Anson U.

Cap Anson in 1895

Cap Anson in 1895

Here is a scheme with echoes reaching to the present day, involving Cap Anson and Albert G. Spalding. As Anson described the prospectus in later years, “The fellow who invented that was certainly a crackerjack at his trade, and it wasn’t very difficult to discover what his trade was.” From Anson’s 1900 memoir, A Ball Player’s Career:

Just at this stage of affairs [1898] my plans for the future were apparently a matter of great interest to both press and public, and if the statements made by the former were to be believed, I had more schemes on hand than did a professional promoter, and every one of them with “millions in it.” I was to manage this club and manage that club; I was to play here and play there, and, in fact, there was scarcely anything that I was not going to do if the reporters’ statements could be depended upon. One of the most senseless of these was the starting of the A. C. Anson Base-Ball College, the prospectus for which was typewritten in the sporting-goods store of A. G. Spalding, and read as follows:

Location.—The school will be located on what is known as the A. G. Spalding Tract, covering the blocks bounded by Lincoln, Robey, 143d and 144th streets, upon which Mr. A. G. Spalding will erect suitable structures, fences, stands, dressing-rooms, etc. The site is in the celebrated Calumet region and is easy of access.

Membership.—All accepted applicants for membership will be required to submit to a thorough physical examination and go through a regular and systematic course of training, calculated to prepare them for actual participation in base-ball games. Upon entering they will subscribe to the rules and regulations of the institution, which will demand obedience and provide for discipline, abstemious habits, regular hours, proper diet, in fact everything which tends to improve the health and physical condition will be required. They must also pass an examination made by Captain Anson as to their natural aptitude for becoming proficient in the game of base-ball.

Instruction.—The course of instruction will consist of physical training by the latest and most approved methods, with the special intention of developing the body and mind, so that the best possible results may be obtained looking to perfection of base-ball playing. Daily instruction will be had in the theory and practice of the game.

Engagements.—As soon as students are sufficiently developed and display skill to justify, efforts will be made by the college management to secure lucrative engagements for those who desire to enter the professional field. Arrangements will be made with the various professional and semi-professional clubs throughout the country by which students of the college will come into contact with managers and be enabled to make known their merits.

Albert G. Spalding cigar box label

Albert G. Spalding cigar box label

Application for Admittance.—Persons who desire to become students of the college will be required to fill out and sign the regular application blank provided by the college, which must give information regarding the applicant, such as name, place of residence, height, weight, various measurements, past vocation, habits, state of health, etc., etc.

Charges.—Accepted students will be required to pay a tuition of $2 per week, at least five weeks tuition to be paid in advance, and must supply their practice uniform. The college will provide all team uniforms for use in games and all materials and utensils necessary for practice.

Then followed a showing of financial possibilities that would have done credit to the brains of a Colonel Sellers [].

It is unnecessary for me to say that this scheme never emanated from me, or that it never received any serious consideration at my hands, the real plan being to create a real-estate boom and enable Mr. Spalding to dispose of some of his holdings, using me as a catspaw with which to pull the chestnuts out of the fire.

Remembering Mickey Mantle

Mickey Mantle, forever young

Mickey Mantle, forever young

It seems like only yesterday that we learned Mickey Mantle had lost his last battle. In the days after Mickey’s death on August 13, 1995, his fans left flowers, and a poem, and other modest, heartfelt tributes beneath his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame Gallery. The Mick was sixty-three when he succumbed to liver cancer–too soon, but not truly an athlete dying young; he had outlived Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson by ten years. We mourned as much for ourselves, for a vital part inside of us that died, as we did for him.

We remember where we were and, more importantly, who we were when “The Commerce Comet” picked up a random bat (a Loren Babe model), strode to the plate at Griffith Stadium one afternoon in 1953, and parked a Chuck Stobbs pitch 565 feet away. We remember his astonishing blend of power, speed, and grace; his dash into left-center field to snare a Gil Hodges line drive and keep Don Larsen’s perfect game alive on October 8, 1956. We remember his chase of the Babe’s record in 1961, when he kept pace with Roger Maris until a September injury forced him to the sideline. We remember his baseball cards, and his Maypo commercial, and that silly movie he and Roger made with Doris Day and Cary Grant. We remember the Copacabana scrape, and the drinking and carousing, and the bad business deals he got into.

We remember the pain he endured, from the bone inflammation that almost cost him his leg as a teenager to the torn-up knee in his rookie year to the wrecked shoulder, and the wounds that the yards of tape could never heal, especially his belief that he, like his father, would die young. “If I’d have known I was going to live this long,” he would say, half jokingly, “I would’ve taken better care of myself.” Yes, we will remember him.

Mickey Mantle by Hy Peskin

Mickey Mantle by Hy Peskin

“As a ballplayer,” President Clinton said after the announcement of his death, “Mickey inspired generations of fans with his power and grit. As a man, he faced up to his responsibilities and alerted generations to come to the dangers of alcohol abuse. He will be remembered for excellence on the baseball field and the honor and redemption he brought to the end of his life.” Maybe in some larger way his passing even served to redeem baseball itself.

Heroes provide role models through their achievements and their ability to overcome adversity. Their greatness enlarges us all. The greatest achievement of Mickey Mantle’s life was not his home runs or MVP trophies or World Series heroics; it was the dignity he brought to his death, when he said to America’s youth, “Don’t be like me.” As Lou Gehrig’s death did so much for the funding of treatment and, one day, cure of ALS, Mickey Mantle may have done more than anyone for the cause of organ donation.

His exploits are on display in the record books, his likeness on a plaque at the Hall of Fame; his legacy, not so easily captured, is everywhere.

Happy Birthday, Matty

Streetcar placard; Matty for Tuxedo Tobacco

Streetcar placard; Matty for Tuxedo Tobacco

On this day in 1880, Christy Mathewson was born in Factoryville, PA. This seems like a good opportunity to share a story I wrote for Narratively last year of which I am particularly proud. It has not run at Our Game before.

Buck Weaver

Black Sox and Their Lawyers, 1920

Black Sox and Their Lawyers, 1921

In the Black Sox Scandal, eight men who were involved in fixing the 1919 World Series were banned from baseball for life. Of these two men, the great hitter Joe Jackson and the fine third baseman Buck Weaver, continue to grip our attention as possible victims as well as perpetrators: Jackson, because he was illiterate, had a change of heart and tried to give back the money, and had twelve hits in the Series; and Weaver, who was approached to take part in the fix, declined, but failed to report the plot to his manager.

Despite the romantic apologies made for these two especially, all eight were, in my view, guilty enough to warrant their punishment, even though ballplayers had been throwing games left and right for decades. The principal gripe of men like Weaver and Fred McMullin may have been that they were left holding the bag without getting any of the swag. The other six pocketed some money, if not all that was promised, so what is there left to say.

Jackson appealed for reinstatement several times, and so did Weaver. Their descendants and devotees continued to appeal for decades after the players’ deaths, unsuccessfully. While Major League Baseball enforces no postmortem suspensions of banished players, the Hall of Fame continues a policy of keeping off the ballot anyone whose suspension was not repealed.

Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis issued his ban, placing the eight indicted Black Sox on the ineligible list, on March 12, 1921. As their court trial dragged on toward Opening Day, he feared that in the absence of a conviction an argument would be made that the men should be allowed to play for Chicago in 1921. His ban was thus preemptive—none of the eight could play in Organized Baseball even if the trial and its verdict were postponed.

Ultimately the trial did drag on, and the Black Sox were acquitted in Cook County court on August 2, 1921. However, the “eight men out” had already been banned as of March 12. “Regardless of the verdict of juries,” Landis said after the acquittal, “no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.” This last phrase was surely directed at Weaver.

