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Ty Cobb and Myths

Ty Cobb (1886-1961), the Georgia Peach. One of the greatest ball players who ever strapped on cleats, he has also been long regarded as a violent racist and a dirty player.  According to a recent biographer, he was neither:

 

 

History, is, or should be, a continuing search for the truth.  In regard to Ty Cobb it appears that the search for the truth about him is bearing fruit.  He was neither an angel nor a monster but a work in progress throughout his life, as we all are.

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June 1, 1917: Hank Gowdy Enlists

Hank Gowdy was a great ball player and a great patriot.   The high point of his ball career was in the 1914 World Series where he was the most valuable player for winning the World Series for the Boston Braves.  In 1917 he was 28 years old and at his peak as a ball player.  On June 1, he turned his back on fame and fortune, enlisting in the Army, the first major leaguer to do so .  He served in the 166th regiment of the Rainbow Division in France, going through some of the worst trench fighting that American troops experience in the War.  Coming home from the War in one piece, he resumed his career with the Braves.  In 1923 he was traded to the Giants.  After he retired from ball played, he served as a coach with the Braves, the Giants and the Reds.

When the US entered World War II, Gowdy enlisted in the Army again, despite being 53.  Among other duties he served as chief athletic officer at Fort Benning.  He was the only major leaguer to serve in both world wars.  After the War he served as coach and manager for the Reds, retiring from baseball in 1948.  He passed away in 1966 at age 76. Continue Reading

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May 24, 1935: First Night Game in Major League Baseball

Eighty-two years ago the first major league baseball game was  played under the lights, adding a new dimension to the game of Summer, and making it more accessible to most people who work for a living during the day.  The first baseball game under artificial illumination was played in 1880, the year after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.  However the major league teams did not embrace this innovation for over a half century.  Economic need, as usual, was the driver involved in making night major league ball a reality.  Almost all ball teams struggled during the Great Depression and attendance at games was a matter of life or death for the teams.  Some minor league teams and teams of the Negro League had been playing ball under the lights since 1930.

Leland “Larry” MacPhail and Powel Crosley, the general manager and the owner of the Cincinnati Reds, noticed that minor league teams were drawing big crowds playing night games.  The Reds were averaging 2000-3000 fans a game, their loyal followers being simply unable to miss a precious day of work during the hard times in the middle of the Depression.  They took the bold stance of putting in lights at Crosley Field, hang the expense despite the precarious financial condition of the Reds.  The first night game was set for May 24, 1935 against the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Reds won two-one and 20,000 fans witnessed it, as 632 flood lights illumined the field.  Night ball was here to stay. Continue Reading

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October 14, 1908: Cubs Win the World Series

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States when the Cubs last won the World Series on October 14, 1908, defeating the Detroit Tigers 2-0.  Just barely within human memory, about one hundred Americans are still alive now who were alive then.  It was the second World Series win for the Cubs, their first being the year before in 1907.  Why the Cubs have had this championship drought, other than bad ball playing, has been a matter of much speculation.  The most popular explanation is the Curse of the Billy Goat.

In 1945 Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was attending game four of the World Series being held in Wrigley Field, once again the Chicago Cubs facing the Detroit Tigers.  This being Chicago where odd characters are as common as blustery politicians, he brought his pet goat Murphy with him to the game.  Other patrons complained that the goat stank.  Sianis was thrown out.  As he was leaving Sianis was heard to say,“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more!”.

When the Cubs lost the series, Sianis sent a telegram to P.K. Wrigley, the owner of the Cubs:  “Who stinks now?Continue Reading