Friday, January 28, 2011

(Ken Burns' Baseball Documentary) We're in the 5th and 6th Innings

In 1938, the players were polled if they would have any objection to play with Negro players and 4/5ths had no objections.

It was the owners and commissioner Keneshaw Mountain Landis who were not interested.
(Keneshaw got his name from a misspelling of Kenneshaw Mountain, Georgia, where his father, a physician, fought on the union side and lost a leg during the American Civil War at the Battle of Kenneshaw Mountain.)

That winter, Chester Washington of the Pittsburgh Courier sent a telegram to the manger of the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates. To: Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates, Congress Hotel. Know your club needs players. Have an answer to your prayers right here in Pittsburgh. Josh Gibson, catcher. Buck Leonard, first base. S. Page, pitcher and Cool Papa Bell all available at reasonable figures. Would make Pirates formidable pennant contender. What is your attitude? Wire answer, Chester Washington.

There was no answer.
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According to Leroy Satchel Page

You wanna live a long time don't fool with nothing old but money.
Nothing big but a bankroll.
Nothing black but a cadillac.
Nothing over 22, nothing that weighs over 130.
If you do you're in trouble!
Because when you're getting old your cells are getting low
and you need a Delco battery to boost you.
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Dazzy Vance-a hefty righthander with and 83" reach. He had been a dominant pitcher of the 1920's. You want to know why? He literally had a trick up his sleeve.

"You couldn't hit him on a Monday. He cut the sleeve of his undershirt to the elbow. And on that part of it he used lye to make it white and the rest he didn't care how dirty it was. Then he'd pitch overhand out of the apartment houses in the background at Ebbets Field. Between the bleached sleeve of his undershirt waving and a Monday wash hanging out to dry; the diapers and uneven sheets flapping on the clothesline you lost the ball entirely. He threw balls by me I never even saw." - Rube Bressler
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On the Gashouse Gang, 1934 St. Louis Cardinals...

They don't look like a major league ballclub or as major league ballclubs are supposed to look in this era of the well-dressed athlete. Their uniforms are stained and dirty and patched and ill-fitting. They don't shave before a game. Most of them chew tobacco. They spit out of the sides of their mouths and then wipe the backs of their hands across their shirt fronts. They're not afraid of anybody. - Frank Graham, New York Sun.

(I'm just looking for interesting tidbits. This part had a bio on Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig but of the information mentioned most of it is popular knowledge. So I don't see any use in repeating it. I'll keep playing, rewinding and putting the tape on pause if I hear something about someone that isn't common knowledge.)

Kevin Marquez

Friday, January 21, 2011

Giants History and More Ken Burns, Innings 5 & 6

Legend has it that owner/manager Jim Mutrie got so pumped up after a win over the Philadelphia Phillies, he yelled out, in addressing his team, "My big fellows! My Giants!"

The Gothams, as his team had been called, soon became the Giants.

Their home field was a series of Polo Grounds. The first one was located just north of Central Park next to 5th and 6th avenues and 110 and 112th streets. Later versions of the Polo Grounds were established in Harlem and Washington Heights.

In the 1933 World Series between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators, the Giants won the series 4-1. Game 5 was won on an extra inning home run by Hall of Famer Mel Ott off reliever, Jack Russell.

Of course, this past twenty ten (2010) season was won by the San Francisco (formerly New York) Giants over the Texas Rangers (formerly Washington Senators) 4 games to 1. Seventy-seven years later, history repeated itself. In the words of former This Week in Baseball voice, Mel Allen, "How about that!'
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Ken Burns' Baseball documentary......5th and 6th innings....

We'd play a whole game with one ball if it stayed in the park. Lopsided and black and full of tobacco juice and licorice stains. Pitchers used to have it all their way back then. Spitballs and emery balls and what not. Until 1921 they had a dead ball. The only way you'd get a home run was if the outfielder tripped and fell down. The ball wasn't wrapped tight and lots of times it'd get mashed on one side and came bouncing out of there like a Mexican jumping bean. They wouldn't throw it out of the game, though. We only used 3 or 4 balls in a whole game. Now they use 60 or 70. (name of narrator not given)

During the first twenty years of the 20th century great pitches ruled the game. They had an advantage unavailable to their successors. The moment a new ball was thrown onto the field part of every pitcher's job was to dirty it up. By turns they smeared it with mud, licorice, tobacco juice. It was deliberately scuffed, sandpapered, cut, even spiked. The result was a misshapened earth-colored ball that traveled through the air erratically. It tended to soften in the later innings. As it came over the plate it was very hard to see.

