Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Jackie Robinson’s importance to sport and society is enormous. But when this site Eyewitness to History states that Jackie Robinson was the “first Black player in major league baseball”, it is incorrect. As this site from the Library of Congress notes, there were Black players in the 19th century.

Jackie Robinson broke “baseball’s color barrier”, as the Baseball Hall of Fame put it, but it was a wall that was once down, then rebuilt.

Wikipedia writes that Robinson “became the first African American Major League Baseball player of the modern era in 1947”, and that would be correct, the “modern era” usually referring to the advent of the American League in 1901. However, Wikipedia’s list of first black Major League Baseball players by team and date would be more accurate if it indicated “since 1900” or another qualifying term.

This in no way meant to diminish the contribution made by and courage shown by Jackie Robinson, though I’ve long thought that he, needing to control his rage against the taunts he experienced when he broke the color line in Major League Baseball, shortened his life; he was only 53 when he died. Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first major league appearance. Dozens of players, managers and coaches will be wearing Robinson’s number 42, which had been retired two decades ago.

My father was a lifelong Dodgers fan because of Jackie, while I rooted for the Yankees, one of the last two teams, along with the Boston Red Sox, to have a black player in the modern era. My rooting interest came from geography, my father’s from history.

(CREDIT: “Jackie Robinson comic book.” Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, July 1951. Vol. 1, no. 5. By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s, Library of Congress. )

Reprinted from my December 21st, 2005 blog, with additional info.

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CHICAGO - 1987: Lee Smith of the Chicago Cubs pitches during an MLB game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Smith pitched for the Cubs from 1980-1987.

1987: Lee Smith of the Chicago Cubs pitches during an MLB game at Wrigley Field. Smith pitched for the Cubs from 1980-1987.

No, I don’t have a vote for who gets into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017. Those who do must vote by Saturday, December 31, with the results announced Wednesday, January 18, 2017. Here’s background about each player eligible.

Last year of eligibility:

1) Lee Smith, 15th year of eligibility (received 34.1% of the votes last year; 75% is the threshold)
A guy in USA Today wrote: “I happened to be a huge Lee Smith fan as a kid, and now the longtime closer’s in his 15th and final year of eligibility (though various Eras Committees will give him more shots).

“Smith seems an unfortunate victim of timing Read the rest of this entry »

Washington-HerbI was leafing through the book The SABR Baseball List & Record Book. It lists “Baseball’s Most Fascinating Records and Unusual Statistics.” I purchased from Amazon the year it came out, 2007, Amazon tells me, but does not appear to have been updated. Truth is that most of the career records have not changed.

One item early in the book is “More Career Games Played than Plate Appearances by Non-pitchers since 1900 (minimum 100 games).” This is usually a function of a defensive substitution entering the game, replacing a good hitter who is not the best fielder with a good glove man. A guy named Allen Lewis, who I had never heard of, played in 156 games between 1967 and 1973 and had only 31 chances at the plate.

Herb Washington, though, was even more specialized. He played in 105 games in 1974 and 1975, and NEVER had one appearance at the plate. Nor did he ever play on the field. Washington, a track star at Michigan State, was hired by Charles O. Finley, the owner of the Oakland Athletics, to be solely used as a pinch runner. Read the rest of this entry »

chicagocubsI swear I read a number of people who treated the baseball World Series win by the Chicago Cubs as, “Oh, that’s nice,” rather than the astonishing event that it was. Heck, even Arthur wrote about it, not once, but twice. He noted that “Some things transcend all of that, and sport can, for some, be one of those things.”

And the stories I read about fans remembering parents, or grandparents, who loved the Cubs Read the rest of this entry »

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