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Post Info TOPIC: Black Sox and Vintage Base Ball: SABR Con 36
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Date: Dec 9, 2010
Black Sox and Vintage Base Ball: SABR Con 36
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Back in 2006, I was lucky enough to attend SABR Con 36, which was held here in Seattle.

Along with panel discussions and author presentations, there was an exhibition of 1860's-style base ball, allowing fans to see how the game was played and how the rules have changed.

I had a chance to sit and chat with a number of baseball fans from around the country, many of whom have played Strat at one time or another.

While I was hanging around the registration table, I got into a conversation with a woman who was also waiting.  She introduced herself as "Susan."  I said 'Susan...," working to get a last name, and she replied "Dellinger."

"I was hoping to get a chance to meet you," I somewhat gushed.  Susan Dellinger is the granddaughter of Hall of Famer Edd Roush, and the author of Red Legs and Black Sox: Edd Roush and the Untold Story of the 1919 World Series.

I told her (very briefly, if you can imagine that) about my 1920 Strat season, and how I had come to believe that the 1919-'20 Reds had been seriously underestimated over the years, because of how good the White Sox were supposed to be.

At the time, the Sox were considered to be perhaps the all-time greatest aggregation of players in the game's history.  At least half of the "eight men out" had serious shots at the Hall of Fame, had they stayed clean.  Plus, Eddie Collins, Red Faber and Ray Schalk, who did make it.

During the convention, I also learned more about the origins of the game.  Apparently, not only are the old Doubleday and Cartwright stories inaccurate, but the basis of the game's possible genesis as a derivative of the game of rounders was also in serious doubt.

David Block, author of Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game, has researched the game's history all the may back to Medieval times!  His studies found numerous mentions (in Germany!) of an "English baseball," which turns out to have been played mostly by girls and young ladies!  Astonishing!

This was just the tip of the iceberg.  My budget kept me out of larger aspects of the convention (the panel discussions, etc.), but even on the "outskirts," finding out that the game's earliest practitioners may have been in skirts...

As the convention was winding down, I also got a chance to chat with the late Gene Carney, author of Burying the Black Sox - How Baseball's Cover-Up of the 1919 World Series Fix Almost Succeeded.

Carney was perhaps the preeminent expert on the history surrounding the scandal, and what he believes was an even bigger scandal, as the owners tried to cover everything up.

Having a chance to meet Ms Delinger and Mr. Carney at the very time I was in the midst of my 1920 56-game SOM season was pure magic!

I have got to learn how to manage my money better.  It was like getting to heaven, and finding the St. Peter is armed with a cash register!



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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."



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By far, the most fun was in getting a look at the game of baseball that you may have never seen...unless you've witnessed a Vintage game.

Think of baseball, by way of Civil War re-enactors, because that's what many of the players are.  This is a look at the way the National Pastime was played back in the days when the nation itself was far from united, or even settled.

As I had already discovered, the roots of the great game are actually far from American.  While this incarnation is recognizable, there was still much in the evolutionary process to come.

First, there were no batters; there were "strikers."  Outs were referred to as "hands."

The ball was slightly larger than what we toss around today, and a bit softer (much more so after a full day's use).  It was stitched in a figure eight.

Bats had knobs, but not the exaggerated flat round ends we're used to seeing.

Most important, there were no gloves.  Balls caught after a single bounce were counted as outs.  The struck ball was fair or foul, based on where it hit the ground.  So if it was a squibber out in front of the plate or down the line, you had better grab it, even if it kicked foul!

The ball was pitched underhand, and the hitter could tell the pitcher where he wanted it pitched.  What's more, the umpire made sure that he did!  There was no "He wants it where?  I'll stick it in his ear!"  Also, there was no mound.  Pitchers threw from within a pitcher's box.

The game that was played pitted a team from nearby Portland -- the Pioneer Baseball Club -- against a squad that traveled here from Minneapolis -- the Quicksteps.  With my notepad and camera, I settled in to watch the contest with my (then) 12-year-old son.

After the second inning, the Quicksteps' right fielder came in hobbling.  Looked like a "hammy."  This game was great fun to watch.  The Quicksteps were now shorthanded.  Could I...

"You'd like to play?" I was asked.  "Get a white shirt and a hat."

Now, understand that I played two years at the lowest levels of Little League, more than 40 years earlier.  I had played a little (very little) softball about 17-18 years ago.  Well, you can catch it on a hop.  It is right field...

The next thing you know, I'm trotting out to right field.  The first ball hit to me was a routine single, which I fielded and returned to the infield cleanly.

My first attempt at "striking" was another thing, altogether.  I was too eager, too aggressive, chomping at the bit, you name it.  I hacked at the first pitch and bounced out to short.

The next inning, I had my first fly ball chance.  I had to go back a bit and to might right.  OUCH!  I caught it too much on the right index finger.  Slight sprain, maybe.  I retrieved the ball and got it back to the infield.  Fortunately, it was my only fly-chasing adventure.  The other balls were solid hits into the gap.

