Old News in Baseball, No. 5

Newsboy logoThis week we leave May behind and enter June, having completed about 30 percent of the 2015 regular-season campaign. The newsboy depicted at left is probably shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” … or some variation on that theme. News is omnipresent now, with updates and tweets keeping us up to the minute, let alone the hour–or, as when baseball began, the past couple of days. But speed on the field and in the receipt of information have always been of the essence in baseball.

The nineteenth century version of the internet was, of course, the telegraph. In the early years of the National League, a Chicago swindler presented a concrete example of how the wire worked in poolrooms. His company paid three dollars for three wire reports, one each three innings, on games in progress. It then sold the information, one inning at a time, to twelve subscribers, usually poolrooms or saloons, for forty cents an inning (plus the cost of the messenger boys), the proprietor thus receiving a total of $43.20. The men in these establishments then bet furiously on each coming inning. The aggregator himself, a fellow named Lauderbeck, was accused of betting on each of the succeeding two innings in his wire report, being for a while in sole possession of the outcome. More tidbits below, tied to the week upcoming:

MAY 29

1915: Babe Ruth, not yet recognized as the Home Run King allows one hit through 8 innings but he and his Red Sox lose‚ 2-1‚ when the A’s A’s Harry Davis hits a 2-run pinch single. Davis had been known as “Home Run” Davis for leading the American League in home runs in four straight seasons (1904-07). Davis later relinquished the nickname to teammate Frank Baker, who also led AL in homers four straight times (1911-14). For more, see: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/61ebb0fe

1922: The U.S. Supreme Court rules baseball is not interstate commerce‚ and the Baltimore Feds lose their case. The request for a rehearing will be denied. Despite repeated challenges in the decades to come, the ruling stands to this day.

1952: Willie Mays enters the army and will miss the rest of this season and all of the next. Meanwhile‚ the Giants lose another young Birmingham player as Boston Braves scout Dewey Griggs signs Henry Aaron to a contract. The Indianapolis Clowns receive telegram offers from both clubs‚ but Aaron prefers his chances to make the Braves.

Henry Aaron with Indianapolis Clowns

Henry Aaron with Indianapolis Clowns

MAY 30

1876: Chicago‚ with four Boston stars of 1875 in their lineup‚ play their first NL game in Boston. When word had leaked in the summer of ’75 that Chicago had stripped Boston of its stars for the following season, a columnist for the Worcester Spy wrote of Boston’s loss: “Like Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted because the famous baseball nine, the perennial champion, the city’s most cherished possession, has been captured by Chicago.” The White Stockings, who had also raided the Philadelphia Athletics to obtain Adrian Anson, indeed went on to win the pennant.

1894: Boston second baseman Bobby Lowe homers in four consecutive at bats‚ becoming the first major leaguer to do so. Here he is pictured with Lou Gehrig, who in this week in 1932 would do it too. For more, see: http://sabr.org/research/four-homers-one-game

1935: Babe Ruth calls it quits, playing only the first inning of the opener of a doubleheader between Boston and Philadelphia at Baker Bowl‚ going 0-for-1. Five days earlier, at Pittsburgh on May 25, he had hit his final three home runs.

Gehrig and Lowe, 1932MAY 31

1927: Detroit first sacker Johnny Neun pulls off the second unassisted triple play in two days. Only the seventh in MLB history, it came a day after Jimmy Cooney of the Cubs had worked the trick. For more, see: http://sabr.org/tripleplays

1944: Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma “Buster” McLish‚ 18 years old‚ picks up his first big-league win for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Fifteen years later he would win 19 and become an all-star with the Cleveland Indians.

1950: With their record 8-25 and in last place‚ the St. Louis Browns fire Dr. David F. Tracy. Tracy‚ a New York psychologist‚ had been hired to help the players overcome their feelings of inadequacy.

June 1
1895: Today’s issue of the weekly Sporting Life reports that “The Minneapolis team now on its uniforms advertises a brand of flour made in Minneapolis. The other clubs should follow suit-Kansas City advertising canned beef‚ Milwaukee [advertising] beer‚ and St. Paul‚ ice wagons.”

Tracy, Psychologist at the Bat

Tracy, Psychologist at the Bat

1975: The Angels’ Nolan Ryan pitches his fourth career no-hitter‚ winning 1-0 over the Orioles‚ to tie the record set by Sandy Koufax. Today’s win is his 100th.

2001: In a rarity at Yankee Stadium, Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia earns a win, in accordance with the rules, despite pitching only four innings. The game is called because of rain after five innings with the Tribe ahead‚ 7-2.

June 2

1887: George W. “Watch” Burnham is fired as manager of the last-place Indianapolis club. Four years earlier he had won his nickname thus: As an umpire he was viewed with scorn by both Chicago and Cleveland players. Before the next day’s game at Cleveland, Burnham was presented with a gold watch at the home plate, inscribed: “Presented to George W. Burnham by his Cleveland friends, July 25, 1883.” It was later learned that Burnham bought the watch himself, had it inscribed and arranged for the presentation. Forever after he was known as “Watch.”

Watch Burnham

Watch Burnham

1932: Buzz Arlett is another (see Lowe and Gehrig, above) who hits four home runs in a game, though for Baltimore in an International League game. Arlett played in the big leagues the previous year, hitting .313 with 18 homers for Philadelphia. But it was in the minors where he was a terror, including 54 homers in 1932. For more, see: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/4419031b

1954: How great were the Cleveland Indians of ’54, a team that finished 111-43? At Yankee Stadium on this day‚ the Yanks tag Early Wynn and reliever Don Mossi for seven runs in the first inning. Beginning in the next inning, however, Mossi and four other relievers hold New York hitless for nine innings and the Indians win in the tenth, 8-7.

June 3

1888: The poem “Casey at the Bat” is published in William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner. Though credited only to “Phin,” the immortal ballad was the creation of Hearst’s Harvard classmate Ernest Lawrence Thayer. For more, see: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2012/01/14/casey-doubleheader-game-two/

1898: Jack Clements of St. Louis becomes the first man to catch 1‚000 games. He drives in the winning run in a 5-4 victory over Baltimore. He is a lefty thrower.

1932: In Philadelphia‚ Lou Gehrig hits four consecutive home runs yet takes second billing, as usual—this time not to Babe Ruth but to Giants’ manager John McGraw‚ who on this day announced his resignation after 30 years with the club.

Nap Lajoie Horseshoe Bouquet

Nap Lajoie Horseshoe Bouquet

June 4

1912: On Napoleon Lajoie Day in Cleveland‚ the player-manager receives a horseshoe of flowers filled with 1‚000 silver dollars‚ a gift from the fans. His teammates chip in with $125 in gold.

1947: In the fifth inning at Ebbets Field‚ Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser crashes into the fence and is knocked unconscious. He still manages to hold onto the long fly to help the Dodgers win over Pittsburgh. In the clubhouse a priest administers the last rites of the Catholic Church to Reiser‚ who will be hospitalized for ten days.

1986: Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds goes 4-for-5 with his first big-league home run (off Craig McMurtry) as Pittsburgh whips Atlanta 12-3.


I remember that story about the Browns hiring and firing a team psychiatrist. He supposedly was using hypnosis to bolster the pitchers’ confidence by giving them the post-hypnotic suggestion that it’s impossible to hit a round ball with a round bat. The joke was that he had gotten confused, and hypnotized the hitters instead.

Good stuff, Tad. Always glad to have your views.

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