Monday, December 26, 2011

Who is Ray Lankford Mourning?

I recently bumped into this picture of the Cardinals' Ray Lankford as published in The Sporting News of August 4, 1997:

The caption reads: "Homecoming dance: For most of his career, Cardinals center fielder Ray Lankford appeared to be on a collision course with greatness. Now that potential finally is translating into success."

I was interested in the image because Lankford is clearly wearing a mourning band on his left arm and I have long kept track of such memorial markings. But this armband had me stumped.

Ray Lankford played with the Cards from 1990 to 2001, but only once during his tenure with St. Louis did the club wear black armbands. That was during Spring Training of 1990 when the club mourned the passing of owner August A. Busch Jr., who died during the last road trip of the 1989 season. But as far as I am aware, those armbands were worn only on the special all-red Spring Training shirts. This 1990 Bowman baseball card of Bryn Smith shows that armband/jersey combo:

Clearly the Lankford photo does not show the Busch armband, so I was left wondering: Who was Ray Lankford (and presumably the rest of the Cardinals) mourning?

My first step in answering this question was to determine as much about the photo as possible. Beyond identifying Ray Lankford with the Cardinals, we can quickly see that St. Louis is wearing road grays, while the catcher is wearing home pinstripes.

A closer look at the picture reveals that the catcher's mask is one of the hockey-style variety. Here's a closer look:

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Charlie O'Brien was the first to wear the innovative mask, introducing it to the big leagues on September 13, 1996. Given this earliest limit for the date and combining it with the fact that the photo was published in the August 4, 1997, issue of The Sporting News, I was able to whittle down the possible dates of action to sometime between late September of 1996 and early August of '97. But, since no big league catcher other than O'Brien wore the new mask until 1997 and the catcher depicted is not wearing a Blue Jays uniform, I felt comfortable eliminating 1996 and focusing on a pre-August 4 date in the 1997 baseball season.

At this point, however, my research started to fall apart. Further examination of Lankford's uniform shows that it doesn't match the duds worn by the Cardinals in 1997 (or 1996, for that matter). For example, in 1997 St. Louis donned dark blue helmets on the road, but despite the black-and-white version of the Lankford photo, it is clear that Ray's helmet is red. Furthermore, the Cardinals had dropped the red, white and blue stripes at the ends of their sleeves after the 1991 season, but there they are on Ray's jersey. Finally, Lankford is seen wearing the "sansabelt" pants that the Cardinals had worn from 1971 to 1991, but how could this be if there's clearly a hockey-style mask in the picture?

Hitting a bit of a dead-end with this line of research, I turned my attention to the catcher's uniform to determine ]what club he played for. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of clues provided in the picture. The catcher is clearly wearing pinstripes, but we cannot see his stockings, nor much else that might help identify his club. However, examining this detail from the picture, one can see what appears to be the letter "s" peaking just behind the catcher's chest protector:

The font of the "S" appears to be sans-serif and somewhat block-lettered, which eliminates numerous clubs that otherwise have "S"-ending nicknames or locales that adorn their jerseys. So, for example, the Braves and Expos, both clubs that wore pinstripes at home, can be eliminated as their shirt-front "S"-style does not match that seen in the Lankford picture. Alas, as I ran through all the clubs that wore pinstripes in 1997, none of their shirt-front lettering matched with that seen in the Lankford picture. Once again, I had hit a dead-end.

It seemed to me that the only way the photo made sense was if a time machine was somehow involved. As ridiculous as that sounds, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that perhaps that was a distinct possibility.

On July 11, 1990, the Chicago White Sox staged the first-ever "Turn Back the Clock" game, in which the club wore "retro" uniforms similar to those worn by the club back in 1917. I wondered if perhaps the Lankford picture came from a just such a "time machine" game.

A quick look at the list of memorial markings that is part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's online exhibit titled Dressed to the Nines: A History of the Baseball Uniform revealed that in 1982, St. Louis wore armbands in memory of former player, coach and manager Ken Boyer, who had died on September 7 of that year. And 1982 wasn't just any old year. It was the season in which the Cardinals had last won a World Championship, topping the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games.

Is it possible that the Brewers hosted a "Turn Back the Clock" game against the Cardinals, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the '82 World Series? If so, the Brewers and Cardinals would be wearing uniforms similar to those worn by Lonnie Smith and Robin Yount on the cover of this October 25, 1982, issue of Sports Illustrated:

The uniforms seen above match those in the Lankford photo perfectly. Lonnie Smith's uniform features the armband, the red, white and blue stripes on the sleeves, and the "sansabelt" pants worn by Lankford. And Robin Yount's uniform is pinstriped, with the same "S" of the "BREWERS" across the jersey front, just like the catcher in the Lankford image.

