A STORY FROM JAN 26 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – ABNER DOUBLEDAY FAKE NEWS

TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO MENDHAM, NEW JERSEY IN 1893 –

Abner Doubleday died on this date in 1893 several years before a story would surface of which he would be a central character. You know, the story that he invented baseball. That story is certainly fake news, still, I would be remiss not to tell you about Doubleday since the name is so ingrained in the National Pastime.

Abner Doubleday was an extraordinary gentleman, but not for anything having to do with baseball. He could not have been aware of such a story since he died before it surfaced.

Doubleday never claimed, wrote or uttered that he invented baseball.

Doubleday was born near Albany in upstate New York. He spent more than thirty years in the military, achieving the rank of general for the Union in the Civil War. He was second in command at Fort Sumter. He  reportedly ordered the firing of the first shot in defense of the Fort off Charleston Harbor, South Carolina in the battle that started Civil War.

The story goes that Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY in 1839. The only evidence to support this is the word of a man named Abner Graves who was described as being of questionable integrity.

On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Doubleday did not invent the game. For example, while Cooperstown was home at one time, he was a cadet at West Point in 1839. If he was drawing up rules for how to play “base-ball” he was doing it while AWOL. Also, Doubleday never claimed, wrote or uttered that he invented baseball.

So how did the story come about? Baseball historian Harold Seymour wrote in Baseball: The Early Years that around the turn of the 19th century A. G. Mills, the fourth president of the National League, “wanted it distinctly understood that patriotism and research had established that the game of baseball was American in its origin,” and not a descendant of the English game rounders. A committee Mills chaired officially “concluded” as much in 1907. This conclusion was almost immediately debunked, but, being a good story, the facts never got in the way.

The story was promulgated to such an extent that a shrine to the game of baseball was built in Cooperstown, NY in the 1930’s – The Baseball Hall of Fame. A ballpark adjacent to the Hall is called Doubleday Field.

General Abner Doubleday accomplished a lot in his life, none of which appeared to have had anything to do with baseball. That story is clearly fake news.

More information:
“Baseball: The Early Years,” by Harold Seymour
MLB Historian John Thorn
The Doubleday Myth, The New York Times

A STORY FROM JAN 25th IN BASEBALL HISTORY-TEAM VALUE$ CONTINUE TO SKYROCKET

THIS STORY STARTS IN NEW YORK IN 1945 –

These aren’t your father’s Yankees anymore. The New York Yankees were sold for $2.5 million on this date in 1945. If the Yankees were sold today, the asking price would be about 1400 times more than that – $3.7 BILLION, with a “B”.

MLB team values continue to skyrocket. The increases are almost incomprehensible. Even comparing for inflation, they’re way beyond the hikes in costs of everything else.

Here is Forbes Magazine’s comparison of team values in just the 10-year span from 2007 to 2017:

                                                                                            2007              2017
1. New York Yankees         $1.2B             $3.7B
2. Los Angeles Dodgers      $632M             $2.75B 
3. Boston Red Sox           $724M             $2.7B
4. Chicago Cubs             $592M             $2.68B
5. San Francisco Giants     $459M             $2.65B 
6. New York Mets            $736M             $2.0B    
7. St. Louis Cardinals      $460M             $1.8B 
8. LA Angels of Anaheim     $431M             $1.75B
9. Philadelphia Phillies    $457M             $1.65B 10. Washington Nationals    $447M             $1.6B
11. Texas Rangers           $365M             $1.55B
12. Atlanta Braves          $458M             $1.5B
13. Houston Astros          $442M             $1.45B  14. Seattle Mariners        $436M             $1.4B
15. Chicago White Sox       $381M             $1.35B
16. Toronto Blue Jays       $344M             $1.3B
17. Pittsburgh Pirates      $274M             $1.25B
18. Detroit Tigers          $357M             $1.2B
19. Baltimore Orioles       $395M             $1.18B 20. Arizona Diamondbacks    $339M             $1.15B
21. San Diego Padres        $367M             $1.13B
22. Minnesota Twins         $288M             $1.03B 
23. Colorado Rockies        $317M             $1.0B
24. Kansas City Royals      $282M             $950M
25. Miami Marlins           $244M             $940M 26. Milwaukee Brewers       $287M             $925M
27. Cleveland Indians       $364M             $915M
28. Cincinnati Reds         $307M             $915M 29. Oakland A's             $292M             $880M 30. Tampa Bay Rays          $267M             $825M

In 2007 one team (the Yankees) was worth a billion dollars. In 2017, 23 of the 30 teams were worth at least a billion dollars.

Everything costs more today than it did in 1945:

  • The average cost of a new home today ($371,200) is 81 times what it was in 1945 ($4,600).
  • The average cost of a gallon of gas today ($2.43) is 16 times greater than the average gallon in 1945 ($0.15).

But the value of the New York Yankees is 1,460 times greater than it was in 1945. And team values continue to skyrocket.

Contributing Sources:
Forbes Magazine
The New York Times, January 26, 1945
Census Bureau – home prices

A STORY FROM JAN 24TH IN BASEBALL HISTORY – WHAT IF DEION SANDERS ONLY PLAYED BASEBALL?

