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Sunday, March 31, 2019


Baseball at Fort Pulaski, 1863
As Company H of the 48th New York Regiment posed for a photograph at Fort Pulaski in 1863, some of their comrades played baseball behind them. This is among the earliest photographs of baseball ever taken.
GUEST BLOG / By The American Battlefield Trust--The U.S. Civil War [1861-65] helped transform the game of baseball from a regional pastime in America's northeast into a national obsession that endures to this day. During frequent periods of downtime soldiers already familiar with the finer points of the game introduced their comrades to the sport.

Union prisoners pass the time
This Civil War-era lithograph depicts Union prisoners held at Camp Salisbury, North Carolina playing a game of baseball. Casual baseball games in army camps and prisons helped spread the game's popularity throughout the country.

50 years later
In the decades after the Civil War, baseball was sometimes portrayed as force for national unity, bring together North and South in mutual love for the game. This illustration from a 1913 volume of "Puck" shows two Civil War veterans preparing to attend a double-header.

The Dreaded Atlantics. The first dated baseball card, according to the Library of Congress is an 1865 team photo of the (unidentified) Brooklyn Atlantics. Unlike baseball cards of today, this one is an original picture mounted on a card. The Baseball historians say the Brooklyn team created the card as a promotional stunt and because it was a frequent league champion.  

Baseball’s Adam & Eve. Insists a well known myth, Abner Doubleday, who would serve as Robert Anderson's second-in-command at Fort Sumter and go on to command a division in the Army of the Potomac, invented baseball during an 1839 visit to Cooperstown, New York. In fact, the game of baseball evolved from various eighteenth and early-nineteenth bat-and-ball games, including the British game of "rounders." The Doubleday myth originated in the early 20th century through the work of the Mills Commission, which was set up by Major League Baseball leaders to discover (or invent) a purely American origin for baseball.  Posed next to Adam is Eve a.k.a. Mary Hewitt Doubleday.
Who was Frank Bancroft
During the first year of the Civil War, Frank Bancroft enlisted as a musician in a New Hampshire Regiment. During his time in the army Bancroft, who served under a false name due to his young age, was wounded in action. After the war, he made a name for himself as one of the most successful managers in baseball. In 1884 he managed the Providence Grays to victory over the New York Metropolitans in a three-game series that was the first championship series known as the "World Series."

Who was Octavius V. Catto

Born in 1839, Octavius V. Catto was an educator, civil rights activist, and baseball pioneer. During the Civil War, he helped recruit African Americans for the Union army. After the war, he helped lead a successful effort to desegregate public transportation in Pennsylvania, making use of civil disobedience tactics more than half-a-century before the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1866 Catto helped found the Pythian Base Ball Club in Philadelphia when African Americans were denied membership in all-white organizations such as the Excelsior Base Bale Club. Tragically, on October 10, 1871, Catto fell victim to a white supremacist assassin.

Baseball as a political metaphor
Even before the war, Americans used terms and imagery from baseball to explain and describe events in other arenas of life. This 1860 political cartoon depicts that year's four presidential candidates as baseball players, with Lincoln emerging victorious.
Unloyal Opposition
The August 28 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article “Celebrating 150 years of Baseball in Richmond,” and mentioned the role of Richmond ice dealer Alexander G. Babcock as president of the 1866 Richmond “Pastime” baseball club.  A year earlier, Babcock (pictured above) had been a member of another kind of club: Col. John Singleton Mosby’s 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, known better as “Mosby’s Rangers.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


TOSS BEFORE BEING TOSSED.  A better baseball fan than a president, Richard Nixon about to launch first pitch of the 1969 major league season with managers Ted Williams, Washington Senators (left) and Ralph Houk, New York Yankees.

GUEST BLOG / By Sports Illustrated/Kids Edition, 2015--Abraham Lincoln had a baseball field, called the White Lot, built on the White House grounds. Chester A. Arthur was the first Chief Executive to welcome a professional team to the White House when the Cleveland Forest Cities from the National Association stopped by on April 13, 1883. And on June 6, 1892, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting president to attend a Major League game.

William Taft, 1910
But the closest relationship between America's presidents and its national game is the first pitch. William Howard Taft threw out the first presidential first pitch on April 14, 1910, in the first MLB game of the season, between the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics. (Washington won, 3-0.) Taft was a huge baseball fan, attending 14 games during his four years in the White House. Legend has it he created the seventh-inning stretch when he stood up in the middle of the seventh inning during one of those games.

What's not in doubt, though, is that Taft created a first-pitch tradition that has been kept alive by every president who followed him, except Donald Trump.

Full list with photos. Click here.

