Thursday, April 16, 2015

Baseball Reacts to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln left a nation in shock. In wake of the tragedy, local organizations flooded newspapers with announcements of meetings postponed, businesses closed, and proclamations issued. Baseball clubs were no exception, though such notices are not particularly easy to find. Below are images of those that I could readily track down.

On April 18, just three days after the President passed away, the Brooklyn Eagle posted the following note:

The following day, the Freeport (Illinois) Weekly Journal carried this notice from the Empire Base Ball Club of Freeport, just over 100 miles west of Chicago:

And the New York Clipper of May 13, 1865, included a brief article describing how a game to be played between the Eagles of New York City and the Athletics of Philadelphia was postponed numerous times, twice on account of "that dreaded monster, death": the murder of the President and the passing of Athletics pitcher Dick McBride's father.

Friday, April 3, 2015

John F. Kennedy and Baseball

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Web site is a treasure trove of information of all-things JFK. Little wonder it has numerous baseball-related items digitized and available to the public. Here are just a few highlights.

In his 1935 Choate Yearbook, Jack Kennedy's biography notes that he played baseball during the 1931-32 school year. In later years, however, he concentrated on basketball and (of course) football.

On June 24, 1960, then-Senator Jack Kennedy wrote to Hank Aaron to thank the Milwaukee Braves star for his help during the Wisconsin Presidential Primary, a critical victory for JFK en route to the Democratic Party presidential nomination. With Aaron suffering through a month-long hitting slump at the time, Kennedy expressed his hope that Hank would "push that average up over the .300 mark." Too bad he misspelled Hank's surname "Aron."

About two weeks later, just days before the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Kennedy received a letter from former major league star Jackie Robinson. Robinson had originally campaigned for Minnesota senator Hubert Humphrey, but ultimately chose to support Richard Nixon over Kennedy for the presidency. In this letter, Jackie made this interesting statement:

Please, don't consider me presumptious [sic] but I would like to make one suggestion. While trying to impress anyone with your sincerity, you must be able to look them squarely in the eye. I recognize you probably weren't aware of this, but I found myself concerned because you did not do so with me. I purposely challenged you to see what would happen and found your eyes going elsewhere when talking with me. The ability to look a man in the eye is important, at least to me.

WGN Television broadcaster Vince Lloyd interviewed President Kennedy before the White Sox faced the Senators in the opening game of Washington's 1961 season. It was the first time a sitting president had been interviewed on live TV at a baseball game.

In his address at the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Banquet held at the Waldorf-Astoria in December 5, 1961, President Kennedy stated "I will not enter the debate as to whether football or baseball is our great national sport." He then followed up with same comment that he made at the Senators' home opener eight months earlier: "The sad fact is that it looks more and more as if our great national sport is not playing at all -- but watching. We have become more and more, not a nation of athletes, but a nation of spectators."

Just seven months after Roger Maris hit his 61st home run, breaking Babe Ruth's long-standing single-season record, President Kennedy met with Yankees star at The White House. Maris, national campaign co-chairman of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, exchanged a signed copy of his book "Roger Maris At Bat" for a signed copy of Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage." They also both signed a baseball that was to be auctioned of to raise money for the MS Society. (I wonder where that ball is today.) The visit must have inspired Roger, as that evening the Yankees right fielder slugged his first home run since opening day.

The day after the first 1962 All-Star Game was held at D.C. Stadium in Washington, D.C., the man that Commissioner Ford Frick called "baseball's perfect knight" visited "Camelot," as President Kennedy took time out to greet Cardinals legend Stan Musial, Stan's wife Lil and daughter Janet.

On February 5, 1963, Daniel J. Silva, Commissioner of the Cape Cod Baseball League, wrote to John Kennedy asking if the President would "be interested in donating a trophy to be known as the 'President John F. Kennedy Trophy.'" Kennedy's personal secretary wrote back a week later noting that "the President appreciated your thinking of him and he would love very much to donate a trophy for this league but inasmuch as he has received so many, many requests for trophies he had to adopt the policy of not donating trophies."

Today, the league's champions are awarded the Arnold Mycock Trophy.

Cape Cod Times/Ron Schloerb

For those interested, there's lots more baseball-related content at the JFK Library.