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August 17, 2007
A Book That Never Was
I was looking at some old files and found a book proposal that my friend Pete Fornatale and I did a couple of years ago. It was a very nice book proposal, but one that, unfortunately, did not result in an actual book at that time. It was Pete's idea, actually; a follow-up to a similar book he had done on poker. Like the poker book, this was to be a small-format publication intended for placement at bookstore counters for point-of-purchase sale. Each page was to contain some fun factoids about baseball; some of these would have been things the reader might need for quick reference, like a listing of all the championship teams, or all the different ways a batter could reach first base. Others were more arcane and/or amusing, and I thought I'd share some of those with you today.
Albums by ballpark organists
The organ first made its appearance in a big league ballpark at Wrigley Field in 1941. Its heyday lasted about 50 years, until conformist teams began saturating ballgames with prerecorded music. Since its inception as a stadium staple, ballpark organists have been releasing their work--both baseball-related and otherwise--on disc and vinyl. Not all of it is organ music, either. When it came time to cut their albums, a number of them jumped over to the piano. Eddie Layton was the most prolific recorde; by the time he joined the Yankees in 1967, he had a large catalog on vinyl. Here are a sampling of titles:
Eddie Layton (Yankees), Better Layton Than Never and Skatin' With Layton
Scoring high in run-depleted times
Since the turn of the 20th Century, baseball has experienced three downturns in scoring. The first came not long after the birth of the American League, and ran from about 1904 to 1909. After an upward spike, scoring dropped once more in the mid-teens. Fifty years later, pitching began to dominate the game, a trend that lasted into the early '70s. The ten lowest-scoring league seasons ever come from these time periods. They are, in order: 1908 National (3.33 runs per team per game), 1907 National (3.40), 1968 American (3.41), 1968 National (3.43), 1909 American (3.44), 1908 American (3.44), 1972 American (3.47), 1917 National (3.53), and 1904 American (3.54). High-scoring games were--as you can imagine--very rare during these years. In fact, only 14 times in the 6,819 games played in these ten league seasons did both teams manage to get into double figures in the same game. (By way of contrast, consider that the St. Louis Browns played in eight such games themselves in 1936.)
The highest combined scores in baseball's lowest-scoring seasons:
29: Washington 16 New York (A) 13, April 21, 1908
Highest team scores in baseball's lowest-scoring seasons:
21-2: Detroit over Philadelphia (A), July 17, 1908
Abner Doubleday's greatest moments
Imagine that 15 years after you are dead, people begin crediting you with something you didn't do. Without your being around to deny it (or confirm it, if that's your nefarious thing), your accomplishment becomes a part of American myth. This is what happened to Abner Doubleday. As everyone knows by now, the concept that he invented baseball was put forth by a committee not especially interested in the truth. He still managed to achieve more than most, though. These are his five greatest accomplishments:
Baseball variation games
When is the last time you saw a group of kids playing actual baseball in a sandlot? Probably the last time you rented a copy of The Sandlot. Self-actualized baseball games--those not organized by an adult-run governing body--are probably going the way of the orange crate scooter and the zig-zag cut men's hats favored by Jughead Jones of the Archie comics. So, as rare as it might be to see a pickup baseball game, imagine the chances of seeing anyone playing any of these games:
Raft Baseball: Home plate is on a large floating platform while each base is on smaller ones. Fielders swim after struck balls while the batter and "runners" swim from base to base.
Source: The Complete Book of Games and Stunts (Prentice-Hall, 1956)