In 1948, Yankee Scout Tommy Greenwade had taken a trip to Kansas to see a prospect named Billy Johnson who played for a semi-professional team named the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids. During the game, a young, strapping 16 year old boy named Mickey Mantle walloped three long home runs. The next year Greenwade returned, and when he left town, Mantle had signed his first contract to play for the New York Yankees.
“He’s the best prospect I’ve ever seen.” – Branch Rickey Please, blog, may I have some more?
Who was the greatest pitcher during the first decade of the 20th century? Cy Young, perhaps. Christy Mathewson? Maybe Joe “Iron Arm” McGinnity”? The immensely talented and idiosyncratically eccentric Rube Waddell? Addie Joss? A case can be made for any one of these hurlers. However, the truth is that perhaps the very best of them couldn’t be identified by 95% of the fans of the American pastime. Beyond that, this same individual was considered by many astute observers as the equal of the legendary and irascible John McGraw as a manager. He was one of the most successful owners in the game, and as an Administrator, was the equal of such as Ban Johnson, the President and founder of the fledgling American league. That man was Rube Foster. In all of these respects, there has never been anyone who excelled in all of these capacities in the history of rounders. And although he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981, he remains a rather obscure figure in baseball history. But the truth of the matter is that without Foster, there likely would not have been an organized Negro league; without Foster, it is likely that there never would have been a Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, or a Jackie Robinson. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Take my hand
We’re off to never never-land
On July 16th, at the All-Star Game played at Citi-Bank Park, Mr. Sandman was played in its entirety in a park other than Yankee Stadium for the first and last time. Manager Jim Leyland called in Mariano Rivera to pitch the 8th inning against the NL’s finest. Rivera took the call, and stood on the mound with watery eyes, perhaps reminiscing about his entire career, and how he had come to this point in time. Then he returned to the business at hand, and proceeded to retire the side in order. The crowd, mostly composed of fans of the rival Metropolitan club, gave him a rousing ovation. For this would be Rivera’s last appearance in the all-star game. We have but three months more to marvel at the man who is without a question the greatest reliever in the history of baseball. But the question is – how did it come to this? That is a most remarkable story… Please, blog, may I have some more?
“See that little mound of dirt out there with the rubber in the middle? That’s my concern. I don’t have any problems, just concerns. And that’s my big concern, right out there.” Eddie Stanky
Eddie Stanky was the spark plug second-baseman known as “The Brat”. Stanky played for over a decade in the National League from 1943-1953 and had a career batting average of .268. He led the NL in walks three times and in runs scored once. Please, blog, may I have some more?
|Six Rules for a Happy Life|
|1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.|
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very lightly on vices such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you.
Leroy “Satchel” Paige was almost universally regarded as the greatest pitcher of the Negro Leagues. Some of his pitching records are awesome indeed. They include pitching 64 consecutive scoreless innings, 21 straight wins, and a 31-4 record in 1933. Along with his teammate Josh Gibson, Paige helped lead the Kansas City Monarchs to five Negro American League pennants. Please, blog, may I have some more?
One of the neat things about Negro League History is how fact turns to exaggeration; exaggeration to legend, and legend to myth.
Josh Gibson hit a scorching line drive which whizzed inches above the head of Satchel Paige. The ball wound up in the center field bleachers of Yankee Stadium, well over 500 feet in the distance. It has been said that Gibson once knocked a speaker off the roof of Comiskey Park. When Gibson was with the legendary Homestead Grays, he played Babe Ruth to Buck Leonard’s Lou Gehrig. Leonard, also immortalized at Cooperstown, stated that one time Josh hit a ball “out of existence.” There are many stories where the real truth of the tale is difficult to discern. But some things would be wonderful if they were true, and this nugget is certainly one of them. Please, blog, may I have some more?
There was rumor of a young ballplayer in California, a first baseman that could play the position as perhaps it had never been played before. Now this young man was handsome, charismatic, and more than a bit arrogant concerning his talent, but considering the grace and skill he displayed on the field, that was not surprising. He was, even at that young age, more than a bit lacking in the moral virtues. He was described by friends and teammates as a compulsive liar and kleptomaniac. Please, blog, may I have some more?
When the subject involves evaluating the greatest baseball players of all time, there are certain standard arguments that make me want to cringe. Perhaps the worst of these goes something like this: no Major League ballplayer that played before 1947 can be considered to be the greatest at his position because he never had to face any ballplayer from the Negro Leagues. Because no African Americans were allowed to play in the Major Leagues, the quality of ball was diluted, and therefore the competition was inferior to that faced after the sport was integrated. At some point in a future article I hope to go into a lengthy discussion of this fallacy; however, the only thing that I will point out for now is that if you use this as a frame of logic, then you must also say the same about the converse – no player from the Negro Leagues could be considered to be an all-time great; for if the Major League talent base was diluted by 10% (the percentage of African American’s in the U.S.), then the dilution would be 90% in the Negro Leagues, making the standard of play likely equivalent to Single A Ball, which is frankly ridiculous. However, many historians, while they don’t state the converse logic openly, perhaps because it is safer to use the politically correct rationale, site the statistical chaos that was part and parcel of the Negro Leagues as the “apparent” reason used in refusing to consider any of these legendary players on their all time lists. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Recently I wrote an article about Minnie Minoso, one of the first players to play in MLB after having played in the Negro Leagues. In honor of Jackie Robinson, and the movie “42”, I will write a number of other pieces about players who starred in the Negro Leagues, never having the opportunity to compete against elite white ballplayers. Without a doubt, the most influential black baseball player of all time who played his entire career in Negro League ball was Buck O’Neil. Please, blog, may I have some more?
In 2006, a special H.O.F. committee was appointed for the task of reviewing the qualifications of ballplayers, managers and owners from the Negro League, in order to determine who might best qualify for admission to the Hall of Fame. After review, 17 individuals, including players, management and owners, all deceased at that time, were admitted. The two living participants — as worthy of admission as anyone on that list — Buck O’Neill and Minnie Minoso, were rejected. Please, blog, may I have some more?