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Baseball's Dead Ball Era: 1900 to 1919

The early part of the Twentieth Century saw the rise of an age that has come to be known as the Dead Ball Era of baseball. The Dead Ball Era reportably spanned the Progressive Reform Age leading up to the Roaring Twenties, which ran from 1900 to 1919. During this time, professional and semi-professional ball clubs relied heavily on defense and pitching, and scoring was at a premium.

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Pitchers dominated the pace of the games, and several legendary pitchers established their lasting legacy during this period. Some of the most notable were Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. In part, these fellows and several others were responsible for a lack of offensive production during this period, but there were other reasons as well.

"Dead Ball" also describes the baseball’s actual condition, especially in the latter stages of the games after it had been manipulated, defaced and altered, which was standard practice at that time. Baseballs were considered expensive, and at three dollars each, generally only one ball was used per game. The hardness and aerodynamics of the ball were poor by modern standards and thus the sphere was detrimental to a hitter’s success.

In general terms, even though the ball was "dead" by most accounts, it actually did not provide a huge advantage to either offense or defense. The ball could not be hit for great distance, but the poor condition of the ball decreased the speed while increasing the movement of the pitch, thus making it somewhat easier for the hitters to make contact. Hit balls did not generate the tremendous speed off the bat as in today’s game. This benefited the defenders in the field. Balls were only replaced if they were hit into the stands and lost. There were not many long-ball hitters and "short game" strategy was common, although some sources say that strategy as a whole was lacking in the Dead Ball Era, which may have further added to a lack of offensive production.

The "foul-strike" rule was installed in 1901 in the National League and 1903 in the American, whereas hitters were charged with their first two strikes on foul balls. The new rule benefited pitchers and cause offensive output to decline further. It also remained legal to throw "spit balls", and although illegal, defacing the ball in some way was a very common practice. Consequently, as you might expect with these conditions, hitting a soft, wet, and usually defaced ball
resulted in may singles and fewer doubles, triples and homers.

Dividing pitching responsibility among a larger bullpen also became trendy, as did the sacrifice bunt. Both of these strategies had a detrimental effect as well on a hitter’s overall performance. Strangely, there were some legendary record setting hitters from this era, most notably, Ty Cobb. Hailing from Georgia, his nickname was the "Georgia Peach," Cobb was best known for his pinpoint hitting accuracy and his never-say-die stubborn character. He set the record for career batting average at .366 and for runs scored with 2,245; both marks still stand to this day. He also finished his career first in hits; this record stood until the mid-1980s when Pete Rose broke the record. In 1936, Ty Cobb became the very first inductee of baseball’s Hall of Fame, earning 222 out of 226 votes.

During the "Dead Ball Era", managers relied on defensive strategy much more than offensive strategy. It was said, "you could shake a tree and find a bat, but finding a glove was a whole different matter." Offensive skills were not highly sought after by managers. The focus was on defense. Some critics argue that "dead" baseballs probably were not the cause of low scoring, given there was no change in the ball's construction between the high scoring 1890s and the low scoring 1900s. The 1894 season saw the highest offensive totals in runs scored ever recorded in the National League. The construction of the ball was changed in 1911 in an attempt to make the ball livelier and to increase scoring. The balls were corked for the first time. And yet, the Dead ball Era continued for another eight years-until 1919.

In 1908, an incident occurred in the National League that has come to be widely known as the "Merkle Incident." It occurred during a regular season meeting between the Giants and the Cubs, In a tie game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, runners on first and third, a single hit by Al Bridwell apparently won the game for the Giants as the runner scored from third. However, Fred Merkle was on first and ran to the clubhouse instead of advancing to second base, partly because the fans were mobbing the field at the Polo Grounds and partly because it was not entirely customary in that era to run out game winning hits. The Cubs’ second baseman, Johnny Evers later claimed to have alertly retrieved the ball and tagged second base. By a strict interpretation of the rules, Merkle was forced out at second, and the game winning run nullified. Because of the pandemonium on the field, none of the umpires saw Evers make the play. Since an official protest was registered, the League ordered the game replayed at the end of the season only if it was necessary. It turned out that it was necessary when the Cubs and Giants ended the regular season tied for first place. The Cubs won the replayed game and then went on to win the League pennant and then the World Series. The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since.

Even though it wasn’t brought to the media’s and public’s attention until 1920, no article on the Dead Ball Era would be complete without mentioning The White Sox of 1919, or as they have become widely known: the "Black Sox". Many of the White Sox players felt they were underpaid. This was in light of a new trend where owners in both leagues offered the best players much higher salaries than they had been previously paid. At the same time, White Sox Owner Charlie Comiskey felt cutting costs was the best response to a poor showing by his team in 1918. As a result, a conspiracy ensued by eight of the starting White Sox players to throw the World Series.

Many observers of the series suspected this was the case and a long running controversy eventually led to a Grand Jury investigation. Eddie Cicotte was the first to come forward and admit his part in the conspiracy, followed by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. All eight of the "Black Sox" were suspended from baseball. Even though there was no law against conspiring to throw baseball games, and all 8 players were eventually acquitted, they
were all ruled permanently ineligible.


Brief History of the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Team

The Dodgers came into existence in 1860s, when the Brooklyn Atlantics ruled the former now non-existent baseball leagues. In 1884 the team joined the American Association (AA) as the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The team’s ambiguous future shattered instantaneously when they won the American Association in 1889.

