Two neat links and a look at what is ahead

We start today with two neat links, both about diamonds. One from the present, one from the past.

The first is this article from Emma Baccelieri on the Long Time, a sandlot ballfield and performance venue in Austin with idiosyncratic rules and a deep love of the game. Home of the amateur adult-league Texas Playboys (which includes the architect of the field), the games held there raise money for local causes. A fascinating read about something I’d never heard about until today.

The other is an article at Atlas Obscura by Jonathan Goldman about the Dyckman Oval, a venue in northern Manhattan which was the center of Black Baseball in New York City until its late 1930s. Now covered by housing, playgrounds, and community center basketball courts, it’s a forgotten part of New York City’s baseball and Black history, without even a historical marker to indicate that it was once a stadium that often had people like Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and Fats Waller sitting in the stands. Hopefully something is done to change that.

Moving on now to what you can expect in the coming days and weeks:

  • Tomorrow, there will be a tradition unlike any other; My bare-bones no-explanations-given postseason predictions.
  • Reactions to the postseason.
  • An incredibly stupid thing about mascots, which is to say it’ll be amazing.
  • Ruminations on the ultimate baseball trip that I’d have if I had several million dollars and/or a bunch of sponsors.
  • Possibly finally the first “Glick on Gaming” segment.

Thank you coming to the Baseball Continuum, see you again soon!

Introducing “Glick on Gaming”

Back on the 4th of July, I said that that I wanted to start doing some non-baseball stuff on here as well.

This new feature, Glick on Gaming, is one such feature.

As the name suggests, it is about gaming. Video gaming, to be more precise. It’ll be an irregular feature with no real schedule, basically coming along whenever I finish a video game or want to talk about it. The form it will take will also be highly variable: sometimes it could just be a few short lines, other times it may be a long essay, review, or rumination.

Among the games you can expect to see covered in the opening parts of the feature are Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Kingdom Hearts, and Red Dead Redemption II.

So keep an eye out!

Famous for Something Else: Charlie Powell, the minor-leaguer with 83 NFL games and a fight against Ali

Today’s “Famous for Something Else” is one who I honestly am surprised I hadn’t heard of until recently: Charlie Powell. After all, I doubt that there were any other former minor leaguers who had the honor of getting knocked out by Muhammad Ali. And even if there were (and if there were I will find out), I doubt any of them also played several seasons in the NFL.

Charlie (sometimes spelled Charley) Powell, however, did all of these things. Born in Dallas in 1932, he would grow up in San Diego. His was in an athletic family, and his brother Art would go on to be one of the lead receivers in the American Football League of the 1960s. According to the Los Angeles Times, Charlie’s time at San Diego High School was to that point perhaps the most decorated student-athlete career in the history of the city, as he lettered 12 times in four different sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track). The Harlem Globetrotters and major college football programs wanted to him to join up, but instead he decided to go into professional baseball.

It was a season that, as the Times obituary put it, left him “realizing his sporting riches would be elsewhere.” Looking at the admittedly bare-bones stats of that lone short season in Stockton that Baseball Reference has, it isn’t hard to see why:

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1952 20 -2.6 Stockton CALL C SLB 10   30   5 0 0 0           .167   .167   5          
All Levels (1 Season)       10 30 30   5 0 0 0           .167   .167   5          
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2021.

And so, Powell instead went into football, joining the 49ers in time for the 1952 season at the age of 20, making him the youngest NFL player at that time. In 1953, he had his first boxing match, drawing with a fighter named Fred Taylor in Hollywood.

As evidenced by the fact he’s the subject of an installment of this series, it should be obvious he had far more luck on the gridiron and in the ring than he ever did on the diamond. Although his statistics from his time in the NFL are a bit hazy due to some less-than-stellar record-keeping during that era as well as the fact that some statistics (such as sacks) weren’t even officially recognized yet, anecdotally it is said that Powell once sacked Bobby Layne (himself someone you may see in a future installment of this series) ten times in one game. To put that into perspective, the most sacks in a single game from an era where NFL record-keeping existed well enough where we can be sure is seven.

Here are the NFL statistics for Powell that we do know:

Defense & Fumbles Table
          Game Game Def Def Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb Fumb  
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Int Yds TD Lng Fmb FR Yds TD Sfty
1952 20 SFO RDE 87 7 7                 1
1953 21 SFO LDE 87 12 10         1 1 0 0  
1955 23 SFO RDE 87 12 7 0 7 0 7 0 1 0 0  
1956 24 SFO RDE 87 12 11                  
1957 25 SFO RLB 87 12 8         0 1 3 0  
1960 28 OAK RDE 87 14 14                  
1961 29 OAK RDE 87 14 14                  
Care Care       83 71 0 7 0 7 1 3 3 0 1
5 yr 5 yr SFO     55 43 0 7 0 7 1 3 3 0 1
2 yr 2 yr OAK     28 28                  
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2021.

