When you write freelance material for a client, it is great to be able to give them something that no one else has. Kind of like getting “the scoop” before any other news outlet, to put it in olde-timey journalistic parlance. Really it is about giving them something fresh to offer their followers. Digging a bit deeper than anyone else bothers to.
To illustrate what I’m talking about:
This Friday is the anniversary of the day that, in 1846, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York played the first known match under the official rules they had written up the year before. In the match they were destroyed by a club called the New York Nine, who thrashed the over-confident Knickerbocker Club by a score of 23-1 on the Knicks’ home turf, Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ.
I have noticed that history tends to come down to us in threes.
First there is the mythologized version of what happened.
Then there is “the real story.”
And then, when you dig a little deeper you get “the whole story.”
The myth was that Abner Doubleday had invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY seven years before the Knickerbocker vs. Nine match. The myth is the reason that to this day the National Baseball Hall of Fame is situated in Cooperstown. But it didn’t happen.
The “real story” is that Knickerbocker Club member Alexander Cartwright had written the rules the previous year. Often referred to as the “Cartwright Rules” it is a set of regulations so imperfectly perfect that they seem totally random and ordained from On High all at once.
But the “whole story” is that versions of the game were already being played by kids for probably hundreds of years before Cartwright. Though he probably played a huge role in the “invention” of baseball as it is played today, a great deal of the credit ought to go to another Knickerbocker Club member, Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams, and William Wheaton. As a matter of fact, Wheaton has claimed to have written up a set of rules for the Gotham Base Ball Club in 1837!
There is plenty of information, and there are plenty of accounts that have been dug up concerning their roles in early baseball that you can research on your own if you are interested.
That is “the scoop” I mentioned. That’s the “exclusive!” In the old days, in pursuit of “the scoop” a story would rarely reach the “real story” level, and certainly their was no time for the “whole story”. Fortunately it is a different time and Dailey Freelance can take the time to give you more depth. More substance.
I spend long stretches of time ’round the midnight hour on any given night watching endless streams of Major League Baseball clip montages. Some of them are year-in-review type videos from last season. Some of them have Willie Mays in them. Though the game has undoubtedly changed, to me baseball is baseball.
Which makes me wonder why I am so distressed at the growing possibility that an entire MLB season may never happen. And if it doesn’t happen, then I wonder what it would be like if Major League Baseball just never came back.
I don’t think that’s how this will all go down, but just what if?
I had a dream a couple of nights ago in which I was at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa fielding grounders from my wheelchair. I was flipping my chair over to make a play, and flipping right back up as if it were nothing. A reminder, perhaps that baseball is a simple game of the people. It grew from an absolutely non-formal kids game, to a leisure activity for working class men with written rules, to organized but non-professional clubs, to the professional leagues like we have today.
Even though it came from humble beginnings, a part of me feels like in today’s world, were the professional game suddenly removed from our national consciousness – the TV broadcasts, the merchandising, the obscenely expensive and flashy stadiums – that baseball might be like the ageless philosophical question about a tree that falls in the woods with no one there to hear it.
Another part of me knows very well that even without the pros, baseball would still be a thing, just on a very local level. And we’d all develop our own private histories of the game in our own little pockets of the world. And maybe that would make it more special to us. More intimate. I know many would feel that way about the game if only money were taken out of the equation.
With that in mind, I recently made the bold proclamation on my personal Facebook page that I was starting a new Major League Baseball and that there would be no salaries. I got a couple of guys signed up so far. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m really just speculating, but I can see that the NBA and NHL already appear to be on their way back to “game on!” And if MLB can’t return to the field just as gracefully, then it will not bode well for the professional game. Maybe there would still be some independent leagues around. With the promise of fame and fortune in the big leagues out of the question at least we’d know the players were in it for the love of the game.
Anyway baseball, in the form that we’ve come to know and love it down the generations, will be back. I know, because Terrence Mann told me so in “Field of Dreams.” He said:
The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.
People always ask me “Hey Dailey, why do you wear a Brooklyn Dodgers cap?”
