Earlier this week and a little over an hour up the road from me, Diana Serra Cary died. She was 101 years old. I didn’t know her personally and if you’ve never heard of her, that’s understandable. But once upon a time, she was among the most famous people in the world. In the early-1920s, she was “Baby Peggy,” one of the biggest child stars of the silent movie era. She was also called the “Million Dollar Baby” because she was making more than $1 million a year at age 4. Little girls got “Baby Peggy” dolls for Christmas. Like many of the child stars of that era, her money was all spent by her parents and what they didn’t spend, they lost in the stock market crash. By 14, she was washed-up, broke and on the dole.
Eventually she ran from her past, changed her name and intentionally faded into anonymity. She re-emerged in the 1970s as a writer and an historian of old Hollywood, which she knew first-hand. She was also an advocate for the rights of child performers throughout her life.
Serra Cary was the last living film star of the silent movie era. There are about a dozen other people who appeared in movies during the silent picture era still alive, but they were all extras or had small bit parts. Her death ends the last living link we had to that era of American culture.
I’ve got fewer than ten articles left. I’m writing about whatever the heck I want. And I’m not writing about whatever I don’t want to write about. So here’s to you, Baby Peggy.
- Keeping with our necrology, Dan Connelly has a terrific story about the life and death of Orioles prospect Steve Bechler in 2003 and how his family is still grieving. (The Athletic sub. req.) You probably forgot, but Bechler’s death was a big story in 2003 because of his use of then-legal ephedra. His death led to MLB banning ephedra and the US Food and Drug Administration banning it as a weight-loss supplement.
- Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball has announced that all remaining pre-season games will be played in empty stadiums to combat the spread of coronavirus/Covid-19. This is another article that I won’t be writing, but is MLB prepared for this? Because we certainly could be seeing MLB games played before empty stadiums. Or games postponed because of travel restrictions. They’ve been doing both in Italian soccer over the past two weeks because of Covid-19 as well.
- Also, here’s a nice historical link to a story of the death of umpire Silk O’Laughlin, who died in the 1918 “Spanish Flu” Epidemic. Baseball had ended its season early that year because of World War I, but there were minor league and barnstorming games that had to be cancelled because of that historic epidemic.
- As long as we’re on umpires, MLB announced that umpires Kerwin Danley and Alfonso Marquez were both promoted to crew chief. Danley is the first African-American crew chief and Marquez becomes the first Latino crew chief born outside of the United States (and second overall). Danley and Marquez don’t get a lot of attention, which for umpires, is probably a sign that you’re a pretty good umpire.
- MLB is planning to crack down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers. This is referring to the way baseball turns a blind eye to the use of stuff like pine tar by pitchers as long as they aren’t flagrant about it. But expect to see a lot more pitchers ejected this year.
- There’s also a new pickoff rule coming to the minor leagues this year, although it’s unclear right now which leagues will be using it. But it is designed to eliminate the “Andy Pettitte” pickoff move that makes stealing bases close to impossible. It was tested in the independent Atlantic League last year, so the tests are continuing in the organized minors.
- Here’s your reminder that players are not paid for Spring Training. This isn’t an issue for major leaguers who made a minimum of $555,000 last year, but for minor league ballplayers making a sub-minimum wage, this can be a real hardship, as one agent points out.
- The last text that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka received from NBA star Kobe Bryant before his death was if he could contact super-agent Scott Boras about an internship for the older daughter of Orange Coast College head coach John Altobelli, who also died in the same helicopter crash later that day. Boras announced that Alexis Altobelli will start an internship with Boras Corporation.
- Anthony Castrovince looks back at division III Oberlin College baseball and the “Flytrap” defensive shift that they invented in the mid-90s and which Castrovince believes started the modern era of defensive shifting. I don’t know about its influence, but I did find it funny that they adopted this weird strategy of five outfielders because they were so terrible that they were just trying to give their players a chance to catch the ball.
- Most MLB teams keep their finances secret, but the Braves are owned by the publicly-traded Liberty Media and are required to issue a financial statement. Craig Edwards looks at the report and says that the Braves are rolling in dough.
- Craig Edwards is writing the story of broadcast deals in baseball since the 1980s that’s worth your time. Here’s part one and here’s part two. (More parts to come.) Edwards warns that chasing short-term profits usually end up costing baseball more money in the long run.
- Emma Baccellieri writes that the only way to enjoy Spring Training is to embrace the romance of it all. Well, yes. That and the weather, which I guess you could roll into the romance. Certainly the quality of baseball isn’t there.
- Sarah Langs has the list of the ten highest-paid players in baseball.
- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado still isn’t happy, writes Bob Nightengale.
- If Arenado leaves Colorado, he will likely join this list of the most famous breakups in MLB history.
- Zach Kram writes that in light of pitcher Luis Severino needing Tommy John surgery, the Yankees injury-curse goes on year-round.
- Matt Martell believes that even without Severino, the Yankees are still the team to beat in the American League.
- Michael Baumann has five stories from Spring Training that aren’t the big ones that you keep reading about.
- Katherine Acquavella grades every MLB team for their offseason. Takes a lot of work to get that “F” in. There are 20 letters in the alphabet after that.
- R.J. Anderson has one potential breakout player for each MLB team.
- Alden Gonzalez believes that the Angels are doing the right thing by not letting Shohei Ohtani pitch until mid-May.
- Hannah Keyser talks with Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer about his motivations, he life outside of baseball, the time he almost died whitewater rafting. Also sharks. Not Baby Shark, but real sharks.
- Mets prospect Tim Tebow will play for the Philippines in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers, something else I won’t be allowed to write about.
- Retired Red Sox great David Ortiz is selling a whole bunch of stuff. Some of it is cool baseball memorabilia. Some of it is just junk.
- James Dator evaluates a bunch of stuff that Ortiz is selling, including a 2002 HP printer. I’m guessing Ortiz subscribes to Rat’s philosophy of printers, except this one still has ink in it.
- And finally, Rachel Marcus talks with Justin Meekins, a baseball player for Division III Salisbury College who has become famous for odd headshot photographs.
And tomorrow will be a better day than today, Buster. Maybe I’ll change my name to “Mason Saunders” now that Madison Bumgarner isn’t using it anymore.