Baseball & The Moon

“The love of base ball is wide spread. A little six year old was sitting upon the steps, with a base ball in his hand, gazing intently at the moon. ‘Pa, is there only one man in the moon?’ asked he.

“’That’s the tradition my son; the man in the moon is the only inhabitant of that bright world we have ever heard of.’

“After a moment of pause he remarked with a sigh, ‘He must be lonesome, pa, with no one to play base ball with.’”

— The Marysville (Kansas) Enterprise, 1867

Photo: “Kids In June.” The Baseball Bloggess, 6/26/2021

Photo: Pixabay via Pexels.com

 

12 Things You Should Know About Matt Kilroy, The “Little Whirlwind”

On May 5, 2021, Baltimore Orioles twirler John Means tossed the first Orioles one-pitcher, no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969.

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But, you have to go all the way back to 1886 to get to the very first Baltimore Orioles no-hitter.

Matt Kilroy

Before I tell you 12 things you should know about Matt Kilroy, the 1886 pitcher who did that, let’s get any dreamy-eyed 1886 nonsense out of the way.

Forever ago.

There are no “good old days.” You might think you missed out on something special, but you didn’t.

1886 was lousy. It was unsafe. It was unsanitary. And, the average lifespan in the United States was 39.

Albert Pujols, 41. Nelson Cruz, 40. Yadier Molina, 38. You get my point.

It was tuberculosis that probably got you. Or, rabid mad dogs in New York City. Or, a horse fell on you or a carriage ran over you. Or a bridge or building collapsed on you. Or your entire town burned down with you in it.

Or, you were a child, which was extremely dangerous. As John Graunt, the 17th-century founder of demography sweetly put it: “Being a child was to forever be on the brink of death.”

You think wearing a mask for a year was a bother?

Stop your whimpering.

Try living through the recurring epidemics of cholera, typhoid, typhus, scarlet fever, smallpox, and yellow fever that mowed down Baltimore, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, over and over and over between 1865 and 1873.

And, if you did live through the latest epidemic – and you probably didn’t, but if you did –  chances are, unless you were awfully rich, you lived in a house with no hot water, no shower, and – this is important – no toilet.

If you think the most important room in your house is your man cave, you are wrong. It is your bathroom. And, you should go in there right now, get down on your knees, and thank the modern gods for installing one in your house.

Good Things That Happened in 1886 Continue reading

In Praise Of Mays

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“Willie Mays makes us young again. He makes us feel good about ourselves, our environment. He makes us reflect and smile. He makes us want to do better and be kinder.”

~ John Shea, sportswriter and co-author, with Mays, of 24: Life Stories And Lessons From The Say Hey Kid

Willie Mays turns 90 today.

He is the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That he still attends games, visits the clubhouse to encourage players, does interviews, is one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, and has time leftover to write a memoir, is testament to his legend and greatness.

“I like to help people when I go to the ballpark,” Mays told Shea recently. “Help the Giants. Do what you can do. That’s all. That’s my goal. They helped me when I was a young man, a teenager. They signed me out of Birmingham.”

I have often written on here that Babe Ruth was the greatest ballplayer ever.

But, I think I was wrong. It is Willie, not Babe, who is the greatest ever.

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Playing stickball with neighborhood kids, circa 1954.

“I was always aware that you play baseball for people who paid money to come see you play,” Willie said in his memoir last year. “You play for those people. You want to make them smile, have a good time. Sometimes I’d hesitate, count to three, then I’d get there just in time to make the play. You’d hear the crowd. Sometimes you had to do that in order for people to come back the next day.” Continue reading

12 Things You Should Know About “Highball” Wilson

You would think that someone who cares deeply for baseball’s rich history would thoughtfully choose which players she highlights and celebrates.

You would think that she wouldn’t just see a player named “Highball” and think, “Oh my God, a pitcher named Highball. I’m gonna have to write about him.”

You would think.

Here Are 12 Things You Should Know About Highball Wilson.

1.

