Results tagged ‘ Lou Gehrig ’

Gary Cooper Did NOT Wear A Backwards Yankee Uniform

In what is easily the best piece of baseball research – and possibly motion picture research – this year,  Senior Curator Tom Shieber of the Baseball Hall of Fame dispels one of the most enduring myths of both fields: That the right-handed Gary Cooper donned a backwards-lettered Yankees uniform and ran the wrong way around the bases to enable  filmmakers to flip the negative and make him look like the left-handed Lou Gehrig in “The Pride Of The Yankees”:

GaryCooperI’ll let Tom Shieber take you step-by-step, with a kind of gentle meticulousness that even I could understand, through the evidence that:

A) Proves the shot of Cooper above is not a reversed image and he didn’t hit the ball and then run down the third base line;

B) Proves that such movie-making sleight-of-hand would not have been necessary;

C) Proves the one instance – in a pre-Yankee scene from the Gehrig biopic – in which they really did let Cooper do things righty and then flipped the image to make him look lefty;

D) Nails the explanation of how this one instance was blown out of all proportion and turned in to the backward film legend by a very venerated but very overrated sportswriter;

E) Proves the involvement in the making of the film by two of the game’s great characters, Babe Herman and Lefty O’Doul.

F) Notes and explains why the rightfielder in some of the shots appears to be playing about 20 feet behind the first baseman.

Gary Cooper, real

Gary Cooper, real

It is, as I say, terrific research terrifically explained.

I can add only one detail to it – something that had always bothered me about the ‘then he ran down the third base line’ legend. The human face is not symmetrical. We know this so intuitively that we don’t usually even think about it. But you know when a picture of you has been reversed, or you’re looking in a double mirror.

On the top is Gary Cooper as Gehrig, in a still frame that Shieber has determined is an original, unflipped image. Below is Gary Cooper as Gehrig, in a still frame that Shieber can prove has been flipped. Look carefully at the features of his face – they’re not in the same places in each shot. It takes a little work, but it’s worth it.

This is not as exact a science as Shieber’s analysis of stadium backgrounds and fly buttons and all the rest, but it’s of supportive value. And except in this one scene, Gary Cooper looks like one Gary Cooper all the way through the film. As

Gary Cooper, reversed

Gary Cooper, reversed

‘another’ Gary, Garry Shandling, used to say, ‘no flipping.’

Then in this one scene at first base comes this bizarre image of a guy who looks enough like the Cooper we’ve seen throughout the flick to be his twin – but it is not an exact match. The nose breaks in the opposite direction (just a little bit). The veins on one side of the neck now match the ones on the other side of the neck. It’s all subtle, but it’s all the photographic equivalent of circumstantial evidence.

And it puts a little P.S. on some superb detective work. Bravo, Tom Shieber

 

 

The Conscience Of Baseball, 1995

There wasn’t a lot of principle flying around in the winter of 1994-95.

The owners had pushed the players into threatening to call a stupid strike. The players misjudged the owners and the public mood and struck anyway. The owners stonewalled, cancelled the rest of the season and the playoffs. All but one of the owners recruited “replacement teams” filled with minor leaguers (some of them virtually blackmailed into it) and long-retired players (some in their late 40s) and trotted them out on the field for Spring Training of 1995.
And Sparky Anderson said no.
The Hall of Fame manager of the Reds and Tigers passed away Thursday, and his successes with both franchises were worthy of all the accolades he’s receiving posthumously. But not prominent in these recollections is what Sparky Anderson did when the proverbial rubber met the road in that dark March of 1995, when the owners were ready to put a guy who was on Anderson’s first Cincinnati team in 1970 on the mound a quarter century later and pretend it was still the Major Leagues.
Sparky Anderson said he didn’t want to pick sides in a labor dispute, that his only interest was the integrity of the game, but he just couldn’t participate in the “replacement” season. So, much to the horror of his management and the game’s, he took an unpaid leave of absence as manager of the Detroit Tigers. When a court ruling forced a settlement on the owners and the “replacements” vanished, Sparky came back for a troubled year in which ownership looked at him suspiciously and even some fans took out on him their frustrations about the strike. It would be his last season managing.
As suggested earlier, in terms of principled action there wasn’t much for Anderson’s gesture to compete with that nuclear winter and spring. The Orioles’ Peter Angelos refused to field a replacement team, but it was suggested that he had multiple motivations in so doing because a season of Baltimore baseball with Cal Ripken on the sidelines on strike would have taken the heart out of (and probably technically ended) Ripken’s pursuit of what was then Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games-played streak.
Thus Sparky Anderson was the conscience of the game in that awful time, and although hardly as destructive to his future associations with the sport, his actions of 1995 were in the same broad category as Curt Flood’s had been in the pursuit of a player’s right to have a say in where he played. Sparky’s decision was completely in character with the rest of his baseball life. It isn’t mentioned on his plaque at the Hall of Fame and probably shouldn’t be, but at this of all times it should be remembered alongside the World Championships and the unforgettable persona.

