Golden Age of Baseball

Marquette and Joliet – Exploring the Interior of the Continent

One was a former philosophy student. The other was a Jesuit priest. One was only 27 years old. The other was a few weeks shy of his 35th birthday. Together, their journey of 1673-1675 paved the way for French control of the interior of the North American continent. Their journey from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and back again paved the way for a 4,000 mile trade network on the waterways of North America.

Voyageurs, as the French called themselves, were a hardy sort. To be a voyageur in the 1600s was to be an explorer, fur tradesman, and a survivalist. The wilderness of the Great Lakes called for it. In fact, it demanded it. To travel up and down the waterways required a constitution like no other. In 1673, Pierre Marquette and Louis Joliet set out with other voyageurs across Lake Michigan to what is now Green Bay, Wisconsin. Their original mission had two purposes:
1. Bring Christianity to the interior of the continent
2. Explore the interior, mainly the Mississippi River, and see if it is suitable to establish a trading post

Marquette had arrived in the new world in 1666 in Quebec. His job was to Christianize the Indians. He found he had a gift for local languages, most notably – Huron. He kept moving westward. In what is the straits of Mackinac, Marquette was given permission in 1673 to travel west to a river the natives talked about as a “fanciful” river. Joliet was a map maker and fur trader. His skill set would come in handy in charting where the two had been. Setting out with five other voyageurs, Marquette and Joliet were unsure of what they would face.

Over the next two years, Marquette and Joliet would travel across what is now Wisconsin to the Mississippi River, down to Arkansas, back up the Mississippi to the Illinois River, portage across what is now Chicago and back into the Great Lakes. All that remains of their journey is small journal Marquette kept. Before the trip he writes:

Above all, I placed our voyage under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, promising her that, if she granted us the favor of discovering the great river, I would give it the name Conception, and that I would also make the first mission that I should establish among those new peoples, bear the same name. This I actually have done, among the Illinois.

What Marquette and Joliet would not know until later in their journey was that the Spanish already had discovered it and had been using in what is now Louisiana and Mississippi.

Marquette often describes the Indians, whom he calls people of Folle Avoine, and their new oat – corn. Along the way south, Marquette describes in detail the peoples he meets, their customs, and a botantist’s dream – the plants and animals. He mistakenly refers to Buffalo as cattle. As the voyageurs make their way south, they meet mostly friendly Indians. When they begin to meet Indians with Spanish wares, they turn around and start heading north. But rather than go all the way up the Mississippi to what is now Prairie du Chen, they take a short cut using the Illinois River.

By this time, Marquette has fallen ill with dysentery. It will claim his life. However, it does not stop him from spreading the gospel. All throughout what they called Pays de Illinois, the Jesuit priest continues doing his part of the mission. The voyageurs camped in what is now Kaskaskia, Peoria, and Chicago. Although Marquette and Joliet did not find the elusive Northwest Passage, they did find the mouth of the Missouri. In addition, their expedition had many effects.
1. French Control of the Interior
For the next ninety years, the French would control the interior of the continent. They would set up forts as far east as what is now Pittsburgh to the west in St. Louis and up down the waterways of the Upper Midwest.
2. Fur Trade
By having these forts, the French also controlled the valuable fur trade until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763.
3. A Canal
Joliet dreamed of a canal linking the Great Lakes to the Illinois River thereby linking the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and opening up the interior of the continent for trade. It would not be until the late 1830s when the Illinois & Michigan Canal was built.

4. French Culture
The culture established by the French is still felt throughout Illinois and Wisconsin. From the names of towns to a hunting fur trading and trapping culture, the French are ever present in what they called Pays de Illinois.
5. Furture Voyages of Exploration
LaSalle’s voyages would establish forts up and down the rivers

In the end, the voyages of Marquette and Joliet resulted in Marquette’s death from dysentery. Joliet, who lost all the maps and artifacts but Marquette’s journal, faced hard times before becoming a successful spy against the British. He would live until he was 55. Their effect on Illinois was huge.

