“The Sum Total Of Our Historic Life.”

On April 7, 1889, American poet Walt Whitman and his friend Horace Traubel had this conversation.

Whitman said to his friend, “Did you see the baseball boys are home from their tour around the world? How I’d like to meet them — talk with them: maybe ask them some questions.” Traubel replied, “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!”

Whitman responded, “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! Well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

“Is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”

That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Not today’s games – of which there will be many – not yesterday’s – and not, especially, the one last night that the Orioles let get away (again).

Not any one, but the sum total of them.

The hurrah game. It’s who we are, isn’t it? Or, who we wish to be.

Dorthea Lange, the famed photographer who, better than anyone, documented the Great Depression, took this photo in Cedar Grove, North Carolina (about 20 miles north of Chapel Hill).

Public Domain, Library of Congress #LC-USF34-020008-E

The photograph’s title at the Library Congress, and the title that I am going to believe Lange gave this photo herself, reads:

“Rural filling station becomes community center and general grounds for loafing. The men in baseball suits are on a local team which will play a game nearby. The team is called the Cedargrove Team.”

The community center and men in baseball suits photo was taken by Lange on July 4, 1939.

May your Fourth of July be hopeful. May there be a Hurrah Game for you. And, may your team, dressed in their best baseball suits, win.

 

They Called Him Dad

Dad Clarke never married. He had no children.

But, baseball fans called him Dad, reporters called him Dad, everyone called him Dad, although his given name, which was given in 1865, was William.

Public Domain

Dad Clarke, circa 1888.

He is the only childless “Dad” I know.

I wonder if that seemed peculiar to him? To be a Dad in name only?

There are a lot of dads in baseball. The lower-case, fathers-with-children kind. Some ballplayers today have kids like other people have Tupperware. Just lots of kids. Preternaturally fertile, these players.

(Full disclosure: I am a kidless writer. I do not know beans about parenting. But, I had a dad, and I called him Dad, so I’m confident that I’m qualified to write this.)

There are only a handful of ballplayers who, over the years, were known primarily as “Dad.” Not as a sometime nickname, but as the name that overrode the name they were given.

Or, were there?

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“How The Other Club Won A Victory From The Orioles.”

Baltimore Sun, June 28, 1892

“The Oft-Told Tale.”

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Me, again.

You’ve lost three straight to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays … whose motto this season is “We stink, too, but nowhere near as bad as the O’s.”

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how awful you are. Do you?

(Not you, Adam Jones. You’re still trying. You can stop reading now. This is for everybody else …)

This may seem like uncharted territory to some of you, but really it’s not.

Look at the 1892 Orioles.

They stunk, too.

Baltimore Sun, June 29, 1892

Baltimore Sun, July 14, 1892

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“The Word Is Lachrymose.”

At 17-40, the Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in baseball. They have won just two of their last 10 games. I don’t even remember the wins. All I remember are the losses … every single day a loss … an endless parade of gloomy, lifeless, uncaring losses, like the endless days of rain that have dumped some 20 inches in our pitiful mushy yard since this pitiful baseball season began.

This mud pond used to be the road to our house. Better bring your swim fins!

Hey, I know the rules. Someone has to have the worst record in baseball. I just wish it wasn’t the O’s.

Public Domain, 1901

Grantland Rice In His Ball Playing Days. Vanderbilt Captain and Shortstop. 1901

Dear Grantland Rice, Legendary sportswriter, poet, and understander of loss, futility, and baseball’s broken dreams, what say you?

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The Polo Grounds And Peanuts Lead To A Rare Film Showing Life In 1911 New York

Public domain, via Library of Congress #LC-DIG-pga-02288

New York’s Polo Grounds, 1887

On Thursday, April 13, 1911, at New York’s Polo Grounds, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the New York Giants, 6-1. 

via baseball-reference.com

It was an unremarkable game – the second of the season – and Giants losing pitcher Christy Mathewson was not yet in the form that would lead him to 26 wins that season and an NL-leading 1.99 ERA.

Despite their uninspiring 0-2 start, the Giants would go on to win 99 regular season games and the NL pennant. (They would lose the World Series to the Philadelphia A’s.)

But, this is not about the Giants. (The Phillies ended their season 19.5 games back of the Giants and it’s not about them either.)

