Happy New Year (And A Ceremonial First Pitch)

A new season. Finally. And, not a moment too soon.

Can I wish for the World Series?

Too soon?

Well then, let me just wish for today. A day with some baseball.

Where all things are possible.

Here’s your ceremonial first pitch …

 

Now, Play Ball!

(and, go o’s!)

Photo: Orioles Shortstop JJ Hardy. Camden Yards, Baltimore. 2016. © The Baseball Bloggess

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

babe-ruth-family-christmas-card-1930s

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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“Hot As Hell, Ain’t It Prez?”

100 degrees

It is 100 here again today. It is hot and humid and sticky. It is miserable.

If it is not 100 degrees where you are, I am both happy for you and a little annoyed that you deserve better weather than me.

There is baseball this afternoon in Richmond – minor league ball – and in younger times we would go.

But, not today. Not when it’s 100. Because these are not younger times and age slows you down. Age tires you out. And, age protects you from doing stupid things like going to a baseball game when it is 100 degrees outside.

Because 100 is a lot of anything.

Dennis Eckersley threw 100 complete games in his career.  Which is strange because I’m of the generation that remembers him mainly as a shaggy-headed closer.

Eckersley, 1978-ish.

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Chris Davis & The Unjilted

Chris Davis Baseball

Being jilted is no fun.

Which is a shame because “jilt” is a fun word.

Let’s go a’jilting!

It’s a jiltingly beautiful day, let’s have a picnic.

But, language is fickle and being jilted, of course, is no fun at all.

(If you haven’t been jilted – by a date, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a fiancé  – you are a rare bird, or a bird with selective memory. You can keep reading, Unjilted One, but this won’t be as meaningful for you.)

So, what to do if you thought you were jilted … but you discover you weren’t? Not jilted. Unjilted. Ajilted. Non-jiltified.

What if you’ve already moved on only to discover that you weren’t jilted after all?

On Saturday morning, reporters learned that Baltimore Orioles first baseman (sometime right fielder and one-time winning pitcher) Chris Davis had re-signed with the club.

Welcome back to Baltimore, Chris Davis! 

(I’m not sure I can even welcome you back, “Crush”, because, as it turns out, you never really even left.)

Re-signed and resigned are two different things which is extremely hard for some writers to understand.

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Becomingly Thankful

“Everybody was becomingly thankful.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, November 26, 1897

There’s not a lot of baseball on Thanksgiving.

It’s just turkey and football, isn’t it?

Sure, maybe there’s someone, somewhere having a catch before dinner. But, finding a game – a real game – is hard to do on Thanksgiving.

It was pretty much just turkey and football back in 1897, too. And, it’s been that way every Thanksgiving since.

But, I did find two bits of Thanksgiving baseball in 1897 …

On Thanksgiving Day, the boys of St. Mary’s Industrial School – the school for truants, miscreants, and wayward boys located on the outskirts of Baltimore – mostly played football. But, a few of them played baseball that day. It was a dull and cloudy day, but the rain held off until after dark, so the day was fine enough for outdoor games.

Thanksgiving 1897 was, for the 535 boys of St. Mary’s, “a delightful day,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

The school was still five years away from enrolling its most famous student – George (not-yet-Babe) Ruth who was committed to St. Mary’s by his parents for being incorrigible in 1902.

Babe_Ruth_-_St._Mary's_Industrial_School

Public Domain image (1913)

In 1897, George “Baby” Ruth was just 2 years old and several years away from becoming a star player for St. Mary’s Industrial School. (Here he is in 1913 — back row, center, with his catcher’s gear.)

The Baltimore Orioles also played on Thanksgiving Day 1897.

They had just finished their season in second place and were out on the West Coast on one of those barn-storming “all-star” tours that travelled through warm-weather states in the off-season as a way to make the owners some dough and help players make ends meet.

orioles california tour 1897

Public Domain (1897)

Baltimore Orioles “California Tour” Promotional Photograph. 1897

The Orioles spent their Thanksgiving being beaten 4-3 by the Sacramento Gilt Edges, a California League team.