On August 16, 1920, Ray Chapman was hit by a Carl Mays pitch. The ball crushed the temple of Chapman as he was pronounced dead the next day.

The umpires had an order to replace a dirty ball with a clean one. AND that clean ball had been made livelier by winding more tightly the yarn within it.

Thus began the era of the home run.

(I feel like my date of birth, August 17, links me to the history of baseball. A game I love more than any other. It's placement, in the history of the game, is befitting.)
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"And maybe this story, which is probably apocryphal, gets to the heart of it. An Englishman and an American have an argument about something that has nothing to do with baseball. It gets to the point where it is irreconcilable, to the point of exasperation. And the American says to the Englishman, "Ahhh, screw the king!" And the Englishman is taken aback. Thinks for a minute and says, "Well, screw Babe Ruth!"

Now think about that.

The American thinks he can insult the Englishman by casting aspersions upon a person who has his position by virtue of nothing except for birth. Nothing to do with any personal qualities good, bad or otherwise. But who does the Englishman think embodies America? Some scruffy kid who came from the humblest of beginnings. Hung out as a 6-year old behind his father's bar. A big, badly flawed, swashbuckling palooka who strides with great spirit. Not just talent but with a spirit of possibility and an enjoyment of life across the American stage. That's an American to the Englishman. You give me Babe Ruth over any king who's ever sat on the throne and I'll be happy with that trade."
- Bob Costas

(I will try to add more excerpts from this documentary. I just began school, taking 5 courses. So the meantime, in-between time, the time between additions may be longer than what it has been up until now.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, January 14, 2011

Notes and Quotes... Mostly About Baseball

(From This Copyrighted Broadcast by Hank Greenwald)

Bill King came from Bloomington, Indiana. In his later years, Bill would be walking down the street and old ladies would mistake him for the devil.

(But boy could he paint the visual picture of an Oakland Raider or San Francisco/Golden State Warrior game.)

According to Hank: He had the ability to make you "see" through the radio what was coming next. He saw that two defenders were switching, and also that the switch had created a size mismatch for the offense.

He would alert his listeners to where the ball was likely to go. You were always a step ahead of the game when you listened to Bill. He never wasted words and always had the perfect ones to fit the occasion. He never attended college, but his vocabulary on and off the air was the envy of us all. He took basketball broadcasting to a higher level. He was the best.
The moments of excitement in a baseball game are very few. These must stand out in a broadcast. Your job is not to create excitement, your job is to capture it. Or you can do what I (Hank) did when the Giants were getting killed- start rooting for technical difficulties.
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In 1908, Moses Walker wrote a pamphlet, "Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America," that set forth in 48 well-written paages the case for African Americans giving up on the long-denied vision of equality in America.

The opportunity for advancement did not exist for Negroes, he wrote: "We see no possible hope that the Negro will ever secure the enjoyment of this social freedom or equality. Without it he can never expect full and complete development."

"The whole trouble is that the Creator had endowed His people with every power and means to attend to their own physical needs, and if they fail in the use of these faculties they may sit until the end of time waiting for outside help." from the book, Shades of Glory.
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Rayford Logan's "The Betrayal of the Negro," explains further...
By 1901, the nadir years as he terms it, blacks had clearly been assigned to their "ugly" place in American society.
"A terminal that seemed indestructable. On the pediment of the separate wing reserved for Negroes were carved Exploitation, Segregation, Disfranchisement, Lynching, Contempt."
Grant Johnson, a stellar shortstop at the turn of the century, in 1910, playing for the Havana Reds when they toured Cuba, batted .412. That was better than Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, two stars who played for the Detroit Tigers who were on the same tour. Also, catcher Bruce Petway threw Ty Cobb out three times in three attempts.

