Not So Fast, Boudreau

FEBRUARY 3, 1938 | CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS – Future Baseball Hall of Famer, manager and broadcaster Lou Boudreau was a two-sport star at the University of Illinois. But on this day in 1938 he got suspended from the Illinois basketball and baseball teams for the rest of the year.

The 20-year old forward and captain of the basketball team was disciplined for taking money from a professional baseball team. The Cleveland Indians was sending his mother monthly checks in exchange for the Harvey, Illinois native’s word that he would give the Indians the right of first refusal when he graduated.

Boudreau missed six basketball games that season. The team won two and lost four and finished with an uninspired 9-9 record in the Big Ten.

Boudreau ended up not returning to the University of Illinois in the fall for his Senior year because he signed a contract with Cleveland and started his professional baseball career. He played 13 seasons for the Indians, mostly at shortstop, including nine as player-manager. He started managing at the age of 24. He guided the team to a World Series Championship in 1948, and was he league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Boudreau finished his playing career with the Boston Red Sox in 1952. He also managed the Red Sox, Kansas City A’s (today’s Oakland A’s) and Chicago Cubs. Boudreau began broadcasting Cubs games in 1958, and except for managing the Cubs for one season (1960) he remained in the booth until 1987.

Louis Boudreau was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Contributing sources:
Boudreau as manager
Associated Press (AP), February 4, 1938

National League is Born

FEBRUARY 2, 1876 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Major league baseball came about not only because the game and the players were exciting enough to get people to pay to watch, but also because it created a market for sporting goods. I know that sounds cynical but it’s true.

The National League of Baseball Clubs was formed on this date in 1876. One of the chief architects of the National League, as it soon became known, was Albert G. Spalding of Rockford, Illinois. He was thinking of the sale of baseball equipment as much balls and strikes.

As Leonard Koppett wrote in Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, Spalding thought he had a better way to run a professional baseball organization than the loosely held National Association founded in 1871. He didn’t have much faith that the east coast dominated Association would survive, and he wanted desperately for professional baseball to survive so teams and their fans would buy baseball equipment from him.

He and William Hulbert of Chicago began to put together a plan. The problem was Spalding and Hulbert were part of the National Association; Spalding played for Boston, and Hulbert was in the front office of the Chicago White Stockings.

The two needed a solid plan before the start of the next season to attract select east coast National Association teams. They got commitments from Midwest teams in Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis to join Chicago. That’s where the February 2, 1876 meeting came in. The gathering was held at the Central Hotel in New York with representatives from Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Hartford. They all agreed, and the National League was born. Play began that spring with those eight teams. As Koppett wrote, “It established a pattern that became the model for all commercialized spectator team sports from then on.”

Contributing Sources:
Leonard Koppett, Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, 1998
Baseball-Reference

Never know unless you try

FEBRUARY 1, 1999 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The New York Yankees traded a young prospect named Mike Lowell to the Florida Marlins on this date in 1999. They got three minor league pitchers in return; Mark Johnson, Eddie Yarnall and Todd Noel.

With Mike Lowell, and several other quality players, the Marlins won their second World Series in 2003 – beating the Yankees.

Lowell became a 4-time all-star with tw.o World Series rings, one as Most Valuable Player (2007 for the Boston Red Sox). Eddie Yarnall appeared in just seven games for the Yankees and was out of baseball by 2001. Mark Johnson was picked up by the Detroit Tigers after never making it out of the Yankees farm system. He appeared in handful of games for the Tigers in 2000, but he too was also out of baseball by 2001. Todd Noel never made it to the major leagues and is no where to be found.

With Mike Lowell, and several other quality players, the Marlins won their second World Series in 2003 – beating the Yankees. Lowell was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the 2005 season and helped them win the World Series in ’07. They made the playoffs in ’08 winning the American League Division Series but losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Championship Series.

If the goal of any move a team makes is to get to the post-season, the Yankees succeeded, more often than Lowell’s teams. The Yankees have been to the playoffs nine of the last ten years, appearing in four World Series, winning two of them, but they didn’t accomplish any of that with players from the Lowell trade. The odds are Yankee fans probably do not think the Lowell trade in 1999 was a good one.

Contributing Sources:
Yankees post season
Marlins post season
Red Sox post season