Buck Weaver

Buck Weaver

Weaver applied six times for reinstatement to baseball, beginning in 1922. In March 1927 Landis replied to his request by stating that his decision of December 1922. Landis wrote to Weaver:

“You testified that preceding the 1919 series, Cicotte, your team’s leading pitcher, asked if you wanted to ‘get in on something”—fix the world series—and you replied: ‘You are crazy; that can’t be done.’

“The world’s series then was played, and so played that even during the series, your manager, at a meeting of the players, stated something was wrong. You knew your club officials were seeking to ascertain the facts, but you kept still.”

Weaver’s final petition came in 1953, when he requested reinstatement from Commissioner Ford Frick.

“A murderer even serves his sentence and is let out,” Buck observed at that time. “I got life.”

He died from a heart attack on January 31, 1956, at age 65, a cautionary tale for all major leaguers who followed.


Every Picture Tells a Story: The Stick

The Scorer

The Scorer

Yesterday we gathered in Cooperstown to celebrate the annual Baseball Hall of Fame Induction, honoring Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. This day was about the players, and their fans, and the game, and the glimpse of immortality that baseball provides. It is about celebrating the past and its continuing vitality in our lives, symbolized in the plaques for these men that will speak to future generations of the glory that was theirs. They will become fixtures in the Hall of Fame Gallery, a magnet for fans, but a small part of the museum and library complex that links baseball’s present day with past times.

In an age of sabermetrics, analytics, and microscopic recording well beyond the simple statistics of a century ago, it is instructive to harken back to a time when Outs and Runs were the only categories tracked. Today we know that many things go into the manufacture or saving of outs and runs but, in the end, victory and defeat boil down to these same primitive measures.

The trade card shown at the left is part of a six-card series contrasting “New Style” (1880s) and “Old Style” (1870s). Depicting “The Scorer,” it casts light on an old mystery that I referenced many moons ago in my book Treasures of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I wrote:

We have heard the stories all our lives, and we share them warmly with our children. But we come to the Baseball Hall of Fame to see, to see the instruments of glory, the stuff of legend, the tangible remains of departed heroes and forgotten fields. This is a museum like no other because it is about baseball, that singular American institution by which we mark our days. Not simply historical relics, these artifacts spur us to recall to life an image dormant in our brains for decades. They connect us not only to our own childhood and to our parents, but also to a national, collective past, one whose presence we sense but whose details have been lost.

Time stops in the Museum in the same way it does at a baseball game. At the museum it attaches itself to those things that make us halt in our tracks and reflect upon their essence … and ours. Time doesn’t truly stop, of course; we do. We imagine that we bend time and somehow elude it through the pleasure of play and remembrance.

Which is where I come in, with a “memory” of King Kelly, whom I never saw play, as vivid as my recollection of Mickey Mantle, whom I did. There was a time, in 1980 or so, when during one of my frequent research trips to the National Baseball Library I held in my hand an object that had a story to tell, but I was not yet wise enough to hear it. Looking back, I believe this incident provided the germ of the idea for the Treasures book, and perhaps Baseball in the Garden of Eden too.

At that time, long before its 1993 enlargement, the library was cramped for space and pressed for cataloging services. Some large boxes were filled with unrelated items of mixed provenance and scant documentation. In one such box, packed loosely among some truly notable curios (I recall Cy Young’s rookie contract from 1890 and Christy Mathewson’s from 1899) was a thin wooden stick, with irregular hand-hewn notches along part of its perhaps ten-inch length. With the unquestioning confidence that only comes with ignorance, I snorted at finding this insignificant piece of kindling, in a plastic bag without any indication that it had been cataloged as a gift to the Museum. “I know you’ll take anything here,” I laughingly announced to some library staffers, “but I thought at least it had to have something to do with baseball!”

All of us were puzzled by the stick, and none of us had an answer as to how it had entered into the collections or why it was being retained. I thought no more about the stick for the next five years, until I was reading through Henry Chadwick’s scrapbooks, on deposit at the New York Public Library … and then the stick became The Stick, depicted as the “old style” of scoring in the trade card above. There, in Volume 20, which was dominated by cricket stories, I came upon the following innocuous note:

Previous to 1746, the score was kept by notches on a short lath: hence the term notches for runs. The notching-knife gradually gave way to the pen, and the thin stick to a sheet of foolscap.

The fool’s cap should have been placed on my head. I had dismissed as inconsequential what was surely a scorer’s stick from a very early game of baseball, an artifact perhaps earlier than Doubleday or Cartwright.

I offer this story to illustrate the difficulty of hearing the stories the artifacts have to tell, particularly the ancient ones. Large objects like statues and trophies and plaques may wag comparatively small tales, while small items like pins and ribbons and newsprint may speak volumes. Generally, the more removed the object is from the event that inspired or employed it, the less interesting it is to the historian and the less rich its associations with other events in baseball and the world. What is most fascinating and what moves us most deeply is seldom the stuff that was created in order to be treasured by future generations, although commemorative pieces (like the gifts for Lou Gehrig on his farewell day, July 4, 1939) can be beautiful and meaningful, too. But in my view, the best artifacts are the ones that were meant to be tossed aside yet improbably survived.


Overcoming Adversity

Chasing Dreams BookThis essay appeared in Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American, the companion book to an exhibition of the same name that launched at the National Museum of American Jewish History in 2014. In the following year “Chasing Dreams” embarked on an extensive national tour; it is currently on view in two locations: a popup exhibition at The American Jewish Historical Society in New York City and a fuller representation, complete with artifacts, at The Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA. As chief consultant to the exhibition I am grateful to curator Josh Perelman and the staff of the museum for permission to publish this story, in some measure a personal one, on the web for the first time.

Fight or flight. That is how a Jew, like anyone else, deals with adversity in life or in that charmed realm that is our present subject, baseball. Contemplating prejudice, one may perceive a rich range of responses—modulated, grayed, complex–hardly binary, it would appear. A plausible, if unsustainable, third alternative may also exist: sitting on the fence in hope that the threat will pass. In real time, though, it all boils down to fight or flight.

Both are honorable choices. Neither victory nor defeat will confirm character; one does what seems possible in the moment. When a Jewish baseball player changed his name in 1905 it was a sensible response to a rabidly anti-Semitic fan base, especially in the rural minor leagues. So was, in later years, challenging a dugout heckler to a fistfight, declining to play on Yom Kippur, or most potently, letting results talk.

Ostracized over centuries, Europe’s Jews gravitated to the occupations permitted them. As immigrants to these shores they at first did the same. How could they know that in America, as in baseball, anything—yes, anything—was possible?

Like other minorities, Jews turned adversity on its head, making of it a fuel for performance and the glue of a faith and a people. As Jews ventured into mainstream culture, perhaps from a “disreputable” profession like theater or sports—in both of which they were “players,” i.e., not themselves—they might be forgiven if they forgot for a moment that they were Jewish. Until the very recent past, however, they could be certain that the world would remind them.

Lipman Emmanuel Pike

Lipman Emmanuel Pike

Chasing Dreams—the title of the exhibition that inspired this book—is in large measure a Jewish tale, but it is also the story of all the outsiders who struggled to claim a rightful share of the American Dream, only to find their grip slipping on a traditional, distinct identity. As an immigrant boy myself, born in a displaced persons camp in 1947 to Holocaust survivors, I wished for nothing more fervently than to be one of the gang. Still, I was unwilling to let go entirely of that feeling of being odd, singular, special. Baseball eased the transition, permitting me to be that contradiction in terms describing each member of an American minority: the same but different. As a game emphasizing individual accomplishment within the context of unified effort, baseball offered a model of how one might become part of the team … how an outsider might be an American. To the tempest-tost of Europe, like me, baseball seemed fair: effort would be rewarded no matter where you came from.

