An Embarrassment Of Abandoned Words

Every few days, I sit down to write something blogg’ish.

And, every few days of late, I abandon the task.

It seems that every time I sit down to write, the news overtakes whatever it is I’m thinking about. Baseball musings take a back seat to the pandemic, to wildfires, to hurricanes, to floods, to racial injustice, to politics, to despair.

What I’m left with is a discarded pile of unfinished thoughts that I don’t have the heart to recycle.

Here are a random few of my most recent abandoned words. It’s all I have for you …

Embed from Getty Images

 

Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day every year. Players of every color wear his number 42. We are unabashedly proud of this. We act like we single-handedly destroyed racial inequality on April 15, 1947.

Hardly.

Abandoned, September 13, 2020.

If this baseball season is so efficiently compact and the games nipped into shortness – seven-inning double headers, super-speedy extra innings – why am I so tired?

Abandoned, September 6, 2020 Continue reading

One Inning.

© The Baseball Bloggess

Is this what baseball will be, just hanging on to the memory of one last game?

The one game that you thought would go on forever?

The game where you sat, somewhere up in the stands. Tight up against those other fans.

Seeing what you always see and not wondering if you’d ever see the likes of that again.

Was that you?

A fan in the stands.

July 11, 1910

The not-so-good Cardinals are playing the not-so-good Doves on a partly cloudy Monday in St. Louis.

Game time 3:45 at old League Park. You know the place. The one with the beer garden.

The one with the fans. Those St. Louis fans. Those cranks. Those bugs.

They got so crazied up one day back in June that they threw their pop bottles onto left field. So many empty bottles rained down on Pittsburgh’s outfielder that the umpire had to stop the game. He asked a cop to stop the fans.

But, it was awfully hot. And, the cop would not.

And, just a few days ago, a fight broke out in the bleachers. Even the players stopped to watch.

But, things are quiet on July 11. Continue reading

June 17, 1889. George Goetz, The “Fallen Phenom”

I can’t tell you much about Philip Goetz, but I can tell you this.

He was born in Pennsylvania around 1836. He was a shoemaker who married a girl named Ann. They lived in Greencastle, had some children – Clara, Alice, Grace, George, Rose, Frank, Ruth, Mollie, and Ross. Maybe more. I can’t be sure.

Philip Goetz died, age 77, in 1913.

This isn’t about Philip, anyway. And, it’s not about Greencastle, Pennsylvania, although the Goetz family was growing and thriving there in the 1860s when the Civil War was raging and Greencastle was the site of skirmishes, battles, and Confederate encampments, and is just 10 miles from Chambersburg, 30 miles from Antietam, and 35 miles from Gettysburg.

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

It’s not about any of that. It’s about Philip Goetz’s eldest son George, who was born in 1865, after all of that, and there is precious little known of him, either.

Except for this.

In a baseball game on June 17, 1889, George B. Goetz, son of Philip and Ann, was the Baltimore Orioles’ starting pitcher.

It was his first major league appearance. His last one, too.

George is a bit hard to find, not least because he is known as George only on the 1870 census, when he is five, and in his one game for the Orioles.

Everyone else, it seems, called him Bert.

Why? Here’s my guess. Our George B. Goetz, the son of Philip, “a shoemaker,” was born in tiny Greencastle in 1865.

George H. Goetz, the son of John, a “dealer in shoes,” was also born in tiny Greencastle … in 1864.

George H., the elder of the Georges, perhaps got dibs on the name.

This is only a guess. It will not be my only guess about George B. Goetz.

But, I don’t need to guess about the game on June 17, 1889. Continue reading

“We Bob Up” — June 10, 1947 In St. Louis

This “Any Ol’ Game” series was meant to be a celebration of long-forgotten baseball games of little consequence. Games without a Babe Ruth … a Jackie Robinson … a Willie Mays. Games where records are not broken. History is not made.

I’ve stumbled stupidly into important “Any Ol’ Games” in recent weeks. History-making games. But, not today.

Meet me in St. Louis. June 10, 1947.

In 2020, this weird, unwell, non-season season, where the likelihood of any baseball is disappearing like cotton candy being washed by a raccoon …

… into this emptiness, I have found the treasure.

A random, forgotten game.

On June 10, 1947, the two worst teams in the American League faced off – the eventually-to-become-the-Twins-but-for-now-still Washington Senators at the eventually-to-become-Orioles-but-for-now-still St. Louis Browns.

How nothing of a game was it? It was so nothing that the ever-cash-strapped Browns didn’t even bother advertising it in the local paper.

This may explain why only 6,808 showed up for the game.

