It’s the most famous asterisk that never was.
In the hall of fame for punctuation marks, it has its own wing.
In the annals of baseball history, it’s a one-word identification for Roger Maris and the 1961 season.
The Lady in the Broadcast Booth:
Betty Caywood’s Single Season with the A’s as Baseball’s First Female Broadcaster
When Charles O. Finley bought the Kansas City Athletics in 1960, he was ambitious, energetic, and focused, but he was not a miracle worker. Not yet, anyway. The last-place club he acquired actually managed to fall in the standings, dropping from eighth place to ninth thanks to the introduction of two teams, the Angels and the Twins, to the American League. Even that indignity, however, would be superseded in 1964, when the Athletics tumbled to 105 losses, finishing a whopping 42 games behind the league champion Yankees.
In 1987, baseball was two years from celebrating both the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame’s 1939 dedication and the 150th anniversary of the game’s purported, though widely discredited, founding in Cooperstown, New York. Four popular baseball films—Eight Men Out, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and Major League—would come out by 1989, with the myth of Cooperstown stoking box office demand.
The day after Babe Ruth passed away on August 16, 1948, at the age of 53 after a long battle with cancer, his obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times. The happy-go-lucky slugger, whom many sportswriters and baseball officials credited with saving the National Pastime in the wake of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, garnered similar front-page news around the country, and stories of his funeral received major attention for days.
On January 6, 1951, it was announced that Joe DiMaggio—36 years old, perpetually injured, and hardly certain about his long-term future with the Yankees—would be offered the same $100,000 salary that he had received in 1950. Little effort was made to obscure that the figure was based largely on past performance, or that the marginalization of the Clipper had already begun.
The minor leaguer most prominently mentioned to replace DiMaggio was a 19-year-old from northeast Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle.
A Memorial to Mythical Founder Abner Doubleday Lays the Groundwork for the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown
In the first few pages of his 1994 book, The Politics of Glory, Bill James focused on the Clark family of the Singer sewing machine fortune, their administrator Alexander Cleland, and then-National League President Ford Frick as driving forces in getting the Hall of Fame and its accompanying museum built.
Cal Ripken was 6 feet, 4 inches tall. That made him much larger than most shortstops of his time, who were like hummingbirds—small, twitchy, and designed for speed and quickness. Shortstops were your prototypical defense-first bat handlers, guys who hit second in a lineup because, the thought process went, they could move the leadoff hitter into scoring position. That, plus good defense, and there [wipes hands]—you’ve solved the shortstop issue.
If you’re of a certain age, perhaps you remember the 1985 Brewers-White Sox game that went 25 innings. You might even recall when the Mets and Cardinals did similarly a decade earlier. Those contests featured 14 and 13 pitchers, respectively.
Compared to what happened on May 1, 1920, those games were nothing. That year the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Robins set a record by playing 26 innings—using one pitcher each—before the game was called due to darkness in a 1–1 tie.
“Baseball is too venerable and too vigorous an institution to not have a permanent hall of fame.”
I. E. Sanborn, Pittsburgh Press, February 14, 1915