Early “Viral” Baseball Stories

We know today that sometimes things go “viral” on the internet. Maybe they are funny videos. Maybe it’s a particularly interesting story or a shocking photo. However, memes and “viral” phenomena are not new things. They’ve always happened. And, to prove that, researchers at Northeastern have compiled a database of things that were going viral  back in the 19th century, when newspapers and magazines were the main news sources. This nicely lines up with the time where baseball became a national sport, so I decided to take a look. While time and tide (and the fact that there was a whole Civil War and Reconstruction going on) means that it’s likely the database isn’t complete and doesn’t have nearly as much baseball as you might think, I definitely found some fascinating things.

You can see some of what I found below the jump:

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For Memorial Day: Baseball Players Who Gave Everything

(Portions of this have previously been in a post from May 2012.)

Throughout history, there have been baseball players who have been willing to put their careers aside in service of their countries. It even continues today, as Mitch Harris of the Cardinals, a Naval Academy graduate, worked his way up through the minors after spending five years serving in the Navy.

And there have been some who have given their lives while serving. Some died in the heat of combat, others died in accidents, still others died of illness or other causes. Regardless, today we remember them:

  • Bill Stearns pitched part of five seasons in the National Association (the predecessor to the National League that is sometimes considered a Major League, sometimes not). A drummer as a young teenager in the Civil War, years after his baseball career ended he volunteered to fight in the Spanish-American War. He served in Puerto Rico, where he caught some sort of tropical disease that would ultimately kill him upon his return to the mainland. He is the earliest known Major Leaguer to die while serving his country.
  • Eddie Grant was a Harvard-educated infielder who spent time with Cleveland, Philly, Cincinnati and the Giants. On October 15, 1918, he died after being wounded by a artillery shell in the Argonne Forest of France. His unit had been fighting to rescue the “Lost Battalion” that had been pinned down by German forces. He was 35. A memorial to him was placed in the Polo Grounds (it is one of the plaques that can be seen in the expanded version of the Willie Mays catch photo), and a replica of it is now apparently in San Francisco.
  • Larry Chappell was a light-hitting outfielder in the 1910s who was at one point part of a trade for Shoeless Joe Jackson. In 1918, he died while in Army service only a few days before the armistice from the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people. He was 28.
  • Ralph Sharman was a young outfielder who did well in a September stint with the Phillies in 1917. After the ’17 season, however, he was inducted into the army. He died in May, 1918 when he drowned while in Alabama, where he was undergoing training. He was only 23.
  • Tom Burr appeared in one game with the Yankees in 1914. He retired from baseball after 1914 and would find himself as one of the first fighter pilots in the history of the United States. He died in a training accident in France in 1918 at the age of 24.
  • Harry Chapman played parts of five seasons in the majors before he entered military service in 1917. He never would see action, dying from influenza in Nevada in October of 1918.
  • Harry Glenn played six games with the Cardinals in 1915 and was a mainstay of the St. Paul Saints minor league team. While serving as a army aviation mechanic on the homefront, Glenn died of pneumonia.
  • Newt Halliday would play only one game and have only one AB with the Pirates in 1916 before entering military service, where he died of tuberculosis and pneumonia while undergoing naval training. He was only 20.
  • Robert “Bun” Troy was born in Germany but moved to America at a very young age. He appeared in one game with Detroit as a pitcher in 1912, and his professional baseball career would end after 1914. He died of wounds sustained while serving as a member of the 80th Infantry Division in the Meuse-Argonne during October of 1918.
  • Christy Mathewson had retired from pitching by the beginning of America’s involvement in WWI, and was manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He left the club in the middle of the 1918 season, going to France, where he served in the Army’s chemical division. While there, he suffered the effects of poison gas, which left him with various respiratory ailments, including the tuberculosis that took his life in 1925.
  • Marv Goodwin, who played portions of seven seasons in the majors, died on October 18,1925 in a training exercise for the Army Air Service Reserves, mere weeks after his last professional game.
  • Elmer Gedeon, who had had a cup of coffee with Washington in 1939, died while piloting a B-26 Marauder over France on April 20, 1944. He was 27.  He was one of only two people with Major League experience who died in WWII. The other being…
  • Harry O’Neill, who was a catcher in one game (with no plate appearances) for the Athletics in 1939. He was killed by a sniper on Iwo Jima on March 6, 1945.
  • Bob Neighbors, who had a cup of coffee with the Browns in 1939. In 1941, his baseball career came to an end when he had a poor season and, perhaps more importantly, lost his wife of only six months in a car accident while he was away on a road trip. He signed up for the United States Army Air Force after Pearl Harbor, and became a career military man from that point on. He went Missing In Action (and presumed dead) in 1952 when his B-26 went down over North Korea. He was both the only MLB-experienced man to die during the Korean War, and the last to have died in active service, period.

