Bill Felber, executive editor of the Manhattan (KS) Mercury and a baseball historian, is the author of The Book on the Book, published by St. Martin’s Press, and A Game of Brawl, a colorful account of the 1897 National League pennant race, published by the University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books. His most recent book, Under Pallor, Under Shadow, about the watershed American League pennant race of 1920, was published by Bison Books in 2011.
If the ninth inning of the seventh game of the 1962 World Series unfolded today, it would be the most widely second-guessed amalgam of decisions in sports history. The fascinating aspect of that decisive inning is that at the time it was played, it generated little public second-guessing at all.
Miller Huggins is widely regarded as one of baseball’s greatest managers. A 1964 Hall of Fame inductee, he managed the Yankees to six American League pennants and to the 1923, 1927, and 1928 World Series championships. During his 12-season tenure in New York, Huggins-led Yankees teams won nearly 60 percent of their games, and only once finished out of the first division. A lifelong bachelor and tireless worker, Huggins’s great advantage was the single-mindedness with which he prepared both himself and his team.
Carl Hubbell, Jake Arrieta, Rube Marquard, Tim Keefe, and the Longest Pitching Streaks in Major League Baseball
Early in 2016, when Jake Arrieta stretched his string of consecutive victories to 20, the feat stirred memories of Carl Hubbell’s record of 24 straight wins set during the 1936–37 seasons. The odd thing was that even as Hubbell rolled through opponents that summer, experts debated whether his performance merited inclusion among the game’s records at all.
Imagine a Major League pennant race coming down to a final scheduled series between the contenders. Now imagine that series coming down to the final game. Now imagine that final game being halted early by natural elements, throwing the pennant to whichever team happened to be leading when those natural elements intervened.
Finally, imagine that many of the most knowledgeable baseball historians—and almost all regular fans—are unaware any of the above ever occurred.
From a baseball standpoint, there was nothing gay about the 1890s. Stylistically, it was a rough-and-tumble decade producing teams famed as much for their willingness to brawl as for their superiority. Nowhere was this more true than in Baltimore and Cleveland.
George Stallings was an archetype of the manager with a dual personality: genteel, courteous, and refined away from the ballpark, a profane tyrant in it. A wealthy, mannered Georgia cotton farmer during the winter, Stallings managed for 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, compiling a sub-.500 record. Yet the single pennant he won—with the miraculous Boston Braves of 1914—transformed Stallings’s image from egomaniac to personnel genius.
Prior to the introduction of instant replay, a baseball umpire’s judgment was sacrosanct, impervious—by law—even to the filing of a formal protest. Like popes speaking ex cathedra, umpires’ safe-out, fair-foul, and other judgment calls were deemed infallible.
The truth, of course, has always been otherwise. As replay review has periodically demonstrated, umpires from time to time simply miss. They are, to adapt Dickens, human and prone to fall.