Friday, December 2, 2016

Trading Days and Nights By Harvey Frommer

Trading Days and Nights
By Harvey Frommer


          This is the time of year when baseball trade talk is all the rage. Where will Chris Sale wind up? What about Andrew McKutchen? And there are other “name” players out there rumored to be on the move like Justin Verlander, Ryan Braun, Justin Turner and others.
      Day after day in this baseball hot stove season we are treated to news of deals that have been made and others that might be made.
        And all else fails there is always the special route of Joe Garagiola who bragged, "I went through my baseball life as 'a player to be named later.' "
     Most trades wind up uneventful or as someone said, "It all comes out when you wash the uniforms."
    But there have been a couple of deals through the years that were steals for some teams and big-time blunders for the others.
   There are two such deals that stand out above all others.
         On June 15, 1964, the St. Louis Cardinals sent Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens to the Chicago Cubs. In return, the Redbirds received Jack Spring, Paul Toth and a speedy runner named Lou Brock, who went on to become their franchise player. It was a steal for Cardinals and a big-time blunder for the Cubs.
    On December 10, 1971, the New York Mets acquired third baseman Jim Fregosi from the California Angels for a young, hard-throwing pitcher named Nolan Ryan. It was a steal for the Angels and a big-time blunder for the Mets.
     "The American League and the California Angels seemed like a million miles away," Ryan told me when I was writing "Throwing Heat," Ryan's autobiography. "I read that Gil Hodges (the manager then) approved the deal, that he wanted Jim Fregosi, and that he thought I was the starting pitcher he would miss the least."
   How wrong he was.
  And then there was November 18, 1954. The New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles began a trading binge that ended 15 days later. In all, seventeen players were involved, in one of the most massive trades in baseball history.
    The Yankees received pitchers Don Larsen, Bob Turley, and Mike Blyzka. They also obtained catcher Darrell Johnson, first baseman Dick Kryhoski, shortstop Billy Hunter and outfielders Tim Fridley and Ted del Guercio. Baltimore obtained pitchers Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Bill Miller, catchers Gus Triandos and Hal Smith, second baseman Don Leppert, third baseman Kal Segrist, shortstop Willy Miranda and outfielder Gene Woodling.
     Larsen went on to be an asset for the Yankees and pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. Turley was a sturdy starter for years. The rest just blended away underscoring baseball immortal Branch Rickey's slogan: "Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late."

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Old Time Baseball: Ball Parks By Harvey Frommer

Old Time Baseball: Ball Parks 
By Harvey Frommer 


With the 2016 World Series thrills and hoopla, magical moments and time out for fatigue all but behind us, a flashback to a more primitive, more basic and in some ways more appealing national game pays dividends. The early environment of baseball games was that of a gentlemen's affair marked by the absence of spectators except for those invited by the teams. What spectators there were lolled about on the grass or sat on chairs or benches. The umpire was generally attired in tails and a tall black top hat, and in those early years he seated himself at a table along a baseline.

Circa 1860, the general public became more and more involved as spectators, and winning replaced gentlemanly ways as baseball's operative factor. The Cincinnati Red Stockings began play in 1876 in the National League in a ball park located in an area known as Chester Park. In order to get to the ball game, fans had to ride on special trains or in carriages. Crowds of 3,000 were common and considered a good payday for the team. When the National League came into being, the White Stockings played their home games in a rickety wooden park on Dearborn between 23rd and 24th streets on Chicago's West Side. During the 1880s and 1890s most parks were surrounded by wooden stands and a wooden fence. Some of the stands were partially protected by a roof, while others were simple wooden seats of sunbleached boards. That is how the word bleachers came to be.

When those parks were filled to capacity, fans were allowed to stand around the infield or take up viewing perches in the far reaches of the outfield. John B. Day transferred the Troy National League franchise to New York in 1883; arrangements were made for games to be played on the polo field of James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald. For most of the 1880s, the team played its games on a field at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, across from Central Park's northeast corner. In 1897,a game between Boston and Baltimore drew more than 25,000 fans, the overflow crowd was permitted to stand just a few feet behind the infielders, creating a situation where any ball hit into the throng was ruled an automatic ground-rule double .

In 1899, the Giants moved to New York City plot 2106, lot 100, located between 155th and 157th streets at Eighth Avenue in upper Manhattan. The location was called "the new Polo Grounds," a horseshoe-shaped stadium with Coogan's Bluff on one side and the Harlem River on the other. The Polo Grounds seated 55,897, the most of any facility in the National League. A four-story, misshapen structure with seats close to the playing field and overhanging stands, it was an odd ball park that afforded fans the opportunity to be close to the action. There were 4,600 bleacher seats, 2,730 field boxes, 1,084 upper boxes, 5,138 upper reserved boxes, and 2,318 general admission seats. The majority of those who came to the Polo Grounds sat in the remaining lower general admission seats. The visitors' bullpen was just a bench located in the boondocks of left center field. There was no shade from the sun for the visitors or protection from Giant fans who pelted opposing pitchers with pungent projectiles.