I’m just kidding. Nobody calls me “Dailey” and they don’t ask me why I wear a Brooklyn Dodgers cap either. But I am a Minnesota boy and I have no ties to New York, so I’m going to tell you.
It comes down to three main reasons.
They represent a Golden Age of baseball. The very name “Brooklyn Dodgers” especially evokes a specific period. Though they’d been around since 1884, they really didn’t become “the Brooklyn Dodgers” of legend until about 1941. Between then and 1956 the Dodgers faced the Yankees in the World Series seven times. The era culminated in 1955 when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees to win it all for the first and only time while in Brooklyn. They moved to Los Angeles a season later, ending their cross-town rivalry with the Yankees.
Which brings me to my second reason.
They were the antithesis, the arch rival of the New York Yankees. And I, for one, see great value in that. I honestly don’t mind sports dynasties. In fact I rather like them. You have to be impressed by the consistency with which the Yankees won during this “Golden Age”. But they’ve been winning pretty consistently since about 1923 and the ’41-’56 Dodgers were the only team to challenge their dominance with such persistence.
In recent years almost every year we have a team in the World Series who hadn’t made it that far in a very long time. It’s nice to see. While I’ve never consciously rooted for “the underdog” it turns out that is precisely what I am talking about. And that is what the Brooklyn Dodgers were in this era whenever they faced the Yankees.
They were the franchise that, in 1947, broke the unwritten “Color Line” which had stood in Major League Baseball since the 1880s. When Brooklyn’s GM Branch Rickey signed a young multi-sport athlete and former military man, Jackie Robinson, he wasn’t looking for the best player. He was looking for a man of character. That is what he got first and foremost. But Robinson’s success – along with that of others who quickly followed – ensured that Major League Baseball would open its doors to a huge pool of talent which would revitalize and revolutionize the game for decades to come.
For these reasons, I have a reverence for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and I wear their “B” insignia with pride.
I have a cousin who is a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Every time I discuss his team with him, I am sure to refer to them as the “Brooklyn Dodgers” just to amuse myself. Los Angeles doesn’t seem right for them anyway ever since I discovered their full moniker was the “Trolley Dodgers”. For that reason, I’ve always felt like when they left Brooklyn, they should have relocated to San Francisco. Maybe New Orleans. You know, for continuity.
Well, I’ll just keep on calling them the Brooklyn Dodgers forever probably.
This year marks 100 years since eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from Major League Baseball for life. They allegedly accepted money from gamblers in exchange for intentionally losing the 1919 World Series. At least one of them, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, had been a sure Hall of Famer, until then.
In the fallout of the scandal, MLB’s first Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw M. Landis was appointed, and swiftly moved to clean up the various methods of chicanery that had existed in baseball, under the radar and out in the open, for decades.
Now we are engaged in a another great scandal, one that threatens to defile our national game. See, to some of us, baseball is still our national game. It, in fact, belongs to the world, but the point is, to some of us, in the words of Terrence Mann in “Field of Dreams”, “it reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.”
But I don’t want to sound naïve about the sanctity of the game. Baseball was tainted by cheating before 1919, it has been since, and will probably continue to be in one way or another.
When the Houston Astros cheating story first broke I was of the mind that:
1. The rule book does not say anything about using electronic devices to steal signs (my 2017 version doesn’t anyway). 2. Every team could do the same thing the Astros did if they felt like it. 3. On the subject of “unwritten rules” I argued to a friend that “the rule book doesn’t ban the use of flamethrowers to retire a baserunner but I’m pretty sure you can’t do it.”
When I really let it sink in what was going on with the Astros, I realized I did not want the game to be allowed to become “the Digital Pastime.” I already can’t stand the idea of robot umpires, and I don’t want every batter of every game knowing what pitch is coming. There are already too many home runs, and many baseball lovers have not fully moved past the steroids scandal of the 1990s and early 2000s.
