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Monday, April 06, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-6-2020

Rock Island Argus, April 6, 1920:

The White Sox goofs were scheduled to play at Okmulgee, Okla., today and left [Oklahoma City] with a defeat of 11 to 5 handed to then by the local club yesterday. The game was a free hitting affair. Recruit Pitchers Stewart and Tesar did the hurling for the big leaguers and were hit hard.

I don’t know which would be more embarrassing: Being a member of the White Sox Goofs or trying to earn a big league job and getting whomped by a local amateur team.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: April 06, 2020 at 10:11 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, goofs, history

This Day in Transaction History: Yankees acquire Bucky Dent

Bucky F***ing Dent. For decades, that’s how fans of the Boston Red Sox referred to the shortstop who spent six of his 12 seasons with the Yankees. Dent posted an unimpressive .618 OPS over his career but hit one of the more important and memorable home runs in the Yankees’ storied history. None of it would have happened if the Yankees didn’t acquire him from the White Sox 43 years ago.

In his first four seasons in the majors with the White Sox, Dent earned a reputation as a good defender, finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 1974 and making the AL All-Star squad the following year despite uninspiring offense numbers. Heading into the 1977 season, Dent and the White Sox weren’t able to come to an agreement on a contract, so the club traded him to the Yankees, who were in need of an established shortstop.

Dent won a World Series ring in his first year with the Yankees in 1977 as the club defeated the Dodgers in six games in the Fall Classic. Dent, as expected, did most of his work with his glove but left much to be desired at the plate, finishing the regular season with a .653 OPS. He went 8-for-33 with seven singles and a double in the postseason.

The 1978 season was looking like more of the same. Dent played in 123 games, posting a .603 OPS in the regular season. He would have had a sub-.600 OPS if not for his heroics in the final game of the season, a Game 163 tiebreaker against the Red Sox. Both clubs finished the year with a 99-63 record. Back then, only four teams made the playoffs, so this was an even more monumental game than it would have been by more modern standards. The Red Sox won a coin toss so they had the privilege of hosting the Yankees for all the marbles.

In other words, Red Sox fans have Bill Veeck to blame…..

 

QLE Posted: April 06, 2020 at 12:48 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: bucky dent, history, transactions

Sunday, April 05, 2020

On this date: The Nationals played their first game ever

It seems like eons ago that the Washington Nationals played in their first game after departing from Montreal.

Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of their inaugural game as they brought professional baseball back to the District of Columbia.

The Nationals opened up the 2005 season on the road at Citizens Bank Park with a matchup against their future rival in the Phillies.

 

QLE Posted: April 05, 2020 at 01:02 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: history, nationals

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Baseball Question of the Day: Which historical game would you want to see?

This is a hard question insofar as it forces you to make a choice. I mean, there are probably dozens, scores — hundreds! — of games I’d love to be able to hop into a time machine and see live, and I have to pick just one? Jeez.

Of course there’s a problem here: I’ve spent much of the past couple of weeks talking about how I’d rather see a game that is new to me rather than one I already know the outcome to. Doesn’t this exercise negate that? Under that set of assumptions, am I not going to be happier seeing some random 1965 tilt between the Senators and the White Sox than I am to see one of baseball’s most memorable games? Probably!

Well, since we’re assuming the existence of time machines let’s set an additional fantastical ground rule: once you step into the time machine, any specific personal knowledge you have of the game is erased. Or at least as much as you specify. All you know is that you are about to be sent back in time to see something cool and historic, maybe with a little context if you feel you need it. After the game is over your previous memory is restored but, of course, it is now augmented by the experience of having witnessed the amazing game or event or whatever you choose.

Does that make sense? I’m really not sure. My brain is starting to get broken by the lack of structure in society so I’m not sure if that holds together.

I’m trying to make up my mind, as there are too many good candidates throughout baseball history- any of you have a better idea what you want to see?