Of course, there were plenty of players who never made it to the big leagues who died in the line of duty, some of whom may have one day become Major Leaguers if not for the cruelty of war:

 

To them and all who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and to those who made it home, we salute you.

 

Over at HOVG: The Best Baseball Alums of the NCAA Basketball Teams

Over at Hall of Very Good, I have a big piece in which I go through every single school in this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and pick out the best baseball alum from every one, even those that no longer have active baseball programs.

Check it out.

CONTINUUM CLASSIC: Why nobody pays attention to College Baseball, outside of the CWS

In honor of the College Baseball season starting tomorrow, here’s a post originally published on June 1, 2012:

In basketball, the NCAA tournament is in many ways a far bigger event than even the NBA Finals as the marquee event for the sport.

In football, the passions in some regions for college teams are larger than that of any NFL team. Okay, with the possible exception of Green Bay. Maybe.

Baseball, however, has it’s amateur competitions mostly forgotten. Yes, the draft is shown on MLB Network (at least the first round or two), and it isn’t too hard to find a college game on TV if you know where to look… but it is a afterthought unless it’s draft day (and even then, there usually are just as many high schoolers who are getting drafted) or the College World Series.

There are several reasons for this:

  • As I mentioned, lots of players are drafted out of high school, so the level of competition in NCAA isn’t quite what it is in football or basketball.
  • With the exception of the best of the best, it’ll be several years before you see a top college player in the big leagues, since they will go to the minors for seasoning. This ends any type of “hype” that can be built up around future pros, and why the MLB draft is so little followed beyond seamheads.
  • Aluminum bats. They may have been changed over the past decade or so to act more like baseball bats and not like trampolining home run machines, but there is still the PING! that, while tolerable when heard in Little League, seems to be grating when you see grown men swinging them around.
  • Lack of regional parity. If it seems like the BCS division of football is dominated by southern and western colleges, it’s even worse in baseball. After all, they can practice all year round, and don’t have to worry about the weather. A look at the winners of the College World Series over the years shows it. There hasn’t been a CWS winning team from above the old Mason-Dixon line (39 degrees and 43 minutes N) since Oregon State went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. Before then, though, there hadn’t been one since (The) Ohio State University won it in 1966. Heck, there hadn’t even been a northern team that came in second place since Eastern Michigan lost to Arizona in 1976.
  • Baseball, unlike basketball and football, became a professional sport fairly early on, meaning the long traditions found in college hoops and gridiron aren’t as common in baseball, since they didn’t have time to form before the rise of the pros. The only big tradition it has that is known nationally is the fact that the College World Series is in Omaha, and ALWAYS in Omaha.

So what can be done? Well, MLB is apparently discussing helping fund scholarships and a transition to wooden bats in NCAA, which could be helpful. However, I think College Baseball will remain what it is: fun to watch come the College World Series, but generally ignored outside of that.

In Defense of the Little League World Series being on TV

I didn’t expect to write a post about the Little League World Series today, but, alas, current events have other plans. As you may have heard, the Jackie Robinson West Little League of Chicago has been stripped of it’s US Title for last year’s World Series, due to revelations that they used players from outside their district.

It’s a sad ending for what was an inspiring story- the first team in history to win the US title made up entirely of African-Americans, coming at a time when participation in the sport by African-Americans continues to drop and racial issues were increasingly in the news. It’s all the more sad because this was the result not of any child, but rather the adults.

