Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for May 20, 2013

I had such a good time going over baseball history links last week that I decided to do it again! Here’s hoping this can become a regular feature, as the cool nuggets just continue to pile up. I’ll try to continue bringing a blend of topics to keep it fresh and interesting. As usual, thanks for reading!

***Baseball has had a lot of mascots over the years, ranging from obnoxious to downright entertaining. But none were more buxom or lascivious than Morganna, the Kissing Bandit.

The well-endowed exotic dancer became an unofficial mascot of sorts after she jumped from the stands at Riverfront Stadium in 1970 and kissed Cincinnati Reds’ star Pete Rose. Over the next several decades, she repeated her act numerous times at baseball games and other sporting events, earning nicknames, admirers and citations from local police.

Recently, a wonderful short film was produced telling the true story of the grand dame of field rushers. Among the most famous MLB recipients of her smooches included Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench and Cal Ripken Jr. Love her or simply lust for her, she was unlike anything baseball has ever seen, before or since.

***Earlier this month, NBA player Jason Collins publicly came out as a gay man and was recognized as the first professional athlete to do so. With their always being an emphasis on identifying who was the first to do what in our society, the stories of those who simply tried can often be left by the wayside. That appears to be the case with gay athletes.’s Rick Reilly recently wrote a terrific article about how former major league outfielder Glenn Burke tried to come out during his career, but was unceremoniously stuffed back into the closet.

During a four-year major league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s in the late 1970s, Burke openly lived as a gay man. Unfortunately, as time went on, intolerance grew from other players and team management. The Dodgers even reportedly offered him $75,000 to marry a woman; and offer Burke left on the table.

Burke, who died in 1995 of AIDS, never saw the kind of acceptance Collins is currently receiving. However, as Reilly demonstrates, it’s important to remember his legacy and the path he started to pave for those who have and will go after him.

***In a random bit of baseball history, check out this clip of Vladimir Guerrero’s first major league home run. The blast came on September 21, 1996 against Mark Wohlers and the Atlanta Braves. It was a quintessential home run for Guerrero, who was playing for the Montreal Expos at the time. He golfed a pitch that was low and outside over the fence in right field. Everything, from the pitch location to the wild wind-up swing, is classic Guerrero and representative of his style at the plate.

Guerrero has played in the majors for all or parts of 16 seasons, and hit 449 home runs during that time. Although he hasn’t been on a major league roster since 2011, he may not be done quite yet, as he recently signed to play independent ball. Even if he hits another home run, it’s hard to imagine it will beat the feeling he must have had with his first.

***The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 has earned rave reviews at the box office, but not everyone is happy with the content of the film. Sherrill Duessterhaus, the daughter of former major league pitcher Fred Ostermueller is outraged about how her father is portrayed in the movie.

Ostermueller is shown taunting Robinson before throwing a pitch at his head, which causes a brawl to break out. While there was an instance in 1947 when he did hit Robinson with a pitch, there is no evidence to suggest the theatrics shown in the movie.

Hollywood enhances “true stories” all the time for dramatic effect, but when it comes making such negative depictions, the onus should be on the filmmakers to make sure they can back up their version of events.

***Talk about nosebleed seats! Take a gander at this amazing picture of college students looking down on a game of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh between the Pirates and the New York Yankees. While they may have missed out on seeing the intricacies of the game, at least the seats were free.

***Hall of Famer Honus Wagner wasn’t only one of the greatest shortstops of all time; he was also a pretty intimidating lawman.’s Dayn Parry wrote about how Wagner became the deputy sheriff of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania in 1942, when the former player was 68.

The article not only is a great tidbit of history about one of baseball’s iconic players, but also includes a pretty amazing photo of Wagner doing his best Dirty Harry impression; 30 years before there was a Dirty Harry.

***Bo Jackson is one of the best athletes to ever step on a field. When he was a student at Auburn University, he played baseball in addition to the Heisman Trophy-worthy work he did on the gridiron.

The Kansas City Royals made Jackson a fourth-round draft pick in 1986 despite his proclivity for football. His selection was made in part because of this scouting report from April, 1985, which left the evaluator nearly at a loss for adjectives when trying to describe the youngster’s ability.

Jackson had a good, but not great baseball career. However, he never dedicated himself to the game full-time until after he was severely injured playing football, making him one of baseball’s great what-if questions.

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