Happy Birthday to The Authentic Rabbitt

Nope.

Not Rabbit Maranville.

Today is the birthday of The Authentic Rabbitt, Joe Rabbitt, born on 16 January in 1900. A Tuesday, for those who are keeping track of these things.

Joe appeared in just two games in his major league career, what’s known as “a cup of coffee.” According to Wikipedia (do I ever cite anything else) Joe was one of a group of players, young prospects all, that Manager Tris Speaker sent into the game on 21 September 1922. “An opportunity for the fans to see various minor league prospects.”

As Joe appeared in only two games, he apparently did not quite live up to his “prospect” status. Sad to say.

Joe played in two games, with three at bats, a run and a hit. Lifetime batting average: .333. Not bad.

You might think, oh, Joe Rabbitt, two games, three at bats, not a very good player. Well I found some old statistics from the 1927 Western League that show that Joe Rabbitt could play some ball.

Joe Rabbitt led the league in hits, runs and stolen bases. He tended the garden and averaged .361 in 155 games…In 1928 and 29 he led the International League in stolen bases with 42 and 46 while playing for Toronto.

Arkansas Travellers, 1925 - Joe Rabbitt, front right

The 1925 Arkanasas Travellers. They finished last in the Western League that year. But that’s Joe Rabbitt sitting front row, far right, next to the mascot. The Mascot just happened to be a young kid named Brooks Robinson. (Nah, I’m kidding.)

Apparently Joe lived up to his name. He had some speed going there. Joe racked up 251 hits for the ’27 Omaha Buffaloes, and 172 runs, according to Nebraska Minor League Baseball History.

Joe died in 1969; I haven’t seen anything yet about his life outside of baseball. But here’s to Joe Rabbitt, major league ball player, a kid with some speed and talent. Why he didn’t make it in the big leagues is probably a story. The kid had all the tools, but perhaps life took an unexpected turn for him. Perhaps he hated Cleveland, or perhaps he fell in love with a gal down there in Arkansas. Perhaps he couldn’t hit the curve, or maybe he had to attend to family matters and the game just passed him by. It’s likely we’ll never know. I wonder if he looked back at his .333 lifetime batting average and was glad that he made it up to the majors for a couple games, a hit and a run. Or was he sad that he only had those two games, those three at bats.

Happy birthday Joe Rabbitt. Good game.

rabbits three

a little taste of the minors…

nine billion g webNot long ago, looking at the card of Roman Mejias, I noted that he lead the Pony League in swipes in 53, and the Big State League in doubles in ”54. Pony League? Big State League?

Looking for more information on these, I came across Mike McCann’s Minor League Baseball Page, One Man’s Quest to Visit Every Major and Minor League Baseball Team. And on that website there is a complete list of minor leagues.

Here I find that the Pony League was maybe more correctly written as the PONY League, for Pennsylvania, Ontario, and New York. The PONY League was a class D League, and existed from 1939-1956. The original teams included the Niagara Falls Rainbows, the Batavia Clippers, the Jamestown Jaguars, the Olean Oilers, the Bradford Bees, and the Hamilton Red Wings. This League went away in ’56, but was replaced in ’57 by the New York – Pennsylvania League, which still exists today. Batavia’s team is now called the MuckDogs, and Jamestown’s team is now the Jammers. Those are the only two remaining clubs of the original set. I like the name MuckDogs, but their logo was pretty bad. There’s now a team called the Vermont Lake Monsters — which I wonder how they got Lake-Monsters-logothat name — and they had the best logo that I saw of the bunch. It’s not that great, really, but I do like the name Lake Monsters.

