Monday, May 25, 2015

Babe Hits Three And Says Goodbye

On Saturday May 25, 1935 the lowly Boston Braves, with a record of 8-19 played the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.  A crowd of 10,000 showed up, many to see the Braves' 40 year-old, out of shape right fielder who entered the game hitting only .153 -  Babe Ruth.

By the end of the 1934 season the New York Yankees had made it clear to Ruth they would not bring him back for the 1935 campaign.  Nor would they make him manager, something Babe desperately wanted.  It was an unceremonious and unsentimental act by the club towards the star who made the Yankees the best brand name in baseball since joining them in 1920 and who remains, by any measure, the greatest player in the history of the game even 101 years after his debut. 

Instead, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert arranged, with Ruth's concurrence, to trade him to the Boston Braves of the National League. The Babe was excited about the opportunity.  He'd be back in Boston where his career started with the Red Sox in 1914 and Braves owner Judge Emil Fuchs made him a club vice-president and assistant manager, while leading him to believe he'd be the next manager.  In reality, the only interest Fuchs had in Ruth was as a gate attraction which meant he needed to take the field as a player., Ruth, Ruppert),800/0/default.jpg(Fuchs from digitalcommonwealth)

Two things quickly became apparent to the Babe in the early weeks of the season.  The first is that  his jobs were just for show; he had no role in the direction of the club and would never be made manager.  The second was that his playing days were over.  While Opening Day provided a wonderful moment when he homered off New York Giants star hurler Carl Hubbell, Ruth was awkward and slow in the outfield and he soon stopped hitting.  Entering the game on May 25, the Babe had only three hits in his last 44 at bats., odd-man out, from

Starting for the Pirates was Red Lucas, a pretty fair pitcher who won 157 games in his career. but he didn't have much that that day.  After walking the first batter who was bunted to second he faced Ruth who slugged a home run.  Lucas didn't make it out of the inning, being replaced by Guy Bush another good pitcher who won 176 games over a long career. Amazon)
Ruth came up again in the third and hit another two run homer.  In the fifth he singled home yet another run.

He came up for the fourth time in the seventh.  On a 3-1 count he launched a titanic soaring solo shot to right field.  It was the longest home run ever hit at Forbes Field and the first to leave the park, traveling more than 500 feet and hitting a house across the street.  It was the last of Babe's 714 regular season home runs. Post Gazette)

In the bottom of the seventh something occurred that would not happen today with a batter having already hit three homers and with the opportunity to come to the plate again.  Ruth was taken out of the game and replaced in right field by Joe Mowry who came to the plate in the 9th and singled.  Despite Ruth's four hits, three homers and six RBI's the Braves lost 11-7.

Bush, who had been a nemesis of Ruth's in the 1932 World Series when he was with the Cubs and plonked the Babe with a pitch, later recalled:
I never saw a ball hit so hard before or since. He was fat and old but he still had that great swing. I can't remember anything about the first home run he hit off me that day.  But I can't forget that last one.  It's probably still going.
In 1966, Bush wrote to a fan:
I feel proud that Babe Ruth hit his last 2 Home Runs off of me – as he more or less made Base Ball what it is to-day. He was by far the greatest of all players.
It was symbolically the Babe's goodbye to baseball.  Too bad it was not his real goodbye.  He'd promised Judge Fuchs that he would play out the rest of the road trip and he kept his word, though Fuchs didn't deserve the respect.  He appeared in five more games with two singles in nine at bats before announcing his retirement on June 2.  It wasn't pleasant. rarenewspapers)

By the end of the 1935 season the Braves record was 38-115, Fuchs had run out of money and the team was in receivership.

Babe Ruth was never given the opportunity to be a major league manager.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Death Of Captain Waskow

For Memorial Day: the 2013 post featuring Ernie Pyle's moving piece on the death of Captain Henry Waskow.  We remember and honor all Americans who died in military service.

(Captain Waskow)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Grand Review Practically

It was the great gathering.  The celebration of the end of four years of bloody conflict.  The celebration of the preservation of the Union.

