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Baseball history unpacked, May 23

As much fun as is legal, Hack Wilson notwithstanding

get all the wilsons
Thy Wilson be done

On May 21, we unpacked how Jim Thome stole a game, historic wins and losses, umpire abuse, and more. Today we take a Cub-centric look at baseball history, unearthing nuggets about Hack Wilson and Kevin Foster, looking at an incident during Woodrow Wilson’s administration, and unraveling a couple of yarns.

Please enjoy immoderately, and tell your friends.

Here’s a handy Cubs timeline.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1901 - Clark Griffith, the White Sox’s pitcher-manager, working in relief for his club, decides to intentionally walk Philadelphia’s Napoleon Lajoie with the bases loaded. The strategy proves to be successful when he induces the next three batters to ground out to complete the 11-9 victory at Chicago’s South Side Park. (1)

We’ve looked at South Side Park previously, and Clark Griffith and Nap Lajoie have also been covered. The Chicago Orphans also won that day.

Wikipedia says: “Nap Lajoie, on his way to hitting a record .426 for the Philadelphia Athletics, is considered such a dangerous hitter by the Chicago White Stockings that he is intentionally walked with the bases loaded.” Lajoie also led the league in hits, batting average, doubles, home runs, OBP, RBI, runs, slugging, and total bases.

Chicago White Stockings outfielder Abner Dalrymple was reportedly the first to cause this strategy to be deployed, twenty years previous to this occasion. He was the first ‘World Series goat’. Matt Snyder analyzes whether it is the best play for the situation.

  • 1918 - Provost Marshal Enoch Crowder issues a “work-or-fight” order, originally setting July 1 as the deadline for players to enter needed war work force or face induction into military service. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, who ignores both the owners’ requests for exemptions and Woodrow Wilson’s July 27th letter stating that the President saw “no necessity” for stopping or curtailing major-league play, does permit the major leaguers continue to play through Labor Day , allowing the shortened season, along with the World Series, to be completed with the teams rosters staying intact. (1)

Here’s a nice recap of the 1918 season, from thisgreatgame.com. The Cubs actually benefited from the order, as they had stockpiled pitching...though this indirectly led to Fred Merkle’s famous boner on the bases.

  • 1926 - Hack Wilson smacks a fifth inning home run off the Wrigley Field scoreboard, situated at ground level, during a 14-8 rout of the Braves. Wilson is the first player to hit a ball off the scoreboard, which, in 1937, will be moved atop the newly built bleachers. Later that night, Wilson and a few others are arrested at a friend’s apartment for drinking beer in violation of the Prohibition Act. (2)

Box score.

Hack Wilson
  • 1935 - The first-ever scheduled major league night game was rained out in Cincinnati. The first game played was the following day. (1)
  • 1965 - Mets’ outfielder Ron Swoboda takes his position wearing a batting helmet - on his foot. After kicking the protective headgear, which gets stuck on his spikes, manager Casey Stengel ordered the young player to go out to the field. (1)

This was likely in protest of the 1956 ruling that required all players to wear helmets.

  • 1980 - In the early morning hours of the players’ planned walkout, the MLBPA and the owners reach a preliminary four-year agreement, allowing the matter of free agency to be reopened the following season. The unresolved issue over free-agent compensation will lead to a 50-day strike next year that results in the loss of 712 games. (1)

The New York Times lays out the timeline {$}.

  • 1991 - With his fourth inning swipe of second base at Shea Stadium, Andre Dawson becomes the third major leaguer to become a member of the 300/300 club, with his 300th stolen base. The 36 year-old Cubs outfielder, who has also hit 354 home runs, joins Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays in reaching the milestone. (1)
  • 1995 - Cubs pitcher Kevin Foster and Rockies hurler Marvin Freeman each hit home runs off each other in a 7-6 Chicago win at Coors Field. Foster and Freeman are just the tenth duo this century to hit and throw gopher balls against each other. (2)

Box score.

Foster and Freeman were both Chicago-area products, Foster having been drafted out of Kishwaukee Junior College, and Freeman graduating from Chicago Vocational before being picked up by the Phillies from Jackson State. Foster could swing the bat — he had years of .250 and .296 batting averages with positive OPS+ (1995-6). Freeman not so much, though he had also homered the year before, a year in which he was 4th in Cy Young voting.

Sources:

Thanks for reading.