Macy’s New-Old Baseball Balloon: Harold In Black & White

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There is a new balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning and you must stop whatever you are doing this morning to watch.

It’s Harold, the baseball player balloon, from Miracle on 34th Street, recreated for 2017. In black and white.

Could there be anything more wonderful, more perfect, more … more … well, everything?

It’s a baseball player throwback balloon … in black and white!

Courtesy: Macy’s

Here he is in the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

On this Thanksgiving, I hope that you have much to be thankful for.

I do.

Including you. Those of you who stop by here … who comment … who agree that baseball isn’t too slow … who agree that box scores are best read in a newspaper spread out on a table, not on an iPhone (although in a pinch, that iPhone is going to have to do) …  who cheer me up when the Orioles lose … you guys are great.

I love that baseball has made us friends. I’m thankful for you!

My dad and I always watched the Macy’s Parade together on TV. It was one of those magical things that we always did together. My dad died 11 years ago – on Thanksgiving Day. But, he would never want me to lose my love of the Macy’s Parade.

So, I need you to do just one thing for me.

Watch for Harold the Baseball Player today with me, would you? He’s the one in black-and-white.

Here’s a little more about new-old Harold.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ben Huffman. Floyd Baker. Two Players & Luray.

They should have been best friends, Ben Huffman and Floyd Baker.

And, who knows? Maybe they were.

They were farm kids who went to the same high school, played together on the same semi-pro team, played for the same St. Louis Browns – although at different times – and each became a successful scout after his playing days ended.

Ben Huffman

Floyd Baker

One was a good infielder with a so-so bat. The other could hit, if only things had worked out. One played 13 seasons in the big leagues; the other, just one. But, on average, similar stats, if you put them side by side. You can look it up if you want.

Luray, Virginia – pronounced LOO-ray, please – is a tiny town just shy of a 100 miles SW of Washington, DC.

Here.

If you’ve heard of Luray, you are either from Luray, or from somewhere near Luray, or have at some point in your life been one of the 500,000 people who come to Luray each year to visit its famous caverns.

And, I promise, we’ll get to the caverns. In a sec. But, first, baseball.

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“The Sandwiches Were Said To Be Delicious.”

The Baltimore Sun, 9/26/1954

“The ghosts of Wee Willie Keeler and all the other old-time Oriole greats, who love so much to win, will have to await some other year before they can frolic again in triumph.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1954

On September 25, 1954, on the last day of the regular season, the Baltimore Orioles lost their 100th game.

Losing 100 games is that limbo bar that separates the terrible teams that lose 99 from the truly awful ones who lose 100.

Like the 1954 Orioles.

1954 Orioles

It is possible that the Tigers, the Phillies, and the Giants could cross under that 100-loss bar this season. But, with just a week to play, it’s not likely.

The 2017 Orioles were eliminated from the post-season last night with their 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

If the O’s lose their remaining six games – and I strongly urge them not to do this – they will have lost 88.

At least it’s not 100.

The 1954 Orioles, formerly the St. Louis Browns, were finishing up their first season in Baltimore on September 25. They were the first major league team in the city since 1901.

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The Thing About Sign Stealing

“I don’t suppose that it is strictly sportsmanlike, but baseball is a strenuous game, and there are times when a man may feel sorely tempted.” – Detroit Tigers Manager Bill Armour, 1906

“Dishonest signal stealing might be defined as obtaining information by artificial aids. The honest methods are those requiring cleverness of eye, mind, and hand, without outside assistance.” – Hall of Fame Pitcher Christy Mathewson, 1912

Steal a base and you’re a star, steal a sign and you’re a cheater.

Explain that to me.

In August, the New York Yankees snitched on the Boston Red Sox who were stealing signs, using Apple watches to signal the Yankees catcher’s signs to the Red Sox dugout.

Spitball!

Here’s what I don’t get.

A Red Sox staffer, watching the game on video in the clubhouse, decodes a sign from the Yankees catcher, texts it to the Apple watch of a trainer in the dugout, who gives the message to a nearby player, who signals to the Red Sox runner on second, who relays the pitch by some signal or other to the batter.

Like this?

They had time to do all that? Maybe the game really is that slow.

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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”

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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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