In 1997, the Cardinals and Brewers were still in different leagues (the Brewers would move to the National League the following year), so if this was a "Turn Back the Clock" game, it was an interleague contest. I checked the 1997 Brewers Media Guide and found the confirmation for which I was looking. On June 17, Milwaukee hosted the Cardinals on Pick 'n Save Turn Back the Clock Night, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the clubs playing one another in the 1982 World Series.

With an exact date to work with, I was able to track down the Lankford photo with its original caption. Here's how the Associated Press image looked, for example, in the Huntington (PA) Daily News of June 18, 1997:

The caption reads:


Ray Lankford of the St. Louis Cardinals collides with Milwaukee Brewers' catcher Mike Matheny at home plate in the third inning Tuesday night. Lankford tried to score on a ball hit in the infield by Gary Gaetti, but was out on the play. The teams wore 1982 replica uniforms as part of a "turn back the clock" promotion.
Talk about "Turn Back the Clock!" The Brewers' catcher was Mike Matheny, who would later gain fame as a member of the Cardinals, winning three Gold Gloves in five seasons with St. Louis. Additionally, the Cardinals' starting pitcher that night was Fernando Valenzuela, making his first appearance with St. Louis after being acquired from the Padres just days earlier. Fernando made just five starts with the club, posting a record of 0-4 before being released in mid-July, never to play in the big leagues again.

Coincidentally, by the way, the uniform that Ray Lankford wore that night is apparently in the hands of a collector. Here's an image of the jersey as posted at the Game Used Universe Forum:

So, to answer the original question: On June 17, 1997, Ray Lankford may not have realized it, but he was mourning the passing of Ken Boyer ... almost 15 years after the Cardinals great had passed away.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Photo from the 1914 World Series

My friend Mark Stang periodically contacts me with a baseball photo mystery. The search for answers to his questions is almost always fun and challenging, because Mark is a top-notch baseball researcher and he really knows his baseball pictures. His groundbreaking book Baseball By the Numbers (written with Linda Harkness) is the encyclopedia of baseball uniform numbers and is an indispensable tool for the baseball photo researcher. And his numerous books of baseball photographs should be on every baseball fan's bookshelf. You can find out more about Mark's wonderful books at his web site.

Mark is currently working on an illustrated history of the Braves and one of the latest mysteries he sent along has to do with the "Miracle" Boston Braves of 1914. (For another post about this club, check out my earlier blog entry titled "Rabbit Maranville is not a Nazi.") Mark emailed the following image that can be found at the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-17528

… accompanied by a note in which he stated that …

This [George Grantham] Bain photo of the 5 Braves players from 1914 has the ID's of Joe Connolly and Lefty Tyler reversed on the original neg. But Tyler is clearly the 4th from the left and Connolly 3rd …. Any idea what ballpark this is?
As for the mix-up of identifications, Mark was absolutely correct. The noted positions of Joe Connolly and Lefty Tyler are swapped. Here's a detail from the mystery photo:

Here's an image of Lefty Tyler:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-17334

And here is what Joe Connolly looks like:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, detail from LC-DIG-ggbain-16903

The correct identifications of Mark's photo are (left to right): Hank Gowdy, Dick Rudolph, Joe Connolly, Lefty Tyler, Oscar Dugey. The "no name" in the bunch is Oscar Dugey, a journeyman infielder who spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues. His biggest claim to fame was that he played for two straight pennant winners: the 1914 Braves and 1915 Phillies.

The photograph that Mark sent along is similar to a number of others from the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detail from LC-DIG-ggbain-17527

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detail from LC-DIG-ggbain-17529

Clearly all three of these photographs were taken on the same day, at the same location, and essentially at the same time.

The uniforms of the Braves in the photograph are consistent with those worn by the club on the road from 1913 to 1915. Compare Hank Gowdy's uniform to the drawing found at the National Baseball Hall of Fame's online exhibit, Dressed to the Nines:

Each of the five players pictured played with the 1913 and 1914 Braves, but Oscar Dugey was traded to the Phillies in February of 1915, so we know the photo was taken in either 1913 or 1914.

And while we're looking at photos of Hank Gowdy, take a close look at his right hand as seen in the photo sent along by Mark as well as in each of the above photographs:

This comparison also suggests that the photographs were taken the same day, as the last two fingers on his right hand are taped together the same way in each picture.

As for Mark's original question, a review of grandstands of National League parks of the era fails to reveal a match to the various features seen in the background of any of the three similar photographs above. What about American League parks?

Take a look at the following photograph taken at Philadelphia's Shibe Park during the 1914 World Series:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, detail from LC-DIG-ggbain-17540

Note how the pillars and roof line in this photo match well with those as seen in Mark's photo and the others taken that same day. Additionally, take a close look at this detail from the police photo:

The openings in the back of the grandstand are windows with shades that can be raised or lowered, depending on the angle of the sun. This also matches well with the openings seen in Mark's mystery photo.