The Big State League was a class B league from 1947 – ’57. This League was exclusively Texas, with teams originally in Sherman-Denison, Gainesville, Wichita Falls, Paris, Austin, Texarkana, Greenville and Waco. Favorite name: Wichita Falls Spudders. (Second favorite: Paris Red Peppers.) ParisRedPeppers45The Big State League’s Spudders were about the third Spudder team; others existed in earlier leagues. The name, incidentally, comes from a term used in the oil industry – a person who prepares and operates a drilling rig for oil wells.

wichita falls spudders

There are a lot of defunct baseball leagues out there. They are generally named by geographic territory they used to play in, like the Alabama Florida League, or the East Dixie League. Baseball Reference.com lists over 30,000 current and former minor league teams, and they say “this list is not exhaustive…” (I guess that depends upon your point of view.) I think it must be hard to tell when a club is an old club or a new club with an old name, because what they are doing here is listing every season for every team in a location. For example, they list 64 teams in Duluth, Minnesota, but that means there is 64 seasons of minor league play in Duluth, split up between the Duluth-Superior Dukes, Duluth-Superior White Sox, Duluth Dukes, Duluth Marine Iron, Duluth Heralds, Duluth Cardinals, St. Paul Apostles/Duluth Whalebacks, (one season, in the Western League – I wonder what the story was there. I like “Apostles” for a team name…) the Duluth Freezers, and the Duluth Jayhawks.

There is some confusion about those St. Paul Apostles. At least, I’m confused. Wikipedia says that the Apostles played in 1889, and were apparently managed  by an Irish immigrant named John Barnes. In 1886, Wikipedia says, he was associated with the St. Paul Freezers, and in 1887 the St. Paul Saints. In ’88 he took a year off, apparently, but in 1889 he was back at it, with the St. Paul Apostles. Barnes is kind of an interesting character; he apparently spent ten years in China promoting physical fitness?

Anyway… Baseball Reference.com says the St. Paul Apostles existed in just 1884, were also known as the St. Paul White Caps, had a 2-6-1 record and finished 9th out of 12. Apparently this was a “short season” league.

St. Paul Apostles logo round

Meanwhile, back on the Duluth/St.Paul team, there were a few great names: Kid Baldwin, Scrappy Carroll, Bones Ely, Bill Goodenough, Jouett Meekin, Rasty Wright, and Crazy Schmidt. I’d love to have baseball cards for Bones Ely and Crazy Schmidt. Bill Goodenough sounds familiar; perhaps he went on to other adventures in professional baseball.

He was, after all, certainly Goodenough.

wichita-falls-spudders-1930

the national pastime museum

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Can’t make the trip to Cooperstown?

The National Pastime Museum is always open!

national pastime museum

 

Well, partially open, anyway.

Three out of the four collection areas say “Coming soon!”

But I did enjoy the articles in the National Treasures section, and in particular the paintings in the section called “Now Is the Time,” done by Nancy Valelly, of stars from the old Negro Leagues.

This is a nice looking website that shows some promise; it will be interesting to see how it develops.

beisbol to base-ball

My little note about Vic Power led me to this little trailer. I haven’t been able to find a copy of the whole film yet, but it looks like it would be good.

On a related note, ESPN has a nice story, “The Cuban Senators,” talking about how (our own) Calvin Griffith brought hundreds of the (inexpensive) Cuban ballplayers to the U.S. to play ball, guys like Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Zoilo Versalles, and Tony Oliva. Julio Bécquer tells a nice story about Calvin making sure that he (Bécquer) had enough time in the majors to qualify for the pension, reminding us that even though Calvin may have been a crusty miserly old tightwad cheapskate skinflint, he was also… deep down inside… in some respects… a human being.

I found this picture of Calvin on an ebay auction – kinda looks like a mug shot, but nice to see a younger photo of Uncle Cal, rather than those photos of him as the jowly old guy.

Calvin Griffith to run Senators

While I’m here, I’ll just mention that old time ball player “Tricky” Nichols died on this date in 1897. Tricky’s lifetime record as a pitcher was 24-44, so he was apparently not as tricky as he needed to be. But I was looking at a list of the teams he played for and I guess you could say that he had a colorful past:Tricky Nichols

1875 – New Haven Elm Citys
1876 – Red Caps
1877 – St. Louis Brown Stockings
1878 – Providence Grays
1880 – Worcester Ruby Legs
1882 – Orioles

Baseball Reference reports that he was called “Tricky” because he was one of the early experimenters with changing speeds on his pitches, which is tricky indeed. Kind of makes him the Father of both the fastball and the change-up.

nine billion g webAnd looking into Tricky Nichols led me to this great blog, 19th Century Baseball, New Haven Style. This blog follows the adventures of the 1875 New Haven Elm Citys, and so is full of the exploits of Tricky Nichols and his teammates. I am going to have to spend some time here!