With the Civil War coming to an end (only the formal surrender of Confederate forces in the trans-Mississippi region remained), at Secretary of War Stanton's suggestion, it was decided to honor the soldiers and lift the glum mood of the capital in the wake of the assassination of President Lincoln by holding a formal review of the armies which it scheduled for May 23 and 24, 1865.  The armies participating were the Army of the Potomac which arrived in the capital on May 12, General Sherman's Army, marching up from North Carolina, about 150,000 troops in all (the Union had more than one million soldiers serving as of the end of the war).

Presidential Reviewing Stand (from Library of Congress)
[Washington, D.C. Crowd in front of Presidential reviewing stand]
The Army of the Potomac marched for seven hours on the first day.  The second day saw Sherman's troops parade for six hours.

In May 1919, The Literary Digest ran an article on the review:
Four stands were erected in front of the White House . . . On the principal stand were President Andrew Johnson and his Cabinet, diplomats and envoys of foreign nations and Governors of States.  Lieutenant-General Grant occupied a position near the President.

All the school-children of the city, the girls dressed in white and boys in black jackets and white trousers were massed on the terraces and balconies of the Capitol and sang patriotic songs as the soldiers passed.

The soldiers presented a kaleidoscopic picture.  Their uniforms were soiled and faded.  There had been no brushing up for the occasion - they marched in the uniforms they had worn in the field. . . there were the pet animals of every description, dogs, donkeys, goats, pet wolves and even eagles that had been adopted by regiments as mascots . . . Freed Negro slaves who had been picked up in the field added motley color to the scene.
In something that would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the individual (see Custer's First Stand), the Digest also reported on the sensation created by General George Armstrong Custer:
And General Custer furnished an unlooked-for thrill to the occasion.  His horse ran away and plunged wildly down the avenue through the scattering throngs, Custer's long yellow hair streaming in the wind, while women screamed and men shouted, expecting the General to be dashed to his death.  But he suddenly brought his horse to its haunches, leaned over, and picked up his hat from the ground and rode back to the head of his column amid the plaudits of the crowd.

In his Memoirs, Ulysses S Grant focused on the second day, perhaps because of his abiding affection for the men he'd led in the West before coming to Washington for the 1864 campaign:

Sherman’s troops had been in camp on the south side of the Potomac. During the night of the 23d he crossed over and bivouacked not far from the Capitol. Promptly at ten o’clock on the morning of the 24th, his troops commenced to pass in review. Sherman’s army made a different appearance from that of the Army of the Potomac. The latter had been operating where they received directly from the North full supplies of food and clothing regularly: the review of this army therefore was the review of a body of 65,000 well-drilled, well-disciplined and orderly soldiers inured to hardship and fit for any duty, but without the experience of gathering their own food and supplies in an enemy’s country, and of being ever on the watch.

Sherman’s army was not so well-dressed as the Army of the Potomac, but their marching could not be excelled; they gave the appearance of men who had been thoroughly drilled to endure hardships, either by long and continuous marches or through exposure to any climate, without the ordinary shelter of a camp. They exhibited also some of the order of march through Georgia where the “sweet potatoes sprung up from the ground” as Sherman’s army went marching through. In the rear of a company there would be a captured horse or mule loaded with small cooking utensils, captured chickens and other food picked up for the use of the men. Negro families who had followed the army would sometimes come along in the rear of a company, with three or four children packed upon a single mule, and the mother leading it.
 The sight was varied and grand: nearly all day for two successive days, from the Capitol to the Treasury Building, could be seen a mass of orderly soldiers marching in columns of companies. The National flag was flying from almost every house and store; the windows were filled with spectators; the door-steps and side-walks were crowded with colored people and poor whites who did not succeed in securing better quarters from which to get a view of the grand armies. The city was about as full of strangers who had come to see the sights as it usually is on inauguration day when a new President takes his seat.
The Grand Review

Spectators at Capitol
[Washington, D.C. Spectators at side of the Capitol, which is hung with crepe and has flag at half-mast during the "grand review" of the Union Army]Within days, the discharges began and the soldiers began returning home.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere

A new THC series on the 50th anniversary of the release of each of the early singles of The Who, all but one of which flopped in the United States.