(By the way, take a look at this other detail from the police photo:

Not only are there numerous fans perched atop the advertisements beyond the left field wall, but one fan has even clambered up the side of a telephone pole in an effort to catch a glimpse of World Series action. You have to applaud that guy's passion, though not necessarily his "good" sense.)

So we now have an answer to Mark's question: "Any idea what ballpark this is?" It's Shibe Park in Philadelphia. But can we learn anything more?

Take a look at yet another photograph from the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detail from LC-DIG-ggbain-17540

That's future Hall of Famer Eddie Plank warming up before his start in Game Two of the 1914 Series on October 10. Recognize the grandstand in the background with the distinctive windows and shades? Not only is it Shibe Park, but the levels of the various shades in the windows match those seen in Mark's photo exactly! Here's a comparison with Mark's photo aligned directly underneath the corresponding windows in the Plank photo. Take a careful look.

There's little doubt that the photos were taken on the same day: October 10, 1914. But just to make sure, let's take a look at some other evidence.

First, there is this note found in a column titled "National League Notes" in The Sporting Life of July 25, 1914: "Hank Gowdy, the Boston Braves' catcher, is out of the game with a broken finger, and [Bert] Whaling is doing most of the backstop duty." Though Mark's mystery photo was taken some two-and-a-half months later, it seems likely that Gowdy was taping his fingers together for added support for the recently broken digit.

Next, take a look at yet another photo from the Bain Collection:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detail from LC-DIG-ggbain-17538

Here Braves catcher Hank Gowdy is seen shaking hands with John F. Fitzgerald, the former mayor of Boston (and future grandfather of John F. Kennedy) who was known as "Honey Fitz." What is such a dignitary doing at the ball game? Well, Fitzgerald was a prominent member of Boston's Royal Rooters, a fan club that generally cheered for the Red Sox. However, with Boston's other ball club in the series, the Rooters passionately pulled for the Braves in their 1914 clash with the Philadelphia Athletics. Fitzgerald's attendance at Game Two was noted in an article from The New York Tribune of October 11, 1914:
Tyler and James warmed up for the Braves, but Plank was the one an d only choice for Mack. Before anything could be started a fair lady with a bunch of red roses came over to the Boston bench and gave Hank Gowdy a traveling bag. Hank took the bag, but looked unhappy. Honey Fitz came out and took a rose. He looked happy and did not blush as Gowdy had done, even when the camera men snapped his picture.
Notice the traveling bag on the ground at far left in the photo? And take a look at the "Royal Rooters" pin affixed to Fitzgerald's lapel. Note how it compares with an actual pin that was sold at auction in 2008:

And notice the press pass attached to the unidentified individual at far right. Here's a comparison of that pass and a Shibe Park press pass from the 1914 Series that was sold at auction in 2009:

And take a look at Gowdy's taped fingers as he shakes the former mayor's hands:

Clearly, the photo of Gowdy with Fitzgerald was taken at the same time and location as Mark's mystery photo.

Now let's take a look at one more piece of evidence. Notice that Fitzgerald is holding a newspaper in his left hand. Here's a closer look:

The paper is none other than The Philadelphia Ledger. A logical assumption is that the paper is a morning edition of the Ledger from the day of the game: October 10, 1914. The Library of Congress has digitized numerous newspapers and made them available to the public at their Chronicling America web site. Thankfully, they've digitized a number of issues of The Philadelphia Evening Ledger, a later edition of the same paper. Here's what the October 10 edition of that paper looked like:

Here's a detail of the baseball-oriented political cartoon on the front page:

Now compare the newspaper in Fitzgerald's hand to the same section of the evening edition:

While the morning and evening editions differ in some ways (e.g., the morning edition has a story at far right previewing Game Two of the Braves-Athletics matchup; the evening edition reports on the progress of the game), both editions feature the political cartoon at the top center of the front page. This is the final "nail in the coffin" proving that the Gowdy-Fitzgerald photo, as well as Mark's original mystery photo, were both taken at Shibe Park prior to Game Two of the 1914 World Series on October 10.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

World Series Sheet Music

When this year's World Series is over, the championship club will be celebrated with a seemingly endless array of products. You'll find official (and unofficial) caps, shirts, baseballs, DVDs, books, medallions, key rings, stuffed animals, photographs, felt pennants, etc. The list goes on and on (and on), but one thing you're not likely to come across is sheet music of a commemorative tune dedicated to the World Champs. But, this wasn't always the case.

Prior to the radio boom of the 1930s, the primary marketing tool of popular music was sheet music. Like the tune? Just buy the sheet music and you can play it at home.

The songwriters of the day covered a myriad of topics, including baseball, and songs that honored World Championship clubs were no exception. Just over a month after the Cubs topped the Tigers to capture the 1907 World Championship, Tomaz F. Deuther published "Cubs on Parade," a march two-step composed by one H.R. Hempel.

