Caroline County, Virginia: Clarence “Soup” Campbell

Caroline County, Virginia — A Baseball Story In 3 Acts

Act 2: “Soup”

Three ballplayers of note have called Caroline County, Virginia home. And, our story starts in Sparta.

Caroline County fills an area of 537 miles and there are only two towns of any size within those confines – Bowling Green, the county seat, population 1,111, and Port Royal, population 197.

About all there is to Sparta, Virginia today is a post office, a couple churches, and a volunteer fire department. It was once a little more than that, but really not so much.

Clarence “Soup” Campbell was born in Sparta in March 1915.

Does everyone with the last name Campbell end up with the nickname “Soup”?  (Yes.)

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Cubs vs Indians. Choosing The Right World Series Team For You.

world-series-2016

I’m going to have to watch someone play baseball this week. And, so are you. Let’s figure out which World Series team to root for.

The Chicago Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. The Cleveland Indians last won a World Series in 1948.

There’s a certain comfort in being able to shake your head at the end of a losing season and say, “Well, we always lose, that’s what we do.” Fans start to hang on to this excuse like a crutch. It becomes the excuse for every misplay, every error, every loss.

Just to be clear, Cubs and Indians fans, that ends today. No more are you “long-suffering.” You’re now winners. Enjoy the pressure that goes along with that.

A lot of thinking goes into choosing a World Series team to root for. Not by me, of course, but by other people.

You could spend hours poring over ERAs, WARs, FIPs, and Batting Averages.

You could.

You could study baseball stats and figures for the next seven hours and come out convinced that the Washington Nationals will beat the Red Sox in six.

Yup, and where does that put you? Back at square one.

Let’s look at more important things.

When choosing between the Cubs and Indians, here are some facts that may help you choose the best team for your needs.

First, let’s look at 1908, the last year the Cubs won the World Series, and 1948, the last year the Indians won.

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4th of July Baseball!

“[I]t is good to see health-promoting exercises taking the place of insipid enervating amusements.” ~ The Washington Star reporting on a baseball game in Washington, DC in 1860

Oh, Washington Star, you have no idea.

No idea what “insipid enervating amusements” your great-great-great-great grandchildren will come up with. No idea.

We name our children North West, for heaven’s sake. You really have no idea.

But, you’ll be pleased to know that baseball is pretty much the same.

(Sure, some teams play indoors on fake grass, some under glowing swaths of electric lights, and some won’t even let their pitchers come to bat anymore. Players come from all over the world. And, it’s no longer a whites-only game. So, ok, times have changed a bit.)

While baseball’s beginnings go back much further, it was the Civil War that helped turn baseball from a regional, neighborhood pastime – complete with myriad, often vague, sets of rules – and into a pretty standardized game.

baseball with union prisioners 1863 salisbury nc

Baseball game between Union prisoners at Salisbury, N.C., 1863. Lithograph of a drawing by Maj. Otto Boetticher. Courtesy of the National Archives

That game, base ball, helped pass time during wartime and was taken home across the nation into peacetime.

andrew johnson

President Andrew Johnson

It’s said that President Andrew Johnson was the first sitting President to watch baseball games during the 1860s.

“Johnson indulged few recreational activities [but] he came to appreciate baseball, which was well on its way to becoming America’s past time. On occasion, the President took time to watch pickup games organized on the South Grounds of the White House,” according to Jeffrey K. Smith in The Loyalist: The Life & Times of Andrew Johnson.

(Thank you to my friend Gloria, a diehard Cubs fan, who actually read that book and brought the baseball quote to my attention. And, thank you to my Editor/Husband who said it was also important to mention that then-Vice President Johnson was drunk at Lincoln’s second inauguration.)  

By the 1920s baseball’s place in our nation was clear. It was, President Calvin Coolidge declared, “our nation’s game.”

All 30 major league teams are scheduled to play today … all decked out in the stars and stripes.

Each team will wear special “Independence Day” caps.

Like the Baltimore Orioles.

os stars stripes

And, the New York Yankees. (I am sharing the Yankees cap with you so I can take this opportunity to report that the Orioles swept the Yankees last weekend. Go O’s!) yankees stars stripes cap And, the Cleveland Indians. indians stars stripes cap Wait. That can’t be right, can it?

Yes, Major League Baseball apparently thought it would be appropriate – possibly even cute – to paint Chief Wahoo in the stars and stripes. I’m not even comfortable writing this.

But, hey, MLB, we all make mistakes. And, so, here’s the new Cleveland cap you’ll see today.

final cleveland stars stripes

There. That’s better.

And, if you’re a Toronto Blue Jay? Fear not, no stars and stripes for you today. Your maple leaf is quite fetching!

blue jays stars stripes

So, tip your cap today to the sport that is our “nation’s game.” Chances are, you’ll be tipping a baseball cap (but hopefully not that Chief Wahoo one).

And, have a happy Fourth of July!