Public Domain

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Highball Wilson was not named Highball by his parents. Highball Wilson, a righty pitcher, was born Howard Paul Wilson in Philadelphia on August 9, 1878. (I realize that this would be a far more interesting post if his parents had named him Highball, and I’m sorry if you feel duped.)

(Highball Wilson was one of five future big leaguers born in Philadelphia in 1878. Only Highball played more than one season.)

2.

So, who named him Highball? Continue reading

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Emmet Heidrick

If you follow baseball history blogs, maybe you’ve bumped into Verdun2’s Blog, a collection of baseball history, player tributes, and poignant remembrances of the author’s time in Vietnam during the war, which always find a baseball spin. Last fall, “v”, the blog’s mysterious author, decided to take a break. He pops back in from time to time, but not with the regularity fans would like.

One of his semi-regular columns was “A Dozen Things You Should Know About” which covered ballplayers … from forgotten greats to Hall of Famers.

I asked v if he would be ok if I took on the “Dozen Things” franchise while he’s on break.

And, he said, “yes.” Even though he knew, deep down, I would take an irreverent and less numbers’y, tone. But, he said “yes” anyway, because he’s awesome.

So, until v’s return … here we go:

12 Things You Should Know About Emmet Heidrick

1)

circa 1900. Public Domain

Emmet Heidrick, one of the greatest outfielders at the turn of the 20th century, was born in Queenstown, Pennsylvania – about 50 miles NE of Pittsburgh – in 1876.

Heidrick’s father Levi, a successful lumberman, followed the trees … and their investment potential. Soon after Emmet’s birth, he bought a sawmill and moved his family to DuBois, Pennsylvania. In 1894, he bought another mill in nearby Brookville and moved his family there, which is where Emmet got his baseball start.

2)

Business acumen must be hereditary, because, no matter his baseball talents, family business not only distracted Emmet Heidrick from the game, but also influenced it.

In baseball’s earliest days, ballplayers generally came from poor, often immigrant, stock. They played ball because there wasn’t much else available. Other jobs open to them were poorly paid, backbreaking, dangerous, and, often, could kill you.

Heidrick, a college boy, came from a wealthy family with a prosperous business. Baseball was well beneath the Heidrick family’s place in society, as the family would remind him.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself … Continue reading

Berra, Cobb, and … Schilling?

1971 “will be the year Yogi Berra, the Montclair Millionaire, makes the Hall of Fame.” ~ The New York Daily News, January 1, 1971

It was not.

On January 21, 1971, the Baseball Writers Association of America chose to elect no one to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

1953

Not even Yogi Berra.

On January 26, 2021, the Baseball Writers Association of America – for the ninth time in history – elected no one to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

(I’ll get back to 1971 and Yogi, I promise.)

In a pandemic year when nothing is normal, the Hall of Fame’s non-election election this year seemed, well, pretty normal.

I could write about Curt Schilling – controversial, cranky, insolent, nogoodnik – who was among those not elected in 2021.

There are so many Curt’ish things we could discuss …

… the hurtful, hateful things he says that color his character and his worthiness to join the greats of Cooperstown … or

… his worthy statistics that stand up fine against other pitchers in the Hall. 11-2 in the post-season, alone. 11-2! … or

… how you weren’t surprised – because you weren’t, were you? – when Schilling, almost immediately after the Hall of Fame’s no-election announcement, released an obsequious, but quite polite, letter to the Hall requesting he be removed from consideration in 2022.

We could spend the rest of today coming up with ways to describe Curt Schilling … and we could call him a sore-loser lunkhead idiot, but, better, let’s call him a hoddydoddy or a jobbernowl because I spent a lot of time digging up those words and I don’t want them to go to waste.

Schilling wouldn’t be the first jerk in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall has its share of drunkards and carousers, racists, bullies, and homophobes, Klansmen and crooks, adulterers, cheaters, and scoundrels. A drug smuggler and, possibly, even a murderer.

Let’s just say, if every member of the Baseball Hall of Fame were still alive and they all came to your house for dinner, you’d do well to count the silverware when they left. Continue reading

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 …

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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