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.

Ye Olde Base Ball Continuum: December, 1912

The LA84 Foundation offers archives of old periodicals and magazines from sports history, many of them dealing with baseball. So, in the spirit of good humor and retrospective, I’ve looked at what was being written about baseball in December 1912, and now will write what I may have written back in December 1912. In 1912 style, of course.

Tinkers-Evers-Chance No More! Tinker to Cincy, Chance doomed to skipper Highlanders

Boy, oh boy! Imagine my surprise this morning when I read the news that the Chicago trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and the “Peerless Leader” of Frank Chance are to be broken up! The three, who so famously pricked the Giants’ gonfalon bubble in 1910 and won the World’s Series in ’07 and ’08, will no doubt live forever in the hearts of the people of the West Side of Chicago, but now they turn their heads to other endeavors. Only Evers will remain. Tinker, now the player/manager of Cincinnati, will have to face his old base ball brothers- including Evers- next season.

The same cannot be said of the Peerless Leader. He will be managing and perhaps playing for the New York Highlanders in the American League, an unenviable task given the low interest that is given to that club- indeed, I think this may well be a ruse to make what few fans the Highlanders have be hopeful after the dreadful 50-102 record in 1912. It will likely be a fool’s errand. The Highlanders’ lone star, “Prince” Hal Chase, has long been allegedly in the pocket of the gamblers, and could be crooked himself, allegedly. They have never been able to outdo clubs like Boston, Philadelphia and the American League’s Chicago. They are likely to always be afterthoughts, no matter what Chance does.

When small cities had MLB teams, Post-1876 Edition

Yesterday, I talked about how some of the teams in the National Association, the first Major League (according to some), were from very small cities, cities which were in some cases smaller even than modern-day stadium capacities. Well, once the National League started in 1876, there never again would be super-small cities (like Keokuk- apologies to Keokuk) hosting MLB teams. Sure, there were cities that today would seem unlikely to host MLB teams- Troy, New York, for example. But they were big cities for their time: Troy was the 29th largest city in America in 1880, and it was very close to Albany, which was the 21st largest city. That there were teams at one point or another in Louisville, Rochester, Providence and other such cities are similar cases: back then, they were amongst the larger cities in America.

But, there have been some example, mainly because of one organization: the Union Association. Formed in 1884, the Union Association was, briefly, the third major league, to go alongside the National League and American Association. It was unique in that it didn’t have a reserve clause… and because it probably wasn’t a major league, even though it usually is counted as such. You see, the league’s founder, one Henry Lucas, showed much favoritism to his hometown St. Louis team, leading it to essentially be a Major League team in a Minor League. It went 94-19 during the 1884 season. Four teams folded and were replaced by minor league clubs. For example… (jump)

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When very small cities had MLB teams…

Major League Baseball’s history is long and often full of twists and turns. And in the earliest days of professional baseball, it wasn’t organized very well. As a result, some cities, so small that they make the current small markets look like Metropolises, had teams.

The first Major League, according to some, was not the National League (formed in 1876) but rather the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (notice how it says “players” and not teams or leagues- this was before owners had lots of leverage). It was a haphazard enterprise formed in 1871. Teams could buy their way in, schedules weren’t set in stone, gambling was rampant, and the level of play fluctuated greatly. For that reason, some organizations such as the Hall of Fame and MLB’s official record books don’t consider it a major league. Others, such as SABR and Baseball-Reference, do. As a result, there are some very small cities that show up on baseball-reference.com. And I don’t mean “small” as in “Hartford, Connecticut”… I mean “small” as in “they were smaller than the capacity of modern-day ballparks”.

Take a look (after the jump):

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Lost history: A US-Cuba Series was “likely” in the late 70s

According to a December 22, 1977 article from the AP in the Youngstown Vindicator, there were discussions of a series between an MLB All-Star Team and the Cuban National Team:

It, of course, never happened. It wasn’t until the late 90s that MLB players (the Baltimore Orioles) played the Cuban National Team. The two teams split a home-and-home series.

For those wondering, Cuba’s record against teams in the World Baseball Classic that have had large numbers of MLB players is mixed: they had a 3-2 record in 2006 against teams with large numbers of MLB players (Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic) and had a 2-0 record against Mexico in the 2009 WBC (the rest of their games were against teams that were either made up of predominantly foreign league players, or against mainly minor leaguers).

July 4th: The Luckiest Man

It was July 4th, 1939. Lou Gehrig was a dying man. Earlier that year, he’d ended his 2,130 consecutive game streak, taking himself out before a game in Detroit for the good of the team (he was hitting .143 with an RBI). A visit to the Mayo Clinic in June confirmed the worst: he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the disease that now carries his name. Although his mind would remain intact, his body would slowly betray him. Although his wife had told the doctors to try and withhold some of the more horrible details of the diagnosis from him, there is evidence to suggest that Lou knew, somehow, that he was on his way out. He announced his retirement from the game he loved.

So it was on Independence Day that the Yankees held a day in his honor. They retired his number 4- the first in baseball to be so honored. Some of his most famous teammates, including Babe Ruth, joined delegates from across the country in Yankee Stadium.

Everybody knows how the speech began, and many know how it ends, as can be seen below:

However, that was because, as amazing as it sounds, no media outlets had recorded the whole thing. That is partly why Gary Cooper’s speech in Pride of the Yankees is occasionally played instead, although it moved the beginning of the speech to the end for artistic reasons and was more of a paraphrase of the actual words Gehrig gave on that day.

Since Gehrig’s death in 1941, he has remained an inspiration and a rallying-cry in the fight against ALS and similar diseases. What had been before Gehrig a little understood disease is now studied across the world.

Progress has been made. A few years back, a report came out that suggested that people who have a history of concussions may be more likely to develop an ALS-style disease (Gehrig, it should be noted, took plenty of beanballs during his career, and also had played football at Columbia), and there is also some evidence that genetics and mutations may also play a role. Despite this, however, there remains no cure.

Back then: Fenway Park 100 years ago

From the Library of Congress is this image of Fenway Park in 1912- 100 years ago! The photo is from what is now right field. A larger version can be seen here.

Yes, that gigantic wall filled with advertisements is what we now know as the Green Monster. And, yes, those are seats in front of it. And there is no overhang on the third-base seats.

But, rest assured, it is Fenway. There is a site here that shows how that stadium has evolved over time.