Paul Dickson is the author of more than 60 books and several hundred magazine and newspaper articles. He has written over a dozen bat and ball books (11 on baseball and one on softball). His most recent is the biography, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick. It was named the 2012 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year. In 2011 Paul was awarded the Tony Salin Memorial Award from the Baseball Reliquary for the preservation of baseball history. He was also honored in 2008 by the New York Public Library for his award-winning and widely acclaimed Dickson Baseball Dictionary, now in its third edition.
Today, April 23, 2014, is the sesquiquadricentennial, or 450th anniversary, of the birth of William Shakespeare, an auspicious moment to look at the master playwright and his relationship to baseball.
Sayeth you “baseball”?
Yes indeed. In case the reader is not aware, the Bard’s allusions to the game are plentiful and well known to those who have studied this relationship.
One hundred years ago today, on March 7, 1914, the Baltimore Orioles of the International League played their first intrasquad contest of spring training in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The Orioles were divided into two teams: the Sparrows and the Buzzards. An unknown 19-year-old named George Herman Ruth made his professional baseball debut in that seven-inning exhibition game as a Buzzard playing shortstop. He had been signed a few days earlier by owner Jack Dunn in Baltimore.
The summer I turned eight years of age, my interest in baseball was focused primarily on getting my little mitts on a real glove—a Spalding five-fingered pancake, which with the proper grooming and care would develop a deep enough pocket so that when I threw a ball into it, it would make a great thwacking noise.
February 9, 2014, would have been Bill Veeck’s 100th birthday. Bill died in 1986 after leaving many marks on the game. His most visible contribution was his impact on the “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field in Chicago, where his handiwork can be seen in the ivy-covered outfield brick wall, a field of view dominated by a traditional manually operated scoreboard and an overall scale and proportion that seem perfect for the game.
“Hero” is a term that has lost a lot of its true meaning in recent decades because it is often applied indiscriminately to those who are simply talented or hard-working. Lou Brissie, who suffered devastating leg wounds in World War II and who went on to become an All-Star pitcher with the Philadelphia Athletics, was a true hero. He died on November 25 at a veteran’s hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, at 89.
When William Howard Taft threw out the first ball of the 1910 season, he established an unbreakable link between the presidency and baseball.
Major Archie Butt, the popular officer who served as the primary military aide to presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, was the man who first got Taft out of the White House and over to the ballpark. “I thought it would be just as necessary to get his mind off business as it was to exercise,” Butt recalled in his memoirs.