Saturday, May 9, 2009

Early Cubs Footage

Back in 2006, Paul Lukas, the guru of sports uniforms whose UniWatch column can be found at ESPN Page 2, alerted me to an interesting video on YouTube. The video can be seen here.

Originally billed as footage from the 1929 World Series at Wrigley Field, research reveals that almost half of the footage is actually from 1930.

The park is definitely Wrigley Field from the era. Here is the scoreboard in center field seen at 1:44 of the YouTube video:

Compare this with a photo showing the scoreboard in center field at Wrigley Field during the 1929 World Series from the Chicago Daily News collection at the Library of Congress's American Memory web site.

Chicago Daily News negatives collection, SDN-069131. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

The first clue that the footage is not all from 1929 comes from 00:30 to 00:43 of the video, which shows the Cubs wearing their 1930 uniforms. Here's a still from 00:31 of the video:

In 1929, the Cubs wore uniforms that featured a wishbone "C" with an image of a bear-cub inside it. In 1930, however, the club featured the letters "UBS" inside the wishbone "C," combining to make the word "CUBS." Compare the photo above to the drawings of the 1929 (top) and 1930 (bottom) Cubs uniforms at the Dressed to the Nines online exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame's web site:

By the way, the Cub at far right (with the noticeably white hair) is coach and former major league player Jimmy Burke. Though the Library of Congress lists the photo below as "unidentified," it is clearly of Burke:

Chicago Daily News negatives collection, SDN-068569. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

From about 1:05 to 1:42 or so, the Cubs are seen carrying a large flag and, directly behind them, members of another club are seen with uniforms that clearly have some sort of markings on the backs of their jerseys. Here's a still from 01:13 of the video:

And here's another from 1:29 that shows the unusual markings on the back of the visiting club's uniforms (at far right):

From 1:43 to 2:05 it becomes clear that what the players were carrying was a pennant and it is being raised on the flagpole next to the scoreboard in center field. The pennant says: "CHAMPIONS / NATIONAL LEAGUE / 1929". Here are stills from 1:56 to 2:05:

During the flag raising, the scoreboard is visible. Here's a still from 01:44 of the video:

Note that at the top of the scoreboard it shows that the "CUBS" are playing "BOSTON." New York is at Pittsburgh (the game is in progress around the sixth inning or so), Brooklyn is at Cincinnati, and Philadelphia is at St. Louis.

According to the Retrosheet web site, these clubs played one another on June 21, 1930. Indeed, the partial line score from the Giants vs. Pirates game on the scoreboard matches Retrosheet's line score for the game.

These clues pinpoint the date of the footage as Flag Day, June 21, 1930, an appropriate holiday to raise the National League pennant. The Cubs paraded toward center field with the pennant, followed by the visiting club, the Boston Braves, who in 1929 and 1930 wore an Indian head logo on the back of their jerseys, as seen at the Dressed to the Nines online exhibit:

The same indian head can be seen on the back of the third baseman in this photo of Kiki Cuyler running to third as the Cubs host the Braves at Wrigley Field in 1929:

Chicago Daily News negatives collection, SDN-068978. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

The Chicago Daily Tribune of June 22, 1930, published the following photo of the Cubs with the pennant that is clearly from the same event:

Chicago Daily Tribune, June 20, 1930

The caption, in part, reads: "Champion Cubs celebrate the formal raising of the National league pennant with a double victory over the Boston Braves. ... The entire Bruin personnel parades before the crowd of 42,000 with the 1929 bunting, which was later unfurled in the stiff northeast breeze."

From 2:06 to 2:37, the two teams parade back to the infield, with the Cubs on the third base side, and the Braves on the first base side. And from 2:38 to 3:14, action is seen from the doubleheader played that day. From 3:11 to 3:14 one can even see Cubs southpaw pitcher Bud Teachout deliver a pitch.

Note that at 3:01 there is clearly no bunting visible on the fa├žade of the second deck:

But soon afterward the footage switches from Flag Day 1930 to pre-game and game-action from the 1929 World Series. Note that at 3:29 the bunting one would expect to see at the World Series is now visible:

The rest of the film does indeed appear to be from the 1929 World Series at Wrigley Field, though it is not clear if the action is from Game One (October 8) or Game Two (October 9).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Who's on First? Where is Second?