My second at-bat was better, after an awkward attempt at a pitch up and it.  I smoked a hard grounder up the middle, through the box, a sure base hit.

But no!  That shortstop had great range, and he got the lead runner at second.  I reached first safely, however, and came around to score (eventually).  I had tried my hand at "scientific" placement and had failed miserably.

It was the next three times up that the pitcher finally found my "wheelhouse".  I certainly had no idea where it was after all these years.

In my third plate appearance, I smoked a long drive over the left fielder's head, a sure inside-the-park homer, if I had any speed (think Edgar Martinez on a bad day).

I did get a stand-up three-bagger out of it, and later added two doubles into the left-center gap.  I scored three times, while batting in five runs.  I felt good.

But, I was also starting to drag a bit.  By the fifth inning, the high-80's temp, no water, and even less conditioning (I had come in "cold," as well) meant it was time to turn in my shirt (they let me keep the hat as a souvenir).

I turned "the reins" over to a fan wearing a Cape Cod League shirt.  I'd had my moment in the sun.  My son came over and sat with me.

After the game, the players lined up along the baselines and exchanged cheers for each other.  When that was over, my attention became focused on something behind the stands.  There, watching the game, was none other than Jim Bouton, of Ball Four fame!

Bouton was the keynote speaker for the convention, and I had been hoping to run into him.  I was carrying a copy of his book, Foul Ball in my bag.  The book documented his efforts to save an old New England ball park from developers.  I walked up and asked if he had a moment to sign my copy.  He said, "Sure.  Go get it."

I returned with the book, and told him how much I had loved Ball Four over the years, and how saddened I was when I read the 25th Anniversary Edition, Ball Four: The Final Pitch.

I admitted I had cried at the loss of his daughter in a car crash, and he said he had cried when he wrote it.  He asked how I liked the game that had just finished, and inscribed my book: "To Jeff, Best Wishes, Jim Bouton".

Amazing.  I had never seen the old Bulldog pitch, cap falling off from the force of his motion.  Not even in the later years, when the knuckleball was fluttering.  But on this day, he had seen me play.  Talk about being on top of the world.

As if that wasn't enough, I found out later that the person I had replaced in right field was none other than Alexander Cartwright IV.  I now have a "Six Degrees" link to the "father" of modern baseball.

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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."



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Date: Dec 9, 2010
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As I wrote in the previous post, the Pioneer Base Ball Club from Portland, OR, took on the Quicksteps of Minneapolis in a game of Vintage base ball.

The game featured rules from 1850's-era baseball.  Many of the participants are also Civil War re-enactors.

The ball, shown by PBBC member Mike Curtis, stitched in a figure-8, was slightly larger and slightly softer than today's regulation Major League ball.

vintage ball0001.jpg

The pitcher tossed underhand, with location depending on the preference of the "striker."

Catching the ball barehanded provided for a great challenge to the uninitiated (me).  A week and a half later, I still had a sore knuckle from my one attempt to catch a fly ball.  Just imagine trying to snare a line drive or a hot throw at first base.

One such throw caught the first baseman in the face, as his barehanded attempt only served to slightly slow an infielder's rifled toss.  It's easy to see how even the great defenders made 50, even 75 or more errors per season.



Because of the degree of difficulty in catching barehanded, the rules off the day called for any ball fielded on one hop to be considered an out, or "hand."  Three "hands" would be the same as three outs, side retired.

Another ground rule involved fair or foul interpretations.  The ball was called where it initially touched down, not where it ended up.  Thus a ground ball that started fair and kicked foul after hitting the ground was a fair ball and in play.

The exhibition was played with great enthusiasm and a sense of camaraderie.  In the spirit of the day, well-placed hits brought out compliments from both sides for the striker's "scientific hitting approach."

My first two times striking, I tried, with no success, to emulate this "scientific" approach.  Having not even played any softball in more than 15 years, I was somewhat rusty, to say the least.



My last three at bats, I just relaxed and hacked, which brought me three long hits, a three-bagger deep to left and two doubles driven into the left-center gap.  No exclamations of my "scientific" placement, but nonetheless satisfying.



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General Admission

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Date: Jan 25, 2011
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seajaw,

Love the article if I may suggest a book about the pioneer days of baseball. It's called " But didn't we have fun". It's an informal book on the history of baseball's pioneer era. And it touches on many of the things that you have pointed out, I found it to be a very interesting read. It covers topic's on the playing fields, equipment, rules, and the teams that played what was called at that time town ball. If anyone gets a chance to read it I think you'll like it very much.

J.Q.

