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Baseball history unpacked, March 13

A thrice-weekly digest, replete with #Cubs, #MLB, and #MiLB factoids, gathered from reputable sources. The conversation literally centers around the history of the ball itself in today’s edition. Happy birthday to current Cubs Mark Leiter Jr. and Keegan Thompson.

Ball Factory Photo by Orlando /Three Lions/Getty Images

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Bleed Cubbie Blue is pleased to present a light-hearted, Cubs-centric look at baseball’s colorful past, with plenty of the lore and various narratives to follow as they unfold over the course of time. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along.

Today in baseball history:

  • 1917 - After hearing that Gabby Street had caught a ball dropped off the Washington Monument in 1908, Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson brags that he could catch a ball dropped from an airplane at spring training, even though he is in his mid-50s and well above his playing weight. Robinson circles unsteadily under the descending spheroid. Instead, a grapefruit was secretly substituted and it explodes on impact with his glove. Once he feels the ooze, Robinson thinks it is blood, and screams that he is dying, until he tastes the juice. He later concedes that he probably would have been killed if a real baseball had been dropped from the plane. Aviatrix Ruth Law dropped the grapefruit as outfielder Casey Stengel assumed culpability for the switch. (1,2)
  • 1943 - The major leagues approve a new official ball manufactured by the Spalding Company for the upcoming season. Instead of the usual combination of cork and rubber, the inside of the ball is made up of recycled cork and balata, materials not needed in the war effort. Officials insist the ball will have the resiliency of the 1939 ball, but the players will express dismay that they cannot drive the new ball and point out the dearth of runs and homers in 1942 even with the old ball. (1,2)
  • 1960 - The Chicago White Sox unveil an important uniform innovation. The Sox’s road uniforms feature players’ names on the backs of the jerseys, marking the first time that players’ names will appear on major league uniforms. The innovation will make it easier for fans watching games on television to identify the players on the field. The idea is yet another creation of colorful White Sox owner and innovator Bill Veeck. (1,2)
  • 1969 - In addition to this year’s lower mound and tightened strike zone, Major League Baseball tries an experimental ball with 10 percent more resiliency for a spring training game between the Mets and Tigers in Lakeland, Florida. It has an all-rubber center instead of a cork and rubber core, and the seams are higher than the regular ball. Mets pitcher Don Cardwell surrenders three home runs in the fourth inning to Dick McAuliffe, Norm Cash, and Gates Brown in the Tigers’ 7-4 victory. Tomorrow, in Phoenix, Arizona, the same ball is used in the Giants’ 13-1 win over the Angels, with Bobby Bonds hitting the only two homers off George Brunet. The players agree the ball is definitely livelier and sounds louder coming off the bat. (2)
  • 1986 - The father-and-son team of Hal and Brian McRae appears together in an exhibition game for the Kansas City Royals. Brian, who will be sent back to the minor leagues before the start of the season, will not make his major league debut until 1990. In 1991, Brian will play for his father, when he takes over as Royals manager. (2)
  • 2006 - In Round Two of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, at Angel Stadium, slugger Hee-Seop Choi hits a three-run home run as South Korea humbles the United States, 7-3, to maintain its unbeaten run and leave the USA’s title hopes in jeopardy. Ken Griffey, Jr. hits a solo homer and an RBI single. (2)

Cubs birthdays: Mal Eason, George Gaw, Eddie Butler, Mark Leiter Jr., Keegan Thompson. Also notable: Home Run Baker HOF.

Today in history:

  • 607 - 12th recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.
  • 1639 - Cambridge College, Massachusetts, renamed Harvard for clergyman John Harvard.
  • 1759 - 27th recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet.
  • 1781 - William Herschel sees what he thinks is a “comet” but is actually the discovery of the planet Uranus.
  • 1852 - Uncle Sam cartoon figure made its debut in the New York Lantern weekly.
  • 1884 - US adopts Standard Time
  • 1930 - Clyde Tombaugh announces discovery of Pluto at Lowell Observatory.
  • 1960 - NFL’s Chicago Cardinals move to St Louis.
  • 1980 - John Wayne Gacy receives the death sentence in Illinois for the murder of 12 people.
  • 1997 - Phoenix lights seen at night over Phoenix, Arizona by hundreds of people, and by millions on television.

Common sources:


Some of these items spread from site to site without being verified. That is exactly why we ask for reputable sources if you have differences with a posted factoid, so that we can address that to the originators and provide clarity if not ‘truth’. Nothing is posted here without at least one instance of corroboration (this also includes the history bullets). Thanks for reading, and thanks also for your cooperation.