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Harry M. Stevens occupies a prominent place in the creation of the baseball experience. He is credited with introducing both hot dogs and scorecards to the sporting public, and built an empire around these staples.
There are a few pieces of Stevens-related memorabilia hanging in a hallway here at his great-grandson's home. There's a bio of "Score Card Harry" from the New York Clipper, dated June 27, 1896. It details the growth of Stevens' operation, beginning in Columbus of the Ohio State League, in 1887, and continuing through his gaining the right to sell scorecards at the Polo Grounds in 1895. Also on the wall is the cover of one of those 1895 scorecards for the New York Base Ball Club (the Giants), featuring a full-color illustration of a ballfield from the first base side. A spectator with top hat, moustache, and cigar is in the foreground.
The item which has caught my fascination for the better part of this afternoon is an even older scorecard. This one is a 2-color card from 1892, the offical score card of the Washington Base Ball Club (the Senators). It features a photo of Boston catcher and future Hall of Famer Mike "King" Kelly on the cover, and the scorecard is unfolded into four panels. On the front side are ads for sporting goods, alcohol, and tobacco. The back is also visible thorugh a cutout on the other side of the frame. The lineups for a game between the Senators and the Cleveland Spiders are printed. Here they are (I used Baseball-reference.com to fill in the first names):
Senators: Paul Radford, 3B Tommy Dowd, 2B Dummy Hoy, CF Henry Larkin, 1B Jocko Milligan, C Charlie Duffee, LF Danny Richardson, SS Frank Killen, P Patsy Donovan, RF
Spiders: Cupid Childs, 2B Jake Virtue, 1B George Davis, 3B Ed McKean, SS Jimmy McAleer, CF Jesse Burkett, LF Jack O'Connor, RF Chief Zimmer, C George Rettger, P and Cy Young, P (both listed)
The Washington lineup isn't much, befitting a team which went 58-93 and finished 10th out of 12 teams. The most recognizable name is that of Dummy Hoy, a 5'4", 148 lb deaf-mute outfielder who, according to the Baseball Online Library, was the reason umpires adopted hand signals for safe, out, and strike calls. Hoy went on to rack up over 2000 hits, played in four major leagues (NL, AL, Players League, and the American Association), and lived to the ripe old age of 99. He even got to throw out the first pitch of a World Series game in 1961, the year of his death. The only other Senator I recognize, but who wasn't in the lineup that day, is Deacon McGuire, a catcher who played in 26 seasons. McGuire's last appearance in the bigs is one for the annals; in 1912, when he was 48 years old, he was part of a one-game makeshift team fielded by the Detroit Tigers. The regular Tigers were on strike in support of a suspended Ty Cobb, and the replacements were pounded 24-2 by the Philadelphia A's.
The Cleveland lineup is much better; they went 93-56, and finished second in the NL. Cy Young you know about (511 wins, and an award named after him, for you rookies out there). George Davis was in the second year of a Hall of Fame career which included over 2600 hits. Jesse Burkett was even better than Davis, hitting over .400 three times (the only other man to do that besides that Cobb fella). Burkett, known as "the Crab" for his cheerful disposition, ran off a seven-year span in which his hit totals ranged from 198 to 240, and he finished with 2850 for his Hall of Fame career.
The Spiders' lineup was incredibly stable. Only two bench players saw any action, and of the seven pitchers, two appeared in only one game and another (the aforementioned Rettger) in five. Young pitched in 53 games, completing 48 out of 49, going 36-12 with a 1.93 ERA. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.
Returning to the scorecard, the back has several alcohol ads, including one for Faust Beer, "the Healthiest and Finest Drink you can offer your friend," brewed by Anheuser Busch, and Pabst Milwaukee Beer, which "leads them all, and everybody uses it." For those who use too much of it, there are ads for the Silver Ash Institue for the Cures of Alcohol and Opium Habits, and the Blackstone Gold Cure Institute for the Cure of Liquor, Opium, and Morphine Habits. I don't know about you, but I'm picturing an opium den under the bleachers of Boundary Field, where the Nats played. Today's Tigers fans should be so lucky.