 

QLE Posted: April 04, 2020 at 01:06 AM | 62 comment(s)
  Beats: games past, history, questions

Friday, April 03, 2020

Today in Baseball History: A lie about how baseball was invented is born

Until not too terribly long ago, if you asked most people about the origins of baseball, they’d say “a man named Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839.” They’d say that because, until not too long ago, there was a sign there, right next to the Hall of Fame, saying so. Somewhere around here I have a photo of my brother and I posing next to it from, like, 1983 or something.

That sign — and the underlying belief it espouses — is the product of one baseball’s bigger lies. “The Doubleday Myth,” as it has finally come to be known, about the game’s origin. A myth that was officially put out into the world on this date in 1908 when something called the Mills Commission released a report to that effect, erroneously establishing a baseball creation story that would stick in the public’s consciousness for nearly a century. A report the Mills Commission knew to be false to begin with.

To understand how such a report could be released, one has to understand the ethnic/racial dynamics of the sport in its infancy.

Baseball had been played pretty widely from the 1840s on, became semi-professionalized and then professionalized in the 1860s and 1870s, and was truly becoming the national pastime in the two decades after that. As the game grew in popularity, so too did the number of immigrants playing it. Irish immigrants, mostly. At the same time there was considerable — and quite accurate — sentiment that baseball had evolved from the English game rounders, which is primarily played by school-aged children.

Or, the story of how a mentally-ill mining engineer and a sporting-goods dealer with an agenda damaged serious research into baseball for decades.

 

QLE Posted: April 03, 2020 at 12:59 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: abner doubleday, big fat lie, history, origins

Thursday, April 02, 2020

This Day in Sports History: MLB Players Go on Their First Strike

In the long history of Major League Baseball, there have been eight work stoppages. Most were relatively unsubstantial: Five of the eight resulted in no games missed, with the 1985 players’ strike lasting a mere two days from Aug. 6-7.

Others have been more consequential. The infamous 1994 strike stands out among the rest, as it resulted in the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. When the next work stoppage will occur is anybody’s guess, but the first will always be the 13-day players’ strike that began on April 1, 1972.

The MLB Players Association wasn’t even six years old heading into the 1972 campaign. But with the expiration of the league’s three-year pension agreement imminent, an opportunity existed for the players to take some control over labor negotiations.

The players were requesting increases to ownership’s pension contributions, which the owners were set against. Amid talk of a strike, owners did not take the players’ threats seriously—at this point, there had never been a work stoppage before, and the MLBPA had yet to demonstrate any meaningful bargaining power.

The story of a strike, in brief form.

 

QLE Posted: April 02, 2020 at 01:45 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: history, mlbpa, strikes

Today in Baseball History: Umpire John McSherry dies after collapsing on the field

Opening Day in Cincinnati is special. Everything basically shuts down. A big parade is held and a party atmosphere pervades the city. The Reds have not gotten the honor of hosting the absolute first game of each year’s baseball schedule for some time, but the first Reds game each year — always at home, always a day game — is a special experience.

Opening Day 1996, however, was a tragic one, as home plate umpire John McSherry, working his 26th season as a major league umpire, collapsed and died during the first inning of the Reds game against the Montreal Expos.

McSherry was in good spirits before the game, jokingly telling Reds catcher, Eddie Taubensee, “Eddie, you can call the first two innings.”  A few moments later, however, there were some signs — recognized only in hindsight — that something was off. Expos coach Jim Tracy said that when he brought out his team’s lineup card, McSherry slurred some of his words. Reds starter Pete Schourek was surprised when his first pitch of the game — a fastball delivered to leadoff hitter Mark Grudzielanek that was right down the middle — was hesitantly called a ball, as if perhaps McSherry didn’t really see the pitch.

Things proceeded normally for a few moments. Grudzielanek flied out to right. Expos second baseman Mike Lansing struck out swinging. Then Rondell White came to bat. With the count 1-1, McSherry stepped away from the plate, raised his right hand, and waved it toward second base. Taubensee later recalled that McSherry said “hold on, timeout for a second.” Taubensee thought that maybe McSherry had pulled a muscle in his leg or hurt his back. He walked back toward the gate in the stands that led to tunnel leading to the umpire’s room. That’s when he collapsed.

