No need to apologize if you didn’t notice my absence. I know you were busy. Not playing, of course. But, busy. Eating. Napping. Whatever it is you do when you’re not playing baseball on the Fourth of July.
Not playing yesterday, on the Fourth of July, was a quirk in the Orioles schedule.
It was also cruel return to that empty first half of the 20th century when Baltimore had no major league team. Those were the years – decades – of emptiness, after New York stole those early Baltimore Orioles for themselves. There were no Fourth of July Orioles games … or third of July … or fifth of July … or sixth … hey, you get the picture.
So, while you Orioles were idle for 51 seasons, Babe Ruth … and Joe DiMaggio … and a rookie Mickey Mantle … got to play on Independence Day, but not you, dear Orioles. Not you.
On April 7, 1889, American poet Walt Whitman and his friend Horace Traubel had this conversation.
Whitman said to his friend, “Did you see the baseball boys are home from their tour around the world? How I’d like to meet them — talk with them: maybe ask them some questions.” Traubel replied, “Baseball is the hurrah game of the republic!”
Whitman responded, “That’s beautiful: the hurrah game! Well — it’s our game: that’s the chief fact in connection with it: America’s game: has the snap, go, fling, of the American atmosphere — belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”
“Is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.”
That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Not today’s games – of which there will be many – not yesterday’s – and not, especially, the one last night that the Orioles let get away (again).
Not any one, but the sum total of them.
The hurrah game. It’s who we are, isn’t it? Or, who we wish to be.
Dorthea Lange, the famed photographer who, better than anyone, documented the Great Depression, took this photo in Cedar Grove, North Carolina (about 20 miles north of Chapel Hill).
Public Domain, Library of Congress #LC-USF34-020008-E
The photograph’s title at the Library Congress, and the title that I am going to believe Lange gave this photo herself, reads:
“Rural filling station becomes community center and general grounds for loafing. The men in baseball suits are on a local team which will play a game nearby. The team is called the Cedargrove Team.”
The community center and men in baseball suits photo was taken by Lange on July 4, 1939.
May your Fourth of July be hopeful. May there be a Hurrah Game for you. And, may your team, dressed in their best baseball suits, win.
There’s a lot of baseball on the 4th of July. Playing baseball on Independence Day is a tradition that goes back more than a century – pretty much as long as baseball has been baseball.
All 30 big league teams will play today (weather permitting). There will be hundreds more playing in the minors, college summer leagues, kids’ leagues, and pick-up games. There will be a lot of baseball.
This is not about any of today’s games. (Except to say, “Good luck, Orioles. Don’t screw this road trip up any worse than you already have.”)
1881 was as good a 4th of July as any for baseball, I figured.
Because there were two games in Buffalo that day, along with two in Detroit, that marked the first-ever major league doubleheaders specifically created to take advantage of a holiday.
Troy Trojans Pitcher Mickey Welch
Because future Hall of Fame pitcher Mickey Welch of the Troy Trojans pitched both of those games against the Buffalo Bisons – complete games, winning both, including a three-hit shut-out in the afternoon.
Because, that 4th of July also was Welch’s 22nd birthday.
Game One: Troy Trojans – 8 Buffalo Bisons – 3
Game Two: Troy Trojans – 12 Buffalo Bisons – 0
There are no box scores from that game.
Well, that’s not exactly right. There are box scores. I just can’t read them …
Game 1 Box Score. Buffalo Morning Express, July 5, 1881
Pitching was different in 1881. Complete games – and two-man pitching rotations – were as normal then as worn-out bullpens and six-inning “quality starts” from your ace are today.
Troy Trojans, early 1880s. Welch may be the player seated at the far left.
Troy was a pretty lousy team with few hometown fans. So, the owners agreed to move a July 5 home game to fill out the Buffalo doubleheader. The teams would make more at the gate in Buffalo on a holiday then they could ever make in Troy on a Tuesday.
The story should end there:
The 4th of July. A Monday, just like today’s.
Mickey Welch – “Smiling Mickey,” the future Hall of Famer with the friendly demeanor and an assortment of quirky underhand curves – pitches 18 innings and wins two complete games in baseball’s first holiday doubleheader.