The upper left field deck hung over the lower deck; and it was virtually impossible for a fly ball to get into the lower deck because of the projection of the upper deck. The overhang triggered many arguments, for if a ball happened to graze the front of the overhang it was a home run. The double decks in right field were even. The short distances and the asymmetrical shape of the convoluted ball park resulted in drives rebounding off the right field and left field walls like billiard shots. And over the years hitters and fielders on the New York Giants familiar with the pool table walls of the ball park had a huge advantage over opposing teams. Fires and progress would make steel and concrete replace the wood and timber of the nineteenth century ball parks.

The idiosyncratic dimensions of stadiums, the marching bands, even the real grass in many instances-all of these would ultimately become footnotes to baseball history. As late as 1900 some clubs even allowed fans to park their automobiles or carriages in the outfield. The environment at those games made it difficult for fans to follow the action clearly. Even though scorecards and programs were sold, no public address system existed, and there were no names or numbers on the players' uniforms. Players were sometimes pressed into service to double as ticket takers. And during breaks in the action on the field, the dull moments were enlivened by the festive performances of brass bands. The St. Louis National League entry was known as the Browns and then the Perfectos-an odd name for a club with a not so perfect track record.

The team left the National League twice, then returned and finished twelfth twice, eleventh three times, tenth once, ninth once, and once in fifth place in the years 1892-99. To attract customers to Robinson Field, St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe transformed his ball park into what he called "the Coney Island of the West." He installed chute-the-chutes (tubs that plunged with their riders into a pool), night horseracing, a Wild West show. The popular tunes of the day were played by the Silver Cornet Band-an all-female aggregation bedecked in long striped skirts and elegant blouses with leg-of-mutton sleeves and broad white sailor hats. In 1899 Chris Von der Ahe changed the uniforms around in his zest for more color-the new garments featured red trim and red-striped stockings. The new uniforms brought new nicknames for the St. Louis team- Cardinals or Redbirds, they were called, and so they would remain.

Read more about this topic in my new release: http://www.lyonspress.com/book/9781630760069

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bill Mazeroski's World Series Homer, October 13, 1960 By Harvey Frommer

Bill Mazeroski's World Series Homer, October 13, 1960By Harvey Frommer


With the Fall Classic 2016 in all the sports headlines now, a flashback to one of most dramatic moments in World Series history is in order. So come along and re-live that time - -New York Yankees versus Pittsburgh Pirates.


After slipping to third place in 1959, the Yankees were back in the World Series again. The Pirates won the first game of the series. Then Yankee bats took over .The New Yorkers won Game Two 16-3, Game Three 10-0. Behind the pitching of Vern Law and Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh won the next two to take a three games-to-two lead. The see-saw series saw New York tie things up with a 12-0 shutout from Whitey Ford.


All of that set the stage for Game 7, a contest that stands as one of the most memorable games in World Series history.

The Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit to take a 7-4 lead going into the bottom of the eighth. The Bucs scored five runs in the eighth inning, the final three on Hal Smith's homer, to take a 9-7 lead. A Yankee two-run rally in the top of the ninth tied the score, 9-9. Forbes Field was a madhouse.


Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the home ninth against Yankee right-hander Ralph Terry. The count on Maz was 1-0. At 3:36 P.M. it seemed there was no other sound in the ballpark except for the crack of the bat of Mazeroski against the ball served up by Terry. Maz thought the ball would reach the wall so he ran all out of the batter's box.


Yogi Berra backed up in left field, then he circled away from the wall, watching the ball go over his head and over the wall. Then Yogi dropped to his knees in despair and anger. Yogi’s sour mood was the opposite of the sweet one at Forbes Field. It rocked. The Pittsburgh Pirates had their first World Championship since 1925. Bill Mazeroski became the first player to end a World Series with a home run. "It's hard to believe it hadn't been done before," Mazeroski, the greatest fielding second baseman in Pirate history, said "Every day of my life I think of that home run. Wouldn't you if you had hit it? People always are reminding me of it. I suppose it must be the most important thing I've ever done."


"I was an 8 year-old Yankee fan in 1960," Bob Costas mused." I literally wept when Bill Mazeroski's home run cleared the ivy-covered wall of Forbes Field. I believe I have come to terms with it, and can see Mazeroski for what he really was: one of baseball's all-time great players. Mickey Mantle batted .400 with three homers, 11 RBI's, eight runs scored and eight walks in the series. It was not enough. "We outscored them 55-27," Mantle complained, "and that was not enough. The best team lost."



The Yankees of New York lost more the series. Five days after their defeat they fired their beloved manager Casey Stengel.

“I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 years old again,” the grizzled Casey snarled. He never did.

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sports Bookshelf by Harvey Frommer

Sports Bookshelf by Harvey Frommer




With baseball on its way out and football and basketball and hockey primed to take over the sporting center stage, a collection of highly readable, very relevant titles are there for your gift-giving and reading enjoyment. Just read on.

