The Curse of Anson

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Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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27 Responses

  1. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    A revival of No, No, Nanette was the first professional live theatrical production I ever went (or was taken) to. It featured this immortal song – but as a duet, IIRC.

    Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    This is perfect in every way except for one. Somehow, somewhere in the piece should be the phrase, “You could look it up.”Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      D’oh! You are right. That was a missed opportunity.

      Also, Jackie Robinson’s uniform number: 42. The answer to life, the universe and everything: 42. Coincidence? I think not!Report

  3. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    And here I thought it was karma, or who(what)ever, punishing Cubs management for coming up with a marketing campaign for Wrigley Field instead of the team that played inside it. Cubs fans, being credulous nitwits, were apt to put up with the likes of George Mitterwald and Dave Kingman since they were playing in such a beautiful park. Hoodwinking credulous nitwits never sits well with those looking down at us.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I heard that Sammy Sosa cursed them after they traded him for sneezing too loudly.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Holy ****!

    First pitch inside the park homer?Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      I just now finally saw the video of that play. The center fielder really screwed that one up. The left fielder might have had a shot at catching the ball, but that play is the center fielder’s. He got a bad jump, didn’t call for the left fielder to take it, and then booted the ball. Not a triumph. Most inside-the-park homers are to some extent the result of bad fielding, but this was really bad fielding. It’s one thing when a corner outfielder misreads how a ball is going to bounce, and it rattles around in the corner. But this was just bad.

      Not that I am complaining. While I don’t root for either team, I do root against the Mets.Report

  6. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    They won’t win because they’re a utter pile of garbage that will never amount to anything. They’re the reason I quit baseball forever. They’re bastards, the lot of them.Report

  7. The last time the Cubs won a championship, in 1908, they got to the Series by cheating. They got a pennant and their victim got the nickname “Bonehead”. What better justice than 100+ years of curse?Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      How do you make the Cubs’ role in Merkle’s Boner out to be cheating? They clearly had the letter of the law on their side, and the league backed them up. There is a good argument that the league made the wrong decision, but the Cubs’ case was not frivolous.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        There’s no reason to think that Evers used the actual game ball.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          This seems a stretch. Accounts differ on this point. There are three variants: (1) Cubs centerfielder Hofman retrieved the ball and threw it to Evers. (2) Giants base coach McGinnity intercepted the ball and threw it into the crowd. Someone–perhaps Evers or perhaps Cubs pitcher (not in the game) Kroh retrieved a ball, which might or might not have been the game ball, to make the tag. (3) The ball was lost amid the Giants fans pouring onto the field, and Evers got a random ball to make the tag.

          Version (1) is factually straightforward. There is a legitimate debate about how the rule should be enforced, but that was a matter for the league to decide.

          Version (2) (which, FWIW, I think the most likely to be true) is also straightforward. It is blatant interference. The runner should be called out regardless of the ball. (O’Day, the home plate umpire, some years later claimed that he had called Merkle out due to this interference before the putative tag was made. My suspicion is that he made the call retroactively in his mind, since it doesn’t seem to have been part of the contemporary discussion. This doesn’t mean, though, that it wasn’t the right call.) (That being said, I just looked up the rules from the day. I don’t see anything that explicitly states that a coach can’t go onto the field and interfere. But still…)

          Version (3) is the most problematic from a rules point of view. There was not yet a rule about fan interference per se. This was the tail end of the era where the outer edge of the outfield might be used as standing room for fans. There was a rule about “block” balls, i.e. a live ball touched by an outsider. How block balls was very weird from the modern perspective. In any case, the rule did not contemplate fans entering into the active field of play and interfering, but rather balls entering the area where the fans were. I suspect that there was precedent for what to do when a fan entered the field of play, but I don’t know what it was and it had not yet made its way into the rulebook.

          Regardless of the rules technicalities, even stipulating that Evers never got the game ball, it seems counter to the spirit for the Giants to benefit from interference: especially by its coach, but also by its fans.

