Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of the early twentieth century. He was a multi-sport athlete who particularly shined in track and field, though he also had professional careers in both baseball and football.

The details surrounding the birth of Jim Thorpe aren’t entirely clear. It is generally accepted that James Francis Thorpe was born May 22 or 28, 1887, with no birth certificate found to confirm an exact date. He was born in Indian Territory near present-day Prague, Oklahoma to Hiram Thorpe, who was of Sac and Fox descent, and Charlotte Vieux, who was of Potawatomi descent. Jim Thorpe had a twin brother, Charlie, who died of pneumonia when the pair was nine years old.

Both of Thorpe’s parents were Roman Catholic, and in the Catholic Church, he was baptized Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe. Growing up, Thorpe was raised as a Sac and Fox, and his native name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translates as “Bright Path.” Six year after his brother Charlie’s death, Thorpe’s mother also passed away, and his father would follow when Jim was just sixteen years old.

Thorpe was sent to many boarding schools and academies throughout his youth, including Sac and Fox Indian Agency School near Tecumseh, Oklahoma, Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, and Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Jim Thorpe hated his experiences in these institutions, which were set up to teach racial integration, banning students from speaking their native languages and imposing the dress of the average white American. Thorpe’s academic performance was less than stellar, but he showed tremendous promise as an athlete.

Jim Thorpe with the Canton Bulldogs c 1915-1920 - Wikipedia

Jim Thorpe with the Canton Bulldogs, c. 1915-1920 (Wikipedia)

While attending Carlisle, Thorpe competed not only in track and field, but also in football, baseball, lacrosse, and even ballroom dancing. It was here that Thorpe’s athletic abilities started to garner nationwide attention, especially on the football field, where he earned All-American honors in both 1911 and 1912. However, it was in track and field that Thorpe would really leave his mark.

In 1912, Thorpe represented the United States in the Summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden. He dominated in both the pentathlon and the decathlon, winning gold medals in both events. He remains the only athlete in history to accomplish this feat. What makes this accomplishment even more incredible is that Thorpe competed wearing mismatched shoes. Ahead of competition, Thorpe’s own shoes were stolen. The culprit behind the theft was never identified, but it goes to show how rampantly racism continued to persist against indigenous peoples. With no other options, Thorpe found two old, different shoes in a dumpster, one of which was larger than the other. He wore an extra sock on one foot to help the larger shoe fit better.

Jim_Thorpe,_1912_Summer_Olympics - Wikipedia

Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Summer Olympics (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately for Jim Thorpe, in 1912, strict rules regarding amateurism were in effect for athletes participating in the Olympics. Thorpe had played professional baseball in the Eastern Carolina League for Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1909 and 1910, receiving meager pay. College players, in fact, regularly spent summers playing professionally in order to earn some money, but most used aliases, which Thorpe, unfortunately, did not do. When reports of Thorpe’s past activities were leaked by the press in early 1913, the Amateur Athletic Union decided to withdraw Thorpe’s amateur status retroactively. Later that year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously decided to strip Thorpe of his Olympic titles, medals, and awards, and declare him a professional.

In 1913, Thorpe signed to play professional baseball with the New York Giants. Thorpe played sporadically with the team for three seasons as an outfielder. After playing in the minor leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1916, he returned to the Giants in 1917 and was sold to the Cincinnati Reds early in the season. Late in that same season, he was sold back to the Giants. Once again, Thorpe played sporadically for the Giants in 1918 before being traded to the Boston Braves in May 1919.

In his major league career, Thorpe amassed 91 runs scored and 82 RBIs. Thorpe struggled against the curveball, however, and batted just .252 over his six-year big league career. In his final season, however, Thorpe did manage to attain an impressive .327 average for the season. He would continue to play minor league baseball until 1922.

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Thorpe as a member of the New York Giants (The Sporting News)

In 1915, Jim Thorpe signed a deal to play football with the Canton Bulldogs for $250 per game under general manager Jack Cusack.  Thorpe would play and coach the Canton Bulldogs during his time with the team and was considered one of the best players in the sport at the time. The Bulldogs would claim an unofficial three world championships in 1916, 1917, and 1919. When the National Football League (NFL) was officially formed in 1920, Thorpe was selected to be the league’s first president. Thorpe retired from professional football at age 41, having played 52 NFL games for six teams from 1920 to 1928.

