This day in baseball: “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” first appears

Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” featuring the famous double play combination of “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” was first published on July 12, 1910.  However, the original name of the the poem was “That Double Play Again.”  Six days later, the New York Evening Mail would republish the poem, this time with the title we know it by today, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”

Tinkers_Evers_Chance

From left: Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance (Lawrence Journal World)


World’s Largest Baseball: Muscotah, Kansas

A few weeks ago, a co-worker came by my office and mentioned that she would be going on a day trip to see the world’s biggest baseball.  She knew the information would interest me (it did), and it amazed me to discover that this baseball resides just over an hour’s drive from where we stood, in Muscotah, Kansas.  Muscotah also happens to be the birthplace of Joe Tinker, the famous Cubs shortstop of the renowned Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combination of the early 20th century.

I learned in my research that the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Baseball is not really a baseball.  Rather, the people of Muscotah took an old water tank to create the twenty-foot diameter ball, using rebar to fashion the stitches.  The eventual goal for the project is to create a Joe Tinker museum on the inside of the hollow, steel baseball.  As things stand, my co-worker informed me the week after her visit, the World’s Largest Baseball isn’t much to look at.  Nevertheless, I knew I wanted to check it out for myself, and I took advantage of the opportunity to do so this weekend.

I left in the morning, shortly after breakfast.  The route consisted primarily of small, winding, two-lane highways through rural Kansas.  I took a couple wrong turns along the way, thanks to some confusion in the directions, so the trip took slightly longer than anticipated, but fortunately I had no reason to hurry.  I passed through a number of small towns on the drive, though I noticed that Muscotah never appeared on any of the highway distance signs.  The population of Muscotah, it turns out, was a mere 176 people as of the 2010 census.

When one finally reaches the city limits along highway US-159, one of the first things you notice is the welcome sign:

Muscotah welcome

I continued driving for a couple more blocks, and the giant baseball itself proved hard to miss.  I turned off the highway onto Kansas Avenue, where the ball stood, and maneuvered my car into an acceptable parking position in the tall grass along the side of the street.

As for the World’s Largest Baseball, well, it definitely looks like a very large, steel baseball:

Muscotah World's Largest Baseball
I walked around and poked my head into the entrance of the hollow tank, and while it seems it’s still going to be quite some time until any kind of museum takes shape, there was at least the faint promise of it in the form of building materials on the interior floor:

Muscotah Largest Baseball 2

Muscotah Baseball interior

Not too far from the steel baseball stood a trio of baseball player silhouettes, no doubt intended to represent the threesome that was Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance.

Muscotah Tinker-Evers-Chance

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Tinker to Evers

Evers to Chance

Evers to Chance

As my co-worker forewarned, there really wasn’t much to see beyond the baseball and the silhouettes.  It would have been easy (and it was tempting) to just hop back into my vehicle and head home straightaway, but I decided to walk around for a few minutes to stretch my legs.  But in truth, there doesn’t seem to be much to Muscotah itself.

0525190940

Some of the older, run down buildings do seem to carry echoes of a more vibrant time in the town’s past:

Muscotah old house

And I do have to comment that this is quite possibly the smallest post office I have ever seen:

Muscotah post office

All in all, Muscotah is just a quiet, rural Kansas town, silent and still with sleepiness on this warm May weekend.  I certainly wouldn’t say that the World’s Largest Baseball is a “must-see” attraction worth traveling halfway across the country to catch a glimpse.  However, for any hardcore baseball fans who just happen to be in the area, it does make for a different and relaxing daytrip destination.

 

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

~”Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” by Franklin Pierce Adams


“Line-Up for Yesterday: An ABC of Baseball Immortals,” by Ogden Nash

I have a feeling that I have seen this particular poem before, though for the life of me, I do not recall where.  In any case, this piece by Ogden Nash was originally published in the January 1949 issue of SPORT Magazine.  Nash uses the letters of the alphabet to pay tribute to some of baseball’s most popular players.

You can find a chart listing the players each stanza stands for here.

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A is for Alex
The great Alexander;
More Goose eggs he pitched
Than a popular gander.

B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love,
and McGraw his hate.

C is for Cobb,
Who grew spikes and not corn,
And made all the basemen
Wish they weren’t born.

D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who’s the tops?
Said correctly, I is.

E is for Evers,
His jaw in advance;
Never afraid
To Tinker with Chance.

F is for Fordham
And Frankie and Frisch;
I wish he were back
With the Giants, I wish.

G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His record pure gold,
His courage, pure radium.

H is for Hornsby;
When pitching to Rog,
The pitcher would pitch,
Then the pitcher would dodge.

I is for Me,
Not a hard-hitting man,
But an outstanding all-time
Incurable fan.

J is for Johnson
The Big Train in his prime
Was so fast he could throw
Three strikes at a time.

K is for Keeler,
As fresh as green paint,
The fastest and mostest
To hit where they ain’t.

L is for Lajoie
Whom Clevelanders love,
Napoleon himself,
With glue in his glove.

M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
brain in his arm.