          I subscribe to the school of thought that the league made the wrong call. Merkle was following accepted practice, regardless of the text of the rule. It is perfectly reasonable to declare that henceforth the letter of the law will be enforced. It is not reasonable to declare that it will be enforced retroactively, beginning with the ninth inning of an important game. But I don’t blame the Cubs for playing the angle and winning.Report

  8. Avatar Kim says:

    I always liked the Curse of Colonel Sanders myself…Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    There was no intrinsic reason why blacks could be boxers and jockeys but not baseball players (at least not on white clubs). It is not implausible that had the limited integration held on another few years, it would have become tradition and no one would have given it another thought.

    One reason is possibly that being a jockey or a boxer is an individual activity, and thus a black person did not need to be a peer of a white person, the way necessary for any team sports (or the Army). So it fits with the underlying theory of racial apartheid. Even at that, more aggressive (maybe the right word is ‘systemic’) racism took African Americans out of of e.g. the Kentucky Derby for 3/4 of a century. Jack Johnson was convicted of the crime of being a boxing Heavy Champion with Unforgivable Blackness. Thus, even though Major League Baseball was a ‘northern’ sport (Washington and St Louis being the geographic extremes until the 50s, as of course everyone knows), the fact that social and government racism went into high gear in the wake of the Plessy decision and then the Wilson administration, I think would have pushed African Americans out of the big leagues in the early 20th century.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Nah, it’s that there were multiple attitudes about racism. And backwoods Louisiana (where they still run minor-league horseraces) has a pretty different attitude towards black people than starched up Georgia or South Carolina.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        right, but the most dominant sport in America is going to take cues from the dominant social mores, which, in turn of the (20th) century America, was strict social segregation in the South, (because the economic lives of whites and blacks were thoroughly intertwined) and deliberate economic segregation in the North (because people there didn’t have a problem with African americans as long as they out of sight and out of mind).Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      Maybe. We are in alt-history here, which is to say largely hand-waving. But I can hand-wave too. If the process of pushing African Americans occurred gradually, this would have given a competitive advantage to those teams retaining and recruiting black players. Racism would come at a cost. Some would be willing to pay it, but the others would have a positive incentive to resist the process. Or, if there was an attempt to legislate segregation all at once, some clubs with more black players (likely correlating strongly with less racism) would have an incentive to resist the legislation. This isn’t to say that it might not have been pushed through, but I don’t see this as a slam dunk (to switch sports) either way.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Did pre-20th century clubs spend a lot of time scouting outside the mid to large cities? My impression from your writings is that they mostly poached talent from other clubs that had a hometown guy become a breakout star.

        Between the fact that in 1900, the portion of the US population that was African American had declined to less than 12% (and would still go down on a percentage basis for 4 more censuses), and the fact that 90% of the population lived in the South (and was substantially, perhaps even overwhelmingly rural), the pool of African American talent easily accessible to turn of the century clubs would be necessarily small.

        This would all change in the Great Migration (and that, plus, as you said, WW2, is what led to the breaking the color barrier), but the nominal start of that was still a few years in the future when the Cubs last one a world series).Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          They didn’t have scouting in the modern sense, but they were pretty mobile and kept their eyes open. Monte Ward, when he was with Providence, played winter ball in San Francisco one year and brought a local player, Sandy Nava, back east. Nava was ethnically Mexican, though born in San Francisco in 1860. I’m not sure if he was the first in MLB history. He certainly wasn’t the first Hispanic, but I think the earlier ones may have all been Cuban.

          Beyond that, both individuals and clubs had been playing winter and/or early spring ball in New Orleans since the 1870s, and were experimenting with playing in Cuba. There also was a lot of mobility by players on the (proto-)minor league level. Essentially, the lower-tier clubs were the de facto scouts for the higher-tier clubs. They sometimes complained, but not as much as you would think. Everyone knew how the system worked. My local town had a good semi-pro club in 1885. They had an outfielder poached by the Baltimore Orioles midseason. They were quite proud of this. They gained prestige by being good enough for a major league club to poach from them.

          Also, there were colored clubs in the South in this era. Even if Southern baseball remained segregated, there was potential for northern clubs to recruit in the South.Report

  10. Avatar Crprod says:

    The prevailing opinion at our house is that the “Curse of the Bambino” was something built up by radio and TV to avoid any dead spots in coverage of the Red Sox. Needing to say something while at a loss for words can easily be accomplished by retelling the story of the “Curse.”Report

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