The U.S. Navy was established on October 13, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the Continental Navy. Baseball plays an important role in the Navy, as it does in other branches of the U.S. military. In fact, baseball has been associated with the Armed Forces at least since the Civil War.
In honor of the Navy’s birthday tomorrow, I’ve posted some footage of baseball being played aboard a naval battleship in the 1930s. Checkout the footage at about 1 minute, 40 seconds.
Since we were traveling to Georgia to attend a family event, we decided we may as well make a few stops in Alabama as well and check out some baseball history. It did not take long as we stumbled upon a cool exhibit almost as soon as we deplaned and walked through the airport. The Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and Museum has a small exhibit and a gift shop at the intersection of concourses B and C in Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The exhibit highlights Hank Aaron, Frank Thomas, Ozzie Smith, and Bo Jackson, as well as some non-baseball folks. The ASHOF was not on my itinerary this trip, as I had been there several years ago. Nonetheless, its a must-see for any Alabama baseball pilgrimage.
After the unexpected baseball exhibit in the airport, we made our way downtown toward Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons. I’d visited this stadium a few years back as well, and was extremely impressed.
Our primary objective for this trip, however, was the Negro Southern League Museum, which is just down the street from Regions Field. We parked the car near Railroad Park, a recreational area downtown, and made our way toward the museum. On our way, we noted that a portion of 1st street, which borders the park, is dedicated to Willie Mays.
Just down the street from the park is the Negro Southern League Museum, which is is absolutely awesome! Tomorrow’s post is dedicated to my visit to this must-see baseball museum.
Paris. The City of Lights. The home of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. But not, apparently, the home of baseball. The third leg of our European vacation was Paris, France. By the time we arrived there, we’d already spent nearly a week without baseball. We’d seen more ads for football than we ever thought we would. I was really missing my baseball teams at that point.
I have to admit, I wasn’t very prepared for this part of the trip. Not only was it the third city we’d be visiting, I also don’t speak French. Researching London and Malaga were exhausting enough – and I speak English and Spanish (sort of). All I knew I wanted to see in Paris for sure was the Eiffel Tower. So, we both figured we’d just experience Paris, maybe take one of those tourist bus tours and just get the lay of the land. So that’s precisely what we did.
However, if I had done my homework, I would have known that back in September, Paris had been awarded the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. At the same time, the International Olympic Committee had announced that Los Angeles would host the 2028 Summer Olympics. Recently it has been pointed out that the decision to have these two cities host the summer Olympics is good news for baseball. In fact, Franceinfo reported something about baseball in the 2024 Olympics just before we arrived in Paris. Of course, I have no idea what they reported. Did I mention I don’t know French?
Although baseball and softball were removed from the Olympic schedule beginning with the 2012 Olympics, they will be included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Apparently, the host nation is allowed to select additional sports to be included at the games. Since baseball is big in Japan, the Tokyo Organising Committee for the 2020 games voted to include baseball and softball. With baseball almost a shoo-in to be included in 2028 in Los Angeles, that means there’s a good chance for my favorite sport to also be included in 2024. In March, the president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) met with the French Minister of Sports to discuss just that.
So, had I done my research and known any of that, I would have been sure to include Stade Sébastien Charléty on my Paris itinerary. This stadium, currently used for football, of course, was built in 1939, and renovated in 1994. It is the proposed site for both baseball and softball should they be included in the 2024 Olympics.
Alas, I was not aware of any of that. Thus, sadly, I spent my time in Paris completely devoid of baseball.
That is, until we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport for our flight back to London to go home. There I spotted a young lady wearing – of course – a Yankees cap. Fortunately, her traveling companion had better taste. She was wearing a Dodgers cap.
Spain is one of my most favorite places in the entire world. It just has one drawback: they don’t play baseball there. (Sure, that building in the picture looks like a baseball stadium – but it most definitely is not!)
In the beginning of May, I was on vacation in Europe, really missing baseball. We’d just spent two days in London, and I was already experiencing symptoms of baseball withdrawal. Not only were we several hours ahead of the U.S. east coast, time-wise, I also only could check scores and otherwise use my cellphone if I was on WiFi. Not every little Spanish town in southern Spain has good WiFi.
We spent the weekend in Spain, checking out the many lovely towns along the Costa del Sol. Our first stop was Malaga, then Torremolinos, then Benalmadena, and finally Fuengirola – all non-baseball towns. Our friends from Spain showed us all the great places and local hangouts. We ate at a chiringuito on the beach, visited the Pablo Picasso museum in Malaga, and even experienced the Butterfly Park in Benalmadena. But, alas, no baseball.
