The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson

He was a lieutenant in the Army of the United States: he saw no reason to sit in the back of the bus

ON JULY 6, 1944, Jackie Robinson, a twenty-five-year-old lieutenant, boarded an Army bus at Fort Hood, Texas. Sixteen months later he would be tapped as the man to break baseball’s color barrier, but in 1944 he was one of thousands of blacks thrust into the Jim Crow South during World War II. He was with the light-skinned wife of a fellow black officer, and the two walked half the length of the bus, then sat down, talking amiably.Read more »

Play Ball!

In baseball's earliest years, players beaned baserunners and often had to flout town laws prohibiting the game

The game of baseball was not always the well-ordered sport we know today, played on elegantly manicured fields bordered by crisp white lines. As historians have debunked the widely held myth that Abner Doubleday of Cooperstown, New York, invented the sport out of whole cloth in 1839, they have discovered its deeper American origins. In 1787, the same year the Constitution was written, a Worcester, Massachusetts, publisher printed A Little Pretty Pocket Book, the American edition of an English book for children, which included a poem and illustration dedicated to “base-ball.”Read more »

Sizzling Satchel Paige

The pitcher with the unhittable fireball deserves as much credit for breaking baseball’s color barrier as Jackie Robinson

April 1926

Leroy “Satchel” Paige, arguably the greatest pitcher ever to throw a baseball, was as green as a big league infield that April day in 1926 when he joined his first professional team, the all-black Chattanooga White Sox. Everything he owned—a couple of shirts, an extra pair of socks, underwear wrapped in an old pair of pants—still fit into a brown paper sack, the same as it had eight years earlier, when he was sentenced to the Alabama Reform School for Juvenile Negro Law-Breakers. That was a good thing, because Satchel still could not afford a suitcase.Read more »

The Greatest Series?

Just as the year changed the nation, so its World Series changed American sports

Some World Series are great when you watch them, and some look great in the rear-view mirror of history. The 1964 World Series looked terrific at the time and has only gotten better. (You can check it out yourself, $34.95 on DVD from Baseball Direct, www.baseballdirect.com/world2, in color and with commentary by the great Harry Caray.) The New York Yankees were the better team that year and the betting favorite. They won 99 games to the Cardinals’ 93, they out-homered St.Read more »

Glove Story

BASEBALL WAS PLAYED FOR THIRTY YEARS BEFORE ANYONE THOUGHT ABOUT FINDING A WAY TO PROTECT PLAYERS’ FINGERS

 

When the St. Louis Brown Stockings, of the National Association, began their 1875 season, the roster was studded with current and future stars. Their venerable player-manager, Dickey Pearce, had been one of the first two men to be openly paid for playing baseball, way back in 1856. He also invented bunting and the modern position of shortstop. The left fielder, Ned Cuthbert, was equally innovative: In 1865, noticing that there was nothing in the rules to prohibit it, he became the first recorded player to steal a base.

 
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Learning To Like Baseball

WHAT HAPPENED when a historian largely indifferent to the subject set out to write the script for Ken Burns’s monumental new documentary

I’VE NEVER LIKED BASEBALL MUCH, IN part because my father has always loved it so. He has been a fan all his life, rooting first for the Cleveland Indians, who were the closest major leaguers to the small Ohio town in which he was raised, and then for the Chicago White Sox, heroes to at least half the city in which he and my mother raised my brother and sister and me.Read more »

What I Learned From The Pirates

A lifelong baseball fan recalls his early days and explains the rewards of abject loyalty

Two months after the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series of 1909, my mother presented them with one of their most faithful fans—me. It took them another sixteen years to come up with their next triumph; and there were to be no more world championships after that until I was fifty.Read more »

Positively The Last Word On Baseball

Forget football, basketball, and all the other sports that are artificially regulated by the clock. Only baseball can truly reveal our national character. Only baseball can light our path to the future.

 
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Baseball’s Greatest Pitcher

It was a hundred years ago, and the game has changed a good deal since then. But there are plenty of people who still hold that cranky old Hoss Radbourn was the finest that ever lived.

Greatest Season Performance by Major League Pitcher? One hundred years ago last summer, Charles Radbourn won 60 and lost 12 for the Providence Grays of the National League. He won so many games not only because he was very good, but also because for the second half of the season Radbourn pitched —and won—almost every game that Providence played. During thirty-five days in August and September, Radbourn pitched 22 consecutive games for Providence, and he won 18 straight within the space of a month.Read more »

The Old Ball Game

A portfolio of rare photographs recalls baseball’s rough-and-tumble vintage era

PARADISE LOST . It is a sweet and on the whole harmless vision that prettifies the past of America and the game dearest to its heart. Just as the romanticists among us imagine a golden age of unspoiled landscapes and simple, decent folk, so baseball fans pine for the days when the game was played not for money but for love—a legendary epoch identified with the time of one’s youth or, by those with some dim sense of history, with an Edenic nineteenth century. Read more »