Posts Tagged 'Sports'

The Babe Calls His Shot (10-1-1932)

On this date, Babe Ruth hit the most famous—and most controversial—home run in baseball history.  It happened in Chicago, at Wrigley Field.

Ruth’s Yankees were facing the Cubs in the World Series.  The Yankees had won the first two games in New York.  Now the series had moved to Chicago for Game Three.

There was bad blood between the two teams.  The Cubs’ pennant drive had been sparked by the late-season acquisition of shortstop Mark Koenig.  But the rest of the Cubs had voted Koenig only a partial share of World Series money.

Koenig was an ex-Yankee.  The Yankees thought the Cubs were cheating their old teammate.  When the series began, both teams started dissing each other across the field.  “Cheap bastards” was one of the milder terms used.

The score was tied 4-4 when Ruth came to bat in the 4th inning of Game Three.  The Cubs yelled at Ruth.  Ruth yelled back.  He watched the pitcher fog in two quick strikes.

Then Ruth majestically pointed toward the center field bleachers, announcing he’d hit the next pitch there.  The pitcher threw.  Ruth swung.  He hit the ball just where he had pointed.

At least, that’s the legend.

10-1--Ruth 01.jpg

A few newspaper accounts said that Ruth made some sort of gesture toward the pitcher, or toward the Cubs’ bench.  Most of the reports don’t mention any gesture.  Only one New York paper said that Ruth had pointed—like a man playing pool, the Babe had “called his shot.”

Over the next few years, more and more writers picked up the story of The Called Shot.  At first Ruth brushed aside questions about whether he’d pointed.  By the time he died in 1948, he was happily telling everyone that, of course, he really had pointed.

Later generations of baseball scholars dismissed The Called Shot legend.  Some questioned whether Ruth had even made a gesture.  The whole business seemed like another New York media invention.

Then, in 1992, a fan’s 8-mm movie of Game Three surfaced.  The film shows that Ruth did make a pointing gesture with his hand.  But it’s not clear who or what he was pointing at.  So the debate continues.

By the way, in case you haven’t guessed, the Yankees swept the Cubs in the 1932 World Series in four straight games.

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The Cubs’ Second-Greatest Moment (9-28-1938)

The greatest moment in the Chicago Cubs’ long history is winning the 2016 World Series after a 108-year drought. Almost everyone will agree on that.  The team’s second-greatest moment happened eighty years ago today.

Back in the Depression era, the Cubs were always contenders. They won National League pennants every three years—1929, 1932, 1935.  So in 1938 they were due to win again.

Gabby Hartnett and admirers

That year, the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to an early lead in the pennant race. So in July, Cubs owner Phil Wrigley fired manager Charlie Grimm.  Replacing Grimm was star catcher Charles Leo “Gabby” Hartnett.  By now Hartnett was over the hill, and played only part-time.

The Cubs began to play better ball. Pittsburgh began to falter.  On September 27 the Pirates arrived at Wrigley for a three-game series with their lead down to one-and-a-half games.  That afternoon the Cubs eked out a 2-1 victory.  Now the Pirates led by only a half-game.

The next day the two teams faced off again. And again it was a tight game.  The Cubs trailed twice, 3-1 in the sixth, 5-3 in the eighth.  Each time they fought back.  Going into the ninth the game was tied 5-5.

Weekday baseball games usually started around 3 p.m. eighty years ago, to better attract customers who might want to cut out of work early. By the ninth inning it was getting dark.  With no lights at Wrigley, the umpires decided this would be the last inning.  If the game remained tied, it would be made up as part of a double-header the next day.

The Pirates went out one-two-three. The Cubs went out one-two.  That brought up Catcher-Manager Hartnett.

Strike one! Strike two!  Then another pitch, and Hartnett connected.  The ball arched slowly toward the left-field wall.  In the gathering darkness, it was hard to follow.  Would it make it all the way?  It just did.  Cubs 6, Pirates 5.

Today we’d call this a walk-off home run. Hartnett didn’t have a chance to walk.  Fans started pouring onto the field and Hartnett started running.  By the time he reached home plate, he had an escort of hundreds of smiling, shouting, back-slapping partisans.