 

QLE Posted: April 02, 2020 at 01:36 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: history, john mcsherry, opening day, umpires

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Today in Baseball History: The Seattle Pilots get their name

Professional football, long second or even third or fourth or fifth fiddle to baseball behind horse racing, boxing, and college football, had grown greatly popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. The 1958 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts — which ended in sudden death overtime and was subsequently dubbed The Greatest Game Ever Played — was seen as the moment when pro football took its place as the top dog in American sports. As the 1960s dawned, football was ascendent and baseball was in the process of falling off its perch as “The National Pastime.”

It would, in fact, fall off that perch and has basically remained off that perch, subordinate to the NFL in the national consciousness, in all but name for many decades. But as the 1960s dawned the Lords of Baseball tried to counteract the game’s slide in popularity and prominence by doing what it probably should’ve done years and years before: it began to expand.

In 1960, the American League voted to expand from eight to 10 teams, adding added a new franchise, the Angels, in Los Angeles. The league also awarded a franchise to Minneapolis-St. Paul, but Washington Senators owner Calvin Griffith received approval to move the Senators there instead, where they became thew Twins, with the new expansion slot to Washington going to the new Senators, who would eventually become the Texas Rangers in the early 1970s.

Unlike today, the AL and NL were still run as basically separate and often competing entities in the 1960s, so the NL did not immediately match the AL’s expansion. The twin pressures of AL expansion, along with that threat from a potential upstart in the Continental Baseball League that we discussed a couple of weeks ago, changed the Senior Circuit’s mind the following year and it added two new expansion clubs of its own for the 1962 season: the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s, who would eventually become the Astros.

The story of the rise and quick fall of a Major League franchise- and one that has been rather consequential in various regards.

 

QLE Posted: April 01, 2020 at 12:49 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: expansion, history, pilots, seattle

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Today in Baseball History: The White Sox trade Sammy Sosa to the Cubs

In July of 1985 the Texas Rangers signed Sammy Sosa out of the Dominican Republic. He was just one of many rising young talents that rebuilding Rangers team would develop in the mid-to-late 80s. By the dawn of the 1989 season he, along with an about-to-truly-break-out Ruben Sierra, the recently-acquired Rafael Palmerio, and young pitchers Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, and Wilson Alvarez were all poised to be a part of the next good Rangers club.

And that 1989 club — which also featured veteran pitchers Nolan Ryan and Charlie Hough, veteran hitter Julio Franco and a powerful young slugger named Pete Incaviglia — was good, at least for a little while. The powerful Oakland A’s owned the AL West at the time, but Texas broke out pretty quickly, fell back a bit, but by late June had climbed to within two games of the Bash Brothers. That inspired General Manager Tom Grieve to add a bat. He found a trading partner in Larry Himes, GM for the Chicago White Sox.

The bat he added: Harold Baines, who had been raking for the White Sox in the first 96 games of the season. The price for Baines: young Sammy Sosa, who had gotten his first taste of the big leagues in June and early July. He wasn’t ready for it and was a liability in 88 plate appearances. Years later, President George W. Bush, who was the owner of the Rangers at the time of the trade, would cite his approval of the Baines-Sosa deal as his biggest regret, but it made a good deal of short-term sense at the time. Unfortunately for the Rangers Baines was pretty average in the season’s final couple of months. The Rangers faded badly in the dog days of August and finished the season 16 games back of the eventual World Series champ Athletics.

The White Sox were quite high on their new young, toolsy prospect at first. After the trade in 1989 Sosa put up a decent .273/.351/.414 (118 OPS+), which was certainly promising. In 1990, however, he’d falter, batting .233/.282/.404 with 15 homers in 579 plate appearances in his first full year in the bigs. He flashed some of the speed he had shown in the Rangers’ system — he stole 32 bases — but he was also caught stealing 16 times which was less-than-ideal. The next year he declined sharply, hitting only .203/.240/.335 with 10 homers. That July he’d earn a demotion to Triple-A. It was pretty clear he had played his way out of the White Sox’ future plans, even if he was only 22.