Illinois would be settled along the rivers: The Ohio, Mississippi, Wabash, and Mississippi. And it would be settled from the South up. When most people think of Illinois, they think of Chicago. However, Chicago would not exist as a city until almost 20 years after Illinois became a state. In fact, Illinois’ early boundary ended in the north at the Illinois River.

After the voyage of Marquette and Joliet, people slowly arrived in the south of Pays de Illinois. There, in the Garden of the Gods where the Ohio and Mississippi merge, were deer, buffalo, other wild game, fish, fruits, and all kinds of things needed to live in the heavily forested region. A fur trader’s heaven, the forests of southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and southeast Missouri were a haven for wild game and money to be made back in Europe.

For Further Reading
Marquette’s Journal


The Golden Age of Baseball: The 1930s

1935 PIttsburgh Crawfords

When the Great Depression struck, many baseball owners feared the worst. They would have trouble drawing fans. The fans they did draw would have a hard time paying for the extra souvenirs or food concessions. Little did they know, people would still come to the ballpark if only to forget about their own troubles for a while. Attendance would be down in the 1930s but none of the sixteen franchises ever folded or moved as a result of the Great Depression and some of the games’ lasting stars said goodbye while others said hello. New ways of playing emerged, lasting vestiges of the game emerged, and a new era of baseball had begun.

Coming out of the 1920s, baseball began to boom. Newspapers and radio combined to turn the game into a way to forget about your problems for a couple of days. New stadiums had been built and offense was booming. In 1930, both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hit over 40 home runs. By the end of the decade, both men would be out of the game. In September of 1939, Gehrig would make his last appearance and give one of the most memorable speeches in all of history.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body

— it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.

The game continued to evolve in the 1930s. The Cincinnati Reds brought lights into the game in an effort to get more fans to the game. It was a new way of playing and spread all across the country. It would take 50 years before the Chicago Cubs would add lights. In fact, it was during the 1930s that a young Bill Veeck planted the ivy at Wrigley Field which would become the face of the field and the franchise. It was also in Chicago that Babe Ruth would supposedly call his shot in the 1932 World Series.

The 1930s also saw two immortal aspects of the game arrive. The first being the Baseball Hall of Fame. It would not be until 1939 that the Hall was built, but its first five inductees would be Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. The 1930s also saw the arrival of the All-Star Game. Originally, played in Comiskey Park in 1933, the managers and the fans selected the players. The game was thought up Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward. The game was to be a part of, and take place simultaneously as, the celebration of Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition.

The 1930s also saw its fair share of stars on the field too. Aside from Ruth and Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio arrived to roam center field for the Yankees in 1935. Jimmie Foxx dominated the decade at the plate. In 1933, Foxx hit .364 with 58 Home Runs and 168 driven in. He kept this up for most of the decade. In 1938, Foxx hit .349 with 50 Home Runs, and drove in 175. The 1930s also saw the Gas House Gang arrive in St. Louis in 1934 and win the World Series. Led by Dizzy Dean and Leo Durocher, the Cardinals were constant rivals to the Cubs and Giants to win the National League pennant in the 1930s.

Much like the 1920s, the Yankees dominated the second half of the decade. Led by manager Joe McCarthy, the Yankees won four World Series in a row to close out the decade. While Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics started out the decade by winning two AL Pennants in a row, their back to back run of 29-30 came to a close in 1931. The 1930s also saw the introduction of a 17 year old Bob Feller, Lefty Grove, Power Hitters Hank Greenberg and Mel Ott, and a Young Ted Williams arrived in 1939.

The Negro Leagues were in their hey-day in the 1930s. Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and a young Satchel Paige flourished as stars; and even the Negro League’s greatest ambassador, Buck O’Neil, made his debut. Some of the finest baseball ever played was never seen by most of America.Whether it was in league play, barnstorming, or playing exhibition against white teams, the brand of baseball played in the Negro Leagues would not arrive as a unified style until the late 1940s and 1950s.

