June 1, 1917: Hank Gowdy Enlists

Hank Gowdy was a great ball player and a great patriot.   The high point of his ball career was in the 1914 World Series where he was the most valuable player for winning the World Series for the Boston Braves.  In 1917 he was 28 years old and at his peak as a ball player.  On June 1, he turned his back on fame and fortune, enlisting in the Army, the first major leaguer to do so .  He served in the 166th regiment of the Rainbow Division in France, going through some of the worst trench fighting that American troops experience in the War.  Coming home from the War in one piece, he resumed his career with the Braves.  In 1923 he was traded to the Giants.  After he retired from ball played, he served as a coach with the Braves, the Giants and the Reds.

When the US entered World War II, Gowdy enlisted in the Army again, despite being 53.  Among other duties he served as chief athletic officer at Fort Benning.  He was the only major leaguer to serve in both world wars.  After the War he served as coach and manager for the Reds, retiring from baseball in 1948.  He passed away in 1966 at age 76. (more…)

Published in: on June 1, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 1, 1917: Hank Gowdy Enlists  
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Black Sox Scandal: A Century Later

 

 

 

 

 

A young boy pleaded to Jackson as he left the Grand Jury room,” Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.”  Jackson replied,” Yes kid, I’m afraid it is.”

“Shoeless Joe” Jackson to young boy. This is a reporter’s myth, but it should have happened, and is now enshrined in the lore of baseball.

 

 

As the above video indicates the Black Sox scandal remains controversial.  The folly of turning professional athletes into heroes was amply demonstrated by players throwing the World Series for money a century ago. The players were found not guilty in a conspiracy to defraud case in Chicago in 1921, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Legendary Federal judge, and first national Baseball Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis had an appropriate response to the verdicts:

 

Regardless of the verdict of juries, 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 again.

Published in: on October 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Black Sox Scandal: A Century Later  
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Ty Cobb and Myths

 

Ty Cobb (1886-1961), the Georgia Peach. One of the greatest ball players who ever strapped on cleats, he has also been long regarded as a violent racist and a dirty player.  According to a recent biographer, he was neither:

 

 

History, is, or should be, a continuing search for the truth.  In regard to Ty Cobb it appears that the search for the truth about him is bearing fruit.  He was neither an angel nor a monster but a work in progress throughout his life, as we all are.

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ty Cobb and Myths  
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May 24, 1935: First Night Game in Major League Baseball

Eighty-two years ago the first major league baseball game was  played under the lights, adding a new dimension to the game of Summer, and making it more accessible to most people who work for a living during the day.  The first baseball game under artificial illumination was played in 1880, the year after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  However the major league teams did not embrace this innovation for over a half century.  Economic need, as usual, was the driver involved in making major league night ball a reality.  Almost all ball teams struggled during the Great Depression and attendance at games was a matter of life or death for the teams.  Some minor league teams and teams of the Negro League had been playing ball under the lights since 1930.

 

Leland “Larry” MacPhail and Powel Crosley, the general manager and the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, noticed that minor league teams were drawing big crowds playing night games.  The Reds were averaging 2000-3000 fans a game, their loyal followers being simply unable to miss a precious day of work during the hard times in the middle of the Depression.  They took the bold stance of putting in lights at Crosley Field, hang the expense despite the precarious financial condition of the Reds.  The first night game was set for May 24, 1935 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Reds won two-one and 20,000 fans witnessed it, as 632 flood lights illumined the field.  Night ball was here to stay. (more…)

Published in: on May 24, 2017 at 4:32 am  Comments Off on May 24, 1935: First Night Game in Major League Baseball  
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Cubs Win World Series

 

The Chicago Cubs, breaking a 108 year drought, won the World Series on Wednesday, defeating the Cleveland Indians in the seventh game of the Series, eight to seven.  The two teams were evenly matched, with the Cubs managing the very difficult feat of winning the final three games of the Series.  In the world to come I suspect Billy Sianis and his goat Murphy are not too unhappy at this turn of events.  Go here to read about them.  Since the Brexit in Britain vote I have been saying that 2016 is an unusual year, and, as any resident of the state of Illinois would agree, any year in which the Cubs win the World Series is a highly odd year indeed!

On a personal note, my late father, like his father before him, was a Cardinals fan.  My late grandfather, Ray McClarey, was born in 1908, the last time the Cubs won the Series. I did not inherit their appreciation of the game.  If there are televisions in Purgatory or in Heaven, I imagine they were among those cheering on the Cubs in the next world to victory.  God bless them, and God bless all those who can see the art and passion in a well played, and hard fought, athletic contest.

Published in: on November 4, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Cubs Win World Series  
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October 14, 1908: Cubs Win the World Series

Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States when the Cubs last won the World Series on October 14, 1908, defeating the Detroit Tigers 2-0.  Just barely within human memory, about one hundred Americans are still alive now who were alive then.  It was the second World Series win for the Cubs, their first being the year before in 1907.  Why the Cubs have had this championship drought, other than bad ball playing, has been a matter of much speculation.  The most popular explanation is the Curse of the Billy Goat.

In 1945 Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was attending game four of the World Series being held in Wrigley Field, once again the Chicago Cubs facing the Detroit Tigers.  This being Chicago where odd characters are as common as blustery politicians, he brought his pet goat Murphy with him to the game.  Other patrons complained that the goat stank.  Sianis was thrown out.  As he was leaving Sianis was heard to say,“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more!”.

When the Cubs lost the series, Sianis sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley, the owner of the Cubs:  “Who stinks now?(more…)

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 14, 1908: Cubs Win the World Series  
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House of David

Where else but in America would a fairly offbeat religious cult become known for fielding a first class baseball team?  Founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in October 1903, the Israelite House of David was loosely part of a movement started by Joanna Southcott in1792 who had proclaimed herself the first messenger, the woman robed in the Sun mentioned in Revelation 12:1-6.  In 1895 the Purnells declared that they had been bonded by the Holy Spirit and that the two of them were the seventh messenger mentioned in Revelation 10:7.

The Purnells soon found themselves heading a commune which owned 1000 acres in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  This being America the cult founded several successful businesses.  Mr. Purnell was a sports enthusiast and had his followers play baseball.  In 1913 the cult founded the House of David Baseball Team which quickly achieved fame barnstorming around the country.  The team members played with long hair and beards.

Trouble came to the cult when 13 young women confessed in court that they had sexual intercourse with Purnell while still minors.  Purnell died before he was brought to trial.  Mary Purnell formed the New House of David with a faction proclaiming itself the Old House of David.  Each faction fielded ball teams.  The original House of David team by the late twenties was employing profession ballplayers including Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige and Mordecai Brown.  Some of the pros would wear fake beards while playing for the team.  There were several teams claiming the House of David label, including an all black team that played in the Negro League. (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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