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US BACK TO CINCINNATI, OHIO IN 2001 –

What if Deion Sanders only played baseball? He decided to give baseball another try on this date in 2001. As the story goes, he was invited to spring training by the Cincinnati Reds. General Manager Jim Bowden gave the 2-sport star a non-guaranteed minor league contract to play for the Triple-A Louisville Riverbats.

The Washington Redskins‘ all-pro cornerback hadn’t played major league baseball in three years. Sanders played 115 games in the outfield for the Reds in 1997, hitting .273 with 56 stolen bases, 53 runs scored and 23 RBI, but he was 29 then. He was 33 in 2001.

Sanders made it up to the Reds for 32 games in 2001, but he hit just .173 in seventy-five at-bats. That was the end of his baseball career.

The debate that will never end is, how good a baseball player would Deion Sanders have been had he played with a bat and ball exclusively.

In a 9-year major league baseball career with the New York YankeesAtlanta Braves, Reds and San Francisco Giants Sanders played in 641 games, hitting .263 with a .319 on base percentage, but he was most known for his speed. He had 186 stolen bases, which average out to 47 per year.

His only World Series was an impressive one. He hit .533 (8 for 15) and had five stolen bases for the Braves in the 1992 World Series which was won by the Toronto Blue Jays. Sanders gave whichever baseball team he played for instant speed.

He had a more productive football career – eight time all-pro and played on two Super Bowl winning teams.

The debate that will never be answered is, how good a baseball player would he have been had he played with a bat and ball exclusively. He knew which was more challenging when asked by the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2000:

Q – What’s tougher: hitting off Greg Maddux or guarding Jerry Rice?
A – “Hitting a baseball is definitely the hardest thing in sports to do, not only for me but for a lot of guys, but guarding Jerry Rice isn’t easy either. I just make it look easy.”

Sanders was an exceptional athlete. We’ll never know how could exceptional a baseball player he could have been had he only played baseball.

Contributing sources:
Cincinnati Enquirer, February 27, 2000
Deion Sanders NFL stats

A STORY FROM JAN 23 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – BLUNDER COSTS RED SOX FREDDIE LYNN

THIS STORY TAKES US BACK TO 1981 –

It was not an auspicious off-season for the Boston Red Sox in 1981. On this date the Red Sox had to trade the only player, up to that time, to win Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season, center-fielder Fred Lynn.

They didn’t want to part with Lynn, but the front office failed to mail a contract to him by the deadline allowing Lynn to become a free agent if he wasn’t traded. He was sent to the California Angels (today’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) for Joe Rudi and Frank Tanana.

Freddie Lynn came on like gang-busters his rookie season of 1975, less than two years after being drafted by the Red Sox out of the University of Southern California. He hit .331 with 21 home runs, 105 runs batted in and 103 runs scored. Oh, he also won a Gold Glove and made the all-star team.

He was almost the perfect ballplayer, as evidenced by being awarded the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards – the first player in history to win both (Ichiro Suzuki won MVP and ROY awards in 2001, but he had already played nine seasons in the Japanese major leagues).

Fred Lynn had a very good career, but only once did he match or surpass his rookie production, that was 1979 when he hit .333 with 39 home runs, 122 runs batted in, 116 runs scored and a .416 on-base percentage.

A Red Sox blunder also cost them that Carlton Fisk that same off-season. That’s a story for another time.

Contributing source:
Joseph Durso, The New York Times, January 24, 1981

A STORY FROM JAN 22 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – THE 1857 RULES

TODAY’S STORY TAKES US BACK TO NEW YORK CITY IN 1857:

The more you learn about baseball (or “base-ball” as it was referred to in the mid-19th century) the more you realize the game evolved. It was not “invented” one sunny afternoon in Cooperstown, New York. Here is another example of how the game came to be.

A convention of “Base Ball” clubs from the New York area met on this date in 1857 and made some decisions that would turn out to be monumental in the “evolution” of the game. Although the Knickerbocker Club of New York was instrumental in organizing the convention, the decisions made by those gathered did not go as the Knicks had hoped.

  • There was a general consensus to change the rule that the winner was the first team to score 21 runs (which back then were called “aces”). The group decided a game would last 9 innings. The Knickerbocker Club wanted 7.
  • There would be 9 players on a side. The Knickerbocker Club wanted 7.
  • A fielder would have to catch a batted ball on the “fly,” not one bounce, for an out. The Knickerbocker Club wanted the rule changed to “on the fly.” The convention kept it at “one bounce.”

There were other rules established that the Knickerbocker Club agreed with:

  • The distance between the bases would be 30 yards (90 feet)
  • The pitching distance would be 45 feet from home base
  • Five innings would determine a complete game

All the above changes remain in place to this day, except the pitching distance and the “fly” rule.

A number of other rules evolved over the years, such as the infield fly rule, what constituted a foul ball and whether it counted as a strike.

How many strikes for a “strike out” and how many “balls” for a walk varied from time to time before settling on 3 strikes and 4 balls in the late 1800s. At one time a batter wasn’t awarded first base until 9 balls were called.

Contributing Sources:
Baseball in the Garden of Eden
, by John Thorn, Simon & Schuster, 2011
“Convention of Base Ball Clubs,” New York Herald, January 22, 1857
“Our National Sports: The Game of Base Ball, etc.” New York Herald, January 23, 1857
Baseball Chronology
19th Century Baseball