Ticket to History

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

The recent passing of baseball player and groundbreaking scout Edith Houghton was noted on our blog late last week.  It put me in mind of a beautiful baseball ticket in our collection, one of the few women’s baseball tickets in our collection – or, as far as we know, in any museum’s collection.

Women have been playing baseball since the 1860s, but of the dozens of known women’s teams, very few artifacts have survived.  This one also features an astonishing coincidence.

On June 20, 2000, I had the pleasure of meeting Edith Houghton in her Sarasota home to talk a little baseball. We recorded an oral history interview, and she leafed through her stunning scrapbook with me. As the earlier blog post notes, she joined the Philadelphia Bobbies in 1922 at age 10. She toured Japan with them at 13, playing against men’s teams. She played for a couple of other notable women’s teams in the 1920s and ‘30s.  After military service in WWII, she became a groundbreaking female scout with the Phillies from 1946-52.

Bobbies Ticket (NBHOF Library)

Philadephia Bobbies ticket (NBHOF Library)

Five days after our interview, I opened the U.S. mail to find a letter from one Sandra Wright of Langhorne, Pa., offering us this beautiful game ticket. The Bobbies played a men’s team from the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Feltonville on Aug. 14, 1929.  The numbers handwritten on the ticket presumably indicate that Feltonville won, 7-1.

Sandra’s dad, Harry Griver, played shortstop for Feltonville.  Sandra’s mom, Marilyn Griver, donated the ticket in memory of Harry.

“It’s a snapshot in time of an event that documents two teams in a particular time and place of baseball history,” says Susan MacKay, Director of Collections at the Hall.  “In particular, it provides a window into the history of women’s baseball.”

Unfortunately, we can’t ask Sandra if there was something particularly memorable to her dad about playing the Bobbies.  Sandra Wright died on Sept 11, 2001, while at work on the 102nd floor in the South Tower at the World Trade Center.

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Remembering Edith Houghton

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

“I guess I was born with a baseball in my hand or something,”  said Edith Houghton.  “I enjoyed it more than anything.”

Edith, who died on Feb. 2, just eight days shy of her 101st birthday, lived a baseball life that would be the envy of many men. Not only did she scout for the Philadelphia Phillies beginning just after World War II, but she was a professional baseball player too.

Edith Houghton generously donated artifacts from her collection that are now on display in the Museum's Diamond Dreams exhibit. (NBHOF Museum)

Edith Houghton generously donated artifacts from her collection that are now on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit. (NBHOF Library)

 

Edith Houghton generously donated several artifacts from her baseball career to the Hall of Fame – many of which are on display in the Museum’s Diamond Dreams exhibit. (Craig Muder/NBHOF Library)At the tender age of 10, Edith, a natural athlete, joined the Philadelphia Bobbies, a young women’s baseball team named after their fashionable 1920s haircuts, as their shortstop, in 1922.

In 1925, the Bobbies embarked on an amazing cross-cultural baseball journey, touring Japan and playing against men’s college baseball teams.

Upon her return to the States, Edith joined first the New York Bloomer Girls and later the Hollywood Girls, two leading women’s baseball teams of the pre-AAGPBL era.  The teams toured the country playing against local men’s teams.

During World War II, Edith served in the Navy and reportedly played for the WAVES women’s baseball team, a fascinating chapter in the history of women in baseball about which little is known today.

Upon her return from the war, she approached Phillies owner Bob Carpenter and asked to become a scout.  After leafing through Edith’s remarkable scrapbook, Carpenter hired her, and she signed a number of players for the Phils, though none ended up making the major leagues.

I have had the privilege of leafing through that amazing scrapbook, as Hall of Fame Photo Archivist Pat Kelly and I had the chance to meet Edith in her Sarasota, Fla., home during the summer of 2000.  We were in West Palm Beach for the annual SABR convention, and we drove across the state to meet and conduct an oral history interview with Edith.  She was charming, gracious, and still in love with the game.

