Wikipedia: Baseball

October 9, 2009

Since it’s playoff time, I thought I’d write a baseball wikipedia entry. By the way, my recommendation for reading this article is that you read the story, and if you see something you’d like to learn more about, open it in a new tab and get back to it later. Then you can take your own wikipedia journey.

Baseball is a human game played by two teams of 9 (although you can have additional players on your bench for substitutions). Wikipedia considers baseball a ‘bat-and-ball game, like Cricket. KDawg and I watched cricket one time, with the intention of learning the game.

The origins of baseball are somewhat murky. There is a reference to the game in the book A Little Pretty Pocket Book, from 1744 (referenced as base-ball). Some believe it derives from rounders an English game from the time, while recent research suggests that it may actually be derived from the unfortunately name stoolball. Baseball is not the only thing we have trouble determing the origin of.

The two oldest surving major leagues are the National League and the American League. The National League was formed in 1876, with 8 inaugural members. Two survive today: Chicago White Stockings (Chicago Cubs) and the Boston Red Stockings (Atlanta Braves). 4 teams were named after socks (Brown, Red, Red, White), two were named after colors (Blue, Gray), and one was named Mutual of New York. We’ve come a long way with our team names.

The American League became a major league in 1901. It only had one sock based team (Chicago White Stockings) and one color based team (Cleveland Blues). Fascinating. In a gigantic ‘What If’, the Baltimore Orioles were moved from Baltimore to New York in 1903, where they would eventually become the Yankees. Here are some interesting notes from the evolution of the American League:
1) The Washington Senators (of the American League) were officially renamed the Washington Nationals in 1905, but were known to the media as the Washington Senators. They wore ‘Nationals’ on their jersey for 2 years, and W’s for the other 52.
2) The Washington Senators were established twice and moved twice. In 1961, they became the Twins, and after being re-established in 1961, they moved again in 1972 to become the Texas Rangers.
3) The Oakland Athletics were officially known as the Oakland A’s from 1973-1981, although the name Oakland Athletics appears on the World Series trophies they won in ’73 and ’74.

The World Series is contested annually between the National League and American League to determine the champion of major league baseball. It has been contested every year since 1903 with the exception of 1904 and 1994. In 1904, manager John McGraw of the New York Giants boycotted the World Series because he thought the American League was inferior and unworthy. In 1994, Satan, playing a trick on all of us, organized a player strike, leading to the cancellation of the World Series.

The World Series has been won by the American League 61 times. I still believe in John McGraw.

The greatest divide between the American League and the National League (besides a bunch of championships) is the designated hitter. Wikipedia says the designated hitter is stupid and only stupid leagues use it. That’s actually what I say. Wikipedia says that the DH was incorporated into the American League in 1973 by an 8 to 4 vote. The DH spot can be forfeited (either by accident or will), and there are some interesting stories regarding that rule. Here is my favorite:

In the bottom of the 8th on July 15, 1993, the Seattle Mariners’ Jeff Nelson was moved from the pitcher position to left field. The strategy allowed Nelson to stay in the game while left-handed pitcher Dennis Powell came in to pitch to Mike Greenwell in a game at Boston. By moving the pitcher into a defensive position, Nelson was put into the designated hitter’s spot in the batting order while the new pitcher (Powell) was placed into the left fielder’s place in the batting order. (It is very uncommon to see this particular move in an American League ballgame due to the DH.) Powell’s turn in the batting order came up in the top of the ninth: Pete O’Brien pinch hit for him. Left fielder Nelson was then moved back to pitcher, and pitched in the bottom of the ninth.

If you do nothing else, read the section of the DH article concerning losing your DH. It is really good and well researched.

Also, enjoy your weekend.

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