Woodrow Wilson, 1919
Ronald Reagan, 1980s
Barack Obama, 2010
JFK, 1961

Friday, March 29, 2019


ARMED AND DANGEROUS. Texas Rangers player charge field to protect fellow players from routy fans rushing the outfielders.

GUEST BLOG / WIKIPEDIA--Ten Cent Beer Night was a promotion held by Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians during a game against the Texas Rangers at Cleveland Stadium on Tuesday, June 4, 1974.

The idea behind the promotion was to attract more fans to the game by offering 12 fluid ounce cups of 3.2% beer for just 10 cents each, a substantial discount on the regular price of 65 cents, with a limit of six beers per purchase but with no limit on the number of purchases made during the game. During the game, fans became heavily intoxicated, culminating in a riot in the ninth inning which caused the game to be forfeited due to the crowd's uncontrollable rowdiness and because the game could not be resumed in a timely manner.
NBC newscaster, the late Tim Russert, then a student at the Cleveland–Marshall College of Law, attended the game. "I went with $2 in my pocket," recalled the Meet the Press host. "You do the math."

The Indians had previously held such promotions without incident, beginning with Nickel Beer Day in 1971. However, a bench-clearing brawl during the teams' last meeting one week earlier at Arlington Stadium in Texas left some Indians fans harboring a grudge against the Rangers.

In Texas, the trouble had started in the bottom of the fourth inning with a walk to the Rangers' Tom Grieve, followed by a Lenny Randle single. The next batter hit a double play ball to Indians third baseman John Lowenstein; he stepped on the third base bag to retire Grieve and threw the ball to second base, but Randle disrupted the play with a hard slide into second baseman Jack Brohamer.

The Indians retaliated in the bottom of the eighth when pitcher Milt Wilcox threw behind Randle's legs. Randle eventually laid down a bunt. When Wilcox attempted to field it and tag Randle out (which he did successfully), Randle hit him with his forearm. Indians first baseman John Ellis responded by punching Randle, and both benches emptied for a brawl. After the brawl was broken up, as Indians players and coaches were returning to the dugout, they were struck by food and beer hurled by Rangers fans; catcher Dave Duncan (San Diego native/Crawford High) had to be restrained from going into the stands to brawl with fans.

The game was not suspended or forfeited, no players from either team were ejected, and the Rangers won 3–0.
Cleveland flasher didn't miss an opportunity to join in the riot.
After the game, a Cleveland reporter asked Rangers manager Billy Martin "Are you going to take your armor to Cleveland?" to which Martin replied, "Naw, they won't have enough fans there to worry about." During the week leading up to the teams' next meeting in Cleveland, sports radio talk show host Pete Franklin and Indians radio announcer Joe Tait made comments that fueled the fans' animosity toward the Rangers. In addition, the local daily newspaper, The Plain-Dealer, printed a cartoon the day of the game showing team mascot Chief Wahoo holding a pair of boxing gloves with the caption, "Be ready for anything."

Problems from the beginning. Six days after the brawl in Texas, Cleveland's Ten Cent Beer Night promotion drew 25,134 fans to Cleveland Stadium for the Tuesday night game, twice the number expected.

The Rangers quickly took a 5–1 lead. Meanwhile, throughout the game, the inebriated crowd grew more and more unruly. Early in the game, Cleveland's Leron Lee hit a line drive into the stomach of Rangers pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, after which Jenkins dropped to the ground. Fans in the upper deck of the stadium cheered, then chanted "Hit 'em again! Hit 'em again! Harder! Harder!" A woman ran out to the Indians' on-deck circle and flashed her breasts, and a naked man sprinted to second base as Grieve hit his second home run of the game. One inning later, a father-and-son pair ran onto the outfield and mooned the fans in the bleachers.

Pure fandemonium
As the game progressed, more fans ran onto the field and caused problems. Ranger Mike Hargrove, who would later manage the Indians and lead them to the World Series twice in 1995 and 1997, was pelted with hot dogs and spit, and at one point was nearly struck by an empty gallon jug of Thunderbird.

The Rangers later argued a call in which Lee was called safe in a close play at third base, spiking Jenkins with his cleats in the process and forcing him to leave the game. The Rangers' angry response to this call enraged Cleveland fans, who again began throwing objects onto the field. Someone tossed lit firecrackers into the Rangers' bullpen.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians managed to rally, tying the game 5–5, and had Rusty Torres on second base representing the potential winning run. However, with a crowd that had been drinking heavily for nine innings, the situation finally came to a frothy head.

