Baseball History Notes for June 10, 2013

Braun

The big news of the week in baseball was an ESPN Outside the Lines report that Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend 20 or more current players for their involvement with the now defunct Biogenesis of America clinic. Tony Bosch, the company’s founder, agreed to provide MLB with documents to help their cases. Players including Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera are all reported to be those in the crosshairs, with more details of the whole mess still to come.

The report indicated that suspensions could be as long as 100 games if MLB gets its way. However, want and reality could be two completely different things. The MLB Player’s Union immediately issued a statement declaring their intent to vigorously defend the players in the investigation, and will use their considerable power to minimize any punitive damage. It’s a situation that is highly unlikely to be determined quickly, but will probably play out in courtrooms and boardrooms for an indeterminable amount of time.

Regardless of the length of possible suspensions, the damage has already been done to the reputations of the players involved in the scandal. No matter how much you believe or don’t believe steroids and PEDs are cheating, the amount of lying and general scumbaggery (I made this word up specifically for this situation) on the part of these players has completely impugned their character. No matter how far they can hit a ball or fast they can throw a pitch, their greatest attribute as players and human beings has been irrevocably shattered. Continue reading

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Baseball Notes for May 27, 2013

Hack

The 2012 season saw Detroit Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera win the Triple-Crown with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. Although it’s hard to fathom, he may be headed to an even better season this year, which could see him make history.

Cabrera is currently hitting .385 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI. He ranks first in the American League in batting and RBI, and is second in home runs. If he were to repeat the Triple Crown, he would not only be the first player to ever win consecutive Triple-Crowns, he would also join legendary Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams as the only players to accomplish the feat more than once.

Another mark Cabrera is eyeing is the all-time RBI record. To date, he is on pace to finish the season with 192, which would break the major league record of 191 set by Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Hack Wilson in 1930. While RBI has seen its reputation tarnished in the advancing sabermetric world, the possibility of Cabrera unseating Wilson to set a new standard would still be a big deal. Continue reading

Baseball Notes for April 22, 2013

OrtizUSA

Other sports like football and basketball may have infringed on the popularity of baseball over the years, but make no mistake about it, the game is still America’s National Pastime. Baseball personifies Amercianism and is often seen as an example of what is right and good in the country. While that may be a Pollyanna way of viewing the sport, it is a unifying force in society that cannot be claimed in the same way by the NFL, NBA or NHL.

Any baseball game can provide people with a positive reminder of what it is to be an American, or how much the game can infiltrate everyday life. However, there are also those special moments that spring up out of nowhere that leaves little doubt about the influence of baseball on our culture. Some of those moments showed up this week… Continue reading

Lou Gehrig Talks Baseball

Baseball icon Lou Gehrig became truly legendary because of his production, durability, and finally his untimely death at the age of 37 in 1941. His name still resonates with fans today, and despite playing many years with Babe Ruth, he was able to stay out of his shadow and create his own enduring legacy.

Much of what we know today about Gehrig comes from his statistics and anecdotal references from many baseball books and stories. Fortunately every now and then good first-person transcripts emerge on the internet like a long-lost treasure. I recently came across a radio interview given by Gehrig on August 22, 1939 in Rochester, Minnesota, where he was undergoing treatment for his ALS at the Mayo Clinic. The interview was conducted by correspondent Dwight Merriam, who got the “Iron Horse” on the record on a number of interesting issues.

The entire interview was posted online- http://moregehrig.tripod.com/id16.html with the permission of KROC-AM Radio. It’s a great opportunity to get some insight on one of the most memorable and tragic players in baseball history. I have pulled out some of Gehrig’s answers that I found most interesting, and included a few of my own thoughts (in italics). Continue reading

The Yankee Way: A Review of Pinstripe Empire

As a Red Sox fan I thought I had heard it all when it came to the glory of the New York Yankees and their 27 World Series titles. It’s a refrain frequently presented in a matter of fact tone to anyone with the audacity to challenge the place of the Yankees at the top of the baseball world. As it turns out there is a treasure trove of fascinating stories behind the successes (and occasional failures) of baseball’s preeminent franchise, and they have been marvelously captured by Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees From Before the Babe to After the Boss (ISBN 978-1608194926), the most recent book by Marty Appel. Continue reading

Banzai Babe Ruth: A Review

No matter how popular the NFL or NBA becomes, baseball still holds the title of America’s pastime.  For over a century it has been seen as a way to connect Americans with fellow countrymen and those from abroad, but is that a true representation?  Baseball has also served as a backdrop to larger diplomatic and political issues, but what role if any has it played? Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan, the most recent work of Robert K. Fitts, explores these questions while detailing the infamous All-Star tour that took place on the eve of world war. Continue reading

Babe Ruth’s Epic 1927 Season Nearly Derailed By Arrests for Violating Child Labor Laws

No athlete has ever come close to matching Babe Ruth’s larger than life profile. His exploits on the baseball diamond were perhaps matched only be his excesses and friendly and approachable nature off it. Before it became popular with athletes, Ruth was a frequent signer of autographs, particularly for the many children who idolized him. People wanted to take away something as a memento from the athlete who was probably the most famous person in the world during his career, and a signature was the best way to do that. Unfortunately, Babe’s obliging nature didn’t always work in his favor, as he was once arrested for giving out autographs to the kids who attended and participated in his vaudeville show.

The 1926 baseball season ended in embarrassing fashion for Ruth. He made the final out of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, by getting thrown out attempting to steal second base with his team down one run in the 9th inning of Game 7. It was a stunning ending, but Ruth did not have much time to sulk over his misfortune. In October, shortly after his base running blunder, he embarked on a vaudeville tour that began in Minneapolis and would end three months later in California.

Continue reading