What goals were sought by Lipman Pike and Andy Cohen? Barney Pelty and Erskine Mayer? Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax? The very same ones pursued by Jackie Robinson and Minnie Minoso, Hank Aaron and Ichiro Suzuki, Roberto Clemente and Shin-Soo Choo. A level playing field, with respect on and off it.

Minnie Minoso

Minnie Minoso

Issues of inclusion and exclusion plagued baseball from the start: men vs. women (in England both had played baseball separately and together in the 18th century), then gentlemen vs. laborers, then native-born vs. immigrants, then amateurs vs. professionals. Later it became a way to discourage women, Jews, and Hispanics of light skin color, and ultimately a door was closed to African Americans after it had, tantalizingly, been left open in the 1870s.

English immigrant Henry Chadwick, the only writer inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (all the other writers are in a separate category) wrote in 1876:

What Cricket is to an Englishman, Base-Ball has become to an American. . . .  On the Cricket-field—and there only—the Peer and the Peasant meet on equal terms; the possession of courage, nerve, judgment, skill, endurance and activity alone giving the palm of superiority. In fact, a more democratic institution does not exist in Europe than this self-same Cricket; and as regards its popularity, the records of the thousands of Commoners, Divines and Lawyers, Legislators and Artisans, and Literateurs as well as Mechanics and Laborers, show how great a hold it has on the people. If this is the characteristic of Cricket in aristocratic and monarchical England, how much more will the same characteristics mark Base-Ball in democratic and republican America.

Chadwick’s vision of baseball as a model democratic institution would have to wait for the turn of the century to be fully articulated, and for Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey to be fully realized. But his belief that baseball could be more than a game—could become a model of and for American life—has proven true. As Robinson ringingly titled his 1964 book, Baseball Has Done It. 

The outsider experience as it has played out on the ball field and in the stands has been a great experiment in equality, the goal of the continuing great experiment that is America itself. Like liberty, baseball lifts a lamp to the entire world. It is a meritocracy more nearly perfect than the nation whose pastime it is, and as such can be both inspiration and scold. “Second only to death as a leveler,” wrote Alan Sangree of baseball in 1907, forty years before Jackie Robinson set foot on a major league field.

After a brief era of good feeling in the 1870s and 1880s when African-Americans and a single Cuban-born American played alongside whites at the highest levels of baseball, people of color were explicitly barred. Irish immigrants had had a relatively easy progress through the baseball ranks, for while they regularly endured attacks on their faith and their allegiance, they at least could sidestep the American obsession with skin color.

Cuban Giants, 1903, at Fleischmanns, NY

Cuban Giants, 1903, at Fleischmanns, NY

So too with the Jews, who, while they participated in baseball to no great extent in the nineteenth century, were never barred or banned. Indeed, Jews began to play the game quite early on (Seaman Lichtenstein, with the New York Base Ball Club of 1845); act as umpire (David D. Hart, with the Knickerbocker Club one year later); lead the first professional league in home runs (Lipman Pike each year from 1871 through 1873); and own a major-league club (Aaron S. Stern of the Cincinnati Reds, beginning in 1883). And yet, by 1905 only ten Jews had played in any of the major leagues.

Unflattering explanations were offered. The Indianapolis News noted in a November 2, 1903 headline: “FEW HEBREWS, SPORT LOVING THOUGH THEY ARE, PLAY BASE BALL.”

“One thing that puzzles me,” says Barry McCormick [infielder with the Chicago Cubs], “is why Jews don’t play base ball. The only Jew in the game today, as near as I can recollect, is Kane, the pitcher, whose right name is Cohen. Back in the ’70s there was a crack Jewish player, Lipman Pike, and Ed. Stein, Anson’s pitcher, was a Hebrew, I believe. Somehow or other, the Jew does not play ball. He is athletic enough, and the great number of Jewish boxers shows that he is an adept at one kind of sport, at least. I see Jewish names in the foot ball elevens and Jewish boys making good in track teams. Jewish gentlemen of means back the ball clubs, and are good, game backers too. Yet the athletic Hebrew does not play ball. Why is it?”

In the month before McCormick’s remarks, the Pittsburgh Pirates, owned by Barney Dreyfuss, a Jew, had been defeated in the first World Series of the modern era. That Dreyfuss had been the driving force behind the institution of a championship series between the National League and its upstart rival, the American League, has been monumentally important and won for him a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Barney Dreyfuss

Barney Dreyfuss

Another Jewish owner of the same period, Andrew Freedman of the Giants, was infamous for his highhanded treatment of players, issuing fines that the other owners had to make good so as to avoid lawsuits against the National League. Indeed, Freedman was so roundly hated that his fellow owners responded only half-heartedly to an anti-Semitic remark hurled his way by Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder Ducky Holmes, who formerly played for Freedman in New York. (Before a July 25, 1898 game, Holmes, responding to razzing from his former teammates, shouted across the diamond, “Well, I’m ——- glad I don’t have to work for a sheeny no more.”) Freedman ordered his men off the field, forfeiting the game to Baltimore, despite his own players’ sympathy with Holmes (or antipathy toward Freedman). Holmes was suspended, Freedman was fined. When the suspension was rescinded but the fine was left to stand, intramural conflict followed, boiling over into a war that gave birth to a rival, and saved baseball from destroying itself.

So if they were not barred from the field or the front office—or the press box or the radio booth—what has been the Jews’ particular adversity in baseball, the special obstacle with which they had to contend? Hatred. Jews were distrusted or despised not merely because they were different but also because they seemed recalcitrant about giving up their identity. In The Century of September 1921, Herbert Adams Gibbons offered:

This clannishness would eventually break down were it not for the deliberate efforts of Jewish leaders who are determined that Israel shall remain an imperium in imperio. If the Jews persist in maintaining a distinct ethnic consciousness and an exclusive community life, anti-Semitism will thrive in America as it has thrived in Europe. The American nation, itself the result of fusion, will not tolerate without protest a foreign element in it. 

New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico wrote a decade later regarding basketball, a game Jews then dominated, that it “appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background [because] the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging, and general smartaleckness.”

These Jews were crafty, and they were obdurate. No matter how they may have longed for inclusion, exclusion was what bound them together. They would not cease to be Jewish any more than African-Americans would cease to be themselves. And that is why Jews were hated, I believe, more than any alternative explanation residing in the thousands of academic studies on the subject of anti-Semitism.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

As an overserious boy I had asked myself, in the 1950s, that if the slaughter in Europe could happen and be permitted to happen, what made them hate us so much? Must it not be in some measure our fault? It is in a Jew’s nature to look in the mirror when trouble comes, but this was introspection beyond all reason. Though I ceased to ponder this question long ago, when I gave up boyish musings, I have taken comfort recently in discovering—at a sports auction site, no less!—an offering of a letter in German from Albert Einstein to a Mr. Braunstein, who had extended help to a Jewish refugee. Einstein wrote:

Dear Mr. Braunstein, I feel I must thank you especially for the important help that you were willing to lend your namesake. The person is well worth it in every regard, as I have come to learn through reliable information. Judging by our enemies, we Jews must be a very remarkable little people. That is not usually so obvious! I send you my friendly greetings, Yours, A. Einstein.

Chosen. Distinct. Exclusive. Scheming. Flashy. Smart-alecky. At least others were worse. And with each insult or assault came affirmation that we were indeed a very remarkable little people.