After the Indians had managed to tie the game, a 19-year-old ran onto the field and attempted to steal Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs' cap. Confronting the fan, Burroughs tripped. Thinking that Burroughs had been attacked, Texas manager Billy Martin charged onto the field with his players right behind, some wielding bats. A large number of intoxicated fans – some armed with knives, chains, and portions of stadium seats that they had torn apart – surged onto the field, and others hurled bottles from the stands. Hundreds of fans surrounded the outnumbered Rangers.

Realizing that the Rangers' lives might be in danger, Cleveland manager Ken Aspromonte ordered his players to grab bats and help the Rangers, attacking the team's own fans in the process. Rioters began throwing steel folding chairs, and Cleveland relief pitcher Tom Hilgendorf was hit in the head by one of them. Hargrove, after subduing one rioter in a fistfight, had to fight another on his way back to the Texas dugout. The two teams retreated off the field through the dugouts in groups, with players protecting each other.

Umps lost control of the game, says Baseball Commissioner next day
The bases were pulled up and stolen and many rioters threw a vast array of objects including cups, rocks, bottles, batteries from radios, hot dogs, popcorn containers, and folding chairs. As a result, umpire crew chief Nestor Chylak, realizing that order would not be restored in a timely fashion, forfeited the game to Texas. He too was a victim of the rioters, as one struck and cut his head with part of a stadium seat and his hand was cut by a thrown rock. He later called the fans "uncontrollable beasts" and stated that he'd never seen anything like what had happened, "except in a zoo".

As Joe Tait and Herb Score called the riot live on radio, Score mentioned the security guards' inability to handle the crowd. Tait said, "Aw, this is absolute tragedy." The Cleveland Police Department finally arrived to restore order.

Later, Cleveland general manager Phil Seghi blamed the umpires for losing control of the game. The Sporting News wrote that "Seghi's perspective might have been different had he been in Chylak's shoes, in the midst of knife-wielding, bottle-throwing, chair-tossing, fist-swinging drunks." American League president Lee MacPhail commented, "There was no question that beer played a part in the riot."

The next Beer Night promotion on July 18 attracted 41,848 fans with beer again selling for 10 cents per cup but with a limit of two cups per person at the reduced price.

Classic Billy Martin (then Rangers manager) who blows kisses to Cleveland Fans after winning game by forfeit.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


Fans line up early on September 13, 1954 outside of Lane Field (Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway) to buy tickets to the one-game tie-breaker that would determine the winner of the 1954 Pacific Coast League Pennant.  The Padres and the Hollywood Stars tied with 101 wins.
In San Diego this afternoon, the first pitch of the 2019 Major League Baseball season will be tossed at Petco Park.  This reporter’s eyes will be glued to the television set to watch the Padres battle the San Francisco Giants.

In 1954, these then much younger eyes were also glued to the TV set (a Hoffman E-Z-vision with rabbit ears).  The occasion then was to watch the first official televised baseball game in San Diego on September 13, 1954 when the Padres (then members of the minor-league Pacific Coast League) battled the dreaded Hollywood Stars.  Both teams ended the 1954 season tied for first place with 101 wins and 67 losses.
Hoffman EZ-Vision Table Top TV

Given the PCL had a playoff series to determine the eventual league champion, a one game tie-breaker was ordered.  The four team playoffs needed a pennant winner in order to seed the teams.  Playoffs were called the Governors Cup.

KFMB, the local CBS affiliate, broadcast the game in living black and white.

The Padres won the game 7-2 thanks to the heroics of a pair of Bobs.  Bob Elliott, a former major league star contributed two home runs, while lefty Bob Kerrigan pitched the entire game.

PADRES WIN! San Diego Union captures the joy of winning pitcher
Bob Kerrigan being carried off the field after the minor league Padres
drubbed the Hollywood Stars 7-2 for the 1954 PCL pennant
before a standing room only crowd of 11,471.
Euphoria erupted in San Diego given the sold out crowd (11,471) playing at Lane Field (Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway) plus the attention from who knows how many viewers watching the nascent TV game broadcast.

A Chamber of Commerce organized parade ensued down Broadway even after the Padres were bounced from the playoffs (parade: Sept. 16).

Padres in the playoffs ended up being defeated in the first round by the 3rd seeded Oakland Oaks (the eventual 1954 playoff victors).

And, no one in Sunny Jim gave a hoot about the Oaks. Who needed a playoff?  Padres were the regular season pennant winners outright—nothing else mattered.

Thirty years later in 1984, the major league version of the San Diego Padres earned their first World Series appearance.   The second and last World Series appearance for the local team happened in 1998.  Petco to this date remains without a World Series game played on its lovely confines.

Maybe this is the year for another pennant!

Only in America would a ball game victory capture page 1 coverage given the other dramatic headlines on the page.