Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Notes From a Couple of Events That I Attended Recently 

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by David Arcidiacono at a local library. David is the author of two books including Middletown's Season In The Sun. The book covers the story of the Middletown Mansfields who played one summer in the National Association. David did a slide presentation that covered the Mansfields, the Hartford Dark Blues, and the New Haven Elm Citys. He also had replicas of vintage base ball (as it was called those days) equipment. If you are interested, the book is available at the Vintage Base Ball Factory.

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a local SABR meeting in Springfield, Massachusetts. This event featured a couple of authors, but the highlight of the meeting for me was meeting a fellow Primate. We joked about some of the characters on the site including Ross CW, the omnipresent Admiral Ackbar, and Shredder. (BTW, I shouldn't lump Shredder in with these two. I *like* the transplanted Angels fan.)

Mike Shalin was one of the authors there. A long time Boston sportswriter, he collaborated with his brother Neil to write Out by a Step: The 100 Best Players Not in the Baseball Hall of Fame
. Although the brothers Shalin admit that there list is purely personal and they don't crunch the stats a la Bill James, the players on their list look pretty impressive at first glance. I'll have to read the book in depth to form a clearer opinion, but it looks good so far. BTW, they rank Dick Allen and Tony Oliva as the best players eligible for the Hall who aren't in.

The other author was history professor David Kaiser. His book is Epic Season: The 1948 American League Pennant Race. For those who were two young to remember, like me, the 1948 pennant race was a down to the wire affair between the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and A's . One great feature about going to events like this is that you get the opportunity to have the author sign the book if you purchase it there.

I apologize for the brief hiatus. I was kind of busy over the past few days and also contracted a case of "blogger's block." I hope to be back sooner next time.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Congrats Bosox!! 

The Red Sox are playoff-bound! I know the name of this blog is "Baseball History," but I wanted to congratulate the Red Sox on clinching a playoff spot tonight. Go Sox!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

John Anderson pulls a boner 

In today's column by Rob Neyer: ESPN.com - MLB - Neyer: Burning question, Rob mentions "something that once was quite famous, but has now been almost completely forgotten."

Apparently, there was a player named John Anderson who tried to steal an occupied base back on this date 100 years ago. Rob tells the story of his and others unsuccessful attempts to pin this story down.

It sounds like Rob was looking this up for a mini-biography of Anderson in The Bill James Baseball Book 1990. Read more about Anderson there, if you have a copy. IMHO, some of Rob's best work was in those books. In fact, he once said that doing the research an minor historical events like Anderson's miscue was the most fun that he ever had working for Bill.

Major League Collegiate Database 

Here is one of the coolest projects ever undertaken by SABR. It's the SABR Collegiate Database. When completed, SABR hopes to list the college where every major league (who played college ball) attended. So far, D-I and D-II schools are complete and D-III schools are about 50% complete.

I state unequvicocally that it is one of SABR's coolest projects because I had a hand in it. I went up to Holy Cross back in May to check out their archives for the Collegiate Committee. Believe it or not, Holy Cross was a baseball powerhouse back in the day. Their most famous player was arguably Lou Sockalexis, the Darryl Strawberry of the 1890's, for you kids at home.

Check this site out if you get a chance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Oldest Living Major Leaguer about to hit 99  

Clinton Recorder, a small shoreline newspaper here in Connecticut has an article about Paul Hopkins. Paul was another player who spent a little time in the major leagues and went on to live a long life. (That seems to be a theme around here lately .)

Paul was probably best known for serving up Babe Ruth's 59th home run in 1927 and resides in Chester Connecticut; as does a high school buddy of mine and noted minimalist Sol LeWitt. Happy birthday, Paul!! (Man oh man, I feel like Willard Scott.)

I consider myself a history buff. By no stretch of the imagination am I a historian. But Jules Tygiel is a history professor. He has written a couple of books that focus on baseball history: Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy and Past Time: Baseball as History, Tonight I picked up Past Time on the reccomendation of a fellow baseball fan. I look forward to reading it. Hopefully I'll learn a few things that will help me out in my quest for ballyard knowledge.