Fields of Battle by Brian Curtis Flatiron Books, $29.99, 308 pages is a brilliantly told evocation of a time and a place – Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl and the Boys Who Went to War. The New York Times best-selling author tells the little known tale of how after Pearl Harbor was bombed the 1942 Rose Bowl was moved to Durham, North Carolina. The game pitted Duke University against
An underdog Oregon State team. This is truly a needed book for our time interweaving the war and the game and the young men who went off the field of play to battle for their country. It is all about courage and patriotism, timely and timeless. REMARKABLE READ

The Perfect Pass by S. C. Gwynne (Scribner, $27.00, 320 pages) is all about American Genius and the Reinvention of Football” and how Coach Hal Mumme over 30 years ago changed college football by going to “Air Raid” and the elemental game charming passing game. Some called what he created an “aerial circus” while other deemed it a genius approach. Whatever one call s it – the forward pass, the quick paced usage, changed the way the defense played and how the game was played/ the book is amazing.
GO FOR IT

Fantasy Man by Nate Jackson Harper, $26.99, 240 pages is as its sub-title declares “”A Former NFL Players’s Descent into the Brutality of Fantasy Football.”
He writes how his career was the top of the fantasy.” The former tight end for the Denver Broncos has created a book that is part stroll thru the byways of fantasy football and all worthwhile reading. A WAY WITH WORDS

Belichick and Brady by Michael Holley (Hachette Books, $27, 416 pages) is a must read for all football fans and especially New England Patriot zealots. The book in defining detail brings us up close and personal into the hearts and minds of the two of the NFL’s most stalwart and original individuals. The talented Holly mixes and matches material from dozens of past and present Patriot performers and executives. Anecdotes and insights galore is the result. A WINNER

Counting The Days While My Mind Slips Away by Ben Utecht (Howard Books, $26.00, 256 pages) is from the Super Bowl tight end for the Indianapolis
Colts. This is a painful book. This is an important book. This is a tragic book. “Counting The Days While My Mind Slips Away” is part-memoir and all love-letter to his wife and daughters who one day possibly may not recognize them because of the damage Ben Utecht suffered five major concussions playing pro football. A WORTHY READ

Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Texas by Nick Eatman, $26.99 with 16 page color insert) traces the way of life and play of the Plano Senior High School Wildcats, the Baylor University Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. Intimate, behind-the-scenes, revealing the interconnection among the three teams, veteran sports book guy Nick Eatman has out-done himself. GET THIS BOOK

BOOKENDS: ESPECIALLY worth going for is “100 Greatest Baseball Autographs” by Tom Zappala and Ellen Zappala (Peter E. Randall Publisher, 212 pages, $30.00) a beautifully produced cornucopia of amazing baseball autographs and the stories behind each one of them from Honus Wagner to Derek Jeter. For browsing, for reading, for gifting – MOST WORTHWHILE-- GO FOR IT!

And finally is my acclaimed WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME: REMEMBERING THE FIRST SUPER BOWL, now in paperback: http://www.lyonspress.com/book/9781493026753

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Stadium Voices - A New Book in the Works by Baseball Historian Michael Wagner

 I am now in the process of writing a new baseball book.  It will be called Stadium Voices:
Stadium Voices will be a book about our memories of our treasured baseball teams and stadiums. Whether going to a baseball game with your dad or friends, or taking your sons and daughters to cheer on your heroes, our home team arenas became a second home to us.
Each of us is a living encyclopedia filled with memories and experiences that we remember with love.  Whether it’s the smell of hot dogs and beer, the sight of your favorite heroes hitting home runs, stealing a base, or attending an Old Timers’ or World Series game, we cherish these recollections.  Exploring various stadiums and getting autographs bring other fond memories to your heart and mind.  Through our words and memories, the past can instantaneously become the present, for which we and baseball’s past shall forever be linked.
Sadly, many of our old stomping grounds are now a thing of the past.  Nothing lives forever, not even us.  However, our words and feelings can live on when we are gone, through our words and pictures.
Having completed my first book, “Babe’s Place: The Lives of Yankee Stadium,” in 2015, I am now on a new course of adventure.  Many people have made “Babe’s Place” a wonderful book thanks to their input, for which I and the baseball historical world shall forever be indebted.
I’m now compiling information and writing a book about baseball experiences through the eyes of its fans.  It will also include baseball players and umpires as well.  This only involves Major League baseball stadiums no longer in existence or no longer in use. Should you like to add your memories &/or photos of such stadium(s), or if you know anyone else that would like to do so, please do so on this www.baseball-fever.com thread, or contact me at my e-mail address: stadiumvoices37@yahoo.com
Please be specific in order to add more flavor to your story, if possible.  For example, add your age at the time in your life that you’re writing about, the year, and even the smallest details that you think may not matter.  Even the smallest facts can add greatly to your story, especially if many people add their experiences.  This will give a more complete picture of the overall story and bring alive the feeling of the particular stadium to which you are referring.  This will be a very exciting project!
Thank you.
I wish to thank Brad Turnow and Chris Jones for their very helpful suggestions.  They are wonderful friends and great baseball historians, among so many others that I know.
Please visit Brad’s superb New York Yankees historical information at:
Mike Wagner