Public domain, via Library of Congress #LC-USZ62-58783

Fans at the Polo Grounds, a day earlier, April 12, 1911.

A few hours after the game, around midnight, the grandstand of the Polo Grounds was engulfed in flames. By morning, the grandstand and the right field bleachers had burned to the ground.

 

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“Ladies Day”: The Moms Who Love Baseball. The Moms Who Love Purple.

In the days before radio, and television, and those horrible Facebook Live broadcasts, major league baseball was hard to follow from afar.

In 1893, the major league was just a dozen teams huddled together in big East Coast cities and extending only as far west as Chicago and St. Louis.

Minor league baseball filled in everywhere else.

This is important on this Mother’s Day only for this …

In the early 1890s, the California League offered “Ladies Day” free admission to female fans at every baseball game.

The San Francisco Call, 6/13/1891

Ladies Free!

Free admission for ladies at every game “is not known in any other baseball city in the country,” The San Francisco Call reported.

(“Not known in any other baseball city” is 19th-century code for “we haven’t invented Google yet, so how are we supposed to know?”)

Then this happened.

The California League was, in 1893, just these four teams: the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Colonels, the San Francisco Friscos, and the Stockton River Pirates who became the Sacramento Senators before the season was through.

Embed from Getty Images

San Francisco vs. Oakland, Haight Street Grounds, 1890

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The Orioles, Opossums, And Poetry

The Baltimores are in last place.

But, there’s a bright side too, today.

Last night it didn’t get far worse,

Because they didn’t play.

Despite my nagging and feeble poetry, the Orioles season has not turned around.

I wrote to them on Sunday which did no good, because they lost on Sunday, too.

Thank you Cincinnati Reds for losing last night — you have, at least for the moment, nudged just under the O’s to have the worst record in baseball.

Off days are becoming a solace. At least I won’t be disappointed.

You know that old saying, “You can’t lose if you don’t play.”

Well, it goes something like that.

One hundred years ago today, May 8, 1918, the Boston Braves were having a bad start, too. They began the season 5-13, a .278 win percentage.

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The 1896 Orioles Opossum

 “The charm of the work of the Baltimores is that every man is alive and thoroughly in earnest, playing ball for all he is worth all the time. It is a very hard club to beat, and it is the verdict that there is little wonder this club won the pennant last season.” ~ The Boston Herald, Spring 1896

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Me, again.

I guess I don’t have to tell you why I’m writing.

At 8-25, you’re tied with the Reds for the worst record in baseball.

Last night.

You’re worse than the terrible everyone predicted you’d be.

You’re 16 games back of the AL East leading Red Sox, which is pretty nuts, because you’ve only played 33 games.

Things are terrible bad in Birdland. Horriblaciously, rottenificously, awfulmoungously bad.

So bad I have to make up words to describe the badiciousness.

This is “unbelievably bad” territory.

You blow first innings, you blow ninth innings. Those innings in-between? You blow them, too.

And, extra innings too … because …

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Thank You, Jackie Robinson

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction number #LC-L9-54-3566-O

Each year, on April 15, major league baseball commemorates Jackie Robinson’s debut in the majors – the day that baseball was, finally, integrated.

Today, every major league player in every major league game will wear Jackie’s number, 42.

(This will make things confusing for your scorecard, I know, but remember, this is an important day, so just roll with it.)

Everyone knows that Jackie was a Brooklyn Dodger.

You might already know these 10 other things, too. But, just in case, here’s some Robinsonian facts from the nooks and crannies of trivia …

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Caroline County, Virginia: Lew & Tony Beasley

Caroline County — A Baseball Story In 3 Acts

Act 3: The Beasleys

Just like Clarence “Soup” Campbell (from Act 2, remember?), Lewis “Lew” Beasley was born in tiny Sparta, Virginia – 33 years later, in 1948.

He attended Bowling Green’s Union High School in the 1960s – the county’s “colored” school. I couldn’t find him in any of their mid-1960s yearbooks so I can’t tell you when – or if – he graduated, but reports say he played on the school’s powerhouse baseball team.

Beasley, an outfielder, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the January 1967 draft.

With the minor league Miami Marlins in 1969

Though short and stocky, he was known for his speed. They called him “Quick Lew” and his 41 stolen bases in 1969 was a then-team record for the minor league Miami Marlins.

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