Monday, September 22, 2003

A Project That I'm Mulling 

Hello all, I was driving through East Brookfield, Massachussetts yesterday. The signs at the town line mention the "fact" that Connie Mack was born there. (I put fact in quotes because the town was incorporated in 1920, well after Mack was born!)

In any event, I took photos of three of the signs as well as a picture of a sign for Connie Mack Street. This got me thinking about looking for other signs and markers that memorialize ballplayers and baseball in general. I also have some pictures of the Bulkely Stadium marker in Hartford, Connecticut. I was wondering if there are any other such signs and markers in my part of New England that I could take pictures of. I'd like to eventually put some of them online.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

John Daley 

Last week I wrote about Frank Betcher who played for the Saint Louis Cardinals in 1910. Today's story is about another player who had a brief cup of coffee in the Mound City during the Deadball Era.

I was at Pepe's in Manchester last night having a few Ten Penny Ales. The co-owner there told me a while back that the first four Red Sox retired numbers (1, 4, 8, and 9) can be rearranged as 9/4/18; the date that the Red Sox won there last World Series. Well, crack baseball historian that I am, I went and looked it up. He was wrong. September 4th was the date that the 1918 World Series was supposed to start, but it rained that day. (This was during World War I and the 1918 season was shortened.)

Last night was the first time that I had seen him since that discussion and I told him that he was wrong. He happened to have an old Baseball Encyclopedia in the kitchen so we consulted it. As expected, the World Series register showed Game 1 of the 1918 WS as being played on September 5th. While we were looking through the encyclopedia, he said that my name was in there. I knew that there were no players named Jon (or Jonathan) Daly, so I asked him where my name was. He showed me an entry for John Daley. I had never heard of him.

John was a shortstop for the 1912 Browns. A cursory glance at his stats show him to be a "No glove- no hit" guy. However, he did live to the ripe old age of 101 making him one of the few in major league history that eclipsed the century mark. Ponce De Leon must have brewed that cup of java for Daley!

Saturday, September 20, 2003

The 7% Solution 

I was thinking about the Curtis Strong trial last night and thought that it would make a good entry this weekend. As fate would have it, today is the 18th anniversary of the day that a federal jury in Pittsburgh found Strong, a caterer, guilty of selling cocaine to major league ballplayers.

I had a lengthy article ready to go, but lost it in the ether this afternoon. In any case, David Schoenfield listed the Pittsburgh drug trial as the second biggest sports trial in the 20th century. If you ask me, that's stretching things. The NFL vs USFL, Black Sox, and Curt Flood vs MLB trials (not to mention a few others) are all more important from an historical perspective.

The trial was sensational. Several star players who were once heavy coke users, including the Kansas City Royals' Lonnie Smith, the Cincinnati Reds' Dave Parker and the New York Mets' Keith Hernandez, were granted immunity to testify against Strong. If you use sensationalism as an equivalent to importance when it comes to trials (as alot of people unfortunately do,) then I can understand the high ranking. Schoenfield apparently used hype as a factor, because the O. J. Simpson murder trial was ranked number one. I would suggest, however, that the Black Sox trial was more sensational than the Pittsburgh drug trial.

Now, it's time for an admin note. I added a comments function to this blog. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about my blog.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Technical Difficulties 

Having problems today with an entry I was trying to write on the Pittsburgh drug trials :(.

My Apologies

Friday, September 19, 2003

Today in Baseball History 

I added a link to This Date In Baseball History in the upper righthand corner of the page. For those of you unwilling or too lazy to go there, these entries are included today:

1925 White Sox Ted Lyons loses his no-hit bid when Senator Bobby Veach hits safely with two outs in the ninth. Washington's outfielder Sam Rice's streak of nine consecutive hits is stopped.

1986 Joe Cowley's final win in the majors is a no-hitter as the White Sox beat the Angels, 7-1. The Henryville, Tennessee native will finish his career with the Phillies the following year with 0-4 record.