We found out not too long ago that one of the most sacred moments in baseball history – Bobby Thomson’s home run that won the 1951 National League pennant, known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – was a result of the use of an electronic device similar to the one the Astros are suspected of using. So again, there has been shady activity down the ages in baseball. But the Houston Astros, though unprecedentedly orchestrated in their efforts to cheat, also chose to do it at a time when social media made it impossible for some evidence to go unnoticed by the watchful eyes of fans taking it upon themselves to sound the alarm. A video blogger/podcaster called Jomboy, for one, was pointing out suspicious incidents months ago. Different teams had apparently been trying to bring certain incidents to the attention of Commissioner Rob Manfred for a while already before the story blew up last week.
What if ONLY the pitcher and the catcher are allowed to use buzzers? The catcher would send his sign to the pitcher by pressing a button on a device he has, and the pitcher would receive one or two or three buzzes depending on the pitch the catcher wants served up.
Could work, but it is troublesome for two reasons:
1. A catcher’s pitch-calling can be complex when you consider not only is he calling what pitch but he is calling for slow or fast pitches, as well as high, low, inside and outside pitches.
2. It would totally eliminate a part of the game which is not only totally legal, but one of the most cerebral part of the game. Base runners stealing signs from second base without the use of electronics or cameras, but with the player’s own eyes.
When a baserunner reaches second base, it is perfectly legal for him to watch the catcher’s signs and match them up with what pitch is then thrown. He can then signal to his teammate at bat about what pitch is coming. He can go back to his dugout after the inning and tell the whole team what signs the opponents are using.
Of course nothing can be done with that information unless you have a runner on second to relay the signs. But there are a ton of other ways to tell what pitch is coming which are also perfectly legal. All that is required is a team of ballplayers using their brains. If you’re a batter and there are no baserunners, the opposing infielders know their catcher’s signs. They know what pitch is coming. They know they need to move either to the left or right depending on whether the pitch is going to be inside or outside. They know to move back or in depending on whether the pitch is going to be low or high. That generally will predict to which side the batter will hit, and whether he’ll hit a ground ball or a fly ball.
It is not a perfect science but it is fairly predictable and it is legal. Nobody has to risk million dollar contracts to do it. Nobody has to put the integrity of the game at risk to do it.
All of this is very sad to me, as a fan. I could go on and on about my feelings about it. I’ve been counting down to Opening Day since well before Christmas. I look forward to warm day in the sun at the ballpark with my wife. You go through the turnstile and head inside, up the ramp, among the crowds of fans wearing the same hat as you. You get to your section and as you turn to take your seat, you suddenly see that wide expanse of green grass in the outfield, contrasting with the brown dirt. You see the towering levels of grandstands in the outfield. You settle in and all your cares seem to go away as you wait for the National Anthem, and the umpire yelling “Play ball!”
I still look forward to a day at the ballpark. I still love our game.
I am not just a writer. I am also an historian. Of many things. I have always found myself becoming very curious about the origins of things. What the thing was before it was what it is now, and how it got from there to here. These are the kinds of things I really enjoy doing as a professional blogger . In doing so, I can talk about an interesting aspect of the industry a client is in, and tie it in directly with what their company does!
Here are a few examples:
Let’s say my client is a rock band:
Rock and roll – You might think of Elvis, or maybe Chuck Berry, or “Rock Around the Clock” when they think of the roots of rock and roll music. But it’s a bit of an internet parlor game to find examples of rhythm and blues, swing, or “jump blues” songs from the 1940s or even the 1930s that meets the criteria for being rock and roll. Personally, the earliest examples I’ve found convincing are from the mid-forties. Anyway there are too many candidates for the distinction to mention here. Google “proto-rock” if you want to hear some of them.
How about a record store?:
Jazz music – Most jazz aficionados can probably tell you that jazz began with Charles “Buddy” Bolden’s band from about 1895-1907. But there were various brass bands in New Orleans (the Eureka, the Olympia, etc.) from the late 1870s and certainly in the 1880s. This was not “jazz” but you take what they were doing, you mix it up with some blues and you’ve got a reasonable facsimile of what the brass bands of today are doing. There are mentions of brass bands during the Civil War era (Charles Bothe’s Brass Band). The whole brass craze seemed to have kicked off around 1838 when the local newspaper reported a sudden infestation of every street corner with bands. That’s about as far back as I’ve been able to track it.
