On July 28, 1899, the All Cubans beat a semi-pro team in Weehawken, New Jersey, 12-4. This was apparently the first recorded game of the visiting team from Cuba on their first world tour. A few days later, on July 31, they would play and lose to the West New York Field Club. But records of these events are often hard to come by.
The All Cubans were the first professional baseball team from Latin America to tour the United States. According to Wikipedia, they’d arrived in New York with 12 players and $25 in June 1899. While in the United States, they played against white semiprofessional and Negro League teams. Cuban baseball executive Abel Linares organized the team and the tour was sponsored in the United States by former baseball player turned entrepreneur, Alfred Lawson. The All Cubans’ manager was Tinti Molina.
The All Cubans played a number of games in New York and New Jersey before returning to Cuba in September 1899. According to one researcher, they’d earned so little money on their tour that Linares and two players had to wait in New York until money could be sent from Cuba to pay their return fare.
Nonetheless, the All Cubans returned again each year between 1902 and 1905. Linares and Molina subsequently organized the Cuban Stars or Cuban Stars West, who traveled to the United States each year, beginning in 1907. The became part of the Negro National League in 1920, primarily as a traveling team, though they were known as the Cincinnati Cubans in 1921.
The early 20th Century was a time of barnstorming and international visiting teams in baseball. Both white and Negro League teams would also play in Cuba against Cuban teams. In 1900 (some sources say 1903), the Cuban X-Giants became the first Negro League team to visit Havana.
Clearly, a lot more research needs to be done on this rich period of baseball history.
When the news of the new name for the Cleveland Indians broke on Friday, my initial reaction, like many, was skepticism. The name “Guardians” didn’t quite scream baseball to me. But the more I read about it and thought about it, the more the name grew on me. In fact, I think its pretty amazing.
And it wasn’t just the video that changed my mind.
Not only is the name rooted in the history of the city, it’s kind of a clever replacement. I mean, they swapped out the “In” with “Guar” and the “G” in Guardian reflects back to the “C” in Cleveland, to make it similar in sound and sight to the old name. Besides, its not like the first time Cleveland has changed the name of their baseball team – they’ve been the Lake Shores (1900), Bluebirds (1901), Bronchos (1902), and Naps (1903-14). Sure, the name Indians has been in use for over a century. But that’s more than 100 years of racist imagery and connotation. And if we can get over changing stadiums, we can get over changing names.
But despite all the protestations against the name and/or logo, it’s a change that needed to come, and just because we’re not used to the name Guardians as a sports team, doesn’t mean its not a good one.
Besides, it’s not like the team decided this overnight, although the calls in 2020 for social justice after the murder of George Floyd, may have hastened their decision making.
After more than a decade, baseball and softball are back in the Olympics – with the baseball tournament beginning tonight at 11 p.m. (Eastern) (which is noon on July 28 in Japan). I posted the schedule a few weeks back.
And here’s some light reading to get you ready for the games:
USA Today, “A breakdown of the rules for baseball in the Tokyo Olympics”
New York Times, “What to Watch as Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics”
NBC Sports, “Olympic baseball rosters scattered with past MLB All-Stars”
FOX Sports, “Olympic baseball tourney features players you know and some you’ll soon love”
The Detroit Jewish News, “Olympics-Bound Team Israel Has Helped American Baseball Players Get More in Touch with Their Jewish Identities”
“I’m never going to give up. I spent 10 years in the minor league and I have always understood that this is a big and long process but the talent that I have shown speaks for itself. … Baseball is in my blood … and I thank God for guiding me to the right path and to make the correct decision. To those going to a similar situation, forget the criticisms and bad comments. They will always exist to trample on your personality. God bless y’all. I love everyone. I’m back.” – Yermin Mercedes (as quoted/translated by ESPN)
On Wednesday, Yermin Mercedes, appeared to have retired from baseball. After having been sent down to the White Sox’ triple-A club earlier this month, Mercedes seemed to be fed up. After all, he’d begun his baseball career 10 years ago as an 18-year old prospect with the Washington Nationals’ Dominican Summer League team. Since then, he’s been in independent ball and the minor league systems of the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox. He’s also spent 7 winters in the Dominican Winter League. That’s a lot of teams and a lot of baseball.
By Thursday, however, Mercedes was back in uniform with the Charlotte Knights having apologized on Instagram, stating, “I love everyone. I’m back.” Which is a good thing, because Mercedes, who made his Major League debut less than a year ago on August 20, 2020 (but appearing in only one game), still demonstrates a lot of potential, having hit near or over .300 throughout much of his minor league career.
So, welcome back, Yermin – you’re certainly not the only one among us who’s gotten fed up with their job and just wanted to quit.
File this one under “things I totally forgot”: 23 years ago (on July 23, 1998), the Baltimore Orioles traded Joe Carter to the San Francisco Giants.
