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.
U.S. District Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis accepted the offer to become baseball’s first commissioner on November 12, 1920. The decision to hire a commissioner came in the wake of the 1919 World Series scandal, which involved eight White Sox players who were paid off by gamblers to throw the Series against Cincinnati. Landis would officially begin his new role in January 1921.
Yesterday I happened across a tidbit stating that one of the largest baseball card collections resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I’ve never been a card collector, so I suppose this might already be common knowledge and I’ve just been out of the loop. I did want to check it out all the same, so I poked around and discovered that the Met is in the process of cataloging the cards, all part of the Jefferson R. Burdick collection, online. You can find the collection here.
Just minutes of exploring has revealed some gems, such as this collection of cartooned baseball stars from 1943:
And these old school pennants from 1933.
And there are, of course, a myriad of traditional baseball cards:
I have to say, this is my type of card collection. A variety of cards, and yet virtual so that they don’t actually take up a bunch of physical space. Happy exploring!
Ernie Banks won his second consecutive MVP award on November 4, 1959. Mr. Cub finished the season with a .304 batting average and 143 RBIs, including 45 home runs. Banks collected ten of the writers’ 21 first-place votes, with Eddie Mathews (5) and Hank Aaron (2) of the Braves and Dodger Wally Moon (4) dividing the rest of the first-place votes.