Quote of the day

You know we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.

~Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams

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Moonlight Graham, 1905 (public domain)

This day in baseball: Jackie Jensen named MVP

On November 20, 1958, outfielder Jackie Jensen of the Boston Red Sox was named American League Most Valuable Player. Jensen managed to beat out Bob Turley, Rocky Colavito, and Bob Cerv for the award, finishing the season with a .286 batting average, a league-leading 122 RBIs, and also earning 99 walks, 35 home runs, 31 doubles, 293 total bases, and a .396 on-base percentage.

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Jackie Jensen, 1953 (public domain)

This day in baseball: O’Doul falls to Japanese All-Stars

On November 13, 1951, Lefty O’Doul’s team of American All-Stars lost, 3-1, to a Japanese Pacific League All-Star squad. It was the first time an American professional team lost to a Japanese professional team.

O’Doul is well known for his work in Japan, training Japanese players in the skills of the game and fostering communication and interaction between those in Japanese and American baseball both before and after World War II. For his efforts, Lefty O’Doul was the first American elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Lefty O’Doul, 1919 (Library of Congress/public domain)

This day in baseball: DiMaggio named AL MVP

On November 11, 1941, the American League Most Valuable Player Award went to Joe DiMaggio, who hit 30 home runs, 125 RBIs, and collected 348 total bases. DiMaggio also led the Yankees to a 101-53 season that culminated with their ninth World Series title. In the midst of all of this, the Yankee Clipper also had a Major League-record 56-game hitting streak along the way.

DiMaggio edged out Ted Williams in the voting for the award. Williams remains the last player to finish a season with a .400 average, doing so when he hit .406 in 1941. Williams’s season won him the American League batting title by a whopping 47 points that year, however, his efforts fell short in the league’s MVP voting.

This day in baseball: Walter Johnson loses congressional bid

On November 5, 1940, Election Day in America that year, former pitcher Walter Johnson lost to William D. Byron, the Democrat incumbent, in a bid to represent Maryland’s sixth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Hall of Fame right-hander had been elected as a Montgomery County Commissioner in 1938 but lost this election to Byron by a total of 60,037 (53%) to 52,258 (47%).

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US President Calvin Coolidge and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson shake hands, 1924 (National Photo Company collection, Library of Congress)

This day in baseball: Ty Cobb released

The Detroit Tigers released player-manager Ty Cobb on November 2, 1926. At first, Cobb announced his retirement at the end of 22 years with the Tigers, but when Cleveland Indians player-manager Tris Speaker also retired shortly thereafter, many heads turned. It soon came out that the two were coerced into retirement as a result of allegations of game-fixing brought about by Dutch Leonard, a former pitcher managed by Cobb.

Ty Cobb (public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

This day in baseball: Durocher named Manager for the Year

On October 23, 1951, Associated Press named New York Giants skipper Leo Durocher as the Manager of the Year. Under Durocher’s leadership, the Giants rallied from a 13 1/2-game deficit in mid-August to win the National League pennant. New York’s comeback was capped off against the Dodgers, in a three-game playoff series best remembered for Bobby Thomson’s fabled home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the deciding game at the Polo Grounds.

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Leo Durocher (public domain)

Quote of the day

I have not burned the candle at both ends. I have not drank and I have not smoked since I was convinced it was not well for me to do so.

~Cap Anson

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Cap Anson (public domain)

This day in baseball: Earnshaw leads the A’s to World Series win

Philadelphia Athletics pitcher George Earnshaw defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-1, on October 8, 1930 to secure a World Series victory for Philadelphia. Throughout the Series, Earnshaw collected two wins and a 0.72 ERA, and also pitched seven scoreless innings as Game 5 starter, but ended up with a no-decision as Lefty Grove relieved him in the eighth and took the win on Jimmie Foxx’s two-run homer. A’s manager Connie Mack gave more credit to Earnshaw for the Athletics’ World Series victory over the Cardinals than any other player.

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1934 Goudey baseball card of George Earnshaw of the Philadelphia Athletics (public domain)

“Baseball Days, ’61,” by Peter Balakian

Peter Balakian is an Armenian American writer and academic who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2016 for his collection, Ozone Journal. This collection includes the poem below, which shines a light on the fact that even as Roger Maris hit his historic 61st home run during the 1961 season, the world continued to move with myriad historic events simultaneously.

*

All summer the patio drifted in and out of light the color of margarine;
days were blue, not always sky blue.
At night the word Algeria circulated among the grown-ups.

A patient of my father had whooping cough, the words drifted into
summer blue. The evenings spun into stadium lights.
Kennedy’s hair blew across the screen. Castro was just a sofa.

I saw James Meredith’s face through a spread of leaves
on the evening news. The fridge sweat with orangeade,
the trees whooped some nights in rain—

a kid down the street kept coughing into his mitt.
Static sounds from Comiskey and Fenway came
though the vinyl, the plastic, the pillow—

So when it left Stallard’s hand, when Roger Maris’s arms whipped
the bat and the bullet-arc carried into the chasm the disaffections
at 344 ft. near the bullpen fence

under the green girder holding up the voices rising into the façade and over the
river
where a Baptist choir on Lenox Ave. was sending up a variation of Sweet Chariot
into the traffic on the FDR that was jammed at the Triboro

where a derrick was broken and the cables of its arms picked up the star-blast of
voices coming over the Stadium façade spilling down the black next-game
sign into the vector
of a tilted Coke bottle on a billboard

at the edge of the river where a cloud of pigeons rose over Roosevelt Island.
It was evening by the time the cars unjammed and the green of the outfield unfroze
and the white arc had faded into skyline before fall came

full of boys throwing themselves onto the turf with inexplicable desire
for the thing promised. The going. Then gone.