The Tampa Bay Rays' new logo (unveiled after the 2007 season) is wrong.

It's not that I don't like the design. Actually, the new look is nice. It's sharp, straightforward, and (dare I say it?) classy.

And it's not that I'm disappointed that they've dropped the "Devil" from their name. In fact, the devil's still there. Indeed, the devil's in the details. Look closely at the positioning of second base. It's in the wrong place.

Rule 1.06 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball states:

First, second and third bases shall be marked by white canvas bags, securely attached to the ground as indicated in Diagram 2. The first and third base bags shall be entirely within the infield. The second base bag shall be centered on second base.
And here's that "Diagram 2":

Home, first, and third bases are each neatly nestled in their corners, but second base is centered smack dob on its crook of the diamond. Strange, but true.

Well ... maybe not that strange. Perhaps an explanation is in order.

Though the earliest rules of the game did not explicitly state where the bases were to be positioned, early diagrams showed that each was to be centered on its corner of the infield diamond. It was not until 1874 that a new foul line rule made this clear:
The foul ball lines shall be unlimited in length, and shall run from the center of the home base through the center of the first and the third base to the foul ball posts. ...
Then, in 1875, the rulemakers moved home base (a 12-inch by 12-inch square like first, second, and third) so that it was completely in foul territory, with the front corner of the plate touching "the foul ball lines where they meet at the home base corner." This surprising positioning of home lasted just two seasons, after which two major changes were introduced.

First, the season of 1877 saw home base move once again, this time to a position wholly in fair territory, with its back corner touching the intersection of the first and third base lines. With the exception of the rule that altered the shape of home to its now-familiar five-sided shape, the positioning of home has remained right there. And second, that same year, the first, second, and third bases were increased in size to 15-inch by 15-inch squares.

Finally, in 1887, the positions of first and third bases moved such that "the center of the first and third bases shall be on the lines running to and from the foul lines, providing that each base be entirely within the foul lines." The reason for the change was simple. Prior to 1887, a batted ball hitting the portion of first or third that was in fair territory was a fair ball, while a ball hitting the foul portion of these bases was foul. With just one umpire on the field (the two-umpire system was not introduced until the late 1890s) having to make a split-second call as to what part of the bag was hit was exceptionally difficult. By moving the bases wholly into fair territory it rendered the point moot: any ball touching a base had to be fair.

Of course, there was no need to move second, as it had nothing to do with fair and foul balls. So it was left where it had long been: centered on its corner. It would have been nice for second to have been moved for the sake of symmetry (and for the Rays), but it was not done and ... well ... here we are.

Now, to be fair, the Rays were not the first to make the mistake of placing second base in the wrong place. Even though second base has stayed put for over 120 years, there have been numerous incorrect representations of the diamond.

A few that come to mind include ...

the 1939 baseball centennial logo (worn as a patch by every major league player in 1939):

the cover art on the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia:

the primary National League logo:

the Chicago White Sox shoulder patch (thanks to Mark Fimoff for alerting me):

and shame on the Northwest Baseball Umpires Association ... you'd think the officials would know better:

Update of September 24, 2011:

While I've found numerous examples of this common error over the years since I originally posted this entry, this one seemed particularly egregious. Here's what the Baseball Writers' Association of America's "Manager of the Year Award" looks like (or, at least, what it looked like when Mike Scioscia received his 2009 award):


Friday, May 1, 2009

A Mysterious Armband

The Harris & Ewing Collection at the Library of Congress offers a wealth of wonderful baseball photographs. A search of the keyword "baseball" results in some 356 returned records. While most (if not all) of the pictures are downloadable in extremely high detail, most also have minimal descriptions. In short, this resource has great potential, but it is currently unfulfilled.
Thankfully, the Pictorial History Committee (PHC) of the Society for American Baseball Research is working to add full identifications to each photograph, with committee member Mark Fimoff, an exceptional baseball photo researcher, heading up the project. It is just the sort of thing that the PHC should be working on, and with Mark at the helm, I am certain it will be done well.

