A wildly popular Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history.
Ya hey! It’s the third anniversary of the first time I appeared on the front page here. I didn’t think I’d last a month, so it’s all bonus, baby. It’s also my fifty-seventh natal anniversary, a synergy that’s no doubt due to random serendipitous forces and disturbances in the aether that allowed the Cub Tracks continuum and associated madness to descend upon you all, like the time I totally called the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. It’s really too bad that Al didn’t get to praise Theo face-to-face, as far as I know, but that was cool and fun. A totally different version of that story is in my next collection...about which more anon.
As the baseball season wound down, items of note became fewer and fewer, and as a result we’ll commence unpacking more of chosen incidents and events when possible instead of simply making lists. Today we have a series of events that meant a lot to the game at the time they occurred and caused possible futures to change. It’s a beautiful day for a ball game — let’s get started!
Today in baseball history:
- 1942 - Branch Rickey, the architect of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system, resigns as the team’s vice president. The future Hall of Famer will become the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers. (3)
Rickey and club owner and president Sam Breadon didn’t see eye-to-eye all the time, and things came to a head after the Cardinals won the World Series. Rickey wanted more money and control and wanted to re-establish his ‘farm system’ concept, which had gotten him into hot water with Kenesaw Mountain Landis three years previously.
Breadon wasn’t pleased with (‘stigmatized’, is how he termed his feelings). He was equally displeased at having to fire manager Frankie Frisch, though he ameliorated that somewhat by firing his successor, Ray Blades, after the 1940 season. (5)
Rickey eventually replaced Larry MacPhail as president of the Dodgers and continued his progressive ways, even though, as according to Andy McCue (6), “he was politically and socially conservative. He preached on the temperance circuit as a young man and, as an older man, would regularly attack Communism, Communists, and liberal politicians...”
“Branch Rickey was “a man of strange complexities, not to mention downright contradictions,” wrote the New York Times’ John Drebinger.” (6)
- 1945 - Happy Chandler, who had continued to serve in the U.S. Senate after becoming commissioner, resigns his political office. He will move the commissioner’s quarters to Cincinnati. (3)
“During the course of his political career he served as Senator, Lieutenant Governor, and two terms as Governor of his home state of Kentucky. It can also be argued that few non-players had a greater impact on baseball. His support of Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson to a Brooklyn Dodgers contract helped change professional baseball forever.” Chandler is a member of the Hall of Fame, was almost Roosevelt’s running mate instead of Truman, and succeeded Landis as the Commissioner of Baseball after his last Senatorial term expired. (7)
- 1979 - Hall of Famer Willie Mays severs all ties to Major League Baseball after signing a contract with the Bally Corporation, which is involved with legalized gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey.(3)
“Mays signed a contract to be a “goodwill ambassador” for the Bally’s Park Place hotel and casino in Atlantic City; Mantle took a similar job with Claridge’s four years later. The positions involved ”playing in golf tournaments with the casino’s customers and appearing at public functions on behalf of the hotel.”
As the bans were essentially “silly and naive”, “...the bans were sure to end as soon as Kuhn died.” (8)
Interestingly, one of Peter Ueberroth’s first acts upon becoming commissioner was to reinstate Mays and Mantle. More recently, this has become fairly common practice.
- 1985 - St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andújar is suspended for the first 10 games of the 1986 season as a result of his World Series Game 7 tantrum during which he twice bumped home plate umpire Don Denkinger. A controversial call by Denkinger at first base in Game 6 helped to force a seventh game as the Kansas City Royals won the World Series championship. (3)
- 2001 - Commissioner Bud Selig says Major League Baseball is considering eliminating two teams by the start of next season. Contraction would include the Montreal Expos and either the Minnesota Twins or the Florida Marlins. (3)
Well, that didn’t happen. Instead the Expos went to Washington, who probably should have had a team all along.
- Cubs birthdays:
Mark Baldwin, Solly Hofman, Richie Barker, Arismendy Alcantara. Of note, to me, former teammate (Joliet Central) Jesse Barfield, two years older than I, and of note in general, Cubs first-base coach Will Venable.
- (1) — The National Pastime.
- (2) — Today in Baseball History.
- (3) — Baseball Reference.
- (4) — Society for American Baseball Research.
Happy Halloween! The Kindle versions of Test Patterns anthologies will be free for one day and one day only, on October 31. I only tell you because I love you.
Thanks for reading.