So if we were so sure of ourselves, so cocky, why did five ballplayers named Cohen change their names before entering the major leagues? Blacks did not routinely change their names to avoid detection. As David Spaner wrote in Total Baseball:

In 1980, Dorothy Corey Pinzger, the widow of Edward Corey, who pitched for the White Sox in 1918, explained her husband’s decision. “The name was changed from Cohen to Corey due to the ethnic slurs….We have a clipping in the scrapbook which noted that in his appearance in one of the Midwest League games, Ed was loudly and continuously derided about his ethnic background from a few of the unintelligent fans. The clipping further noted that the greatest majority of the fans were ‘good sports,’ but just those few harassed him. The name was changed by this method: The H in COHEN was dropped and the R inserted; likewise the N was dropped, and the Y inserted, and the name became COREY.”

Sammy Bohne and Phil Cooney were also born as Cohen, as were Harry Kane and Reuben Ewing. Jesse Baker was born Michael Silverman. Henry Lifschutz became Henry Bostick. Joe Rosenblum became Joe Bennett. James Herman Soloman became Jimmie Reese. “There must have been at least half a hundred Jews in the game but we’ll never know their real names,” Ford Frick wrote in 1925. “During the early days of this century the Jewish boys had tough sledding in the majors and many of them changed their name.”

Mose Solomon, by Gary Cieradkowski

Mose Solomon, by Gary Cieradkowski

Around the time of Frick’s observation, something clickednd Jews began to be courted as box-office draws. Mose Hirsch Solomon—dubbed the Rabbi of Swat after hitting .421 with 49 homers for the Hutchinson Wheat Shockers of the Southwestern League—proved a short-term project for John McGraw’s Giants, washing out after only two games. Andy Cohen enjoyed more success playing The Great Jewish Hope in the late 1920s, lasting two seasons as the Giants’ regular second baseman. The Yankees, desperate to please their Jewish fans in the 1940s—their first Jewish player had been the one-gamer Phil Cooney—even persuaded Ed Whitner to use his stepfather’s name of Levy. “You may be Whitner to the rest of the world,” said general manager Ed Barrow, “but if you are going to play with the Yankees you’ll be Ed Levy, understand.” 

Women had been courted as fans (even nonpaying ones) ever since the game’s dawn. Baseball management hoped that their presence would lend “tone” to the proceedings and keep a lid on the rowdies, in the stands and on the field. In fact, women played the game and were involved in management, beginning with St. Louis Cardinals owner Helene Britton. Jewish women, too, from a surprisingly early onset.

Women entered the playing arena at the Seven Sisters schools of the Northeast, at which Jews were less than welcome. In 1866, Annie Glidden, a student at Vassar College wrote home describing campus life: “They are getting up various clubs now for out-of-door exercise….They have a floral society, boat clubs and base-ball clubs. I belong to one of the latter, and enjoy it highly, I can assure you.” Ultimately, women’s baseball largely devolved from such high-toned clubs to novelty acts with a girlie-show air, generally in the form of scantily clad Blondes versus Brunettes, with exotic geographic locators applied to each.

Helen Dauvray

Helen Dauvray

Pulchritudinous Broadway stars like Helen Dauvray would be seen at the Polo Grounds simply to be seen, though they exhibited some interest in baseball and its handsome practitioners. Miss Dauvray went so far as to marry one of them, Giants’ shortstop John Ward. In 1887 she funded the first World Series trophy (the “Dauvray Cup”) and ornate gold pins for each member of the winning Detroit Wolverines.  Born Ida Gibson, Miss Dauvray was half Jewish, her mother having been born Louisa De Young, brother of M.H. De Young, future editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Though nonobservant in her practice of the faith, she gave benefit performances in San Francisco for Congregation Shaari Zedeck on March 25, 1875, and Congregation B’nai Israel on July 15, 1875.

The first woman to play in Organized Baseball was not Jewish. On July 5, 1898, Lizzie (Stroud) Arlington, with the blessings of the president of the Atlantic League (a Class B minor league) Ed Barrow, later famous as the man who made pitcher Babe Ruth an everyday player, threw an inning for the Reading Coal Heavers against the Allentown Peanuts. She gave up two hits but no runs.

Women also played with professional traveling teams like the Boston Bloomer Girls (based in Kansas City, actually). Ida Schnall, a Jewish immigrant from Austria and famous swimmer, started up the New York Female Giants and her two squads, composed of Jewish and Gentile young women, played exhibition contests in 1913. Ida invariably pitched. In later years she would make an “aquacade” movie (Undine, 1916) that exploited her curves.

Ida Schnall with the New York Female Giants

Ida Schnall with the New York Female Giants

Women were never formally barred from playing in the big leagues (three women played in the Negro Leagues), any more than Jews were. The presumption may well have been that they wouldn’t be good enough, so why bother? Women still await their Lipman Pike, Hank Greenberg, and Sandy Koufax.

Fight or flight? Evading confrontation, eluding adversity—these were the tactics that made sense all the way up to World War II. There was a memorable fight in 1933 between second baseman Buddy Myer of the Washington Senators and the Yankees’ Ben Chapman, who, in 1947 as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies gained infamy for his taunting of Jackie Robinson. Chapman spiked Myer and then hurled a number of anti-Semitic epithets at him. Chapman and Myer’s fight spread to the dugouts and the stands. Myer’s father was Jewish and his mother Christian, and he never considered himself a Jew, but he never felt the need to correct press accounts of his Judaism and, anyway, he took offense at Chapman’s slurs. Only years after his retirement did Myer bother to state publicly that he had always felt he was German rather than Jewish.

Hank Greenberg and Joe Louis

Hank Greenberg and Joe Louis

Hank Greenberg fought in his own way. A formidable figure who could challenge an entire dugout, the Detroit Tigers’ slugger did his best work in overcoming adversity by letting his bat speak for him. Cleveland’s Al Rosen followed Greenberg’s path—though not averse to using his fists, he spoke loudest through his accomplishments. In 1953 he fell one thousandth of a point shy of winning the batting title that would have given him the American League Triple Crown.

Greenberg’s experience of dealing with prejudice intersected with Jackie Robinson’s struggles as a Brooklyn Dodger rookie on May 17, 1947. Robinson collided with Greenberg, finishing up his career as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first baseman, on a close play and heard the catcalls from the stands. When Robinson reached first base again later in the game, Greenberg reportedly complimented him on his stoic demeanor: “Stick in there. You’re doing fine. Keep your chin.”

I was a month old, not yet an American, when this now legendary moment occurred. But by 1952, only five years later, I had become strongly attached to Robinson—he was still a big-league star, with a dazzling baseball card. Greenberg meanwhile had moved off center stage though still, unbeknownst to me then, a major figure in the game. Jews tend to go with the underdog for obvious historical reasons, and Robinson seemed to me a real hero. He was hated for no good reason. Jews know something about that.

Jackie Robinson Bank

Jackie Robinson Bank

My parents and the Polish immigrants in their New York City social circle, unlike so many Holocaust survivors, told their grisly tales with an unnerving gusto: Max Linden, the jeweler, never tired of telling, over dinner, how he had lain overnight under a pile of corpses, waiting for the propitious moment to act upon the surprising intelligence that he, unlike everyone else who had been shot, was not dead. Thrilling as the story was to me as a very young boy, I soon could not bear to hear it, for all its undertones of dread, helplessness, and dumb luck.

This age of horrors and heroes, ended before I was born, shaped my parents so indelibly that it inevitably shaped me too, fostering fear, shame and, most damaging to a creative soul, a sense of overriding caution. Baseball became my real visa to America and to becoming (almost) one of the guys. Like the American West with its cowboys and Indians, baseball provided an institution with legends that could stand up to Nazis and Jews.  And unlike America’s Western frontier, closed since 1890, in baseball heroism still seemed possible.