 

 

QLE Posted: March 31, 2020 at 12:41 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, history, sammy sosa, trades, white sox

Monday, March 30, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-30-2020

Washington Times, March 30, 1920:

NEW YORK PLAYERS THREATEN A STRIKE

As a result of a threatened strike on the part of some of the New York Yankees, who demanded more money as their share of the world’s series melon, several may be sold or traded. Derrill Pratt, Bob Shawkey and Roger Peckinpaugh, acting a committee for the players, voiced the demand to Colonel Ruppert and Lieutenant-Colonel Huston, who will make their formal answer tomorrow. It is generally thought that Pratt’s days as a Yankee are ended.

The Yankees received $13,000 from the world’s series profits. This was divided among the players, some of whom now say they should have received $70 apiece more. The committee wanted an immediate answer from the Yankee magnates.

$70 in 1920 is worth around $900 in today’s money. That’s not nothing, but it’s sure a weird hill to die on.

Anyway, Pratt was traded to the Red Sox in the Waite Hoyt deal after the 1920 season. Peckinpaugh got exiled to Boston almost exactly a year to the day after Pratt in a deal for Joe Bush, Sad Sam Jones, and Everett Scott. Shawkey spent the rest of his career with the Yankees, so ownership must have forgiven his involvement.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 30, 2020 at 10:47 AM | 40 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Dodgers snapshot: Nomomania grips L.A. and Japan when Hideo Nomo dominates in 1995

Hideo Nomo pulled into the Dodgers’ spring training complex in Vero Beach, Fla., for the first time in March 1995, hopping out of a minivan just long enough to grab the keys to his dormitory room from a team official and drive away.

About 50 Japanese writers, photographers and cameramen who had staked out Nomo for hours chased it from behind.

Nomo and his interpreter drove slowly around a small loop in front of the team’s headquarters with the media horde in tow, creating a scene right out of a Keystone Kops film.

“They drove around in circles, and the media ran after them until they finally just tuckered out,” said Arizona Diamondbacks team President Derrick Hall, a Dodgers assistant media relations director in 1995. “We watched this go on for about 30 minutes and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, the following this guy has.’ ”

Something of interest to ponder in retrospective- granted, as a West Coast resident my perspective might be skewed, but I seem to recall the mania around Hideo Nomo as being greater than any I’ve seen around any player in the last decade, and it strikes me as of interest to consider why.

QLE Posted: March 29, 2020 at 12:57 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: hideo nomo, history

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Today in Baseball History: The Cubs get their name

Baseball team names are established, trademarked things. New team names are focus-grouped and then established and trademarked. The key thing is that they are immutable. The Yankees are and always will be the Yankees. The Dodgers are and always will be the Dodgers. It’s something you can bank on.

But it’s also something that was not always the case. Not by a long shot. Indeed, from the advent of the game itself there an element of true nicknaming — names being applied informally — has almost always been involved.

The alleged first recorded game of baseball took place between teams called “New York” and “Knickerbocker,” both of which were from New York City, with the latter assuming a distinctive name, likely to keep it being confused with its rival. Many pre-National League amateur or semi-professional teams had names such as “Atlantic,” “Olympic,” and “Forest City,” but they were not formally named pursuant to the current convention such as “The Brooklyn Atlantics” or the “Philadelphia Olympics.” The legal names were “Atlantic Base Ball Club” and “Olympic Base Ball Club,” etc., with the cities just being additional descriptors.

The Cincinnati “Red Stockings,” acknowledged as the first fully-professional team, were given their name by sportswriters due to the actual clothes they happened to wear — uniforms with red stockings — as opposed to having the name applied to them first, and thus was a nickname in the most literal sense of the term. Soon other professional teams, first in the National Association and then in the National League, assumed their own distinctive colors as well. In 1882 the National League passed a rule requiring specific stocking colors, as follows:

Boston: Red
Buffalo: Gray
Chicago: White
Cleveland: Navy blue
Detroit: Old Gold
Providence: Light Blue
Troy: Green
Worcester: Brown

The story of how the names we apply to teams came to be.