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Date: Jan 26, 2011
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delsea2 wrote:

seajaw,

Love the article if I may suggest a book about the pioneer days of baseball. It's called " But didn't we have fun". It's an informal book on the history of baseball's pioneer era. And it touches on many of the things that you have pointed out, I found it to be a very interesting read. It covers topic's on the playing fields, equipment, rules, and the teams that played what was called at that time town ball. If anyone gets a chance to read it I think you'll like it very much.

J.Q.



Thanks.  I had a lot of fun.

I've got the book.  It's written by Peter Morris.

Unfortunately, since I gear most of my reading toward whatever SOM year I'm working on, I haven't had the chance to read it yet.

Looks good, though.



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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."



Luxury Box Season Ticket Holder

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Date: Jan 26, 2011
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Seajaw,
            You banged out a pair of doubles and a stand-up three-bagger in the game, but, in the writing of this story you smashed a home run to the upper deck in staightaway center!
Absolutely top-shelf article! Loved it!
Subbed for Alexander Cartwright 1V, plated 5 teammates, met Jim Bouton and Edd Roush"s granddaughter both of whom penned books. AND, got a first hand visual of the games roots.
The special part of it all is, it was an experience you and your son shared in together.
A genuine high-five to ya Seaj,
           



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I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet...The Thrill of the Grass...Heck, I'd play for free!



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Date: Jan 26, 2011
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scorpio rising 2 wrote:

Seajaw,
            You banged out a pair of doubles and a stand-up three-bagger in the game, but, in the writing of this story you smashed a home run to the upper deck in staightaway center!
Absolutely top-shelf article! Loved it!
Subbed for Alexander Cartwright 1V, plated 5 teammates, met Jim Bouton and Edd Roush"s granddaughter both of whom penned books. AND, got a first hand visual of the games roots.
The special part of it all is, it was an experience you and your son shared in together.
A genuine high-five to ya Seaj,
           



Thanks!

All told, it was definitely one of my favorite baseball experiences ever.

And don't forget, I got to meet and chat for a while with the late Gene Carney, about the Black Sox scandal.

Any one of those things would have been a great experience, but all together?  Priceless.



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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."



Lower Deck - Outfield Ticket

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Date: Jan 29, 2011
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I agree 100% with the statement that seajaw hit a homerun -
it was a ROUNDTRIPPER in every aspect.

DEADROCK



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deadrock wrote:

I agree 100% with the statement that seajaw hit a homerun -
it was a ROUNDTRIPPER in every aspect.

DEADROCK



Thanks.

And welcome to the site.

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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."



Season Ticket Holder - Lower Deck

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Date: Feb 18, 2011
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One of the local PBS stations is running Ken Burn's Baseball twice every Friday. I had never seen it before and find it very informative. One tidbit-The White Sox were called the Black Sox before the 1919 World Series because Comisky started to make them pay to launder their own uniforms. When they got mad and stopped getting their unis cleaned Comisky broke down and started paying their laundry costs. They were then again the White Sox until the end of 1920.

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mrpuna


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True story.  If I recall, it actually took place a couple of years earlier.

Comiskey was often times called a cheapskate, but he lavished generously on the press and his friends.

Some of his players were actually paid quite well.  College grad Eddie Collins, for instance, made $15,000 in 1918, while the illiterate Joe Jackson made just $6,000.

Eddie Cicotte's salary is given as $5,000.  He was supporting an extended family of 12, and felt Comiskey had reneged on a promise of a bonus for winning 30 games.  He won 28, but was held out of a number of starts late in the season "to rest his arm for the Series."

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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."



Season Ticket Holder - Lower Deck

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Date: Feb 18, 2011
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I've always blamed Comisky for the whole mess by paying his players next to nothing compared to similar players on other teams. That, and the fact that Hal Chase had been throwing games for other teams for well over 10 years and they figured they might as well make a few thousand of their own.

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DD2


Bullpen Coach

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SUPER STUFF, SEAJ!!!

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The Dawg returns!

 



Upper Level - Outfield Ticket

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Awesome experience dude!

A question though, you wrote...

" During the convention, I also learned more about the origins of the game. Apparently, not only are the old Doubleday and Cartwright stories inaccurate, but the basis of the game's possible genesis as a derivative of the game of rounders was also in serious doubt."

Could you go more into this? Or direct me towards the "truth".

Thanks,
Paul

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Ickpoc wrote:

Awesome experience dude!

A question though, you wrote...

" During the convention, I also learned more about the origins of the game. Apparently, not only are the old Doubleday and Cartwright stories inaccurate, but the basis of the game's possible genesis as a derivative of the game of rounders was also in serious doubt."

Could you go more into this? Or direct me towards the "truth".

Thanks,
Paul


As I recall from the author appearance, a similar type of game was played by young girls in Europe, going back to the 18th Century.

Evidently, variations of ball-and-stick games were not all that uncommon.

The book is called Baseball Before We Knew It, by David Block.



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"No cell, no car, no credit cards, he's sixty-plus and gray...
Just sitting in his basement, with a Strat game underway."

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