The scorecard itself is only partially filled out, listing what appears to be a line score for each team; if this is to be believed, the Senators scored 11 runs in the first inning, added two in the sixth, and five in the seventh (I'm a bit skeptical). The Spiders apparently managed only one in the sixth and three in the seventh, making the final score 18-4. Another possiblity is that the scores are cumulative, and that the 11 in the first is actually a tally of two, in which case the final would have been 5-3. The inning-by-inning boxes aren't filled in, but there are some dots in totals columns (AB, R, 1B, TB, SH, PO, A, E) which reveal that whoever was scoring lost interest fairly early (two players have three at bats, the rest one or two). Combing through the Senators' and Spiders' game logs on Retrosheet, the two teams played 14 times during that 1892 season, but none of their games ended with either an 18-4 or 5-3 score. Their seven games played at Boundary Field were as follows:
June 1: WAS 8, CLE 7 June 2: CLE 7, WAS 6 June 3: WAS 9, CLE 4 July 15: WAS 3, CLE 1 July 16: CLE 6, WAS 4 Sept. 7 (1): CLE 3, WAS 2 Sept. 7 (2): WAS 6, CLE 2
Patsy Donovan is listed in the Senators' lineup, but he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates fairly early within the season; he played 40 games for the Senators and 90 for the Pirates. This leads me to believe that the game was from the first series of the three. Furthermore, another way of reading the Washington score is of the first inning as a two-run tally, then two more in the two in the sixth and five in the seventh, for a total of nine runs. Add the four for the Spiders and it's a reasonable conclusion that the June 3, 1892 game is the one in question. Wow.
Anyway... Stuart Rose, Stevens' great-grandson, obtained the scorecards and other items at an auction after the business (which was passed down to Stevens' sons upon Harry Stevens' death in 1934) was sold. Stuart was kind enough to break out the auction catalog, which includes some amazing reproductions of the types of memorabilia more likely to wind up in a Sotheby's auction than an eBay one: • the cover of the program from Opening Day at Yankee Stadium (April 18, 1923) • an autographed photo of Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run (!!!), inscribed "To my second Dad, Harry M. Stevens, from Babe Ruth, Dec. 25th, 1927" • a photo of a giant hot dog which reads:
50 Years Old Look How He's Grown Golden Jubilee Testimonial Dinner to the Stevens Boys on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Hot Dog by the New York Baseball Writers. Hotel Commodore, Jan. 14, 1941.
• the cover of the first Mets program, from 1962, featuring a diapered baby • the cover of the program for the first Ali-Frazier heavyweight championship fight, featuring a garish Leroy Niemann painting, at Madison Square Garden, dated March 8, 1971.
It's that scorecard that blows me away though, the way a 111-year old piece of paper, a cryptic telegram from the past, revealed some of its secrets, but kept others for itself (what was the date? how did those runs score? was the scorer a busy Harry M. Stevens himself?). All in all, an extremely compelling collection of items, and a thoroughly fascinating way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Thanks again to Stuart, his wife Wally, and my pal Nick Stone for their hospitality and for giving me the opportunity to rummage through their memorabilia.
This ship has been off course for three seasons, not because of a lack of resources, but because of a lack of judgment. The Mets began the year with a payroll of about $120 million, which is second only to the Yankees' roughly $180 million. They have nothing to show for it but a clubhouse of aging stars with big names, big contracts and big injuries. It's all Steve Phillips's fault.
He sold Wilpon on the notion that you had to win with big names in New York, that the fans weren't patient enough to wait for rebuilding, that you had to do it now. Forget the farm system.