We've already missed the first, I Can't Explain, released on January 15, 1965 and which reached #8 on the U.K. charts (for more on that song see Louie Louie Turns 50).

Their second single, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere came out on May 21, 1965 and made it to #10.  Pete Townsend has always said this record much more accurately reflected The Who's live sound than did I Can't Explain.  It's more raucous and has more of that attitude The Who became known for.  Here are the boys bashing their way through it.The tattered remnants of The Who are just beginning The Who Hits 50 Tour.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 1935 Bismarck All-Stars ndstudies; Bismarck Tribune, August 9, 1935)

"It was in Bismarck, N.D.  There was a white man out there named Neil Churchill who liked baseball.  He was an auto distributor and he wanted a ball team for Bismarck.  He was fulla ambition for baseball for his town. . . . He gave me three autos.
In [1935] Churchill got a team together and that's my team of all-stars.  Never was such a team.  Man, couldn't beat that team.  Hit and field and, boy, did we have the pitchers.  We was a mixed team, colored and white.

We won the first Wichita semi-pro tournament and they barred us from playing.  No mixed teams.  Why, we was just too good, that's all.  But nobody paid no attention to us when we went into that National Tournament, but did we wallop 'em all.  Nobody could touch us.  And boy did them Bismarck people like us.  Those farmers that were our fans came to town with hats full of money to bet on us

That was the best team I ever saw; the best players I ever played with.  But who ever heard of them?"
- - Satchel Paige, from the Chicago Daily News, 6/18/43 (via North Dakota Integrated Baseball History)

Prior to 1947, organized professional baseball in the 20th century (both major and minor league) was segregated, leading to the formation of several Negro baseball leagues (for more see Forgotten Americans: Cumberland Posey Jr & Sr).  But during this same period there were some integrated teams at the semi-pro level (paid ballplayers on teams that arranged games among themselves outside of a formal league structure), particularly in Minnesota and North Dakota.  The best of these teams was the 1935 Bismarck team.  Though occasionally referred to as the "Churchills" after the team owner and manager, the team had no formal nickname and was often called simply The Bismarcks in the local papers.

As you can see from the picture above, the team was fully integrated with the core squad of six black and five white players.  The black players included three all-time greats from the Negro Leagues, Satchel Page, Hilton Smith and Theodore Roosevelt "Double Duty" Radcliffe, the first two of whom are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Satchel Paige (standing, center in the photo), arguably the greatest Negro League pitcher, was the team's star attraction.  He'd pitched briefly for the Bismarcks in 1933 but in 1935 they had him for the entire season.  Paige was maybe baseball's first true free agent.  Because he drew both whites and blacks he was able to cut his own, very lucrative, deal with teams and jump from team to team throughout his career.  His stint with the Bismarcks was no different.  He'd start and pitch a complete game every four or five days but would pitch one or two innings in most of the other games.  At one point, the Bismarcks played 32 games in 27 days and he pitched in all of them.  He usually received a salary plus a share of the gate.  For more about his remarkable, and long, career (he last pitched in the majors in 1965 at the age of 59, throwing three innings of shutout ball) see the post Don't Look Back.

Hilton Smith (standing, far left in the photo) was for long stretches Paige's teammate and fellow pitcher on the Kansas City Monarchs.  As quiet and reserved as Paige was colorful and flamboyant (his antics were resented by many Negro League players) he labored in Satchel's shadow even though many thought he was as good, or better, as a pitcher.  From 1939 to 1942 he posted records of 25-2, 21-3 25-1 and 22-5 and Bill James rated him as the best Negro Leagues pitcher in three seasons.

Double Duty Radcliffe (standing, far right in the photo) was both a pitcher and catcher, hence the nickname bestowed upon him by Damon Runyon, (for more on Runyon see Lessons In Anti-Trust Law - yes, that is correct) and played (and sometimes managed) in the Negro Leagues from 1928 through 1954, dying at the age of 103 in 2005. 