Edith donated several artifacts from her career to the Hall of Fame.  In our Diamond Dreams exhibit, visitors can see her Bobbies cap, her jersey from the Japanese tour, with U.S.A.  across the front, along with her belt.

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

A Little ‘Pepper’ in That Song

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

As I mentioned in my previous blog about the late, great All-American Girls Professional Baseball League star Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis, her other great love, besides baseball, was writing and singing – songs and poems.

All American Girls Professional Baseball League star Pepper Paire poses for a picture with her catchers gear. (NBHOF Library)

Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis putting on her catching equipment (NBHOF Library)

I had called Pepper while doing some research related to the centennial of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” back in 2008.  I knew that she was the writer behind a great parody of baseball’s anthem. Whenever several veteran players from the AAGPBL were gathered for an appearance at a ball game or a card show, they would often break into song, usually singing the league’s “Victory Song” (also written by Pepper along with fellow player Nalda Bird Phillips), and then they would go into their own version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

AAGPBL Rosters were not nearly as large as major league rosters, usually featuring anywhere from 15-18 players.  Therefore, when injury struck, the ladies either played through the pain, or, if they had to sit out, often someone else had to play out of position in order to field a team.  These were tough women.

So, her parody makes fun of what she saw as the more frail players of later generations, though she was careful to note that not all modern players are like this.  Pepper told me that Ernie Banks and Duke Snider were great fans of her version of the song, and would ask her to sing it when they ran into each other at card shows and other events.  Here’s how it goes:

Take Me Out of the Ball Game
I don’t think I can play;
I’ve got a headache and a hangnail too,
What’s more I think I’m coming down with the flu;
So please, Take me out of the ball game,
If we don’t win it’s a shame;
But I’ll still get my
One, Two, Three million or more
At the Old Ball Game.

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Pepper Davis: A Ballplayer

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

When I called LaVonne “Pepper” Paire Davis to interview her about the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” she immediately broke into song, selecting another classic written by Jack Norworth: “Shine on Harvest Moon.”

Pepper told me that her two passions in life had always been baseball and writing – specifically songs and poems. She also told me about a book she was just wrapping up, her autobiography, “Dirt in the Skirt,” which she released in 2009.

Pepper Davis, who helped inspire the central character of "A League of Their Own," passed away on Saturday. (NBHOF Library)

Pepper Davis, who helped inspire the central character of “A League of Their Own,” passed away on Saturday. (NBHOF Library)

Pepper was an irrepressible, good-natured lady who loved the game – whether the game was baseball or life. She never failed to bring a smile to anyone she met. She played for 10 seasons (1944-53) in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and her teams made the playoffs nine of those 10 seasons. She was a member of the 1946 Playoff Champion Racine Belles.

Pepper passed away on Saturday at the age of 88.

On the field, she was a fine catcher with a fielding percentage of .977, as well as playing shortstop, third base and occasionally pitching. She was a line drive hitter with good plate discipline, whose 400 RBIs are believed to rank fourth all time in AAGPBL history. On her website, she wished to be remembered as a fiery leader who did whatever it took to win and gave it her all.

Fans of the AAGPBL and the movie “A League of Their Own” can be thankful that she served as a key consultant on the film, and that she co-wrote (with Nalda Bird Phillips) the official league song. She was the first female coach for the World Children’s Baseball Fair, an annual summer baseball program founded by American and Japanese home run champions Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh. In 1999, she was one of two AAGPBL players, along with Dottie Kamenshek, to be featured on a Starting Lineup action figure.

Here are the lyrics to her famous “Victory Song.” 

Batter up! Hear that call!
The time has come for one and all
To play ball. 

We are the members of the All-American League.
We come from cities near and far.
We’ve got Canadians, Irishmen and Swedes,
We’re all for one, we’re one for all
We’re All-Americans! 

Each girl stands, her head so proudly high,
Her motto ‘Do or Die.’
She’s not the one to use or need an alibi. 

