The game of baseball as we know it has been played in the United States for more than 150 years. It's played by boys and girls in backyards and sandlots. It's played by grown men and women on pristine grass diamonds and in stadiums large enough to hold the entire population of many cities. All you need is a ball, bat and mitt, and you're ready to take the field. Let's examine the basics to discover why baseball has been called America's National Pastime.
Henry Louis Aaron was born February 5th, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama to Herbert Aaron and Estella Pritchett. He was one of seven siblings and one of which, his brother Tommie, also went on to play professional baseball. Hank Aaron grew up on 666 South Wilkinson Street in Mobile, Alabama. His father worked as a ship fitter's helper, a person who works on ships when they come in for repairs, and made $900 a year (the equivalent of $16,923 today). Hank Aaron's family was very poor, to the point where Hank would make his own baseball bats and baseballs out of materials he found in the street. Hank first tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was just 15 years old. He did not make the team that year but a year later would join the Pritchett Athletics where he made $2 per game (the equivalent to $22 today). Later that year, he would join the Mobile Black Bears, an independent Negro League team, where he earned $3 per game (the equivalent to $33 today). In the fall of 1951, Hank signed a contract with the Indianapolis Clowns where he played 26 games as a shortstop with a batting average of .366, 5 home runs, 33 runs batted in, 41 hits, and 9 stolen bases.
Little League Baseball was born in 1939. By 1950, it made its way from Pennsylvania to Bruce Fabricant’s hometown of Mt. Vernon . In 1953, he got the call, and on a cold April morning, the Heritage Hills resident tried out. The times didn’t allot for a participation trophy, however. But finally getting the chance to play on a real field with adults - who could teach the game - easily made up for lack of metallic luster and the frostbite. In actuality, what he did get was much more important and is never far from what he is trying to document in Baseball Boys – a self-published novel on 1950’s Little League baseball in Mt. Vernon.
The most recent book of note on Mickey Mantle was The Last Boy by Jane Leavy, and it doesn’t pull punches about getting into the more salacious aspects of the slugger’s life. However, a real intimacy goes as far as the author’s access. “She spent one night with him,” says Italian American Author Tom Molito of Pound Ridge, NY. But the release of his new book doesn’t put “the Mick” at a distance for all those that adored him.
As a lifelong baseball fan, sometimes I'll think about some of the strange and seemingly coincidental facts about the sport that seem to not have a proper explanation. Things like: How did Stan Musial manage to hit exactly the same number of hits at away that he did at home? How weird is it that Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961? And how could the Giants only win a World Series on every other year between 2010 and 2014? One thought that has followed me since childhood and nobody else seems to realize is this: If there was a player that wore the number 25 on your team, he was probably the power hitter of your team.
Baseball is undoubtedly America’s favorite sport. It started becoming popular because it could be played by caste, creed, or race with very little financial investment. The thrill of playing in teams in an open field drew many people to the game. The growing popularity led to the formation of popular teams that were identified as a profitable business for many investors. From merchandising to advertising, the game garnered a lot of attention. The most popular baseball teams in the USA are – New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans now throng stadiums in the jerseys of their favorite team with smiling faces and wait in anticipation as the scoreboard says – “Play Ball.”
So the 2020 season is going to be off to a really late start since MLB and the MLBPA couldn't seem to reach an agreement on how to proceed for the longest time. This unprecedented year in the sport affects everyone involved differently: owners and the league are losing revenue, players are losing income, and minor leaguers are getting released. In short, there are losers on every side of this situation. However, there is one party or better yet, a team in particular that can and probably will benefit from all this: The Houston Astros.
The 2020 year is apparently the year of “the unexpected”. At least that’s what it seems like up until this point. As we are all well aware, COVID is the culprit in this widespread disruption to all phases of life with many wishing to return to “normalcy”. I’m sure the virus’s influence will not disappear when it comes to baseball as the pandemic continues to spread here in the United States. Yet, we have been blessed with good news this week; MLB and specifically Rob Manfred announced that baseball would resume on July 23rd.
2007 American League Championship Series Game 6. Red Sox are down three games to two in the series to the Cleveland Indians. I’m talking shit about J.D. Drew the whole way down route 93 from Colebrook, N.H. to Boston, Mass. He hadn’t been hitting well and I think I have the answer. “Move Ellsbury over and put CoCo in; J.D.’s done- he’s a bum. Schilling’s on the mound and he’s a ground ball pitcher. We’ll be ok. We don’t need Drew’s glove in the outfield tonight.”