Rhoden suggests that Giants GM Brian Sabean, Braves GM John Schuerholz and Expos GM (and former Met assistant GM) Omar Minaya would be the best choices to replace Phillips, but obviously, all three are currently employed. Jim Duquette, cousin of the Boston Red Sox General Pariah Dan Duquette, was named the interim GM until the end of the season and will be a candidate for the permanent job, as if any high-level New York sports executive can consider his job "permanent."
The Yanks became a part of baseball history in a most undignifed manner on Wednesday night. Not only did they have a no-hitter pitched against them, they had a no-hitter pitched against them by a sextet of Houston Astros hurlers. While four pitchers had combined on a no-hitter before (twice, actually), no team had ever used so many in a no-no. The Astros' situation came about when starter Roy Oswalt pulled up lame with a groin injury two pitches into the second inning. Manager Jimy Williams deftly scotch-taped his way through the ballgame until he could get to his two relief aces, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner, to close the deal.
I saw the second half of the ballgame, but I have to admit I was mostly half-watching. I had dinner on Wednesday night with Greg Spira of Baseball Prospectus, and afterwards we went to a bar to watch the Yankee game and shoot the breeze. I took him to Manitoba's, an East Village bar owned by Handsome Dick Manitoba, the former lead singer of the '70s New York punk band the Dictators. Handsome Dick (real name Richard Blum) is a big Yanks fan and the bar's a decent place to watch a ballgame if you don't mind closed-captioning and a punk-heavy jukebox. So the Dead Boys classic "Sonic Reducer" blared while the 'Stros pitchers reduced the Yankee bats to splinters, the Yankee lineup underwent its own "Personality Crisis" in tandem with the New York Dolls chestnut, and Joe Torre looked like he wanna be sedated.
We joined the game right as Lance Berkman made his diving catch on Alfonso Soriano's blooper to end the fifth. At that point the score was 4-0, but that's all we knew. It wasn't until the end of the sixth that I saw a shot of the scoreboard and that trio of zeroes in the Yankee R H E columns. That piqued our interest. We started talked no-hitters. Greg's been to Jose Jiminez's in Arizona in 1999, along with an entire SABR convention. The closest I've come was Bartolo Colon taking one into the eighth against the Yanks on September 18, 2000. Greg asked if I had been rooting for Colon at that point, to which I replied that I would have if the no-no had survived until the ninth inning. That was in the midst of that infamous Yankee slide at the end of the 2000 season, and I wasn't in any mood for concessions then.
But it's not as though I'd never seen a no-no. I've watched two in full (Nolan Ryan's fifth, in 1981, against the Dodgers -- now there was a guy who could turn me against my own team -- and Jack Morris' 1984 gem agains the White Sox) and seen the last few innings of several (Kevin Gross and Bud Smith come to mind). I missed both David Wells' and David Cone's perfectos for various reasons, and came one agonizing strike away when Mike Mussina nearly pulled it off.
When the Astros' Brad Lidge got through the Yanks in the seventh, I smelled toast. They were about to face the best setup man in the game in Dotel, a fireballer who strikes out 1.5 batters per inning pitched, followed by Wagner, who... well, ditto. The two lived up to their billing. Thanks to a passed ball on a third strike that allowed Soriano to reach first, Dotel actually tied the major leauge record with four strikeouts in one inning. Wagner struck out the first two batters in the ninth, giving the Yanks an ignominious eight strikeouts in a row, tying an AL record. Hideki Matsui mercifully ended both that string and the game by doing what he apparently does best, grounding out.
I have to admit I wasn't even finicky this time. I figure to see the Yanks lose about 60 times this year, and this was already going to be one of them. The no-no would be a neat little catch, but it might also serve the larger purpose of showing the Yanks that they'd reached the nadir of their season.
Manager Joe Torre kept the clubhouse closed for several minutes and held a meeting in which players said he called the game embarrassing. Torre, bothered by how the Yankees played, looked and acted, told them this sort of play would not be tolerated.
"Whatever kind of history it was, it was terrible," Torre said. "It was one of the worst games I've ever been involved with."