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bobby Thomson's Famous Homer Lives On - By Harvey Frommer - From the Vault

Bobby Thomson's Famous Homer Lives OnBy Harvey Frommer


From the Vault


Throughout the long history of baseball there have been poignant, exciting, dramatic moments. But very few can compare to what happened on October 3, 1951 at the old Polo Grounds in New York City.
Some refer to that time as "The Miracle at Coogan's Bluff." Others, especially in Brooklyn, call it "Dat Day." But no matter what label is applied it was a time to remember.



It was a time when the Giants played out of the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and the Dodgers entertained millions in their tiny Brooklyn ballpark, Ebbets Field. It was a time of tremendous fan devotion to each team.
In July Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen had bragged, "The Giants is dead." It seemed to aptly describe the plight of Leo Durocher's team. For on August 12 the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 l/2 games in the standings.



Then, incredibly, the Giants locked into what has been called "The Miracle Run." They won 37 of their final 44 games - 16 of them in one frenetic stretch - and closed the gap.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime situation," recalls Monte Irvin, who batted .312 that year for the Giants. "We kept on winning. The Dodgers kept on losing. It seemed like we beat everybody in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning.

The Giants and Dodgers finished the season in a flat-footed tie for first-place and met on the first day of October in the first game of the first play-off in the history of the National League. The teams split the first two games setting the stage for the third and final game.
Don Newcombe of the Dodgers was pitted against Sal Maglie of the Giants. Both hurlers had won 23 games during the regular season.
The game began under overcast skies and a threat of rain. Radio play-by-play filtered into schoolrooms, factories, office buildings, city prisons, barbershops.



The Wall Street teletype intermingled stock quotations with play-by-play details of the Giant-Dodger battle.
The game was tied 1-1 after seven innings. Then Brooklyn scored three times in the top of the eighth.
Many of the Dodger fans at the Polo Grounds and the multitude listening to the game on the radio thought that the Giants would not come back.

Durocher and the Giants never gave up. "We knew that Newcombe would make the wrong pitch," said Monte Irvin. "That was his history."

The Giants came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning - only three outs remained in their miracle season.
Alvin Dark led off with a single through the right side of the infield. Don Mueller slapped the ball past Dodger first baseman Gil Hodges. Irvin fouled out. Whitey Lockman doubled down the left field line. Dark scored.
With runners on second and third Ralph Branca came in to relieve Newcombe. Bobby Thomson waited to bat. Durocher said, "I did not know whether they would pitch to Thomson or not. First base was open. Willie Mays, just a rookie, was on deck."

Veteran New York Giant announcer Russ Hodges described the moment to millions mesmerized at their radios that October afternoon:

"Bobby Thomson up there swinging.... Bobby batting at .292. Branca pitches and Bobby takes a strike call on the inside corner. Lockman without too big of a lead at second but he'll be running like the wind if Thomson hits one.



"Branca throws ... there's a long drive...it's gonna be, I believe. . .' The precise moment was 3:58 P.M., October 3, 1951.

"... the Giants win the pennant!" Hodges screamed the words at the top of his voice, all semblance of journalistic objectivity gone. "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"
Hodges bellowed it out eight times - and then overcome by the moment and voiceless, he had to yield the microphone.

Pandemonium was on parade at the Polo Grounds for hours after the game. For almost half an hour after the epic home run, there were so many phone calls placed by people in Manhattan and Brooklyn that the New York Telephone Company reported service almost broke down.

Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca would play out their major league careers. But the moment they shared - as hero and goat that October day at the Polo Grounds - would link them forever.



Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fenway Park Begins By Harvey Frommer

Fenway Park Begins
By Harvey Frommer



Owner General Charles Henry Taylor, a Civil War veteran and owner of the "Boston Globe," had decided back in 1910 to build a new ballpark in the Fenway section of Boston bordering Brookline Avenue, Jersey Street, Van Ness Street and Lansdowne Street. It would cost $650,000 (approximately $14 million today), and seat 35,000

Ground was broken September 25, 1911.



An attractive red brick fa├žade, the first electric baseball scoreboard, and 18 turnstiles, the most in the Majors, were all features being talked about. Concrete stands went from behind first base around to third while wooden bleachers were located in parts of left, right, and centerfield. Seats lined the field allowing for excellent views of the game but limiting the size of foul territory.

Elevation was 20 feet above sea level. Barriers and walls broke off at different angles. Centerfield was 488 feet from home plate; right field was 314 feet away. The 10-foot wooden fence in left field ran straight along Lansdowne Street and was but 320 ½ feet down the line from home plate with a high wall behind it. There was a ten foot embankment making viewing of games easier for overflow gatherings. A ten foot high slope in left field posed challenges for outfielders who had to play the entire territory running uphill.



