It has been 50 years since Eliot Asinof’s landmark book on the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Eight Men Out, was first published. Baseball fans have been captivated by his compelling narrative about the talented but disgruntled Chicago White Sox ballplayers, underpaid and ill-treated by owner Charles Comiskey, taking bribes from gamblers to fix that year’s World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Eight Men Out has been called the definitive history of the scandal.
In the old bat-and-ball games that preceded baseball as we know it, the pitcher sometimes was known as the feeder, who merely tossed the ball softly toward the batter. His role was to initiate the action, which began in earnest when the ball was hit. There was no calling of balls or strikes, and the pitcher kept throwing until the batter connected. In most games, the delivery was underhand, although in early New England baseball the pitcher threw a lighter ball overhand.
Nearly 45 years ago, five men made a decision that has colored our view of baseball history ever since. Collectively, they were known as Special Baseball Records Committee, and they were brought together because, with the imminent publication of the first edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia, “it became necessary to draw up a code of rules governing record-keeping procedures.”
His feats were so incredible as to be unbelievable. Fact or fiction, baseball’s most prolific slugger was often mired in legendary tales.
This folk hero’s roots can be traced to rural Buena Vista, Georgia, about 20 miles east of Columbus. In 1911, Josh was born to sharecroppers Mark Gibson and Nancy Woodlock. In 1924, they took the 12-year-old to the steel mill city of Pittsburgh. They settled in Pleasant Valley on Pittsburgh’s north side, where young Josh excelled as a track star and a swimmer before becoming a diamond gem.
Louis Napoleon Santop, a.k.a. the “Clan Darbie Siege Gun” and the “Lone Star Ranger,” was thus dubbed by a sportswriter whose penchant for bestowing colorful monikers on Negro professional players makes him a go-to guy for memorable nicknames. W. Rollo Wilson’s body of writing in the Pittsburgh Courier and Philadelphia Tribune deserves to have this black reporter mentioned in the same breath as such legendary white sports scribes as Grantland Rice, Damon Runyon, and Jimmy Cannon.
The story of the extraordinary black ballplayer, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd can really be told through the veneer of an old folk song whose words tell the story of another mighty “larger-than-life” African-American folk hero. Today the song’s words can jar our sensibilities but they are unquestionably part of our nation’s sometimes insensitive past.
By all accounts, the 1890s was the roughest decade in baseball history for the players. The game on the field was more physically aggressive than before or since, and society regarded ballplayers as ruffians unfit for general society.
On July 25, 1860, members of the Excelsior Base Ball Club met on their grounds in Chicago to settle a political argument. The purpose of the meeting was a base ball game between players who supported the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln and those who supported Stephen A. Douglas. The club had been playing base ball in the city since at least 1858. The players, mostly in their 20s, represented an upwardly mobile group of young men who hoped to channel their energy and enthusiasm for the coming presidential election through their prowess on the ball field.