Chicago Baseball History

‘War on the Diamond’ a gateway to baseball’s crucial year: 1920

War on the Diamond book cover.

By George Castle, CBM Historian
April 23, 2021

Here’s a nugget you likely don’t know. I surely didn’t. The White Sox wanted to trade for young shortstop Ray Chapman from the Cleveland Indians in 1915 before settling for hard-hitting outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Maybe this fact won’t make it into Andy Billman’s upcoming documentary, “War On the Diamond,” about the tragic death of shortstop Chapman after a beaning from the Yankees’ Carl Mays on Aug. 16, 1920 in New York. With a pedigreed ESPN background, Billman displays his Cleveland roots by detailing the hot rivalry between the Indians and Yankees over the next century. You’ll be able to watch his finished product on several platforms, probably including streaming, later in 2021.

But the remembrance of Chapman, only major leaguer to die of an injury on the diamond, opens the door to an even wider look at the world of 1920, perhaps the most impactful season in baseball history this side of 1947.

Just in the “baseballscape,” the relationships include the White Sox, whose roster was stocked with the under-suspicion Black Sox players from the previous year’s World Series. Seven of the eventual Eight Men Out – ringleader Chick Gandil had moved on after 1919 — were suspended by Sox owner Charles Comiskey with three games to go. The Sox, having been locked in a tight race with the Chapman-mourning, yet inspired Indians, for weeks, still had a shot at the American League pennant.

The suspensions collapsed the franchise and consigned the Sox to second fiddle in the Chicago market to the Cubs, a status that was maintained despite the Sox’s revival in their “Go-Go” years in 195 — thanks to superior TV exposure on WGN.

The Chapman tragedy would not have the legs it should have possessed. On the New York end, one outsized personality would instantly transform both baseball into its present long-ball-happy form and the concept of celebrity. Babe Ruth, Boston owner Harry Frazee’s all-time gift to the Yankees, slugged 54 homers, more than any other AL team. No longer would baseball be a pitch-and-putt, low-scoring, below-the-fences sport, with an underpinning of gambling and attempts to fix games.

Ruth immediately paved the way for the Yankees to become baseball’s dynastic franchise. At their performance peaks over the decades, both the Sox and the Indians just were a little short of the Yankees and could count AL pennants on one hand total through 1995.

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Rosey saved his best for last with his support of Swedish Hospital’s women’s center

By George Castle, CBM Historian
December 29, 2020

Jack Rosenberg with a typical pose in the old WGN-TV broadcast booth, ready to work with his trusty manual typewriter.

Jack Rosenberg with a typical pose in the old WGN-TV broadcast booth, ready to work with his trusty manual typewriter.

Jack Rosenberg had to be the ultimate people person with the persuasive touch to book sitting presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan for WGN-TV baseball broadcasts.

But as adept as “Rosey” was for the station for whom he served as the “glue” for sports programming for more than three decades, he was even better when it came to dedicating his good works in memory of beloved wife Mayora Rosenberg.

Rather than simply mourning his beloved Mayora through his 80s, Rosey ensured her social-work career in tough inner-city circumstances would be remembered. Using the phone and pressing the flesh, two of his sublime attributes, the gravel-voiced native of downstate Pekin, Ill. helped spearhead a multi-millions fund-raising campaign for a women’s center at Swedish Hospital (formerly Swedish Covenant) in Chicago.

The value of a women’s center was not taken lightly. For religious or other reasons, many women felt uncomfortable seeing a male physician. At the new center, they could visit a female doctor in welcoming surroundings. Rosey’s involvement and work ethic ensured the project would get done.

Unfortunately, the next time Rosenberg’s name came up in connection with Swedish Hospital was the kind of bad news that 2020 — rivaling 1932 and 1861 as the worst years in U.S. history — has trademarked. Media accounts on Monday, Dec. 28, reported Rosey had died at 94 at the hospital. (more…)

Baseball Under Glass

Mythology and art mesh at Black Sox 100th-anniversary exhibit

By on June 15, 2019

Thom Ross makes his point – very sharply – about the Black Sox via his art in the most publicized exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of sports’ biggest scandal.

All of Ross’ drawings of the celebrities, sanctimonious arbiters and shadowy characters involved in the attempting throwing of the 1919 World Series have angular, almost severe lines. He did not sketch rounded, softer edges. The style makes everyone seem taller.

Sketch of Buck Weaver.

In fact, Ross’ depiction of Kenesaw Mountain Landis required a rectangular display case. The judge who threw the book – and then some – at the Black Sox almost seems to grow out of his confines with the artist making him long, lean and spare.

Artist Thom Ross

A lot of the motivations of the 1919 White Sox who took gamblers money and those who judged them are still up for debate. But not Ross’ MO in his sketching style. He has put it all together in an exhibit, “The Black Sox – A Century Later,” running through July at the Beverly Arts Center on the southwest corner of Western Avenue and 111th Street in Chicago. Commuters from nearby I-57 on 111th go up a sudden incline at Longwood Drive to Chicago’s highest point to gain a special perspective into baseball’s lowest moment that has been made into books, movies and endless recrimination.

“It’s just who I am,” Ross said, appropriately dressed in 1919 garb, complete with straw skimmer, for the opening of the exhibit. “My theory is things like mythology and legend are inspired by historical stories and truth.  But it gets warped (over the decades). That’s why these figures (with sharp edges) don’t look like photographs. In that mythic world, you appear like you do in a dream. (more…)

Andre Dawson the water-safety advocate could make another splash with Cubs kids

By on June 2, 2018

Some kind of middle ground in apparel must exist between Andre Dawson‘s funeral suit for his family business and the T-shirt and trunks for the youth swimming program that bears his Hall of Fame name in west suburban Lombard.

Like a Cubs uniform?

Andre Dawson is starting his first year as a Cubs ambassador.

In an under-publicized manner, Dawson has indeed worn the Cubs uniform officially for the first time in 26 years in spring training, and hopes to do so again sometime this season for Cubs minor leaguers. Add in more brightly-colored business casual wear for meeting fans and sponsors in other duties as a new team ambassador, and you have the perfect balance in the life of one of the most respected Cubs in history.

“Let’s say I’m all over the place,” Dawson, tracked down in Chicago the other day, said of his 2018 schedule. His base is hometown Miami, but much of his heart is in the city that he claims vaulted him into Cooperstown via six memorable Cubs seasons from 1987 to 1992. Mention that he’d spend even more time in Chicago if the temperature did not drop below 50 and he’d not have to wear anything heavier than a windbreaker, and Dawson breaks into a knowing laugh.

He was cast aside in the off-season, along with fellow Hall of Famer Tony Perez, as a Miami Marlins special assistant by budget-slashing Fish boss Derek Jeter. Regrets are few because Dawson can now work for the Cubs — a longtime goal — while still tending to the funeral home he operates with wife Vanessa and two uncles, earning him national profiles such as respected baseball scribe Bob Nightengale in USA Today:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2018/05/08/andre-dawson-hall-famer-funeral-home-florida-retirement/590358002/

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