2000 A Dodger fan, in addition to other court ordered decisions, has been banned from attending home games for 18 months because he threw coffee in the face of a Met fan cheering a grand slam hit by catcher Todd Pratt.

Who drinks coffee at a baseball game?

Well, it's Friday night all over the world (except in my heart.) I gotta run. More views through my astigmatic eye will be added here later this weekend.


Wednesday, I said that I believed that Roger Clemens played for the Bristol Red Sox. According to The Baseball Cube, he made his minor league debut in 1983. By then Joe Buzas moved the team to New Britain. The last active major leaguer to play at Bristol is probably Wade Boggs.

Check out The Baseball Cube if you get a chance. They have minor league and college stats for quite a few players. They even have stats for my boss's nephew, Gary Burnham, and he hasn't played above AAA. Unless you're protected, you'll have to wade through some pop-ups, but I think that it's worth it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Bristol Red Sox 

Hey there, folks! Tonight I want to talk about the first minor league team that I ever saw, the Bristol Red Sox. Some roving instructor from the Red Sox system came by to our Farm League when I was 9 or 10 and gave us tickets to a game. That would have been either 1977 or 1978. Bristol had had teams before, but the Red Sox were their most successful franchise on the field. (See this webpage.) In their ten year history, the Sox won three Eastern League championships. Players such as Jim Rice cut their teeth here. FWIW, I believe that Roger Clemens is the last active player to have played for Bristol.

Bristol played their home games at Muzzy Field. The field was named after Bristol Parks commissioner Adrian Muzzy back in 1912 in memory of his two sons. If you look 3/4 of the way down this page, you'll see that it claims that Frank Sinatra Junior served as vice president of the team. I find this story spurious, but if anyone knows anything, let me know.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The First College Baseball Game 

I found an interesting account on the first intercollegiate baseball game on a chess history website. It turns out that Amherst and Williams competed in this curious biathlon, a "trial of mind as well as muscle," on July 1st and 2nd in 1859. It wasn't played under the rules of the New York game (the forerunner to modern baseball codified by Alexander Cartwright in 1845.) It was played under the Massachusetts Rules. Pittsfield was the site of the game, which Amherst won 77-32. But I suspect that Amherst was using a ringer. There were reports that their pitcher was actually a local blacksmith. The balls used in the game still exist and are part of Amherst College's Special Collection. According to The Hurrah Game by Brian Turner and John Bowman, the two teams had a rematch in Westfield, Massachusetts the next year.

This game is on my wishlist to research; Western Mass being only a quick drive for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

About my links 

I have five links to the left, two of which I added today. Sean Forman's Baseball Reference is a comprehensive site that has statistics for major league players and teams. One of my favorite portions of the site is the Oracle of Baseball. It applies the Kevin Bacon game to baseball. I wrote an article a couple of years back suggesting that Mike Morgan was the nexus of the baseball universe. I should've went further back in baseball history, because the most linkable player is actually Early Wynn.

Retrosheet is a project that was started in 1989 for the purpose of computerizing play-by-play accounts of as many pre-1984 major league games as possible. Since then, Retrosheet has gone on to include play by play data up until 1992 and boxscores from 1972 to last year.

SABR stands for the Society of American Baseball Research. I mentioned them yesterday in the Ted Williams discussion.

NetShrine Discussion Forum and Baseball Primer are two baseball forums that I haunt. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. Baseball Primer is more bloggy and free-wheeling. Unfortunately, due to it's anonymous nature, alot of garbage traffic shows up. NDF is more structured and formal. I actually prefer the atmosphere at Primer, but NDF has more posts about some of my favorite topics; like baseball books and history.

Well that's it for the time being.


Saturday, September 13, 2003

You Betcher Sweet Bippy 

A friend of mine sent me a cool e-mail the other day. To protect his identity, I'll call him Repoz. Repoz was telling me about an old player named Frank Betcher. Betcher had a nondescript baseball career, putting up a robust 500 OPS in 1910, his only season. Even in the light-hitting deadball era, that translated to an OPS+ of 49. You can look that up in your Baseball Reference!