Following the Philadelphia Athletics' 1929 World Series victory over the Cubs, Pennant Music Company published "The Galloping A's" with music by Wallace LeGrande Henderson and words by Billy James.

And who could forget Al Moquin's "The Cardinals and Mister Hornsby" that commemorated the clubs' first World Championship?

The first sheet music to honor a modern World Series champion was the "Boston Americans March," published by the Cecilian Music Company of Hyde Park, Massachusetts, in 1903. While the club bested the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1903 Series, the first post-season matchup between the rival leagues, it was not until 1908 that Boston earned the "Red Sox" nickname.

The two-step was composed by 19-year-old John Ignatius Coveney, a freshman at New York's Fordham University who lettered in football, not baseball. A talented musician (he played the piano, cornet, violin, guitar and numerous other instruments), Coveney gained immortality a few years later by composing the "Fordham Ram," the official college song. (Listen to the "Fordham Ram.")

While the "Boston Americans March" is largely forgotten, the "Fordham Ram" has lived on for over a century. In 1931, some 20 years after Coveney's untimely death at the age of 26, the composer was honored by his classmates of 1906 at their 25th reunion. On June 13, a tablet in memory of Coveney was unveiled.

Photo courtesy of Scott Kwiatkowski, Fordham University

The bronze plaque, in many ways similar to those honoring baseball's greatest players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, can be seen today inside Fordham's Rose Hill Gym.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When Wall Street Occupied the Ball Park

With the "Occupy Wall Street" movement sweeping the country, it may surprise the reader that there was a time when the stock brokers of Wall Street (and those of State Street in Boston) occupied the ball park.

On May 26, 1904, the Boston Globe announced that "a baseball nine composed of members of the New York stock exchange has challenged a nine of the Boston stock exchange and the challenge has been accepted. The game is to be played on the American league grounds, Huntington av, Thursday, June 2, at 3:30."

The New Yorkers won the contest, 1-0, behind the stellar pitching of Gil Greenway, the former Yale pitcher who had purchased his seat on the New York Stock Exchange just months before. New York's lone run was tallied by none other than Bob Wrenn (seen below). Wrenn was the captain of Harvard's football team in the 1890s and was also the first left-hander to win the U.S. Open Singles Championships in tennis, capturing titles in 1893, '94, '96 and '97. He was President of the United States Tennis Association from 1912 to 1915 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1955.

The following year, the clubs met again, this time at Hilltop Park in New York City on May 13. A slugfest ensued, with New York emerging victorious, 14-8.

The Boston brokers finally won their first contest in 1906, when they topped New York, 11-4 at Boston's South End Grounds on May 19. According to the New York Times, "the attendance upon the floor of the Stock Exchange was greatly reduced by the pleasanter prospect of a baseball game with members of the Boston Stock Exchange, and those brokers who remained upon duty found ample time to wonder why."

No game was played in 1907, but on May 23, 1908 the brokers renewed their challenge at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The Boston brokers topped the NYSE 11-4 to knot the series at two games apiece. Stock broker and former major league pitcher Huyler Westervelt unpired the game.

Two photos from the event are found at the Library of Congress's web site. The first shows three members of the New York contingent that attended the game (left to right): Jay Carlisle, Clark Runyon (who had participated in some of the earlier contests) and Ira Richards Jr. (misidentified on the photograph as Ira Richardson). The date of the game was also erroneously noted on the photograph as "5/22/08."

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-00480

Just days after the game, Carlisle, Runyon, Richards and four others organized Carlisle, Mellick & Company, a new Stock Exchange house. Here's an advertisement from the New York Times published just a few weeks after the game:

The following action shot also comes from the New York vs. Boston Stock Exchange game of 1908:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-00475

Catching is one W. Clark of the Boston Stock Exchange nine, and at bat is the New York Stock Exchange's Gil Greenway, Jr., a former pitcher at Yale.

These photos were taken just a few weeks after those taken as lantern slides for the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

The rival stock exchanges met just twice more before ultimately abandoning the series. On May 22, 1909, Boston defeated New York at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, 8-4. Three years later, on May 25, 1912, the final contest took place at the Westchester Country Club and resulted in a second-straight 8-4 victory for Boston. Boston thus took the six-game series, four games to two.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Woodrow Wilson's Opening Pitch

In October of 1917, less than half a year after the United States entered World War I, the White Sox faced the Giants in the World Series. Chicago topped New York in six games. The cover of the Giants' World Series program featured an image of President Woodrow Wilson, ball in hand, accompanied by the caption:


Here's an image of that World Series program:

Yes, that's President Wilson throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in Washington, D.C. … but not in 1917, as implied. Actually, as noted in The Washington Post of April 21, 1917, "Vice President Marshall took President Wilson's place in the Throw-out-League. With the President unable to be present on opening day, for the first time since he has been lead-off man for Uncle Sam, because of the pressure of state affairs, his understudy threw out the ball at 3 o'clock …." It is understandable that President Wilson was unavailable for the ceremonial pitch, as it was just two weeks since the country had declared war on Germany.

