 6, 1911 at the age of 44 years, 191 days. Unfortunately, Young’s final appearance did not prove fitting in light of the rest of his illustrious career. Young and the Braves lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers, 13-3. The game was the 906th of Cy Young’s career.

cy_young_hof_plaque


This day in baseball: Multiple position players pitching

September 28th was the last day of the season in 1902, and in apparent celebration, the Browns and the White Sox decided to use an assortment of seven infielders and outfielders on the mound, rather than relying on their pitching staffs. Chicago outfielder Sam Mertes earned the victory, and the Browns’ left fielder Jesse Burkett suffered the loss in the Sox’s 10-4 victory at Sportsman’s Park. This was the last time the winning and losing pitchers were both position players in the same game until 2012, when Chris Davis of the Orioles and Darnell McDonald of the Red Sox also accomplished the feat in Baltimore’s 17-inning victory at Fenway Park.

sportsmans park

ballparksofbaseball.com


This day in baseball: Connie Mack to the Brewers

On September 21, 1896, Connie Mack announced his intention to leave the Pirates in order to manage the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League. Mack thus retired as a full-time player to accept his new role, which included a $3,000 a year salary and 25% ownership of the club. He managed the Brewers for four seasons from 1897 to 1900, their best year coming in 1900, when they finished second. 

ConnieMack1887

Connie Mack baseball card, 1887 (Wikimedia Commons)


This day in baseball: Burns’s triple play

Red Sox first baseman George Burns completed an unassisted triple play against the Indians on September 14, 1923.  To accomplish the feat, Burns snared Frank Brower’s line drive, he then tagged Rube Lutzke coming from first, and and finally beat Riggs Stephenson in a sprint back to second.

George Burns - Cleveland - Wikipedia

George Burns in 1921 (Wikipedia)


Upcoming webinar: Negro Leagues 1920-2020

For anyone who is interested, the African and African-American Studies department at the University of Kansas has just announced that they will be holding a webinar about the Negro Leagues. The webinar will take place on September 17th at 7:00 pm Central Time.

Registration for the webinar is taking place here.

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“Jackie Robinson…an American Hero,” by Stanley Cooper

Chadwick Boseman Jackie Robinson

Chadwick Boseman (left) and Jackie Robinson (Movie Stills)

In honor of Major League Baseball’s celebration of Jackie Robinson yesterday, and in memory of Chadwick Boseman, who passed away yesterday and who had played Robinson in the movie 42, here’s a short piece I found about Robinson and his role in baseball and in society.

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He never asked to be a hero
For him, playing ball would be just fine
Potentially his chance was less than zero
To overcome that black-white racist line

Unlike Duke, Dimag and Mickey
Jackie entered through back doors
The stage was set by Mr. Rickey
For Robinson to fight that Civil War

Sports, they say, mirrors society
So, they should have hung their heads in shame
For what was then America’s propriety
Brought prejudice to every game

The Brooklyn Bums, at long last, found salvation
When Robinson’s talents were revealed
With the awesome double-play combination
Reese and Jackie brought to Ebbetts Field

Stealing fan’s hearts with baseball fire
Displaying skills in every way
Robinson played with such desire
Stealing bases most every day

They could never expect from him the expected
He turned the most racist hate to love
And finally he was most respected
Respect that came from more than bat and glove

For Jackie, baseball was more than just a game
He opened doors for Campy, Mays and others
Number 42, now in the Hall of Fame
Proved men of all colors could play in life as brothers

He never asked to be a hero!


This day in baseball: The first Finn

On August 28, 1921, John Michaelson became the first person born in Finland to play in a major league game. The 27-year-old White Sox right-hander from Taivalkoski would only appear in two games, however. Michaelson posted an ERA of 10.12 in his two appearances for the Chicago team.

John Michaelson in 1921 (sabr.org)


The Big Fella, by Jane Leavy

I recently finished making my way through Jane Leavy’s biography on the Great Bambino himself, entitled The Big Fella.  Like anyone else, I have heard most of the stories, I’m aware of the ballplayer’s legendary status, and as a kid, I memorized the list of nicknames spouted off by the kids of The Sandlot.  However, this is the first actual Babe Ruth biography I have ever read.

Fair warning: this biography is quite the tome.  It’s not quite War and Peace, but sitting at over 600 pages, it’s not exactly Animal Farm, either.  In my opinion, though, the journey through this volume is worth the time.  Using the barnstorming tour Babe Ruth took with Lou Gehrig after the 1927 World Series as the framework for the book, Leavy injects details about Ruth’s life and analysis about his personality and character to paint a broad and detailed portrait of the man and the ballplayer.

My favorite feature of this book lies in how human it portrays the Babe.  Ruth often gets depicted as this happy-go-lucky, larger-than-life figure who transcends not only baseball, but American culture itself.  Not that Leavy ignores this facet of Ruth’s character.  In fact, she goes into great detail about how this perception of the Babe pervaded American thought even during his lifetime.  Ruth certainly lived large, and the public loved him so much, the press even willingly kept many of his indiscretions quite.  When some of those indiscretions did leak out, fans were more than willing to overlook them, finding these to be a part of the ballplayer’s charm.

Leavy’s biography doesn’t focus just on this, however.  Ruth’s life, especially as a youth, was not an easy one.  The author includes stories about his birth, early youth, his life at St. Mary’s, and his introduction to professional baseball.  She also talks about Ruth’s drinking and womanizing, and while she doesn’t forgive the Babe for these, Leavy does juxtapose that side of Ruth with his affinity for playing with and helping kids.

The book also delves deeply into Ruth’s relationship with his manager, Christy Walsh.  We get an overview of Ruth’s personal finances, and Leavy demonstrates how much the Babe profited from Christy Walsh’s management.  She conveys the impact Ruth and Walsh had on popular culture, foreshadowing the celebrity-obsessed society that followed them and continues to pervade our world today.

Leavy also does a good job giving us a glimpse into the Babe’s shortcomings as a family man and the impact this had on his daughters.  There is also a great exploration of Ruth’s life after baseball, including the disappointments he faced as he continuously got turned down for management roles.  Leavy goes into detail about his final days, as well, discussing his illness and, ultimately, his death.

Overall, I was impressed.  I did, at times, wish that the structure of the book followed a more linear path, rather than bouncing around Ruth’s life the way that it does, but given the amount of research and detail included in these pages, it’s a shortcoming I’m willing to overlook.


This day in baseball: Connor’s switch-hit debut

Though he had been hitting as a lefty throughout his career, on August 7, 1893, New York Giants first baseman Roger Connor stepped up to the plate right-handed for the first time against a left-handed Brooklyn Bridegrooms pitcher.  The right side of the plate turned out to be lucky for Connor that day, as he belted two homers and a single en route to a 10-3 win.

I did a small bit of poking around regarding Connor’s switch-hitting, and while specific details seem hard to find, I notice that some sites have him listed as a left-handed hitter while others list him as a switch-hitter.  A case can be made either way, it seems.

Roger Connor SABR.jpg

Roger Connor (sabr.org)