According to Grant Johnson there were two requisites to being a first-class hitter: confidence and fearlessness. From Johnson's perspective, any pitcher worth his salt would rather, when the game is on the line, "Face the mighty swinger vs. the cool steady batter who tries to meet the ball and place it to the best advantage."
Did you hear of Smoky Joe Wood or "Smokey Joe" Williams?

Smoky Joe, in 1912, with the Boston Red Sox had a won/loss record of 34-5, 1.91 ERA, 35-complete games, 10-shutouts and the World Series title. His lifetime record was 117-W, 57-L,
Career ERA: 2.03. He started 225 career games, completing 121. In 1952 career at-bats he batted .283. In 1918, as a member of the Cleveland Indians he hit: AB-422, R-41,5-HR, 66-RBI. And in 1922 he hit: AB-505, R-74, H-150, HR-8, RBI-92, AVG.-.297.

I'm learning as I type this, he became a full-time player and no longer pitched. Altogether, very reminiscent of Babe Ruth. Although nowhere near Ruthian in numbers. Very respectable numbers nonetheless.

Now for "Smokey Joe" Williams...The Daddy of them all. From the Lone Star state.
Historian Jim Riley points to three performance against major league clubs as showcasing Joe Willamses exceptional talent.

In 1912, Williams shut out the World Champion New York Giants, 6-0.

In 1915, he struck out 10 batters while throwing a 3-hit shutout against Grover Cleveland Alexander and the Philadelphia Phillies, winning 1-0.

In 1917, he recorded 20 strikeouts in a no-hitter against the New York Giants (he lost 1-0 on an error).

In 1926, pitching for the Homestead Grays in what should've been the waning years of a great career the 50-year old wonder, daddy of them all, pitched successive shutout victories over a team of major league all-stars in a post-season exhibition series. That team included such future Hall of Famers as Heinie Manush, Harry Heilmann (from San Francisco) and Jimmie Foxx.

Jim Keenan, owner of the Lincoln Giants, said the greatest pitching duel he ever witnessed was when Walter "Big Train" Johnson bested "Smokey Joe" Williams by a score of 1-0.

Williams was to the first half of black baseball what Satchel Paige was to the second, the dominant pitcher of his age. (Page was the first Negro League inductee into Cooperstown, NY, in 1973. Smokey Joe had to wait until 1999 to posthumously receive his due.) from Shades of Glory by Lawrence D. Hogan.

(from the documentary on Baseball by Ken Burns)

Why it's baseball, you ask? Because it is like charity. It is never failing. It is always there except on Mondays or wet grounds. And to the man who is too old to keep up with the attempt to civilize football and too young to need so soothing a sedative as golf, who works hard when he works, wants to rest hard when he rests. Who wants drama that is as full of surprises for the actors as it is for the audience. Who wants a race that cannot be fixed like a horse race. Why, is so genuine and American that he wants something to kick about without meaning it. And something to yell about everyone around him will think more of him for yelling about. To that man, baseball is the one great life saver in the good old summertime.
- Los Angeles Times

"Baseball suits the character of this democratic nation. Democracy is government by persuasion. That means it requires patience. That means it involves a lot of compromise. Democracy is the slow politics of the half level. Baseball is the game of the long season. Where small incremental differences decide who wins and who loses particular games, series, seasons. In baseball, you know going to the ballpark that the chances are you may win but you also may lose.
There's no certainty, no given. You know when a season starts that the best team is going to get beaten one-third of the time, the worst team is going to win one-third of the time, the argument over 162 games, is the middle third. So it's a game that you can't like if winning is everything. And democracy is that way too." George Will, columnist.

"George Stallings was the manager of the Miracle Braves of 1914, who went from last place on July 4th to win the pennant and eventually the World Series, against the highly-favored Athletics. When he was dying, and the story goes, one of the would-be, soon-to-be mourners, said, "George, what's killing you?" Stallings replied, "Bases on balls." - Studs Terkel

Kevin J. Marquez

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Innings 3 and 4...Ken Burns film on Baseball

"August 2, 1907 was the first time I watched him take that easy windup and then something just went past that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him. Everyone of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose on a ballpark." Ty Cobb commenting on Walter "Big Train" Johnson.