On his birthday. On America’s birthday.
I love that story.
Except for this.
As in all things, baseball doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
New York Times, July 3 1881
Two days earlier, President James A. Garfield was shot at a train station in Washington, DC.
If you know your high school history, this will all sound vaguely familiar. Just three months into his Administration, a deranged office-seeker shot Garfield twice – once in the arm and once in the belly. And, if you remember your medical science classes, you might recall that Garfield died two months later, not from the actual gunshot wounds, but from infection caused by the virtually nonexistent sanitation practices of the time and all the unwashed, dirty fingers that doctors used to probe the belly wound.
This lets a lot of the air out of an otherwise sweet 4th of July story.
The country was in shock. Citizens clogged city streets near newspaper and telegraph offices to get the latest news on the condition of the President.
His “condition” depended on the newspaper …
Washington Evening Critic, New York Times, and Buffalo Evening News, July 4, 1881
Many cities cancelled their Independence Day fireworks and events out of respect.
Buffalo called off its military parade. The city’s annual boating regatta went on as planned because, organizers agreed, the President seemed to be doing better by Sunday, and the weather was supposed to be perfect.
Buffalo Evening News, July 5, 1881
The Regatta, a Pigeon Shoot, and the Independence Day revelry of people shooting at each other went on as scheduled in Buffalo.
Despite the somberness of the weekend, people tried to get back to normal.
Baseball went on as planned and more than 4,000 fans attended the games against the Trojans at Buffalo’s Riverside Park.
“In the afternoon the stands were filled to sardine compactness and the assemblage was very enthusiastic,” according to the next day’s Buffalo Morning Express.
Troy surprised the Bisons. “It does seem ridiculous that such a motley combination of base-ball talent should be able, when they play in this city, to do such good work as the Troys,” The Express reported. “The [12-0 afternoon game] was a disgrace to the name of the Buffalos. … Welch was too much for the home club.”
The 4th of July wins were rare ones for the Troy Trojans. They finished the season in fifth place in the National League, with a 39-45 record. Twenty-one of those wins belonged to Welch.
President Garfield never recovered. He died on September 19.
The Troy Trojans folded the following season and Welch went on to become a star with the New York Gothams, whom you may know today by the nickname which ultimately stuck with them – the Giants.
After finishing his playing career – amassing 307 wins and a career 2.71 ERA — Welch went on to run a hotel and saloon and then a dairy business, before returning to baseball as a gatekeeper and attendant at both the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium.
Mickey Welch died of heart failure, at age 82, on July 30, 1941. On his death certificate his “Usual Occupation” was listed as this: “Baseball player.”
“There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she wore this divine nightdress of rose-colored mousseline de soie, trimmed with frothy Valenciennes lace.” ~ Dorothy Parker
courtesy of sportslogos.net
A recent study of clothes and fashion found that the average woman, of which I am one, has 27 pairs of shoes. (I am assuming they all belong to her and she’s not like a puppy stealing the neighbor’s shoes and burying them in her closet.)
Men have, on average, 12 pairs. (They all look vaguely similar and most of them are New Balance.)
Women take a lot of heat from guys who don’t understand why we need so many shoes, including at least one pair that we’ve never worn. Sure, it doesn’t make sense. To you. But, it does to me, so shut up about the shoes.
If you want to rag on fashion, how about Major League baseball?
Because in 2016, the 30 teams will wear all sorts of specialty uniforms – throwback days that nearly every team has, and league-wide celebrations of holidays and special events, including Mother’s and Father’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, the All-Star Game, and even the Home Run Derby, which isn’t even a game, but three hours of watching your favorite player destroy his swing for the rest of the season.
Teams will wear each of these special jerseys and caps for one day and that will be that.
So before you make fun of what women keep in their closets, be advised that while we, on average, do have something tucked away on a hanger that we only wore once (and maybe, kind of, regret now), Major League Baseball has given every player lots of wear-it-once jerseys and caps – in addition to their regular three or four home-and-away uniforms.
With 750 active players on team rosters, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July alone will add up to 3,000 special caps and jerseys – which, Mathlete Alert!, will weigh about 3,000 pounds. (The average cap weighs 6 ounces, the average jersey, 10 ounces.)