(The Gilt Edges, by the way, got their name from Sacramento’s Ruhstaller’s Brewery, maker of Gilt Edge beer. The brewery still exists and they still make Gilt Edge.)

gilt edge beer

But for most Americans, Thanksgiving Day 1897 was a day for church-going (“services were most elaborate affairs, and in their magnitude and importance, were only surpassed by the Easter Festivals,” The Washington Post explained) … college football (the University of Virginia beat Carolina in the “South’s Oldest Rivalry” game, 12-0, wahoowa!) … and serving roast turkey dinners with all the usual trimmings to the poor, the infirm, the elderly, and the imprisoned.

Thanksgiving Day back then, it seems, was less a day to count one’s own blessings, but instead was a day to help provide the less fortunate with a belly-filling meal for which they could be thankful.

The Humphrey House, a Jamestown, New York hotel and restaurant, reminded its diners of the blessings of sharing a meal with the poor on their Thanksgiving Day menu.

humphrey house thanksgiving menu 1897

Public Domain, via University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries. (1897)

“They who divide the plenty, By a bounteous Father given, Shall multiply this day the thanks, That sweetly rise to Heaven.” 

(You can see the Humphrey House’s full Thanksgiving menu here.)

As The Baltimore Sun explained, “Many generous-hearted people were anxious that others should find some rays of sunshine in their lives to be grateful for and devoted part of the remaining hours to aiding the poor, sick, or those confined in institutions.”

Baltimore Sun November 26 1897

The Baltimore Sun, November 26, 1897

“Everybody was becomingly thankful.”

That’s how The Baltimore Sun described Thanksgiving Day 1897.

Becomingly thankful.

May we all be becomingly thankful today, too.

 

The Babe & Bruce. Shreveport, 1921.

When Ruth, the mighty Soccaneer,
Stands up to sock the ball,
The throng is bound to raise a cheer
No matter what befall.
It thrills the vast and noisy crowd
To see a four-base clout.
And yet the cheer is just as loud
When someone strikes him out.

~ John B. Sheridan, Sportswriter | March 1921

Babe Ruth 1921

Babe Ruth, 1921. Public Domain.

When Babe Ruth, the home run hero of 1920, arrived at Yankees’ spring training in Shreveport, Louisiana in March 1921, he was out of shape and overweight.

He was, The New York Times said, the “Bulky Babe.”

The Sporting News was less poetic. The Babe “is fat and is working like a coal heaver to get in shape.”

pablo

(See, Panda Bear, you weren’t the first chubby to turn up at spring training.)

But, that didn’t stop several hundreds of Shreveport fans from turning out to greet Babe Ruth at the train station when he arrived in town on March 5. Shreveport had America’s biggest celebrity in their midst.

Arrival of Ruth NYT 3 6 1921

New York Times, 3/6/21

He fought his way past the cheering crowd and made his way to his hotel, The Sporting News reported, “where he was sat upon by scores of kids, who followed him to his room and were not satisfied until all had shaken hands and the Babe had shown them how he hit home runs by batting imaginary balls over the chandelier.”

The Babe, looking all jaunty. 1921, Shreveport

Public Domain

Babe Ruth in Shreveport, March 1921. 

During his month in Shreveport, the citizens showered him with gifts, and turned out at games – and practices – by the thousands. A local Essex car dealer gave him a car to use during spring training. The license plate read simply: “Babe Ruth’s Essex.” (“Babe Ruth’s Essex” was found one morning abandoned in the middle of the street when Babe rode off with someone else during a night of carousing.)

richmond times dispatch 3 13 21

Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/13/21

 

1921 essex

A 1921 Essex.

But, I’m just using the Sultan of Swat to lure you in. He’s not the star of this post. Bruce Price is.

Price was 24, a local, pitching for the Shreveport Gassers, a Texas League team.

