The Troubling Story Of Baseball’s Douglas Neff

I could tell you about baseball.

I could tell you that Douglas Neff – or D.W. Neff, as he was called from time to time – was a star athlete at the University of Virginia, played 33 big league games in 1914 and ’15 for the Washington Nationals, then retired, fought in a war, and faded into the much-less-documented world of ordinary life.

I could tell you about Harrisonburg, Virginia where Neff, the son of a prominent local doctor, was born in 1891.

Harrisonburg is on the “other” side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the western edge of Virginia.

I could tell you about Boboko, Harrisonburg’s tiny Indonesian restaurant and its delicious food, which you will find just across the street from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.

Delicious.

Neff’s childhood home is gone. But, I can show you where it once was.

Here …

… where this parking lot is now – also across from the Farmers Market.

Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University, with 21,000 students, and Eastern Mennonite University, with 1,100 more. Add another 54,000 residents, and Harrisonburg has sprawled so big and so wide that it now has two – two! – Walmarts.

Like this – only sprawlier.

I had it all planned out – to tell you about Neff and baseball, and Harrisonburg and Boboko, the tiny Indonesian restaurant.

But, some things don’t go as planned. Continue reading

Because That’s What Moms Do

Sometimes after a long day and work has weighed heavily on me, I’ll look into a mirror and see my mother looking back. Not the bright, young, bewitching mom that I remember most, but the older, tired mother, made haggard by years of hard work and an illness that should have, predictably, killed her in her forties, but didn’t.

My mom was much stronger, much tougher, much more focused than I am, and there are many times that I will say, sometimes out loud, “Mom, why couldn’t you have given me that tough gene of yours?”

My mom was, at her core, a private and quiet woman and she wouldn’t be happy at all to know that I have written about her illnesses and struggles on here.

But, she would be glad to know I still write.

Because, my mom supported everything I chose to do … every direction I wandered in, no matter how weird and how awkward. Even when my dad disapproved, my mom trusted me.

That’s what moms do, right? Continue reading

A Number Of Things …

They say that people get crankier as they get older.

Surely, they don’t mean me.

To be cranky is to be ill-tempered about everything. I’m not ill-tempered about everything.

I mean, look ….

Sure, the Baltimore Orioles are in last place in the AL East. But, it’s not like they’re 0-and-26. (Hi World Champion Boston Red Sox, I see you’ve won 10 games, too. Good for you!)

Last season, it took the O’s until May 10 to get to 10 wins. This is progress, people.

I love the rebuilding Orioles. I really do. Sure, I still don’t know all their names, but I love each and every one of them. Except for one. I don’t know his name but, yeh, I don’t love him.

So, I’m not cranky. Not me. But, I do need to talk to someone about a couple situations regarding baseball jerseys. You seem nice. I’m sure you’ll see my side of things.

Baseball Numbers

I appreciate that baseball jerseys have numbers on them. It wasn’t until 1937 that all the major league teams adopted numbers. Before that, I bet teams would just swap players in and out indiscriminately. Who would know? They were all men, they were all the same color, they all wore caps.

Public Domain

Like these 1903 NY Highlanders. Don’t they all look alike to you? Continue reading

Baseball Changed. Didn’t It?

Friday night, for the fourth time out of the past six games, Virginia baseball was interrupted, delayed, or postponed by rain and storms. With nothing else to do, this got me to thinking about the future … 

© The Baseball Bloggess

There came a time when the doomsayers were proven right.

The weather had changed.

The rain now came in floods instead of showers, the storms were stronger and more frequent. Outside was not bucolic; outside was a battle, something to conquer as you went from one indoor space to the next. It was too wet or too dry. Too hot or too cold. Too much. Always just too much. Continue reading

What Can You Say About Jackie Robinson That Hasn’t Been Said?

Public Domain via U.S. Library Of Congress

The first mention of Jackie Robinson that I can find in newspapers came in 1937 when he was 17.

(I know there were earlier mentions in the local Pasadena, California paper, but the Internet, like Monday morning coffee, can take you only so far.)

So, in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, I give you these early – but not the earliest – mentions of Jackie Robinson …

On January 13, 1937, Robinson, playing for Pasadena, California’s John Muir Tech, is in a box score in the Los Angeles Times in a basketball game between Muir Tech and Hoover.

Los Angeles Times, 1/13/1937

Muir Tech’s Terriers won 29-27.

Another mention turns up in a Covina, California Argus story on the high school basketball team which notes Muir Tech’s “sensational colored ace” Jackie Robinson. Continue reading

Chris Davis Gets A Hit …

When I was young, but not so young that I didn’t know better, but, still, decades ago, I backed my mom’s beloved Chevy Suburban through the garage door.

It may not be the most embarrassing thing I’ve done in my life, but it is the one that I can think of right now.

It was not a good day. The electric garage door was mid-open when, in a hurry, I backed through it, wedging the door against the top of the car and the garage ceiling, mangling the door opener gears that were still grinding away, and bending the track. I had crushed things so tightly together that I could not back out or in without destroying the frame of the garage or taking the top of the Suburban clean off.

It took the better part of an afternoon to peel everything apart.

It was not inexpensive.

Amazingly … amazingly, then and amazingly, today … my parents didn’t get mad.  Well, not mad on the outside anyway. Accidents happen, they figured, and no one got hurt.