After the games, players and coaches autograph their one-day jerseys so they can be auctioned off with the proceeds going to various veterans’ organizations and cancer research groups. (Although with 3,000 of these things going on the block every season, when will the “exclusive” wear off?)
But, I like the effort. Good for you, baseball.
Unfortunately, the jerseys are, for the most part, meh.
You can check out every single one that will be worn by every single team this seasonhere.
courtesy of sportslogos.net
courtesy of sportslogos.net
courtesy of sportslogos.net
I can still see the logos, so that’s lousy camouflage if you ask me.
Fourth of July.
courtesy of sportslogos.net
I do like the Home Run Derby jerseys which will be worn during this year’s All-Star Game festivities – but not the actual game – in San Diego.
courtesy of sportslogos.net
They pay homage to the 1970s-era Padres and their very, um, 1970s sense of fashion. In an era that churned out way too many baby blue leisure suits, elephant bell bottoms, and boxy crocheted vests, there’s something warm and retro-sweet about that Padres’ brown-orange-and-mustard combo. It reminds me of my mom’s kitchen.
Sure, I could complain about the Fourth of July and these dull star-speckled caps, but I think I do that every year around this time, mainly because I’m curious to see how the Toronto Blue Jays will celebrate a holiday that doesn’t belong to them.
This year …
courtesy of sportslogos.net
A bunch of stars for 29 teams.
courtesy of sportslogos.net
A bunch of maple leafs for Toronto.
It’s supposed to look like mesh, I suppose, but it reminds me of those old dot-matrix printers that you might be too young to remember.
The throwbacks that many teams will wear throughout the season are way cooler. Like the Pittsburgh Pirates in their Stargell-era uniforms that they are wearing on Sundays.
Awww, it’s the pillbox cap!
But, the coolest of all are those that turn up each season in the minor leagues.
Like the Stockton Ports who recently celebrated Asparagus Night.
And, the Lehigh Iron Pigs who celebrate bacon every Saturday.
And, the Fresno Grizzlies who celebrate tacos every Tuesday.
I wish every day was Taco Tuesday. I am so hungry right now I can’t even finish this post …
Baseball is the perfect way to spend your Independence Day. But, just in case your guys are the away team today (Dear Orioles, did you forget to pack your bats before you left for Chicago?), here’s some Free Baseball* to keep your game red, white, and blue.
10th Inning: Silent Cal
We are a nation of mega-mansions, monster trucks, and hotdog eating contests. More is always better. And, because five Racing Presidents weren’t enough for the Washington Nationals, we now have six. Welcome Racing President Calvin Coolidge!
Coolidge joins Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Taft.
(Add in Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush – all played baseball in college – and you can field your own Racing Presidents baseball team!)
Apparently, Coolidge was not much of a baseball fan, but his wife Grace was. (Impeccable source for this fact? Annoying Nats color guy F.P. Santangelo. If it’s wrong, blame him.)
But, President Coolidge did say: “Baseball is our national game.” Which is about as generic as you can get, but apparently is enough to get a 40-pound felt head built in your likeness.
Oh, and he’s the only U.S. President born on the 4th of July. Happy Birthday, Cal!
Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully can call a game all by himself – no need for color guys. And, he still has time left over to teach you a little history. During last night’s Dodgers-Mets game Vin shared some Star-Spangled Banner stories.
So gather round, listen, and Vin promises, you’ll “learn a little something about our flag.”
“So, then, to every man his chance — to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity — to every man the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him — this, seeker, is the promise of America.” ~ Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again, 1940
Best I can tell, the first reference to a ballplayer having a “cup of coffee” – or a short stint – in baseball referred to New York Giant Fred Merkle. Yes, Bonehead Merkle.
Fred Merkle, Public Domain
It was in 1908 in a game versus the Cubs that Merkle neglected to tag second at the end of a game that the Giants thought they had won. Once the “boner” was revealed, negating the Giants’ winning run, the game was replayed and the Cubs won. (They went on to win the World Series, their last, in case you’re keeping track.)
It was after that first game that the New York Globe referred to Merkle, 19 and the youngest player in the National League, as “just getting his ‘cup of coffee’ in the league.”