Think of the Gassers as the Washington Generals to the Yankees’ Harlem Globetrotters. Just a small town practice squad for the Yankees to feast on that spring.

Two years ago, I wrote about unusual spring training spots, including Shreveport.

Last November, I found this comment at the bottom of the post:

janets quote2

It’s easy to write about Babe and the ’21 Yankees who, historian Robert Creamer wrote, “roared into that Louisiana city like cowboys coming to town on Saturday night.”

Broads. And booze. Abandoned cars. And Ruthian home runs that sailed over outfield walls and into the streets. That broke the windows of passing street cars.

(I had you at broads and booze, didn’t I?)

But, maybe it’s time to write about the Shreveport pitcher who got the Babe out.

So I sent an email to Janet Johnson who wrote me right back.

She confirmed that it was her grandfather, Bruce Price, “Papa Bruce” to family, who struck out Babe Ruth.

Bruce Price

Bruce Price. Courtesy of Janet Johnson.

He was a smallish pitcher – maybe 5’8” and 150 pounds or so. A righty.

“My dad says Papa would go pitch for teams in little towns in the area.  He also said he played baseball at Louisiana Tech one year but never went to class,” Johnson said.

Price had a wicked curve. He told folks he “could throw a baseball and make it curve through the crook of a stovepipe without ever touching metal.”

Like this.

It may have been that curveball that buckled the Babe.

But, the box score from that March 12, 1921 game, like many family memories, had gotten a little fuzzy with age.

NYT March 13 1921 Yankees Shreveport Box Score

The New York Times, 3/13/21

 Fun Fact: That’s not how you spell Shreveport.

Turns out, Price hadn’t struck the Babe out twice. But, there’s still a story to tell.

The Gassers starting pitcher was shelled that day, giving up six runs over three innings. Price came in in relief, pitching the 4th, 5th, and 6th. He pitched three scoreless innings and faced Ruth once, getting him to hit a weak infield grounder that Price easily fielded.

If you want to quibble about a strike out’s value over an infield out, go ahead. An out’s an out, if you ask me, and I think Price did Ruth a favor by making him leg out a play to first. After all, it was early in the spring and Ruth still had 20 pounds to lose.

The fans had come to see Babe Ruth, but as the game went on they began to cheer their hometown boys instead, especially when the Gassers got Ruth out.

Despite Ruth’s 0-for-5 day, the Yankees won 7-3.

Bruce Price’s ERA? 0.00

Price Pitching Line 3 12 21

In 1983, Wiley Hilburn of The Shreveport Times wrote that the Babe asked about Price after the game. “Who is that narrow [bastard]?” and later told a reporter, “I like that little Price.”

Decades later, Price described how he pitched Ruth: “It was inside low and inside high. … He would take one step with his left foot toward me, and then bring his right foot around to swing. I’d hesitate with my throw and try to throw his timing off.”

The Babe bounced back the next day in Ruthian style, going 6-for-6 – three homers, three singles – and the Yankees stepped on the Gassers 21-3.

New York Times

The New York Times, 3/14/21

(The Gassers did finally take one from the Yankees, 3-2 in 11 innings, on the last game of the spring.)

Price played a few more years on local teams, got married to a girl named Maggie, had four children, farmed, and drove a school bus.

“He never passed up an opportunity to go fishing,” Johnson told me. “He absolutely loved being out on the lake — any lake — but would not eat fish at all. He liked his coffee so strong that my mom would boil some water to dilute hers when we came to visit.”

He rarely missed church on Sunday, played the harmonica, and raised a family that stayed close to home.

“Everyone who knew Bruce just loved him,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s father – Price’s eldest son – retired back to the old home place not so long ago. The original house is gone now. “It had a porch across the front and a steep tin roof,” Johnson said. “I can’t remember exactly when they got a bathroom, but it was in my lifetime. Before that, it was a trip to the outhouse, and a bath in a tin wash tub in the back room, with well water heated on the stove. My uncle Bob lived nearby his whole life, and my two aunts married Air Force men but eventually came back home. Uncle Bob died a few years ago, but all of them have stayed close to the church and community, as have many of my cousins.”

