The latest issue of SABR’s The National Pastime, A Review of Baseball History, is in the snail mail for members. As usual, there's a great lineup of interesting articles on a variety of topics. Here’s a look at those that cover or touch on the Giants.
Let’s start off with cartoons. As the distinguished Marc Okkonen notes in his book Baseball Memories, 1900-1909, “many newspapers survived with little or no photography. Line artists and cartoonists provided much of the visual enhancements to the baseball reports.”
Ed Brackett of Hudson, New Hampshire brings us back to those times with a look at Wallace Goldsmith, a Boston sports cartoonist. His daily work poked fun at the Red Sox and Braves and their opponents in the dead ball era. “The artist had the power to satirize,” Brackett writes of Goldsmith, “and it was a duty which he seemed to relish.”
The examples Brackett provide show large cartoons with multiple drawings and comments. One such set of scenes came on April 27, 1916 when umpire Bill Klem got mad at the Giants’ bench and “banished all players to the dressing room.” Skipper John McGraw is seen in the middle of the team parade leaving the dugout. He’s carrying a book labeled “McGraw’s vocabulary.”
Turning to a subject that was no laughing matter, David Mandell, a lifelong Giants fan from Connecticut, researched “Danny Gardella and the Reserve Clause.” Gardella, who played outfield with the Giants in ‘44 and ’45, challenged MLB’s reserve clause. Mandell details the story of this forgotten pioneer who passed away last year.
The next topic involving the Jints is the history of spring training in Texas. Spring training is a lesser-researched area, so many will appreciate this article written by Frank Jackson, a Rangers fan in Dallas.
The Giants trained in the Lone Star State 18 times, the most of any major league team. The annual trek of the McGrawmen to Marlin Springs (1908-1919) and then San Antonio (1920-1923, 1929-1931) provided good material for the press. Jackson notes that McGraw especially liked Marlins Springs. His players were less distracted there and the town had good proximity to cities where the Giants could travel to by train and play exhibition games. As part of the sweetheart deal with the Giants, the town gave Emerson Park to the Giants. Jackson notes the Giants "controlled the property until the 1970s."
The Browns, White Sox, Cardinals and Tigers each made at least nine trips to Texas. The state had its heyday in the dead ball era before the boom in Florida lured the teams away.
Single season records are fun to cover. Steve Treder, a lifelong Giants fan who needs no introduction if you read The Hardball Times, looks back at the 1947 Giants. They earned the nickname “The Window Breakers” by cracking a record 221 home runs that season. Treder first puts the home run achievement in perspective, saying, “Nobody saw it coming. Nobody could have, because nothing quite like it had ever happened before.”
All these articles are quite enjoyable but my favorite one is by Richard Smiley. A lifelong fan of the White Sox, he puts the magnifying glass to the Giants’ infamous failure to execute a pickle play on Eddie Collins in Game Six of the 1917 World Series. (Chicago ahead three games to two).
In the top of the fourth inning, with no runs on the board at the Polo Grounds, the White Sox had Eddie Collins on third and Shoeless Joe Jackson on first. Happy Felsch then hit a grounder to starter Rube Benton.
Accounts of what happened during the rundown do not all agree. We do, however, know how the play ended. Third sacker Heinie Zimmerman chased Collins home but no one was covering. The fans and the press had a field day with Zimmerman who reportedly said something like, “Who was I suppose to throw to, Klem?”
Smiley’s research, which includes looking at 19 different accounts of the play and subsequent writings, discovered that Zimmerman never said that about the play. Smiley's searching found that Ring Lardner made the question up as part of an imaginary conversation between Zimmerman and Mcgraw.
"Over time," Smiley writes, "the quote became entrenched in baseball literature as writers such as Tom Meany and Charles Alexander, using the Graham books (McGraw of the Giants and The New York Giants: An Informal History) as reference, included it in their own texts."
He also found photos that showed that Collins did not have “an easy time outrunning Zim.” His research includes a chart showing the writers who covered the game and who they blamed for blowing the run-down play (mostly Zimmerman but a few Rariden/Holke).
This is a nifty piece of detective work in another great issue of The National Pastime. A tip of the hat to all the researchers.