Benalmadena was perhaps the most beautiful of all of the locations, with its coastal tourist area and hillside village, despite the absence of baseball. As we strolled along the marina there, we encountered several restaurants and tourist shops. As I should have expected, at least one store was selling – you guessed it – Yankees caps.
Obviously, there is no escape from the Yankees. Not even in Europe.
Everyone loves a good vacation. But vacations during baseball season can be difficult – especially if you go to a place where they don’t play baseball, much less understand it. This was the case when I went on vacation to Europe a few weeks ago. Some people miss their kids when on vacation. I miss my teams.
Our first stop was London, England. London was in the midst of preparing for the Royal Wedding and some sort of football playoffs. At least I think. There seems to be many teams and leagues there, so I never was quite sure what was going on. There was this team called “Liverpool Football Club” that people seemed pretty excited about. (In England they play this thing called “football” – which, for some weird reason, is called “soccer” in the U.S. Regardless of who calls it what and where they call it that, it’s not baseball.)
One of the places I’d hoped to get to while there was London Stadium. Sure, most people want to see Big Ben, Kensington Palace, or Buckingham Palace, but they don’t play baseball there. The stadium, originally known as Olympic Stadium, was built for the 2012 Olympics. The stadium has a capacity of about 57,000 fans and is currently the home of West Ham United – which is another one of those football clubs. (They are in the Premier League along with Liverpool, if that means anything to anyone.) As expected, on May 8, MLB formally announced that the Yankees and Red Sox will play a series at London Stadium June 29-30, 2019. (I’m already on the waiting list for information about opportunities to possibly be in the running to maybe get tickets.)
There was little else baseball-related in London. Nonetheless, we saw many wonderful things, including Westminster Abbey, London Bridge (several of them, actually), and even the David Bowie mural in Brixton (which, weirdly, has nothing to do with the Bowie Baysox). It was a whirlwind tour of London before we set on our next leg of the trip: Malaga, Spain.
Of course, before we got to the airport to take our flight to Spain, we caught a glimpse of a guy wearing a Yankees cap. Because you apparently can’t go anywhere in the world without stumbling across someone wearing a Yankees cap.
Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the epic on-field brawl between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. It all began when Orioles’ pitcher Armando Benitez hit Tino Martinez in the back after giving up a 3-run home run to Bernie Williams. Check out the video below.
ESPN recently published a piece about the 1998 season, noting parallels to this year. According to the article, one result of this and other on-field brawls in the 1990s was a tougher stance by MLB and greater discipline of those involved in such incidents. For his part in the Os-Yankees brawl, Benitez got an 8-game suspension. Darryl Strawberry and Graeme Lloyd were suspended for 3 games each, and Jeff Nelson and Alan Mills were each suspended for two games.
Have things changed much in the last two decades? Just last month benches cleared during a Yankees-Red Sox game. Retaliation pitches and bench-clearing incidents seem to be a part of baseball culture. As frustrations boil over and tempers flare, the possibility of aggression emerges. Is this simply part of the game, or a social issue that needs to be addressed?
Yesterday I posed several questions, including, “Where is American Samoa?” and “Do they play baseball there?” Today, I have answers.
American Samoa is a U.S. territory in the South Pacific Ocean. It is 2,600 miles from Hawaii. Pago Pago, American Samoa’s capital, is about a 5-hour flight from Honolulu. It’s 7,000 miles from Pago Pago to Washington, DC. In other words, American Samoa is really far away. The territory consists of five islands and two atolls covering a total land area of 77 square miles. The majority of the population of just over 54,000 lives on the island of Tutuila. According to Wikipedia, the major sports in American Samoa are cricket, baseball, and American football. In fact, 30 Samoans have played in the NFL and in 2010, 200 Samoans were playing Division I college football.
So what about baseball in American Samoa? American Samoa is a member of the Baseball Confederation of Oceania (BCO), which was formed in 1989. Of the 14 member nations of the BCO, American Samoa ranks fourth. (It is ranked 70th by the World Baseball Softball Confederation.) The American Samoa national baseball team was the runner-up in the Oceania Baseball Championship in 1999 and 2000. The team also won the silver medal at the Pacific Games in 1999 and 2003, and bronze in 2007
The American Samoa Baseball Association is the governing body for sport within the territory. The former president of the Association was Ben Solaita, brother of Tony Solaita, the only American Samoan to play Major League Baseball.
Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the Solaita family and the MLB career of Tony Solaita.