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Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 World Series Wrap-Up: The Baseball Historian Notes for the Week of November 2

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the 2014 World Series! Although not all of the individual games were nail biters, Game 7 and the totality of the series made for great baseball. Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner (Don’t call me Bumgardner) was this year’s player to use the Fall Classic as his personal coming-out party, earning two wins, a save and the series MVP award.

A big hand is also due to the Kansas City Royals, who took the Giants to the limit. Not only did they bring playoff baseball back to their city after a 29-year drought, their team brand of small ball hearkened to a time gone by.

With the formalities out of the way, let’s move to the notes for the week.

*Bob Ryan, the long-time writer for The Boston Globe, made an appearance on the John Feinstein Show to discuss the World Series and the amazing performance of Bumgarner. As someone who has been around the game for decades, his perspective on the impact and history of it all is a very interesting take—particularly when he elbows his way through the mishmash of over-the-top commentary he believes enveloped the final seven games of the 2014 season.

*Legendary author Roger Kahn got his start in writing doing a beat on the Brooklyn Dodgers. During that time, he developed a particularly close relationship with their ground and barrier-breaking star, Jackie Robinson. On a number of occasions, he served as Robinson’s written voice, ghosting pieces to a publishing and social world that weren’t always ready for what he had to say.

Currently, Kahn has a legitimate claim to baseball’s poet laureate, having penned such classic titles as The Boys of Summer, and most recently, Rickey & Robinson. However, he will forever be inextricably linked to Robinson, a relationship recently explored in some depth by Bryan Curtis of

*There are certain baseball stories that will give fans literal chills. One that I suspect will get this job done is a recent short film produced by The New York Times about San Quentin Prison’s baseball team. There are no major leaguers to be seen, and no real tales of glory. Instead, it’s an amazing glimpse of how the game can stabilize a community and allow people to crawl from the darkest of depths to achieve some level of personal redemption where there may otherwise be none to be found.

*Sad news to report in the passing of former pitcher Jeff M. Robinson at the age of 52. He pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates for six seasons between 1987 and 1992. The right-hander had his greatest success with the Tigers, with his 13-6 record and 2.98 ERA in 1988 being his best individual season. His run with the team ended prior to the 1991 season when he was dealt to the Orioles for catcher Mickey Tettleton. Overall, he sported a career record of 47-40 with a 4.79 ERA in 141 games (117 starts).

*Likewise, the game lost another of its alumnus with the death of former pitcher Pat McGlothin at the age of 93. The southpaw won 108 games in a 10-year minor league career and had brief stints in the majors, appearing in eight combined games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949-50. As a major leaguer, he was 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA. His lone win came on May 7, 1949, as he went the final five innings of a 10-4 victory against the Chicago Cubs after starter Ralph Branca was knocked out early. His resume may not be as dazzling as others but was enough to earn his enshrinement in the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame where he will be remembered for many years to come.

*These days, baseball cards come in a variety of flashy colors, high-definition photography and other bells and whistles that drive their cost ever skyward. This is a far cry from their early days. That being said, the first cards may have been simpler with their materials but not necessarily their style. Rebecca Onion of details some of the elaborate poses nineteenth-century players struck on their cards in an effort to make their diamond feats come to life in that era of black-and-white studio photography.

*Former major league infielder Fred Marsh batted .239 over seven seasons for a handful of teams, including the St. Louis Browns. Unfortunately, he died in 2006, but fortunately left some primary records documenting his time in the game, including this interview in which he discussed such things as Eddie Gaedel’s famous at-bat, playing with Hall-of-Famer Satchel Paige, and much more.

*Outfielder Irv Waldron was an instant star for the fledging American League in 1901, hitting a combined .311 with 186 hits, 52 RBIs, 102 runs scored and 20 stolen bases for the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Senators. Despite his success, he never appeared in the majors again, although he played in the minors through 1911, hitting an excellent .285. Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present has theories about why Waldron failed to stick around, which includes money and a suspect glove. This is a must-read for baseball historians.

*Finally, thinking about taking a vacation during this offseason? How about one combining baseball and history? The Hot Springs, Arkansas Historic Baseball Trail is a unique way to make a hardball sojourn.

Before the days of Florida and Arizona, teams used to conduct spring training in various locations in the south, including those with natural hot springs, which were seen as an amenity for the returning athletes to get back into shape. Hot Springs was once a bustling destination for winter-weary squads, including Cap Anson and the 1886 Chicago White Stockings. It sounds like a fantastic way to connect to the earlier days of the game, so if you decide to go don’t forget to send a postcard.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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