Posts Tagged ‘Grover Cleveland’

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About the World of 1908

November 7, 2016

So the Cubs finally win one after 108 years of failure. Normally I use my “A Dozen Things You Should Know About…” format to feature a particular individual. This time I want to use the same format to give you a dozen things about the world of 1908 that may surprise you (or maybe not, depending on you).

1. Theodore Roosevelt was the incumbent 26th President of the US. Number 27, William Howard Taft, would be elected in November but not take office until 1909. The next President will be number 45.

The Duke

The Duke

2. In Hollywood D.W. Griffith would direct his first movie “The Adventures of Dollie.” He would later (1915) make “The Birth of a Nation” which is generally considered the first “blockbuster.” In Winterset, Iowa John Wayne had his first birthday, while James Stewart was born in Pennsylvania, and Humphrey Bogart turned nine on Christmas day.

3. Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Quanah Parker, Geronimo, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Cole Younger were all still alive. Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy the Kid, died in February.

Nellie Tayloe Ross

Nellie Tayloe Ross

4. Women were still a decade away from receiving the right to vote in federal elections although a handful of states did allow some female voting in state and local elections. In 1887 Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas and the town of Syracuse, Kansas chose an all female city council. But women were 17 years from Nellie Tayloe Ross becoming the first female governor of an American State (Wyoming).

Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand

5. Russia still had a Czar, Germany a Kaiser, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire still existed. Poland didn’t. Edward VII, Queen Victoria’s son, was still on the throne in Great Britain, and Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria, still had six years to live. His assassination in 1914 would set in motion the events leading to World War I.

6. Adolf Hitler was still an unknown postcard painter and paper hanger in Vienna. Erich Maria Remarque (author of All Quiet on the Western Front) was 10. George Patton was a junior at West Point. Dwight Eisenhower was a junior at Abilene High School.

7. Jim Crow was the law of the land in most places, including many outside the American South. The NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was founded the next year.

8. The Model T from Ford Motor Company came out in October 1908. You had your choice of colors–black or black. Most people took black.

Nora Bayes

Nora Bayes

9. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was published and first sung on a vaudeville stage by Nora Bayes. The words were written by her then husband (second of five) Jack Norwood.

10. Old Tom Morris, one of the first winners of the British Open golf tournament died, as did former US President Grover Cleveland and Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Karsakov.

11. Abe Attell, later infamous in the Black Sox scandal, was Featherweight Boxing Champion, Fred McLeod of Scotland won the US Open Golf tournament for the first and only time, James Braid won his fourth (of five) British Open golf tournament (the PGA doesn’t show up until 1916 and the Masters comes in the 1930s), Jim Thorpe who later became first President of the NFL was in his second year at Carlisle, and a horse named Stone Street won his only major race, the Kentucky Derby, in the slowest Derby time recorded.

12. US coins in circulation included the Indian head cent (the Lincoln penny would come in 1909), the Liberty head nickel (the Buffalo nickel started in 1913), the Barber dime (the Mercury dime began in 1916), and the Barber quarter (the Washington quarter began in 1932). A first class stamp was two cents.

13. And in baseball, Fred Merkle failed to touch second.

Fred Merkle (all pix for this post taken from Wikipedia's page on the individual)

Fred Merkle
(all pix for this post taken from Wikipedia’s page on the individual)

Now you should all go to YouTube and find a recording of the old British ditty “The World Turned Upside Down” to celebrate the Cubs victory.


A Dozen Things You Should Know About Grover Cleveland Alexander

April 8, 2011


1. He was born in Nebraska in 1887 and named for the sitting President of the United States.

2. His professional baseball career began in 1909 at Galesburg where he went 15-8 and suffered a head injury that sidelined him for half the season. 

3. In 1910 he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies for $500 from Syracuse.

4. He had 28 wins and 227 strikeouts as a rookie in 1911. The former is still a record and the latter remained a record until 1955 (Herb Score).

5. He won the pitching triple crown (wins, ERA, strikeouts) for three consecutive seasons from 1915 through 1917.

6. His 16 shutouts in 1916 is still a record.

7. In 1915, he won game one of the World Series. The next Phillies pitcher to win a World  Series game was Bob Walk in 1980.

8. In 1918 he went to war. He was in the artillery and suffered a minor wound, was deafened in his ear, and suffered shell-shock. Today we call it post traumatic stress disorder. I think I like shell-shock better, it conveys more the horror of it. He also began showing signs of epilepsy, which some sources indicate came from the 1909 head injury. Additionally, his family, according to Bill James, had a history of alcoholism. That began to manifest itself about the same time.

9. His career was in a slump when he ended up with the Cardinals in 1926. The Cardinals went to their first World Series, Alexander won two games and saved one. The save was game 7 and was highlighted by the seventh inning strikeout of Tony Lazzeri to end the inning (and become arguably the most famous strikeout ever).

10. He went 0-4 in his last season (1930) and ended his career with 373 wins, 208 losses, and 90 shutouts. The Hall of Fame called him in 1938.

