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August 17, 2007

Prospectus Matchups

A Book That Never Was

by Jim Baker

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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
Shay Torrent (White Sox/Angels), Organ Melodies in Hi-Fi
Jane Jarvis (Mets), Jane Jarvis Jams
John Kiley (Red Sox), John Kiley Plays Gigantic Pipe Organ
Peggy Duquesnel (Angels), Where is Love?
Gladys Gooding (Brooklyn Dodgers), Baseball Medley on V-disc
Vince Lascheid (Pirates), Double Play
Paul Richardson (Phillies), Crystal Keyboard Reflections
Lowery Ballew (Marlins), Keyboard Country
Ernie Hays (Cardinals), Organ for All Seasons
Frank Pellico (Cubs), Phantom at the Organ

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
28: New York (A) 18 Chicago (A) 10, June 3, 1972; 13 innings
28: Cincinnati 19 Philadelphia (N) 9, May 24, 1917
25: Pittsburgh 20 New York (N) 5, August 22, 1907
25: Pittsburgh 14 Boston (N) 11, May 13, 1907

Highest team scores in baseball's lowest-scoring seasons:

21-2: Detroit over Philadelphia (A), July 17, 1908
21-3: New York (A) over Cleveland, July 14, 1904
20-5: Pittsburgh over New York (N), August 22, 1907
19-1: Pittsburgh over Cincinnati, August 21, 1968
19-9: Cincinnati over Philadelphia (N), May 24, 1917
18-1: Detroit over Washington, August 8, 1908
18-6: Chicago (A) over Detroit, June 27, 1904
18-10: New York (A) over Chicago (A), June 3, 1972
17-0: New York (A) over Washington, April 24, 1909
17-2: Cincinnati over Houston, April 29, 1968
17-6: Detroit over New York (A), August 27, 1909

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:

  1. Doubleday fought in the War against Mexico and later served on a committee investigating war profiteering in that conflict. An artillery careerist, he found himself at Fort Sumter in 1861 when that installation came under fire by secessionists, marking "Opening Day" of the American Civil War. It was he who aimed the first Union gun that returned this fire.
  2. He was initially a brigade commander at Second Bull Run, then a division commander, a role he was in again at Antietam. In the latter battle, Harper's Brothers describes a part of Doubleday's efforts as follows. "They (the Confederates, charging late in the battle) penetrated the National line and drove it back, when the unflinching Doubleday gave them such a storm of artillery that they, in turn, fell back to their original position."
  3. His actions at the Battle of Gettysburg were largely ignored by the army's commander, who chose not to give him permanent command of the corps he had to assume command of after its commander, General John F. Reynolds, was killed in action. However, some believe that Doubleday's actions on the battle's first day rank with those of Reynolds and General John Buford in setting the stage for the Union to win the decisive battle of the war.
  4. After the war, he relocated to San Francisco, where, in 1870, he suggested the city would do well to adopt cable cars for a street railway. He obtained the charter, the first of its kind in the United States.
  5. He wrote two books on his experiences in the Civil War and many articles on engineering and military matters. At no time in his writings did he intimate that he invented the game of baseball.

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.
Tomball: Resembles cricket in that every struck ball--fair or foul--is in play.
Punkin Baseball: A volleyball stands in for the baseball or softball.
Philadelphia Batball: Again with a volleyball, only in this game, the batter serves it out into the field himself without a bat. It must travel at least 15 feet into fair territory or it is considered foul.
Throwing Baseball: No bat. No pitches. The batter just heaves the baseball into play and runs.
Punt Baseball: The pitcher is just another fielder with no delivery duties. The batter takes a soccer ball, punts it, then runs. There is also a place-kick variation.
Bucketball: A large bucket is placed upside down in the center of a circle 30 to 50 feet in diameter. The batter stands on top of the bucket with a bat. His job is to keep thrown balls from hitting the bucket by knocking them away. The opposing team rings the circle where any of them may act as pitcher at any moment. The batter can make an out three ways: allowing the ball to hit the bucket, hitting a ball caught on the fly or falling off the bucket.
Tumbleball: The runners must do forward rolls--or other such gymnastic moves--on their way to each base.

Source: The Complete Book of Games and Stunts (Prentice-Hall, 1956)

Related Content:  Baseball,  Ballpark Music

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