Thorpe married three times throughout his life and had a total of eight children.  After his athletic career came to an end, Thorpe struggled to provide for his family. He found it difficult to work a non-sports-related job and never held a job for an extended period of time.  On March 28, 1953, Jim Thorpe died of heart failure.

Over the years, supporters of Thorpe attempted to have his Olympic titles reinstated. On January 18, 1983, almost 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee officially reinstated Thorpe’s medals from the 1912 Games at a ceremony attended by two of his children.

In addition, Jim Thorpe was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. He was a Charter Enshrinee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. In 1950, he was named AP’s Most Outstanding Athlete of the First Half of the 20th Century, America’s Greatest Football Player of the half-century, and the national press selected him the most outstanding athlete of the first half of the 20th Century. Thorpe was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, and from 1996-2001, he was continuously awarded ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Century award.


The Economy of Food at Sporting Events

I’ve posted a couple infographics previously about concessions at the ballpark, but I believe those were more specific to hot dogs and beer. This graphic covers concessions in general, and while it focuses primarily on MLB parks, it also includes some factoids from other sports, as well.

The Economy of Food at Sporting Events
Image compliments of Sports Management Degrees


History of Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park At Camden Yards, 2013 (Wikipedia)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, frequently referred to as just Camden Yards or Oriole Park, opened as the official home of the Baltimore Orioles on April 6, 1992. The stadium had been built to replace Memorial Stadium, a multipurpose stadium that had served as home not only to the Orioles, but throughout its life also hosted the minor league Bowie Baysox (1993), the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League (from the late-1940s to the early-1980s), the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League (1994-95), the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL (1996-97), and also served as the venue for various high school and college athletic events.

Oriole Park was built as a baseball-only facility in downtown Baltimore. When the city of Baltimore and the Maryland government refused to commit money to replace Memorial Stadium, the Baltimore Colts responded by moving to Indianapolis in 1984. Realizing that the city could also potentially lose the Orioles, city and state officials immediately began planning a new park in order to keep them in town.

Initially, the architectural firm Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) Sport Venue Event (now known as Populous) proposed a design similar to that of the new Comiskey Park. The Orioles turned down the proposal, however, in favor of a more retro-style stadium, wishing instead to follow in the footsteps of the great old ballparks like Fenway, Wrigley, and Ebbets. The new stadium would feature steel, rather than concrete trusses, an arched brick facade, a sun roof over the upper deck, an asymmetrical playing field, and natural grass turf. Construction of the new stadium began in 1989 and lasted 33 months, costing approximately $110 million.

The field itself is set sixteen feet below street level and is comprised of a sophisticated irrigation and drainage system below the grass turf. The purpose of this design is to reduce the frequency of rainouts by shortening the length of rain delays. The field’s system makes it possible to get the field ready for play within half-an-hour after the end of a heavy rain. An impressive feat of engineering, the drainage system can remove as much as 75,000 gallons of rainwater from the field in an hour.

The B&O warehouse that serves as a backdrop beyond the right field wall was a point of contention in the stadium’s design plan. Many people wanted the warehouse demolished, while others fought to leave it in place. Still others liked the idea of using the warehouse as the right-field wall instead of the backdrop. Perhaps it is fitting that the warehouse remains, given the name ultimately bestowed upon the new stadium, though it didn’t end up being the stadium’s right field wall — Eutaw Street separates the stadium from the warehouse, instead. The floors of the warehouse contain offices, service spaces, and a private club. The warehouse has never been hit by a legal home run during regulation play. However, several players have reportedly struck the wall during batting practice, and it was hit by Ken Griffey, Jr. during the Home Run Derby of the 1993 MLB All-Star Game.

Former Orioles owner Eli Jacobs favored naming the new venue Oriole Park. Meanwhile, Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer preferred to name the stadium Camden Yards, after the former rail terminal at the site operated by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. After considerable debate, a compromise was reached and it was decided that both names were to be used: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Following the 2000 season, the ballpark’s infield and outfield were completely rebuilt, and the drainage system was modernized to better protect both the pipes and the playing surface. Following the 2005 season, all new irrigation heads were installed, and in 2007, the warning track around the field was replaced. In 2008, the sod was replaced with a sand-based blend of Kentucky bluegrass to give the field a more vibrant green color. After the 2008 season, a new HD video display and scoreboard were installed below the right field bleachers. Before the start of the 2011 season, the seats in the lower seating bowl were replaced and several skyboxes were eliminated and refurbished to make room for more party suites and casual luxury boxes. The renovation reduced the park’s capacity from 48,876 to 45,971.