Accompanying the article was this image of the Vice President taking part in the honors on opening day at Griffith Stadium, April 20, 1917:

The photo upon which the 1917 program was based was actually taken exactly one year earlier. Here's an image of President Wilson at opening day of 1916 as reproduced in The Washington Post of April 21:

Note how the flag draped over the wall is identical to that seen in the World Series program cover, and the position (and hat) of his wife Edith (just to the left of Wilson) also match up well.. Additionally, here's the exact image used for the 1917 World Series program as found at the Library of Congress, with the caption "Opening game 1916":

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18475

The cover of the program is a classic … even if it was a year out of date.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bobby Thomson's Uniform from "The Shot Heard 'Round the World"

It is arguably the most celebrated moment in baseball history.
The set-up:

  • October 3, 1951
  • Final game of a three-game, regular-season play-off between the Giants and Dodgers
  • Bottom of the ninth
  • New York trails Brooklyn 4-2
  • Two Giants on the bases
  • Ralph Branca on the mound
  • Bobby Thomson at bat
The pay-off:
  • Thomson homers to left
  • The Giants win 5-4
  • The Giants win the pennant. (The Giants win the pennant.)
As New York Times sportswriting legend John Drebinger summed it up in his lead the next day:
In an electrifying finish to what long will be remembered as the most thrilling pennant campaign in history, Leo Durocher and his astounding never-say-die Giants wrenched victory from the jaws of defeat at the Polo Grounds today, vanquishing the Dodgers, 5 to 4, with a four-run splurge in the last half of the ninth. A three-run homer by Bobby Thomson that accounted for the final three tallies blasted the Dodgers right out of the World Series picture, and tomorrow afternoon at the Stadium it will be the Giants against Casey Stengel's American League champion Yankees in the opening clash of the world series.
The bat from that famed home run is in the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Now, 60 years after "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," the uniform worn by Thomson on that historic day has apparently been located. The home jersey and pants are part of a large private collection owned by Dan Scheinman, a member of the San Francisco Giants ownership group and a former executive with Cisco Media Solutions Group. The uniform, acquired by Scheinman from Bobby Thomson himself, has undergone extensive research by both the collector and Elise Yvonne Rousseau, an accredited textile conservator. In short, here's the scoop:

In 1951, all National League clubs adorned their jerseys with special patches commemorating the 75th anniversary of the league. Here's a picture of Pirates outfielder Brandy Davis wearing a 1951 jersey with the patch:

The patches were worn throughout the regular season, including the special three-game playoff between the Dodgers and Giants that would decide the pennant-winner. (That same season, the American League celebrated their 50th anniversary in similar fashion, with all eight Junior Circuit clubs wearing special patches.)

Scheinman's Thomson jersey is marked as "Set 2 - 1951" and is consistent with those worn by the Giants in 1951 with one major exception. There is no patch on the left sleeve. What gives?

Well, it turns out that both the Giants and Yankees did not wear these patches during the '51 World Series. Just why this was the case is not known, but, as an example, check out this photo taken of the starting pitchers of Game Two, the Yankees' Eddie Lopat and the Giants' Larry Jansen:

Is it possible that new uniforms were used for World Series? If so, perhaps Scheinman's jersey is from the Fall Classic, not the "Shot Heard 'Round the World." Or, perhaps the patches were simply removed from the regular season jerseys. But if so, how does one prove that the patchless jersey is the same as that worn by Thomson on October 3, 1951?

Among other key points forwarded by the textile conservator, of critical importance is the analysis of unique features around the number "23" on the back of the jersey. Throughout the season, the Giants had their uniforms regularly steam pressed. In so doing, the wool of the jerseys shrank slightly, though the large uniform numbers made of felt did not. This caused distortions on the back of the jersey: puckerings that formed unique patterns surrounding the "23," akin to a fingerprint. Through photo research, the puckerings of the jersey from Thomson's October 3 jersey are shown to match those found on the jersey in the possession of Dan Scheinman.

To learn more, here's the PDF document that details the analysis.

And there's more about the story at Paul Lukas's Uni Watch column.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jon Huntsman Doesn't Know Baseball

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, a potential Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election, recently released this campaign advertisement:

[The YouTube video of this advertisement has been removed. I have had trouble tracking down another copy on the Web, but if one of my readers can, please send along the web address and I'll post it. Thanks.]

Initially, the ad left me quite confused. Why was the obvious reference to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney accompanied by a sad rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and B-roll of a baseball glove on the ground? What does Romney's record of job creation have to do with baseball? Did I miss something?

Then I found a few web sites that provided what appears to be the most plausible explanation.