 

QLE Posted: March 28, 2020 at 12:37 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, history, names

Friday, March 27, 2020

Ted Simmons and the Bizarre Brawl

One of the benefits of working at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is the opportunity to meet newly elected Hall of Famers during their wintertime orientation visits to Cooperstown. Earlier this month, staff members had their chance to talk to Ted Simmons, who finally earned election to the Hall through the Era Committee that met and voted in December.

As a fan of Simmons, I was glad to see him earn his place in Cooperstown. I especially wanted to meet him and was not disappointed. It would be hard to meet a former player more gracious, more outgoing, and more appreciative than Simmons, who spent several minutes with almost every staff member during a meet-and-greet in the Hall’s Learning Center.

As cordial as Simmons was during his orientation visit to central New York, it’s easy to forget just how competitive he was as a player. He was a hard-nosed, rough-and-tumble catcher who played the game all-out, drawing the respect of his teammates at stops in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Atlanta during a career that touched three decades. Like many of the great catchers of teh 1970s and ‘80s, Simmons showed remarkable toughness; over a 10-year span, he averaged 135 games behind the plate, often playing with aches and pains while still maintaining a standard of hitting that belied the wear and tear of the position.

Simmons was a fiery player, too, one who could become angered in the pursuit of winning. In the latter stages of 1974, Simmons became a prime participant in one of the strangest brawls I’ve ever seen in watching the game over the past 50 years. It was not your typical baseball fight given the strange way it began, with two members of the Chicago Cubs stepping into the batter’s box at the same time.

 

QLE Posted: March 27, 2020 at 01:15 PM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: brawl, cooperstown, history, ted simmons

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-26-2020

L’Anse [Michigan] Sentinel, March 26, 1920:

Backers of the Wichita Falls Club in the Texas League have a scheme that may be followed by other clubs if it pans out right. Because of shortage of hotel accommodations in the Texas boom town, the Wichita Falls people plan to build a hotel for home and visiting ball players in connection with their grandstand. There will be kitchenettes, indoor beds and everything for Mrs. Ball Player if she wants to make her home with hubby at the ball park.

Indoor beds! Now you’re talking!

All snark aside, though, this is a pretty solid idea.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 26, 2020 at 10:05 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, indoor beds

Today in Baseball History: A new car and a batting title scandal

On March 25, 1910, the Chalmers Auto Company of Detroit came up with a cool idea: it offered to award a new car to the batting champion of each league. After some consideration, the National and American Leagues would accept the offer.

I don’t care about the award as such, but it did lead to a pretty tasty baseball scandal I want to talk about. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, a little background.

What would become the Chalmers Auto Company started as the E.R. Thomas Company of Detroit. It was one of many late 19th-early 20th century companies trying to make a go of it in the auto business, but it was making a pretty poor go of it. In 1908 Thomas hired a bright young cash register salesman from Dayton named Hugh Chalmers to boost its fortunes. Chalmers was named president. Later that year he bought out Thomas completely and changed the name of the company, creating the Chalmers Auto Company of Detroit.

Chalmers had a knack for promotion and did a lot to increase the company’s visibility. He hired professional drivers and arranged for them to enter Chalmers cars in road races, endurance events and other sorts of contests and exhibitions. Via partnerships he got involved in the nascent Hudson Motor Company, but eventually sold off his interest there, leaving Hudson to produce smaller, more economical cars, while Chalmers increasingly focused on building larger, more luxurious cars. His crown jewel: the Chalmers Model 30 Roadster. It was a pretty sweet ride. It was also the model of car that Chalmers would award the batting champ of each league.

Or, why offering prizes for statistical performance can backfire in a hurry…..

