Archive for December, 2020

The Negro Leagues Become Official

December 17, 2020

Finally, the Major Leagues did something they should have done a long time ago. They decided to declare the Negro Leagues “Major.” Damned nice of them, don’t you think?

As usual, I have a number of questions. The obvious first is “what took so long?” I know it’s something of an unfair question because it took until the 1970s to decided that Negro League players of officials could take a spot in the Hall of Fame. And considering how long segregation went on 50 years (from the 1970s) isn’t really all that long. I admit to being of two minds about this. I’m very happy that guys like Dick Lundy and Heavy Johnson are now considered “Major Leaguers.” But I wonder if it will diminish the uniqueness of what happened to them. Remember, integrating the Dodgers in 1946 drove a stake through the heart of the existing Negro Leagues, leading ultimately to their demise. I wonder how much this decision will simply fold the Negro Leagues into the larger embrace of the other Major Leagues and they will be seen as a curiosity rather than as something that was separate by design. I hope it will inspire a new spate of Negro League research. I hope the Hall of Fame will enlarge their display at Cooperstown. I don’t know that it will, but I can hope.

There are a couple of problems that arise from this. First, MLB decided to include those leagues (eight of them) that existed from 1920 on and left out all the leagues prior. That doesn’t do much good for players like Bud Fowler or George Stovey who were done in the Nineteenth Century. At least Frank Grant managed to make the Hall of Fame without playing in the post-1920 leagues. I wonder if the black players, like Fowler, Stovey, or the Walker brothers, will now be totally forgotten except by a handful of screwballs like me who study them.

Also, I wonder how or if they are going to integrate the statistics. Just to give you two examples to chew on I present Larry Doby and Minnie Minoso. BaseballReference.com gives Doby’s total number of Major League hits at 1515. Seamheads (the best available spot for finding Negro League stats) gives him 180 hits in the Negro Leagues. The 1515 makes Doby tied, on the Major Leagues all-time hit list, at 626. Add in 180 and he stands at 1695, good for 469th all-time. For Minoso the same numbers are 1963 and 158 for a total of 2121. Currently, Minoso stands 303rd on the MLB list (in a 3 way time). The number 2121 moves him to 223. So how is MLB going to present this? Will there be one combined number or will they retain two separate numbers? And don’t forget that the Negro League numbers stand a good chance of changing, sometimes significantly, with further research. As statistics mean so much to baseball and to fans, MLB needs to decide how they are going to handle this.

I feel this was way overdue, but I acknowledge that there are problems that will develop in doing this. I’m sorry the second is true. I’m glad the decision was made.

“That Which We Call a Rose…”

December 14, 2020

would smell as sweet.”–Shakespeare (“Romeo and juliet”).

So I see the Cleveland Indians are about to become the Cleveland something elses. I suppose it’s about time. I don’t know too many Tribal Americans (my phrase for what we call either “Indians” or “Native Americans”) who liked the name, but most I know are more concerned with other issues.

All this gives us an opportunity to decide “what’s in a name?” (the earlier part of the quote above). There are several choices, and if you’ve read much of what I write, you’ll know I’m not about to pass up a chance to tell you what I think of each. So here goes.

Rocks: I’ve seen this posed a handful of places. It’s in reference to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame being in Cleveland. Sorry, but when I hear that I’m always reminded of the phrase “dumber than a whole bag of rocks.” Well, maybe that does fit for the Cleveland ball club.

Cleveland Baseball Team: A play on what the Washington team did in football. Actually, it’s not a bad idea. First, you use the name, sell a bunch of jerseys, then change the name to something else and sell a ton more jerseys.

Spiders: This was the name of the 19th Century team. They folded after the worst won-loss record of any major league team in 1899. I guess it’s been long enough that no one except a few die hard baseball fans even know they existed, but somehow Spiders don’t inspire loyalty (a shudder maybe, but not loyalty).

Forest City: This was the original name of the first professional Cleveland team in 1871 (And, yes, it was singular, not plural.). Does anyone today think of Cleveland in the forest?

Buckeyes: This was the name of the 1940s Negro League team that played in Cleveland and won the 1945 Negro World Series. It should be the favorite because baseball owes it to the Negro Leagues (Kansas City did something like it when they became the Royals, a tribute to the Kansas City Monarchs).

Fire Rivers: This is my favorite, and they’ll never use it. Remember back in 1969 the local river caught on fire? Well, it did. I can think of no better tribute to Cleveland than Fire Rivers. It even sounds tough.

Feel free to add your own favorites.


Adios, Bob Gibson

December 1, 2020

This one took a while to write. Bob Gibson was one of those larger-than-life heroes you develop when you’re younger (I was a teen). Now he’s gone.

I was a Dodgers fan, but Gibson was special. I never saw a pitcher more able to impose himself on a game the way Gibson did. It was different that others like Sandy Koufax or Tom Seaver. They were simply better than their opposition and went out and proved it. Gibson was also better, but there was an attitude that struck me as more dominating. Both Koufax and Seaver could win a game and be elegant; Gibson was never elegant. He leaped at batters with his follow thru, he snarled on the mound. His eyes bored into the heads and souls of batters and probably scared them at least a little (I doubt anyone ever scared Frank Robinson much).

He was a joy to watch in a way that contrasted with Juan Marichal or Koufax or Seaver. They showed excellence, Gibson showed power. Don’t get me wrong, he was excellent also but there was an overt power the others didn’t show. And I, and a generation of others, loved him.

Now it’s RIP, Bob Gibson. We who saw you know what others missed. And we thank you for the opportunity to have watched you perfrom.