Category Archives: January

Jan. 22, 1857 – RULES

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – If you’re a regular reader of this website you’re aware of my belief that baseball (or “base-ball” as it was referred to in the mid-19the century) 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 concensus 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 fee
  • 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
Baseball Chronology

19th Century Baseball

Jan 21, 1942 – “Rajah”

COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK – Rogers Hornsby was elected to the Hall of Fame on this day in baseball history. Hornsby was one of the greatest hitters of all-time, probably the greatest right-handed hitter. He finished with a .358 lifetime average. Only Ty Cobb, a left-handed hitter, had a higher lifetime average at .366.

Hornsby’s most productive years were with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1915 to 1926. He helped the Cardinals win the 1926 World Series. He hit .424 in 1924 – the 6th highest batting single season average ever. No one has come close to .425 since. Only three players have hit over .400 since 1924. One of them is named Hornsby.

Hornsby had a monster season for the Chicago Cubs in 1929, hitting .380 with 149 runs batted in and 156 runs scored. Hornsby also played for the New York Giants, St. Louis Browns (today’s Baltimore Orioles) and Boston Braves (today’s Atlanta  Braves).

“Rajah” as he was called, played all infield positions but was mostly a second baseman. He was a two-time National League Most Valuable Player. Hornsby and Ted Williams are the only players to win the Triple Crown (most home runs, runs batted in and highest average in one season) twice.

Rogers Hornsby was born April 27, 1896 in Winters, Texas. He died in Chicago January 5, 1963. He was the fourteenth player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Contributing sources:
Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1942 
More on Rogers Hornsby

Jan 20, 2017-BASEBALL/POLITICS

On this inauguration day let’s reminisce about baseball and politics. Feel free to add your own connections.

Remember former New York Governor, and presidential candidate, Mario Cuomo? He had a promising baseball career cut short by a fastball. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1951 and assigned to their Brunswick minor league team. Later that first season he was hit in the head by a fastball. It was so serious doctors advised he give up baseball, which he did, and went on to finish law school

Former Kentucky Senator and Congressman Jim Bunning is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a dominant pitcher for most of his 17 years in the majors. His best years were with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his career with a 224-184 record, 3.27 ERA, and is one of the few to throw no-hitters in both leagues. Bunning was a congressman from 1987 to 1999, and in the US Senate from 1999 to 2011

Talk about term limits, Connie Mack managed, and owned, the Philadelphia Athletics (today’s Oakland A’s) for 50 years – 1901 to 1950. His grandson, Connie Mack III, was a Republican congressman from Florida from 1983 to 1989 and U-S Senator from Florida from 1989 to 2001.

Contributing sources:
Jim Bunning stats

Jan 19, 2006 – HE’S BACK

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETS  In the lingering euphoria of their first World Series championship in 108 years, will the Chicago Cubs be unable to remember the past and therefore be condemned to repeat it? The past being, then Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein walking away from the Red Sox a little over a year after he assembled a team that won the World Series after an 88-year drought.

Epstein slipped away from Fenway Park October 31, 2005 – Halloween Night – in a gorilla suit to avoid the media. The Red Sox reportedly offered him a three-year contract worth $4.5 million. Epstein said it wasn’t “the right fit.”

As Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

On this day in baseball history, January 19, 2006, it was announced that Epstein would return to the Red Sox. A joint statement from Epstein, owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and President Larry Lucchino read, “Ironically, Theo’s departure has brought us together in many respects… we now enjoy the bonds of a shared vision.”

The Red Sox won another World Series in 2007, but that shared vision got a little blurry. Theo left the Red Sox again for the Cubs in 2011. The shared vision seems to be pretty clear on the northside of Chicago – at least now.

As Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

Contributing sources:
Los Angeles Times, Epstein returns to the Red Sox, January 20, 2006
ESPN.com
Fivethirtyeight.com

Jan 18, 1950-STAR ACCEPTS CUT

CLEVELAND, OHIO  After seasons winning 24, 27, 25, 26 and 20 games, then dropping down to 19 and 15 wins, future Hall of Famer Bob Feller not only accepted but suggested a 25% cut in pay from the Cleveland Indians.

At $80,000 Feller was the highest paid player in the majors a few seasons earlier. His pay was cut $20,000 in 1950. Of course, this was before the days of free agency. The owners pretty much dictated salary terms. Players could accept them or go work for a living. Feller seemed resigned to the pay cut. While negotiations were going on he told the Associated Press that he was “not altogether unhappy. We seem to agree on almost everything.”

It turned out Feller had some good years still in him. He went 16-11 in 1950 and startling 22-8 in 1951. Like many other ball-players he missed some of his most productive seasons, 1942, ‘43 and ’44, to serve in the military during World War II.

The Van Meter, Iowa native finished his career with 266 win and 162 losses, a .621 winning percentage. He led the American League in wins six times. Bob Feller was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Contributing sources:
Los Angeles Times (AP),
“Bob Feller’s Pay Check Gets Scalped,” January 19, 1950
FoxSports, Dan Graf, January 18, 2016