On this date in 1855, Bonesetter Reese was born in Rhymney, Wales. I was intrigued when I stumbled upon Bonesetter’s story because it’s not often you hear about someone named Bonesetter. Though his given name was John D. Reese, he earned the nickname Bonesetter after learning the trade of “bonesetting,” a term used by the Welsh not for the treatment of broken bones but for the treatment of muscle- and tendon strains. He became well-known among baseball players for his work in treating sore arms and bad backs.
Reese emigrated to the United States in 1887 and settled in Pittsburgh, PA, where he became a coal miner. He later moved to Youngstown, Ohio, and worked in a mill. He quickly earned a reputation as a “miracle worker” who could treat ligaments and muscles, getting workers back on the job quickly.
Reese’s first baseball player patient was Youngstown native Jimmy McAleer, an outfielder for the Cleveland Spiders. McAleer was so pleased with the results that he told others in the baseball world about Reese’s talents. In 1903, Reese was even offered a job with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he chose to remain in Youngstown. His famous patients included: Christy Mathewson, Addie Joss, Chief Bender, George Sisler, Frank Chance, Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Home Run Baker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Walter Johnson.
As baseball in Taiwan is played with no fans and MLB considers doing the same, there is precedent for such a thing in this country. On this date in 2015, 27 years after making history with their 0-21 streak, the Baltimore Orioles made history again by playing a game with no fans present.
Ten days earlier, Freddie Gray, a 25-year old African American Baltimore resident, died in police custody after sustaining injuries while in a police transport vehicle. In the days that followed, several protests occurred throughout the city. The protests turned violent after Gray’s funeral on April 27th. Protestors threw rocks at police, looted stores, and burned a CVS drug store. School was canceled, a curfew was put in place, and the governor declared a state of emergency. As a result, Orioles games that night and the following day were postponed.
On Wednesday, April 29, the Orioles were permitted to play their scheduled game against the Chicago White Sox, but no fans were permitted inside the stadium. Players and members of the media called the game with no fans “surreal” and some fans attempted to watch from the outfield gates. SB Nation provided a good summary with several photos of the game. You can also see what it was like in the video below – with Orioles’ announcer Gary Thorne joking that it was so quiet it was like a golf game:
Cal Ripken, Sr., shown here in 1977, was fired after the O’s first 6 losses in 1988
We may not have played any games yet this season, but by this time in 1988, the Baltimore Orioles hadn’t won any games yet. Today marks the 32nd anniversary of one of the worst losing streaks in baseball history. The O’s went 0-21 to start the season. During those 21 very long games, they were outscored 129 to 44.
The O’s finally won a game on April 29, 1988 – and would then go on to lose two more games before returning home to Baltimore on May 25 after an abysmal 12-game road trip. They would win only 53 more games, finishing the season in 7th place with a 54-107 record.
It was a dark time for Orioles fans, but we rose to the occasion. Check out this awesome mini-documentary (seriously – it gave me goosebumps!) that MLB Network did to commemorate this 30th anniversary of this one-of-a-kind feat:
In this period of no baseball, I’ve been reading up on baseball history. There are several good sites for this, including: Today in Baseball History, Nationalpastime.com, and Baseball Reference. As I checked out these sites today, I was surprised to learn how important April 15th is for baseball – both historically and sociologically.
Of course, we all know April 15th as Jackie Robinson Day. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The 50th anniversary of his feat was commemorated in 1997 and during the celebration the Commissioner of Baseball announced that the number 42 would be retired for every team. On April 15, 2004, MLB began the annual tradition of celebrating Jackie Robinson Day.
April 15, however, was the date for several other important firsts, including:
- The first game played by a “full-blooded” American Indian. On April 15, 1921, Moses J. Yellow Horse (also known as Chief Yellow Horse), made his Major League debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The right-handed pitcher was a member of the Pawnee tribe in Oklahoma and played for the Pirates in 1921 and 1922.
- The first Puerto Rican to play Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1942, Hiram Bithorn made his Major League debut. Also a right-handed pitcher, Bithorn was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in 1916 and spent four years in the majors.
- The first Major League game played on the west coast. On April 15, 1958, the first MLB game was played in California as the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers meet for the first time.
- The first Major Leaguer with facial hair – at least since the 1930s. On April 15, 1972, Reggie Jackson, reflecting the times, played for the Oakland A’s wearing a mustache. This began a trend with the team and the 1972 A’s became known as the “Mustache Gang.”
There were many other baseball firsts on April 15, but perhaps none as sociologically important as the ones mentioned above.
Seattle Pilots’ logo (image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Fifty years ago today, the Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers. Plagued by poor performance, an inadequate stadium, and financial and legal difficulties, many assumed the Pilots would be sold and possibly leave Seattle after the 1969 season. However, by the start of Spring Training in 1970, as the team began training in Tempe, Arizona, no decisions had been made. Soon, however, the Pilots’ owners reached an agreement to sell the team for $9.5 million to a group from Milwaukee, WI, headed by Bud Selig. As Spring Training continued, the Pilots’ ownership issues were worked out by the American League and bankruptcy court.
Finally, on March 31, 1970, a Seattle bankruptcy court ruled that the team’s owners could sell the franchise to Selig’s group and the agreement was finalized on April 1.
From ballpark photos to “classic” ballgames to updates from the players themselves, media outlets and social media have been trying to keep us entertained as more and more people in the United States are under “stay at home” orders due to the coronavirus. What have you been up to? And what are some of your favorite shows, posts, articles that have helped you through this “Time of No Baseball”? Let me know and I’ll share them in a future post!
For example, the picture below was recently posted on Twitter by @OldBallparks. Their caption states they don’t know why Vin Scully is sitting in Ebbets Field on a snowy December day. One person joked that he was demonstrating social distancing. Why else would he be out there all alone? Thoughts?
Donald Fehr, MLBPA Executive Director from 1983 to 2009 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
On this date in 1990, MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement to end the 32-day lockout that had kept players from Spring Training and ultimately delayed Opening Day until April 9. (If only we’d known back that how relatively short those 32 days were!)
The Basic Agreement between players and owners had expired on December 31, 1989, with no update in place. Two of the issues that remained unresolved were free agency and arbitration. The owners had proposed a revenue sharing plan that would provide 48 percent of gate receipts and 100 percent of broadcasting revenue for player salaries. The proposal also established a salary cap for teams. Once the salary cap was reached, teams would be prevented from signing free agents or increasing salaries. The Players Association argued that the owners’ plan would reduce or eliminate multi-year contracts and would restrict choices available to free agents.
Finally, the players and owners reached an agreement was signed on March 18, 1990, and Spring Training soon resumed. The agreement raised the minimum player salary to $100,000 and established a committee to study revenue sharing. However, revenue sharing would be at-issue again a few years later and led, in part, to the players’ strike of 1994.