Echoes of Tommy Lasorda I've-never-been-so-sick take on Reggie Jackson's 3-homer World Series game in 1977. Elsewhere, phrases like "embarassment," "totally inexcusable," and "rock bottom" were used by players and management. Not suprisingly, the Steinbrenner Watch is on Full Alert in all of the New York area papers today, with hitting coach Rick Down assumed to be the one wearing the tightest noose. It must be a great time to be a Yankee hater.
• • •
Against this backdrop, I headed to Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, fairly certain that the sequel would have a different ending than the night before. After all, only once in baseball history have two no-hitters been thrown in the same park on back-to-back days. I was joined by Greg, the second ballgame we've taken in together this past week (we went to last Friday's Mets-Mariners ballgame at Shea, along with Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference and frequent Baseball Primer poster David Nieporent -- an experience I haven't had much chance to write about).
I arrived a bit late due to subway difficulties, and thus missed the Astros scoring two runs off of David Wells in the top of the first. Greg filled me in with a flawless play-by-play, rescuing my scorecard from oblivion. The Yanks got a run back in the bottom of the inning against Jeriome Robertson, a rookie lefty I'd never seen before. Soriano led off the first with a walk (something he does fewer times a year than hit a leadoff homer, I'll wager) and then Derek Jeter beat out a bunt to third, the newly-annointed captain getting the monkey off of the Yanks' back in short order. Sori ended up scoring on a sac fly by cleanup hitter (and Torre pet) Todd Zeile. Gulp.
Wells settled down, and the Yanks took a lead in the fourth. Raul Mondesi laced a ground-rule double down the leftfield line and over the wall, and Hideki Matsui followed with a sharp RBI single to right. A John Flaherty single took Godzilla to third, where he scored from on a sac fly by Juan Rivera.
The Astro hitters kept finding holes, racking up six hits through five innings. But some timely defense, especially by Zeile, kept the Yanks in front. Zeile made good plays on a couple of slow rollers and started an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP on Jeff Bagwell in the fifth. My presence seems to be bringing out the best in him.
But in the sixth, Wells ran out of whatever combination of luck and gas had carried him through the first five frames. Three straight singles loaded the bases with none out, and Brian (the speedy one, right?) Hunter followed with a sac fly (the fourth of the ballgame). Number nine hitter and defensive specialist Adam Everett nearly took Wells over the wall, then socked a ground-rule double that scored two, at which point nearly 40,000 Yankee fans sighed in unison, "Uh-oh, here we go again." During this May-June swoon, one stat that hasn't been overlooked is that the Yanks had yet to come from behind to win a ballgame in which they'd trailed after six innings.
The team seemed to be feeling that pressure in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Bubba Trammell singled, and Flaherty ripped a double into the left-center gap. With the Astro outfielders having displayed woefully off-line throws thus far, third base coach Willie Randolph was licking his chops as he waved Trammell around to score. This time the Astros made a perfect relay play, Berkman to 3B Morgan Ensberg to catcher Greg Zaun, and Bubba was lunch.
Jimy Williams chose the occasion to pull Robertson in favor of Kris Sarloos, one of the previous night's heroes. Juan Rivera worked a full count off of Sarloos and then picked up Flaherty on a single to left, and the Yanks cut the Astro lead to 5-4. They tied the game in the next inning after Berkman dove and missed a Jason Giambi bloop for a double, and Mondesi lined a two-out single to right. The clutch hitting animated the crowd considerably, and there was a palpable sense of we're-gonna-win-this-one relief in the air.
Antonio Osuna had come on in relief of Wells after six; the REAL Osuna , not the impersonator who bore a rather strong resemblance to Juan Acevedo on Tuesday night. Osuna shut down Houston in the seventh and eighth, allowing only one hit.