From National Review Online, Jim Geraghty states:
A sad looking baseball mitt — get it? — is used to depict the former Massachusetts governor.
And at Business Insider, Jon Terbush explains:
The ad never mentions Romney by name, though the implication is clear — the ad refers to a former governor of Massachusetts and, whenever mentioned, the camera cuts to images of a dirty, discarded baseball mitt lying in the dust.
Oh, I get it. Mitt Romney = Baseball Mitt. See? They're both Mitts.

There's only one problem. The images in the advertisement don't show a baseball mitt. They show a baseball glove. And that's not nit-picking. That's a cold, hard fact.

The word mitt comes from "mitten," which, according to Webster's Dictionary is "a covering for the hand and wrist having a separate section for the thumb only." Webster's tells us that a glove is "a covering for the hand having separate sections for each of the fingers and the thumb and often extending part way up the arm."

In baseball, the distinction is quite critical, as only catcher's and first baseman are allowed to wear mitts. Yes. It is illegal for any player other than a catcher or first baseman to wear a mitt. Here are the relevant rules:

  • Rule 1.12: "The catcher may wear a leather mitt …"
  • Rule 1.13: "The first baseman may wear a leather glove or mitt …"
  • Rule 1.14: "Each fielder, other than the first baseman or catcher, may use or wear a leather glove."

To recap. This is a mitt:

And this is a mitt:

This is a glove:

If the advertisement had shown a catcher's mitt or first baseman's mitt, there would be no problem. But no. The ad showed a glove … which isn't a mitt.

Jon Huntsman. Want to be our President? Learn about our National Pastime.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nice Hitting Streak for an Uggla Season

Dan Uggla extended his consecutive-game hitting streak to 30 games last night, joining a rather exclusive group. According to a list at, there have been 53 hitting streaks of 30 or more games prior to Uggla's current run.

As one might expect, when a player fashions such a streak, he generally ends the season with an excellent batting average. Joe DiMaggio batted .357 in 1941 when he recorded his astounding 56-game hitting streak. And in 1897, Willie Keeler batted .424, beginning the season with hits in 44 straight games, the record prior to Joltin' Joe's 56.

Looking from the other end of the telescope, the player with the lowest batting average in a season in which he posted a 30-game hitting streak is Willy Taveras (top right), who batted just .278 in 2006 despite hitting in 30 straight games for Houston. But through August 9 (the date of his 30th straight game with a hit), Dan Uggla (top left) is batting just .220. In short, Uggla has an excellent chance of setting the mark for the lowest batting average in a season with a 30-game hitting streak. How excellent is that chance? Let's see:

In 116 games played this season, the Braves' second baseman has had 437 at bats, for an average of 3.78 at bats per game. Assuming Uggla plays in each of the remaining 45 games in Atlanta's schedule (so far he's only missed one game this year), he'll have nearly 170 at bats (more precisely 169.52) in which to get really hot. How hot? Some quick math provides the answer. He'll need 73 hits in those 170 at bats to pass Taveras's mark. If he does, his average would be .2784, just barely topping Taveras's .2779.

Can he do it? You decide. So far during his 30-game streak (from July 5 through August 9), Dan Uggla has batted .345. (He began his streak batting just .173!) But to get past Taveras's mark, Uggla would need to bat at a .429 clip … for seven weeks. Welcome to the record books, Mr. Uggla!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nix Flicks Sticks in Box for Sox in Rox

What's up with my Seussian blog title "Nix Flicks Sticks in Box for Sox in Rox?" To understand, first check out this great photograph from the extensive collection of panoramic images at the Library of Congress's web site.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZC2-6131 DLC

There are two main ways to create panoramic photographs. The first is the most obvious method, in which multiple images are placed side by side to create a wide shot. Here's an excellent example showing a game at Chicago's South Side Park in 1904. This panorama is comprised of three separate prints (from three separate negatives) placed side by side forming one magnificent photograph:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-24414A,B,C DLC

The other method of creating a panoramic photograph utilizes a special camera that rotates on a tripod while its aperture remains open, creating a single, long image. There are excellent descriptions of both methods at the Library of Congress's web site.

The panoramic photo that is the topic of this blog entry can also be found on page 83 of Baseball Americana, a book featuring a number of wonderful images from the collection of the Library of Congress. Here's the caption accompanying the photo in that book:
Boston, American League baseball grounds, E. Chickering & Co., photograph, 9½ x 9½ in., 1903. This image illustrates a fictitious moment as the pitcher, at left, is seen making his throw, but the batter, catcher, and umpire at right are not the least bit engaged in the play. Not only that, but the ball that should be in flight is missing. In the thirty seconds or so that it took for the camera to pan from one end of the scene to the next, the pitcher made his throw and what followed is anybody's guess: the batter hit a foul ball, swung and missed, or took a strike or a ball. By the time the camera had home plate in its sight, the play was over, and the threesome on the right were all standing up straight again.
Alas, there's not a lot of information provided in that caption, or in the data accompanying the image at the Library of Congress's web site. Additionally, I disagree with the statement that the "image illustrates a fictitious moment."

