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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dave Roberts Stealing the Hearts of Boston Red Sox Fans: The Baseball Historian’s Notes for the Week of October 19

The 2014 World Series matchup has been determined with the surging Kansas City Royals taking on the battle-tested San Francisco Giants. The Royals are making the most of their first playoff appearance in 29 years while the Giants will now have appeared in three of the past five Fall Classics. Some don’t think that it’s much of a matchup but no matter how exciting it is, it will go down as another chapter in the annals of baseball history. That being said, on to this week’s notes…

*The eleventh anniversary of the “Steve Bartman game” has passed, marking an improbable Chicago Cubs loss in the playoffs to the Florida Marlins that was attributed to a hapless fan. Five outs away from a Chicago trip to the World Series in 2003, Bartman reached for a foul ball, a movement which impeded Cubs’ leftfielder Moises Alou from making the catch. Despite holding a commanding 3-0 lead, Chicago went on to give up eight runs in the inning and lose the game and eventually the series. This article commemorates the game, but the real treat is the embedded video for “Catching Hell,” the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about that game and the role of scapegoating in sports.

*Better late than never, a Wisconsin banker has returned a banner to the Royals that he “borrowed” as a college student in 1985 during their last World Series appearance. He kept it all these years as a conversation piece and because of embarrassment. However, the team’s recent success prompted him to return the flag, a gesture much appreciated by the organization.

*University of Delaware English professor Bernard McKenna is in the process of researching baseball during the time when the game was still segregated. Having grown up in the Baltimore area, his interest focused on that particular region. Recently, his work turned up a long-forgotten 1930 photo from the archives of the Baltimore Black African showing Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige in the uniform of the Baltimore Black Sox—a team which he spent just one year during a lengthy career that saw him suit up for numerous squads. This rare find portrays Paige in just one of the many uniforms he donned during his lengthy and transitory career.

*Want to incorporate a little baseball history in your next vacation? Beth J. Harpaz from the Miami Herald has you covered, recently compiling a list of some of the best museums around the country that focus on that subject. Now that the heavy lifting has been done, gas up the Family Truckster and hit the road in search of these treasures.

*Former third baseman Ken Caminiti was one of baseball’s most recently polarizing players. He was talented and tenacious, who won the 1996 National League MVP in 1996 with the San Diego Padres but also openly past admitted steroid use in 2002 shortly after his career ended. His story became all the more tragic and complicated following his untimely death in 2004 at the age of 41. His career and demons have been explored in great depth and detail by Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller, which provides a lot more insight into one of the game’s great competitors, who also happened to have a very dark side.

*These days, when a player struggling at the plate wants to turn things around they might put in extra work with a coach or change up the equipment they are using. Times have changed, as the Baseball History Daily recently dug up a Hugh Fullerton article from a 1911 edition of The Chicago Examiner describing how former Detroit Tigers’ second baseman Jim Delahanty correlated receiving a blow to the head with increased success at the plate. The weirdness that is this story is best summed up by one of the former player’s teammates—’If I were you,’ said Davy Jones, ‘I’d hire a mule to kick me three of four times, and maybe I’d hit 1000 per cent.” A career .283 hitter, Delahanty must have taken a knock or two to the old noggin to have had success like that…

*The Boston Red Sox are an organization made up of many great moments and memories. However, perhaps none of them top the stolen base pinch runner Dave Roberts had in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. With his team down three games to none at the time, his successful theft led to him scoring the tying run late in the game and jumpstarted the team to a historic comeback that culminated in them winning the World Series—the first time they had done so in 86 years.

Unbelievably, October 17th marked the 10-year anniversary of Roberts’ play. This clip from the ESPN 30 for 30 film Four Days in October bring the magic of the moment back to life.

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