Bonehead or not, Merkle lingered quite some time over his cup, playing more than 1,600 games over 16 seasons, including, ironically, his last six with the Cubs. (I believe Starbucks would call that “cup of coffee” a Venti-sized career.)
The real “cup of coffee” players are those who play the shortest times in the big leagues. A game or two and not much more.
Fun Fact: We Americans will drink 400 million cups of coffee today. (I tried to figure out how much caffeine that was, because decaf is ridiculous, and I think it’s something like 500 billion mg. Really, math is not my strong suit, so I might be off by a billion or two.)
Three major league players had their single game “cup of coffee” on the 4th of July. It’s strange there have been only three, and none, that I can see, since 1885.
When you play just one game in an era without ESPN and online box scores, it’s hard to know much about these guys. All I can tell you is this …
The Baltimore Orioles played the Louisville Eclipse on July 4, 1882.
John Russ, a Louisville carpenter, may have played on a local team and had the opportunity for a one-day cup of coffee in the bigs when the Orioles came to town and needed a player to fill out the squad.
Russ, 24, played centerfield and pitched, giving up three hits and one earned run over three innings, and went 1-for-3 at the plate. This might not sound like much, but it could get you a solid million-dollar bullpen job with teams today.
Russ was the son of immigrants, his father a blacksmith, his mother a candymaker. He never ventured from Louisville and is listed in its directories over the years as a carpenter, plowmaker, and woodworker in a plow factory, until his death in 1912 from cirrhosis.
1882 was the inaugural season for the six-team American Association and the Orioles finished dead last. Their record, 19-54, put them 32.5 games out of first.
Charlie Ingraham got his shot with the Baltimore Orioles the next year on July 4, 1883.
He went 1-for-4 with a single, and had one error as catcher.
It was a doubleheader for the Orioles, playing the Red Stockings in Cincinnati.
Ingraham was an Ohio native living by then in Chicago. He’s another case of a player who may have gotten scooped up by the Orioles for that one day, so that they could field enough players for the two games.
In 1880, Ingraham was listed as a medical student in Chicago. This would mean he was planning to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father was a prominent physician and medical lecturer whose death in 1891 was covered by the Chicago Tribune.
In the obituary, his son C.W. – our Charlie – is listed as a ballplayer in the Northwestern League, a minor league that had folded four seasons earlier.
Things don’t often work out the way you think they will when you’re young, and when C.W. succumbs to pneumonia at age 46, he is neither a doctor nor a ballplayer. He is listed on his death certificate as a “stage carpenter.”
The Orioles finished last again in 1883 – 28-68 and 37 games out of first.
Bill Collver, just 18, played his one and only big league game for the Boston Beaneaters on July 4, 1885.
An outfielder, he went 0-for-4 at the plate that day, with one strikeout.
The Beaneaters were in the middle of a roadtrip – a grueling one by today’s standards – that had begun on June 23 and would go through July 17. On July 4, they played a doubleheader against the Detroit Wolverines, losing the first game 8-3 and the second 11-6.
It’s unclear which loss Collver played in, but it’s likely that the Beaneaters, like the Orioles before them, just picked up Collver from a local team to help fill out their roster.
Collver didn’t have much beyond that cup of coffee. He died in 1888, still in Detroit and just 21, of a “spinal disease,” which could mean meningitis, of which there was plenty in Detroit, or who knows?
The Beaneaters finished their season 46-66 and finished fifth and 41 games out of first in the National League.
The sad thing about a cup of coffee in baseball, is that someday it’s gonna be your last. And, unlike Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken, and the other greats who chose when and where to drink their final cup, for most players, with names you’ll never know, the pot is emptied before they’ve had their fill.
So, here’s to John and Charlie and Bill who had their cup of coffee, who lived the American Dream, even if it maybe wasn’t what they planned, and who are still remembered 130-some years later for just one day, just one game.
One of the greatest games in baseball history happened on the Fourth of July.
It really did.
On July 4, 1905, the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Americans played a doubleheader at Boston’s Huntington Avenue Grounds.
Doubleheaders, in those days before stadium lights, began bright and early in the morning.
(1910) Public Domain image.
