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Baseball history unpacked, February 20

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A game in Springfield, and other stories

FOX’s ‘The Simpsons’ Panel - Comic-Con International 2014
All this and brains, too
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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. The embedded links often point to articles that I’ve chosen as illustrative of the scenes, from The Society for American Baseball Research, reproductions of period newspapers, images, and other such material. It’s all lightly unpacked and tidied up, just for you.

You might learn something, but mostly, it’s for fun!

Today in baseball history:

  • 1920 - The Chicago Cubs give his unconditional release to Lee Magee after having learned from him a week ago that he has been betting against his team. Magee will sue the Cubs for his salary of $4,500, charging that his livelihood as a ballplayer was destroyed through the sudden canceling of his contract. The Cubs will ask for a dismissal of the suit, saying that “previous to the making of the contract the plaintiff was guilty of betting against the team of which he was a member, and sought to win bets by intentional bad playing to defeat said team.” (3)
  • 1923 - Christy Mathewson and Giants attorney Emil Fuchs put together a syndicate that buys the Boston Braves for $300,000, The future Hall-of-Fame right-hander become the principal owner and team president, but due to his deteriorating health, he was no more than a figurehead, turning over the presidency to Fuchs at the season. (1)
  • 1943 - Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley and Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey draw up charter for the “All-American Girls Softball League”, which will eventually become the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The league, originally conceived in the belief that the major leagues would suspend play because of World War II, will operate from 1943 to 1954 around the Chicago area. When the league changes its name and switches to hardball, the pitching distance is 40 feet and bases 68 feet apart. After struggling through poor attendance in its early seasons, the league will draw over one million fans in 1948. (2)
  • 1953 - August A. Busch, seeing the purchase as a marketing tool, convinces the Board of Directors of Anheuser-Busch to buy the Cardinals from Fred Saigh for $3.75 million. The beer baron convinces the former owner, who has been convicted of tax evasion, as a matter of civic pride to take less money than the offer from an ownership group that would move the Redbirds to Houston. (1)
  • 1953 - The U.S. Court of Appeals rules that organized baseball is a sport and not a business, affirming the 25-year-old Supreme Court ruling. This effectively dismisses the antitrust suits of Jack Corbett and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer Walter Kowalski. The $300,000 suit of Corbett, the owner of the El Paso Texans, is based on his belief that he lost money when Major League Baseball prohibited him from signing several players suspended for participation in the Mexican League. Kowalski’s $150,000 suit is based on the general principles of the antitrust and restraint-of-trade laws. Their lawyer in these cases is Frederic Johnson, who also represents player Danny Gardella in his suit against Major League Baseball. (3)
  • 1963 - The Cubs officially put an end to their radical approach in using multiple field bosses during the season when they hire Bob Kennedy as their only manager. With the “College of Coaches” system disbanded, the club will post an 82-80 record under their lone skipper. (1)
  • 1992 - After Hall-of-Famer Homer Simpson and his co-workers qualify the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s softball team for the league final, Mr. Montgomery Burns, the owner of the facility, hires nine professional MLB players, to win a $1 million bet with his Shelbyville rival. Although he hits nine home runs, the southpaw-swinging Darryl Strawberry, the only major leaguer to actually participate in the game, after Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr., Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Don Mattingly, and Mike Scioscia are all sidelined after being involved in a series of bizarre pregame accidents, will be replaced by Homer in the last inning, because Burns wants a righty to face the opponent’s left-hander. (1)
  • 2015 - Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announces a series of measures to quicken the pace of the game. Chief among them are that a batter will need to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box at all times during an at-bat, and that the intermission between half innings will be strictly timed. Pitchers will be required to complete their warm-up pitches before there are only 30 seconds left before resumption of play, or risk forfeiting any unmade pitches. More dramatic changes, such as adding a pitch clock, are not introduced at this time. Violation of the new guidelines will result in fines, and not in game-related penalties. (3)
  • Cubs birthdays: Frankie Gustine, Jesus Figueroa, Ryan Sweeney, Julio Borbon, Spencer Patton. Also notable: Sam Rice (HoF).

Sources:

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