Posted by: Namar | October 31, 2011

Rangers here, Rangers there, Rangers, Rangers everywhere

Long before Josh Hamilton; before catcher Hal King singled off Andy Messersmith for the first base hit in Texas MLB history (in a 1-0 loss to the California Angels in the team’s first game), there were other Texas Rangers.

“Ranger” is from Middle French se ranger, to take up a position, also from ranger to set in a row, and before that, renc, to line up (which later became rank). The original Texas Rangers, (from the 1820s, and were founded as a volunteer corps), set up a ‘row’ in a way, to prevent Native American Indian attacks. Later the Rangers became lawmen; their exploits have become legendary. In 1835, the year before the Republic of Texas was born, the rangers became an official, full-time corps that was paid to defend the frontier.

The United States annexed Texas in 1845 and protection of the frontier became a federal responsibility; the rangers then reverted to a volunteer, militia-type organization. Under John Coffee (Jack) Hays, they fought in federal service during the Mexican War, winning national attention for their skill and bravery. Reorganized in 1874, the rangers–with the gradual end of the Indian wars–became a statewide law-enforcement agency responsible for suppressing feuds and riots, controlling cattle thefts, and capturing train robbers. Since 1935 they have operated as a branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Bass Outlaw, a Texas Ranger, had some important hits in his day.

As for the Josh Hamilton-Elvis Andrus bunch, they’ll be back next season, trying to posse-up and track down that “Worl’ Champeen-chip’ gang.

Good Luck.

Posted by: Namar | October 11, 2011

V is for victory, the Liri Valley …and Verlander

World War II drained manpower from Major League baseball, as players reported for their military assignments. Hank Greenberg was the Tiger’s first “star player” to be drafted, entering the service seven months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He received his honorable discharge over 4 years later. In July, 1945, 47,000 fans came to Briggs Stadium to welcome him home. Greenberg marked his return by hitting a home run against the Athletics in the eighth inning.

There could be no doubt that Greenberg was back. He played only seventy-eight regular season games that year. During those seventy-eight games, he hit thirteen homers and batted in sixty runs. But the most memorable game of the season was the last one.

Hank GreenbergThe Tigers found themselves in a pennant race with the Washington Senators. The Tigers only needed one win to advance to the World Series. On September 30, they played a double-header against the Browns in St. Louis.

At the end of the sixth inning of the first game, Detroit led the St. Louis Browns 2-1. St. Louis scored two runs in the seventh and then led 3-2. That score remained as Detroit went to bat at the top of the ninth inning.

Harvey Walker batted a single. James Webb then bunted to sacrifice. Browns’ first baseman George McQuinn threw late to second, however, and both Walker and Webb were safe. Next came a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk. The bases were thus loaded with one out as “Hammerin'” Hank Greenberg strode up to home plate. Greenberg swung at the first pitch – and hit it right into the bleachers for a grand slam home run. Greenberg’s teammates said that they never saw him happier. The Browns failed to score any further, and the game ended with a 6-3 win by Detroit! The second game was called by rain after one inning, but to most fans, that didn’t matter. The Detroit Tigers were going to the World Series!

While the Brown’s fans were disappointed that day, the Cardinal fans in St. Louis had a good time cheering for their team that finished just 3 games behind the Cubs.  One of those fans spent time in 1944 fighting in the Liri Valley  at the Rapido River, Italy. You can read his heroic account here.

Veterans returned home after the war to resume their lives…and to root for their favorite teams once again. Today’s ballplayers are a link to that past, and some are actively involved in rewarding the dedication and sacrifice these soldiers continue to make for us all.

Detriot Tigers ace Justin Verlander(whose grandfather fought in WWII) created a recognition program called “Victory for Veterans”.

Justin Verlander, speaking in front of an image of Hank Greenberg

For each of his home starts, Verlander gives his luxury suite to veterans and their families to enjoy the game. Participating veterans are all patients at the Detroit VA Medical Center and the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System. All have sustained illness or injury in Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation Enduring Freedom.

“So many brave men and women sacrifice each and every day so that we as Americans can enjoy our freedom and live safely,” said Verlander.

“This is a one in a million chance,” said one Veteran in attendance. “He’s my favorite player, Tigers are my favorite team, so this is a win-win for all of us!”

The idea of selecting a Most Valuable Player was introduced by automobile maker Hugh Chalmers who offered a brand Chalmers Model 30 auto to the player with the highest batting average in each league, to be chosen by a select committee of baseball writers. 100 years later, the Chalmers brand is currently owned by Chrysler and the MVP in each league receives the Keensaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award (thought they would likely prefer a car).

In that same year, business owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris had a million-dollar-a-year business making shirts in a very competitive industry. But instead of promotion, they sought to increase business another way, demanding greater efficiency from their employees, and preventing any possibility of pilfering. A foreman monitored the largely female immigrant workforce during the day, inspected the women’s bags as they left for the night, and ordered the secondary exit door to be locked so nobody cold sneak out with a shirt.

In March 1911, one of the greatest industrial tragedies in U.S. history occurred  when 146 workers died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist company in New York City. The victims had been trapped by blocked exit doors and faulty fire escapes.

