No one who knew him would have been surprised to learn that Hugh S. Fullerton was in the middle of the fracas that led to the formation of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America during the 1908 World Series. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Chicago-based newspaper and magazine writer played a significant role in just about every major story involving the baseball media.
Curly Ogden. In the annals of important World Series pitchers, Curly Ogden doesn’t usually figure real high on the list.
No wonder! In his five-season career in the Major Leagues, Ogden went 18–19. More to the point, his entire World Series career consisted of only two batters faced, one of whom he walked.
I still remember the first curveball ever thrown at me. I was about 13 years old and trying to make a local hardball team. As a right-handed batter, I was facing a right-hander on the mound. Upon releasing his curve, the pitcher’s ball appeared to be coming right at me. So, I stepped back from the plate, thinking I was about to get hit in the chest, when the ball curved down and away, catching the plate for a called third strike. I was embarrassed and in awe of the pitcher’s prowess.
Most fans today know about the Baseball Writers’ Association of America because of its role in award voting. From the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, and other awards at the end of each season to Hall of Fame elections, eligible members of the BBWAA are the people who select the most prestigious honors in the game.
Before we get to the “meat” of this essay that you’re so eager to taste, here’s something you might not have heard before: Before Dennis Eckersley’s miraculous transmogrification into a devastatingly effective relief pitcher, he was NOT an old broken-down pitcher on the verge of forced retirement. At least not obviously.
Since I’m writing about Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, the home of the Indians from 1931 until 1993, I could reach—rather lazily—for the low-hanging fruit. The easy targets. I could start with the nickname: “The Mistake by the Lake.” Take that Cleveland. I could trot out actress Bette Davis’s quote upon first entering the ballpark: “What a dump.” Further, I might mention that the cavernous stadium, with seating for more than 80,000 fans, opened as the Great Depression gripped the United States. Fans stayed away in droves.
It ought to come as no surprise that a group of Chicago writers led the way in the formation of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 1908. Most of the major innovations in baseball writing originated in the Windy City.
As the Detroit Tigers entered the stretch run in 1968, Manager Mayo Smith had a small problem.
The good news was that Smith’s Tigers looked like a great bet to win their first American League pennant since World War II. They’d grabbed first place in the middle of May and never let go; by the middle of September, they had a double-digit lead in the standings and the pennant race was over.
From the beginning to the middle of the twentieth century, baseball shared a deep, symbiotic relationship with the railroad. Just as quickly as tracks spread across America in the nineteenth century, so too did the National Pastime. Teams were forming, and leagues—both professional and amateur—were organizing at a rapid pace, often with an eye to major railroad lines. As the sport grew, Major League teams needed to travel longer distances, and the only way to accomplish this, at the time, was by train.