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 »

Sporting Glass

The largest Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere has the strangest stained-glass windows in the world

TO A CASUAL OBSERVER , the first window on the north face of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine looks as traditional and reverent as stainedglass windows the world over. But viewed up close, the fourteen thousand pieces of glass reveal scenes of baseball, fishing, and golf—almost as if to remind worshipers of the fun they might be having if they weren’t in church. Much of the credit for the window’s unconventional design belongs to Elizabeth Manning, daughter of William T. Manning, Bishop of New York from 1921 to 1946.Read more »

The Olympics That Almost Wasn’t

In 1984 Los Angeles will once again play host to the Summer Olympics. It’s got to be easier that the first time. That was just fifty years ago, when, in the teeth of the Great Depression, a group of local boosters boldly set about planning

March 1925. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, president of the Comité International Olympique, in a confidential letter from Paris to William May Garland, president of the California Olympiad committee: “In case of Holland failing to fulfill her engagements … in the IX Olympiad … would Los Angeles be willing or not to take up 1928 instead of 1932? An answer must be given immediately. Therefore we beg that you shall consult without delay upon receiving this letter with the mayor of Los Angeles and the organizing committee.Read more »

Mr. Harriman Requests The Pleasure Of Your Company

Was it science, sport, or the prospect of a round-the-world railroad that sent the tycoon off on his costly Alaskan excursion?

The railroad tycoon Edward Harriman was a man of large vision and mysterious ways. When, on a day in March of 1899, he strode into the Washington office of Dr. C. Hart Merriam, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, and proposed sponsoring a grand scientific exploring expedition to Alaska, Merriam thought he was just another lunatic. He put his strange visitor off until the next day while he checked him out. To his surprise Merriam found the man to be exactly what he said he was—president of the Union Pacific Railroad.Read more »

Gentlemen Afield

They went to the woods with rod and gun—and gloves, servants, caviar, and champagne

A strange word suddenly appeared in the American vernacular after the Civil War. The word was “sportsman.” It served to define a certain kind of gentleman who took his leisure with rod and gun. And that was the curiosity of it, for the pursuit of fish and game on this continent had seldom before been associated with leisure. One hunted or fished in order to eat. The rod and the gun rested next to the ploughshare. Men who went afield for amusement were regarded as scalawags undoubtedly cursed with addiction to liquor, cards, and cockfights as well.Read more »

The Way I See It

Like most authentic folk creations, baseball is deeply and obscurely rooted in the past and its moment of origin is cloaked in legend. There are innumerable threads that go back to the beginning of things, but nobody can follow them all the way. This is partly because they lead to a thousand cow pastures and smalltown parks where no records were kept, and partly because anyone who tries to follow them must sooner or later run into the shadowy figure of General Abner Doubledav. Read more »

Queen Mother Of Tennis

On December 5, 1974, Mrs. Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, who had won more national tennis titles than any other player in the history of the sport, died at her home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She would have been eighty-eight on December 20. During several days late in November, two weeks before her death, Mrs. Wightman reminisced with an AMERICAN HERITAGE editor, talking humorously, lucidly, and often bluntly about her career in tennis, about the current state of women’s tennis, and about her unflagging devotion to the game. Read more »

S•x Education

“Your body is a temple,” our ancestors told their pubescent youngsters. ‘Now go take a cold bath”

Standards of propriety were lofty indeed

Something called delicacy overtook Americans soon after our successful Revolution. Like an incoming tide, it flowed all over the nineteenth century, reaching its high-water mark about a hundred years ago. From that point it slowly receded, leaving behind rock pools of what came to be identified as prudery.Read more »