After the disaster Rose Schneiderman, a Polish-born former hat worker who had once led a strike at the Triangle factory, spoke:

I would be a traitor to those poor burned bodies, if I were to come here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public—and we have found you wanting.

The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today: the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch fire.

This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in this city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred! There are so many of us for one job, it matters little if 140-odd are burned to death.

We have tried you, citizens! We are trying you now and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers and brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable, the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.

Public officials have only words of warning for us—warning that we must be intensely orderly and must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back when we rise—back into the conditions that make life unbearable.

I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. And the only way is through a strong working-class movement.

That same year, a group of ballplayers, including the game’s biggest stars like Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson), formed the Fraternity of Professional Base Ball Players (FPBBP). Owners simply ignored the Fraternity and this disregard for players’ voices helped lead to the foundation of the Federal League in 1913.   To help drive out the Federal League, owners agreed to recognize the FPBBP and agreed to a few demands: owners now paid for uniforms, and outfield fences were painted green so batters could see the ball better and not get hit as often. Once the Federal League died out, owners began to ignore the players again, in many cases reverting their salaries back to pre-Federal League levels, and in some cases lowering them even further. The Federal League and the Fraternity flared out, and poor conditions continued.

The Major League Baseball Players Association was created in 1953. In 1968, Miller negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the team owners, which raised the minimum salary from $6,000 to $10,000 per year. MLBPA changed the landscape of professional sports forever, serving notice that highly skilled athletes would seek the same basic employment rights that people in other professions had long taken for granted.

Quotes on the Labor of Our National Game of Baseball

“The rights of the laboring man will be protected, and cared for, not by the labor agitator but by the Christian men to whom God has given control of the property interests in this country.” George Baer, Reading Railroad president, 1902.

“Professional baseball players are going to have to decide if they are common laborers or professional men. If they are going to be dealt as laborers then they should accept all the conditions of the laborer.  If they are going to be professional men who practice a special craft, they should travel on their individual merits… I cannot see a major league baseball player demeaning himself to the status of a unionized laborer.” Furman Bisher,  Atlanta Constitution.

Professional ballplayers are “highly paid parts of an activity which contributes nothing to the gross national product except popcorn sales, whose skills [are] not transferable to anything that mattered.”

Posted by: Namar | September 23, 2011

Jacques Barzun: Capitalism changed America’s pastime

In one of his thought-provoking books, writer/historian Jacques Barzun argued with passion against the arrogant materialism that became so pervasive by the turn of the century… the 19th century.  He found baseball as one of the last vestiges of the American‘s puritan origins. It was a cultural declaration of independence.

“That baseball fitly expresses the powers of the nation’s mind and body is a merit separate from the glory of being the most active, agile, varied, articulate, and brainy of all group games. It is of and for our century… The idea of baseball is a team, an outfit, a section, a gang, a union, a cell, a commando squad–in short, a twentieth century setup of opposite numbers.

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game — and do it by watching first some high school or small-town teams.”  —God‘s Country and Mine (1954)

Jacques Barzun

The scholar Jacques Barzun has commented, favorably and not, on baseball.

In the decades that followed, baseball has undergone significant changes, most of them economically driven. A ‘game’ that evolved into a sport has become a business, forcing much, if not most of what made it great to the bench, or cut from the team altogether.

But in 2009, Barzun realigned his views regarding the drastic economic changes that have transformed baseball.

“The commercialization is beyond anything that was ever thought of, the overvaluing, really, of the game itself. It’s out of proportion to the place an entertainment ought to have.

“Other things are similarly commercialized and out of proportion, but for baseball, which is so intimately connected with the nation’s spirit and tradition, it’s a disaster.

“Baseball is the most complex sport and the least physical. It doesn’t depend on butting and bashing. It calls for lightning judgment and response at every moment of play, together with accuracy of eye and power of arm and leg for hitting, running, and throwing. And it is a wonderfully cooperative game in which the continually changing conditions bring on a variety of rules and opportunities.

“Those features seemed to me, when I made the statement in 1954, to mirror the character of our individual behavior, our social and business relations, and our sense of organization generally. We have fallen away from this standard to an appalling degree—we blunder repeatedly, “the honest mistake” regularly accounts for the predictable error. We utter stupidly offensive words, followed by apologies. Our legislatures dither and act too late. Industry and corporations are outsourcing because it’s more fun for CEOs to buy and sell companies than run them. It’s only a matter of time till baseball bats are stamped “Made in China.” Anyhow, allegiance to a team is no longer possible; the free-player system scrambles the lot, and the salaries paid introduce an element of disgust in what used to be the joy of being a fan.”

Alas, baseball, along with America, has changed. Hand-in-hand they have marched together onward, evolving into a new breed of what each once was. Perhaps better, perhaps worse, but each unlikely to ever return to its former embodiment, despite any and all protestations by even its most vehement supporters.

Posted by: Namar | September 17, 2011

benet and baseball

The history of the world is littered with empires who, through their strength, left behind many gifts for us to enjoy.  But just as many wasted the power the wielded.

