Category Archives: February

A STORY FROM FEB 12 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – ABRAHAM LINCOLN & THE SPREAD OF BASE BALL

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO FEBRUARY 12, 1809 IN HODGENVILLE, KENTUCKY – THE BIRTHDAY AND BIRTHPLACE ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Some believe the Civil War helped spread the game of Base Ball. The war brought men from all over the country together. In their leisure, they took up the game.

Others, such as Patricia Millen, author of From Pastime to Passion, say the Civil War more likely slowed down the spread of Base Ball, which had already become quite popular in the Northeast in the decades before the war, and spread like wildfire after the war ended.

According to George B. Kirsch, author of Baseball in Blue and Gray“Abraham Lincoln’s rise to political prominence… occurred during the years when the game was achieving increasing popularity in all regions.

The earliest association between Lincoln and Base Ball appeared in a Currier & Ives political cartoon published in November 1860, shortly after Lincoln defeated three rivals to claim the presidency.

In the cartoon, each has a bat in his hands. Lincoln also has the ball and is saying, “Gentleman, if ever you should take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have a good bat to strike a fair ball and make a clean score and a home run.”

Additional reading:
Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond, by Edward J. Rielly

A STORY FROM FEB 11 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – OZZIE & GARRY SWAP OPERA

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO FEBRUARY 11, 1982. Wonder if the San Diego Padres wish they could have a do-over? An Ozzie and Garry swap opera involving two promising young shortstops was finally resolved on this date in 1982. Ozzie Smith officially became a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and Garry Templeton became a San Diego Padre. The trade was announced two months earlier, but seemed dead several times.

While 25-year old Garry Templeton started strong with the Cardinals (a two-time all-star) it was a less than harmonious existence. Templeton was suspended from the team in August of 1981 for flipping off the hometown fans. He demanded to be traded and the Cardinals obliged.

San Diego wanted to make space for Templeton by, believe it or not, trading Ozzie Smith. Smith didn’t want to go. Smith changed his mind and about coming to St. Louis because he felt the Cardinals wanted him and the Padres didn’t, which was exactly the case, “Any ballplayer wants to come to a club where he’s really wanted, and I felt really wanted in St. Louis.”

As it turned out, statistically, there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the careers of Ozzie Smith and Garry Templeton. Here are each player’s seasonal averages:

Ozzie Smith .262 BA, 37 SB, 50 RBI, 79 runs scored, .978 fielding %
Garry Templeton .271 BA, 19 SB, 57 RBI, 70 runs scored, .961 fielding %

But Ozzie Smith became a leader of a powerful National League team. The Cardinals made it to the League Championship Series (NLCS) four times during Smith’s career, winning three. They made it to the World Series three times, winning one (1982). The “Wizard of Oz” was a 13-time all-star, the starting shortstop 11 times in a row. Ozzie Smith was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Templeton made it to three all-star games and one post-season. They made it to the World Series in 1984, losing to the Detroit Tigers. The Ozzie & Garry swap opera seemed to work out better for the Wizard of Oz.

Contributing Sources:
Associated Press (AP), San Diego/St. Louis, February 12, 1982
MLB team histories

A STORY FROM FEB 10 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – WHITE IS THE FIRST BLACK

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK CITY IN 1971. Former New York and San Francisco Giant, St. Louis Cardinal and Philadelphia Phillie Bill White was named the radio play-by-play man for the New York Yankees on this date in 1971.  White became the first Black to be named the regular play-by-play man for a major league team.

The Associated Press described the development in the vernacular of the day, “the first Negro to hold such a job in the majors.” White held the play-by-play job for 18 years.

White was a pretty good player too. In a 13-year career, mostly as a first baseman, he was a 5-time all-star and a 7-time Gold Glove winner – as the best in the league at his position. Oh, and I almost forgot, Bill White was president of the National League from 1989 to 1994.

Contributing Source:
Associated Press (AP), February 11, 1971

A STORY FROM FEB 9 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – THE LOS ANGELES OF ANAHEIM, WHAT’S WITH THAT?

TODAY’S STORY TAKES US TO SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA IN 2006. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? What’s with that? It would be like calling the National Football League Jets The New York Jets of New Jersey because the stadium they play in is in New Jersey, same with the Giants (come to think of it, that’s what they should be called, but I digress).

On this date in 2006 a jury in Orange County, California ruled that the owners of the American League franchise in Southern California did not breach their contract with the City of Anaheim by changing the team’s name from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The literal translation of "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is "The the angels angels of Anaheim."

The city of Anaheim said the team violated its lease on the ballpark by including Los Angeles in the name. Team owner Arte Moreno said the lease only stipulated that “Anaheim” be in the name. The team’s media guide stated:

The inclusion of Los Angeles reflects the original expansion name and returns the Angels as Major League Baseball’s American League representative in the Greater Los Angeles territory.

Many of you older readers may recall the team was originally called the Los Angeles Angels because they played in Los Angeles. The name was changed to the California Angels when they moved to Anaheim. Anaheim became part of the name at the behest of the Disney Company that became involved with the Angels in the 1990’s.

Be that as it may, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is the team’s name until further notice, despite the fact that the literal translation of “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” is “The the angels angels of Anaheim.”

Contributing source:
Los Angeles Times, “Anaheim Strikes Out Against Angels,” by Kimi Yoshino and Dave McKibben, February 10, 2006

A STORY FROM FEB 8 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – DODGERS FIRST TO OWN PLANE

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES BACK TO LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA IN 1957. There was a time when baseball, and other professional sports teams, traveled with the rest of us – first by train, then by air. A new age was ushered in on this date in 1957. The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first team to own a plane. It bought a 44-passenger twin-engine airplane for $800,000.

Teams began flying in 1934, but not for every trip. Expansion to the west coast made air travel a necessity.

Travel has always been a major consideration for professional sports. Early on it restricted major league baseball to a relatively small section of the country. Before the late 1950’s major league baseball was entirely in the northeastern part of the country. When the National League was established in 1876 that’s where most of the population was.

These maps show the locations of major league franchises at various times. National League teams are in red. American Association (after 1901, American League) teams in blue.

1882
1955
1962
2005

It took too long to travel outside the Northeast in the late 1800s. It took 20 hours to travel from New York to Chicago by rail. Smart scheduling kept teams from having to do that, but even New York to Buffalo was a 7-hour train ride, making travel days necessary.

Travel days are a thing of the past as all teams followed the Dodgers – the first team to own a plane.

Contributing Sources:
“How the automobile ruined ballpark design,” by Alex  Reisner, March 22, 2006 (also published in The Baseball Research Journal of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)