Facing Octavio Dotel, Hideki Matsui led off the Yankee eighth. In the hole 0-2, he hit a fast grounder right down the line to Bagwell, who got the ball just past the bag, but apparently not so well. E-3. Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra stroked a single as I badmouthed him, and then pinch-hitter Jorge Posada battled back from 0-2 to draw a walk, loading the bases with none out. Rivera popped out, but Soriano dunked one into rightfield, scoring a run. Dotel finally settled down and struck out Jeter and Giambi for a grim reminder of the previous evening's affairs.
But the Yanks had the lead going into the ninth, so "Enter Sandman." Mo Rivera rung up Craig Biggio to start the 9th, and ended up closing the door on the Astros, just like he's supposed to, giving the Yanks their first late-inning come-from-behind victory of the season.
Not to mention their third straight in my presence. If George won't spring for my limo, I figure the Yankee coaches might chip in.
Meanwhile fairly hefty but interesting debate over Acevedo's "merits" sprung up over at Baseball Primer, with a few heavy-duty statheads singing "The Ballad of Small Sample Sizes" and "The Regression to the Mean Song" to us high-blood-pressured, myopic Yankee fans. Their main point was that Acevedo's been more or less average for the past three years and that sooner or later he'd return to being more or less average again, and that we shouldn't get all fahitched about 23 lousy innings. Meanwhile we Yank fans argued that it was senseless for the Yanks to waste their time waiting for Acevedo's performance to normalize when they had access to plenty of other relievers on the farm and in the free talent pool, including Jason Anderson and Al Reyes, both of whom they recalled after whacking Juan.
Larry Mahnken of the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog has done a better job summarizing some of the arguments that broke out on that thread, and he's got a few other interesting tidbits and smart-assed comments as well. If your'e a Yank fan, you should be reading him.
One thing I'm extremely grateful that never got tossed was my baseball mitt, a Rawlings RBG80 Greg Luzinski model that dates back to my days in Little League. It's funny because not only was Luzinski a horrible fielder ("worst outfielder I ever saw, bar none" says Bill James), but he'd also graduated to his natural position as a DH by the time I was playing. Fortunately, I was at least competent with the leather, unlike the Bull (who could make up for his shortcomings with the long ball, unlike yours truly). I retrieved that mitt about five years ago, and regularly toss the pea around with friends (even my girlfriend gets into the act -- she's got a great arm). But that old glove is really starting to show some wear, especially on the inside, where moisture has led to cracking. Still, I'm horrified at the thought of having to replace it, because of how long it would take to break in a new one and because this thing still fits like, um, a glove.
That kind of relationship with a glove is something nearly everybody who's played the game at any level can relate (everybody except Edgar Martinez, perhaps), which is why it's surprising it's taken so long for somebody to do a book about them. My mom called my attention to Noah Liberman's Glove Affairs: The Romance, History, and Tradition of the Baseball Glove via this review in the Salt Lake Tribune. I haven't seen the book yet, so I'll let the linked review do the talking. But I'll be looking for Glove Affairs the next time I'm in the bookstore.
First up is Charles P. Pierce of Slate, who asks, "Is this man a danger to your children?":
Whenever anybody in the modern communications media starts vaguely maundering about The Children—whether it's Weepin' Joe Lieberman talking about rap music, or Cokie Roberts wondering how she's going to explain Oval Office blowjobs to her daughter, or sportswriters worrying about the dearth of good role models—it is time to turn off the set and throw the remote control to the dog. My lord, on Tuesday morning, a full week after the incident happened, Jay Mariotti in the Chicago Sun-Times was still gathering the shattered young ones under his wing. "Children deserve to know what he did and why it's wrong," Mariotti thundered, perhaps mindful of the generation we lost to drugs and crime because of society's tolerance for Gaylord Perry.
Speaking of Mariotti, an otherwise anonymous Primer poster offered a parody, "Sammy Sosa Is a Fraud Who Poops His Pants," that's so dead-on that it makes you wonder how many of the nation's sportswriters churn this kind of stuff out while napping.
Also worth a grin is John Levesque of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who says that Sammy was merely taking up the cause of the world's cork farmers:
He says he uses the corked bat in batting practice to put on a show for fans, and that he used it an actual game completely by mistake.