Baseball still runs in the family. Many of Bruce Price’s children, grandchildren, and, today, great-grandchildren played in high school and some into college. One great-grandson – also a righty pitcher – played at Southern Mississippi about 10 years ago, was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, and played a season in the minors before being sidelined with an injury.

Bruce Price died on March 25, 1983. He was 86.

Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns over 22 seasons. He was a career .342 hitter. It took a great pitcher to get the Babe out.

Bruce Price was one of them.

 

 

Babe Ruth. Ballplayer. Brownie. Mom.

babe ruth makes good headlineOn July 11, 1914, George Herman Ruth played his first major league game. He had recently joined the Boston Red Sox and was already known as “Babe”.

He pitched seven innings, gave up three runs (two earned), and got a no decision in a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Naps (later the Indians).

He went 0-for-2 at the plate. His first major league at bat? A strike out.

Babe Ruth, Pitcher

SDN-061193, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (1917)

He became the greatest ballplayer ever. (This is not even worth arguing over.)

If you want the stats, you can find plenty online.

But, how about some other Ruthian notes on this auspicious day?

He Was Born In Baltimore (And Lived In Centerfield)

According to the plaque at Baltimore’s Camden Yards: “During the early 1900’s, Babe Ruth and his family lived at 406 Conway Street in what is now centerfield of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Babe’s father operated Ruth’s Café on the ground floor of the residence.”

The Café? A polite way of saying saloon.

Adam

Adam Jones, Orioles Centerfielder. Camden Yards.

Ruth Was A Catcher (Before He Was A Pitcher, Before He Was The Sultan of Swat)

While at St. Mary’s – a reform school/orphanage for wayward boys where Ruth was sent by his family for being “incorrigible” – he began to play as part of a formal school baseball league. He was a star of the league and played catcher – a lefty catcher (a rarity then and now).

Babe_Ruth_-_St._Mary's_Industrial_School

Public Domain image. (1913)

Babe Ruth, Catcher. St. Mary’s. Back Row, Center.

He later moved to pitcher and in 1913, his last year at St. Mary’s, according to historian Robert Creamer, he homered in nearly every game he played and was undefeated in every game he pitched.

The Baltimore Orioles Signed Ruth To His First Professional Contract (But, Not Those Orioles)

Yes, the Baltimore Orioles did sign Babe Ruth to his first professional baseball contract in 1914. (His salary: $100 a month.)

But, no, it was not the historic 1890s-era Baltimore Orioles that eventually moved to New York and evolved into the Yankees. (They were long gone by 1914.)

And, no, it wasn’t the current Baltimore Orioles. They have only been in Baltimore since 1954, and were previously the St. Louis Browns.

The Baltimore Orioles that signed Ruth were a minor league team in the International League – a team that was originally based in Montreal.

The Orioles weren’t even the most popular baseball team in Baltimore that year. They played a woeful second fiddle to the Baltimore Terrapins, a Federal League team.

They couldn’t compete with the popular Terps and Ruth was quickly sold to the Boston Red Sox. The next season, those Orioles packed up and headed to Richmond, Virginia.

babe ruth red sox

SDN-061536, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. (1918)

Babe Ruth and two other Orioles were sold to the Red Sox in July 1914 for a reported $25,000.

Baby Ruth Candy Bars Were Not Named For Babe Ruth (Except That They Were)

baby ruth bars

The Curtiss Candy Company always claimed they named the Baby Ruth bar for Ruth Cleveland, President Grover Cleveland’s daughter who died at age 12 in 1904, which was nearly 20 years before the candy bar even appeared.

More likely is that the Curtiss Candy Company jumped on the Babe Ruth bandwagon, but Ruth Cleveland was a convenient back story that would allow them to avoid paying Babe for his image, likeness, name, and endorsement.