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The AA folded in 1890 and the team switched to the NL as the Brooklyn Superbas. Under Ned Hanlon, the Superbas won the NL pennants in 1899 and 1900, becoming the only franchise in MLB history to win pennants in different leagues in successive years.

From 1901 until 1916, the team saw various ups and downs. Hanlon’s desire to own the team never materialized. He put himself heavily in debt and even invested heavily for the construction of Ebbets Field, which would become the Dodgers' home in 1913.

Under Manager Wilbert Robinson, popularly known as "Uncle Robbie”, the Dodgers won pennants in 1916 and 1920 with the line-up featuring players like pitcher Jeff Pfeffer and outfielder Zack Wheat. The club lost both World Series, to Boston and Cleveland, respectively.

In the late 1920s the team became known as the "Daffiness Boys" for their distracted, error-ridden style of play, probably because of Robinson’s helplessness to focus on the field after he assumed the title of president. He returned to manage the team to improve the performance of the team.

The Dodgers rebounded from a 20-year pennant drought in 1941 under Manager Leo Durocher, a former Brooklyn shortstop. The same season, the Dodgers introduced batting helmets to Major League Baseball. The following season, Branch Rickey was hired as president and general manager of the team. Rickey made history when he integrated the team after signing Negro League superstar Jackie Robinson in 1947. Robinson had an instant impact on the team. He along with teammates Pee Wee Reese, Arky Vaughan, and Gil Hodges led the club to the 1947 pennant. Robinson, Catcher Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe became the powerhouse of the team in the late 40s and early 50s. From 1949 to 1952, the Dodgers won six NL pennants with a World Series victory in 1955 against the Yanks.

In 1958 owner Walter O’Malley moved the club to Los Angeles. Manager Walter Alston led the Dodgers to their second World Series victory in 1959. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he guided the Dodgers to four more pennants. Moreover, the Dodger’s pitching staff during this era was invincible. The Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, and two years later they bested the Minnesota Twins to take home their fourth World Series title. Under Manager Walter Alston, the Dodgers won their last pennant in 1974.

In 1976, Future Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda became the team’s new manager. He managed the club for 22 seasons, leading it to four NL pennants and two World Series championships in 1981 and 1988. In 1992 the Dodgers finished the season in last place for the first time in 87 years of their existence. The team rebounded once again in 1994, 1995, and 1996 to claim the division titles. Before the start of the 1998 regular season playoffs, Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch purchased the team. The logo of the team has Dodgers written in a blue script with a streaking baseball.


History Of Baseball Uniforms In The Major Leagues

Baseball Uniforms in the Major Leagues: The Evolution of the Battle Suit

As you enter the ball park to take your seat, one of the first things that you notice is the players’ uniforms. There is a very good chance you don’t know a single one of the people on the field personally—it’s the colors on their uniforms that immediately tell you whether he is friend or foe. As well as helping you bond to the team, much like a flag for your country, they keep you aware of the fact t...

MLB, Baseball, Baseball Uniforms, Uniforms

Baseball Uniforms in the Major Leagues: The Evolution of the Battle Suit

As you enter the ball park to take your seat, one of the first things that you notice is the players’ uniforms. There is a very good chance you don’t know a single one of the people on the field personally—it’s the colors on their uniforms that immediately tell you whether he is friend or foe. As well as helping you bond to the team, much like a flag for your country, they keep you aware of the fact that you are just a spectator, and that they are the professional baseball warriors.

Just as seeing your favorite players in their uniforms excites you and makes you proud to be a fan, for a player there is a huge sense of pride and belonging to walking on to the field with a team full of other players proudly wearing the same jersey, looking at all the fans out there. There, in one of the stands, a player sees a fan with his jersey on. Just as these uniforms remind the fans that the people in uniform are the players, these uniforms tell the players, “I am a soldier of baseball, and this is my team.

Ever since history has been recorded, throughout all the various battles and wars our planet has seen, there has always been a great sense of pride revolving around the uniform, or armor, a great aura that that you just can’t put your finger on. This as well applies to the brilliantly colored and designed uniforms of baseball.

History’s first record of an official baseball uniform was that of the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York City, and was introduced in 1849. The uniform consisted of a white flannel shirt, a straw hat, and blue wool pants. Today’s baseball uniforms are a far cry from this. Synthetic fabrics used in simple yet intricate patterns of colors. Well, are uniforms didn’t just change overnight, the styles changed, little by little, over time.

In 1868, knickers are introduced to the game of baseball by the Cincinnati Red Stockings. These were more comfortable to play in and allowed the players much more movement. These also showed a very important feature of the team’s uniform, their red stockings. Colors and patterns on uniforms were played with a lot between 1880 and 1890. 1882 saw the rise and fall of multi-colored uniforms to correspond to a player’s position, while the only discerning factor between the teams was their stocking color. In 1888, three major league teams, Washington and Detroit of the National League, and Brooklyn of the American Association, introduced stripes on their uniforms. The checkered uniform, though short lived, was introduced by the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in 1889. Brooklyn remained as the trend-setters for baseball uniforms, bringing back their checked uniform again in 1907, 1916, and 1917. They also had a trial with satin uniforms in the ’40s and became the first major league team to put numbers on the front of their jerseys in ’52.

The timeline of changes can go on and on, down to the tiniest details, but thanks to the trial and error of baseball warriors and their commanders before us, we have the uniform today that is recognized by the masses, yet retaining the mystique and pride surrounding uniforms of all types.


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