I've been tasked with adding information to some of the unidentified Cleveland baseball photographs and bumped into an interesting little mystery. The following photo is currently described as "BASEBALL, PROFESSIONAL. CLEVELAND PLAYERS" with a date of 1913:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing, LC-DIG-hec-02801

Obviously it's a photo of a player with Cleveland, a team at the time known as the Naps. These were the days when Cleveland team captain Nap Lajoie practically owned American League pitching and Forest City fans rewarded him by renaming the team in his honor. (Hmm ... the "St. Louis Pujols" doesn't quite have the same ring.) Here's a detail showing the Cleveland lefty:

Identifying the player was pretty straightforward. It is clearly Doc Johnston, first baseman for Cleveland from 1912 through 1914. The Library of Congress includes a few other photos of Johnston that corroborate the match. Here's a detail of one:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing, LC-DIG-ggbain-27243

Johnston's uniform, with its cadet collar and lack of pinstripes, is consistent with that worn by Cleveland on the road in 1913 or 1914. Other Ewing & Harris baseball photos corroborate that the venue was National Park, later the site of Griffith Stadium. But what caught my eye was the strange armband on Johnston's left sleeve. Here's a detail showing his unusual arm-wear:

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a bit of an obsession with baseball uniform memorial markings of all sorts. For more on that, check out the memorial markings section of an online exhibit I curated titled Dressed to the Nines: A History of the Baseball Uniform. It's a problem I have ... I know.

Anyway, it appears that the first four letters on the armband are "BOOS," but what could this mean?

Furthermore, look closely between the top two buttons of Johnston's jersey:

There appears to be some sort of floral pin. Very strange, indeed.

I compared this photo with others that were taken at apparently the same time, all shots of Cleveland players at American League Park. I could find no one else on the club who was wearing either the armband or the pin. What gives?

As Donald Rumsfeld said (and this is the only time I'll ever quote Rumsfeld): "There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. " So here's what we have ...

Known knowns:
  • The photo shows Cleveland's Doc Johnston at American League Park in Washington, D.C. in either 1913 or 1914.
Known unknowns:
  • Johnston's wearing a pin near the top of his jersey and an armband on his left sleeve with the letters "BOOS."

Using ProQuest, I searched various digitized newspapers for more information. Happily I ran across a number of articles that not only explained the armband and pin, but nailed the exact date of the photo.

An article titled "Boosters' Club Growing At a Tremendous Rate" in the Washington Post of June 12, 1913, reads in part:

Boosters' Day, planned by the fans of Washington to usher in the series with [manager] Joe Birmingham's despised Naps, is gaining ground daily, and has already assumed wide scope. ... Manager George Peck, of the Gayety Theater, has turned over the use of the theater for a mass meeting on Monday night, when the club will be formally organized and officers will be elected.

Perhaps you've heard of the famed "Royal Rooters," the Boston baseball fan club that formed in the late 19th century. (If not, I suggest you check out Peter Nash's book on the subject, Boston's Royal Rooters). Well, there were other such fan clubs, though I was unfamiliar with this version.

An article in the Washington Post of June 17, 1913, reads:

We have with us this afternoon Birmingham's braves from Cleveland, the club that is closest on the trail of the pace-setting Philadelphia Athletics, and the combination, with the fact that it is Washington's first "boosters'" day, is expected to draw out one of the largest crowds of the year to National park.

And the following day, the Washington Post ran this note:

Some of the Nationals wore Boosters' bands on their caps, and the rest had on pins which were made especially for the day.

So, the armband was actually supposed to be worn by the Washington players on their caps, and Johnston's pin is likely the Booster pin described above. I don't know why an opposing player chose to wear the Boosters' accoutrements on his jersey. Perhaps he was just having a bit of fun. He certainly appears to be wearing a knowing smile.

Whatever the reason for Johnston's behavior, our case is closed. The photo shows Cleveland's Doc Johnston warming up prior to the Cleveland vs. Washington game at National Park in Washington, D.C., June 16, 1913.