“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

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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.

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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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2016, The Year In Sports: “These Are Not Ordinary Times.”

Well, it was a really rough year, but at least it was a good year for sports!  Right?  Right!!

Penn State fans are very excited to be going to the Rose Bowl next week. Watch out for the tear gas, kids!

Sportswriters and pundits are wrapping up 2016 by telling you that even though the year sucked, it was still a great year for sports.

The year that …

Muhammed Ali died.

Miami Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, was killed in a boating accident.

Donny Everett, 19, a Vanderbilt freshman pitcher, drowned the day before his team played its first game of the college post-season.

The run up to the Summer Olympics in Rio — zika, crime, cost overruns, polluted water, more crime — was like a car chase scene out of Mad Max.

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Oh, and the entire Russian Olympic team was doping.

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Babe Ruth’s Santa: “Tougher than a double-header, but more fun.”

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Babe Ruth family Christmas card, 1930s.

During the 1930s, Babe Ruth, one of the most famous men in America, would dress as Santa Claus at Christmastime and distribute gifts and meals to children and families in need.

In 1931, dressed as Santa, Babe Ruth visited more than 250 kids in New York hospitals. (Yes, that’s plural. He visited hospitals, not just one.)

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Jim Sullivan — Mine Run, Virginia & The Christmas Cow

phila-inquirer-3-21-1922-here-is-jimmy-sullivan

Here is Jimmy Sullivan.

His curve is a beauty,

His fast ball has the hop,

And his control is so good

He may land on the top.

George MacKay describing Jim Sullivan in The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1922.

Posed action of Philadelphia A's James Sullivan

Public Domain

Sullivan pitching with the Philadelphia Athletics, 1922.

Jim Sullivan’s story is that of a 1920s-era right-hander who never could figure out how to control his fastball. (George MacKay’s rhyme was really just wishful thinking). It’s also a tale of three cities. And, a story about a cow wearing a Christmas hat.

(If the promise of a cow wearing a Christmas hat doesn’t keep you reading, then, clearly, you’re not the person I thought you were.)

Jim Sullivan was born in Mine Run, Virginia in 1894.

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Here.

The Sullivan family didn’t settle forever in Mine Run. By the late ‘teens, Sullivan is playing professionally and his family is in North Carolina. Later, he spends an off-season with his father in Kentucky.

Sullivan’s big league career is rather brief.

He played parts of the 1921 and ‘22 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics and two games with the Cleveland Indians in 1923.

jim-sullivan-with-cleveland-indians-1923

Public Domain

Sullivan, with the Indians (briefly) in 1923.

Twenty-five big league games total, 73.1 innings pitched (all but five with the A’s), an 0-5 record, a 5.52 ERA, and a reputation for wildness.

(Keep reading. I promise … Christmas Cow is on the way …)

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Secret Santa — Hey. I Got Your Name.

I never got my taco.

During the World Series, Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians stole a base, and, because of that, Taco Bell promised everyone in America – all 319 million of us – a free taco.

(That’s 54-billion delicious taco calories!)

But, you had to be at a Taco Bell at a specific time on a specific day and, well, my nearest Taco Bell is 25 miles away.

I never got my taco.

Rats.

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