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%).
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
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.
The only people I know getting in high places by running their mouth are politicians.
Theodore Roosevelt is well-known for the line, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” This cartoon takes that phrase and gives it a baseball twist. In it, Roosevelt is depicted as a baseball player on the field amongst other political figures. If you look closely, you can see the phrase “Honest & upright government” printed on the bat, while the ball bears the phrase “Trashy politics.”
The image was created in January 1903 for Puck magazine, a political satire publication printed in the early- to mid-1900s in New York City.
The move of the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles was before my time, and I sheepishly have to confess that I was not aware of this bit of history before I came across this short documentary by Vox. While these sorts of events are certainly not unique to Los Angeles, I do think it is important to ensure that episodes like this stay at the forefront of the public consciousness (or get introduced to folks who, like me, are not aware of these kinds of details).
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.