What Rube Foster was to the 1920s for the Negro Leagues, Gus Greenlee was to the 1930s. He organized the East – West All Star Classic in Comiskey Park. Greenlee’s 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords may have been the greatest team ever to play the game. The Crawfords boasted five future Hall-of-Famers: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson and Oscar Charleston. Contrary to popular opinion it was the Crawfords who dominated this era, not the Homestead Grays. The Crawfords won nine consecutive Negro National League Championships.

But the Negro League’s true star was none other than Satchel Paige. Joe Dimaggio even once said, “After I got that hit off Satchel (Paige), I knew I was ready for the big leagues.” Ted Williams echoed the sentiment when he said, “Satchel was the greatest pitcher in baseball.”

When one looks back at the decade, it is a wonder the game survived in such a harsh economic climate. Thanks to its stars and innovations made in the 1930s, the game lived on. Surviving the war would be another story as most of the great players of the 1930s signed up to serve their country. However, the stars it did have made the 1930s able to stake its claim as the Golden Age of Baseball.

Check out this student made Documentary on the greatness of Satchel.

For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1930s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Post War World

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1960s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1970s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Steroids Era

The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball

The 1906 – 1908 Chicago Cubs – The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball

In 1923, Miller Huggins managed the Yankees to their first World Series Championship on its third try. Thus began one Golden Age of Baseball in New York City. But before the Yankees began their run to 27 World Championships, the Chicago Cubs had the claim as the game’s greatest team. From 1906-1908, the Cubs had three World Series appearances, two World Series Championships, and the mythology and folklore of the first Golden Age of Baseball. Unfortunately for Cub fans, they have been waiting for their next World Series Championship since.

The Cubs were not originally the Cubs. They were the Chicago White Stockings. It wouldn’t be until 1902 when “noting the youth movement lead by new manager Frank Selee, a local newspaper penned the nickname Cubs for the first time.” The team officially adopted the name in 1907. It would be first baseman Frank Chance, “The Peerless Leader” (in the dark uniform on the right), who would guide the Cubs through their golden age.

1906 was a year in which Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their airplane at Kitty Hawk. Upton Sinclair published The Jungle. The San Fransisco Earthquake practically destroyed a city. Jack London published White Fang, and Devil’s Tower is declared the first National Monument. The Cubs and the White Sox would play in the first and only Chicago crosstown series. Author Bernard Wesiberger describes the state game in 1906:

At the turn of the century, American baseball and America itself were, to a modern observer, both completely alien and yet timelessly similar to what we know today. In 1906 the sport of baseball was still mired in the “dead ball” era, when defense won championships, and players didn’t need bodybuilder physiques in order to be competitive. The league was racially segregated. A six–day workweek was threatened by early game times, as the first night game wouldn’t be played for another three decades. There was no radio to broadcast the contest. Only one ball was used throughout the game. And yet it was still ninety feet between bases. The home team still batted in the bottom of the ninth inning. And the final score could still capture the attention of a nation.

The Cubs won an astonishing 116 games in 1906. New manager Frank Chance played first base in addition to his managerial duties. Playing in the spacious West Side Grounds, the size of park placed an emphasis on pitching and defense. Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown along with Orval Overall, Jack Pfeister, Ed Reulbauch, Carl Lundgren, and Jack Taylor led  the Cubs dominating pitching staff and carried them to the NL Pennant by twenty games. The stalwarts of the defense not only played defense like no others, they actually hated each other. From 1905 on, Evers and Tinker did not speak. It would not be until Frank Chance was dying that Evers and Tinker repaired their relationship.

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

When the World Series came to Chicago in 1906, the Cubs were prohibitive favorites. The White Sox shocked the city and the nation by winning the series four games to two. The White Sox had only hit .230 as team during 1906. Throughout the series they consistently hit Cubs pictchers and the vaunted Cub defense collapsed committing error after error.

1907 saw the Cubs rebound and dominate again. Despite only having three fingers on his pitching Mordecai Brown won 29 games this season on his way to the Hall of Fame. This time, what some call the best team ever, ruled the west side with 107 wins. They took the series from Ty Cobb and the Tigers 4-0-1. The first game was a tie but the resulting four games showcased the Cubs pitching as they held the Tigers to one run a game. The Cubs stole an amazing 16 bases in the series and ran roughshod on the bases.

