Monday, October 12, 2009

"Take me IN to the Ball Game" - 1906

With baseball season in full swing, so to speak, and the World Series looming, lingering (and for you non-baseball fans - ready to preempt all primetime programming!), we thought we'd get in on the action! Although Kentucky does not have a Major League Baseball team, we do have very strong links to the professional side of the sport.

Probably the best known name in the business is the "Louisville Slugger" - the bat created by the son of a woodworker in 1884, when he escaped from the shop for an afternoon to watch the local baseball team, the Louisville Eclipse. John "Bud" Hillerich secured the bat's name & role in history when he patented the name after taking over the family business in 1894. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory still stands in downtown Louisville, demarcated by the giant bat leaning against the building - unbreakable!

Of course, another undeniably, and relatively well-known strong tie is former Governor Albert "Happy" Chandler (1898-1991). Chandler was the Major League Baseball Commissioner for seven years, beginning in 1945. He supported African-American leagues; his reign as commissioner even included the historic contract approval of Jackie Robinson, making him the first professional African-American baseball player (1947)!

Though the list goes on of MLB connections (professional and otherwise), we'll celebrate Kentucky's baseball history with a simple Victorian game of Indoor Baseball from 1906, played with marbles and spools, as described in the November 1, 1906 edition of the Berea Citizen.

1 comment:

  1. Splitting some hairs, but 3 things about Happy Chandler:

    1. He didn't really support the Negro Leagues - his acquiescence in the Robinson signing signaled their downfall. The Negro Leagues were not officially recognized as part of professional baseball while he was commissioner.

    2. He didn't really approve Robinson's contract. The president of the National League, Ford Frick did that.

    3. Jackie Robinson was the first African-American man to officially enter a game in the 20th century (1947). Bud Fowler (1878) was the first African-American man to play in professional baseball and Moses "Fleetwood" Walker was the first to appear in a Major League game (1884) with Toledo of the American Association.