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Baseball history unpacked, March 11

A thrice-weekly look at #Cubs, #MLB, and #MiLB history. This one has a hill of his own.

A much younger Rich Hill
Photo by John Iacono/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue brings a you a light-hearted, Cubs-centric look at baseball’s colorful past, with plenty of the lore and deep dives into various narratives that expand over the course of time. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along. We also add a bit of world history, for perspective’s sake.

Readers might note that some of the entries here dovetail with Al’s excellent ‘Commissioners of Baseball’ series. Others might note items that are involved in current CBA negotiations. It goes round and round — the mendacity of MLB team ownership over the history of the sport is well-documented. So is monkeying with the game — equipment, rules, player compensation and insurance.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1901 - The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Baltimore Orioles manager John McGraw has signed a Cherokee Indian named “Tokohama” to play second base. In reality, Tokohama isn’t a Native American; he is an African-American whose actual name is Charlie Grant, who McGraw is trying to pass off as an Indian, but the ruse does not work. Baseball’s color line will prevent Grant from ever playing a game for the Orioles. (1,2)
  • 1933 - Rogers Hornsby, out of baseball since being fired as Cubs manager last August, joins the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training as a player. Hornsby will return to second base after a six-year absence from St. Louis. (2)
  • 1957 - New York Representative Emanuel Celler, whose committee investigated baseball, calls Ford Frick a “czar” who wishes to “gag” officials; Frick had cautioned Major League Baseball owners about commenting on the recent Supreme Court decision on professional American football coming under antitrust rules. (2)
  • 1958 - Starting this season, American League batters will be required to wear batting helmets. (1,2)
  • 1970 - Experimental, lively X-5 baseballs are used in all spring training games played in Arizona and Florida. The results are inconclusive. (2)
  • 1972 - Hall of Fame outfielder Zack Wheat dies in Sedalia, Missouri, at the age of 83. A .317 lifetime batter, Wheat starred for the Brooklyn Robins. He batted a National League-leading .335 in 1918 and possessed one of the most accurate throwing arms among outfielders. (2)
  • 1974 - Commissioner Bowie Kuhn orders the Atlanta Braves to play Hank Aaron in at least two of the team’s season-opening three games in Cincinnati. The Braves had planned to bench Aaron on the road in order to increase his chances of hitting his record-breaking 715th home run at home. (1,2)
  • 2001 - The Yankees formally announce the signing of Cuban defector Andy Morales, a third baseman, to a four-year contract. Morales will wash out and be waived from his minor league team by July. The Yankees will try and sidestep his contract with proof that his listed age of 26 years is really 29. (2)
  • 2018 - One of the few remaining first-rung free agents left unsigned, P Jake Arrieta, inks a three-year deal with the Phillies worth $75 million. (2)
  • 2021 - Major League Baseball announces that it will be testing out some potential rules changes when the minor league season gets under way. In AAA, the games will be played with bases 18 inches in length, instead of the usual 15, and made of a material that performs better in wet conditions, both in order to limit injuries; in AA, there will be limits on defensive shifts, forcing all infielders to be placed within the infield dirt boundary when play starts; in High-A, pitchers will be required to step off the mound to attempt a pick-off throw; in Low-A, they will be limited to two such throws per plate appearance, and there will also be either a 15-second pitch clock or a robot umpire to call balls and strikes, depending on the league. Some of these rule change may eventually make their way to the major leagues if they prove successful. (2)

Cubs birthdays: Jack Spring, Rich Hill**.


Today in history:

  • 537 - Goths lay siege to Rome.
  • 1669 - Mt Etna in Sicily erupts in its largest recorded eruption, killing 15,000.
  • 1779 - US Army Corps of Engineers established (first time).
  • 1824 - US War Department creates the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • 1918 - US Army mess cook Private Albert Gitchell of Fort Riley, Kansas becomes the first documented case of Spanish flu; start of worldwide pandemic killing 50-100 million.
  • 1941 - Bronko Nagurski beats Ray Steele in Minn, to become wrestling champ.
  • 1958 - American B-47 accidentally drops unarmed nuclear bomb 15,000 ft on a family home in Mars Bluff, South Carolina; creates crater 75 ft across.
  • 2020 - COVID-19 declared a pandemic by the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, with 121,564 cases worldwide and 4,373 deaths.

Common sources:

There is a very active baseball history community and there are many facets to their views. We strive for clarity. Please be aware that we are trying to make the historical record as represented by our main sources coherent and as accurate as is possible. No item is posted here without corroboration. Some of these items spread from site to site without being verified. That is exactly why we ask for reputable sources, so that we can address them to the originators. BBRef is very cooperative in this regard, as are SABR and the Baseball Almanac. We have removed thenationalpastime from our sourcing list, as there have been multiple complaints about their content and they do not respond to attempts to communicate.

Also please remember that this is supposed to be fun.

Thank you for your cooperation. And thanks for reading!