This was the Opening Day Lineup for the 1912 Boston Red Sox.

Harry Hooper RF
Steve Yerkes 2B
Tris Speaker CF
Jake Stahl 1B
Larry Gardner 3B
Duffy Lewis LF
Heinie Wagner SS
Les Nunamaker C
Smoky Joe Wood P

The Sox, with player-manager first baseman Jake Stahl calling the shots, nipped the Yankees, 7-6, in 11 innings. Tris Speaker -- who would bat .383, steal 52 bases and stroke eight inside-the-park home runs at Fenway -- drove in the winning run. Spitball pitcher Bucky O’Brien got the win in relief of Charles “Sea Lion” Hall. The first hit in the park belonged to New York's Harry Wolter.

Umpire Tommy Connolly kept the ball used in that historic game, writing “Opening of Fenway Park” and brief details of the game on it. In 2005, descendants of Connolly offered the ball at auction at New York Sothebys.



Hugh Bradley hit the first home run in Red Sox history over the wall on April 26th in the sixth game played at Fenway Park. “Few of the fans who have been out to Fenway Park believed it was possible,'' the Boston Herald noted. That would be Bradley’s only dinger in 1912.

And that is how it all began.

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

SHOELESS JOE AND RAGTIME BASEBALL by Harvey Frommer

SHOELESS JOE AND RAGTIME BASEBALL

http://www.lyonspress.com/book/9781630760083

Introduction to 2016 Edition

By Harvey Frommer

It is just very satisfying to see one of my favorite baseball books back in print this year of 2016. Originally published in 1992, it has now gone thru several lives.

As the author of Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, I keep getting letters and e-mails from all over the world from people on both sides of a baseball story that will not go away.

The 1919 Chicago White Sox were one of the great teams of their era. They won the American League pennant and faced off against the Cincinnati Reds, favored 3-1, to win the World Series.

But as the series was about to get underway – the betting odds started to shift to even money. The word on the street was that New York gambler Arnold Rothstein was behind the swing and that the series was fixed.
Hearing the rumor, White Sox outfielder “Shoeless Joe” Jackson asked Chicago manager Kid Gleason and owner Charles Comiskey to bench him. But they insisted he play. They would have been crazy to put down their best player.

During the series Jackson hit the only home run, had the highest batting average, committed no errors and established a new World Series record with 12 hits. Nevertheless, the Reds won.
Edd Rousch, who played for the Reds, dismissed the charges that the series was fixed. “We were just the better team,” he said. And umpire Billy Evans who worked the series said: “Maybe I’m a dope but everything seemed okay to me.”

But the rumor of a fix persisted. The 1920 season got underway and the White Sox were driving hard to their second straight pennant when a petty gambler in Philadelphia broke the news that a Cubs-Phillies game had been fixed in 1919.

That led to a gambling investigation, with its focus being the 1919 World Series. With only a couple of days left in the 1920 season, a Grand Jury was called to determine whether eight White Sox players should stand trial for allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series. Jackson was one of them.

He was asked under oath: “Did you do anything to throw those games?”
“No sir,” was his response.
“ Any game in the series?”
“Not a one,” Jackson answered. “I didn’t have an error or make no misplay.”

It took the jury a single ballot to acquit all eight accused players. But the very next day, baseball’s first commissioner – Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who came to power in the fall of 1920 with a lifetime contract and a mandate to clean up the game using whatever methods he saw fit – banned all eight players from baseball for life.

That was basically the end of the story of the greatest sports scandal of the century. But it is a story that will not go away.

Questions remain:
Was there a plan to throw the World Series?
Was it carried out?
If so, which games were thrown?
What was the role of each banned player?
Why was there a blanket banning of the players?

Buck Weaver was banned not for dumping but for allegedly having guilty knowledge that there was a plot. Fred McMullen was banned though he came to bat twice and got one hit. Jackson was banned although his performance exceeded his own records.
If the eight players were found not guilty in a court of law, how could they have been found guilty by a baseball commissioner?

Public pressure keeps increasing year-by-year to undo what many believe was a terrible wrong. But the ban still remains. Every baseball commissioner since Landis has refused to act.
Commissioner Faye Vincent said: “I can’t uncipher or decipher what took place back then. I have no intention of taking formal action.”

Commissioner Bart Giammatti said: “I do not wish to play God with history. The Jackson case is best left to historical debate and analysis. I am not for re-instatement.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred offered this opinion: “It would not be appropriate for me to reopen this matter.”
There have been other sports scandals in the 20th century – boxing matches that were fixed or allegedly fixed, the great college basketball scandal of the 1950s in New York City, rumors of other malfeasance in sports – but nothing compares to the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
And it just will not go away.

With the banning from baseball of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players, it was as if the sport was saying: now we are clean and have purged ourselves of the dishonest ways of the past. And if Jackson in the prime of his baseball career and the others were sacrificed, that was the way it had to be.