And, with that, the many issues people have with youth sports again have arisen. Among them being that the LLWS being on television is, according to some people, an abomination that promotes behavior like this while exploiting 12-year-olds for profit.

In many ways, they do have a point. It is wrong that ESPN, it’s sponsors, and the overall organization of Little League make large amounts of money off 12-year-olds while those 12-year-olds receive no cut or royalty from it. And, yes, having that much pressure and attention placed on a kid is a recipe for possible disaster psychologically when you are so young. The Little League World Series is far from perfect, and at the very least something should be done to compensate the kids who draw in large audiences every year (perhaps have some sort of college trust fund or hold money in escrow or something).

However, I am here to argue that those people who believe that the Little League World Series doesn’t belong on television regardless are wrong. Go below the jump for more:

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Random Thoughts (August 3, 2014)

Some random thoughts this Sunday, some of them on baseball, some of them not:

1. I wish that that “double no-hitter” last night had continued past the seventh inning. That truly would have been a sight to see. Only once has there been a no-hitter both ways after nine innings, by the way.

2. I still can’t believe how bad Ruben Amaro Jr. is at his job as Phillies GM, at least as far as the last few years go. It makes the glory days of the late-aughts seem a million years ago, and the lack of prospects in the wings means it could be a long road back, especially if he continues to refuse to flip what few trade pieces he has left.

3. It’s good to see Manny Machado has once again become Manny Machado instead of that slumping guy from the first half who got hurt and threw his bat in anger. One of these days he will literally throw out a man at first while standing on the wall that separates the field from the seats.

4. It’s going to take awhile to get used to David Price being in a Tigers uniform.

5. A video you should see of a one-armed pitcher in a youth all-star game.

6. It’s over a week old now, but I still recommend “An Idiot in Exile” by Pat Jordan, on Johnny Damon’s post-playing days.

7. It is truly sad to see Jim Kelly as he is now, but also truly inspiring to see him continue on despite his cancer.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun (and funny) movie and I think you all should go see it.

 

Somebody is selling a trading card of Mike Trout in Little League

In yet another case of eBay providing mankind access to anything possible, we now see the ultimate souvenir for the discerning Mike Trout aficionado (which is, to say, everyone): a card of the Millville Meteor back when he was a Cub.

“When was Mike Trout a Cub?”, you ask? I can understand, after all, as likely as it is that the Cubs would be able to squander away Mike Trout, it feels like that’s something you’d remember, right?

Well, that’s because it’s not the Chicago Cubs, but rather the Steelman Photo Cubs of the Millville American Cal Ripken League. Yes, it’s a baseball card of 11-year-old Mike Trout:

 

And it’s all available for the low, low, price of $8,927.27! It’s signed too! Yes, somebody not only went through the trouble to somehow track down a little league trading card from 2003, but they got Mike Trout to sign it. As far as I know, there are only a few types of people who would have been able to do that:

A) Mike Trout himself.

B) Mike Trout’s immediate family.

C) Mike Trout’s Little League teammates and coaches.

D) The guy who was hired to make and print these cards in the first place, who keeps copies of them just in case any of the kids become the greatest player on the planet.

E) A local bully who beat up Mike Trout and then took his lunch money and baseball card, which Trout had signed because he believed that if he became a big-leaguer one day, he’d better have had practiced his signature.

F) Somebody who Mike Trout should really consider putting a restraining order on.

Logically, one of them is who put this up on eBay.

Sadly, whoever acquired this didn’t find the true holy grail, as something that needs to be noted here is that this card lacks Trout’s Little League statistics. This is very important. I remember when I was growing up (and I’m, alas, older than Trout), I got my statistics on the back of my card. But, nope, all we get for Trout is this:

All that we can learn from this is that Mike Trout, when he was 11, was 5’1” and weighed 102 lbs. So, guess what, folks? Young Mike Trout was not fat! In fact, he was a little slim! That’s nice and all, but I wanted to see what his stats were. Was he a Pablo Sanchez-level secret weapon? We may never know…