1908, once again, saw the domination of the Cubs. The Cubs won 99 games and won the pennant thanks to the “Merkle’s Boner” game.

In a September 23 Cubs-Giants game, Merkle failed to touch second base when Al Bridwell delivered an apparent game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. By the time the Cubs retrieved the ball and eventually forced Merkle at second, fans had swarmed the field. With order impossible to restore, the game was declared a 1-1 tie. As things turned out, Chicago and New York wound up with 98-55 records, meaning the “Merkle game” would have to be made up. In an October 8 replay, the Cubs scored a 4-2 victory and left the Giants agonizing over what might have been. Or even what should have been. The Chicagoans, on the other hand, were reveling in what was.

The Series was a rematch against Ty Cobb and the Tigers. The Tigers winning game one until the final inning. leading 6-5, Detroit pitcher Ed Summers gave up six consecutive hits and five runs in the top of the ninth. The Cubs 10-6 triumph used Orval Overall and Mordecai Brown in relief after started Ed Reulbach.The Cubs would win the series four games to one. Orval Overall and Mordecai Brown each won two games as the Cubs would win their last championship.

The Cubs from 1906-1908 boasted Cub legends and Hall-of-Famers in Brown, Tinkers, Evers, and Chance. Unbeknownst to most Cubs fans is the dominance of Overall in 1907-09. Overall would only win one hundred games in his short career, mostly between 1906-1910. His two shutouts in 1908 stand still as achievement in the annals of the series. He would be out of baseball at the end of 1913 after missing the 1911 and 1912 seasons. Also, pitcher Ed Reulbach pitched two complete shut out games against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Septmber 26, 1908, a feat surely to be unmatched in today’s game. 3B Harry Steinfeldt was the main bat in 1906 and was around for the back-to-back championships in 1907 and 1908. The Cubs would mix it up against the then Negro League Leland Giants (Chicago American Giants) in October after both the series in 1908 and 1910.

Within five years, the Cubs would move to the north side to their current establishment and be in the World Series seven more times between 1908 and 1945 always settling for second place. For a small moment in time, Chicago ruled the baseball world on the west side of town. It was truly the golden age of baseball in Chicago. The White Sox in the 1910s would approach the level of the Cubs only to be undone in 1919. When Miller Huggins and his new star, Babe Ruth, took the series in 1923, it truly marked the end of the golden age of baseball in Chicago.

For further reading
When Chicago Ruled Baseball by Bernard Weisberger
The Best Team Ever by Alan Alop and Doc Noel
Crazy ’08 by Cait Murphy

For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1930s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Post War World

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1960s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1970s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Steroids Era

The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball

Baseball and the Civil War

As I watched the Yankees C.C. Sabathia dominate the Los Angeles Angels last night, it got me thinking how the great game of baseball spread itself coast to coast and beyond. One war that caused the deaths of over 600,00 Americans also changed the fortunes of our modern world. Amidst the carnage, devastation and doldrums of the marches, one little game emerged that would spread across the country as soldiers took it back home and it became America’s past time. What you had in the Civil War was people from all different parts of America coming into contact with each other. Things were passed along and taken back home. What TV, movies, and radio would do for American Culture in the 20th century, the Civil War did the same in the 19th century.

Baseball has always been, and will always be, the great American game.Walt Whitman stated long before the Civil War:

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses and be a blessing to us.”

Just as WP Kinsella so eloquently stated in Shoeless Joe, baseball has been, and always will be, an important part of America. It is a barometer of our times; past, present and future. But it was the Civil War which brought baseball across the continent. Expansion of the US started when Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Jefferson envisioned an America stretching from coast to coast. Over the next fifty years, Americans slowly moved westward leaving behind their loved ones and the game that would soon be born in the East. Baseball too, moved slowly with Manifest Destiny in the years before the war. As Americans moved towards war in the 1850s, baseball moved with it.