Nonetheless, Betcher went on to a more illustrious career as author Frank Bettger. He wrote numerous motivational books, mainly trying to instill a positive mental attitude in insurance salesmen. Repoz told me that in one book, "Benjamin Franklin's Secret of Success and What it Did For Me" (with a blurb from World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker,) he tells some stories about playing minor league ball in New Haven at Savin Rock Field. That kind of stuff interests me, especially because Betcher was playing in New Haven right around the same time frame that I am trying to research.

Incidentally, Bettger wasn't intentionally playing under an assumed name. The book goes on to say that a contract was mailed to him from the Reds' Johnstown team with the Betcher name on it and since he was a 17 year old kid at the time, who was he to argue?

Over the years, exploits of an athlete's playing days tend to get embellished. But this website went over the top. It seems like they got Bettger/Betcher mixed up with Frankie Frisch or Rogers Hornsby.

This isn't earth-shattering stuff, but it is the type of material that makes for a good story. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Number Nine, No. Nine, # 9 

I went to the Boston Public Library to catch The Ted Williams Symposium. Ted is one of the most intriguing characters in baseball history and not just due to the fact that he was one of the greatest hitters. Ted also distinguished himself as a military hero in two wars and was a noted outdoorsman.

The Symposium was put together by the Boston chapter of SABR. If you are not familiar with SABR, Chris Dial's article on the organization is a pretty fair description. Check it, and SABR, out. I didn't stay the for the whole thing, but I did catch five presentations. Saul Wisnia of the Jimmy Fund spoke of the Splendid Splinter's involvement with that charity. Steve Buckley told a wonderful story about a photo of Ted and a young boy named Teddy Athis. I wish that I could find the pic and article online, but I can't so far. I know that many in the baseball blog world aren't enamored with the Boston sports "medea," but I liked the story. I don't want to digress into a discussion of Boston sportswriters, Bruce Allen pretty much covers that territory quite nicely. Ben Bradlee Junior spoke about a comprehensive biography of Williams that he is working on. I thought that Bradlee's name sounded familiar. I believe that his father was the editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate era. There aren't that many Bradlee's running around in the newspaper business, are there?

Moving right along, Bill Nowlin, the owner of Rounder Records talked about Ted's military career and discussed William's second career as a top fisherman, hunter, and conservationist.

To me, the most interesting presentation was that of David McCarthy. McCarthy is the executive director of the Ted Williams Museum in Hernando, Florida. I was not aware that such a place existed. In the museum is a Hitter's Hall of Fame. Ted used a secret formula to determine who should be eligible for this HOF. (In the future, I plan to discuss the various alternative halls of fame in cyberland.)

There has been alot of controversy surrounding Williams and his family since his death on July 5th, 2002. I did learn that his son John Henry may be suffering from leukemia. The disease seems to run in the Williams family. Ted's brother, Danny, succumbed to it in the 1960's. So what you want about John Henry, I do wish him well in his battles with health problems.

I did enjoy meeting with other baseball history buffs. I plan to do it a couple of more times this month. I will be attending another SABR chapter's semiannual meeting in Springfield, Massachusetts and a book discussion with David Arcidiacono at the Prosser Library in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

I hope to return soon with some more discussion about Connecticut baseball. If I don't see you again this weekend, have a good one.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Hartford, Hartford, My Place of Birth 

When sports fans, think of Hartford, they may think of The Whalers, the Greater Hartford Open, or even Willie Pep.

However, despite not having a team in over half a century, Hartford, Connecticut has quite a bit of baseball history. Former Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams was born there. So was Dick McAuliffe. Jeff "Pass" Bagwell starred at UHart, as did Earl Snyder. But Hartford has a history of professional baseball, as well.

