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Baseball history unpacked, March 16

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Christie's To Auction Memorabilia From Golden Age Of Baseball
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Last issue, baseball history unpacked looked at the tradition of the Sunday double-header and doubleheaders in general. Of course Cub immortal Ernie Banks was part of the proceedings. How could he not be?

The answers to the poll: Should the Cubs schedule a double-header annually to honor Ernie Banks and other Cubs heroes?

  1. 83% Yes
  2. 9% No
  3. 8% I don’t care

This is roughly the same as the last poll (81%). Would that we could make it so.

Today, baseball history unpacked looks at all four entries through Cubbie-Blue lenses. More rabbit-holes than a Richard Adams book. More nutritious than word salad.

Today in baseball history (3/16):

  • 1900 - At an A.L. meeting in Chicago, Ban Johnson announces that an A.L. team will be placed in the Windy City to ensure the stability of the league. Other franchises are in Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo. In an agreement with Chicago N.L. officials, the A.L. club will be situated on the south side of the city and will be permitted to use the nickname White Stockings, formerly used by the N.L. team. However, the White Stockings will not be able to use the word Chicago in their official name.

The White Stocking Base Ball Club of Chicago (or “Chicago White Stockings”) were a team that played during the first season of the old National Association (NA).

CHICAGO WHITE STOCKINGS

Club Facts: Established 1870, disbanded 1871. The uniform was blue cap, white shirt, blue pants, white stockings, and white buckskin shoes.

The success and fame of the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869, baseball’s first openly professional team, led to a minor explosion of openly professional teams in 1870, each with the goal of defeating the Red Stockings. Some of the new clubs adopted variants on the name and colors, and it happens that the Chicagos adopted white as their primary color.

The newly formed Chicago club advertised for players in the New York Clipper and managed to compile one of the most formidable band of mercenaries in country.

The club joined the first major league, the National Association, in 1871. The Chicago White Stockings were close contenders all summer, but disaster struck on October 8 when a fire began in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn on DeKoven Street on the near south side of the city. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed the club’s ballpark, uniforms and other possessions.

The club completed its schedule with borrowed uniforms, finishing second in the N.A. just 2 games behind, but was compelled to drop out of the league during the city’s recovery period. It was the first-ever pennant race, though.

A new team with no connection to the old one (with the exception of also being called the Chicago White Stockings) emerged in 1874. The team is now known as the Chicago Cubs. They won the championship in 1876. Cap Anson and Al Spalding were on that team, which was remembered as a “forgotten powerhouse” by The National Pastime Museum.

The Source be with you: You can read more about the history of the team here.

  • 1932 - Babe Ruth signs a deal for $75,000 and a percentage of the exhibition gate. Legend has it the Bambino signed a blank contract, with the amount filled in later by Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert.

Here’s a newspaper from that time — THE SPRINGFIELD UNION, Massachusetts, March 17, 1932.

Here’s an article by Jay Maeder of the NY Daily News. It’s more about Jacob Ruppert than the Babe, but is very cool. Plenty of info about Ruppert and his attitude toward Ruth. The Depression was just an excuse for Ruppert to tweak Ruth’s nose, especially in view of the fact that he had Gehrig already and a kid by the name of DiMaggio coming up.

“Everything he touched won first prize,” eulogized Daily News sports editor Jimmy Powers. Col. Jacob Ruppert was offered the Cubs, but demurred, preferring New York franchises.

  • 1953 - The A.L. rejects Bill Veeck’s request to move the St. Louis Browns to Baltimore. The rejection is designed to force Veeck out of the league. Charles Comiskey of the White Sox is Veeck’s sole supporter.

I had some idea about this, having long ago read Veeck As in Wreck, Bill’s autobiography. I met him, long ago, at the Community House in Hinsdale, where he gave a speech. Nice man. Excellent speaker.

Anyway, I remember him talking about that time a bit. It sounded much like wiki has it. He was a Cardinal-hater. “He signed many of the Cardinals’ most popular ex-players and, as a result, attracted many Cards fans to see the Browns. Notably, Veeck inked former Cardinals great Dizzy Dean to a broadcasting contract and tapped Rogers Hornsby as manager. He also re-acquired former Browns fan favorite Vern Stephens and signed former Cardinals pitcher Harry Brecheen, both of whom had starred in the all-St. Louis World Series in 1944.

Veeck also stripped Sportsman’s Park of all Cardinals material and dressed it exclusively in Browns memorabilia, even moving his family to an apartment under the stands.”

Heh. It almost worked, too. “However, just when it looked like the Cardinals were about to move to Texas, Saigh accepted a bid from St. Louis-based brewery Anheuser-Busch.”

Sad trombone. If for some reason you don’t know who Bill Veeck, Sr., was, here’s just a small example of his legerdemain. Eddie Gaedel was another. There’s not enough room here to talk much about things Veeck. His family’s adventures could be a series unto themselves.

photo from SABR.

  • 2001 - Sammy Sosa signs a four-year contract extension with the Chicago Cubs.

And most fans were glad, at the time. I sure was. This was when the Cubs were just beginning to be consistently competitive, and Sammy had everything to do with that. The era of his ascendancy didn’t end well, though. 2004 was an implosion, similar to 1985.

I was surprised to read that, as I thought it would have happened long ago. So many Hall-of-Fame players became managers. And there used to be a lot of player/managers. Pete Rose probably killed that. But 63 players became MLB managers, and a lot of them served simultaneously. Somehow it didn’t happen. The linked article also notes that “Luke Appling, Molitor, Sandberg, and Ted Williams made their big league managerial debuts after being elected to Hall of Fame as players.”

USA Today had a feature on Molitor and his progenitors a few years ago, in which some of the notable people who have filled both positions were thumbnailed. Election to the HoF doesn’t necessarily denote managerial acumen, it seems. A “mixed-at-best track record”, indeed.

Sixty-one players had accomplished the feat when this article was published. Writer Ryan Aber also notes the the transition takes place on a rocky path. He provides capsules of the five best (and worst) HoF players-to-managers. Frank Chance and Cap Anson came up big in his determination. Ted Williams, not so much.

This article by George Stockburger notes the difficulty also, asking the eternal question “Do Hall of Fame Players Make Good Managers?” He misses a few people spoken of in the previous pieces, and instead goes on to make a case for less-experienced players (Joe Maddon, for example, who never made the major leagues).

Bill James talks about the standards of the Hall-of-Fame manager...no HoF player has ever gone on to become a HoF manager...Frank Chance didn’t do it for long enough. Cap Anson would be a decent candidate, except for his “reputed” role in holding the color line.

Thanks for reading. Catch you next time!