Author Michael Aubrecht states:

Although early forms of baseball had already become High Society’s pastime years before the first shots of the Civil War erupted at Fort Sumter, it was the mass participation of everyday soldiers that helped spread the game’s popularity across the nation. During the War Between the States, countless baseball games, originally known as “townball”, were organized in Army Camps and prisons on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Very little documentation exists on these games and most information has been derived from letters written by both officers and enlisted men to their families on the home front.

Baseball played during the war was very different than the game we know today. Some rules included: The Striker (batter) gets to choose where he wants the pitch. The Pitcher must throw underhand. No leading off the bag. No base stealing. No foul lines. All balls are fair.
Other key facts:

  • The name of the game itself varied from community to community – some teams played “round ball,” while others played “town ball,” “goal ball,” “baste ball,” “old cat,” and “barn ball.” Early versions of the sport required the pitcher to throw underhanded.
  • Outfielders or “scouts” did not use gloves and the baseball itself was softer.
  • Batters were called “strikers” who eagerly wished to hit “aces” or home runs.
  • Outs were called “hands out.”
  • A pitcher stood on the “pitcher’s point” and threw toward the “striker’s point” where the striker (or batter) stood poised above the “plate” or what is now referred to as home plate.
  • The plate itself was a white iron disk, tin plate turned upside down, or whatever could be found as a substitute.
  • Fielders could retire batters by either catching the ball in the air or on one bounce.
  • The more controversial practice of actually aiming the ball at runners to get them out was eventually banned.

Although the rules have changed, the things that make baseball great have not – a sweet single, a great catch, a well thrown ball, a ball hit in the gaps. These elements have been there since the beginning. It was the war that spread it across the nation which now spread from coast to coast. Just as America sped up after the Civil War, so too did baseball. The National League was formed in 1876 with 8 teams. The coming industrialization of America created more leisure time for a growing nation and baseball seamlessly fit into the new day. But it all got going near a battlefield far, far away…

For Further Reading:

Baseball’s Golden Age – The Bud Selig Steroid Era

This is easily the most arguable of eras to stake the claim of Baseball’s Golden Age. This era is replete with mistakes: Steroids, dwindling World Series ratings, The All-Star Game mess, the Mitchell Report, the Expos debacle, and even more steroids. But in the end, look at the game! It is now more popular than ever. More fans file through the turnstiles than any other sport in America. For the past 16 years, Bud Selig has several points he can put forth to prove his era as Baseball’s Golden Age.

1. Attendance
Albeit with 30 teams, just remember that 30 years ago, very few teams drew 1 million fans to their ballpark in one season. Now if a team cannot draw between 2-3 million, the team is not financially viable and relies on revenue sharing to get by.

2. New Stadiums
All across the country, stadiums have been built that are reminiscent of an earlier age before AstroTurf. These fan friendly environs helped to fuel an attendance boom the likes of which have never been seen before.

3. World Baseball
If Selig is known for anything, it is this. He has turned America’s game into a worldly game. From regular season games in Mexico and Japan to the World Baseball Classic to the expansion deep into the Caribbean, Selig has overseen a Latin and Asian explosion of talent which has infused the game with a wealth of talent the last 15 years.

4. Cable TV and New Revenues
Many franchises now value Cable TV revenues more than the gate receipts. Merchandise sales have also propped up many franchise and can generate as much as twenty million in sales each year. Cable TV also has spawned the new MLB Network and has been a staple of ESPN programming for the past 20 years.

5. Franchise Values
During Selig’s Tenure, the value of many teams have skyrocketed to over $200 million and the Cubs were put on the block for a cool billion.

6. “Chicks Dig the Long Ball”
While McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and ARoid reinvigorated the game, it also made for some of the best drama seen on television in the last 15 years.

7. Fantasy Baseball
No sport embraced the fantasy sports craze as baseball did. Statistics are seen as essential way to analyze the game and its players. By bringing together the fantasy providers, Baseball has unified the process and it is another way for many fans to enjoy the game.