I believe him because, well, the whole premise of this column would be shot if I didn't. By using a corked bat in practice, Sosa is telling the struggling cork growers of Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, France and Tunisia: "I'm with you guys. Try to stay afloat."
As a popular role model, he's also telling America's kids it's OK to buy a bulletin board, or to ask their parents to install cork flooring in the rec room.
One of my friends, warning that the use of synthetic wine corks is on the rise (dear God, NOOOOO!), asked with a wink, "Won't somebody think of the cork-growers' children?"
The Cubs were not the first team to be owned by a large corporation (even the Yankees spent some time owned by CBS before Steinbrenner rescued them), but their purchase by TribCo certainly foreshadowed the current wave of corporate ownership. Tribune looked at the Cubs as cheap content for their WGN TV station, which was showing up on cable systems all over the country. They talked up the team on WGN Radio and in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. With the exception of the hiring of Dallas Green, however, they did very little to improve the team.
They did lots of things to improve the amount of money the team brought in, though, like installing lights and skyboxes. After the '84 division title, they ended the decades-old practice of selling bleacher seats on the day of the game... And yet, not much of this extra money ended up on the field. Or, when it did, it went to people like Larry Bowa and Dave Smith, and (famously) not to people like Greg Maddux.
On the Yankee front:
Steinbrenner has a lot of money. TribCo has as much money as Steinbrenner, if not more. So does Fox, and Peter Angelos, and look how well their teams have done. Steinbrenner not only has the money, he isn't afraid to spend it, and he is smart enough to hire smart people to run his team. For some reason, those last two things get lost when The End of Baseball As We Know It gets discussed.
Steinbrenner wants to win, and he does what it takes to do so. Plus, he brings all the excitement of a loaded pistol with a hair trigger being passed around by a bunch of speed freaks... But I'd gladly deal with all that uncertainty and day-to-day craziness if it meant I have the privilege of following a team that gave itself every opportunity to win.
While it's tempting to tell Christian, "Be careful what you wish for," I do think he's hit the nail on the head. Baseball needs more owners like Steinbrenner, not fewer, and by that I don't mean a guy who's going to make a horse's ass out of himself every time something goes wrong, I mean a guy who cares more about his ballclub winning than he does about petty issues like revenue sharing. Wouldn't you, Twins-Orioles-Brewers-Royals-Pirates fans, rather have as an owner a guy who'd knock his own grandmother on her ass in order to gain an advantage than a guy who'd pocket revenue-sharing money while complaining about having to trade a star on the verge of free-agency because he "can't afford" him and fielding a team which might struggle to win 60 games? Yes, the Twins are winning right now, and perhaps the Royals have finally turned a corner. But the bottom line is that the bottom line depends on winning: build a winner and fans will show up, and plenty of money will follow.
• • •
Speaking of building a winner, the Dodger fan in me is very excited about the news that Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer is close to buying the Dodgers. According to the Los Angeles Daily News:
Malcolm Glazer is finalizing his agreement to purchase the Dodgers from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and people with knowledge of the negotiations believe the deal will get done by the end of the week... The purchase price is believed to be in the $375 million range, but even if an agreement is reached this week, it could be months before the ownership officially changes hands. Major League Baseball previously said it wouldn't schedule a special owner's meeting before one in mid-August.
I've cringed before at some of the Dodgers' suitors. When Dave Checketts made a bid earlier this spring, I wrote, "I want my Dodgers back, but I don't want Dave Checketts anywhere near them. I'll take my chances with the next S.O.B. who comes along instead."
I have yet to read anything saying that Glazer is an S.O.B., but even if he is, that shiny Lombardi Trophy he's holding as the owner of the team who won the Super Bowl is good enough for me. Anybody who can turn the Buccaneers into champions ought to be able to restore some of the winning mojo to the Dodgers. I'm sold, and I hope the Dodgers will be soon enough.