Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strange But True Tidbits

Hey trivia buffs. I thought that this week I would share a few items I've come across in my readings (in books not websites – I am a bit old fashioned) of late.

Denton True Young, who threw the first pitch in a World Series game, threw so hard in the minor leagues that the fences behind the plate looked like they had been hit by a cyclone. The nickname Cyclone was shortened to Cy. In 1890 the Cleveland Spiders acquired Cy from the Canton club – for a tailored suit. Good deal.

The 1930's Cardinals, a.k.a. the Gas House gang, had some tough customers. Pepper Martin, their fiery third basemen, hated to field bunts and he punished clubs that used the tactic. Before a 1938 game against the Boston Braves Martin approached their manager, Casey Stengal, and warned him not to let his players bunt. Casey, of course, immediately instructed his players to bunt on Martin as often as possible.

In response, Martin began throwing not to his first baseman, but at the runners' heads. Eventually the tactic took a toll. Elbie Fletcher came to the plate for the Braves and laid down a bunt. As soon as the seething Martin moved to field it Fletcher bolted, fearing for his life – towards his dugout.

Golden Glove Awards are intended to recognize outstanding defensive prowess. But voters continually allow a player's offensive production to influence their choices.

Perhaps the most glaring example was the 1999 American League Gold Glove winner at first base, Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro blasted 47 home runs that year and he hit .324. He didn't embarrass himself at first base, but then again he didn't get much chance to. He played only 28 games at first and another 134 at his primary position – designated hitter!

Ever wonder why left-handed pitchers are called southpaws? Well the explanation is quite simple. In its first several decades baseball was played in the afternoon. and because it was imperative that the hitters not be staring into the setting afternoon sun, diamonds were constructed so that the hitters faced east. This meant that the pitchers faced west and left handers' arms were on the south side.

Why are strikeouts recorded as K's? In baseball's infancy in the 1860's newspaper writer Henry Chadwick wanted an elaborate system of scoring to record what had happened so he could write detailed accounts of what each 'side' did. He had already used S for sacrifice so when a player struck – the term strikeout wasn't popular yet – he used the word's last letter instead of its first.

You may have read one of my very first blogs about the various names that teams have used. But who was the first team to sport a logo? The first team to add a logo to its uniforms was the Detroit Tigers. They had a small red tiger stitched onto their caps in 1901.

How about the Major League baseball logo? Ever look at it and wonder who it's modeled after? Well it may surprise you because he hardly seems like the male model type, but it was actually Twins' slugger Harmon Killebrew. Take a look for yourself.

Wrigley Field almost got lights a long time ago, long before it did. Lights for Wrigley were ordered and delivered well in time for use for the 1942 season. In the interim, however, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and William Wrigley decided to donate the lights to a Chicago shipyard to help the war effort. Day baseball became an entrenched and beloved tradition at Wrigley – until Major League Baseball finally threatened to force the Cubs to play home games in St. Louis. They relented in 1988. The baseball gods intervened, however. The first night game at Wrigley was called due to rain after three innings.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

Excellent post, Will. As a southpaw, I salute you! (With my left hand, of course.)