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

The Thing About Wednesdays …

© The Baseball Bloggess

Does every day seem like Wednesday to you?

It never feels like the beginning of the week any more. Or, the end.

It just feels like some nebulous place that is neither here nor there.

It seems, as Wednesdays actually are, as far away from the weekend as you can get.  Far away from nights out, restaurants, concerts, day hikes, farmers’ markets. Baseball.

Just one big endless Wednesday.

I have so few routines that haven’t been upended in some way in the past two months.

I rarely check the clock anymore, and I am often surprised when I do.

“It’s 9:30? How did it get to be 9:30?”

“Two o’clock already? I guess I forgot to have lunch.”

Some would say this is a good thing. That being untied to a clock or calendar is a reprieve from the demands of artificial time.

But, I like being tied. I like being needed. I like having something to do. Somewhere to be.

Something.

 

I miss this.

According to a new Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans reported that they worried “a lot” back in March when this mess unfurled. Just 47 percent now.

In that poll, 72 percent of Americans reported being happy “a lot of the day yesterday.”  That’s a five-percent increase from late March.

Am I happier?

Well, it’s 10 a.m. and I’m still in my pajamas, still enjoying my morning coffee. 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

Chapter One: Smelly

© The Baseball Bloggess

Smelly was small enough that he could turn himself sideways and wedge his shoulder between two of the gate’s metal bars. This allowed him to push his cheek so hard into one metal bar that his ear was almost – almost – inside the park.

This was how Smelly, the little neighborhood kid, listened to baseball.

Smelly? His name?

Smelly didn’t smell bad. Honest.

But, Smelly had the runniest nose in the neighborhood. He was constantly sniffling and snorting and wiping snot into the elbow of his shirt sleeves.

One day, on one of Smelly’s particularly snorty-snotty-runny-nose days, a no-good kid from another block said to him, “You’re a disgusting snothead.”

“I’m not a snothead,” Smelly replied. “I am smelling.” And, he took a long and deep and wet snotty-snorty inhale in the other kid’s direction. “And, I smell you.  And, you stink.”

From that point on, he became Smelly, which was, everyone agreed, a much better name than Snothead.

Smelly would always show up at Baltimore’s Camden Union ballpark on game day early. It was just six blocks away from Smelly’s house, he could run it in five minutes. (Unless he stopped for a bomb pop, which was worth the detour.)

With no fans allowed in, a game could start whenever both teams were ready. A two o’clock game could start at noon … or not until four. It all depended. It didn’t matter.

Daytime games saved the teams money; no need to turn on expensive lights. The game would be broadcast at night or whenever someone called it up on their “HV” Home Viewer. There were no announcers, just trails of information running continually at the bottom of the screen. No one cared that the games weren’t aired live. It didn’t matter.

It mattered to Smelly. Continue reading

Any Old April

If this were an ordinary, ho-hum, just-another-April, April …

If this were just a plain ol’ kick-winter-to-the-curb April …

If this were an April, the way Aprils are meant to be … the way they should be … the way they need to be …

There would be baseball.

There would be other things, too. There would be restaurants and movies and the ability to go into stores without worrying that taking one step inside is going to be the one step that tries to kill you.

There would be parties and concerts and – I know I mentioned this already – baseball.

So, here we are, near April’s end and the Baltimore Orioles are undefeated. UN. DE. FEAT. ED. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

For those of you baseball-complainers …

Those who complain … Continue reading

This Is Not My “Happy Place”

I shut everything down.

When things shut down around me in the past few days, I knew that mitigating a fast-spreading virus like COVID-19 would mean more than just shuttering all sports, museums, concerts, and big things.

It meant even little businesses like mine should shut down, too.

So, I closed my Yoga studio, cancelled my massage clients. And, here I sit.

Because, isn’t this what it means to “do your part”?

But, if the bars and restaurants and movie theaters are still open and people are still going, am I just wasting my time?

As I said to some of my clients, “I don’t want to see you on Monday and then have to call you on Wednesday and say, ‘Hey! Guess what I just tested positive for?’”

If closing is the right thing to do, why do I feel so terrible about this?

OK, that helped to say all that.

Now that you’ve kindly read through my “stress dump,” we, of course, need to get to the nut of things …

This virus has taken away baseball. It has taken away sports. It has taken away my “Happy Place.” Maybe your “Happy Place,” too.

I have no back-up “Happy Place.”

On Tuesday afternoon – playing hooky – I sat in the stands at the University of Virginia’s Davenport Field in our luxurious new season seats that look straight through home plate and right down the third-base line.

©The Baseball Bloggess

Freshman Max Cotier, on third and thinking about maybe, just maybe, stealing home. He didn’t steal, but he did score. (See, I told you … great seats!)

Virginia beat UMass-Lowell on Tuesday afternoon 24-5.

When it seemed clear that the game would be a major blow-out … and, you know, blow-outs and batting around in multiple innings can take some time (ultimately, three hours and 32 minutes) … we thought about leaving. It was getting late. 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

And, No One Ever Cheated

Photo: Kaboompics via Pexels.com

If you remember real hard, you’ll remember.

A moment when life took place above your head.

A summer picnic with mom and dad and all the people from dad’s work, I don’t really know how many.

A lot.

There were hamburgers and hot dogs and jello pops and grownups who got drunk.

And, cold sodas in metal coolers and we’d steal the ice and throw it at each other.

And, each year, a tug of war between the men that everybody waited for.

And after that, down in a mowed field, there was baseball and we children would sit on a hillside and watch our fathers play.

And, no one ever cheated.

And, it never rained on Saturdays.

And, everything was perfect.

Because, my memory say it’s so.

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2019

Buster Keaton. Playing Baseball.

Silent movies are, well, silent … so you don’t need much from me this morning.

Buster Keaton. 1928. Playing baseball. Yankee Stadium.

(From the movie The Cameraman.)

Look …

 

Hat-tip to @SABRPictorial for finding this gem.

P.S. The Baltimore Orioles have won their last three games. Their last 10 games? They are 7-3. Hoorah. Oh and speaking of Baltimore, don’t believe any of the cruel, hateful, and racist talk you may have heard about Baltimore in the past 24 hours. The Baltimore Sun replied …

All-Star Break: Waiting, Day 4

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2019

As settlers pushed into the unsettled Great Plains in the 1800s to open the land and start new lives, the harsh living conditions, backbreaking farm work, often deadly weather, and near-constant isolation took an enormous toll, often leading to mental breakdowns. They called it “Prairie Madness.”

So, all things considered, going four days without baseball is really no big thing.

And, on the plus side, the Baltimore Orioles haven’t lost a game in four days. Continue reading