I’d completely forgotten that Hall of Famer Joe Carter was once an Oriole. He signed with the Orioles on December 12, 1997, for one year and $3.3 million. Seven months later, at the time of the trade to the Giants, the 38-year-old Carter had a .247 batting average with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs in 85 games with the Orioles. (That’s still better than many of the current Orioles.) As The Oklahoman newspaper wrote, “Joe Carter couldn’t do much to help the Baltimore Orioles, so he’s going to try to end his career in style with the San Francisco Giants.” (In fact, in 41 games with the Giants he hit .295 with 7 homers and 29 RBIs.)
In return, the Orioles got pitcher Darin Blood who spent about a year and a half with the O’s triple-A team at the time, the Rochester Red Wings. Blood underwent surgery in early 1999 and had a poor summer with the Red Wings before ending up back in the Giants’ farm system in 2000. By 2001, he was out of affiliated Minor League Baseball due to injuries, but attempted a comeback with the Yuma Frogs in 2002.
Of course, Carter was just one in a long line of aging stars the Orioles have picked up. The Orioles’ 1998 roster had several players who were 35 years old or older who’d enjoyed long careers elsewhere – many of whom ended their careers with the O’s – including: Jesse Orosco (41), Harold Baines (39), Jimmy Key (37), Eric Davis (36), Norm Charlton (35), and Doug Drabek (35). Even Cal Ripken, Jr., was 37 at the time.
Yesterday, I focused on those who were happy – and those who were not – with the return of Gary Thorne to the broadcast booth. I have to admit, I’m never was a huge Gary Thorne fan. To me, his trademarks, “Mercy!” “Good-bye, homerun!” and “Adieu-Adieu” got a little old after 12 years (though, to many, that was his charm).
On the plus-side, Thorne seemed to have a pretty good rapport with Jim Palmer when he was the O’s play-by-play announcer from 2007 to 2019. It just seemed to me that over the years, Palmer learned to appreciate – or at least tolerate – Thorne’s experience and quirks. On the negative side, however, Thorne’s minor faux pas and mispronunciations really got on my nerves. I particularly couldn’t stand it when he’d mispronounce players’ names – which is a pet peeve of mine (I mean, they provide pronunciation guides, after all!!) I swear Thorne once called Mariano Rivera, “Marinera.”
But Gary Thorne was an Orioles fixture for over a decade – and his absence from the Orioles broadcast team, and subsequent return for a weekend with the Mets, has made me appreciate him a little more. Hearing Thorne announcing for the first time in more than a year and a half, made me realize what was missing from baseball announcing: knowledge and experience.
Thorne knows the game – even if he can’t quite tell when a ball is going to leave the park (no one else really can either) (and announcers who get excited because a long fly ball looks like it might be a homerun, really need to follow the advice we all learned when we were kids: watch your outfielders). And I don’t recall him ever calling players the “property” of a team, which really just needs to be banned altogether from baseball. (But that’s for another post.)
That knowledge and experience is what younger announcers – even those who have been around for a while now – need to learn. While we definitely need to get some new voices in the game – particularly younger voices, female voices, and minority voices – we also need those voices to know what they’re talking about as well as to know when to stop talking. It seems to me that some of the younger announcers are trying too hard – they fill in empty space with even emptier facts and stats. Sometimes, all I need to know is who the player is and how he’s been doing lately. Not his batting average from five and a half years ago. Not who his college roommate was. Not the make and model of the first car he ever bought. Not how many Little League games he appeared in. And not how he performed on the last Tuesday he played when he had pancakes for breakfast.
Sure, not all of this is the announcers’ fault. They are inundated with statistics. But the more-seasoned announcers know which statistics to repeat to us and which ones not to bother with. Sure, sometimes the extras make it interesting. But experienced announcers know when that is. And its not all the time. They seem to know when to just be quiet, waiting along with the rest of us to see what happens next.
As my husband stated, “Gary Thorne makes me pay attention. [The Nats fill-in play-by-play announcer last weekend] makes me itch.”
In fact, many announcers (regardless of age) make me notpay attention. They don’t stop talking, they spew uninteresting and unnecessary facts, or there’s something else irritating about them, so I tune them out. And I’m not the only one. Sure, we all have our own opinions about what makes a good announcer, but I think we can all recognize lack of experience, over-reliance on clichés, and not knowing when to shut up and let the game play out when we see/hear it.
I sincerely hope the next generation of baseball announcers is more diverse. And I also want them to be able to translate their knowledge of the game to an interesting explanation of what is going on in the specific game they are announcing. Throw in some interesting facts and figures, but don’t strangle us with stats. Most importantly, share your love of the game with us – if you’re a fan, you’ve got nothing else to prove.
Perhaps the advice of Britt Ghiroli to young journalists should be heeded by young play-by-play announcers as well: