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

175 Miraloma Drive

Here I am, trapped in a house. You, too? My house is everything to me now – workplace, coffee shop, theater, restaurant, library, Yoga studio. Everything.

It’s not perfect. It needs a paint job. But, it’s doing its best to keep me and Editor/Husband in and coronavirus out.

I am grateful for this house. I love it. Really, I do. But, I can’t wait to get out of it.

Being in this house is the whole of my world right now.

So, maybe it’s not so odd to rediscover the story of another house and the effort to keep someone out of it.

It’s not an unknown story. You probably know it. But, this story of Willie Mays and his house is a reminder of how far we’ve come … and how not far we’ve come at all.

Toward the end of the 1957 season, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers formally announced that both teams would move to California in 1958.

 

The Giants last game at the Polo Grounds.

As soon as the season wrapped, Giants players began packing themselves up, looking for new homes in San Francisco.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Willie Mays – by 1957, one of baseball’s biggest superstars – was one of them. Continue reading

Dickey Pearce Turns 45

I love February 29.

Because you can write incredibly wild, yet basically true, things like this:

Happy Birthday to baseball great Dickey Pearce who turns 45 today!

“I ain’t got any education, but nobody can teach me how to play ball.” ~ Dickey Pearce

Born in Brooklyn, he started his professional baseball career there when he was just 5 years old.

(If I tell you now that Dickey Pearce was a “leapling” born on February 29, 1836 and made his baseball debut in 1856 … well, you knew that was coming, but why spoil the fun?)

While I seem to be spending an inordinate part of this month writing about short and stocky players, it is, I think, important to note that Dickey Pearce was 5’3-1/2” (when you’re 5’3” that last half inch is pretty important) and weighed in at 161 pounds.

While 5’3-1/2″ and 161 pounds may sound chubby to you, clearly, those old-time baseball unis were downright slimming. (Pearce is the one in back.)

Pearce, who played in the earliest days of major league baseball – from the 1850s into the 1880s – is credited with turning the roving “short field” position into the more territorial shortstop position that we know today, and, in doing so, may have invented, or developed, or, at very least refined, the double play. Continue reading

The Cupid Of Second Base

In early 1891, second baseman Clarence Childs signed a $2,300 contract with the Baltimore Orioles, about $65,000 in today’s dollars. Upon signing he was immediately paid a $200 advance. He then abandoned the team, saying that the Orioles had deceived him and he could find a better deal elsewhere. The Orioles sued. They lost. And, Childs joined the Cleveland Spiders.

(Months later, the Orioles were still in court trying to get their $200 back. It’s unclear if they ever did.)

Childs jilted the Orioles. Probably wasn’t the first to do it. Definitely not the last. (See: Mark Teixeira, 21st-century Orioles jilter.)

End of story?

But, wait.

What if I told you Clarence Childs wasn’t always called Clarence? What if someone along the way nicknamed him Cupid? Cupid Childs?

Courtesy of Peak99, via Creative Commons

Well, friends, this Valentine’s Day post is practically writing itself. Continue reading

If Pearce Chiles Could Talk …

Allentown PA Leader, 10/4/1900

Pearce Chiles, an infielder/third base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, was born in 1867 in Deepwater, Missouri. I think it’s fair to say he was an all-around no-goodnik – although thieving miscreant is probably more accurate. Phillies’ backup catcher Morgan Murphy, fellow no-goodnik, devised a system where Murphy, using binoculars, would stand beyond centerfield and steal the signs from the other team’s catcher. Murphy would forward the signs via a telegraph wire buried under the field and connected to a buzzer in the third base coaching box where Chiles stood. The buzzer would vibrate under Chiles’ foot, and he would signal to the batter what pitch was coming.  It was 1900.  

Pearce Chiles

Chiles never spoke publically about the scheme … but if he had …

Those idiots think the DTs ‘smaking my leg twitch.

It ain’t booze.

I hold my likker better ‘n any of ‘em.

Buffoons.

I can stand out here all day in this goddam third base box. And, see, we paid a guy to lay down a wire and it’s buried right here where my right foot stands. I have to stand just so. But, if I do, Murph’ out there just beyond that centerfield point, puts his spyglasses on the other guys’ catcher, and from out there he pushes a button and presto – I get a jolt of pure electricity right through the wire, right to my damn foot.

Mansfield OH News-Journal, 9/19/1900

Curve ball? Fast ball? Murph’s a catcher, he knows all the signs. I know from the buzz he sends me exactly what that pitcher’s gonna throw next.

One buzz, fastball. Two buzzes, something else.

Can you beat that? Continue reading