At BallNine, we have been able to bring you so many great baseball stories directly from Major League Baseball players, managers, scouts, umpires and others associated with the game.
It’s our belief that these stories, when passed on through the generations, are what makes baseball the world’s greatest legacy sport. This concept is not new by a longshot and in this week’s edition of The Stud 400, we come across a landmark publication that did that in an absolutely incredible way. In 1966, after Ty Cobb died, Lawrence Ritter traveled the country interviewing players from the turn of the century in an effort to preserve the great stories these former players had.
Want to know the story of when Honus Wagner tagged Ty Cobb in the face so hard he knocked loose his teeth in the 1909 World Series? Ritter asked Pirates catcher George Gibson, who threw the ball. Ever wonder what it was like to be a roommate with Jim Thorpe? Ritter posed that question to Chief Meyers. The book, published in 1966, and the audio recordings of the interviews are jaw-dropping. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Only the Ball Was White as well, Published in 1970 by Robert Peterson, the groundbreaking and timeless book also drew largely on interviews with former Negro League players and was one of the first and most exhaustive projects in organizing the early history of the Negro Leagues.
Baseball history stories; who doesn’t love ‘em?
Before we move on to this week’s edition of The Stud 400, here’s look at the last five entries as we count down the 400 greatest moments in Major League Baseball history:
340. Satchel Paige pitches three scoreless innings at 58 (?) years old (1965)
339. White Sox Turn Back the Clock Day (1990)
338. Jim Edmonds’ catch (1997)
337. Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich swap lives (1973)
336. Gaylord Perry and the Man on the Moon (1969)
And now, here’s Episode XIV of The Stud 400, featuring artwork by Will O’Toole.
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Cleveland turns down a trade for a young Ty Cobb (1907)
Baseball history is full of failed deals that would have altered the course of the game, but perhaps none as much as the potential trade between the Indians and Tigers from 1907. Cobb was just 20 years old at the time, and an ultra-talented youngster. However, as the story goes, he was already flashing signs of his trademark temper. New Tigers manager Hughie Jennings allegedly called Indians owner Charles Somers directly to propose a trade of Cobb to the Indians for eventual Hall of Famer Elmer Flick, who was already an established star. Imagine an Indians lineup of Cobb, Nap Lajoie and Shoeless Joe Jackson? If you believe the stories passed down through time, and at BallNine we do, it came pretty close to happening.
Madison Bumgarner becomes first pitcher to homer twice on Opening Day (2017)
Bumgarner crushing baseballs is nothing new. The three-time World Series champ has 19 home runs in his career including five during the 2015 season. On Opening Day of the 2017 season, Bumgarner made history with his bat when he became the first pitcher to hit two home runs in the season opener. Bumgarner took fellow “pitcher who can rake” Zack Greinke deep in his second at bat of the season and then in the seventh inning with the game tied at three, Bumgarner duplicated the feat against Diamondbacks reliever Andrew Chafin. The Giants bullpen ended up blowing the game, but even with the loss, Bumgarner still holds his place in history.
Lawrence Ritter writes The Glory of their Times (1966)
There have been many seminal books recording the game’s history, but very few are as important as The Glory of their Times. Written in 1966 by Lawrence Ritter, the book recorded the early days of Major League Baseball from the players themselves. Upon learning of the death of Ty Cobb, Ritter realized that every time a Dead Ball Era player passed away, their historical knowledge died with them. Ritter decided to travel the country to record audio interviews with some of the game’s early legends as a way to preserve that history. He spoke with Hall of Famers like Edd Roush, Hank Greenberg, Paul Waner and Sam Crawford, to name a few. Stan Coveleski, Goose Goslin, Harry Hooper and Rube Marquard weren’t Hall of Famers when Ritter interviewed them, but they made it afterwards, with Goslin and Marquard crediting the book for their induction. The book generated nearly a quarter million dollars in royalty, which Ritter shared with the 22 men who were interviewed for the book.
MLB batters record more K’s than hits for the first time (2018)
For over 120 years, batters who struck out consistently had a hard time sticking around the game. There was a certain shame going up to the plate and returning to the dugout without having put the ball in play. That is all gone now; hopefully temporarily. The game of baseball has its ebbs and flows and just about everything is cyclical, so here’s hoping that one day, a new generation of players will recognize that putting the ball in play is more valuable than whiffing. But we’re in a current timeline where strikeouts are brushed off as nerds brainwash the baseball world that strikeouts do not matter. That is one of the ways we got to the 2018 season when, for the first time in history, there were more strikeouts than hits over the course of a full season. That year, there were 41,207 strikeouts across MLB and 41,018 hits. The game changes, but that doesn’t mean it always changes for the better. Shame needs to return to the strikeout.
Albert Pujols sets record for most hits by someone born outside of the US (2019)
When Albert Pujols finally hangs up his cleats for the last time, we may be able to do an entire Stud 400 of just Pujols accomplishments. For now, we’ll talk about some recent history with the Dominican legend. A still-unsigned Pujols is sitting on 3,301 career hits, good for 12th all-time. On August 14, 2019, Pujols laced an RBI single to right field against the Pirates for hit number 3,167, which gave him one more career hit than Adrian Beltre. The significance there is that in doing so, Pujols became the all-time hits leader for players born outside the United States. Quite the accomplishment when you’re standing atop a list that also includes Ichiro, Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente and the many other incredible international stars of Major League Baseball.
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Stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Stud 400 when we revisit Rocky Colavito’s perfect season, go streaking with Chris Davis and take a trip to Niagara Falls with a Hall of Famer that doesn’t end well at all.