One of the greatest stars of that time, Jackson continued to exert a strong public fascination even after his banning. All kinds of folklore attached to him. One story had a little boy greet the ballplayer on the courtyard steps with the tearful line: “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

The true story, according to Jackson, was that a big guy came up to him and shouted: “I told you the son of a bitch wears shoes.”

For nearly 20 years, Jackson tried to continue to play with outlaw barnstormers, mill teams and in the semi-pros. He played under aliases and with disguises, but his unmistakable swing always gave him away. Judge Landis, the bigoted, anti-union, anti-black, vindictive and relentless first Commissioner of
baseball, threatened team owners and league officials to keep Jackson from playing.
Even when Jackson in 1932 applied for permission to manage a minor league team in his home town of Greenville, South Carolina, Landis was intransigent. He denied the application.

In 1951, Joseph Jefferson Jasckson died of a massive heart attack just one week before he was scheduled to appear on the highly popular Ed Sullivan television show to receive a trophy in honor of his being inducted into the Cleveland Indians Baseball Hall of Fame.

That much was accomplished. But all attempts during and after Jackson’s lifetime to get him into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York have failed.

Prominent attorneys like Alan Dershowitz and F. Lee Bailey have argued that Jackson should go into the Hall. Baseball legends like like Ted Williams have taken up Jackson’s cause. There have been petitions, Congressional motions, letters sent to baseball Commissioners through the years – all to no avail.

This was a player who posted the third-highest lifetime batting average. This was a player who four times batted over .370. This was a player who was such a remarkable fielder that his glove was dubbed “the place where triples go to die.”

Babe Ruth copied Jackson’s swing and claimed “Shoeless Joe” was the greatest hitter he ever saw. Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Casey Stengel all placed him on their all-time, All-Star team.
Joe Jackson’s shoes are in the Hall of Fame. His life-size photograph is there. But he is not enshrined even though others with far less credentials and far more soiled reputations are.

So we are left with a baseball story that will not go away – the Greatest Sports Scandal of the 20th Century, perhaps of any century.

It is still with us because of the lingering sense that justice miscarried, that the ignorant were duped by the clever, that the powerless suffered and the strong prevailed, that Jackson and the others were scapegoats, victims who were caught at a crossroads time in baseball and American history.

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Old Time Baseball: Umpires By Harvey Frommer

Old Time Baseball: Umpires By Harvey Frommer 


http://www.lyonspress.com/book/9781630760069

Just being released is my Old Time Baseball, billed as another “Harvey Frommer Baseball Classic.” Publishers sometimes are too kind. It is, surprisingly one of my favorite tomes, one I especially learned a lot by doing. . What follows is just a “taste” of the content. The book and others I have written are available – discounted, signed, mint condition. Just be in touch.

“Mother, may I slug the umpire, May I slug him right away? So he cannot be here, Mother, When the clubs begin to play? Let me clasp his throat, dear Mother, In a dear, delightful grip, With one hand and with the other Bat him several in the lip. Let me climb his frame, dear Mother, While the happy people shout: I'll not kill him, dearest Mother, I will only knock him out. Let me mop the ground up, Mother, With his person, dearest, do; If the ground can stand it, Mother, I don't see why you can't too.”

Early umpires were selected from the assembled crowd or even from the ranks of players. They personified the amateur spirit of the game of baseball. And since it was an "honor" to be called to that task, the early umpires received no financial compensation for their duties. They wore whatever clothing they wished. Some of the more stylish early fellows showed up bedecked in Prince Albert coat, cane, top hat. They sat at a table or took up a stance or kneeled on a stool a brave distance from home plate along the first-base line.

The National League in 1878 revolutionized things by ruling that umpires would be paid five dollars a game and gave the arbiters the right to fine players up to twenty dollars for the use of foul language. Umps were also given the power to eject rowdy fans.

In 1879 the N.L. named twenty men whom it deemed fit to be a cadre of umpires. For the sake of logistical convenience, the umpires chosen all lived in or close to cities where National League franchises were located. Prior to 1879, rival captains of teams had mutually agreed on whom they preferred to umpire a game. Now the league ruled that umpires could be chosen only from the select list of twenty men.

The gradually increased duties and independence of umpires were reflected in an 1882 ruling that abolished the practice of arbiters appealing to fans and players for guidance on a disputed play. Now umps were on their own to "call them as they saw them." And from 1882 on, all players except for the team captains were theoretically banned from engaging in any kind of menacing or meaningless banter with the umpire.

That 1882 season the American Association put in place a salaried staff of three umpires to be paid $140 a month. It was also the American Association that innovated clothing umps in blue caps and coats-a uniform that was aimed at giving the arbiters an air of respectability. Those uniforms were to become part of the folklore of the game the dress code for the "men in blue."

In 1883 the National League copied the practice of the American Association, appointing four umpires for the season who drew salaries of $1,000 each. To ensure neutrality, to quell complaints that the new umps would not be political appointees, all the umpires were unknowns who came from cities that did not have National League franchises. The four men operated under trying conditions-serving without tenure, serving at the suffrage of the owners. Complaints by any four teams were grounds for the firing of any of the umpires, and not surprisingly just one of the four umpires made it through the entire season.