Should you wish to argue that Babe Ruth and Baby Ruth are two completely different names: Reporters of the day would, on occasion, refer to the Babe as “Baby Ruth” and here’s some proof of that.

baby ruth headline

In the 1990s, Nestlé, which now owns the brand, contracted with the Ruth family to use the Babe’s image in their marketing.

Although, Nestlé seems to have put Baby in the corner these days – Baby Ruths aren’t even listed on their chocolate page. (Aero Bars? They’re horrible.)

But, if you dig around, you can uncover this Gooey Baby Ruth Brownie recipe!

brownies

A candy bar melted into a brownie? With cream cheese? The Babe would definitely put his name on that!

Ruth Played Where The Sun Don’t Shine

In 1922, Ruth lost a fly ball in the sun while playing left field at New York’s Polo Grounds.

After that, Ruth determined what position he would play from game to game, based on where the sun would shine in the outfield in every stadium – always avoiding the “sun field.”

At the Polo Grounds and in Yankee Stadium, for instance, he would always be in right field.  At Boston’s Fenway Park, however, he would forever after play in left.

I wonder where he would have played at the Trop?

Yankee Stadium — The House That Ruth Built

He didn’t literally build it. He did, however, have basic tailoring skills and while at St. Mary’s briefly worked at a shirt factory. His job was to attach collars and he was paid six cents a collar.

I’m Related To Babe

Seriously. But, not Babe Ruth.

My mom was named Julie at birth, but everyone in the family and most everyone in town knew her as Babe. Her high school yearbook lists her as Babe, too. She was called Babe, she said, because she was the youngest in her family and the youngest in her class.

Sadly, her daughter’s witty jokes about her being named for Babe Ruth or Babe the Blue Ox were wholly unappreciated.

But get this …

In the 1930s, Babe Ruth discovered that he was a year older than he had been told he was, when he had to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get his passport.

In the 1990s, Babe, my mom, discovered that she was a year older than she had been told she was, when she had to produce a certified birth certificate in order to get Social Security.

Coincidence?

_____________________________

“And, Along Came Slim …”

There was a lot that was “slim” about the pitcher Slim Love.

slim love photo

His frame was slim – 6 foot, 7 inches, 195 pounds. And, his baseball career (a few big league seasons between 1913 and 1920) was rather slim, too.

When I wrote about him a couple days ago (click here), I focused on this slimness, his mediocre statistics, and his only pitch, an undisciplined fastball.

Slim’s pretty short list of overall pitching stats (highlighted by an awful lot of walks) made for, well, slim pickings when it came to summing up his career.

But, he was the tallest man in major league baseball at the time and had a very good nickname. So I settled for that.

It could be said that I, an Orioles fan, was unduly hard on Love because he was a Yankee. OK, point taken.

The more I thought about Love, however, the more I thought, “If he was that mediocre, how did he make it through so many major league seasons?”

(You may insert any number of current mediocre pitchers in response here. I’m not going to play that game, but I will say – you do have a point.)

So, I poked around some more. And, I stumbled on something. And, when I say “stumbled” I don’t mean literally, but I came upon it nearly by chance. As if Slim Love himself had steered this newspaper under my nose, controlling his legacy in a way that he couldn’t his fastball.

Slim, I think, wants you to know about this.

Slim vs Babe story

New York Tribune, 6/27/18. Library of Congress, Public Domain http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1918-06-27/ed-1/seq-12

Wednesday, June 26, 1918

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

“And along came Slim Love and Babe Ruth was shackled.” (New York Tribune)

Love was a Yankee, Ruth was still with the Red Sox.

Slim vs Babe

New York Tribune, 6/27/18. Library of Congress, Public Domain http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1918-06-27/ed-1/seq-12

Slim Love Pitching for the Yankees. June 26, 1918

Love gave up only three hits in his 3-1 victory that day, bringing the Yankees to within a game of the league-leading Sox.

Slim Love’s own two RBI double was the difference in the Yankees’ victory. “It was a lovely hit and the 6,000 howlers in the stands howled their OK,” wrote Charles Taylor of the Tribune.

