Author: carolkn

‘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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Trade of base burglar Brock swiped the Cubs’ future, made Cards champs

By George Castle, CBM Historian
September 8, 2020

Lou Brock in the Polo Grounds, where in 1962 he slugged a 460-foot homer to center.

Lou Brock in the Polo Grounds, where in 1962 he slugged a 460-foot homer to center.

The true measure of Louis Clark Brock goes far beyond his Hall of Fame status, 938 stolen bases — including 14 in the World Series and an NL record 118 in 1974 – along with 3,023 hits.

The complete tally is Brock’s baseball intellect. He was a true student of the game whose bottom line was striving to improve. And those “smarts,” as baseball second-sight was once called, radically affected the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the two teams to which Brock will always be tethered now that he has passed into the ages at 81, less than a week after worthy foe Tom Seaver.

Ever since June 15, 1964, one of the most infamous days in Cubs history, Brock has been the biggest ghost in the franchise timeline, the all-encompassing “What if?” that took away MVP-style production along with heart and soul from sports’ most star-crossed team.

The Cubs were a slow, ponderous team, and not just on the basepaths. A substandard baseball organization starved for both financial and intellectual capital by Phil Wrigley, likely baseball’s most affluent owner in his time, and then for decades by the Tribune Company could not nearly put together a championship-caliber team for an impossibly long time. All the while when the Cubs could advance just one base at a time, they had squandered away base burglar Brock and Bill North, two-time American League stolen-base king.

Three-hundred miles down Route 66/I-55 and in a more tropical climate, the Cardinals quenched their own 18-year pennant drought by stealing Brock from the Cubs in exchange for aching right-hander Ernie Broglio. Both team and man were simultaneously freed from shackles. Brock stole 33 bases and batted .348 in two-thirds of the remaining 1964 season, as if afterburners were suddenly affixed to Gussie Busch’s franchise. Busch paid decently, for the time, and Brock well-earned his pay leading the Cards to two World Series triumphs and three pennants to round out the Sixties.

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Injuries, not alcoholism, shortened the career of Dick Allen

By David J. Fletcher, MD, President, Chicago Baseball Museum
May 18, 2020

Last week, noted baseball writer and Hall of Fame prognosticator Jay Jaffe, author of The Cooperstown Casebook wrote a column for ESPN entitled “Every NL team’s best player not in the Hall of Fame — and should he get in?” [1]

Dick Allen belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Dr. David Fletcher, M.D.

That story ignited a firestorm from Dick Allen supporters who  are trying to get him elected this December to the Baseball Hall of Fame when the Golden Days Era Veteran’s committee meets in Dallas at the Baseball Winter meetings.

“Dick retired because he had a bad Achilles tendon suffered in 1974 while playing with the White Sox. In fact he told the Phillies that before they made the trade for him in 1975. They didn’t care, they didn’t let the media know he was injured nor the opposing teams. They wanted him to bat 5th to protect Schmidt and Luzinski.  Ultimately it worked in 1976 when the Phillies won their first Championship of any kind since the 1950 Whiz Kids,” stated former Philadelphia Phillies groundskeeper named Mark “Froggy” Carfagno, who has since 2013 run a nonstop crusade to get Dick Allen elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Visit the Dick Allen belongs in the Hall of Fame FaceBook group…

Reading that Allen’s alcohol issues shortened his career was another gut punch to Froggy, who had endured the pain in San Diego when Allen in December 2014 received 11 of 16 votes — or one short of the number required for election to the class of 2015 via the Golden Era committee.

Since that painful day in December 2014, Froggy has continuously campaigned for Dick Allen, now 78 years old and failing health, to get elected him to the National Baseball Hall of Fame the next time the Golden Days era committee met.

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