 

QLE Posted: March 26, 2020 at 12:50 AM | 13 comment(s)
  Beats: awards, cars, chalmers, history, nap lajoie, tigers, ty cobb

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-25-2020

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, March 25, 1920:

John A. Heydler, president of the National League, [last night] challenged Lee Magee, former Cincinnati and Chicago National League player, to explode his “biggest bomb in baseball history.”

Magee announced in Cincinnati [two days ago] that he would give out the charges on which the National League bases its action in barring him from its circuit. He added he would “show up some people for tricks turned ever since 1906, and there will be merry music in the baseball world.”
...
[Heydler writes in a letter to Magee’s attorney:] “No charges are pending in this office by or against Mr. Lee Magee. If I understand the position taken by him in this interview he insists that charges have been made against him by someone, that they have to do with gambling, and that he will expose himself and drag others into the matter with him. If there are any others implicated in the batters to which Mr. Magee seems anxious to plead guilty, the more quickly he names them and gives proof of their complicity with him or others, the better it will be for baseball.”

Magee: “I’ll do it! I’ll name names!”
Heydler: “Okay.”

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 25, 2020 at 10:11 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, gambling, history

Today in Baseball History: Helene Britton becomes the first woman to own a team

Stanley Robison was a streetcar magnate who, along with his brother Frank, became baseball moguls as well. They were the founding owners of the Cleveland team that would become the Cleveland Spiders. They, infamously, sold the Spiders and purchased the St. Louis Browns — who would become the St. Louis Cardinals — swapping out Browns and Spiders rosters, which resulted in the 1899 Browns becoming the worst team in baseball history before their eventual demise.

Frank ran the show in St. Louis, but he died suddenly in 1906, leaving Stanley as sole owner. The Cardinals were a terrible club during Stanley’s sole ownership, finishing in last or second-to-last place in all five seasons he was solely at the helm. In late 1910 Stanley’s health began to decline. On March 24, 1911 Stanley — a bachelor with no family of his own — died of heart failure and blood poisoning while visiting his brother’s widow, her daughter, Helene, and Helene’s young family in Cleveland.

Stanley’s death was something of a shock, but it was nothing compared to the shock delivered at the reading of his will: he had bequeathed controlling interest in the St. Louis Cardinals to his niece, Helene. The remainder of the shares went to her mother, Frank’s widow. As a result, Helene Hathaway Robison Britton became the first woman to own a major league baseball team.

QLE Posted: March 25, 2020 at 12:35 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cardinals, helene britton, history, ownership, women in baseball

This Day in Sports History: Randy Johnson and the bird pitch

Once again jumping ahead to the relevant content:

Johnson was right in the middle of all that in 2001, which was a big year for him. He ended the season with league-leading stats, his fourth of five career Cy Youngs, and he’d also get his only World Series ring (and World Series MVP award) while leading the still-newborn Diamondbacks franchise to its first (and still only) championship.

It all started with a bird. A bird that sacrificed its life so that Johnson’s legacy could reach mythic proportions.

The event?
History’s deadliest no-pitch.

The season hadn’t even started yet. The Diamondbacks were playing the San Francisco Giants in a spring training game, just as meaningless as the last one. The sun was bright, the grass was green, and one bird had no idea that it was about to flap its wings for the very last time.

Some day, the birds will get their revenge…..

 

QLE Posted: March 25, 2020 at 12:31 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: bird, history, randy johnson

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Today in Baseball History: Dodgers commit to Dodgertown

On this day in 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed a 21-year lease with the city of Vero Beach, Florida, for use of their spring training facilities there. The facility would become known as Dodgertown, the most storied spring training facility in baseball history.

