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Historian's Corner

When Baseball Went Commie: John Montgomery Ward and the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players

In 1889, the National League, entering its 14th year of existence and looking for a better return on its owners’ investments, enacted a salary structure that capped player salaries at $2,500 per season. Even though such a move had been talked about for some six years, the extreme reaction owners received surprised them.

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Historian's Corner

The Very First Induction Day and the Cavalcade of Baseball at Cooperstown

On June 12, 1939, dedication day finally arrived for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It had been five years since Alexander Cleland hatched the idea for a baseball museum on a trip to Cooperstown; 22 years since a group of men in an Ilion, New York, cigar store launched a fund to build a memorial to baseball’s supposed founder Abner Doubleday; and 36 years since then-National League President Harry Pulliam opened a private hall of fame in his New York offices.

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Historian's Corner

Claire Smith:
The Pioneering Journalist Enters Cooperstown

Claire Smith remembers feeling different, usually alone, often invisible. Such was life as a young black girl growing in the 1960s in the overwhelmingly white Philadelphia suburbs of Bucks County.

It didn’t get much better in high school or college, as she drifted without a sense of belonging, identity, or purpose. “One of life’s lost souls,” she describes herself then.

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Historian's Corner

The 1961 Expansion and the Roger Maris Asterisk

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.

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Historian's Corner

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.

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Historian's Corner

Alexander Cleland: Little-Known Force Behind the Founding of Cooperstown

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.

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Historian's Corner

Jimmie Foxx: The Sad Ending of a Hall of Fame Life

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.

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Historian's Corner

The Early Years of Mickey Mantle

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.

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Historian's Corner

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.

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