Happy Birthday, George

George Mullin was born on the 4th of July, 1880, in Toledo, Ohio.

He was a pitcher. A righty. Mostly for the Detroit Tigers (1902-1913), with a few other seasons with a few other teams scattered in after that, and ending in 1915.

He was six feet tall and his weight hovered around 200 pounds, so people called him Big George. He struggled with his weight and was often reprimanded for being out of shape.

He was 32 when he took the mound for Detroit – the second game of a double-header with the St. Louis Browns – on his birthday, July 4, 1912.

This was no marquee matchup. The Tigers were a game under .500 (36-37), while the poor, poor Browns (who today are the poor, poor Orioles) had won only 19 games, losing 49, and were well-mired in last place.

1912 Detroit Tigers. (George Mullin is in the back row, far right. Directly in front of him sits Ty Cobb.)

Things hadn’t been going well for Mullin in 1912 either. Age and weight had taken their toll and he was not in great shape.

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Swamp Funk. Orioles Slump. The Sultan of Swat Shows The Way Out.

July 26, 1928

Everyone slips into a rut at times.

The Baltimore Orioles haven’t won a game in a week.

They’ve looked listless and weary and miserable. It’s only May and they look like they’ve been playing on fumes for months.

Their pitching has been unreliable, often stinky, but, with no real starting ace, no closer, and a constantly rotating cast of bullpenners, what can you expect?

Last night, in losing to the Houston Astros on national television, the broadcasters put much of the blame on Orioles closer Zach Britton being on the disabled list (where he’ll stay until at least July or, who knows when). His absence, they thought, must be why the Orioles are so stinky.

But, Britton’s bum arm can’t explain some atrocious starting pitching, sleepy hitting, or the stab-me-in-my-heart-this-sucks-so-bad errors in the field.

Are Orioles slumps worse than the slumps that hit other teams?

Probably not, but I’m going to go ahead and say yes anyway, because I don’t care about other teams and Orioles slumps put me in a swampy funk.

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The Short Life & Tragic Death of Walter “Mother” Watson

I wish I had a photo of Walter “Mother” Watson of the Cincinnati Red Stockings to show you, it being “Mother’s Day” weekend and all.

I know he was a pitcher. A three-game cup-of-coffee guy. But, righty? Lefty? No clue.

Over two games, just 14 innings, in May of 1887, the Red Stockings put Mother Watson on the mound.

Watson gave up 18 runs in those two games though, to his credit, only 9 of them were earned.

He played just one more game for the Reds, when they stuck him out in left field.

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“It Is Something That Seems Endless.”

“This thing called segregation here is a complete and solid pattern as a way of life. We are conditioned to it and make the best of a bad situation.” ~ Rosa Parks

It is synchronicity, I guess, that allowed me to discover this week the Library of Congress’s digitized online collection of the papers and photos of Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer. (It was all because of pancakes, and I’ll get to that soon enough.)

(You can find the Library of Congress collection here. )

Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man in 1955, which led to the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott which led to the civil rights era which led to the end of segregation … eventually.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Parks being fingerprinted by Montgomery police during the bus boycott

Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Which shows you how important, and yet how unfinished, Robinson’s achievement was.

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“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”

 

April 15 was Jackie Robinson Day.

And, if you think this post is superfluous because it is a few days late, I remind you that Major League Baseball took decades to recognize that segregated baseball was a horrible, unconscionable thing.

So, you can see that it’s just polite to let my few days of tardiness slide.

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Nearly 800 Ballplayers …

“[T]he war will be forgotten — and the generation that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside. We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt themselves, some others will merely submit, and most will be bewildered; — the years will pass by and in the end we shall fall into ruin.” ~ Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

I read the news today.

(Oh, boy.)

World War I Recruitment Poster. Public Domain, Library of Congress

And, it was not lost on me – or on anyone else, it seems – that Thursday, April 6, marked the 100-year anniversary of the United States’ entry into its first global war. World War I.

(These are the things we are meant to pause and think about once every hundred years or so.)