“We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.”
-Stephen Vincent Benet, Litany for Dictatorships, 1935

Benet (1898–1943) knew of power and its abuse, experiencing first-hand ugly beating by schoolmates who bullied him because he preferred books to athletics. At 17, he published his first book, Five Men and Pompey (1915), a collection of verse, and featured American Names:

"I have fallen in love with American names,
The sharp names that never get fat,
The snakeskin titles of mining claims,
The plumed war bonnet of Medicine Hat,
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat....

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmédy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee."

At the very heart of America’s obsession with baseball is a love of nicknames. Benet would have appreciated the view of America’s pastime taken by William “Sugar” Wallace in his poem Anthem.

The Georgia Peach,
The Fordham Flash,
The Flying Dutchman. Cot.
The People's Cherce, The Blazer.
The Staten Island Scot.
Skeeter, Scooter,
Ebba, Bama, Boomer, Buster...

The Little Professor, The
Iron Horse. Cap.
Iron Man, Iron Mike, Iron Hands. Hutch.
Jap, The Mad
Russian, Irish, Swede. Nap.
Germany, Frenchy, Big Serb, Dutch,
Turk. Tuck,
Tug, Twig.
Spider, Birdy, Rabbit, Pig.



Todays game: the Philadelphia Giants come out to play the Rockford Peaches at Elysium Field East.

Posted by: Namar | September 15, 2011

Medals Roll Call: The U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor

This nation's highest award

President Obama awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to former Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer.

The Congressional Medal of Honor is a five-pointed bronze star bearing in relief the head of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, encircled by the words “United States of America” and by a laurel wreath of green enamel. The medal is suspended from a bar on which is inscribed the word “Valor” and surmounted by an eagle, which is attached to a light-blue ribbon bearing thirteen white stars. The ribbon, in turn, is suspended from a neckband of light-blue watered-silk ribbon twenty inches long.

All other American medals are worn pinned to the left breast, but the Medal of Honor is worn on a ribbon around the neck.

Posted by: Namar | September 15, 2011

Let Freedom Ring: Joe D. and Marilyn

Joe D. and Marilyn are here. United in love and undistracted by the demands put upon them by their fans throughout their lives.

They married in 1954. She was 27, he was 39. During their honeymoon in Tokyo an American general had introduced himself and asked if, as a patriotic gesture, she would visit the troops in Korea. She looked at Joe for an answer. He said “go ahead if you want to.”

She appeared on 10 occasions before 100,000 servicemen, and when she returned, she said, “it was so wonderful, Joe. You never heard such cheering.”

“Yes, I have,” he said.

– Gay Talese

Marilyn Monroe performs for freedom

Freedom Lovers: Though she caught pneumonia on the tour, Marilyn told a friend the Korea tour was a highlight of her career.

See more of Marilyn in Korea.

Posted by: Namar | September 11, 2011

Celebrate Freedom on Opening Day

It’s a beautiful day on Elysium Island. The sun glows and the air is breezy warm and there is a game of baseball about to be played. It’s our first at the Island, and so there is some pageantry, bands, singing, speeches, dance. But no stadium, no box seats, no walls. They are the invention of commercialization. Baseball was born in an open field. No walls. No stands. No admission. Just the freedom to play, and to watch those who play.

The only restrictions of any kind are the lines of whitewash marking the baselines. These lines extend from home to–well, infinity. They mark the boundaries for the players, with an indefinite suggestion, one easily crossed over–and back–as a player leaves home, and finds his way back there again ultimately…or not

The First Responders have the honor today they will be the visitors, as always. They are playing the Roman Aediles. The Aediles are an aspiring bunch, committed to public service, always to hold public festivals and games, an excellent way to increase his name recognition and popularity. The First Responders are always ready to play.

Cicero once said, “If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace to stop at even the second, or the third, place.”  He’ll coach third base for both teams.

Play Ball.

Freedom to go home on Elysium Island.

Cicero sends home all hopeful runners Vi Et Armis (by force of arms).

Posted by: Namar | July 12, 2011

Symbols of Time, Affection, Affinity

baseball president

Something about symbols fascinates us. They can often take on more meaning, more value than the things they represent.

Take baseball cards. I liked a lot of the cards I owned much more than man of the players themselves. maybe because they were mine; I owned them.

The Grandpa in Ohio probably didn’t love the cards he tucked away. The thought is he got them as a promotion and tied them with string (you don’t throw anything out) and stuck them in the attic where they stayed for two generation, –more than a century. When they were discovered by family cleaning out the attic a few weeks ago, it had become a treasure chest.

Sports card experts say we may never again a find of this quality and that every future find will be compared to this. Sixteen Ty Cobbs, and at least one Honus Wagner (the holy grail of all baseball cards).

They will sell them. And they will get a good price, because people want them.

Field of Dreams reminded us: “This game is part of our past…It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”

Cards are symbols, and so are our leaders. Mick Daze has a great idea to combine to two with the artistic effort pictured here.

Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors.
Jim Morrison

1910 Baseball cards article.

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