Dodgertown owed its existence to Bud Holman, a Kentucky-born Cadillac dealer who had set up shop in tiny Vero Beach, Florida in 1925. In 1929 he and a few other local businessmen established the Vero Beach Airport. Within six years he would manage to convince Eastern Air Lines to make it into a fueling stop and to obtain direct air mail service for the community. At the time, Vero Beach would be the smallest U.S. city to have such service. By the time of World War II, the airport and Vero Beach would become a military community and naval housing would be established. The U.S. Naval Air Station, Vero Beach, Florida was commissioned on November 24, 1942 to provide a Navy and Marine flight training base. In 1946 the Navy gave the facility back to the city of Vero Beach, and Bud Holman and the city leaders needed to find something to do with that land.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Dodgers had been training in a number of places. In 1947 they actually trained in Havana, Cuba, partially because they got a great offer to do so, partially so Rickey could keep the fact that he had invited Jackie Robinson to big league camp as far from the public eye as possible. He was not quite ready to let that news break wide. It’d break wide pretty soon, of course, and as the 1947 season wore on, Rickey and the Dodgers had to figure out where they’d go for the following year’s spring training. They had a decent offer on the table from some interests in the Dominican Republic, but nothing was set in stone. Rickey preferred to come back to the United States the following February, and he wanted a big, self-contained place. The Dodgers had over two dozen minor league teams at the time, and Rickey wanted everyone to train in one location if possible.

Holman heard of the Dodgers’ interest in a big U.S. location and put himself and Vero Beach on Rickey’s radar. Rickey sent an underling — future Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi — to Florida to scout Vero Beach and some other places. He’d never make it to the other places thanks to Holman’s sales pitch and, more importantly, the fact that they had a self-contained facility with housing, mess halls, and a private airstrip. It was everything the Dodgers wanted. All they had to do was build the actual baseball diamonds. In December of 1947 the Dodgers and the City of Vero Beach reach a five-year lease agreement for the former U.S Naval Air Station and renamed the property “Dodger Town.” It’d be shortened to one word over time.

The story of a spring-training facility.

 

QLE Posted: March 24, 2020 at 12:41 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: dodgers, dodgertown, history, spring training

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Today in Baseball History: The beginning of the end for Pete Rose

In the spring of 1989, Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth was a lame duck. His successor, National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti, was unanimously elected to succeed him the previous September and was poised to take office on April 1. Most lame ducks like Ueberroth do very little of note, but just before stepping out of the spotlight, Ueberroth dropped a bomb: On March 20, 1989 he announced that his office was conducting a “full inquiry into serious allegations” about Cincinnati Reds manager and all-time baseball hit king, Pete Rose.

The announcement — which provided no other details — took the public by surprise, but as is the case with almost anything baseball does, Ueberroth was reacting to bad press. In this case it was a detailed investigative report from Sports Illustrated about Rose’s associations with convicted felons, his alleged huge betting losses and his questionable handling of money he received from memorabilia sales and autograph signings. A few days later Sports Illustrated reported that Ueberroth had received information that Rose may have bet on baseball games. Including Reds games.

Ueberroth hired the attorney John Dowd as special counsel to investigate. Dowd’s report was submitted to Giamatti in May and was made public on June 27. It was voluminous, including eight volumes of exhibits, which included bank and telephone records, betting records, expert reports, and transcripts of interviews with Rose and other witnesses. It was also damning. It’s principal findings, from the introductory summary of the Dowd Report:

“As detailed more extensively herein, Pete Rose has denied under oath ever betting on Major League Baseball or associating with anyone who bet on Major League Baseball. However, the investigation has developed information to the contrary. the testimony and the documentary evidence gathered in the course of the investigation demonstrated that Pete Rose bet on baseball, and in particular, on games of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club during the 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons . . . the accumulated testimony of witnesses, together with the documentary evidence and telephone records reveal extensive betting activity by Pete Rose in connection with professional baseball and, in particular, Cincinnati Reds games, during the 1985, 1986, and 1987 baseball seasons.”

The story of a scoundrel’s downfall.

 

QLE Posted: March 21, 2020 at 12:58 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: gambling, history, investigation, pete rose

Friday, March 20, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-20-2020

Pittsburgh Press, March 20, 1920:

It seems that a gross injustice has been done Heine Zimmerman of the Giants. When the story came out sometime ago that the majors had established a virtual blacklist against certain players for their gambling activities, Zimmerman’s name was mentioned as being one of the unfortunates.