First of all, a panoramic photograph doesn't depict a "moment" in time. Indeed, as the caption goes on to note, it takes many seconds for a panoramic camera to capture the full scene. What is seen on the left side of the photo was not taken at the same time as what is seen on the right. While normal photographs are essentially taken at a single moment, true panoramic photos capture a scene over a stretch of time lasting many seconds.

Additionally, the word "fictitious" is overstating the situation. In fact, a bit of research reveals the exact date, inning and at bat during which the photograph was taken. A quick look at the photo establishes some basic information.

The photo is clearly of the Huntington Avenue Grounds in the Roxbury district of Boston, where the Boston Americans (now known a the Red Sox) played their home games from 1901 to 1911. In 1912 they moved into Fenway Park. Compare our panoramic photo with the numerous photos of the Huntington Avenue Grounds at the Boston Public Library's Sports Temples web site. For example, in the detail below from a 1912 photo of the park, note the grand stand at far right and the long buildings behind the bleachers on the first base side. They are identical to those seen in the panoramic photo.

Boston Public Library Image 05_02_011008

Written at the bottom right-hand corner of our panoramic photo is the following information: "Copyright by E. Chickering & Co. 1903." Elmer E. Chickering was one of Boston's leading photographers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His studio at 21 West Street was just a block east of Boston Common and about two miles northeast of the Huntington Avenue Grounds. While not definitive, the date suggests that the year is 1903. Certainly the photo was taken no later that that.

A close examination of the players' uniforms in our panoramic image not only confirms that the club in the field is Boston, but that the man at bat, the coach at first, and the players on the bench are members of the visiting Chicago White Sox. In fact, both clubs are wearing uniforms worn exclusively in 1903. For Boston, this was the only season in which they donned caps featuring a single horizontal stripe. (In 1901, '02 and '04 the club went with a pair of stripes.) And for Chicago, 1903 was the only year the club wore dark-colored stockings with a wide, white stripe.

The teams and year identifications are substantiated by reviewing close-ups of two of the players in the panoramic photo alongside corresponding uniform drawings from the National Baseball Hall of Fame's online exhibit, Dressed to the Nines:

We've established that the photo is an American League Boston vs. Chicago game at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in 1903. In order to determine the exact day of the contest we need to know the various dates the White Sox played in Boston that season. According to the game log for the 1903 White Sox at, Chicago visited the Roxbury park on three separate road trips that year: June 4, 5 and 6; July 8, 9, 10 and 11; and September 19, 21 and 22.

After checking various game accounts from these ten contests, I happened across a note on page 6 of the September 23 Chicago Tribune. Following their recounting of the final game of Chicago's September visit to Boston, the paper stated:
The game was stopped twice to allow a photographer to get panoramic views of the men in action on the field.
Bingo! There's little question that the game depicted in our panoramic photo was the one played between Chicago and Boston on Tuesday, September 22, 1903. A different article mentioned that it was Ladies' Day at the Huntington Avenue Grounds that afternoon, so each woman who was accompanied by a male escort gained admission to the park free of charge. Indeed, a close look at the fans in the grandstand reveals an unusually large number of women in attendance.

The box score of the September 22, 1903, game is readily available, this one coming from page 6 of the October 3, 1903, issue of The Sporting Life found at the LA84 Foundation web site.

From this information, we can quickly identify a number of Boston fielders in the panoramic photograph, as there were no substitutions and the players remained at the same positions throughout the game.
  • The Boston pitcher was Long Tom Hughes, who logged his only 20-win season in 1903, finishing the campaign with a 20-7 record.
  • The player seen at far left was second baseman Hobe Ferris, who three weeks after this photo was taken drove in all three of Boston's runs in the eighth and final game of the 1903 World Series to give the club its first world title.
  • The outfielder positioned in front of the "C.C.A. 10¢ Cigar" advertisement in right field was Buck Freeman, a slugger who twice led his league in home runs.
  • The individual seen just under the "Red Fox Ale" advertisement was Candy LaChance, one of the top fielding first basemen of his day.
  • Catching for Boston was Duke Farrell, who, at 36 years of age, was the elder statesman on the club.
Additionally, the umpire behind home plate was Frank "Silk" O'Loughlin in his second season as a big league arbiter. He eventually fashioned a 17-year big league umpiring career in which he called a record-seven no-hitters.

Determining the identity of the White Sox batter is a bit more difficult, requiring more than just the box score. First, take a look at the scoreboard in right field:

Unfortunately, it is a bit out of focus. Still, careful examination of the line score numbers already hanging on the board reveals that the last completed inning was the fourth. Thus, the photo was taken in the top of the fifth inning.

