Posts Tagged ‘August’

The Saga of Eddie Gaedel

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

On August 19, 1951, Eddie Gaedel strode to home plate in a St. Louis Browns uniform adorned with the fraction 1/8 rather than a whole number, signifying his physical stature similar to that of the folks who set Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road.

Gaedel’s cup of coffee in the major leagues consisted of a single at-bat, when he faced Bob Cain of the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park.  In 2002, Fred Bucholz, the Browns’ batboy, recalled the game for St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Tom Wheatley.  “The fans were laughing, but no one said nothing in our dugout,” said Bucholz.  “They were just shocked.  Nothing like that had ever happened before.  Usually the guys would yell for someone to get a hit.  Here, nothing.”

A publicity stunt conceived by Browns owner Bill Veeck, Gaedel had a signed contract, giving him the legitimacy required to play in a Major League Baseball game.  Veeck embraced wackiness, seeing it as an added value for the fans.  In his second tenure as owner of the White Sox from 1976 to 1981, Veeck installed a shower in the centerfield bleachers so fans could cool off on hot Chicago days, instructed Harry Caray to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch, and commanded the White Sox to wear shorts in a gimmick that proved to last about as long as the notion of somebody defeating Richard J. Daley in a Chicago mayoral election between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s.

In his 2000 book The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns, Peter Golenbock cited Browns manager Zack Taylor as a source for the Gaedel idea.  Taylor said, “When I was with the Giants, we used to sit around the hotel lobby nights listening to the boss.  John McGraw never forgot a pitch of any game the Giants ever played under him.  And he always was scheming up new ways to win.  One time he came up with the idea that it might not be bad to carry a little fellow around and send him up to bat to get a base on balls if the score was tied in the ninth.

“Of course, nobody ever did it.  But I never forgot what McGraw said.  So when Veeck suggested hiring a little fellow, I told him what McGraw had said years before.  Veeck got on the phone to Chicago right away and checked up to find there wasn’t any rule against it.”

Veeck had only taken control of the Browns in July 1951, but acted swiftly to differentiate the Browns from their crosstown rivals, the Cardinals.  Promotion was, in Veeck’s view, the key to getting fans in the stands.

Gaedel was just one part of the entertainment designed by Veeck on August 19th.  In the Sporting News article “Day Veeck Outdid Himself; Midget Circus with Browns” marking the 30th anniversary of the event, legendary St. Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg explained, “Veeck had promised to put on a show, and the master promoter gave the fans a good buildup, which included free cake and ice creams as they entered the park and a lively between-games show.

“There was a juggler at first base, trampolinists at second and hand-balancers pyramided at third.  Baseball clown Max Patkin did his routines and Satchel Paige, playing the drums, led a poor man’s Pepper Martin Mudcat Band onto the field.

“Aerial bombs exploded miniature flags that floated onto the field.  Then, on signal, popping out of a large papier mache [sic] cake at the pitcher’s mound, came a cute little fellow dressed in a pre-shrunk Browns uniform.”

Sadly, Gaedel died in 1961, a result of a street mugging in Chicago.  In an article for the Winter 1987 edition of National Pastimea Society for American Baseball Research publication—republished in the March 1989 edition of Beckett Monthly, Jim Reiser wrote, “After the mugging, he apparently staggered home and died in his bed of a heart attack.  Paramedics were unable to revive him.  A coroner’s report said that Gaedel also had bruises on his knees and his face.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on August 19, 2015.

How the Great Falls Voyagers Got Their Name

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

More than a moniker, the name of a sports team may reflect local history, culture, and myth.  Baseball, certainly, has contributed to this linguistic equation.

San Diego is the site of the first Franciscan mission, hence the name Padres.

The West Virginia Power, the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, honors the Mountain State’s energy roots, including coal, hydro-electric, and natural gas.

Baltimore’s Orioles pay tribute to Maryland’s official bird.

The Sugar Land Skeeters ball club of the Atlantic League draws its name from the Texas pronunciation of “mosquitoes,” those pesky insects indigenous to the Houston area.

A UFO incident inspired the name of the Pioneer League’s team in Great Falls, Montana—Voyagers.  It happened in August 1950, when two objects in the Great Falls sky diverted a routine inspection of Legion Park—the home field for the Great Falls Electrics, a minor league team in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

Nicholas “Nick” Mariana, the general manager of the Electrics (or Selectrics, as the team was briefly known for the 1949 and 1950 seasons), had the duties of checking out the ballpark.  Accompanied by his secretary, 19-year-old Virginia Raunig, he saw two bright, silvery objects in the Great Falls sky.  Mariana fetched a 16-millimeter movie camera from his car to document the event.

A 2008 article on OurSports Central titled “Historic sighting spawns new image for Great Falls ball club” states the sighting’s impact:  “Media from across the nation reported on the sighting, and over the next two decades the film was examined and studied by UFO buffs, prominent scientists and engineers, the Air Force and even the CIA.  Often disputed but never refuted, the ‘Mariana Incident’ remains to this day one of the strongest cases supporting the existence of UFOs ever captured on film, and Great Falls, Montana maintains its place as one of the most active locations for UFO sightings in North America.”

The article also quoted Vinney Purport, the team president, who explained the reasoning behind the Great Falls baseball team choosing Voyagers as its new name beginning in 2008.  “The community owns the team—and it has for the past 60 years.  But it’s been hard to capture that feeling of ownership rooting for the Dodgers, Giants, or White Sox.  Now the team will continue to be the Great Falls Voyagers even if our major league affiliation happens to change.”

Did Mariana document voyagers from another planet, galaxy, or dimension?  Was it a hoax?  Is there a reasonable explanation?  Project Blue Book researched, catalogued, and analyzed thousands of UFO reports.  Mariana was not alone in witnessing or claiming to witness a UFO traveling across Earth’s skies.  The National Archives web site states, “On December 17, 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the termination of Project BLUE BOOK, the Air Force program for the investigation of UFOs.

“From 1947 to 1969, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Project BLUE Book.”

So, are we alone in the universe?  The National Archives summarizes the project’s findings.  “As a result of these investigations and studies and experience gained from investigating UFO reports since 1948, the conclusions of Project BLUE BOOK are: (1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security; (2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge; and (3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ are extraterrestrial vehicles.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on September 3, 2014.

The Good Old 1-2

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

RemingtonMany a cop has said that Barney Miller is the most realist cop show of all time.  Not Hill Street Blues.  Not Naked City.  Not Delvecchio.  Not Dragnet.  Not NYPD Blue.  Not even any of the shows in the Law & Order family.

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“L.A. Law” Retrospective (Part 6 of 8)

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

In Teleliteracy is Here…So Telefriend, Chapter 14 of his 1992 book Teleliteracy, television critic David Bianculli raises the issue of television programming rivaling literature for intelligence.

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Happy Anniversary, Elvis!

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

On this date in 1954, the Memphis airwaves debuted a singer.  And rock and roll was never the same.

The singer was Elvis Presley.

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