Changing rules, polemics in sports sections of newspapers criticizing umpires, the rugged nature of play-all of these made the work of the men in blue a tough task. Such terms as "daylight crime," "robbery," and "home umpire" were part of the lexicon of the times applied to the alleged foibles and flaws of arbiters.

In 1884 barbed wire was fastened around the field in Baltimore to contain the fans. That same season an umpire was beaten by an angry mob when he called a game a tie because of darkness. Police escorts were commonplace to move umpires out of ball parks and away from the menace of irate fans.

Dumping on the umpire was a practice encouraged by owners, who realized that fans howled in delight at the sight of authority being humiliated. "Fans who despise umpires," Albert Spalding noted, "are simply showing their democratic right to protest against tyranny." The protests pushed profits at the box office, and owners willingly paid fines meted out to players by umpires.

The system of two umpires working a game came into being in 1887 in postseason competition between the National League and the American Association. The first set of double officials was John Gaffney and John Kelley. As a class those early arbiters were a colorful and tenacious group of men-they had to be, considering the not so genteel band of athletes they had to deal with. Umpire Billy McLean, who plied his trade in Boston and Providence, was a quick-triggered type. An ex-boxer, McLean kept himself in top physical condition; it was reported that he once arose at 4 A.M. and walked from his home in Boston to his umpiring job in Providence.

John Gaffney was called the king of umpires because of his longevity and resiliency. At one point, Gaffney was the highest-paid umpire, earning a salary of $2,500 plus expenses.

Bob Ferguson was another standout man in blue. "Umpiring always came as easy to me," he said, "as sleeping on a featherbed. Never change a decision, never stop to talk to a man. Make 'em play ball and keep their mouths shut, and never fear but the people will be on your side and you'll be called the king of umpires."

Tim Hurst, who coined the now-famous phrase about umpires, "The pay is good, and you can't beat the hours-three to five," was another of the fabled arbiters of nineteenth-century baseball. A rather smallish man who came out of the coal mining region of Pennsylvania, Hurst was quick-witted and quick-fisted.

In 1897 during the course of a game in Cincinnati, Hurst was struck in the face by a stein of beer that was hurled out of the stands. Hurst flung the stein back; it hit a spectator and knocked him out. A frenzied mob surged out onto the field heading for Hurst. Policemen made contact with the umpire first. They charged him with assault and battery and arrested the irate Hurst, who was fined $100 and court costs by a judge.

Then there was the fracas in Washington in which Hurst mixed it up verbally with Pittsburgh's Pink Hawley, Jake Stenzel, and Denny Lyons. The quartet agreed to meet after the game to settle things once and for all.

Hurst went to work quickly. He punched Hawley in the face, smashed his foot into the shins of Lyons, and roughed up Stenzel.

"Timothy, what is all the excitement?" asked National League President Nick Young, who as it turned out just happened to be passing by.

"Somebody dropped a dollar bill, Uncle Nick," replied Hurst, "and I said it was mine."

"Oh, you're sure that's all?" asked Young. "It looked to me like there was some kind of a riot going on. Did the dollar bill really belong to you?"

"Not really. It belonged to Hawley, but these other two tried their best to take it away from him, and I wouldn't let them. It was just pink tea."

"Timothy, you did the right thing." Young smiled. "Now let's leave these follows alone. Come and take a walk with me."

Two umpires from that epoch went on to become National League presidents-John Heyder and Tom Lynch. Both men confessed to recurring nightmares of their time as umpires.

With all the pain and the abuse of the job of umpiring, there were some redeeming aspects. The early umpires loved the game of baseball. They earned an average salary of $1,500 for seven months of employment, and as umpire Tim Hurst noted, it was a job where "you can't beat the hours.

" In 1898 the Brush Resolution was passed, slightly improving the umpire's lot. John T. Brush, National League mogul, pushed owners into endorsing a twenty-one-point program to do away with the bullying of umpires. Expulsion for "villainously foul language" and umpire baiting were at the heart of the resolution.

The "purification plan" never worked and was ultimately given up as hopeless-no case ever reached the appointed discipline board, but it did raise the consciousness of the public, players, and writers about the plight of umpires forced to contend with the riotous behavior of scrappy and excitable players.
"Kill the Umpire" would be a phrase of symbolic import in the future and that was a large step forward, for in the not so genteel days of the gilded age, that phrase had a darker and more sinister meaning.