Our chaperones are not too soft,
They’re not too tough,
Our managers are on the ball.
We’ve got a president who really knows his stuff,
We’re all for one, we’re one for all,
We’re All-Americans!  

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Commentaries on the Hall of Fame Election

Gates_90By Jim Gates

Following the recent announcement by the BBWAA that there would be no additional inductees for the Class of 2013, there were a number of published commentaries regarding the Hall of Fame election process.  Many of these were produced in the days immediately following the January 9th announcement.  For me these editorials brought up the question as to whether this was something modern, or had the system been a target for commentary since the earliest days?

Accordingly, I decided to start with the first election and work my way forward, the objective being to locate and date the earliest example of an editorial piece about the Hall of Fame election process.

Editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times discussing the 1936 voting results. (NBHOF Library)

Editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times discussing the 1936 voting results. (NBHOF Library)

Using a variety of library files and online resources it was relatively easy to establish that results of the first election were publically announced on February 2, 1936.  This election established the inaugural class of inductees as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.  There are a number of Associated Press wire stories which appear in newspapers on February 3rd, all of which refer to the election results as being announced on the previous day.

So, with a firm date from which to work, I began searching for published commentaries, wondering just how long it would take for the first to appear.  Well, the answer was less than 24 hours!  It did not take an extraordinary amount of effort to find an editorial piece by John Kieran of the New York Times which discusses the voting results and system used.  Kieran was one of the leading sportswriters in America, and as can be seen in his column, he asked many of the same questions that we see in 2013.

It seems as if public debate about the election system has been part of the baseball culture since the first election.  Or, as the old saying goes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Voters and fans have always taken the process seriously and there has never been a time when public evaluation of the process was not part of the baseball world.

Jim Gates is the Librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Documents from Historic 1970 MLK Game Preserved in Cooperstown

Muder_90By Craig Muder

As the nation and world pauses to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, the baseball world can reflect on a landmark exhibition game played to honor Dr. King in 1970.

The manuscripts and artifacts from that largely unremembered game remain alive in the archives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Documents from the 1970 East/West Major League Baseball Classic honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., such as a game program and correspondence with officials like Monte Irvin, are preserved in the Hall of Fame archive. (Craig Muder/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Documents from the 1970 East/West Major League Baseball Classic honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., such as a game program and correspondence with officials like Monte Irvin, are preserved in the Hall of Fame archive. (Craig Muder/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

In December of 1968 – just eight months after Dr. King was slain in Memphis, Tenn. – a plan was put forth by Southern Christian Leadership Conference executives to hold an all-star baseball game at on March 29, 1969 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, proceeds from which would further the work of Dr. King.

The SCLC was founded by Dr. King and other civil rights activists in 1957 and led by Dr. King until his death.

According to documents in the Hall of Fame archive, the SCLC mapped out details of the game, which was expected to net $163,788. Minutes from organizational meetings as well as hand-written notes can be found among the hundreds of documents from the event in Cooperstown, including correspondence between SCLC leaders and baseball executives such as Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and future Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, who was working for the Office of the Commissioner.

Documents indicate that the game was postponed until March 28, 1970 due to organizational challenges – and in the meantime the SCLC helped host an all-star basketball game at the Spectrum in Philadelphia featuring players like Wilt Chamberlain, Earl Monroe and Oscar Robertson.

But the baseball game played on March 28, 1970 set a standard for similar all-star games that might never be eclipsed. Among the future Hall of Famers on the field that day for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial All-Star Baseball Classic were Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, Jim Bunning, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Ron Santo, Tom Seaver and Willie Stargell. The teams were managed by Joe DiMaggio and Roy Campanella, and the coaches included Larry Doby, Sandy Koufax and Stan Musial.

A crowd of 31,694 watched the East defeat the West 5-1 behind three innings of shutout ball apiece from Seaver and Gibson. Entertainer Bill Cosby held a pregame reception for the all-stars, and Jackie Robinson was in attendance at the game.

The game was not repeated in following years, but Major League Baseball revived the concept in 2007 with the introduction of the annual Civil Rights Game.

