Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I think that we all agree that having baseball back in Victoria is a wonderful thing. And with that privilege comes responsibility - a responsibility to be educated on the history of this noble game...or at least some inane facts that we can throw around so it at least looks like we know what we're talking about. Here are 5 quick historical snapshots that you can fold up and put in your pocket for the next time you are at the yard.

Did you know...

1) The song Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond is played before the 8th inning of every home Red Sox games (ask Issac!). As well, you'll hear it again and again at all the bars that you go to after the game...and everyone sings along. Why you ask? While there are many urban myths, the real reason is that the musical director for the Sox - Amy Tobey - started playing it between innings just because she has heard it played at some other events in the mid-late 1990's. Randomly played at first, then only if the Sox were winning after the 7th, and finally when the Sox changed ownership in 2002, the new owners asked that it be played before the 8th inning at every game. Experience it at Fenway some day, pure magic.

2) Shoeless Joe Jackson (a.ka. Joseph Jefferson Jackson) really did earn his nickname by playing in his socks (they were probably Black Sox!). In a minor league game, Joe was trying out a new pair of spikes and they gave him blisters so the next day so he ended up playing without anything but his stockings on his feet.

3) Stirrups came into being in baseball's early days, when players wore knickers and coloured stockings. In those days, textile dyes could run and a player risked blook poisoning if they got spiked and the dye made its way into the wound. In about 1910, because of this, the open-stpye stirrup took prominence and a white undersock - or "sani" was worn beneath the coloured "stirrups" and thus the classic look was started. In the '40's, the stirrup got larger and with colourfast dyes, became irrelevant. With the sani sock no longer needed, it all came down to fashion (ask Manny!).

4) The Mendoza line - usually depicting a .200 batting average - can be attributed to the Kansas City Royals Mario Mendoza. There is some debate on this though and while the popular theory is that George Brett coined the phrase in an interview saying that he didn't want to hit below the "Mendoza Line", it was actually initiated by Tom Paciorek who was a joker and played with Mario every day. But since Brett had the popularity card, when he dropped this phrase in an interview, the media leapt on it. There are some that even think it was named after Chriostobal "Minnie" Mendoza, a .300 minor league hitter in the '60's who only hit .188 with the Twins in 16 games his 1970 debut year. This has a weak premise though so we'll go with Mario who played from mid-70's to mid-80's.

5) The origin of the DH began officially on Jan 11, 1973 when the American League owners diverged from the Senior loop owners and decided to go forward with a designated pinch-hitter for the pitchers (typically the weak hitters of the team). As early as 1906, Connie Mack suggested this and it was reviewed several times throughout history and shot down every time until the AL - who trailed the NL in run production and attendance - decided their game needed a little more offense. This was the biggest rule change since 1903 when it was decided that foul balls were considered strikes. Originally a 3 year experiment, it has now been adopted by most minor league and amateur teams (like the GBL!) as well. For the record, the first DH was Ron Blomberg of the NY Yankees and he was walked by Luis Tiant.