Huntington Avenue Grounds
The A’s took the morning game 5-2. At some point late in the game, the A’s quirky lefty Rube Waddell came in, pitched in relief, and got a couple outs.
This would be of only passing note, except that Waddell then started the afternoon game. And, pitched a 20-inning complete game. And, won. Beating Cy Young (who also pitched all 20).
Every game your team wins is a great game. But, this really might have been the greatest.
Twenty innings pitched by two of the greatest pitchers ever.
This conversation really happened:
The Baseball Bloggess: “How about that ‘the greatest baseball game on record’ happened on the Fourth of July?”
Editor/Husband: “How about that ‘the greatest baseball game on record’ was 20 innings and was over in three hours and 31 minutes?”
(The average nine-inning game these days – what with all the commercials and instant replay and batting gloves and infield shifting – hovers around the three-hour mark.)
Waddell later estimated that he threw 250 pitches in that single game. Cy Young thought he pitched slightly fewer.
(No one counted in those days.)
“That 20-inning game was the best game I ever pitched,” Waddell said. “But it didn’t take a feather out of me. I felt just as good after the game was over as I did during the contest.”
(1909) Permission: SDN-055366, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.
“I can’t claim that I did better work than Young,” Waddell said. “I had the luck. … The fact that it was the Fourth of July kept me going, and I guess the shooting of revolvers and the fireworks and the yelling made me pitch better.”
Wait, what? Revolvers?
Fireworks, in the daytime?
Our great-grandparents were crazy (and dangerous)!
Waddell was nicknamed “Rube” because he was thought to be a little slow, a goofy, country bumpkin. Young was nicknamed “Cy” – for Cyclone – because it was said he threw fastballs so hard they would destroy the wooden grandstand walls.
Waddell loved a good drink and would skip starts to go fishing or wrestle alligators or play street games with neighborhood kids. He could become so distracted on the mound that he would just up and leave. (Fans of other teams suggested that holding a puppy up at a game would distract Waddell from his work.)
But, his pitching itself, including a powerful fastball and deceptive curve, reflected a focus and control that he lacked in other aspects of his life. On at least one occasion, he was so “on” that he shooed his outfielders out of the game and proceeded to strike out the side.
(1908) Permission: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division #LC-USZ62-77897 DLC
Cy Young was far less colorful, except when he pitched. He threw the first perfect game of the modern era (against, wouldn’t you know it, the A’s and Waddell in 1904) and won 511 career games, the most by any pitcher ever, which is why pitchers today vie for the Cy Young award and not the Rube Waddell award.
Here’s your 20-second 20-inning recap of that Fourth of July game.
The Americans went up 2-0 in the first. The A’s tied it up with a two-run home run in the sixth. Then, for the next 13 innings, nothing.
Finally, sometime before dark, in the 20th inning, Boston – and Young – faltered. A couple Boston errors, and a batter hit by pitch, allowed the A’s to cobble together two runs, and a victory.
Despite the loss, it was, Young said, “the greatest game of ball I ever took part in.”
The glove Waddell used that day is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Their combined 20-inning complete game was a pitching record that stood – for one season. In 1906, the A’s and Americans met again at Huntington Grounds. This time the A’s Jack Coombs and the Americans’ Joe Harris combined for a 24-inning complete game. (The A’s won that one, too.)
The Philadelphia A’s moved to Kansas City in 1955 and Oakland in 1968. They are currently 52-33, the best record in baseball.
The Boston Americans are now called the Red Sox. They are currently 38-47. Their Fourth of July game today with the Baltimore Orioles has been rained out. Doubleheader tomorrow!
Oh, hey … one more thing!
Waddell went 0-for-8 at the plate in that 1905 game. Only one other player has gone 0-for-8 in a game AND gotten the win. And, it was against Boston, too.
The Orioles’ Chris Davis, the designated hitter, was moved to pitcher at the end of a 17-inning game against the Red Sox in May 2012 when the team ran out of available pitchers. He hadn’t ever pitched in the big leagues before. He pitched two scoreless innings. He got the win. He hasn’t pitched since.
(Editor/Husband would want me to tell you this: That 2012 O’s – Red Sox game? It took six hours.)