Baseball’s Past in the Present


Larry’s pack, eh, teammates; story far below

Anyone who knows me, or has read the “About” section of my blog, knows I love baseball. A website I came across, explains Craig R. Wright’s work. He has been turning out stories about baseball for a long time. His articles are unique and interesting. Here are some comments by me about 3 of his stories I’ve found in his twice a week column or his book containing other original work.

Eddie Gaedel

The Story Behind the Midget Batter, Pages from Baseball’s Past, 7/17/17. You may know part of the story already. Bill Veeck was known for stunts to increase attendance at baseball games when he was owner of a ball club (eg, St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians). For example: his home park had an exploding scoreboard; he had fans hold up signs telling the manager what to do; and more important, he signed the first black player in the American League (Larry Doby) and the sport’s oldest rookie (Satchel Paige). In 1951, he sent a midget into a game as a pinch hitter. His name was Eddie Gaedel (see above), age 26, height 3’7”. He didn’t get a hit. He didn’t make an out. He walked on 4 pitches. So, his lifetime stats were: Games: 1; Plate Appearances: 1; On Base Percentage: 1.000. Wright’s article explains why Veeck wasn’t the first or second person to have that idea. Plus, why fans enjoyed the stunt, but it didn’t surprise them. There’s more to the story than Bill Veeck’s creativity.

Tony Gwynn

The Master of Two-Strike Hitting, from Wright’s website. A number of players have been called a”clutch hitter.” But Wright tells you who, according to baseball’s statistics, IS the finest two-strike hitter. You’ve heard of him: Tony Gwynn (see above). In a 20 year career, he batted .338. In his rookie year, his batting average was .289 –and he hit from .309 to .394 in each of the next 19 years. He won 8 batting titles. From 1993-1997, he batted from .353 to .394. The closet a batter has come to hitting .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. But for those five years, with 2 strikes on him, Tony hit .337. No one has ever done better. And how many players hit .337 in their total at bats from 1993-1997 = no one.

Larry, from Wright’s book in 2013. In 1912, the baseball team in Cleveland had a mascot: a bull terrier the team named Larry (after the team’s finest player, Napoleon “Larry”Lajoie). A player, Jack Graney, was injured for much of a season and he trained Larry. Larry would chase and retrieve foul balls, and jump through a “hoop” Graney made with his arms. The crowds loved when Larry played leap frog going from the back of one player who was bent over to a line of players in the same position. Larry joined the players on a train traveling from town to town or rode in Shoeless Joe Jackson’s car. Once, when the man coaching at third base was thrown out of the game, Larry decided to fill the coaching box and “cheer” on his teammates. If Larry needed a “vacation” during the long season, Graney taught him to go on a ferry boat which went from Cleveland (on Lake Erie) to Graney’s parents’ home in St. Thomas, Ontario. Larry stayed with the ship’s captain until the boat reached port. The crew then placed him on a street car and Larry knew when to get off and run to the home of Graney’s parents. When the team played in Washington, D. C. in 1913, Larry met President Woodrow Wilson –and chased a squirrel up a tree on the President’s lawn. Unfortunately, Larry became sick in 1917 and died on July 25 …exactly one hundred years ago.

Big L+J

Jack and Larry

I don’t work for Mr. Wright or get money for suggesting you consider subscribing to his publication. But as he says on his website: “The basic principle of Pages from Baseball’s Past is simply to tell a good baseball story that is also true and well researched. The final key component is to keep it brief … but I would consider it a failure if it weren’t also gently teaching the readership about the history of the game.”

About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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