(to be continued)

Dr. Harvey Frommer, is in his 20th year as professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball, as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/ The prolific author ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK is slated for publication in 2017

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

COMING IN OCTOBER - Old -Time Baseball 2016 Edition - By Harvey Frommer

COMING IN OCTOBER
Old -Time Baseball 2016 Edition
By Harvey Frommer

http://www.lyonspress.com/book/9781630760069

The first edition of this book sub-titled America’s Pastime in the Golden Age was published in 2006. It remains one of my favorite works, delving deep into baseball’s storied past, filled with all kinds of insights and oddities to the way things were when the world of sports was a far different place.
The early environment of baseball games was that of a gentlemen's affair marked by the absence of spectators except for those invited by the teams. What spectators there were lolled about on the grass or sat on chairs or benches. The umpire was generally attired in tails and a tall black top hat, and in those early years he seated himself at a table along a baseline. Circa 1860, the general public became more and more involved as spectators, and winning replaced gentlemanly ways as baseball's operative factor. The Cincinnati Red Stockings began play in 1876 in the National League in a ball park located in an area known as Chester Park. In order to get to the ball game, fans had to ride on special trains or in carriages. Crowds of 3,000 were common and considered a good payday for the team. When the National League came into being, the White Stockings played their home games in a rickety wooden park on Dearborn between 23rd and 24th streets on Chicago's West Side. During the 1880s and 1890s most parks were surrounded by wooden stands and a wooden fence. Some of the stands were partially protected by a roof, while others were simple wooden seats of sun-bleached boards. That is how the word bleachers came to be. When those parks were filled to capacity, fans were allowed to stand around the infield or take up viewing perches in the far reaches of the outfield.

John B. Day transferred the Troy National League franchise to New York in 1883; arrangements were made for games to be played on the polo field of James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald. For most of the 1880s, the team played its games on a field at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue, across from Central Park's northeast corner. In 1897,a game between Boston and Baltimore drew more than 25,000 fans, the overflow crowd was permitted to stand just a few feet behind the infielders, creating a situation where any ball hit into the throng was ruled an automatic ground-rule double . In 1899, the Giants moved to New York City plot 2106, lot 100, located between 155th and 157th streets at Eighth Avenue in upper Manhattan. The location was called "the new Polo Grounds," a horseshoe-shaped stadium with Coogan's Bluff on one side and the Harlem River on the other. The Polo Grounds seated 55,897, the most of any facility in the National League. A four-story, misshapen structure with seats close to the playing field and overhanging stands, it was an odd ball park that afforded fans the opportunity to be close to the action. There were 4,600 bleacher seats, 2,730 field boxes, 1,084 upper boxes, 5,138 upper reserved boxes, and 2,318 general admission seats. The majority of those who came to the Polo Grounds sat in the remaining lower general admission seats. The visitors' bullpen was just a bench located in the boondocks of left center field. There was no shade from the sun for the visitors or protection from Giant fans who pelted opposing pitchers with pungent projectiles. The upper left field deck hung over the lower deck; and it was virtually impossible for a fly ball to get into the lower deck because of the projection of the upper deck. The overhang triggered many arguments, for if a ball happened to graze the front of the overhang it was a home run. The double decks in right field were even. The short distances and the asymmetrical shape of the convoluted ball park resulted in drives rebounding off the right field and left field walls like billiard shots. And over the years hitters and fielders on the New York Giants familiar with the pool table walls of the ball park had a huge advantage over opposing teams. Fires and progress would make steel and concrete replace the wood and timber of the nineteenth century ball parks. The idiosyncratic dimensions of stadiums, the marching bands, even the real grass in many instances-all of these would ultimately become footnotes to baseball history. As late as 1900 some clubs even allowed fans to park their automobiles or carriages in the outfield. The environment at those games made it difficult for fans to follow the action clearly. Even though scorecards and programs were sold, no public address system existed, and there were no names or numbers on the players' uniforms. Players were sometimes pressed into service to double as ticket takers. And during breaks in the action on the field, the dull moments were enlivened by the festive performances of brass bands. The St. Louis National League entry was known as the Browns and then the Perfectos-an odd name for a club with a not so perfect track record. The team left the National League twice, then returned and finished twelfth twice, eleventh three times, tenth once, ninth once, and once in fifth place in the years 1892-99. To attract customers to Robinson Field, St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe transformed his ball park into what he called "the Coney Island of the West." He installed chute-the-chutes (tubs that plunged with their riders into a pool), night horseracing, a Wild West show. The popular tunes of the day were played by the Silver Cornet Band-an all-female aggregation bedecked in long striped skirts and elegant blouses with leg-of-mutton sleeves and broad white sailor hats. In 1899 Chris Von der Ahe changed the uniforms around in his zest for more color-the new garments featured red trim and red-striped stockings. The new uniforms brought new nicknames for the St. Louis team- Cardinals or Redbirds, they were called, and so they would remain. All of the above illustrates the curious and dramatic difference between the “then” and the “now” in the world of baseball. Just a taste of the fascinating content I collected to be a part of Old-Time Baseball: America’s Pastime in the Gilded Age

Enjoy
Harvey Frommer
Lyme, New Hampshire

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Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park. His highly praised When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl was published last fall.
His Frommer Baseball Classic – Remembering Yankee Stadium (Second Edition) is his newest sports effort. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/
The prolific author is at work on THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK (2017)