Or, it may be that everyone stayed home to catch the other St. Louis team – the struggling, but far more beloved, Cardinals who were playing in Philadelphia – on the radio.

Maybe it was because the St. Louis Browns were lousy. And, so were the Senators.

Who wants to see that?

The Browns started 1947 with a loss, ended 1947 with a loss, and sandwiched 93 more losses in between to finish the season 59-95. Dead last – 38 games back of the first-place Yankees.

But, I’m jumping ahead. Continue reading

Toot-Toot! Oh, To Be In Fox Lake In 1868

By Royalbroil via Creative Commons

I don’t know much about Fox Lake, Wisconsin. I’d never even heard of it before now.

I bet it’s nice.

1914’ish

Fox Lake, a town of about 1,500 that’s 70-odd miles northwest’ish of Milwaukee, does include an actual lake and Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?) consider it one of the best in the state for fishing, especially if you like walleye, which is a decidedly Midwestern thing. The lake is also amply populated by northern pike and crappie, along with muskie, bluegill, and bass, but really it’s the walleye that brings the fishermen back to Fox Lake.

Public Domain

I was delighted to discover that Fox Lake is the hometown of Bunny Berigan, the great jazz trumpeter. I had a friend who was head-over-heels for Bunny Berigan and how she picked him out of all the jazz trumpeters in the world escapes me. What, Miles Davis wasn’t good enough?

Maybe it was because of Berigan’s 1935 hit “Chicken and Waffles” …

 

Or maybe she was just soft on Wisconsonites (Wisconsonians?).

(Bunny, whose real first name was Roland, died in 1942 of cirrhosis. He was 33. Fox Lake’s long-running annual Bunny Berigan festival ended, sadly, in 2018.)

If you are now thinking there ain’t no way, no how this story is going to come around to baseball, then clearly you don’t know me well. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 25, 1935, Boston Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates

I choose the years in this Any Ol’ Game pandemic series pretty much at random. I purposely don’t read all those “This Day In Baseball” posts. I don’t want anything special to get in my way – I want to find a game that’s so ordinary it’s been pretty much forgotten. I want to find the beauty in that unsung game.

The date is always the day that I post. Simple enough. But, sometimes strange things happen when I choose a year.

Very strange things.

Maybe I don’t pick the games after all. Maybe they pick me.

Take 1935.

May 25, 1935, a Saturday, was any ol’ day.

Embed from Getty Images

Jesse Owens

I was more interested in discovering what was going on in Ann Arbor that day at the Big 10 Championships where a 21-year-old Ohio State track and field star named Jesse Owens would set five world records and equal another in a span of 45 minutes.

3:15 p.m. – At 9.4 seconds, Owens equals the world record in the 100 Yard Dash

3:25 p.m. – Owens sets a world record with a 8.13 meter long jump

3:34 p.m. – Owens sets, in 20.3 seconds, two world records (in yards and meters) in the 220 yard/200 meter dash

4:00 p.m. – Owens sets, in 22.6 seconds, two world records (in yards and meters) in the 220 yard/200 meter low hurdles

While most of us know Owens from his Olympics heroics in 1936, his accomplishments between 3:15 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on May 25, 1935 are known by many as the greatest 45 minutes ever in sports history.

The NY Daily News, 5/26/1935

(The day’s reports had yet to recognize Owens’ two additional “meters” records in the 200 meter and 200 meter low hurdles races.)

That Owens did all this with a back injury so severe that he could barely bend over and touch his knees and his coach nearly pulled him from the event, makes it all the more remarkable.

Surely, one historic sporting event is enough for a single day like this. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 11, 1934, Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees

Clocking in at 3 hours and 20 minutes, it was the longest game of the still-young 1934 baseball season.

A three-hour game is about average in the MLB these days. That is, if there were baseball, which there is not.

The New York Yankees bested the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium on May 11, 1934  – 7-6, in 14 innings.

Chicago Tribune, 5/12/1934

It was an Earle Combs triple followed by a Sammy Byrd single in the 14th that led to the walk-off win off of White Sox pitcher Whitlow Wyatt.

Sammy Byrd

(Byrd had been brought in, as he often was, to pinch run for Babe Ruth in the 7th and took over for him in right field.)

Whitlow Wyatt

Wyatt, the White Sox pitcher, gave up just three hits in 6-1/3 innings of work, but it was those last two in inning 14 that did him in.

Wyatt was brought in to relieve “Sad Sam” Jones who had gone seven innings for the Sox and gave up six runs.

Sad Sam Jones. He doesn’t look very sad to me.