Perhaps Charlie Powell’s most interesting athletic career, however, came in the ring. In 39 career bouts, Powell went 25-11-3, with 17 of his victories coming by knockout.

He was, according to my research, a legitimate heavyweight fighter, not some sideshow coasting on his achievement in football. According to his obituary, he once was rated the fourth-best in the world by The Ring magazine. His brother Art and a promoter named Don Chagrin both say that he could have been even more successful if he had had better management and had focused entirely on boxing. In fact, he himself admitted it later in life.

Still, he had some great success. In 1959, he defeated the Cuban Nino Valdes, who at the time looked like a possible challenger to then-champion Floyd Patterson. A few years later, he would step into the ring against a young hotshot with a big mouth but the talent to back it up, a man then called Cassius Clay but later known as Muhammad Ali.

The Jan. 24, 1963 match-up in Pittsburgh was over quick. Clay declared before the fight that he’d beat Powell in three rounds, and, of course, he did just that, winning by KO. According to a newspaper account from the time, Clay declared himself the “greatest” and then went to badmouthing future opponents, including then-champion Sonny Liston, who he said he hoped to unseat by the next November and who he categorized as being neither as fast or as rough as Powell, who he complimented in his own Ali-like way:

“Powell was rough. They couldn’t call him a push-over. I was concentrating on three. The man was strong for two. He’s the roughest fighter I’ve met yet for three rounds.”

That wouldn’t be the end of Charlie Powell’s boxing career, however, as he would fight six more times after that, perhaps most notably a six-round loss against Floyd Patterson in 1964 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. Hiram Bithorn, of course, is most notably used for the sport that Powell began his professional sports career in: baseball.

Powell died on Sept. 1, 2014 after a years-long battle with dementia. He was 82. Although his brother believed that his dementia was the result of his years on the gridiron and in the ring, he had never joined any of the major lawsuits against the NFL.

Neat site to check out: “Threads of Our Game”

Some of you may be familiar with the Dressed to the Nines uniform database run by the Hall of Fame. On it, you can look up what each team wore uniform-wise from 1900 to today.

But what if you wanted to know what teams looked like before 1900? Enter Threads of Our Game, a website run by SABR member Craig Brown that focuses on the first few decades of baseball. To make up for the fact that photography of those days was not as common and essentially never in color, the site uses research of newspaper accounts, contemporary drawings, and other sources to get an idea of what the uniforms of the era looked like.

What’s more, the site doesn’t just have the Major Leagues. In fact, it doesn’t just stop at professional teams in general. They also have semi-pro and amateur teams of the era. No team, seemingly, is too small for inclusion. Nor is no team too vile: among the teams with a uniform on digital display is that of the 1874 baseball team run by the Klu Klux Klan chapter of Oneida, N.Y. Somewhat surprisingly, the uniforms does not contain any white.

Among the interesting highlights of the page are polka-dotted ballcaps, the first ballcap with a graphic on it (an Oriole wing), the year that some teams had a different-colored uniform for each position on the field, and also some of examples of 19th-century teams from the proto-Negro Leagues.

Check it out.

Cancel (almost) Everything

On Tuesday, I said that Opening Day will not take place. At the time, it was mostly figurative, at least in America, and it seemed that while the big importance of Opening Day (capitalized) wouldn’t take place it seemed likely that the season would still start on time, albeit in a more depressing manner than usual thanks to the coronavirus.

Now, though, I think that we won’t even be seeing an opening day (not capitalized) as scheduled, much less an Opening Day. In fact, I think it would be malpractice to have it.

This realization came last night. I’m not sure when, but it was probably when a NBA game inexplicably postponed at the last second, a player tested positive for COVID19, and the entire season was suspended all in the space of what felt like a half-hour. Oh, and Tom Hanks announced he tested positive as well.

The average NBA arena holds between 15 and 20 thousand fans. Even the smallest MLB stadiums (Tropicana Field with tarps up, for example) holds thousands more people. Public Health experts in cities seem to differ on what level of crowd is too big, but even the largest estimates are around 1,000 people, or WAY WAY less than any major league stadium. Even a fan-less game may break the level of a safe gathering, given the amount of support staff, journalists, and security.

Yes, it is true that most COVID19 cases are minor, and even those in dangerous categories are more likely to live than not. But think of it this way: you are also more likely to get Christian Yelich out more often than not, but nobody would want to give him the opportunity to bat in the ninth against them.

So what I’m saying is: shut it down. Shut it all down. Unless it is either something  something essential or something that can be done entirely over television or the internet without any large amount of human interaction, it can wait.

It is said that baseball is life. That is true, but you also need life to have baseball, so there is no sense in putting anyone’s life at risk.

So shut it down. Cancel everything, and perhaps we can try again in a month or two.

Opening Day will not take place (Or: Baseball in the Time of Coronavirus)

Opening Day will not take place in 2020.

