I’m not a headline guy. I know that as long as I was following Ruth to the plate I could have stood on my head and no one would have known the difference.
The Dodgers played their first game at Ebbets Field on April 5, 1913. 25,000 fans watched the exhibition against the Yankees as Brooklyn defeated New York, 3-2. Casey Stengel hit the new ballpark’s first home run, an inside-the-parker.
I occasionally go on binges of television shows that I never watched when they were actually airing on television (for one example, see my posts here about various episodes of the Simpsons). My parents didn’t condone a lot of TV-watching as I grew up, and as an adult, I don’t bother with wasting money on cable or even Netflix. However, I do have a library card, and many public libraries have vast collections of DVDs, including television series. This has afforded me the opportunity to do a tiny bit of catching up on some shows.
My current TV show project, The West Wing, has thoroughly captured my interest and attention. As of this writing, I am about halfway through the third season of the series, and in the first minutes of episode 15, “Hartsfield’s Landing,” C.J. Cregg makes mention during a press briefing of the origins of the seventh inning stretch. Stretch time, she informs reporters, was founded by President William Howard Taft. Naturally this caught my attention, so I had to do a little poking around to find out whether this was true.
It seems the actual origins of the seventh inning have faded with time, but the story of President Taft does circulate. According to the story, during a game he attended on April 4, 1910, the obese Taft stood up during the seventh inning to stretch his legs and find some respite from sitting in the small, wooden chair. When other fans at the ballgame saw Taft stand, they also stood in a gesture of respect for the commander-in-chief.
Another possibility for the tradition’s origins dates back to 1869. According to an article in the New York Herald, following a particularly long second inning of a game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Brooklyn Eagles, the entire crowd at the park simply stood up to stretch. Actual stretch time, of course, then was moved to later in the game.
A third story, this one also dating back to 1869, comes from a letter written by Harry Wright of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. According to Wright, “The spectators all arise between halves of the seventh inning, extend their legs and arms and sometimes walk about. In so doing they enjoy the relief afforded by relaxation from a long posture upon hard benches.”
Today, of course, stretch time comes with singing the chorus of Jack Norworth’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” as well as an end to alcohol sales for that game. Whatever the actual origins of the seventh inning stretch, there seems to be no doubt that it was borne out of a need for fans to take a break from the long period of sitting.
A couple days ago, a baseball neophyte friend of mine asked me, “In baseball, what is a closer?” And as I explained the concept, it occurred to me that I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile.
In baseball, a closing pitcher, more commonly referred to as a closer, is a relief pitcher who typically enters the game in the final inning. Ideally, the closer’s team will be leading on the scoreboard at that point, and so the closer’s job is to “close” the game, getting the final outs of that final inning.
A closer’s effectiveness has traditionally been measured by the number of saves he earns. A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in Rule 9.19 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball. The rule states that the official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when that pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
- He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
- He is not the winning pitcher;
- He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
- He satisfies one of the following conditions:
- He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
- He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
- He pitches for at least three innings.
Over time, closers have become one-inning specialists typically brought in at the beginning of the ninth inning in save situations. They enter the game facing the high pressure that comes with having to seal those last three outs and, thus, a win for their club, which makes their role a rather essential one to a team’s success.
Mariano Rivera is MLB’s all-time leader in regular season saves with 652.
While the American League is known for its use of the designated hitter, they weren’t the first ones to ever have an interest in utilizing it. The Pacific Coast League once expressed an interest in implementing the allowance of a designated hitter even before the AL started using it. However, the PCL’s proposal to use the DH got rejected on March 31, 1961 by the Professional Baseball Rules Committee. The American League would begin using the DH in 1973.
Known in baseball as “Pudge,” Carlton Fisk played for both the Boston Red Sox (1969, 1971–1980) and Chicago White Sox (1981–1993). In 1972, he became the first player unanimously voted American League Rookie of the Year, though he is probably best known for “waving fair” his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
This speech is the longest one I’ve listened to so far, but it’s worth the time. It’s not hard to get a glimpse of the kind of work ethic and character that Fisk possessed through this oration. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.
You play the game to win the game and not worry about what’s on the back of the baseball card at the end of the year.