11. He died in poverty in November 1950.

12. And of course Hollywood came calling in 1952 with a highly fictionalized version of his life through 1926. The movie was called “The Winning Team”, starred Ronald Reagan (as Alexander), Doris Day (as Mrs. A), and Frank Lovejoy (as Rogers Hornsby). Today, it’s probably the only thing most people know about Alexander. He does have the distinction of being the only Hall of Famer who was both named after one President of the United States, and portrayed by a future President in a movie. Not bad for an old pitcher.

Hollywood's version of Alexander (1952)

The Count of Philadelphia

March 6, 2010

Count Sensenderfer

When I was growing up there was a gag going around to the effect that are three things you can never discuss: politics, religion, or sports. You don’t discuss them, you argue them. And putting any two together was even more dangerous to keeping friends. Some day I’m going to do a post on Billy Sunday and combine sports and religion, but not today. Today I’m going to combine sports and politics.

Baseball has a long tradition of mixing with politics. Many of the moguls who put together the National and American Leagues had local, regional, and/or national political ties. In baseball, Presidents get to throw out the first pitch. A number of former ballplayers have made their way to the halls of congress, including current US Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky. Early baseball was no exception.

John Phillips Jenkins  “Count” Sensenderfer was born in Philadelphia in 1847. He graduated from Philadelphia Central High School where he was a noted athlete. By 1866 he was a well known baseball player in the area, appearing for the partially amateur Philadelphia Athletics. Yes, it’s the same team that I talked about in an earlier post on Lip Pike and professionalism. Sensenderfer and Pike were teammates for a while. Sensenderfer was an outfielder who stood 5′ 9″ and weighed 170 pounds. Although there is no evidence that I can find indicating whether he threw right-handed or left-handed (or which way he batted), I’ve discovered that if the man is left-handed, it’s usually noted. But because this may be the exception, I won’t be dogmatic about it. He and the Athletics joined the National Association in 1871,  where he played center field for the champions. He hit .329 in 25 games picking up 41 hits and scoring 38 runs, which is a heck of a hits to runs ratio. His fielding percentage was .814, which isn’t real good, but isn’t all that bad for the era. He played only one game for the A’s in 1872 going two for five, scoring two runs, and having one RBI. In 1873 he was back for 20 games, all but one in the outfield (he played first base the other time). He hit .279 with 24 hits, 12 runs, and eight RBIs. He finished his career in 1874 playing five final games with the Athletics. He hit a buck-88, with three hits, three runs, and two RBIs. For his career he went 70 for 234 for a .299 average and a .342 slugging percentage with, 55 runs, and 34 RBIs in 51 games. Not a bad career, but nothing to write home to Mom about. Somewhere along the line he picked up the nickname “Count.” I can’t find out where or how, so if anyone knows, I’d appreciate getting the information.

When players of the era finished playing  baseball they ended up in a variety of  jobs. Unlike today, salaries made it necessary to work beyond their professional career (and of course the same is true of marginal players today). There are a lot of coaches, a bunch of pool hall owners, a big group of bartenders and bar owners. Sensenderfer picked a totally different career. He went into politics. (Whether that’s a step up or down from baseball, pool halls, and bars is  open to debate.) He became a member of the Philadelphia Democratic Party machine in his hometown. If he followed the traditional route of machine members, and in a couple of years in the late 1870s it’s tough to track him down, he went from worker, to wardheeler, to ward delegate. By the 1890s he was a “County Commissioner.” The information I can find from looking at the newspapers on line seems to indicate this job is akin to the current position called “City Councilman” around where I live. He was apparently reasonably popular, getting himself reelected to a second four-year term. At the time, the commissioner’s salary was $5000 a year, a great salary in the 1890s, and much greater than anything he ever made as a ballplayer. In the Presidential election year of 1892, he was a delegate to the state of Pennsylvania Democratic Convention, whose job was to pick delegates to the Democratic National Presidential Nominating Convention. One source indicates he was chosen a national delegate, but I’ve been unable to determine if that’s true via any second source. If it is true, then Sensenderfer is the first ballplayer who actually helped nominate a President of the US. The convention nominated Grover Cleveland for President. Cleveland won, but lost Pennsylvania to Republican Benjamin Harrison.

After two terms in City Hall, Sensenderfer retired from office. It doesn’t appear he was defeated for reelection, but the information is sketchy.  He died in 1903 at age 55.

Sensenderfer is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, his baseball career seems to have been secondary to his political ambitions. If that’s not entirely true, it’s certainly true that the political career was more successful. Secondly, his choice of a political career after baseball is also different from his contemporaries. It’s not a usual occupation for ex-ballplayers, but it’s not unheard of at all. As mentioned above, Jim Bunning, former pitcher, is currently in the US Senate and there have been a number of other former Major Leaguers that have gone into politics from the local to the national level. Apparently, Sensenderfer was the first.