The other black players were:

 Quincy Troppe, a catcher who played in the Negro Leagues from 1932 to 1949.  He briefly played in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians as a 39-year old rookie in 1952.  On May 3 he teamed with pitcher Sam "Toothpick" Jones to form the first all-black battery in American League history.  Troppe's son became a professor at the University of California and biographer of Miles Davis.

Barney Morris and Red Haley who had briefer careers in the Negro Leagues.

The star white player was Vernon "Moose" Johnson who Churchill hired away from the Sioux City club of the Single A Western League where he'd hit 24 home runs in 235 at bats.  Moose had astonishing power.  The problem was he drank heavily and keeping him sober was a big challenge.  In the photo at top, Moose is just to the right of Satchel Paige.  What is unusual for that time is that Moose's hand is resting on Satchel's shoulder showing a degree of comradeship across racial lines that was rarely displayed publicly.  After hitting 25 home runs in 192 at bats for Bismarck, Vernon went back to the minor leagues after the '35 season ending his professional career in 1944.

The other white players were Don Oberholzer, Joe Desiderato (an outstanding batsman), Al Leary and Ed Hendee.

THC has been unable to find reliable season records for the team and players but suffice it to say they won a lot and lost infrequently but the pitchblack baseball website has a wonderful summary with plenty of highlights and hijinks featured.

The climax of the season occurred in mid-August when the Bismarcks participated in the first National Semipro Championship tournament held in Wichita, Kansas, a tournament that continues to this day under the name of the National Baseball Congress Tournament.  The great Honus Wagner was guest of honor for the event and joined Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson on the rules committee.  Thirty two teams participated and the Bismarcks won the trophy sweeping all seven games they played.  Satchel Paige appeared in five games, winning four and striking out 60, a tourney record that still stands.  For the season it is reported that Paige's record was 30-2 while pitching 331 innings.
(from pitchblack baseball)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Knowing What You Know Now

Having spent a little time recently watching CNN and other media outlets it appears the most important issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign is what Republican candidates think of the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 "knowing what you know now".  While THC admits finding some amusement watching the fumbling of Jeb Bush as he attempts to formulate precisely the right response, it also strikes him as a rather odd inquiry.  Perhaps a better one would be "given America's experiences in Iraq since 2003 what lessons do you draw for the future?".

The other curious aspect of the recent media inquiries is that none of the Republican candidates voted on the Iraq War resolution or were in significant and relevant policymaking positions at the time.

However, there is one announced candidate who not only voted on the Iraq war in 2003 but also played an important role in the other two key decision points regarding Iraq - the debate over whether to adopt the strategy known as the Surge in 2007 and the decision to completely withdraw from Iraq in 2011.  That candidate is Hilary Clinton. CBS News)

Ms Clinton was a United States Senator in 2003 and 2007 and Secretary of State in 2011.  Therefore THC anxiously awaits a surge of media inquiries along the following lines:
“Senator Clinton, in 2003 you voted in favor of the Iraq War and later admitted it was a mistake.

In 2007, you led the opposition in the Senate to the Surge and called those who developed the strategy liars.  Four years later President Obama remarked: “We remember the Surge and we remember the Awakening -– when the abyss of chaos turned toward the promise of reconciliation“. Based on what you know now would you have still opposed the Surge?

In 2011, as Secretary of State, you supported the President’s decision to withdraw American forces based upon his assessment that Iraq was now “stable and self-reliant” due to the success of the Surge. Based on the rise of ISIS, the collapse of the Iraqi Army and what you know now would you still have supported the withdrawal and the President’s assessment?”
Let's start a countdown clock until the media starts asking.  If Ms Clinton is smart (and we already know she's "likable enough") she'll respond: "what difference at this point does it make?"  The media can then nod approvingly and start attacking Republican candidates for being fixated on the past and not having a positive agenda for the future.  Sounds like a win-win strategy.

In the meantime, this is The Official Position Of This Blog on the 2016 election - No more Bushes, no more Clintons.