Now it is said that no such charges were ever brought against him. He got into trouble with McGraw last season by breaking the club’s rules. He was tendered a contract some time ago, but it called for a small salary, and Heine refused to sign it. He did not report at the training camp. That is the whole Zimmerman story in a nutshell, according to those in a position to know.

Narrator: “It wasn’t.”

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 20, 2020 at 10:08 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Project GOAT review: Building the greatest rotisserie team of the fantasy baseball era

All of this began with Mike Schmidt.

Schmidt was the first nomination in fantasy baseball’s first rotisserie auction way back in 1980. At $26, he was also a filthy steal. He led the National League in home runs (48) and RBI (121) by huge margins that season, winning the first of his three MVPs. Schmidt would average 37 homers per year from 1980 to 1987, dominating roto’s formative period.

And somehow, in his biggest power season, he went for just $26. Of course, in that first year, at the first auction, nobody was an expert. Prices were guesses.

Rotisserie’s original scoring rules were conceived by writer Dan Okrent, who pitched the concept to various friends and colleagues until he found a small group of curious/willing players. The game itself was named for a New York restaurant frequented by league members, La Rotisserie Francaise (now defunct).

So, based on the rules established, what teams would you have created?

 

QLE Posted: March 20, 2020 at 12:27 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: fantasy baseball, history, rotisserie baseball, teams

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-19-2020

Chattanooga News, March 19, 1920:

Joe Sewell, captain and second baseman of the University of Alabama baseball team, has signed a contract with the New Orleans Southern association team, and will report to Manager Dobbs at the close of the collegiate baseball season.

Sewell didn’t spend much time in the minors; Cleveland had an unexpectedly urgent need for a shortstop towards the end of the 1920 season.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 19, 2020 at 09:57 AM | 13 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Today in Baseball History: When Mantle and Mays were banned from baseball

On May 14, 2018 the United States Supreme Court struck down a law that outlawed sports gambling in nearly every state. The ruling began the process of legalized sports gambling spreading all over the United States. It also resulted in a very strange new world for Major League Baseball: it basically got into the gambling business.

In November of 2018, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that MGM Resorts would become the first ever “Official Gaming Partner of Major League Baseball.” MGM began to advertise its many casinos and resorts on MLB Network, MLB.com, the MLB At Bat app and the like. MGM, in turn, was given access to MLB’s official statistics for its online and casino-based sports books. That included “enhanced statistics” given to MGM on an exclusive basis. It was like the league and one of the world’s biggest gambling outfits were working together, hand-in-hand.

Which makes it sort of insane to remember that, not terribly long ago, Major League Baseball actually banned two of the greatest players in its history for merely agreeing to shake hands with people at a casino.

In 1979 Willie Mays, who had just been inducted into the Hall of Fame and who was severing as the New York Mets’ hitting instructor, signed a contract to be a “goodwill ambassador” for the Bally’s Park Place hotel and casino in Atlantic City. It was not a full-time job. Mays’ job was basically, to show up and be famous while doing meet-and-greets at corporate and charity events. Indeed, if anything, there was less of a chance that Mays could be involved in actual gambling with this job than before he had it, because under New Jersey law he had to register with the gambling commission as a casino employee and casino employees were prohibited from making bets. And, for what it’s worth, sports gambling wasn’t even available in New Jersey at the time.

Remember the good old days, when Bowie Kuhn was the worst Commissioner we’ve ever seen?

 

QLE Posted: March 19, 2020 at 01:00 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: ban, gambling, history, mickey mantle, willie mays

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-18-2020

Washington Times, March 18, 1920:

Jim Thorpe will not play professional football next fall. He made this announcement while [in Akron] signing his baseball contract with the Akron International League club.

Yeah, Jim Thorpe was totally done with pro football at this point and definitely didn’t do anything important in the sport during 1920.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 18, 2020 at 10:00 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

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