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