Submitted by BTGrimes on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 1:00pm
Travels with Charlie
HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS | MARCH 11,1901 - Arrogant, ornery and extremely successful Baltimore Orioles manager John McGraw attempted to pull one over on the rest of major league baseball on this date in 1901. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer McGraw tried to sign Charlie Tokohoma, a Cherokee Indian, to a major league contract. McGraw first saw him working as a bellhop at a Hot Springs, Arkansas hotel during spring training. The problem wasn't that Tokohoma was a Native American, the problem was, he was Black.
By this time a well entrenched "gentlemen's agreement" dictated that no team would sign Black players.
Several sources including James A. Riley, author of The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, say Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey let the cat out of the bag. He recognized "Tokohoma" as Charlie Grant, second baseman for the Columbia Giants, a Chicago based Negro Leagues team.
For a few weeks, McGraw insisted that Tokohoma (Grant) was Native American, and had him in the lineup for a few spring training games, but Grant never saw regular season major league action.
This baseball history story about Charlie Grant is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.
Submitted by BTGrimes on Tue, 03/11/2014 - 4:49am
Michael's experiment ends
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS | MARCH 10, 1995 - Basketball superstar Michael Jordan's foray into baseball ended on this date in 1995. The former Chicago Bull gave up his dream of becoming a major league baseball player after one minor league season. Jordan said a players' strike, which was going on at the time, was blocking his development, "As a 32-year-old minor leaguer who lacks the benefit of valuable baseball experience over the past 15 years, I am no longer comfortable that there is a meaningful opportunity to continue my improvement."
Thanks to the fact that Bulls' owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owned the Chicago White Sox, when Jordan retired from basketball in 1994 he was given an opportunity to play for the Birmingham Barons, a White Sox Double-A farm team. He played one season:
Michael Jordan, Birmingham Barons - 1994
While his stats were mediocre, 51 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases in 127 games against professional baseball players weren't bad for a guy who hadn't played baseball since he was a kid.
The basketball world now awaited the inevitable - Jordan's return to the National Basketball Association where he led the Chicago Bulls to three championships before retiring in 1993 to try baseball. Michael Jordan returned to the NBA a month after he announced his retirement from baseball. He went on to lead the Bulls to three more world championships - 6 in all.
This daily dose of baseball history is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.
Submitted by BTGrimes on Sun, 03/09/2014 - 9:00am
The "Indian" who played for Cleveland
CLEVELAND, OHIO | MARCH 9, 1897 - A member of the Penobscot Indian tribe was signed by the National League Cleveland Spiders on this date in 1897, and some later claimed that's where Cleveland's American League franchise got its name.
Louis Sockalexis showed superb athletic ability and ferocious power playing baseball as a kid on the Penobscot reservation in Maine. Stories, some of them apocryphal, had him throwing a ball 600 feet over the Penobscot River and hitting a baseball just as far.
Sockalexis didn't stay long at Notre Dame. He was signed by the Cleveland Spiders in August of 1897.be. His career didn't last long, before the turn the century he was no longer a major league baseball player. Heavy drinking reportedly took its toll. Sockalexis died in 1913 at age 42.
A year after Sockalexis died Cleveland's American League team was in need of a new name. They had been called the Naps, after star player Nap Lajoie, but he was traded in 1914. The name "Indians" was chosen. As time went by the story that the team was named in honor of a real Indian, Louis Sockalexis, was allowed to surface.
Ithaca College Professor Ellen Staurowsky, among others, looked into the issue and wrote in the Sociology of Sport Journal, in 1998 that the name "Indians" was more likely chosen for exploitative purposes. The real story of why "Indians" was chosen was that it was a take off on the Boston Braves which were a baseball sensation that year for going from last place on July 4th to winning the World Series.
[Photo source: State of Maine]
This baseball history story about Louis Sockalexis is brought to you by today in baseball.
Submitted by BTGrimes on Sat, 03/08/2014 - 9:00am
Once you've seen Paris...
PARIS, FRANCE | MARCH 8, 1889 - A dream came true for Albert Spalding on this date in 1889. A team of touring American baseball players he organized played an exhibition baseball game in Paris, France.
There was some difficulty finding a suitable field. As Mark Lamster wrote in Spalding's World Tour, "Paris was endowed with countless formal parks and squares, but a large, enclosed space that would allow Spalding to charge admission was proving harder to come by." They finally settled on, and got permission to use, the Parc Aérostatique, a park in the shadow of Eiffel's rising tower, which would be completed later that year.
Albert Spalding, the fledgling sporting goods magnate, was a good ballplayer in his own right, and quite the promoter. He decided to tour the world to promote baseball and, in turn, get more business for his sporting goods venture.
He headed west from Chicago after the 1888 season with a group of 20-odd ballplayers, including stars Adrian "Cap" Anson and John Montgomery Ward. They barnstormed across the western states playing in cities like Omaha, Denver and Salt Lake City, eventually reaching San Francisco and settling sail for Hawaii and Australia.
Spalding's tour also played in Sydney, Cairo, Paris, London and numerous ports along the way. They would return in April 1889, more than a year after leaving.
This baseball history story about baseball in Paris, France is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.
Submitted by BTGrimes on Fri, 03/07/2014 - 9:00am
Bring back the spitball?
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA |MARCH 7, 1955 - Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick believed baseball had tipped in favor of the hitter so on this date in 1955 he said if he had his way he would bring back the spitter.
While visiting the Philadelphia Phillies training camp Frick said, "Something positive should be done to help the pitchers." In advocating the return of the spitball Frick added, "There's nothing dangerous about it. It was nothing like the screwball they have to throw today, with a twisted elbow and tricky snapping of the wrists. No wonder today's pitchers can't go on as long."
But what did the statistics say? Below is a look at the average earned run average (ERA) in the major leagues for 3 seasons in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's when each league had eight teams.
Average MLB ERA
ERA's were up in the 1950's compared to the 40's, but down from the 1930's. It's true, throughout the years pitchers have been steadily pitching fewer innings and throwing fewer pitches, but for a variety of reasons, two of the most prominent being more home runs, and the strategic prominence of the bullpen.
Needless to say, the spitball did not come back - legally.
This baseball history story about the spitball is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.