As for Babe Ruth?

Babe_Ruth_Red_Sox_1918

Public Domain image.

Babe Ruth, Red Sox. 1918

Being “shackled” meant Ruth went just 1-for-4 that day; his one hit a double that drove in the sole Red Sox run. Which, isn’t really shackled by my accounts, unless, of course, you’re Babe Ruth and much more is expected of you than of ordinary batters.

But, this is Slim’s story.

And, Love, Taylor wrote, “had a lovely day. His old southpaw wing never fluttered so gracefully or with better results.”

(There’s no baseball writer – or baseball blogger – today who could write a line like that, and that’s a shame.)

Every ballplayer – at every level of the game – deserves at least one great moment.

Every batter deserves a 4-for-4 game, or a home run that cuts through the clouds and breaks someone’s windshield, setting off a line of car alarms in the parking lot.

Every batter deserves a Babe Ruth kind of day.

Every pitcher deserves one no-hitter (and Love did have one of those in the minor leagues).

And, every pitcher should be given a moment when their pitches are so spot-on perfect that they would shut down Babe Ruth himself.

Every pitcher deserves that Slim Love kind of day.

POSTSCRIPT: The Red Sox went on to win the World Series that season (defeating the Cubs). They would not win another World Series for 86 years. The Yankees, with a 60-63 record, sunk to fourth. In December 1920, the Red Sox would sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, which kick started a Yankees’ revival that has led, over the years, to 27 World Series championships.

FUN FACT: Slim Love and Babe Ruth were – very briefly – teammates. In December 1918, the Yankees traded Love to Ruth’s Red Sox. But, before Spring Training or a single game with the Sox, Love was bundled up yet again and traded to the Tigers.

Jamie the Yankees Fan.

Most animals find numbers and basic math uninteresting (Cat: “Who sent you here? Go away.”) or irrelevant (Dog: “I either had one treat or 50 treats out of the bag there on the floor, it’s hard to say for sure. I have to go barf on your shoes now.”)

But, not baseball fans. We love numbers and statistics. Wins, losses, batting averages are just a start. ERA.  RBI. WAR, WHIP, WPA.  Yeh, I know, it’s annoying.

Chris Davis’ batting average when wearing an orange jersey? .407 (through June anyway)

orange jersey

A Word Press editor recently suggested that bloggers check their page view numbers no more than once a week.

How can I twist my page views into obscure, meaningless statistics about my self-worth and popularity, if you won’t even let me look at them?

I check my statistics daily. Sometimes every couple hours. (I just checked them.) I don’t want to miss a single page view.

page view 2

Hey look, it’s you and me!

So, it didn’t get past me when my “Followers/Subscribers” number hit 999 earlier this week.

999

If you blog, you know how sketchy this number is.

Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs in his career. I have 999 followers.

(Here’s a stat: I have more followers than Barry Bonds has home runs.)

But, both numbers are juiced. Barry Bonds used steroids. I get followed mostly by spammers and a baffling number of non-English speakers. Welcome, “callgirlsdubai”!

But, still … a milestone IS a milestone, even if it is meaningless.

So, I put out the word to my friends – follow my blog and help me reach 1,000. And, almost immediately Jamie did.

I love Jamie. She is wonderful.

She is follower 1,000.

I decided then and there that I would write a blog post in her honor. Here we go.

Jamie has two dogs, two cats, and one husband.

And, here’s what she told me about baseball:

We have a big baseball conflict in our house. I’m a hardcore Yankees girl, and Jaremy lives, eats and breathes the Red Sox. Our compromise is the Nationals.

I have always said that 100 percent (look, more numbers!) of Nationals fans are default “fans”. They’re really fans of other teams, but since they’re near Washington, DC, oh hell, they might as well root for the Nats since they’ve got nothing better to do. Jamie has proven me 100 percent correct. (I told you, she is wonderful.)

Jamie

Yankees fans.

Red Sox Fan. Tigers fan.