8. The Internet
MLB easily foresaw the advantages of the computer at home. By providing content, tickets and merchandise, each teams website has become one stop shopping for all things baseball. It truly is a fan friendly way to sell your sport.

Knocks against Selig
1. Steroids – I don’t think I need to say anything here

2. World Series – ratings are down. Ratings are way down. It is hard to reconcile the ratings and attendance, but baseball is a regional game and 7 games may be a fine way to find a champion, but it is one that wears on the viewers.

3. The All-Star Game – A tie? Really? What were you thinking?

4. Expos Mess – Let’s collude with an owner to move a franchise and then get sued and settle out of court.

5. Yankes-Red Sox – Outside of New York and Boston, nobody wants to hear about this rivalry. The Midwest would much rather hear about Cubs-Cardinals or Brewer-Cubs.

6. The Mitchell Report – The Cheating Era – The list of cheaters is a who’s who of the 1990s: Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Palmiero, and Pettite. There are also missing names like Sosa, but maybe there are more in the 2003 report to include Sosa and a bulked up Pedro and Manny.

To sum up the Era of Bud Selig, it is easy to see the growth of the game. All the expansion teams of the 1990s all have made the World Series with Arizona winning once and Florida twice. But despite the management of Selig, or in spite of his mismanagement, the game thrived during his stewardship. It is the great American game. Whether or not Selig himself guided the renaissance of the game is up for debate, but one can not debate that the game is stronger than it ever has been and it happened on Selig’s watch.

For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1930s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Post War World

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1960s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1970s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Steroids Era

The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball

Baseball’s Golden Age – The 1960s

Bob Gibson
Sandy Koufax
Don Drysdale
Bob Gibson
Mickey Lolich
Denny McClain
Bob Gibson
Tom Seaver
’69 Cubs
’69 Mets

The 1960s were all about expansion for Major League Baseball. The league went from the 16 teams of the past 35 past years and boomed out west. The Angels joined in 1961. The A’s moved west from Kansas City and the Royals came in their stead. The Colt .45s were born in Houston only to rename themselves the Astros within 5 years. The Mets replaced the Giants and Dodgers in NYC and had one of the worst teams of all time only to win it all in 1969. The Senators moved to Minnesota and a new Senators team came into Washington only to move to Texas in the early 70s. The Pilots flew into Seattle only to flee to Milwaukee one year later. Baseball would go north of the border to Montreal and the Padres were christened in San Diego.

Baseball expanded by adding an Amateur draft and Rick Monday was the first player picked. Coincidentally, the Yankees string of pennants ended and a number of teams won World Series including the Pirates, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers, Mets, and Orioles. My brother was in heaven as the Redbirds were in the series 3 times in 5 years. My Cubs never made it….and still haven’t.

The Monday Night Baseball appeared in 1966 on NBC. In the Midwest, this was a big deal to me. We were too far away from Chicago to get the Cubs except on Sunday afternoons, but now baseball could be seen 3 times a week! Imagine that! But it was a big deal. You had the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week, the Cubs on Sunday, and now, Monday Night! It all seemed so magical to a young boy and maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be.

Bob Gibson killed it for pitchers. He was too good. So good that the league lowered the pitcher’s mound to level the playing field for hitters. Look at his 1968 stats: 22-9 with a 1.12 E.R.A and 13 shutouts. The only three pitchers who have even come close to that are Greg Maddux, Ron Guidry and Pedro Martinez. It is almost unthinkable in today’s game for a starting pitcher to be that dominant.

Astro-Turf made its debut at the cavern known as the Astro Dome. Its impact would be felt more in the 70s as cookie cutter stadiums began to appear.

Even though the pitchers dominated the headlines, they were still some guys who could hit. Roberto Clemente had over 1800 hits in the decade. Harmon Killebrew hit almost 400 home runs. Hank Aaron drove in over 1100. Frank Robinson had an OPS of .962 for the decade.

All in all, the game became built around pitching, defense, speed, and the 3 run home run. No wonder Earl Weaver loved it so much.