But enough music. Let’s say I scored my dream blogging job and got to write for a professional baseball team.
Baseball – The beginnings of baseball are an incredibly murky subject. How the game is played evolved over time, for one thing. But there are other issues. Conventional baseball history goes backward like this:
The major leagues as we know them began in 1901 when the American League joined the National League. The NL had formed in 1876.
The National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs operated from 1871-1875 and is widely recognized today as the first “major league.”
The first all-professional team was the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings (not the same organization as the modern day Cincinnati Reds, nor the Boston Red Sox).
The first players to be paid probably did so in the early 1860s.
The first league, though amateur, was the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1857.
The first set of rules is said to have been written up in 1845 by members of the New York Knickerbocker Club, though there is some controversy about this.
There were clubs forming all over the place in the 1830s who played a game that was a forerunner to what we know as baseball today.
The earliest reference to a ball game being organized ahead of time and reported in a New York newspaper was from the spring of 1823.
In 1792 there was city law in Pittsfield, MA banning kids from playing baseball in town for fear they’d break windows.
A poem from the 1744 “Little Pretty Pocketbook” describes a game that clearly resembles what we know.
That is as far as that one goes, for me. I could go on and on but I won’t.
Baseball history is a treasure trove of stories that will be retold down the ages. Since the advent of film of course, many of them have been captured for all time. We, the fans, can watch them over and over, and create our own stories about them. Especially if we were there to see it, or were watching it on TV when it happened, we can add our own personal take one what the event meant to us as fans.
The following is a list of some of my favorite moments, all of which occurred during my lifetime, many of which I actually saw on TV. I could not possibly put them in order of anything resembling least to most memorable. I will not try, though some are obviously bigger than others:
1. Boston Red Sox, 2004 ALCS: The Red Sox overcame the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning their first World Series in 86 years in 2004, but it wasn’t that moment that I will always remember from that season. It was the moment they finished off a 4-3 ALCS win over the Yankees to put them in the Fall Classic to begin with. Not only had the Red Sox suffered countless heartbreaks at the hands of the Yankees over the years (including just the year before) but in 2004, they were down three games to zero before going on a stunning, and unprecedented run of four straight wins to clinch that ALCS. Game 3 had been particularly brutal for the Sox, falling 19-8. I’ve always been interested in how that score gives a subtle nudge to “1918” the last time the Red Sox had won the World Series, not to mention that the whole “curse” began when the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, so it was appropriate that they went through New York to break the curse.
2. Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series: When the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians to win their first World Series in 108 years, I did not miss a moment of the Series. Even when Game 7 went until about 1 a.m. and I had to work the next day, I stuck with it. The Cubs had been up 6-3 but blew the lead in the 8th inning. Not only did the game go extra innings but to add to the drama, there was a rain delay before the final frame. They put up two runs in the top of the tenth for an 8-6 lead, but gave up a run in the bottom half, and had a runner on with two outs. One swing could have taken it all away. But Michael Martinez grounded out to Kris Bryant to give the Cubs and all their “Please, just once in my lifetime!” fans the celebration they’d been waiting for since before World War I. What I will always remember about this moment was the replay in slow motion. Seeing that this was his chance to be an immortal hero if only in Chicago, Bryant’s face suddenly beams in a big grin as the grounder rolls his way, and only gets bigger as he fields it and tosses to Rizzo at first base. By the time the ball was in Rizzo’s glove, all-out child-like euphoria had erupted on Bryant’s face. Moments like these are why they play the game to begin with, I think.
3. Gene Larkin wins the 1991 World Series: I am a Minnesota boy and a Twins fan, so the last time the Twins won the World Series has a special place in my heart. I have vivid memories of my brother taking control of my wheelchair and pushing me around the house as we both screamed with glee after Larkin, kind of a no-name utility player for the Twins at the time, became an immortal in Minnesota when he knocked a single into the outfield to bring Dan Gladden, and the World Series trophy home.