"It was useless to try for more than one single. You had to poke and try and meet the ball. If you swung you were dead. After he told me he was afraid he might kill a hitter I used to cheat. I'd crowd the plate until I was actually sticking my toes on it. Knowing he would be timid that he'd pitch me wide, then with two balls and no strikes he'd ease one up to get one over. That's the Johnson pitch I would hit." - Ty Cobb

About Ty Cobb, one sportswriter once wrote, "He would climb a mountain to punch an echo."

"The cruelty of Cobb's style fascinated the multitudes. But it also alienated them. He played in a climate of hostility. Friendless by choice in a violent world he populated with enemies. He was the strangest of all our sports idols. But not even his disagreeable character could destroy the image of his greatness as a ballplayer. Ty Cobb was the best. That seemed to be all he wanted." - Jimmy Cannon

For years the so-called "Gentleman's agreement" among the owners had excluded 1/10 of the nations citizens from the playing field. (Not allowing blacks until 1947.)

The popularity of baseball was picking up amongst the masses. "Success" was now a home run! Crazy ideas-came out of left field. Inappropriate behavior was now- off base.

If you were a fielder you wanted to eat the ball up whenever it came your way. You didn't want the bad hop to eat you up.

"That's the way it is in baseball. A tough racket. There's always someone on the bench itching to get in there in your place. Thinks he can do better. Wants your job in the worst way. 'Back to the coal mines for you, pal.' The pressure never lets up. It doesn't matter what you did yesterday, that's history. It's tomorrow that counts. So you worry all the time. It never ends. Lord, baseball's a worrying thing. " - Stanley Coveleski (born Stanislaus Kowalewski).

Note: Stanley Coveleski was a Hall of Fame pitcher. Pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 1916-1924. Won 20-games four seasons in-a-row (1918-21). Then at the age of 35, found the fountain of youth as a member of the Washington Senators, he posted a 20-5 record in 1925.

(I will look at more film and make more contributions to this blog regarding Ken Burns' documentary on Baseball.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, January 7, 2011

Innings 1 and 2 Completed...(from Ken Burns' special)

"No one ever saw anything graceful or picturesque about Wagner on the diamond. His movements have been likened to the caracoling gambols of an elephant. He's so ungamely and so bow-legged that when he runs his limbs seem to be moving in a circle after the fashions of a propellar. But he could run like the wind." New York-American

Note: Honus Wagner had 723 career stolen bases. In a day when the strikeout was looked down upon, during his career "The Flying Dutchman" in 10,439 at-bats he walked 963 times and struck out 327.

Byron Bancroft "Ban" Johnson was the President of the newly formed American League. One writer described him as 'looking like he was weened on an icicle.'

The owner of the Third Base Saloon was Michael McGreevey. He was known as 'Nuf Ced' because he was the final arbiter of all barroom disputes. Customers, Irish immigrants mostly, called themselves the Royal Rooters and considered themselves the most loyal of all Boston fans though their loyalty had been comparatively new. They had been National League fans until the NL raised their ticket prices two years earlier.

In 1903, the Boston Pilgrims played against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the championship between the two leagues. The first between the AL and NL.

The Pirates took an early lead in the series (3-1) thanks to Deacon Phillippe, who won every game, beating Cy Young twice.

Then McGreevey and his Royal Rooters took over.
In those days, the fans were on the field. Kept off the field by a rope (similar to that at the movie theatres). So they were literally 'a part of the action.' (Certainly moreso than in today's game of baseball. Nowadays a heckler gets the attention of a player best when there is nobody at the park. Like a night game in Oakland when the Yankees or Red Sox aren't in town.)

'They started singing that Betsy song. Instead of singing "Betsy I love you madly," they'd sing special lyrics like when Honus Wagner came to bat they'd sing "Honus, why do you hit so badly?" It was loud and got on your nerves. Before we knew what had happened we lost the series." Tommy Leach (NL leader in triples with 22 in 1902)

Down 3-1, Boston won the next three games.