Hartnett’s shot in the dark became known as “The Homer in the Gloamin’.” The Cubs were now in first place.  The next afternoon they completed their sweep of the Pirates 10-1, and went on to win the pennant.

Of course, in the World Series, the Yankees trounced the Cubs in four straight. But then, this is only the second-greatest moment in Cubs’ history.

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Chicago Trivia Quiz #3—Answers

1985 Chicago Bears—Super Bowl XX champions

1. Bronko Nagurski’s real first name was __________.

(B) Bronislau

2. How many touchdowns did Walter Payton score in Super Bowl XX?

(A) none

3. Whom did the Chicago Cardinals trade in return for nine Rams players?

(D) Ollie Matson, in 1959

4. When the Bears decided to leave Wrigley, what was their first choice for a new home?

(D) Dyche Stadium, aka Ryan Field

5. What NFL record did George Halas (as a player) hold for nearly 50 years?

(D) longest run with a fumble, 98 yards on 11-4-1923 (Halas said he ran so far so fast because Jim Thorpe was chasing him.)

Chicago Trivia Quiz #3

1985 Chicago Bears—Super Bowl XX champions

With the regular season getting under way, a quiz on Chicago football history—

1. Bronko Nagurski’s real first name was __________.

(A) Bronkovich   (B) Bronislau   (C) Vladimir   (D) Bruce

2. How many touchdowns did Walter Payton score in Super Bowl XX?

(A) none   (B) one   (C) two   (D) three.

3. Whom did the Chicago Cardinals trade in return for nine Rams players?

(A) Bob Waterfield   (B) Jim Brown   (C) Crazylegs Hirsch   (D) Ollie Matson

4. When the Bears decided to leave Wrigley, what was their first choice for a new home?

(A) Soldier Field   (B) Comiskey Park   (C) Rockne Stadium   (D) Dyche Stadium

5. What NFL record did George Halas (as a player) hold for nearly 50 years?

(A) most touchdowns in one quarter

(B) most safeties in one season

(C) longest punt return

(D) longest run with a fumble

ANSWERS POSTED AT 5 P.M.

 

Night Baseball Comes to Wrigley Field (8-8-1988)

The first night game in major league baseball was played in 1935.  By 1950 all the teams played night games—except the Cubs.  Longtime owner Phil Wrigley said the national pastime was meant to be enjoyed in daylight.

When the Tribune Company bought the Cubs in 1981, management began talking about putting lights in Wrigley Field.  The neighborhood didn’t like that, and pressured politicians to pass laws banning night games at the ballpark.  But night games made more money, and now it was only a question of time until the Cubs installed lights.  A compromise was reached, where the number of night games would be strictly limited, and non-resident parking would be prohibited on nearby streets.

8-8-88

On August 8, 1988, the Cubs met the Phillies in the first night game at Wrigley Field.  Naturally, the park was a sellout on that historic 8-8-88.  Just as naturally for something involving the Cubs, things didn’t work out as planned.  A major storm drenched the area, and the game was called after three innings.

Unlike a few hundred thousand Cubs fans, I can’t claim to have been present at Wrigley’s aborted first night game.  I was in San Francisco on vacation with my family that day.  When I finally did get to a Wrigley night game later in the season, the whole experience seemed surreal.  Even now, I still prefer going to the park for day games.  It’s probably a generational thing.

By the way, in the first official night game at Wrigley Field on 8-9-88, the Cubs beat the Mets, 6-4.

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Joe Louis’s Home

Joe Louis was born in Alabama and grew up in Detroit. He spent his later life in Las Vegas.  But during the twelve years he reigned as heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he lived in Chicago.

Born Joseph Louis Barrow in 1914, he dropped his last name when he began amateur boxing as a Detroit teenager, so his mother wouldn’t find out what he was doing. As Joe Louis the kid fighter attracted the attention of John Roxborough.  Roxborough, one of the city’s gambling kingpins, became Louis’s manager.