Notable events at Camden Yards over the years include the aforementioned hosting of the 1993 All-Star Game. On June 18, 1994, one of the stadium’s multiple-story escalators, overcrowded with fans heading to their upper-deck seats, jerked backward, throwing passengers to the bottom landing. The accident resulted in 43 people injured. On September 6, 1995, Camden Yards witnessed Cal Ripken, Jr.’s record-setting 2,131st consecutive game, and one year later, Eddie Murray blasted the 500th home run of his career at the ballpark.

In 2012, the park celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of its opening, launching the website CamdenYards20.com as part of that celebration. The site featured videos of Opening Day in 1992, a written history of the park and its improvements over the years, and photo galleries of Camden Yards, featuring everything from ballpark construction to celebrity visitors.

The success of Camden Yards sparked a trend in the construction of more traditional, fan-friendly ballparks in downtown locations across the U.S.  The park also ended a quarter-century trend of multipurpose stadiums in which baseball and football teams shared the same venue. Although intended to cut costs, the fundamentally different sizes and shapes of baseball and football fields ultimately made this concept inadequate for either sport. By the 2012 season, all but two MLB teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics) played in baseball-only parks.


Marijuana in MLB

In honor of 4/20, here’s a brief overview on Major League Baseball’s policy regarding use of marijuana. In December 2019, MLB announced that it would be dropping marijuana from the list of drugs it would be testing for (while, at the same time, adding opioids and cocaine to that list).

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A few weeks prior to the originally scheduled start of the 2020 season (which ended up not happening… thanks, COVID!), Dave Samson delved into the policy in a little more detail, and also overviewed the policies regarding the drug in other professional sports:


Spring training in New England

This one is obviously a bit outdated, but it did still make me chuckle a bit.

Dave Granlund - Red Sox comic

davegranlund.com


Bo Jackson documentary

This documentary on the unstoppable Bo Jackson is a lot of fun to watch. Holy smokes, what an athlete.


This day in baseball: D.C. Stadium opens for baseball

On April 9, 1962, President John F. Kennedy waited out a rain delay and threw the ceremonial first pitch to open up Washington’s new $23 million D.C. Stadium for its inaugural baseball season.  The stadium had initially opened the previous fall for Redskins football on October 1, 1961.  More than 44,000 fans attended the Senators’ Opening Day in April as they defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4-1.

First_pitch_DC_Stadium_JFK

Wikipedia


History of Wrigley Field

Known as the “Friendly Confines,” Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois is Major League Baseball’s second oldest ballpark, behind only Boston’s Fenway Park.  The ballpark has been the host to many historic moments, from Babe Ruth’s called shot in 1932 to the 2016 World Series, in which the Cubs finally broke the 108-year-old championship curse.

Prior to moving into the ballpark now known as Wrigley, the Cubs played in West Side Park.  West Side was a double-decker park built with heavy timber, echoing the typical construction of baseball fields in the early twentieth century.  It was actually another baseball team altogether that played at the Friendly Confines in its inaugural season.

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Construction of Weeghman Park, March 1914

When it was first erected, Wrigley Field was originally dubbed Weeghman Field, named after Charles Weeghman.  The stadium was built for the Chi-Feds of the Federal League, also known as the Chicago Whales, who were owned by Mr. Weeghman.  The stadium was designed by architects Zachary T. and Charles G. Davis, who also designed the original Comiskey Park in 1910, and construction took place on Weeghman Field from March 5 (I’ve also seen as early as February and as late as March 14) through April 23, 1914, finishing up just in time for the Whales’ Opening Day.  The new ballpark only cost $250,000 to build.

When Weeghman Field was first built, it was just a one-level stadium — there was no upper deck — and it had a seating capacity of merely 14,000.  The original scoreboard was built in 1915, lasting until its replacement was erected in 1938.