In order to determine which White Sox players batted in the fifth inning, the game's play-by-play is needed. Thankfully, the incomparable David Smith of was able to supply me with just that. Here's a close-up of the fifth inning play-by-play as reported in the Chicago Daily News of September 23, 1903:

And here's a transcription of Chicago's top of the fifth (with additional notes in brackets):
  • [Nixey] Callahan singled to center.
  • [Pep] Clarke lifted a high one to [shortstop Fred] Parent. [One out.]
  • [Danny] Green out, [undecipherable] to [first baseman Candy] LaChance. [Two outs.]
  • [Lee] Tannehill singled to right, scoring Callahan.
  • Tannehill out stealing second, [Duke] Farrell to [Hobe] Ferris. [Three outs.]
[Note: Thanks to Lenny DiFranza who was able to decipher the name of the player who threw out Danny Green at first base. It was pitcher Hughes.]

We've now whittled down the possibilities to one of four White Sox players who batted in the top of the fifth inning: left fielder (and White Sox manager) Nixey Callahan, third baseman Pep Clarke, right fielder Danny Green or shortstop Lee Tannehill. However, as Green batted left-handed and our batter is clearly right-handed, we can quickly eliminate Green. Additionally, since Callahan was on first base when Clarke came to bat and the photo clearly shows that first base is unoccupied, Clarke cannot be our batter. This leaves two possible batters: Nixey Callahan or Lee Tannehill.

Let's compare photographs of these two players with the batter in our photo. Here's our unidentified batter:

Here are two photos of Nixey Callahan:

SDN-004735, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

SDN-003587, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

And here are two photos of Lee Tannehill:

SDN-002967, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

SDN-004248, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

Check out Nixey Callahan's ear and jawline. They are an excellent match to those of the White Sox batter in our panoramic photo. Tannehill features don't match up. Additionally, while I wouldn't solely rely on this for identification purposes, every photo I find in Lee Tannehill from this time period shows him wearing his collar up (as seen in the above images). Apparently, this was his preference. Our White Sox batter, however, does not wear his collar in that fashion. So we've now identified our batter as Nixey Callahan.

Here's my theory as to just what is going on in the photograph:

After the bottom of the fourth inning, a photographer for Chickering & Company set up his camera to take a picture of action in the top of the fifth. The cameraman aimed his special panoramic camera at pitcher Tom Hughes and started the long, rotating exposure as Hughes delivered a pitch. The camera's aperture was open and pointing at Hughes when he threw the ball home. This is why Hughes' arm is blurred.

But what about the baseball? Why is it not seen at all? There is no blurred image of the baseball because it traveled much faster than the rotating camera and quickly moved out of the camera's field of view. If the photo had been taken with a standard camera, there would be a blur. That is because the shutter would be open for just a split second, during which the ball would travel a short distance, leaving a blur on the film.

What about the batter, who is clearly not ready to receive the pitch? How is that possible when Hughes is shown in mid-throw? Well, by the time the rotating camera reached the right side of the scene, many seconds later after the pitch was delivered, the baseball had already been caught by the catcher and thrown back to the pitcher. We are seeing the batter, catcher and umpire well after the pitch was delivered, about to get ready for the next pitch.

And what about that Seussian title? Well, let's recap the situation: That's Nixey Callahan of the White Sox wielding his bat in the batter's box, leading off the top of the fifth inning in a game against Boston at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Roxbury on September 22, 1903. Or, as Dr. Seuss might say: Nix Flicks Sticks in Box for Sox in Rox.

Research Update: August 21, 2011

On August 18, 2011, blog reader "Jere" wrote in and stated (in part):
I only have one issue with your analysis. Look at the shadows. They differ pretty significantly between the left and right halves of the photo. So there was a lot of time between photos, meaning it's the fifth inning in the left half, but the batter is not batting in the fifth, but a later inning.
These true panoramic photos are wonderful things, but they can often be a bit confusing. It's important to remember that a panoramic photo is a flat representation of a curved scene. For this reason, straight lines can appear to be curved and parallel lines (in this case, shadows) appear not to be parallel. For example, here's a photo of Hilltop Park in New York from the same collection of panoramic photos at the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-117224 DLC

Note how the first base line, which we all know should be straight, appears anything but straight in this photo. But if one were to print out the photo and curve it around the arc of a circle (perhaps about 180 degrees), the line would straighten out just perfectly.

I've borrowed an excellent image of the Huntington Avenue Grounds created by artist Juff Suntala. You can find the original at Jeff's web site. In the version below, I've added red-arrow overlays showing the direction of the shadows for the pitcher, batter, and first base coach. In the panoramic photo, the shadows do not appear parallel. But take a look in this image. They are quite parallel indeed:

I hope that clears things up.