By my teen years Sandy Koufax had come into his own and, as Greenberg had done, made Jews proud to see one of their own proclaimed as the best. It is now hard to imagine, but when Koufax and the Dodgers left Brooklyn for California in 1958, the Holocaust was thirteen years past, not yet safely distant in the rearview mirror. Looking back now, nearly sixty years later, it may be hard for young Americans to grasp the resonance of a Jewish baseball hero at that time. No similar emotion attached to Ryan Braun when he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011; let us hope that America’s Jews never have reason to need a new hero as they needed Koufax.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie relief pitcher Larry Sherry became the hero of the 1959 World Series, winning two games and saving the team’s other two victories, I was keenly aware that he—like Koufax, who had lost a 1–0 thriller in Game 5—was Jewish. By the time of Koufax’s sudden retirement after the 1966 World Series, it seemed no longer important that he was a Jew; the principal storyline attaching to him was that he was a great athlete whose time in the sun had sadly been cut short.

This was Sandy’s success, and Jackie’s, and Hank’s. In the end the only question to be asked of those who followed was, “Can you play?”

And then came the murders at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. In case we had forgotten, we were Jews. Mike Epstein, the massive slugger of the Oakland A’s who had won the good-natured nickname “SuperJew”—in itself a sign of our people’s rising acceptance—donned an armband in remembrance of the slain Israeli athletes. So did Jewish teammate Ken Holtzman and outfield star Reggie Jackson, an African-American. When the A’s squared off against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series a month later, Jackie Robinson was honored for the twenty-fifth anniversary of his breaking the color barrier. Nine days later he died.

Sandy Koufax, 1957

Sandy Koufax, 1957

With Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson had forced America to confront the falsehood that baseball could truly be a national pastime while intentionally excluding anyone. Although the baseball playing population of African Americans in the major leagues has diminished from a high of, in some published estimates, 28 percent in the late 1960s—actually it peaked near 20 percent in 1975—to perhaps 8 percent today, more people of color play the game in the major leagues than have ever done so before. If you count all dark-skinned people—whatever their nation of origin—the number is over 40 percent today, and the upward trend is inexorable. America is a nation of nations, and its emblematic game is enriched by reflecting that truth.

Recent years have seemed a golden age for Jewish players in Major League Baseball, with sixteen in 2013 alone. Beyond Greenberg and Koufax, Steve Stone won a Cy Young Award and Ryan Braun became an MVP. On May 23, 2002, Shawn Green established a single-game record for the ages, with 19 total bases on four home runs, a double, and a single, scoring five times. Kevin Youkilis became a Moneyball hero. It is today routine, rather than remarkable, for Jews to be baseball players—stars and supernumeraries just like every nationality or creed.

Is that a triumph? Yes, but it is also a challenge. What are those things that make Jews special—chosen, even—if not their outsider status? What will drive us to prove our people’s individual excellence, by ourselves or through our heroes? As a people forged in adversity, America’s Jews will have to find something else to supply the tie that binds. As in the past, baseball will be a help.


Biographical Archeology

Athletic Base Ball Club Stock Certificate, 1889

Athletic Base Ball Club Stock Certificate, 1889

My friend Richard Malatzky–SABR’s supersleuth in genealogical research–wrote to me the other day:

John, here is something you may want to share online. I know that you put in a great effort to identify obscure players for Total Baseball so here is a reversal of something Peter Morris, Bill Carle, and I did several years ago regarding Sterling of the infamous game of October 12, 1890.

Early in September 1890, the Athletics of Philadelphia of the American Association went bankrupt. Rather than following the path of minor league clubs and folding, they started letting go of their more well-known players and signed several local minor leaguers … plus some whom we still cannot identify.

I noticed on a research trip to the Hall of Fame Library in 1979 that the Heilbroner books which listed the addresses of all of the umpires had a John F. McBride living in Phillipsburg, NJ but it later turned out that he would have been around 10 years old in 1890 when he is thought to have played in his one game on October 12, 1890. I checked the other missing players from the box score on that game who were listed in the I.C.I. (Macmillan) Baseball Encycopedia of 1969: George Crawford, Sweigert, James (“General”) Stafford, and John Sterling.

Years later I discussed this topic with Morris and  Carle and we decided to delete the first names of the four players for whom the Baseball Encyclopedia had supplied them..

1889 Philadelphia Athletics

1889 Philadelphia Athletics

There has been a long discussion over many years about the construction of the Baseball Encyclopedia from the earlier Official Encyclopedia of Baseball  compiled by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson (1951, with subsequent editions). Our theories have been verified by Dick Thompson, who worked with Tom Shea, who had more to do with the I.C.I./Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia than with that produced by Turkin & Thompson.

Tom Shea told Dick Thompson that Turkin & Thompson were disappointed that there were so many blanks in the book … so they put in incorrect names and biographical info from places like the Sporting News so that the book would seem less empty. Most of the work that SABR’s Biographical Research Committee has done recently has been correcting Turkin & Thompson.

Morris has been completing so many projects recently that we had worked on together, with great help from, that I thought that if I put in the same effort I might find some missing players.

The most info that we had among these five was for Sterling. First of all, the Athletics played Sunday games in Gloucester City, NJ, from August 1888 forward. Sunday, October 12, 1890 was the last game of the season, against Syracuse. The starting pitcher for the A’s was a Camden pitcher wearing an unusual black uniform. The original listing (T&T and Baseball Encyclopedia) of John Sterling had been changed so we didn’t have any leads because of lack of access to Camden papers in 1890.

Turkin & Thompson, 1951

Turkin & Thompson Encyclopedia

I searched the Times of Philadelphia for “Sterling P” in hopes that a boxscore would have a pitcher named Sterling. I found that Lancaster had a Sterling into midseason A look at the minor-league section of showed a John A. Sterling who was with Ashland, PA in 1888, Philadelphia in 1889, and Lancaster for 14 games in 1890. I also found an 1888 roster of Ashland with John A. Sterling. Another article in 1888 says that John Sterling had to go back to Philadelphia because he was sick.

I searched the Philadelphia CDs for John A. Sterling and found him listed in 1888, 1890, and 1899, all as a blacksmith. I searched in New Jersey and found one in 1891 in Camden, also a blacksmith. The listing had him residing with a Henrietta. I looked for Henrietta Sterling in the 1870 census and found his family there in Philadelphia: father Jesse, and John born 1865 in Pennsylvania.

So what do have here? Sterling was from Camden and John A Sterling was living in Camden at the correct time. He was married to Maggie A. and they had a son born in Pennsylvania in 1890 (from the 1910 census) and there was a stillborn child in Gloucester City in early 1891. The other children were born in NJ.

He died November 10, 1908 and Peter Morris found an obit in Billboard that says he died in Gloucester City, NJ, was a minstrel for years (thus explaining the Billboard notice of his death) and in his youth was a baseball pitcher with Minneapolis and Albany.


The San Diego Kid

Ted Williams, 1941

Ted Williams, 1941

Has there ever been a more dramatic finish to an All-Star Game? The question is rhetorical; the answer is No. We’re talking about a Midsummer Classic of 75 seasons ago: July 8, 1941. 

This year finds the media caravan in San Diego, where two previous All-Star Games have taken place—in 1978 and in 1992, though at Jack Murphy Stadium; this of course is the first such contest at Petco Park. But this city’s most profound connection to the All-Star Game dates to 1941, when the San Diego Padres were a team in the Pacific Coast League whose greatest local product, Ted Williams, was about to leave an indelible stamp on the season. Not only did Ted compile a batting average of .406—unequaled in all the years since—but he also, with one swing in the greatest All-Star Game ever played, turned defeat to victory with two outs in the final inning. This feat, too, has been unequaled since.

The game took place at Briggs Stadium and overnight became the stuff of legend. Here’s a bare-bones account.