Babe Ruth Film: September 9, 1928

Honestly, they could’ve called first.

Major League Baseball Productions has unearthed a wonderful, almost archaeological find – 51 seconds of film, apparently home movies, of Babe Ruth in action at Yankee Stadium. Ruth is briefly shown playing right, then we watch him called out on strikes on a check swing, then we see a pan of the outfield, which stops tantalizingly maybe a second before we could’ve seen the scoreboard. MLBP’s call for detectives to help it pinpoint just when the footage is from and who else is shown in it, reached both NBC Nightly News and The New York Times.
Uh, fellas, I’m standin’ right here. The acknowledged ace amateur unidentifiable photo identifier, certified by the Hall of Fame for crying out loud!
There are several good conclusions drawn by the MLBP researchers: That the advertisements in the outfield are said to match still photographs known to have been taken in 1928 (which I assume they have carefully researched) - that Ruth (and Gehrig, on deck) are wearing uniforms without numbers (the Yankees first adopted them in 1931) and Gehrig is seen approaching the plate from the third base side (the Yankees called the third base dugout home until 1946).
But then come the suppositions – unclear if these belong to MLBP or The Times:

…the archivists believe that the clip dates to 1928. Perhaps it is the World Series, which might explain the full stands and long shadows.


Narration in an additional Times video clip adds in the possibility that the “full stands” owe to it being Opening Day or the 4th of July or, as mentioned, the Series.
So if it’s a big day like that – where’s the bunting?
Check any photo, or any of the film, of baseball in the ’20s, especially at Yankee Stadium. Opening Day, the major holidays, the Series, and they festooned the place to within an inch of its life. Film from any of those days in 1928 would show bunting designed to evoke the American flag on every available railing not in fair territory. There is no bunting.
Also, why the assumption that only Opening Day could produce “the full stands”? That’s one of the easiest things to check. The Yankees’ game-by-game log, with boxes for every game and attendance figures for most, is found in two seconds at the fabulous Retrosheet.Org. From it we learn the Yanks opened at home on April 20th, 1928, against the Philadelphia A’s, and drew just 30,000.
In point of fact, the big days for attendance in the house that the guy striking out in the film clip built were July 1 (65,000 for a doubleheader with the A’s), August 19 (65,000 versus Cleveland), and September 9 (85,265 for another doubleheader with the A’s). 
The jam-packed nature of those crowd shots sure suggests 85,265.
September 9 might also produce you those “long shadows” while still explaining the large amount of white in the crowd (for the most part, the gentlemen are not wearing jackets). And it also jibes with the only bit of information that the catcher in the image provides, until somebody puts the clip through computer enhancement. Clearly the top of his cap is light-colored. And per Marc Okkonen’s opus Baseball Uniforms Of The 20th Century the only American League teams to wear such caps in 1928 were the Browns, Red Sox, White Sox — and Athletics. Cleveland wore dark caps.
So we’re getting there.
Huge crowd? September 9 versus the Athletics (85,265) works. No bunting, no cold weather, not a holiday, not the World Series? September 9 versus the Athletics works. Catcher’s got a light-colored cap? September 9 versus the Athletics works.
So, what do we know about Ruth in those games? Again, per Retrosheet, we see he played in them both – and struck out in them both, twice in the opener, in which the only strikeouts by Philly pitchers were recorded by John Quinn and Eddie Rommel, and once in the nightcap, in which all the Philly strikeouts were by Rube Walberg.
Mickey Cochrane caught the first game for the A’s, and also got four at bats in the nightcap before  being replaced by Cy Perkins (probably late, after Walberg was lifted in the seventh). We never see the pitcher in the film, not even a hint as to whether he’s a lefty or righty. We do see the third baseman, the second baseman, and probably the rightfielder. Conveniently, the same three guys played both games for the A’s on September 9, 1928: third baseman Jimmy Dyk es, second baseman Max Bishop, and rightfielder Bing Miller.
So, given that everybody sees long shadows, the better bet here is the second game. Thus the informed guess here — assuming MLBP’s 1928 date is accurate — is:
Date: September 9, 1928
Game: Yankees versus Philadelphia Athletics, Second Game
Attendance: 85, 265
Pitcher: Rube Walberg
Catcher: Mickey Cochrane
Third Baseman: Jimmy Dyk es
Second Baseman: Max Bishop
Rightfielder: Bing Miller
Umpires Visible: Brick Owens (Home), Bill MacGowan (third)
Third Base Coach: Art Fletcher
There is a very small percentage chance that the images could be from the other Yanks-A’s doubleheader on July 1, but the crowd isn’t packed enough. Kind of too bad: the A’s rightfielder for both games that day, just barely visible at the end of the film, was Ty Cobb!
The Times’ headlines that day tell us all else we need to know:

CROWD OF 85,265, BASEBALL RECORD, SEES YANKS WIN TWO; 
Largest Gathering in Game’s History Overflows Stadium– Receipts Are $115,000. 
100,000 ARE TURNED AWAY 
Shirt-Sleeved Throng Cheers as New York Regains Lead From Athletics. 
FANS WAIT TWENTY HOURS 
Three Start Their Vigil Early on Saturday Evening–Mayor Walker Receives an Ovation. 
Yankee Stadium Too Small. Receipts Set a Record. Crowds on Apartment Houses. 
85,265 SEE YANKEES WIN AND TAKE LEAD 50,000 Linger Outside. Seventy in Line at Midnight.

Sorry about the delay on this, but you guys didn’t call, and I was in the hospital much of the evening, and I don’t carry my Okkonen with me.
Oh yeah, one other thing. I could’ve told you straight up that whatever it was or wasn’t, it certainly wasn’t Game One of the 1928 World Series. My friend, the venerable actor Norman Lloyd, stunned me one day by asking “Did I ever tell you about the first baseball game I saw in person? First Game of the World Series! How about that! The 1928 World Series! Babe Ruth slid into second base, ripped the seat of his pants. We howled! Normally the player runs to the bench for repairs. Not the Babe! Little man runs out to him with a sewing kit, patches him up right at second base! Tremendous! I was thirteen! I loved it.”
The video’s pretty clear. Babe Ruth’s pants have not been patched!

A Quick Asterisk

This is not a knock against Derek Jeter, who has been a credit to his franchise and the game since 1995, and who has never been anything but courteous and professional in his dealings with me (and everybody else I knew). This is not, in fact, about Jeter.

But I wish there would be a little more emphasis of the caveat in all of the discussion of Jeter’s having reached within four hits of breaking Lou Gehrig’s Yankees franchise record of 2,721, that Gehrig stopped accumulating them when he was 35 years old, because he contracted a fatal disease that would claim his life.
I made this point years ago, as Cal Ripken approached Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak. It needs to be said again that Gehrig didn’t stop because of loss of talent, or retirement, or failure. And most remarkably of all, it should be emphasized that at least the last 174 of Gehrig’s hits (just as was the case for at least the last 165 of his games played), certainly came after Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis had already begun to kill him. 
Again, nothing to take away from Jeter’s accomplishments. Just a reminder of the remarkable quality of Gehrig’s, and that as time guarantees that his name will become harder and harder to find in the record books, he should never be forgotten.

And Now An Editorial Reply

I’ve often been accused of being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, but I don’t know that I’ve ever gone this far

I hadn’t heard previously of Dan Steinberg and his blogs at The Washington Post and The Sporting News, but he goes a long way to defend Manny Ramirez and skewer me for what I wrote here Saturday (I think that’s what he’s doing – it’s not exactly clear; it seems to be snark, a medium in which I’ve worked for 35 years, and whatever it is, I think he’s doing it wrong). I criticized the juxtaposition of Fox’s celebration of Ramirez’s return and the MLB-wide official tributes to Lou Gehrig on the 70th Anniversary of his “day” at Yankee Stadium in 1939.

As if he were worth of being alive, Keith; of sharing the status of “human being” with Lou Gehrig. Manny Ramirez should have declined all offers of oxygen, on this day, and on every other day that is an anniversary of a day on which Lou Gehrig was alive.

I confess to being mightily impressed at the head of steam he builds up on the long trek he makes towards his great climactic accusation of hypocrisy on my part.

For shame, for shame, baseball fans. You should all be standing in line to forfeit your mindless baseball entertainment, on account of there having been rule-breaking in that industry, which is devoted primarily to occupying the minds of 30-something lawyers with expense accounts, middle-aged journalists and college kids making fictional “trades” at 3 in the morning while eating week-old pizza slices they found in their closets. Why, oh why, don’t you brainless masses boycott this farce in favor of a more wholesome, ethical and Gehrig-approved entertainment option?

I also confess to becoming afraid for him as he accelerates, the way we all used to become afraid for the Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons, since we could see the edge of the mesa coming and he couldn’t.

I would argue further: that no one not named Gehrig should ever again be allowed to play baseball, even Strat-O-Matic. And that Manny Ramirez should be tasered every night for a year. And that the fans who have cheered for him should be tasered, too. And that Manny Ramirez is, pretty much, the Worst Person in the World. And that anyone who so much as cashes one check paid for with dirty baseball money from immoral cheering fans should be banished from civilized society.


