The “Boys of Summer” are in full swing now as the baseball season progresses. We all enjoy following our favorite team’s standing and statistics. We cheer for them when they play good and almost disown them when they are lousy, only to call them “my team” when they recover. From one pitching rotation to the next, or sometimes in the course of a game, a pitcher can go from hero to bum. Our favorite slugger can go into a slump at the plate and we are demanding he be traded. But, as one famous major league manager declared, “That’s the way baseball go!”
Yes, baseball is a game of statistics and the history of the game is replete with individual stats, team stats and fascinating and funny stories of the guys we have cheered and booed. For instance, Satchel Paige, the famous Negro League and Major League pitcher (1926-1965), and first Negro League player to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was a fairly self-confident and cocky guy. The story goes that he was driving through a rural area, on his way to his team’s next game. He was stopped by a policeman for speeding and told that his fine would be $25.00. Satchel handed him $50.00 and said, “I’ll be back through here in a few days.”
And did you know, there are fourteen ways to score a run in baseball? They are listed at the bottom. See how many you can name before you look.
You should know that Jack “Jackie” Roosevelt Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947 as he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But, did you know that Jackie’s older brother, Mack, won the Silver Medal in the 200-meters at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, behind Jesse Owens? Or did you know that Jackie Robinson was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Army as a result of his friendship with heavy weight boxing champ, Joe Lewis, when they were both stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas? (Just extra non-baseball stuff. No extra charge.)
Baseball, and especially Major League Baseball, is a game of statistics. One stat that is hardly ever recognized is the “win share.” Bill James and Jim Henzler’s book, Win Shares, explains many formulae for determining players’ performance and impact on the game. Many factors are taken into account; e.g. offense, defense, pitching and the era of baseball history in which they played.
Using this analytical tool reveals some interesting things concerning the entrance, and impact, of the African American players into the Major Leagues. Between 1933 and 1949 the American League won 12 Major League All Star games to the National League’s 4 wins.
The National League began to see the value of the African American ball players and began signing them to contracts. The American League was slow to get on board. Out of the 37 Major League All Star games played between 1950 through 1982, the National League won 31 games. Certainly the black baseball players made a significant difference in the Major Leagues.
Did you know that in the 1800’s, when baseball was finding its way as a fledgling new game, it was called “town ball?” There weren’t any foul lines or fixed positions and the fielders attempted to hit the base-runner with the ball to get them out. Some colleges banned the sport because it was not becoming of young gentlemen.
Did you know that Abner Doubleday, most likely, did not invent the game of baseball? Historically he is given the credit. This idea was from one man’s testimony before a commission that was hand-picked by 1907 baseball executives. He had no hard evidence, only a rotting baseball and Doubleday, his childhood friend, was not alive to testify and there is no mention of this in any of Doubleday’s writings. He was said to have mapped out the first baseball diamond in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 – hence, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
But we do know that Alexander Cartwright, a shipping clerk, along with five other men, formed the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club in 1845. These men actually formulated the rules and designed the diamond with foul lines. On June 19, 1846 the first organized baseball game was played, with the Knickerbockers losing 23-1 to the New York Baseball Club. They played at Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The great game of baseball was then off and running. It was ten years later, in 1856, that the New York Mercury newspaper tagged it with the title “The National Pastime.” Since that day the game has weathered many storms, but has kept afloat. The Civil War, WWI and WWII slowed the advance of the game, but never stopped it. It has received its share of black eyes, as in the Black Sox scandal of 1919 and the Major League strike of 1994, that eliminated the World Series that year. The dreaded Lou Gehrig’s disease is named after a famous New York Yankee player, and Tommy John Surgery, an arm surgery procedure, is named after the famous Los Angeles Dodger pitcher.
Yogi Berra, the Yankee Hall of Fame catcher, said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” The game of baseball has faced many forks in the road and has, most of the time, taken the correct one. The game has changed in many ways over the years. But the players who played that first game in 1846 would still recognize it today as the America’s national pastime. It’s the game that “takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’.”
- Home run
- Drover in by a player’s hit
- Ground out fielder’s choice
- Ground out
- Stolen home base
- Bases loaded walk
- Pitcher’s wild pitch
- Catcher’s passed ball
- Pitcher’s balk
- Bases loaded hit batsman
- Sacrifice fly
- Sacrifice bunt