The games proved so popular that the owners insisted on calling it the World Series.
"Philadelphia is the home of the Declaration of Independence, the number 8 pretzel, and the translucent ham sandwich, all of which are served at the Ball Orchard. A slice of boiled ham through which an eclipse of the sun could be observed with comfort, is stretched to cover the area of a baker's bun. A sustenance derived from the ham is equal to that of a similar portion of a red toy balloon inflated." - the Sporting News

Bad food and overpriced drinks have been served at the ballpark since the 1850s. British-born Harry M. Stevens began his career hawking scorecards in the 1880s. Then on one cold afternoon when ice cream sales slowed at the Polo Grounds, Stevens sent out for German sausages which he put in long buns so fans could hold and eat them. He had made his greatest contribution to the game introducing hot dogs at the ball game.

George Edward "Rube" Waddell
He possessed a fastball fearsome enough and a curveball wicked enough to lead the American League in strikeouts for 6 straight years.

In one game, he outpitched Cy Young for 20 innings!

His 349 strikeouts in 1904 is a record for left-handers in the American League. Closest challenger to the record is Sam McDowell and his 325 in 1965.

Waddell was considered one of the strangest players in baseball history. He would:
- do cartwheels on the mound when he won a game
- drink so much that the Sporting News called him a "Souced paw."
- poured ice water on his throwing arm before he pitched otherwise 'he'd burn up the catcher's glove.'
- couldn't quite remember how many wives he had
- loved fires. Whenever he heard the fire bell he had to be restrained from leaving the game. To follow the truck ringing the bell.
- fans loved him. (Can you blame them?)

(thanks to Ken Burns' documentary on Baseball, I got these notes.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Some Snipets from Ken Burns' 1st and 2nd Innings

I'm finally getting around to watching the Ken Burns special on Baseball. I watched it when it first came out but like most good movies (or productions) there are usually parts you either missed or didn't allow to sink in that you "got" the second or third time around. I am now jotting things down that have some significance in the game I love following, as well as playing.
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A batter has only a few thousandths of a second to decide to hit the ball. And yet the men that fail 7 out of 10 times are considered the game's greatest heroes.

Baseball is the only game in which the defense has the ball.

Ninety feet from home plate to first base. Think of the plays at first base. If it were 88 feet there would be few double plays. If it were ninety-four feet we'd be throwing out batters from all over the field. If someone decided 90 feet was a good number it was more like a pick from heaven.

To further solidify their control, owners added a reserve clause to the contract of 5 of the best players on the team. It provided that they only played for their club and reserved their services for the following year. At first, a few complained, but to be reserved was to be sure of a job in the coming season. Those who vehemently complained that the reserve clause smacked of slavery were fired, then blacklisted.

Men who were crazy about baseball were called: bugs or cranks
Women who were crazy about baseball were called: crankettes

(George Carlin's definition of crazy goes like this: A maniac beats the heck out of several people with a big steel dildo. A crazy person beats the bejeezus out of several people with a steel dildo while wearing a bunny suit.)

To help the sale of cigarettes baseball cards were introduced.

"Baseball is the very symbol the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming 19th century." - Mark Twain

In 1884, Louis Rogers "Pete" Browning, of the Louisville Colonels, broke his bat. The star hitter got an offer from Bud Hillerich to make him a new bat. It was the first Louisville slugger.

"The great lesson in sports is supposed to be you not only learn the elation of winning but you learn how to lose. There's a lot of emphasis and a British attitude toward sports. And Americans have it too. But there's something very American about being a poor loser. Refusing to shake the other fella's hand, saying he's a scoundrel. He always was a scoundrel, he's even more of a scoundrel now that he's beaten me. There's something likable about that... it's bad sportsmanship." Shelby Foote ( who was also in Ken Burns' PBS documentary, The Civil War.)

I think I'm going to jot down some more interesting little ditties on Baseball for the remaining of innings 1 thru 9. I find it very interesting. I hope anyone who reads this also enjoys the accounts of America's pasttime.

Kevin J. Marquez