Wait, Keith, why is there an MLB logo on your blog? 


Nooooooooooooooooooooo!


Umm… as anybody who reads the MLBlogs knows, baseball has no say over what is written here, by me, or anybody else. And, yes, this particular blog, MLB pays for. Only I don’t get checks to cash. The money gets split three ways: to St. Jude’s Hospital, to the Baseball Assistance Team, and to the education fund for the grandchildren of the former big leaguer and MLB.TV host John Marzano.


That was a long way to run to wind up going off a cliff like that. At least Mr. Steinberg was good enough to provide his own sound effect at the end.

It Disgusts Me

When I think of Lou Gehrig, I see him in a hotel room somewhere in the summer of 1938. It is the middle of the night, nearly silent, sweltering in Cleveland or St. Louis or Washington. If there is any air conditioning it is feeble and no match for humidity sitting like a giant sweater on the city.

The pain has been growing, almost imperceptibly, for months, maybe years. Worse still his inability to make his body do what he wants it to do has deteriorated. The discomfort may have awakened him, but it’s something else that has caused him to reach for the alarm clock, and instead knock it to the floor with a sour ring. This may have been begun years earlier – his eventual successor Babe Dahlgren told me he was playing first for the Red Sox in 1935 when Gehrig rounded the bag, slipped, and just could not steady himself to stand up.
He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it will be months more of pain, and confusion, and fear, and denial, and dread, before he has even heard the phrase. And then the world will close in on him: in March, 1939, he will stagger through spring training. In May he will take himself out of the lineup. Weeks later he will be at the Mayo Clinic. In July he will be honored at Yankee Stadium and initially be asked not to speak to the heartbroken crowd, for fear that just the sound of his words, his acknowledgment of what is so terribly wrong, will reduce 60,000 people to tears. By the following spring, working for the underprivileged and troubled youth of New York City, he will pose, smiling, at an office desk. Only later will it be revealed that the pencil he holds had to be placed there, and his fist closed around it, by somebody else’s hand. Barely two years after the diagnosis, exactly 16 years after his legendary streak began, it will all end.
And yet in the Bronx 70 years ago today, Lou Gehrig composed himself in such a manner, with a strength that eclipsed even what he showed on the ballfields of the ’20s and ’30s, that he could give one final measure of himself with such honesty, with such courage, with such a simple and direct connection to the human condition, that it is quoted, somewhere, every day.
And when those who have followed him in the game he loves, honor him, and this country, and themselves, by having those words read in every ballpark in the major leagues on this 4th of July, they emphasize all that is good and brave, despite the unbeatable odds and ultimate “bad break” we all face eventually, about the game, about the nation, about life itself.
But first, let’s take you out to San Diego where Manny Ramirez is just back from a 50-game suspension. For cheating. For cutting corners. For breaking rules. For lying. For deception. For letting down his teammates. For contributing to suspicions against every honest player. For raising a giant middle finger to sportsmanship. For abusing the fans. For risking that for which Lou Gehrig would’ve given anything – his own health.
Ramirez, of course, homered today in his first at bat. And some people cheered. As if he were just back from an injury, or a death in the family. As if he were a hero. As if he were an honest man. As if he were somehow worthy of sharing the meaningfulness of this day with Lou Gehrig.
Credit to Fox’s Tim McCarver – who has never gotten enough of it for this one quality he has shown, often at such great risk to his own security and even employment – for his honesty in pointing out the inappropriateness of the reaction to Ramirez’s return. He is not making a comeback. He is out on parole and it will be years – if ever – before many of us will believe he did not do something illegal, improper, or immoral, this morning.

And shame on the broadcasters who decided to treat Ramirez’s return as if it were something to be trumpeted, rather than what it is – something to be ashamed of. This trumpeting is barely about Manny Ramirez – this applies to McGwire and Bonds and Palmeiro and Rodriguez and all the rest, caught or admitted.
This is Lou Gehrig’s day. The rest of the juicers may come back and play tomorrow and there will not be boycotts. The Dodgers will probably go to the World Series, carried in part by a great flaming fraud like Ramirez. And judging by the brainless response of fans who would cheer anybody if they hit the ball 425 feet for their team, and boo anybody if they hit the ball 425 feet for their opponents, there will not even be significant repercussions. 
But today, there should have been. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and the others of the PED era did not belong in baseball today, and that they did not show the requisite awareness of their own shame, only makes it worse. Lord, send us a ‘roider who has the presence of mind to say: “On this day I do my penance; I don’t yet belong on the field even with just the memory of this man, I hope you’ll forgive me and I can again earn your trust.”
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