Japanese Baseball Cards

nine billion g webI came upon this site this morning, Japanese Baseball Cards – An English Guide to Baseball Cards from Japan, which takes a look, obviously, at baseball cards in Japan. What more needs to be said?

While the site looks at both current and vintage cards, it is more focused on the current issues, and to me the current issues are not that interesting or unusual; they could be Topps cards if they were in English.

03 BBM AS Iwakuma

The Vintage cards, though, I find much more fun, with the Japanese flavor of the art work.

japanese cards

This blog has been around since 2007, so it’s got some staying power. I suspect that this is probably the only English language site on this topic; I wonder how many Japanese language web sites might be devoted to this? (Knowing the Internet, probably a billion or so.)

Okay, I’m wrong. The blog provides links to a few other blogs on Japanese baseball, including this one, Japanese Vintage Baseball Cards. This blog just started this year, and, while there’s not a lot of posts yet, there are some interesting old Japanese baseball pictures. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

japanese cards -kagome setAnd it turns out that Vintage Japanese Baseball Cards is the work of Rob Fitts, who has written extensively about Japanese baseball, and has a nice history of Japanese baseball cards on his website. Thanks Rob!

 

 

this guy can paint the corners

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When I think of baseball paintings I think of Norman Rockwell’s painting of the umpire and the rain, and LeRoy Niemann, of course, he must have done some baseball, no? And of course, Van Gogh, who always wanted to do a series of paintings on baseball, but never felt “ready.” As he wrote to Theo:

“Je ne suis pas prêt, Théo, je ne suis pas assez artiste, assez audacieux, assez sauvage âme à peindre baseball comme il doit être peint, avec le feu et le tonnerre de roulement de la nuit ..

Et alors … tournesols.
oui. tournesols, Théo.
plus de tournesols.
Je suis tellement déprimée. Avez-vous entendu des scores de l’Amérique? Je me demande pendant la nuit que j’essaie de me reposer, comment les Athletics font. Avez-vous entendu quelque chose?
Theo, écrivez-moi.”

“I am not ready, Theo, I am not artist enough, bold enough, untamed soul enough to paint baseball as it should be painted, with fire and the rolling thunder of the night..

And so… sunflowers.
yes. sunflowers, Theo.
more sunflowers.
I am so so depressed. Have you heard any scores from America? I wonder at night as I try to rest, how the Athletics are doing. Have you heard anything?
Theo, write me.”

I just happened upon the website of the painter Graig Kreindler. Now here’s a guy who can paint the corners, and everything else as well.

Kreindler - Mantle

I came across his work yesterday morning as I was looking for widget images, and I love his work, the perspectives he chooses, the way he uses light and chooses his moment. Lots of great paintings on his website. Take a look. What better subject for painting than baseball? Colorful, focused action and grace, power, the broad green fields of summer, history. “The human drama of athletic competition.” (thanks Chris Shenkle, Wide World of Sports.)

The Nine Billion Websites of Baseball: Poor Old Baseball Cards

nine billion g webSome of the Nine Billion Websites of Baseball are, in fact, Blogs, as I had originally stated. I stumbled upon Poor Old Baseball Cards a couple days ago, while looking for pictures of Roger Maris, and I love everything about it, except he doesn’t post a lot lately, it seems. The card images that he posts are beautiful, battered, somehow sad, somehow noble, and his writing is a nice mix of historical facts and genuine respect for the card itself.

As I’ve implied, I love the card images on his site. He watches ebay for cards as they come down to the close of the auction, and bids on them if no one else wants them. As collectibles, he is overpaying. But still, he’s coming out ahead on the deal, I think.

Here’s a few images I loved.

rhoades Delahanty mcglynn Campanella Phil Rizzuto goose goslin

He also included his favorite comment on his site, which says:

Your site reminds me that there are other people who just love their cards for what they are, not for what potential investment value or actual or contrived rarity.The cards were a big part of my childhood, and I’ll never get rid of them, regardless of what they’re worth in terms of dollars.

Couldn’t have said it better.