The National Leaguers entered the last of the ninth with a 5-3 lead and hopes of nailing down their first back-to-back All-Star victories. The Nationals tied the score in the top of the sixth, but the Americans countered with a run later in the inning. Pittsburgh’s Arky Vaughan then made a bid to be the game’s hero, homering in the seventh off Sid Hudson with a man aboard to restore the NL lead, and homering again an inning later off Edgar Smith for two more runs.

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, 1941

Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, 1941

A double and single by the DiMaggio brothers Joe and Dom brought the Americans a run closer in the eighth, but they still needed two to tie as they faced the Cubs’ Claude Passeau in the bottom of the ninth. Two one-out singles and a walk loaded the bases for Joe DiMaggio, with Ted Williams on deck. DiMaggio hit a certain double-play ball sharply to shortstop Eddie Miller, who threw to second baseman Billy Herman. However, Herman’s throw to first was wide, enabling DiMaggio to reach first and Ken Keltner to score from third. With two men now out and the Americans still down a run, Ted Williams homered on a letter-high fastball against the upper parapet in right for three more runs and a 7-5 AL win.

Williams, a stringbean kid who was about to become The Kid, abandoned all reserve and galloped around the bases like a colt, leaping as he turned first base, clapping his hands all the way home. On the radio, Red Barber made the call: “Passeau pitches. Williams swings. There’s a high fly going deep, deep … it is a home run. A home run against the tip top of the right field stands. A tremendous home run that brought in three runs and turned what looked to be a National League win into an American League 7-5 win. Two men were out, and what a wallop!”

Playing in his second All-Star Game—he was inexplicably excluded from the 1939 squad—The Kid was hitting .405. Joe DiMaggio came into the game having hit in 48 consecutive contests, surpassing Willie Keeler’s mark of 44; he would go on, of course, to hit in eight more to reach 56, prompting this writer to reach once again for the phrase “unequaled since.” Has there ever been a season quite like 1941, the last one before Pearl Harbor changed everything?

Ted Williams, with Boston Red Sox scout Eddie Collins and Padres' owner Bill Lane, June 26, 1936

Ted Williams, with Boston Red Sox scout Eddie Collins and Padres’ owner Bill Lane, June 26, 1936

The exuberant Williams of the All-Star Game had escaped an unhappy home; it was baseball that had given direction and meaning to his life. The Williams residence at 4121 Utah Street was exceedingly modest (it survives) and, with Ted’s mother and father gone all day and much of the night, not a place of care and comfort. Ted’s home had one undeniable plus: North Park playground was only a block and a half away, and its playing fields had lights. If his parents were going to be away from morning until night, at least Ted could play ball instead of sitting on the porch waiting for someone to come home. Roy Engle, Ted’s fellow North Park regular who graduated from high school a class ahead of him, said “We were kind of playground bums, I guess you’d say.”

At age 16 in 1935, he was the star pitcher and slugger of San Diego’s Herbert Hoover High School. He batted .586 and the pro scouts took notice. In 1936 he “slumped” to .403, but signed a contract for $150 a month to play with the new San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League.

In 1936 Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins came to San Diego to check the progress of two Padres he had on option, Bobby Doerr and George Myatt. Collins saw this scrawny 17-year-old part-time pitcher taking batting practice, and he saw the most perfect batting form he had seen, better even than that of his old teammate Joe Jackson. Collins talked Bill Lane, the Padres’ owner, into a handshake deal for an option on the boy who had The Swing. One year later he came back to exercise the option, letting Myatt go to another club, and Williams, like Doerr, became the property of the Boston Red Sox.

San Diego Padres 1937 with Ted Williams

San Diego Padres 1937 with Ted Williams

The Padres of 1937 finished third with Ted playing left field every day, hitting cleanup, and hitting some of the longest homers ever seen on the Coast. On September 19, in the second game of a doubleheader in San Francisco that marked Ted’s last game of the regular season, he provided a harbinger of things to come: he hit a home run in his final at-bat. Before going out to pitch the seventh inning with the wind whipping at his back, Missions’ pitcher Wayne Osbourne said to his teammates, “If that guy thinks he can hit a homer against this gale he’s gonna have to furnish his own power.” Osbourne lobbed up a soft pitch (not unlike Rip Sewell’s famous “eephus” pitch to Ted in the 1946 All Star Game). Ted ripped the ball through the gale, over the fence, across the street, and against a high wall 425 feet from home.

The Swing; Look 10/15/46

The Swing; Look 10/15/46

When Ted Williams reported to the Red Sox spring-training camp in Sarasota, Florida in 1938, as green a pea as ever came off the farm, his reputation preceded him. It wasn’t his statistics that set him apart from mere mortals—in two years in the Pacific Coast League he posted modest batting averages of .271 and .291. It was The Swing. His first day in camp, when he stepped into the batting cage, everything stopped. Even the most veteran players interrupted their drills to watch the Kid strut his stuff: take the wide, erect stance that made him look even taller than his 6’3” height; extend his bat across the plate, as if taking its measure; wiggle his hips and rock his shoulders as if he were searching for solid ground beneath his feet; twist his hands on the bat handle with bad intent. Then, the turn of the hips, the snap of the wrists, the fluid follow-through, and the crack of bat on ball. No student of baseball who saw The Swing will ever forget it.

All the same, Ted failed to win a spot on the big club. He was packed off to Minneapolis, Niccolet Park, and a triple crown: .366, 43 home runs, and 142 RBIs. But his antics in the outfield and on the basepaths drove manager Donie Bush to despair. Maybe the Kid was going to be the game’s next great star, but the comparisons offered by newsmen around the Triple-A circuit were not to Babe Ruth but to Babe Herman—or to Ring Lardner’s “Elmer the Great.” It is hard to fathom today, but as he rose to the majors Ted was universally regarded as a screwball.

Ted made the Red Sox for Opening Day 1939, going on to a sensational rookie year, hitting .327 with 31 homers and a league-high 145 RBIs. After the season he went to Minnesota rather than return to San Diego, where his parents had just separated and his brother Danny was running with a bad crowd. “Home was never a happy place for me,” Ted said, “and I had met a girl in Minnesota.”

The girl was Doris Soule, whom he would later marry. The next year, the Kid incurred the antagonism of Boston writer Harold Kaese, who wrote, “Well, what do you expect from a guy who won’t even go to see his mother in the offseason?” That same year Joe Miley of the New York Post wrote, “When it comes to arrogant and ungrateful athletes, this one leads the league.” Ted never forgave them, not any of “them,” and the long battle between the Kid and the knights of the keyboard was joined.

After a sophomore season in which he failed to meet his own lofty goals, especially in home runs, the Kid began his glory year of 1941 by breaking his ankle in spring training. This may have been a lucky break, as for the first two weeks of the regular season it limited him to pinch hitting duty, thus reducing his plate appearances in the cold weather that he despised. By mid-June he was hitting .436.

TSN Dope Book, 1942

TSN Dope Book, 1942

The 1941 season was the highlight of Ted’s career for more than that one swing in the All-Star Game, more even than the .406 batting average. He also hit 37 homers to lead the AL and topped the league in runs scored and walks as well—with an astonishing .553 on-base percentage (the highest ever until topped by Barry Bonds) and a .735 slugging average (today seventeenth best).

Williams didn’t win the Most Valuable Player Award, however, as writers were swayed by Joe DiMaggio’s flashier record of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. And the Yankees won the pennant. And Ted hadn’t gone home to his mother.

Before the War, Ted was impetuous, unable to deal with frustration. He blew up, threw things, raged out of control. With maturity came a measure of outer restraint, but his gut still churned. “In a crowd of cheers,” he said, “I could always pick out the solitary boo.” Ted and Joe DiMaggio competed for the public’s affection while disavowing any concern with it, but they were truly brothers under the skin—both of them hypersensitive, distrustful, and perfectionist.