Jones’ nickname came from a sportswriter who thought that the pitcher looked a little sad on the mound one day and Jones was stuck with “Sad Sam” for the remainder of his life. Jones later explained that perhaps he just seemed sad because he pulled his ball cap down low which shaded his eyes and made him look a little more downcast than others.

On May 11, I suspect Whit Wyatt was the sadder of the Sox.

All of this? Interesting, sure.

But, May 11, 1934 was a peculiar day in baseball. Continue reading

Everyone Knew Her As Babe

Dear Mom,

If you were still around, I wonder what you’d think about how things are today. I bet you’d be sitting at the kitchen table with that bemused look on your face that seemed to say, “How did I end up surrounded by so many idiots?” You wouldn’t roll your eyes. You wouldn’t say a word. You’d just have a look. That look. That look of bemused and deep, utter disappointment. You’d take another sip of coffee and not say a word.

You wouldn’t believe the mess we’re in these days, Mom. I’m rationing flour like it’s gold dust. I overbought eggs – just in case those are in short supply next. I rarely leave my house and when I do I have to wear a mask.

I know how you worry, Mom. But, really, don’t.  I promise you, the cats are ok.

I miss you. I love you.

My Mom was named Julie. Well, technically, Julie Ann. But, pretty much everyone called her Babe.

Babe

A lot of her friends probably didn’t even know what her real name was. To them, she was just Babe.

She was Babe because she was the youngest in her family, but that didn’t stop me from, on occasion, suggesting to her that she was named after Babe Ruth – which didn’t go over well. Or, Babe the Blue Ox – which went over even worse.

(My mom had just one sibling, an older sister who everyone called Sis. Editor/Husband wonders what Sis was called in the years before my mom was born – before “Sis” officially became someone’s sister. I am guessing her pre-“Sis” nickname was “Child.” Creativity in nicknaming was not my family’s strong suit.)

Public Domain

Other Babe

My mom was born in the summer of 1929 – a good, but not great, year for Babe Ruth who, at age 34 in a not-great year, was still able to lead baseball with 46 home runs. He swatted his 500th career homer on August 11, just 24 days after my mom was born. These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated. Continue reading

Any Ol’ Game: May 4, 1903 – Washington At Boston

I am so tired of World Series reruns. Is that all ESPN and MLB keep in their archives? A handful of mostly Yankees games? I just want to see a game … a regular, any ol’ game. A game that will surprise me, not because it stands the test of time, but simply because it’s baseball.

Monday, May 4, 1903, Washington Senators at Boston Americans

The American and National Leagues would play the first-ever official World Series in October 1903.

But, on May 4, you couldn’t have guessed that the Boston Americans would win that Series.

First off, the squabbling National and American Leagues wouldn’t even agree to hold an interleague championship until August.

And, second, on May 4, the Boston Americans weren’t great. They weren’t even particularly good.

Coming off of a so-so 1902 season, the Americans (who wouldn’t be called the Red Sox until 1907) were 6-7 on May 4, mired in the middle of the pack and 2.5 games back of the White Sox. The Washington Senators were 2.5 games back, too. (The Senators would finish the season tied with the Cardinals for the worst record in baseball.)

It wasn’t a particularly news’y Monday, that May 4, but this Gold Medal Flour ad on page one of The Boston Globe caught my eye.

Fun Fact: Flour — Or The Lack Of It — Is Still Front-Page News Continue reading

Until Then, There Is Coffee

Sometimes I sit with my morning coffee and think …

This is it. This is the high point of my day.

It’s not that I don’t expect something better to happen in the hours ahead.

It’s not that I expect something worse.

I just take another sip and think …

Nothing. Nothing else is going to happen today.

This is both sort of sad, but also comforting.

At least the day had a high point. And, if nothing happens that means that nothing bad will happen.

That’s about as good as it gets these days.

This morning’s coffee, ordered special from a California roaster north of San Francisco where Editor/Husband and I spent our wedding day (long story), is smooth and rich and better than Starbucks or Peets or Dunkin’ Donuts, or whatever it is you can buy off the grocery shelf.

Two months ago, I would throw my coffee into my travel mug and rush out the door. I always like arriving early at my studio so when my first client of the day strolls in, I look settled … like I’ve been there for hours.

But, I didn’t savor the coffee. I had other things to do.

Now, with my studio closed, I pay very close attention to the coffee. What else do I have to do?

I’m sitting here, in my pajamas, drinking my coffee. I guess I’m looking pretty settled here. Bad hair day, sure. But, hey, whose isn’t?

On Monday mornings, I open the calendar on my computer and one-by-one delete each appointment for the week ahead. Delete. Delete. Delete.

I wonder how my clients are doing.

I wonder if they miss me.

I take another sip. Continue reading