(If you knew my parents, you would know that this was not their usual reaction to such things.)

Embed from Getty Images

 

This brings me to the Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis who has spent many embarrassing moments lately not hitting a baseball in front of thousands of fans who expect more from a highly paid professional athlete. Continue reading

Major A.K. Fulton. The Good Luck Baseball Fan.

I suppose I should tell you that the Baltimore Orioles won two of their first three games this season, defeating the Yankees … in New York.

“At the corner of Unacceptable and Intolerable, the Yankees lost a season-opening series to the Orioles.”The New York Post

Even the Cleveland Spiders, the worst team ever, won 20 games in 1899 (they lost 134), so don’t get too giddy about two wins — no matter how unexpected. (Still … yay.)

That’s not why I’m here, anyway. I’m here to tell you about Major Albert Kimberly (A.K.) Fulton of Baltimore and his strange connection to the Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s.

And, I’m starting at the end …

The Baltimore Sun, 2/1/1900

Major Fulton was 63 when he died in January 1900, living a generous 16 additional years beyond the frighteningly short life expectancy of the time. Continue reading

Dear Baltimore Orioles, I Believe In You.

“Baltimore was bad last year, but this year it will be much worse. Its starting lineup is made up entirely of bums, retreads, and no-hopers. This team is more Major League than the movie.” ~ The Toronto Globe & Mail, April 27, 2019

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

It’s Opening Day and I believe in you.

Sure, I also believe in climate change, e.coli in my romaine, and menopause. These things do me no good, but I must believe in them because they are real.

But, I believe there’s more to you than just bad things.

I don’t believe you are made up entirely of “bums, retreads, and no-hopers.”

Sure, nearly half of your roster — 11 of the 25 players — are enjoying their very first Opening Day in the majors. I’m looking forward to learning all their names.

“It’s a dream come true,” infielder Drew Jackson told The Baltimore Sun. Last year he was playing AA ball in the Dodgers system.

Drew Jackson. I’ve learned one new name already!

I believe that you all have worked up some crazy, ingenious, secret plan that will make you better … better than last year’s historic 115 losses. Better than what everyone else believes is possible.

I believe you’re going to try your best not to suck.

(I can’t believe I had to write that.)

I’m not sure why I believe in you, because it seems pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?

But, it’s baseball season and it’s nice to feel hopeful on Opening Day.

No matter what anyone else says.

I believe in you.

(Please don’t lose 100 games.)

Your Pollyanna Friend, The Baseball Bloggess

P.S. Toronto Globe & Mail Sourpusses: You do know that the bums, retreads, and no-hopers of “Major League” won the AL East in that movie, right? On a bunt … a freaking beautiful bunt.

Go O’s.

 

My Experts Predict The 2019 World Series

Before I unveil my fabulous 2019 panel of baseball experts and their equally fabulous post-season picks, I need to cover two important details.

First, the season has already started. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s kicked it off last week with games in Tokyo, which counted for baseball, but do not count with me.

True Opening Day is Thursday, March 28. This is the earliest Opening Day ever and all 30 teams will play. This early start is to allow teams to scatter a few additional rest days into the season. (Need more rest days? Lose 100 games and you’ll get all of October off.)

The New York Sun, 4/23/1919

Opening Day in 1919?

April 23.

Second, Sports Illustrated.

Hi, SI guys. (And, by “guys” I mean, literally, guys, because girls are generally unwelcome at Sports Illustrated.)

Last year, my experts outsmarted the dude-fellas at SI who were sure the Nationals would win the World Series.

They didn’t.

Neither did the Colorado Rockies, which was the team my cat chose. My cat.

But, the Rockies did make the post-season. Do you know who didn’t make the post-season? The Nationals.

So, Mookie the Cat – 1, Sports Illustrated – 0.

Being outsmarted by my cat apparently did in SI, because there are a lot of words in their latest MLB preview issue (including calling the Baltimore Orioles “ugly” … twice), but no official World Series pick. Best I can tell, they will commit only to predicting the Dodgers will be the strongest team in the NL and the Astros, the strongest in the AL.

Where’s your Series pick, smart guys?

Are you SI, or are you SI’m Afraid To Be Wrong Again?

My 2019 panel of experts is clear that SI is wrong about the Dodgers and the Astros. And, as in previous years, my panel is awesome. Continue reading

Bryce Harper’s Big Payday Got Me Thinking …

Do you remember the first time you got paid for work? Not a weekly allowance for washing the dishes, not the handful of ones from the neighbors for babysitting their kids (in a house filled with brazen mice who hid under the sofa in the daytime but came out after dark. Wait. That’s another story.)

Not those stuff-the-coins-in-your-pocket-not-really-a-job jobs, but a real job.

For me, it was Kmart.

I was Number 29. “Number 29 to the registers. Number 29.” My ears perked up like a puppy hearing car wheels in the drive whenever I heard that over the loudspeaker. They always called me first. Always. Because I loved being Number 29. And, I would race the entire length of the store and have my register open before the manager could call a second time. I loved being needed.

It was only for a year, maybe not quite that, from my senior year in high school until I left for college.

Courtesy Devils Lake Daily Journal, via Creative Commons.

It closed last year.

I still remember that first pay envelope. I kept it for a long time in a folder of important things. (Important things that my mother went through one day and threw out. Wait. That’s another story.) Continue reading