That war – “the war to end all wars,” which, as you know, didn’t end a thing – is remembered, by anyone who actually remembers such things, as the war that brought us a slew of patriotic songs like “Over There” and the start of chemical warfare, including the use of mustard gas.

Who knows if anyone was thinking of parallels when, on this 100th anniversary, the United States engaged in a 21st-century bombing of a Syrian airbase engaged in the same kind of chemical warfare. See, some things don’t change much at all. (The sarin gas used by Syria, by the way, was developed in 1938 by the Nazis, but never used by them. )

You might be rolling your eyes right now, heavy-sighing, wondering how to get out of this downer of a post.  Wondering where the baseball is.

And, so to baseball.

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Culpeper’s Hall of Famers – Talking Baseball at the Culpeper Museum, March 19

pete-hill-eppa-rixey-culpeper-virginia

Pete Hill, outfielder, Negro League & pre-Negro League (left). Eppa Rixey, pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies & Cincinnati Reds (right)

I’m delighted to announce that I have been invited to speak about the lives and careers of Culpeper Virginia’s two National Baseball Hall of Fame members, Pete Hill and Eppa Rixey. The talk will be at the Museum of Culpeper History in downtown Culpeper on Sunday, March 19 at 2:00 p.m.

museum-of-culpeper-history

Just five ballplayers in the National Baseball Hall of Fame were born in Virginia.  If this seems a little light to you – it did to me, too.  Still, that’s five more than North Dakota, Arizona, Hawaii, and Alaska – combined – so  there is that.

California has 24 members, Alabama has 12, New York 31. Maryland, Virginia’s neighbor to the north, has 12. Not that this Hall of Fame thing is a competition. (Except that it is.)

But, back to the five from Virginia.

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“If You Can’t Make A Hit In A Ball-Game, You Can’t Make A Hit With Me”

vintage-baseball-postcard-a-chance-play

circa 1910

There are many weird stories about Valentine’s Day. I’ll share just one with you.

St. Valentine – there are three St. Valentine’s if you’re keeping track, and this St. Valentine was one of the three – was imprisoned by the Romans for either a) helping Christians escape from the Romans, or b) marrying young couples when the Roman emperor expressly told him not to. Either way, St. Valentine ended up in prison, fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, and, before being put to death, sent her a card signed, “From Your Valentine.”

In this world of “Alternative Facts,” I’m sure this story is absolutely true.

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Baseball Is A Billion Times Better Than Nougat

When I was a kid there was this amazing “Seven Up” candy bar, made by a company in Minneapolis.

seven-up-bar-label

Heard of it?

They stopped making it in 1979, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to wonder about its wonderfulness. A single chocolate candy bar with seven – SEVEN! – little pockets carved into it, and each one was filled with a different flavor.

Mint!  Coconut!  Butterscotch!  Fudge!  Caramel!  Butter Cream!

And, Nougat!

Nougat.

First of all, nougat is not a flavor. Second of all, nougat is horrible.

tom-hanks-big

I don’t think anyone has ever intentionally eaten nougat. And, I’ll bet it was nougat that did in the Seven Up bar. Well, that and a pretty clear trademark infringement with 7-Up soda.

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Just South Of The White House, They Played Baseball

News from Washington, DC …

“A Base Ball Club has just been formed in this city. … It is a good sign to see such health-promoting exercises taking the place of insipid enervating amusements.” ~ The Washington Star, November 4, 1859

See, things were enervating back then, too.

There are far more important websites – newsy-type places trying to make sense of today’s Washington – you could be reading right now and I encourage you to do that.

In a sec.

Because, there was a time when, just south of the White House, they played baseball.

According to Histories of the National Mall, the first baseball games were held on the White Lot – the 52-acre park south of the White House that is now the Ellipse – in 1860.

white-lot-baseball-fields-1940s

Public Domain. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection LC-USW31-058724-C

The White Lot baseball fields in the mid-1940s.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln would take an occasional break from war strategy and catch a game at the White Lot with his son Tad.

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