Some Things Should Stay The Same: 1857 Edition

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

We’re taking a holiday sidetrack through 1857 today — from baseball to one of the most ubiquitous Christmas Carols.

On Christmas Day when I was a kid, my dad would take all the wrapped gifts marked for him and line them up in front of his chair. He would then randomly pick one and declare that it was the best of all. And, that was the gift he would open last. And, by last, I mean later in the day. Much later. Sometimes he would save that last gift until well into the evening when mom was already thinking about taking down the tree. (Mom usually had the Christmas tree stripped and down by lunchtime on the 26th.)

Throughout Christmas Day, my dad would ask if I had any more packages to open, and when I would sadly answer “no,” he would pick up his gift and say, “I still have one to open and it’s the best.”

The Baseball Bloggess grabbing for just one more gift.

So, stick with me because the best story I will tell you today will be the one I tell last.

First, baseball.

If you want to snoop through all the stories of baseball – or “base ball” or “base-ball” – in newspapers in 1857, it won’t take long. A couple dozen mentions are all you will find.

When this peculiar, relatively new game appears in Bloomington, Indiana in June 1857, the local paper reports:

“It is a lively and exciting game, with lots of exercise and fun in it. We hope it will speedily become popular here.”

It was, they said, a game for young men. And, with life expectancy hovering around 38 back then, pretty much everything was for young men. (Sorry, ladies, no baseball for you.) Continue reading

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


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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.)

Continue reading

Jim Sullivan — Mine Run, Virginia & The Christmas Cow


Here is Jimmy Sullivan.

His curve is a beauty,

His fast ball has the hop,

And his control is so good

He may land on the top.

George MacKay describing Jim Sullivan in The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1922.

Posed action of Philadelphia A's James Sullivan

Public Domain

Sullivan pitching with the Philadelphia Athletics, 1922.

Jim Sullivan’s story is that of a 1920s-era right-hander who never could figure out how to control his fastball. (George MacKay’s rhyme was really just wishful thinking). It’s also a tale of three cities. And, a story about a cow wearing a Christmas hat.

(If the promise of a cow wearing a Christmas hat doesn’t keep you reading, then, clearly, you’re not the person I thought you were.)

Jim Sullivan was born in Mine Run, Virginia in 1894.



The Sullivan family didn’t settle forever in Mine Run. By the late ‘teens, Sullivan is playing professionally and his family is in North Carolina. Later, he spends an off-season with his father in Kentucky.

Sullivan’s big league career is rather brief.

He played parts of the 1921 and ‘22 seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics and two games with the Cleveland Indians in 1923.


Public Domain

Sullivan, with the Indians (briefly) in 1923.

Twenty-five big league games total, 73.1 innings pitched (all but five with the A’s), an 0-5 record, a 5.52 ERA, and a reputation for wildness.

(Keep reading. I promise … Christmas Cow is on the way …)

Continue reading

Cleaning Out The Attic

The scratching in the attic has quieted down.

Last count in Editor/Husband’s trapping project: Bears, Raccoons & Squirrels – 0.  Mousies – 6.*

* As in many sporting statistics, context is important and there’s often an asterisk: Editor/Husband has trapped either six individual mousies, or one single mouse over and over. Or, some variation of that. I suggested id’ing the mouse by marking its head with a Sharpie pen before releasing it outside. Editor/Husband is going with the less precise, “This one looks a bit smaller than the last one” method. As usual, my method would be complicated, but far more definitive.

This is what six mice in the attic sound like when accompanied by a stand-up bass. (Fun Fact: mice cannot play stand up stand-up basses, because they are too small.)


I don’t feel too bad putting a mouse outside when the weather is nice. They have their little fur coats after all.  Our cats really don’t care one way or another.

(And, yes, we only use live traps. We’re not murderers.)

# # #

This conversation really took place on Christmas morning.

Editor/Husband hands me a gift bag. I look inside.

Me: It’s an orange.

E/H: It’s a Christmas tradition.

Me: That’s nice. (Reaches in and takes orange.) This orange is cold. (Pause) Did you get this out of the fridge? (Pause) Is this the orange I bought at the grocery store on Sunday?

E/H: It’s a Christmas tradition.


Christmas tradition.

Here’s the other gift Editor/Husband gave me.


It is 855 pages and weighs nearly three pounds … which is about the same weight as 88 house mice.

(I am on page 98.)

# # #

While Editor/Husband continues to de-mousify the attic, I’m cleaning things up as well, by going through a few folders filled with this year’s baseball photos.

And, I keep coming back to this little scrum of photos that I took at the indoor batting cage at the University of Virginia.

They make me smile. Because, they are in focus.

All you really need is just one baseball …

acc baseball

And, just one bat …

a buncha'bats

(Wooden preferred …)

quiet bats

And, a little pine tar if you can spare it …

pine tarMaybe a few extra baseballs in case the first one gets hit into the woods …

bucket of balls

(And, now I’ve cleaned out my baseball attic … for this season, anyway.)

I Wrote This For You On Christmas Day.

Do people read blogs on Christmas Day?

Do people actually write on blogs on Christmas Day?

Is that a bad thing? That I’m still in my pajamas and writing on here on a day that is ordinarily set aside for family and friends and festive gatherings?

That, as I write, Editor/Husband is setting up the bigger, stronger Hav-a-Hart trap in the attic because he’s wondering if the mouse up there isn’t a mouse after all, but something quite a bit larger. (Like a squirrel? A raccoon? Possibly a bear? Who knows what comes into this house on its own. We once had a snake that lived in our toilet. I’m not kidding.)

(He’s baiting it with a waffle, in case you’re interested.)

(And, by the way, thanks, Cats, for letting mice – or whatever is scratching on the walls up there – live in the house with us.)

santa squirrel

This is a flying squirrel dressed as Santa Claus.  (So, don’t say this blog post isn’t appropriately festive.)

Oh, yes, Christmas.

If you happen by this blog and actually read it today … or from time to time … you have brightened my heart. You really have.

And, I wish you all good things during this special time …

May you be surrounded by the love of family and friends …

have a catch

Have a catch.

But, if they start to make you crazy (and they just might), may you find a little space …


May you find joy doing the things you love …


And, most important, may you find the quiet peace of your heart … (and, hey, snacks!)

sunflower seeds

And, for those of you keeping score … Just 51 days ‘til pitchers and catchers report.

Richmond Stadium

(I took all of these photos in 2013.  Camden Yards, Baltimore.  The Diamond, Richmond, Virginia.  Davenport Field, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.)