Red Sox Fan. Tigers fan.

So to honor Jamie, I will write five nice things about her Yankees. (If you’ve come looking for my post on Yankees jokes … please click here.)

OK, sigh, here we go.*

Five nice things about the Yankees

1)

Public Domain

Babe Ruth. Public Domain Image

Babe Ruth.

He was born in Baltimore. Played briefly for an early incarnation of the Orioles … and bestowed one of the very best curses on the Red Sox that you’ll ever see. (Once the Curse of the Bambino ran out – and by god it had a good run – the Red Sox started winning, getting all uppity, and growing facial hair. Still, it’s not too late for the Babe to re-wallop them with another good Bambino-sized curse from the great beyond. Come on, it’ll be fun.)

2) Yogi Berra.

yogi berra

Yogi Berra. Public Domain Image

The Yankees catcher was the inspiration for Yogi Bear. And, who doesn’t love Yogi Bear?

Yogi_Bear_don't_feed_the_bears

1961, Courtesy of the National Archives ID #286013

I once had a cat named Yogi, who was named after Yogi Bear. He was a darn good cat.

Yogi. Cat.

Yogi. Cat.

3) If you follow the family tree, the New York Yankees were originally the Baltimore Orioles.

That New York stole the original Orioles from Baltimore (for a paltry $18,000 in 1903) is not surprising. In 2000, the Yankees stole pitcher Mike Mussina from the Orioles (he cost the Yanks $88.5 million).  (I’m still pretty upset about this.)

mike mussina

4) The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles. (The Orioles have won three.)

5) George Costanza used to work there.

I know I don’t really have 1,000 readers, but maybe I have a few. Quality over quantity is my motto. I’m glad you’re one of them.

* Please don’t think I’ve gone soft on the Yankees, people. Jeffrey Maier will never be forgotten.

#5: The Yankees Go To Shreveport

The game is full of subtlety,

Of science and of art,

Where mind and brain

Beneath the strain

Must carry out their part.

 

But when it comes to climax stuff

Beyond the final scoff,

Give me the bloke

With mighty poke

Who tears the cover off.

~ Grantland Rice, New York Tribune, March 15, 1921

 In today’s installment of “Spring Training Is Way Better Than Sitting In A House Without Power During A Freak Snowstorm In March” … let’s head to Shreveport, Louisiana.

 March 1921.

Spring Training with the New York Yankees. (And, you know this better be good if I’m going to spend a post talking about the Yankees.)

See, Spring Training wasn’t always Grapefruits and Cactus.  Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama were all popular destinations in the early years of baseball.  Teams just seemed to wander around.

Spring Training over the years has evolved into a structured program to polish up one’s skills with weight training, fielding drills, batting practice, and conditioning programs.  (Even, most happily, Yoga. Big shout out to the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles who have mentioned their Yoga programs in recent weeks.)

Back in early 20th century however, Spring Training was really just a time to get everyone back together, detox from the excesses of the off-season (mineral hot springs were especially popular), burn off winter weight, toss around a medicine ball, and try to get back into some sort of playing shape.

After a few rowdy Spring Trainings in Jacksonville, Florida (highlighted by more than a few “drunken orgies”), the Yankees moved their spring headquarters to Shreveport in 1921 because of its isolation (and because it was, ostensibly, a dry town).  Safely away, they hoped, from the devilish temptations of booze, broads, and brawling. 

Shreveport – in the midst of its own crazy oil boom (and not very “dry” at all) – would be a place where Babe Ruth and the rest of the team could focus on baseball.

Oh, did I not mention Babe?

George Herman Ruth.  Baltimore native.  The man who bestowed one of the most successful and enduring curses on the Boston Red Sox.  He did some other stuff too, hit some homers, changed the face of baseball, you know, that sort of thing, but I think I hit the high points.

New York Yankees, Spring Training 1921. Babe Ruth is there in the center.

New York Yankees, Spring Training 1921. Babe Ruth is there in the center.

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