The Hartford Dark Blues joined the National Association in 1874 and later became a charter member of the National League. Their owner, Morgan Bulkely was the first president of the NL and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937 but, as that link points out, he was mainly a figurehead for William Hulbert. In a previous entry, I mentioned David Arcidiacono. One of the books that he wrote was on the Dark Blues. This article in the Hog River Journal gives a taste of the book. The Dark Blues played at theHartford Ball Club Grounds. David would like to see some sort of memorial on the parcel where this historical spot was. I agree and have started to make some inquiries to help make this a reality.

The Dark Blues left for Brooklyn in 1877, but minor league ball came to town to fill the void. P. S. Luchter lists all the teams on this page. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it looks fairly complete.

The 1890 team played an exhibition game under the lights. It was, I believe, the first night game in history between two professional teams. I recently wrote an article about it and hope to revise it soon and see it in print.

The early part of the 20th century saw the Hartford Senators come into town. I am currently doing some research on them, digging through old microfilms. It can be frustrating work, but, ultimately, it should be rewarding.

The most recent Hartford minor league team was the Hartford Chiefs. The page I linked to isn't the best designed in the world, but it provides some info on this farm club of the Boston Braves. Perhaps the best player to play for the Chiefs was Warren Spahn.

Despite the fact that Hartford hasn't had a team in quite some time it still celebrates the game's past with a Vintage Base Ball Tournament every summer, and even has a company that sells old style equipment for vintage ball players and teams.

Well, that's a brief overview of Hartford baseball history. I hope that you enjoyed it.

I'll be heading up to Boston tommorrow for a Ted Williams Symposium. It sounds like it will be a great time.

See you soon,


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A little housekeeping 

Before starting out on our journey, I figured that we'd start out with a good map. I fiddled around a little bit with the appearance of this blog and added a few links. We'll start at my birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut. Thanks to a fellow amatuer historian, Michael Cuddigan, I was able to track down an article on Hartford baseball history in the June 21, 1987 Northeast Magazine section of the Hartford Courant. See you soon!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Intro Venus 

Uh, hi. That's a pretty ambitious title for a blog, isn't it? The history of baseball covers alot of ground. The game itself has been around since the antebellum days and pretty much achieved it's modern form around 110 years ago. You could probably take a ride in Doc Brown's Delorean, pick up a hitchhiker from 1907, take him or her to Fenway Park, and he could follow the action on the field. I don't think that you could say that about the NFL, NBA, or NHL. They weren't even around back then.

Today, 30 Major league teams play 162 regular season games; not including the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, the All-Star Game, and the postseason. Even going back to 1901, there were 16 teams playing roughly 140 games a year. There have been many more baseball games than there have been in any of the other premier United States sports leagues.

That doesn't include the many minor league teams, the Negro Leagues, winter ball in the Caribbean and elsewhere, and baseball in Asia. Nor does it include college baseball, the Cape Cod League and other summer collegiate leagues. Then there's high school baseball, American Legion ball, Babe Ruth and Pony, and little league. Hell, I haven't even mentioned the AAGPL or the House of David.

So yeah, the history of baseball is a pretty expansive topic. What I intend to do is write about what's on the web about the history of the game. There's what I call the "big history" which covers important events in the Major Leagues, a la the Black Sox scandal or Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers and breaking the color barrier. Then, there's the little history. The history of the minor leagues, semi-pro, and scholastic teams and players. My plan is to cover both, scouring both the mountain peaks and the lowland valleys of the great game's landscape.

If, at first, this site seems like it has a nutmeggy flavor to it, that's because I'm a Connecticut native. I got turned on to the local history of baseball by reading the books of David Arcidiacono. He has written a couple of books about bygone Connecticut major league teams. I even wrote a review of one of them at Baseball Primer. But, I also plan on looking at baseball in other parts of the U.S. and the world at large. You can help me, if you find some interesting web sites and pages. Just shoot an e-mail to me at jon3768@yahoo.com .

Well, it's getting late and a long journey through the country of baseball awaits me tomorrow and the day after and the day after et cetera. Care to join me?

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