Oh, sure, an opening day (uncapitalized) will take place. The Major League Baseball season will take place, and there will be a day where the first games take place.

No, I’m talking about Opening Day (capitalized), the holiday where the long winter is finally truly banished on a joyous late-March-or-early-April day full of ace-on-ace pitching matchups, red-white-and-blue bunting, and a sense of hope for everyone. Yes, even the Orioles… at least for a couple of innings.

That Opening Day will not take place. You know the reason, if you’ve paid any attention to the news. I won’t say it here right now for at this point it would be redundant. The reason why Opening Day won’t take place, especially in places like Japan or Korea.

Opening Day might not happen in San Jose, depending on how long the crisis lasts. The A-ball Giants don’t have their home opener until April 17, but given the scary projections from epidemiologists, we have no idea what the world may be like on that day.

It is entirely possible that in the coming days and weeks Seattle, New York City, or other great cities may have the same rules then as San Jose has imposed now. Perhaps those may come before opening day, definitively cancelling Opening Day in those cities.

Ultimately, though, Opening Day has already been cancelled. For even if the gates are open and the people can come, the feelings of the day have been lost this year. For instead of hope, optimism, and rebirth from the long winter, there will instead be worry and fear.

Questions will race: Can I shake the hand of the person in the seat next to me, who I haven’t seen since last season? Did the person selling the hot dog wash their hands correctly? Should that old-timer who has been coming to games for as long as anyone can remember even be here?

Yes, Opening Day is cancelled, and we can only fathom when the long winter will truly end.

Random wackiness: Things Cespedes may have fallen off of

Yesterday, the world was shocked as it came out that Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets had broken his ankle in an accident on his ranch. While reportedly this had nothing to do with falling off a horse, and instead may have been something as mundanely odd as just stepping into or falling into a hole awkwardly, I have another theory: He fell off something, but it wasn’t a horse.

So, for the sake of absurdity, here is a list of things that Yoenis Cespedes may have fallen off of:

  • Cow
  • Llama
  • Ostrich
  • Emu
  • Donkey (a member of the horse family, but not technically a horse)
  • Zebra (a member of the horse family, but not technically a horse)
  • Rhino
  • An unusually large dog
  • Giraffe
  • Elephant
  • Water buffalo
  • Camel
  • Yak
  • Reindeer
  • Moose
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Bear (oh my!)
  • Galapagos tortoise
  • Velociraptor
  • Triceratops
  • Woolly mammoth
  • Large human who was carrying him on their shoulders so he could see from a higher vantage point

Thank you for your time.

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Baseball with Galactus in Marvel Adventures Avengers #26

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! Avengers: Endgame is breaking all of the box office records, so now is as good of a time as any to bring you a Bizarre Baseball Culture look at a truly bizarre Avengers tale: 2008’s Marvel Adventures The Avengers Volume 1 #26, in which baseball helps our heroes save a planet from Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds.

Well, sort of. It’s more of a non-sequitur thrown in to justify this awesome cover:

Image of cover of magazine, featuring Galactus looking down at the Silver Surfer, Hulk and Spider-Man playing baseball.

And… I’m totally fine with that! It is available to read for Marvel Unlimited subscribers here. Head below the jump for more of this piece:

Continue reading

Bizarre Baseball Culture: What does “The White Killer” have to do with Baseball?

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Way back in the ninth installment of this series, I mentioned how one of the archtypes of superheroes is the patriotic hero. The most notable, of course, is Captain America, but there have been others: The Shield (who starred in that comic), Uncle Sam, Miss America, the Fighting Yank, etc.

This time in Bizarre Baseball Culture, we look at a comic involving one of the lesser patriotic heroes, one relegated (probably with good reason) to the dustbin of comic book history: U.S. Jones. He got his powers- whatever they are (they aren’t really expanded upon) from a scientist, and he fights enemies of America during WWII, as one does. This is what he looks like on the cover of the comic that contained this story, called “The White Killer”:

Wow, what a horrible costume. It’s somebody ate an American flag and then vomited upon Jones’ skin. And then there’s the U and S upon his chest. You know, in case you didn’t get that he was themed for the United States of America by the fact that his costume looks like he did stuff to a flag forbidden by the US Flag Code.

Anyway, the comic, from Wonderworld Comics #33, can be found here. It is in the public domain.

Go below the jump for more.

Continue reading

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Strange Tales #36 “The Discovery”

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Yeah, so that Power Rangers series I promised I’d finish two years ago? You’re going to keep waiting. Today, we’re going to the 1950s to read a story from Marvel’s Strange Tales #36, circa 1955. Well, sort of, you see, this is actually a story from Atlas Comics, which is what Marvel was called at the time. It’s a short, four-page story in the middle of an issue full of them, and calls to mind later stories like the Sidd Finch hoax… and how it could go horribly wrong, especially if he wasn’t used right.

Go below the jump for more:

Continue reading