In 1934 Louis turned pro. Roxborough began grooming him for a shot at the heavyweight championship, and that meant a move Chicago, where Louis could train under Jack Blackburn. Local promoter Julian Black joined Roxborough as a partner.  He found Louis an apartment on 46th Street off South Park Way (King Drive).

Joe and Marva

Louis quickly rose through the ranks with a string of knockouts. During one of his gym sessions he noticed Marva Trotter, a secretary at the Chicago Daily Defender newspaper. They started dating.  On the morning of September 24, 1935 Joe and Marva were married in New York.  Joe then went off to Yankee Stadium, knocked out ex-champ Max Baer in four rounds, and went back to his hotel and Marva.

The new couple settled in at the Rosenwald Apartments at 4648 South Michigan Avenue. The 454-unit complex had been built by white philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to provide decent housing for the city’s African Americans.  Louis later said that the Rosenwald “was the most fabulous building black people could live in at the time.”  Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, and other prominent Chicagoans were also residents.

Louis continued winning in the ring until Max Schmeling stopped him in June 1936. Louis then rebounded with a new string of victories.  On June 22, 1937, he knocked out James J. Braddock at Comiskey Park to become the new heavyweight champion.

Marva was not at the fight. According to the Tribune, she listened to the action on the radio in their apartment at 4320 South Michigan Avenue.  After the fight, Louis had trouble driving back the few blocks home through the crowds.  “I thought all of Chicago was standing outside my house,” he wrote in his autobiography.  “Marva and I had to come out, I don’t know how many times, and wave at the people.”

Joe Louis’s Chicago Home

Exactly when the Louises relocated from the Rosenwald is unclear. According to the 1940 Census, Joe had purchased the three-story apartment building for $7500—about $140,000 in today’s money.  Their personal flat had five rooms.  At that time the tenants in the other five units paid rents ranging from $40- to $65-a-month.

One year to the day after he’d won the heavyweight title, Louis took care of his old nemesis, Max Schmeling, in just over two minutes. In the course of twelve years Louis would successfully defend his title 25 times, more than any other boxing champion.  Some critics scoffed at his challengers as the Bum-of-the-Month Club.  More likely, Louis was just too good for anyone.

Louis served in the army during World War II, mostly fighting exhibitions. When he came out of the service, his skills had noticeably deteriorated.  He won a few fights, but the magic was gone.  In October 1949 he announced his retirement from the ring.

Meanwhile, Louis’s marriage had also deteriorated.  Joe liked the ladies, and the ladies liked Joe.  Joe and Marva divorced in 1945, remarried in 1946, then divorced a final time in 1949.  Marva kept the two children and the apartment building on Michigan Avenue.

The rest of Louis’s life was not happy. He had trusted too many people with his money, and the Internal Revenue Service came after him for back taxes, which he couldn’t pay.  A boxing comeback was an embarrassment.  He had health problems and battled substance abuse.  His final years were spent as a greeter in a casino.

Joe Louis died in 1981. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  A few years after his death, his favorite local golf course—Pipe O’ Peace in Riverdale—was renamed Joe Louis the Champ Golf Course.  The apartment building he owned on Michigan Avenue during his glory years remains a private residence.

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Jack Johnson Sentenced to Prison (6-4-1913)

Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was sentenced to 366 days in the Joliet penitentiary and fined $1,000 today.  He’d been convicted of violating the Mann Act by transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.

The law was supposed to curb prostitution.  But for the federal government of 1913, the big problem was that Johnson was black, and the woman he’d brought from Pittsburgh to Chicago was white.

“This defendant is one of the best known men of his race,” the judge said.  “His example has been far reaching.”  Johnson was allowed to remain free on $30,000 bail while his conviction was under appeal.  Rather than take his chances with the appeal, he jumped bail and left the country.

Johnson lost his title to Jess Willard in a 1915 bout.  In 1920 he returned to the United States, served his prison time, and was released.  He died in an auto accident in 1946.

Recognizing the injustice done to Johnson, President Donald Trump granted the boxer a posthumous pardon on May 24, 2018.

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