After the War, Ted’s return to a Red Sox uniform was typically heroic, driving a home run into the bleachers on Opening Day in the nation’s capital. The Fenway fans of 1946 adored him and Ted reciprocated. The Red Sox cruised to the pennant, and all was right with the world, until the disappointing World Series loss to the Cardinals.

In the years that followed, on up to his famous home run in his final at bat in 1960, at age 41, Ted became increasingly standoffish with the fans and the press, though his teammates loved him. In retirement , though, he seemed to enjoy the company of fellow players ever more, especially those with whom he could talk hitting. Things came full circle for the Kid near the end, at the All-Star Game of 1999 that marked the announcement of Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team. Ted seemed especially pleased that another San Diego kid, Tony Gwynn, showered him with attention and love. Gwynn, with his .394 in the shortened season 1994, had come closer than anyone to matching Ted’s .406, and that made for a special bond between them.

Now they are both gone, Ted in 2002 and Tony in 2014. Maybe they’re still talking hitting.

This article appears in the MLB’s 2016 All-Star Game Guide.



Ida Schnall and the New York Female Giants

Ida Schnall, "Passing Show of 1912"

Ida Schnall, “Passing Show of 1912”

James E. Sullivan, right-hand man to Al Spalding’s publishing empire, had a problem in 1912. The hosts of the Stockholm Olympic Games opened the quadrennial competition to female swimmers and divers. As secretary of the United States Olympic Committee, Sullivan, however, viewing himself as a defender of modesty, refused to let American women compete. In the following year, Ida Schnall—one of these barred American swimmers and an all-around athlete as well as a vaudeville entertainer—wrote to the New York Times, now as a member of the New York Female Giants, a baseball club: “He objects to a mild game of ball or any kind of athletics for girls. He objects to girls wearing a comfortable bathing suit. He objects to so many things that it gives me cause to think that he must be very narrow minded and that we are in the last century.”

Sullivan died suddenly one year later, before he could see Miss Schnall in her next starring role, as a movie actress wearing what appeared to be a very comfortable bathing suit. (Indeed, the film precipitated an obscenity trial in Kentucky.) Undine was a gauzy aquacade (“breezy, bewitching nymphs”) of the sort that had made a star of Australian-born swimmer Annette Kellerman. During the filming of Undine, Ida Schnall dove 130 feet off a Santa Cruz Island cliff, though she had never exceeded a drop of 75 feet before. Upon the film’s release in 1916 a reviewer wrote, “No one really cared much about the plot of Undine: It was enough that the sylphlike Ida Schnall showed up from time to time in various states of near-nudity.”

Ida Schnall in "Undine"

Ida Schnall in “Undine”

Viewing the picture of the New York Female Giants accompanying this column one would hesitate to call Ida Schnall—third from the left at top—a sylph, but standards for female pulchritude were different then. Largely forgotten today, Ida was a great celebrity in her day. She:

  • Won the grand prize at the San Francisco Exhibition of 1915 for being “the most beautifully formed woman in America.
  • Won the women’s bicycle race from New York to Philadelphia.
  • Starred in the now lost film Undine, in which she dove off a 135-foot cliff in the Channle Islands off California.
  • Starred in Al Jolson’s revue, The Passing Show of 1912, where her fancy diving in the harem scene won her plaudits.

I could go on in this vein, but we are about baseball here, so let’s begin with that.

Women entered the playing arena at the Seven Sisters schools of the Northeast. In 1866, Annie Glidden, a student at Vassar College, wrote home describing campus life: “They are getting up various clubs now for out-of-door exercise….They have a floral society, boat clubs and base-ball clubs. I belong to one of the latter, and enjoy it highly, I can assure you.” Ultimately, women’s baseball largely devolved from such high-toned clubs to novelty acts with a girlie-show air, generally in the form of scantily clad Blondes versus Brunettes, with exotic geographic locators applied to each.

Lizzie Arlington (Stride/Stroud)

Lizzie Arlington (Stride/Stroud)

Pulchritudinous Broadway stars like Helen Dauvray would be seen at the Polo Grounds simply to be seen, though they exhibited some interest in baseball and its handsome practitioners. Miss Dauvray went so far as to marry one of them, Giants’ shortstop John Ward. In 1887 she funded the first World Series trophy (the “Dauvray Cup”) for the champion Detroit Wolverines.

The first woman to play in Organized Baseball was Lizzie (Stride, sometimes rendered Stroud) Arlington, who on July 5, 1898, with the blessings of the president of the Atlantic League (a Class B minor league) Ed Barrow, later famous as the man who made pitcher Babe Ruth an everyday player, threw an inning for the Reading Coal Heavers against the Allentown Peanuts. She gave up two hits but no runs. Although she never again pitched against men in Organized Baseball, she did so frequently in her many years of barnstorming exhibitions.

New York Female Giants, 1913; Ida Schnall in top row, third from left

New York Female Giants, 1913; Ida Schnall in top row, third from left

Women also played with professional traveling teams like the Boston Bloomer Girls (based in Kansas City, actually). Ida Schnall, a famous swimmer, started up the New York Female Giants and her two squads, composed of Jewish and Gentile young women, played exhibition contests in 1913. Ida invariably pitched and, as a Broadway celebrity, provided the sort of curves that commanded attention.

Ida Schnall with Rube Marquard, ca. 1913

Ida Schnall with Rube Marquard, ca. 1913

The Female Giants’ first intrasquad game was played on the grounds of the Westchester Golf links on April 27, and was witnessed by over a thousand fans. A game played on Sunday, May 25, 1913, which culminated in a police shutdown when one of the players attempted to sell scorecards, was reported in the New York Tribune thus on the following day:

The batter hitched up her skirt.  The pitcher nervously adjusted a side comb. Girls will be boys, and the Reds and the Blues of the New York Female Giants were playing an exhibition game at Lenox Oval, 145th Street and Lenox Avenue.

Ripley's Believe It or Not, June 25, 1943

Ripley’s Believe It or Not, June 25, 1943

The story of Ida Schnall (1889-1973) encompassed so much more than baseball. A Jewish immigrant from Austria–her mother’s maiden name was Priwa Perlmutter–she became a star athlete in every sport she tried, and then a Broadway sensation and a Hollywood attraction. Decade after decade, she kept forming ball clubs (she reorganized the New York Female Giants in Hollywood in 1928), joining the women’s wrestling tour or playing a highly competitive brand of tennis. Gussie Moran, a famous tennis star, said in 1950 that Ida was, even in her fifties, the greatest woman tennis player who ever lived. “Maybe she hasn’t got the snazziest backhand in the world,” Gussie noted, “but she tries real hard and cheats like mad. She’s great because it’s fun to watch her play.”

William Howard Taft invited her to the White House. Howard Chandler Christy painted her portrait.

At the age of 21 she married Adolph W. Schnitzer, an insurance agent ten years her senior, on January 25, 1913. In the anti-German period after World War I, he renamed himself Will Carver; he died in 1962, eleven years before Ida departed this life.



Neutral Sites

Green Cathedrals

Green Cathedrals

With Sunday’s regular season season game between the Marlins and the Braves set to be played at Fort Bragg, NC, on July 3, members of the media and some fans on social media have asked whether playing a game at a neutral site–not an exhibition contest–but one that counted in the standings–was, if not unprecedented, then at least rare. quickly consulting Green Cathedrals, Phil Lowry’s indispensable book about ballparks that I edited and published for SABR in 1985, I quickly came up with quite a number of neutral-site games in MLB since 1876, a sampling of which I will provide below. But such a list did not include–as Phil did in his Everest of research–neutral-site games in the National Association of 1871-75 (not a major league by today’s definition but certainly baseball’s first professional circuit), or Negro League games.