N is for Newsom,
Bobo’s favorite kin.
You ask how he’s here,
He talked himself in.

O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.

P is for Plank,
The arm of the A’s;
When he tangled with Matty
Games lasted for days.

Q is for Don Quixote
Cornelius Mack;
Neither Yankees nor years
Can halt his attack.

R is for Ruth.
To tell you the truth,
There’s just no more to be said,
Just R is for Ruth.

S is for Speaker,
Swift center-field tender,
When the ball saw him coming,
It yelled, “I surrender.”

T is for Terry
The Giant from Memphis
Whose .400 average
You can’t overemphis.

U would be ‘Ubell
if Carl were a cockney;
We say Hubbell and Baseball
Like Football and Rockne.

V is for Vance
The Dodger’s very own Dazzy;
None of his rivals
Could throw as fast as he.

W is for Wagner,
The bowlegged beauty;
Short was closed to all traffic
With Honus on duty.

X is the first
of two x’s in Foxx
Who was right behind Ruth
with his powerful soxx.

Y is for Young
The magnificent Cy;
People battled against him,
But I never knew why.

Z is for Zenith
The summit of fame.
These men are up there.
These men are the game.


Ken Burns’s Baseball: The Second Inning

 

Gushing with patriotism, the Second Inning of Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns begins with proclamations of the game of baseball being America’s “safety valve” and a montage of old baseball photos being scrolled to the sound of the national anthem and a spoken list of various American accomplishments during the early twentieth century.

Not all was perfect in the country, however, as Burns also points to an increase in racism across America, the growth of tenements, and a decline in baseball’s popularity.  As it always does, however, baseball managed to recover.  It was a time when small ball dominated the style of play, and pitchers like Christy Mathewson, “Three Finger” Brown, and Walter Johnson became legends on the mound.

Major league baseball entered the twentieth century in trouble, beset by declining attendance, rowdyism, unhappy players, and feuding, greedy club owners, but then divided itself in two, cleaned itself up, and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The World Series began, and season after season more than five million fans filled stadiums to see their heroes play, and countless millions more, who had never been lucky enough to watch them in person, followed their every move in the sports pages.

In part two of this documentary series, we see the rise of players like Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, two of the most diametrically different players as the game has ever seen.  We meet player-manager John McGraw, who approached the game with a furious kind of passion recognized throughout baseball.  The “Christian Gentleman,” Christy Mathewson, also appeared on the scene playing for McGraw, and his precise pitching captured the attention of teams and fans across America.  Together, Mathewson and McGraw’s Giants dominated the sport.

2nd inningWe also see the rise of Ban Johnson and the American League.  The National Agreement brought peace between the new AL and the older National League, though the reserve clause remained intact, leaving ballplayers themselves with no voice in the administrative side of the game.  And to no one’s surprise, I’m sure, overpriced concessions have been a staple of ballparks since the game became a business.  This time period saw the introduction of hot dogs, served to fans in buns to allow them to hold them while watching baseball.

Once again, we see descriptions of racism in baseball followed closely by an update on the life of Branch Rickey.  Burns hints at the impact of seeing discrimination on Rickey’s views.  Later in this disc, there is a more in-depth discussion of black baseball, including the creation of the Negro Leagues led by Rube Foster.  The documentary also introduces (though it really doesn’t dive much into) the concept of “bloomer girls,” women playing baseball during this time period.

Some of the most recognizable pieces in baseball pop culture also came into existence in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.  Franklin Pierce Adams’s poem, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” also known as “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” was written in 1910, Ernest Thayer’s iconic poem “Casey At the Bat” (1888) was recited frequently by performers, and Jack Norworth’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” became the game’s anthem.

The Second Inning ends at the conclusion of the 1909 season, following a discussion of Fred Merkle’s 1908 boner and a more direct rivalry between Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner in the 1909 World Series.  It’s hard to tell if Burns is particularly fascinated by Cobb, or if there are just too many good stories there to ignore, but Cobb does garner a fair amount of attention in this inning.  Not that I’m complaining — I wouldn’t have wanted to play against him (and probably not even with him), but Cobb does add some color to the game’s history.


This day in baseball: Tinker, Evers, and Chance

Speaking of Tinker, Evers, and Chance, the legendary double-play combination completed their first-ever twin killing 113 years ago today, on September 15, 1902.  As we know now, it was the start of a relationship that would become immortalized in Franklin Pierce Adams’s “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” as the Cubs defeated Cincinnati, 6-3.

By the way, if you’re interested, the Chicago Tribune published a short article about the story behind the poem here.

americandigest.org

americandigest.org


“Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” by Franklin Pierce Adams

Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance played together in Chicago from 1902 until April of 1912.  Together, they formed a double play combination that became immortalized in this poem, published in the New York Evening Mail in July 1910.  The piece is written from the perspective of a Giants fan, moaning the luck of his team whenever one of them hits into this double play.  This poem is often credited as being the primary reason that Tinker, Evers, and Chance were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.

*

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double-
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

From left: Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance (Lawrence Journal World)

From left: Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance (Lawrence Journal World)