No matter what, baseball will always be America’s GamePublished 11:14am Thursday, February 27, 2014
Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Those words were a part of a commercial used by Chevrolet back in 1974. Actually, it was “They go together, like the good old USA, baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”
For the foreseeable future, this column will be all about our National Pastime. Baseball needs to take center stage, and when that is secure, it will be more baseball.
Baseball is called the thinking man’s game, so start thinking about what baseball season brings to the table.
The 2014 baseball season is in its infantile stage at every level. High school and college baseball are in their second full week of play, and youth baseball is hibernating for a few more weeks.
In just a few more short days, Major League Baseball begins their spring training games. The players reported two weeks ago, and they are about to help us welcome in what the baseball season accomplishes for America each and every year.
For starters, how does warmer weather sound? Daylight Savings Time means longer days with sunshine, firing up the barbecue – grilling out if you are in the South – and of course, baseball.
Baseball began back in the 18th century, and by the 1860s, there were semi-pro national baseball clubs. Actually, baseball was first mentioned as far back as 1791. The first team to play under what was called the “modern rules” in 1845, was the New York Knickerbockers.
Over a period of some 50 years, there were teams sprouting up all over the country. Some called themselves professional, while some stayed under the semi-pro blanket. Names of teams continually changed, and some of the rules began changing, but baseball was here to stay.
Major league baseball was well on its way by the early 1900s.
Early on, the Cuban leagues, Dominican leagues and Mexican leagues were formed.
By 1920, seven successful leagues were referred to as the Negro Leagues, or as some termed them, Negro Major Leagues. The first professional team was the Cuban Giants. They go back as far as 1885. The last year of the Negro American League was 1951.
Major League Baseball tore down the racial barriers on April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. On July 5, eleven weeks later, the American League became integrated when the Cleveland Indians signed Larry Doby. The last major league team to integrate was the Boston Red Sox. They added Pumpsie Green to their roster on July 21, 1959.
In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the New York Giants to San Francisco.
I had the privilege of seeing in person some of the greatest baseball players ever. Hall-of-Famers such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks and Stan Musial all played in the National League.
On May 7, 1959, the world champion New York Yankees came to play the Dodgers in a salute to Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella, who was paralyzed in an off-season car accident.
There were 93,000 fans packed into the Coliseum that night. There was a point when every player left the field, Pee Wee Reese pushed Campy in his wheel chair to the pitcher’s mound.
At that time, public address announcer John Ramsey ordered the lights turned off and at the count of three, for everyone to light a match for Campy. Everyone carried their transistor radio to the Dodgers games so they could also listen to Vin Scully, who described it as, “A sea of lights at the Coliseum.”
Our family was in attendance that evening. I got to see Mickey Mantle and the Yankees, but I will always cherish that special moment when the 93,000 paid tribute to Campy.
Campy’s number was 39 –irony?
Yes, baseball is special and will always be America’s Game.
Until next time…
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.