Then, a brainstorm: why not ask Phil, my friend all these years, to revisit the subject, even though his subsequent writing has reflected new research interests? Here he is, followed by a sampling of MLB’s neutral-site games since 1876.

On Sunday, July 3, 2016, the world will be stunned to see the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves playing a regular season baseball game on an Army Base named Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, North Carolina, a base where the author was once stationed.

The 12,500-seat stadium has been built solely to host this game. After the game is over, it will be torn down, and the entire site will become a multi-purpose area for military families to play many different sports, take classes, and enjoy trails and bike paths.

But this is nowhere near being the first such neutral site regular season MLB game. Here is just a sampling of such games, including, first, a fuller display for the past 20 years. Note: All of the regular season games, going back to 1871, are listed at Retrosheet, as compiled by David Vincent:


3/28/1999: Cuba vs. Orioles in Havana, Cuba

5/3/1999: Cuba vs. Orioles in Baltimore

3/11-12/2000: Astros vs. Red Sox in Santo Domingo, Dominicana

3/19-20/2000: Devil Rays vs. Braves in Caracas, Venezuela

3/10-11/2001 Astros vs. Indians in Valencia, Venezuela

3/16/2001: Padres vs. Rockies in Culiacan, Mexico

3/18/2001: Devil Rays vs. Athletics in Hermosillo, Mexico

3/15-16/2003: Dodgers vs. Mets in Mexico City, Mexico

3/13-14/2004: Astros vs. Marlins in Mexico City, Mexico

3/15-16/2008: Dodgers vs. Padres in Beijing, China

3/29/2008: Monterrey Sultanes vs. Diamondbacks in Phoenix

3/29-30/2011: Monterrey Sultanes/Quintana Roo Tigres Diamondbacks in Phoenix

3/15-16/2013: Mets vs. Dodgers in Mexico City, Mexico

3/15-16/2014: Marlins vs. Yankees in Panama City, Panama

3/20/2014: Australia vs. Dodgers in Sydney, Australia

3/21/2014: Australia vs. Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia

3/28-29/2014: Blue Jays vs. Mets in Montreal, Canada

3/29-30/2014 Veracruz Red Eagles vs. Astros in Houston

3/??/2015 Rockies vs. Diamondbacks in Hermosillo, Mexico

4/3-4/2015 Reds vs. Blue Jays in Montreal, Canada

4/4/2015 Mexico City Red Devils vs. Padres in San Diego

3/22/2016 Cuba vs. Rays in Havana, Cuba

3/26-27/2016 Astros vs. Padres in Mexico City, Mexico

4/1-2/2016 Red Sox vs. Blue Jays in Montreal, Canada


4/1-7/1996: Blue Jays/Tigers vs. Athletics in Las Vegas due to incomplete football renovations in Oakland Coliseum; author attended one Tigers-Athletics game

8/16-18/1996: Mets vs. Padres in Monterrey, Mexico

4/19-20/1997: Cardinals vs. Padres in Honolulu

4/15/1998: Angels vs. Yankees at New York Shea due to falling concrete in Yankee Stadium

4/4/1999: Rockies vs. Padres in Monterrey, Mexico

3/29-30/2000: Cubs vs. Mets in Tokyo, Japan

4/1/2001: Rangers vs. Blue Jays in San Juan, Puerto Rico

2003: 22 Expos home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico

3/30-31/2004: Yankees vs. Rays in Tokyo, Japan

2004: 21 Expos home games in San Juan, Puerto Rico

9/13-14/2004: Expos vs. Marlins in Chicago, U.S. Cellular Field due to Hurricane Ivan

4/10-12/2007: Angels vs. Indians in Milwaukee due to snow in Cleveland

5/15-17/2007: Rangers vs. Rays in Lake Buena Vista

3/25-26/2008: Red Sox vs. Athletics in Tokyo, Japan

4/22-24/2008: Blue Jays vs. Rays in Lake Buena Vista

9/14-15/2008: Cubs vs. Astros in Milwaukee due to Hurricane Ike

6/28-30/2010: Mets and Marlins in San Juan, Puerto Rico

3/28-29/2012: Mariners and Athletics in Tokyo, Japan

3/22-23/2014: Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia

7/3/2016: Marlins vs. Braves at Fort Bragg


Albany, NY: for home team Troy, September 11, 1880; June 15 and September 10, 1881; May 16-18 and 30, 1882

Baltimore, OH: neutral site use by UA Pittsburgh Stogies September 17, 1884

Brooklyn, NY (separate city before 1898): home team Hartford, April 30 to September 21, 1877

Canton, OH: NL Pittsburgh Burghers September 18, 1890; by AL Cleveland Blues June 15, 1902 and May 10 and June 21, 1903

Chicago, IL: neutral site use by NL Cleveland Spiders some games 1898

Columbus, OH: AL Cleveland Blues August 3, 1902; AL Cleveland Naps May 17, 1903; AL Detroit Tigers July 23-24, 1905 

Dayton, OH: AL Cleveland Blues June 8, 1902

Elmira, NY: NL Buffalo Bisons October 10, 1885

Euclid Beach, OH: NL Cleveland Spiders June 12, 1898

Geauga Lake, OH: AA Cleveland Spiders July 22 and 29, August 26, 1888

Geddes, NY: NL Syracuse Stars Sundays 1879

Gloucester City, NJ: AA Philadelphia Athletics Sundays only August 5, 1888 to October 12, 1890

Grand Rapids, MI: AL Detroit Tigers May 24, 1903

Hamilton, OH: AA Cincinnati Reds August 25, 1889

Indianapolis, IN: AA St. Louis Browns one game in 1885; NL St. Louis Maroons September 15, 1885; NL Cleveland Spiders July 28 to August 2, 1890

Jersey City, NJ: NL New York Giants April 24-25, 1889; NL Brooklyn Dodgers seven 1956 games and eight 1957 games

Kansas City, MO: NL St. Louis Browns August 23 and October 15, 1892

Las Vegas, NV: AL Oakland Athletics April 1-7, 1996

Milwaukee, WI:  NL Chicago White Stockings September 4 and 25, 1885; AL Chicago White Sox 9 games in 1968 and 11 in 1969

Minneapolis, MN: AA Milwaukee Brewers October 2, 1891

Newark, NJ: AL New York Highlanders July 17, 1904

Newburgh, OH: AA Cleveland Spiders September 2, 1888

New Haven, CT: NL Hartford Dark Blues September 22, 1877 (team’s customary home that year was in Brooklyn, though one game also played in Hartford)

Petersburg, VA: AA Richmond Virginias October 7, 1884

Philadelphia, PA: NL Cleveland Spiders July 29-30, August 5-6, 8, and 11, 1898

Pittsburgh, PA: NL Indianapolis Blues August 22-24, 1878

Rochester, NY: NL Cleveland Spiders August 27 and 29, 1898; also, different Rochester field: NL Cleveland Spiders August 28, 1898

St. Louis, MO: NL Indianapolis Blues July 9, 11, and 13, 1878; NL Cleveland Spiders several games in 1898 and on September 24, 1899

Syracuse, NY: NL Buffalo Bisons June 27, 1885

Three Rivers, NY: AA Syracuse Stars Sundays May 18 to July 20, 1890

Toledo, OH: NL Detroit October 5, 1885; AL Detroit Tigers June 28 and August 16, 1903

Weehawken, NJ: AA New York Mets September 11, 1887

West New York, NJ: NL Brooklyn Bridegrooms September 11 and 18 and October 2, 1898; by NL New York Giants June 4, July 16, August 13, and September 17, 1899

Wheeling, WV: NL Pittsburgh Pirates September 22, 1890