Story of the Week
FACT OR FICTION?
The game of baseball, with its rich historical fabric and vivid fan appeal, is largely a matter of memory and nostalgia. It’s the very same feeling I get when I go to Tail of the Pup. I’ve been going to that old hot dog stand for 50 years, and the memory and nostalgia I feel when I go to this Los Angeles landmark make those hot dogs taste all the better.
The stuff of baseball memories is woven as much from the fine web of folklore as from the thick thread of reality. With no other sport is the line between myth and history so indistinguishable.
It begins at the very beginning, as it should. It starts with the tale that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in a cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York. The fact is that there is no credence paid by any reputable sports historian to the fable that General Doubleday had anything to do with the invention of baseball. He never saw baseball, he never mentioned it in his voluminous diaries, and he was never anywhere near Cooperstown at the supposed time of the game’s inception. Actually, baseball evolved from European bat and ball games known as "rounders". Albert Spalding fostered the Doubleday myth purely for entrepreneurial purposes.
We’ve all heard the story of Babe Ruth dramatically calling his home run shot in his last World Series appearance at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. For years, controversy has surrounded the incident, but the bottom line seems to be that qualified sports historians simply do not wish to know what really happened that day in 1932, especially since the best evidence suggests that the event is pure fiction.
The infamous Black Sox World Series scandal of 1919 is yet another case of baseball history coated over with legend. There is little evidence that Shoeless Joe Jackson threw any of those games; he led both teams in hitting in that series with a .375 mark. And there is less evidence that BuckWeaver, with his 11 series hits and flawless fielding, should ever have been implicated in the "fix". The eight accused White Sox player were certainly guilty of conspiring with gamblers, but they changed their minds and the deed was never executed as imagined. They were the convenient scapegoats of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and were banned from the game.
And the list goes on and on and on. So what are you supposed to believe? My favorite sports movie ever, The Natural, would suggest that Roy Hobbs could get shot and almost killed, then become a major leaguer at the age of 38, and either hit the cover off the ball or hit titanic home runs off the scoreboard clock and the light tower. Highly entertaining, but only in the movies could such a thing take place. Something so ridiculous could never happen in real life. So four years later, Kirk Gibson’s heroics in the World Series make Robert Redford’s character believable.
Memory and nostalgia; is it fact or fiction?
Last Week’s Trivia
When was the first baseball game televised live nationwide? Game one of the 1951 National League playoffs between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. I wish Bobby Thomson would have stayed home to watch the playoffs on t.v. So does Ralph Branca.
Trivia Question of the Week
What team owns the record for fewest yards rushing in a Super Bowl? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.