Weeghman_Park_Panorama_1915

Weeghman Park, 1915

William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum industrialist, was a partner with Weeghman with the Whales.  As the Federal League folded, and the Whales along with it, Wrigley and Weeghman were given the option to buy the Cubs in 1915, an opportunity they took.  They moved the Cubs from West Side Park to Weeghman Field, renaming the stadium “Cubs Park.”  The Cubs played their first game in their new home on April 20, 1916, beating the Cincinnati Reds in eleven innings.  By 1919, William Wrigley bought out Weeghman’s shares in the team, and in 1926, the park became known as “Wrigley Field.”

In 1921, the newly-formed Bears of the National Football League moved to Chicago.  The Bears managed to work out a deal with William Wrigley, through which they were able to play their games at Cubs Park/Wrigley Field as well.  This agreement served as one of the motivating factors for increasing the size and the capacity of the stadium.  Zachary Davis, one of the original architects in 1914, also designed the 1922 version of Wrigley Field.  Davis expanded the size of the field by moving the grandstands towards the street so that it could also accommodate American football games.  This meant that the Cubs’ playing field was moved about sixty feet southwest, and the seating capacity of the stadium grew to approximately 20,000.  The Bears played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970.

In 1927 to 1928, the upper deck was added to the stadium’s grandstands.  The architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White designed this expansion, which increased the capacity of Wrigley Field to about 38,400.

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Wrigley Field during the 1935 World Series

The outfield had some bleachers, though they proved insufficient whenever the Cubs made the World Series, which happened more often in those days.  Bleachers would be added using temporary scaffolding in these situations when additional seating proved necessary.  In 1937, however, the decision was made that it was time for permanent bleachers to be added to the outfield, a project taken on by the firm Holabird and Root.  This change boosted the stadium’s capacity to approximately 40,000.  Along with this, the Cubs’ famous hand-operated scoreboard was built, and the clock was added in 1941.  Also in 1937, the famous ivy was planted along the stadium’s outfield wall.

Minor changes were made to the stadium over the years.  Some features were added, other features were removed, but for the most part, Wrigley Field has remained largely the same since 1938.  The biggest change since that time took place in 1988.

A holdout from a bygone era, Wrigley Field was the last stadium in Major League Baseball to install a lighting system.  When the lights were installed, this was done so in a way that ensured the lights fit into the feel of the rest of the stadium, rather than trying to install a modern-style system on a century-old ballpark.  The Cubs’ first night game was played August 8, 1988, though it was cut short (ending after four innings) due to rain, getting postponed until the next day.

In 2006, the bleachers were expanded yet again.  This increased the capacity of the stadium to approximately 41,000 seats. Then, after the 2007 season, the entire field was removed and replaced with a new drainage system and a bluegrass playing field.

Following the 2014 season, a $575 million project, named the 1060 project, began at the ballpark, which essentially entails a complete overhaul of the facility. The project is expected to be completed in 2019 and includes a widening of the concourse to add more concessions, the addition of a 95-foot x 42-foot HD videoboard in left field, moving the bullpens to under the bleachers in left (Cubs) and right (visiting team) fields, and the west side entrance between Clark Street and Wrigley Field now features a new plaza known as the Park at Wrigley, which allows fans to gather before games and provides a new entry into the ballpark.

Wrigley field

Wrigley Field today

In 2004, Wrigley Field was named an official city landmark in Chicago, and a number of its features are now legally protected.  These features include all exterior elevations and roofs, the marquee sign at Clark and Addison Streets, the centerfield scoreboard, and the ballfield itself, including the brick wall and the famous ivy.  In the face of ballparks being demolished, including Comiskey Park, and new ones being built, the people of Chicago saw this as a way to protect their beloved Wrigley Field. Wrigley Field remains the only Federal League ballpark still in existence.


Russo: Baseball is the best game

Here’s a clip from a couple nights ago.  Chris Russo’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears, and he talks in circles here, but he also makes some good points.  Also, I just enjoy listening to anything that takes a positive view on baseball.


James Corden’s Ideas to Make Baseball Fun Again

This clip is from April 2016 from The Late Late Show with James Corden.  The first half of the clip is sports-related, but not actually baseball-specific, so if you want to go straight to the baseball humor, skip to about the 2-minute mark.

This comedic bit was in response to Bryce Harper’s “Make Baseball Fun Again” cap from a couple years ago.  As you would expect from late-night television, some of the jokes are a bit off-color, but he does throw in some pretty good political jabs.