For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1930s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Post War World

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1960s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1970s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Steroids Era

The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball

Baseball’s Golden Age: Part 3 – The Post War World 1945-1959

Yogi had the fastest bat I ever saw. He could hit a ball late, that was already past him, and take it out of the park. The pitchers were afraid of him because he’d hit anything, so they didn’t know what to throw. Yogi had them psyched out and he wasn’t even trying to psych them out.” – Hector Lopez

From the end of World War II until 1960, baseball saw a huge transformation in the game, how it was marketed, and the location of where it was played. To hear Bob Costas tell, it was the golden age of baseball for the baby boomers. The game itself was replete with stars, teams, and a new kind of player. The style of the game itself even changed. Things were going so well that the league expanded in the early 1960s.

The war was over. Teddy “Ballgame” would soon be seen patrolling Fenway. “Jolting” Joe DiMaggio would return to his rightful place in Yankee Stadium. Many others would return to the game after serving their country. Some would not. And others who had fought for their country would soon fight for their right to play in the Major Leagues. Some would get in. Some would not.

What changed most about baseball in this era was race. Jackie Robinson crossed the color line first. Then Larry Doby. Soon other followed including two of the greatest players the game has ever seen – Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. Ernie Banks followed, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, and Joe Black to name a few. Sadly, Josh Gibson never got the chance.

The Dodgers were still in Brooklyn when the era began and the Giants were still in New York. It is amazing today to sit back and think that Gotham once held three professional teams. And in this era, 12 World Series were played in the city that never sleeps. Either the Dodgers, Yankees, or Giants played in the Fall Classic from 1946-1959.

The game also had its share of stars and the new medium of television changed the game for a generation of young fans born in the post war world. Mickey Mantle arrived. Now you could sit with your milk and cookies and watch your favorite team play rather than listen to the radio and use your imagination as how they hit, fielded, pitched, and caught the ball.

The most shocking aspect of this era came in 1957 when the Dodgers and Giants announced they were packing their bags and moving west to California. If one sits and thinks about the map of baseball, it was a Northeastern game; too hot to play in the South, but mild enough to play through October from Massachusetts to Missouri. St. Louis had two teams when the era began and one when it ended. The Kansas City Athletics were the only American team west of the Mississippi and they would soon move to Oakland.

However, one need only look at the great teams of this era and see that there were few. To quote George Will:

Baseball’s supposed “golden age” of the 1940s and 1950s was not so golden outside New York. In 1947 the Yankees won the American League pennant and beat the Dodgers in the World Series. In 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953 the Yankees were World Series winners over the Dodgers, Phillies, Giants, Dodgers and Dodgers, respectively. If the Phillies had not beaten the Dodgers in the 10th inning of the last game of the 1950 season, every World Series game for five years would have been played in New York. And if 103 wins, which usually are enough to win the pennant, had sufficed in 1954 (the Indians won 111, an American League record for a 154-game season), the Yankees would have won 10 pennants in a row, because they also won in 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958.

There was no amateur draft yet. Teams went out and signed the players they could and the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants had the most money. The Evil Empire even existed back then.

But as a historian, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the game changed drastically. By the end of the fifties, picthers began to take over. Whitey Ford had a 2.66 E.R.A. for the decade! That’s right, the decade! Warren Spahn had over 200 wins for the decade and Early Wynn and Robin Roberts struck out over 1500 batters. The game was changing. The game would soon see an influx of Latin players in the late 50s and early 60s. New names like Clemente. Tiant, and Aparicio would soon be common on every team. The mound would change because one man was a predominant primordial beast and teams would soon be all across the country.

What the post-war era saw was the spread of the great game setting up the massive changes to the game in the 1960s. The era can legitimately stake its claim to being the golden age of baseball.

For Further Reading
Golden Age of Baseball: The 1920s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1930s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Post War World

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1960s

Golden Age of Baseball: The 1970s

Golden Age of Baseball: The Steroids Era

The Golden Age of Chicago Baseball