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  • Originally published 05/12/2014

    The National Pastime, Amid a National Crisis

    By combining the Civil War and baseball, Moore’s photograph merges two of the most important elements of the American historical experience, both of which, to this day, have deep emotional resonance.

  • Originally published 07/15/2013

    Ron Briley: Review of "Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life After Baseball," edited by Michael Long

    The courage and athletic ability demonstrated by Jackie Robinson in breaking Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947 and making the Brooklyn Dodgers a dominant National League club during the 1950s resulted in the ballplayer’s induction into the pantheon of baseball immortals at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Robinson’s career after he retired from the sport following the 1956 season is, however, less well known, but Robinson’s decision to take an active role in the civil rights movement provides ample proof that the courage displayed on the playing field carried over into the struggle for a democratic nation freed from the scourge of racial discrimination and segregation.

  • Originally published 07/15/2013

    When Shea was the stadium of the future

    If the Mets still called Shea Stadium home, Major League Baseball probably wouldn't let them host next week's All-Star Game, one of the sport's premier events.Taken at its best, Shea stood as a nostalgic remnant from a kooky bygone era by the time the Mets vacated the old place following the 2008 season. Most people probably didn't read that much into it: They just referred to it as a dump.But dismissing Shea Stadium as nothing more than an ugly blue semicircle surrounded by a sea of auto-part shops—and it certainly fit that description at the end—ignores the building's influential role in ballpark history.When the All-Star Game last came to Flushing in 1964, the three-month-old Shea represented a bold vision of the future. It just so happens that "the future" became "the past" far quicker than anybody imagined....

  • Originally published 06/28/2013

    Was first curveball thrown 2 million years ago?

    NEW YORK —It's a big year for throwing. The greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, is retiring. Aroldis Chapman, the overpowering Cincinnati Reds reliever, continues to fire fastballs beyond 100 mph.And now some scientists say they've figured out when our human ancestors first started throwing with accuracy and fire power, as only people can: Nearly 2 million years ago.That's what researchers conclude in a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature. There's plenty of skepticism about their conclusion. But the new paper contends that this throwing ability probably helped our ancient ancestor Homo erectus hunt, allowing him to toss weapons — probably rocks and sharpened wooden spears....

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Was Jackie Robinson Court-Martialed?

    On April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jack Roosevelt Robinson, at the age of 28, became the first African American to play for a major-league baseball team since the 1884 season, when Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker played for the Toledo Blue Stockings between May 1 and Sept. 4. (William White, a student at Brown, played one game for the Providence Grays of the National League in 1879, hence technically breaking the color barrier.) Before a crowd of 26,623 spectators (of whom approximately 14,000 are thought to have been black), though he got no hits, Robinson scored a run to contribute to the Dodgers' 5-3 victory over the Boston Braves.... 

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    At 97, the oldest living Brooklyn Dodger reflects

    Late one recent night on Bible Street in Cos Cob, Conn., in the carpeted basement apartment of a gray bungalow, Mike Sandlock, 97, had a dream that he was in Yankee Stadium.A tall, white-haired great-grandfather, he stood at the plate, under pressure to hit a home run. “I says: ‘That’s not me! I’m not a home run hitter!’ ” Sandlock protested. Nonetheless, he crushed one into the right-field stands, then woke up.“I have crazy dreams anyway,” Sandlock said dismissively.About 82 years earlier, when Sandlock lived about three miles from where he does now, he took the train one day to the Bronx with his older brother. It was his first time in Yankee Stadium, and Babe Ruth was in his prime. Sandlock sat in the right-field bleachers, and Ruth hit a towering drive well over the teenager’s head....

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Fan whose 1949 shooting of ballplayer inspired “The Natural” dies after years in obscurity

    CHICAGO — She inspired a novel and a movie starring Robert Redford when in 1949 she lured a major league ballplayer she’d never met into a hotel room with a cryptic note and shot him, nearly killing him.After the headlines faded, Ruth Ann Steinhagen did something else just as surprising: She disappeared into obscurity, living a quiet life unnoticed in Chicago until now, more than a half century later, when news broke that she had died three months earlier.The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Friday that Steinhagen passed away of natural causes on Dec. 29, at the age of 83. First reported by the Chicago Tribune last week, her identity was a surprise even to the morgue employees who knew about the 1984 movie “The Natural,” in which she was portrayed by actress Barbara Hershey....

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Team M.V.P. (Most Valuable Preserver): Historians Are Fans’ Link to Past

    BOSTON — On a concourse behind third base at Fenway Park, silent but for the periodic whoosh of the frigid wind, Dan Rea recently approached a display case devoted to the 1930s-era Red Sox. A ledger inside the case was opened to a page where an accountant once entered players’ salaries.One entry was for Smead Jolley, best known for his “difficulty playing the incline” in left field, Rea said, until the field was leveled during a 1934 renovation.Rea is one of two Red Sox employees who are also club historians. They belong to a small cadre of people with a passion for major league baseball lore who added such roles to their team jobs and later figured out what to do....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    At memorial, former players urge Marvin Miller be put in baseball Hall of Fame

    NEW YORK — Baseball players urged that Marvin Miller be put in the Hall of Fame as they spoke Monday night during a memorial for the union leader.In an auditorium filled with Hall of Famers, dozens of retired and current players, baseball officials, agents and labor lawyers, 13 speakers praised the former baseball union head, who helped players gain free agency in the 1970s and created the path to multimillion-dollar salaries. Miller died in November at 95.“It is a travesty he is not in the Hall of Fame,” former major league player and manager Buck Martinez said during the two-hour program....

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