Meanwhile, historic documents of the game dedicated to Dr. King – including mock-ups of tickets, internal league correspondence and even a program from the game – are available to researchers at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. For information, please email research@baseballhall.org.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

History of Rule 5 Draft Features Hall of Famers

DiFranza_90By Lenny DiFranza

Today is minor league draft day, under baseball’s “Rule 5” – a major league club’s chance to pick the pocket of another franchise.

Though the rules are often changed slightly, in general a team can acquire an unprotected minor league player with a few years of professional experience for a relatively small amount. Draftees must stay with the new club at the major league level for the entire following season or be offered back.

Currently, players 19 and older on June 5 preceding the signing of their first contract are subject to the draft after three minor-league seasons unless they are protected on the club’s 40-man roster, while players who were 18 or younger must be protected after four seasons. The cost is now $50,000.

While many fans assume that this minor league draft is a relatively recent feature of organized ball, the rule was first enacted in the 1890s.

In 1883, the Major Leagues, and many minor leagues, agreed to limit a player’s ability to offer his services to the highest bidder by binding him to the team that held his contract for all-time, the reserve system. But after a decade of independent minor league club owners demanding high prices for the contracts of their best players, the majors instituted a minor league draft. Though the rule went through many changes over the years, the basics remained the same: Drafted players could be acquired for a fixed amount and must stay on the big league roster or be offered back to the original club.

Two time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana was drafted under Rule 5.

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana was drafted under Rule 5. (NBHOF Library)

The oldest draft records appear in the winter of 1894-1895. Within just a few years, a few of the era’s greatest stars were acquired by this method: Elmer Flick was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies from Dayton (Interstate League) in 1897; Rube Waddell was drafted by the Louisville Colonels from Detroit (Western) in 1898; and Christy Mathewson was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds from Norfolk (Virginia-North Carolina) in 1900.

The National Agreement of 1903 settled the battle between the venerable National League and the new American League. That document also included a minor league draft arrangement that remained in place through 1946. Minor league owners often argued that the established prices were too low and at times refused to cooperate, but the draft took place in most years, even though most independent minor league clubs were eventually gathered up into big league farm systems, a process that began in the 1920s.

Hall of Famers drafted in this period include: Ed Walsh, drafted by the Chicago White Sox from Newark (Eastern) in 1903; Hughie Jennings, drafted by the Detroit Tigers from Baltimore (Eastern) in 1906; Joe Kelley was drafted by the Boston Doves from Toronto (Eastern) in 1907; Red Faber, drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates from Dubuque (Three-I) in 1909; Pete Alexander, drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies from Syracuse (New York State) in 1910; Harry Heilmann, drafted by the Detroit Tigers from Portland (Northwestern) in 1913; and Hack Wilson, drafted by the Chicago Cubs from Toledo (American Association) in the 1925.

During the period of 1947-1965, the bonus rule encouraged teams to keep high-priced bonus recipients on major league rosters by making “bonus players” in the minor leagues subject to the annual draft. Roberto Clemente, who was given a bonus by the Brooklyn Dodgers, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1954. Under the rules of this era, clubs were also able to draft players from major league rosters. These included: Hoyt Wilhelm, drafted by the New York Giants from the Boston Braves in 1947, the start of his career; and Monte Irvin, drafted by the Chicago Cubs from the New York Giants in 1955, the last year he played.

In 1959, a new rule required a club to keep high bonus signees on their 40-man roster to avoid exposure to the traditional minor league draft. With a new amateur draft that started in 1965, officially known as the Rule 4 Draft, the traditional minor league draft took on the name “Rule 5.”

Many stars have been drafted in this era, including MVPs Willie Hernandez, George Bell, and Josh Hamilton; and Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.

The Rule 5 Draft is a common strategy that has rarely paid off with the acquisition of a memorable player. But the game’s most astute scouts are currently looking at thousands of player reports hoping to find one worth a chance.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator of new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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