4. Kirby Puckett’s catch and HR in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series: Okay so this is two things but kind of like I can’t rank these in order of memorable-ness, I can’t even separate these two in any way. Can’t do it. Kirby Puckett was every Minnesota boy’s favorite player during his tenure with the Twins. I first heard his name in 1986 and became a fan during their run at the championship in 1987, but in the 1991 World Series with the Twins on the verge of falling to the Atlanta Braves (at the Metrodome even!) Puck took matters into his own hands. First he made a leaping catch to rob Ron Gant of probably a double that would have put two runs in scoring position if not driven in a run. Then he ended game six with a home run off Charlie Leibrandt that tied the series at three games apiece. I’m watching it right now, and getting chills hearing Jack Buck announce “We will see you…tomorrow night!?” as the ball sailed over the fence.
5. Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning walk-off home run: I am a Twins fan, but really when it comes down to it I am a baseball fan. I treasure those moments that you might only see once in your life time. I re-live this one every October. When The Toronto Bluejays outfielder Joe Carter hit his World Series-winning home run off Phillies closer Mitch Williams, he did something that nobody had done since Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates did it in 1960, and nobody has done since. The sheer joy of Joe Carter in this moment makes it absolutely timeless. Side note, it was probably one of the loudest moments in baseball history. Once again, chills. The Toronto Skydome was known to be the echo chamber of Major League Baseball.
6. 1989 World Series Earthquake: In 1989, the entire World Series was played in the earthquake-prone San Francisco Bay Area when the Giants faced the Oakland Athletics. Just before Game 3, the camera began to shake, then the broadcast went in and out, then the screen went blank. Then there was a graphic that simply said “World Series” on the screen for several minutes while the audio feed came back and announcer Al Michaels tried to figure out what to do next. This was an odd one because I don’t remember whether the video came back eventually or if they just went off the air. Obviously there was no game that night, but one of the enduring images I have of the event, I think came from a Sports Illustrated cover from the aftermath, with Giants pitcher Kelly Downs carrying a kid to safety. It was one of those moments when we realize that the game doesn’t really matter as much as we might think it does. The kind of moment when these athletes, these superstars, become human once again.
7. George Brett’s Pine Tar Bat Flip-out: George Brett played ball with a fire that we hadn’t seen since Pete Rose in his younger days, and we wouldn’t see again, arguably, until Bryce Harper came along. The game mattered to him. This is probably why he came the closest to finishing a full season with an average anywhere near .400 in a very long time. So whether there was too much pine tar on his bat or not that day in 1983, Brett vehemently felt there was not, obviously, or he was really putting in an Oscar-winning performance in his protest. Either way, that fire in his belly that brought him screaming out of the dugout to argue with the umpire was the same fire he played with all those years that made him a legend. Plus I just like watching players flip out, I guess.
8. Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Ventura: This, simply put, is just the funniest moment in the history of baseball for me. Robin Ventura of the White Sox was 26 years old at the time. Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers, was a living legend, 20 years Ventura’s senior, and a couple of months away from retirement. He had nothing to lose, didn’t give a damn, and he certainly wasn’t going to take any crap from any punk kid. So when he hit Ventura with a pitch, and Ventura charged the mound, Ryan took the opportunity to teach the kid a valuable lesson by putting him in a headlock and rearranging his face for him.
9. Armando Gallaraga’s non-perfect game: It is hard to call this a favorite, because it was really unfortunate. Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was one out away from a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians in 2010, when he got the 27th batter to hit a grounder to the right side. Gallaraga covered first base and took the throw seemingly in time, stepped on the bag, and began to put his hands up in triumph when he realized the umpire Jim Joyce called the batter safe. Detroit manager Jim Leyland came out to issue a fiery rebuke of the call. But it was too late. It goes down in history as a one hitter. Jim Joyce took the protests from coaches, players and fans with grace, and the next day he tearfully met Gallaraga on the field face to face when he took the lineup cards from each team. It was inspiring to see how he owned up to his error, but equally inspiring to see how Gallaraga took it in stride even while so many others could not accept that what was done was done even after the game was over.
What are some of your favorite baseball moments that you’ve witnessed in your lifetime?