I’d Like a Ticket in “The Hot Corner”

When you make it to the seventh-inning-stretch with a slew of fat pitches and consequent dingers you are surely hoping that a grand slam might save the day. Or worse yet, it’s a no-hitter — for your team. At times even great ballplayers have slumps and even the sluggers strike-out, just ask the “mighty Casey” of the Mudville nine. Still, you have your seat in the hot corner and perhaps some “peanuts and cracker jack” the game may as well go into extra innings.

Can you imagine what April would be without the Opening Days of Baseball? David Shannon explores this dark dilemma in How George Radbourn Saved Baseball: “But one year a young ballplayer named Boss Swaggert was in a terrible slump. Fans who once cheered for him now booed when he came to bat. And the more the crowds jeered, the meaner Boss Swaggert’s heart became.” After a particularly bad game, “Boss stormed off the field. He vowed he would never play baseball again. And someday, if he had his way, no one would.” Boss works hard and grows rich. He uses his money and influence to “rid America of baseball forever.” Boss even manages “to have The President arrested for ‘Conspiracy to Commit Baseball’, he did after all, honor the tradition of throwing the first ball of the season. Boss becomes the “Chief Executive Officer of America” and outlaws baseball for good.

People tried to adjust. Baseball was “only a game”, they could manage without it. “But then April rolled around… and May…and June…and still the weatherman said, ‘More unseasonably cold temperatures and continued snow flurries tomorrow.’ Trees stayed bare, flowers didn’t bloom, birds didn’t sing, and winter went on and on…Georgie Radbourn was born in April during what Boss’s newspapers called ‘the Mother of all Snowstorms’. Now Ebbet and Mary Radbourn were simple folks”, but Georgie was no ordinary child. You see, Boss had outlawed all of baseball, the stadiums, the baseball diamonds, and all the lingo. But when little Georgie opened his mouth, “forbidden sayings of baseball popped out”. Georgie must be protected from Boss’s “Factory Police”.

Georgie is just a kid with an innate love for and knowledge of baseball. Since it is always winter and there are no baseballs, Georgie and his peers pass their time throwing snowballs: Georgie and his friends found that the Factory Police made the most thrilling targets. And so Georgie works his pitching arm without a proper ball, pitching mound, or a batter. Therefore he is ready when his big showdown with Boss comes. The challenge to Boss is: “ ‘If Georgie Radbourn can strike you out on three pitches, you will free him and once again make baseball the national pastime.’ ” And Boss’s response is: “ ‘I accept the offer… And if I should manage a hit… I will cut out his treasonous tongue and throw him and his parents into prison for the rest of their lives. Let’s get on with it!’ ”

Boss Swaggert’s thinking is: “This pip-squeak couldn’t wiff me in a million years. I used to be a famous hitter.” “Used to be” is hard to count on and remember now Boss possesses a “mean heart” and a hatred for baseball, the game he once loved. It is therefore no surprise that just like the Mighty Casey, Boss’s results are “Steeerike three! You’re outta here!” And then a wonderful thing happened… As the crowd leaped to its feet and Boss crumpled in a heap on home plate, the steely cover of clouds broke open, and the sun came streaming through like a ballclub taking the field to start a new season. The snow melted away to reveal a shimmering green baseball diamond… ‘Play ball!’ shouted Georgie. And everybody did.”

David Shannon creates a world in which the joy of baseball is taken away from all. Fortunately this is a fictitious world and fortunately Shannon also creates the hero, Georgie Radbourn, who defeats the evil Boss Swaggert and in doing so resurrects baseball and all the joy it brings. Imagine if your race or gender kept you from playing baseball in the major leagues. Imagine if those who opposed your progress ignored your talent.

Satchel Paige is famous for many reasons. He was a brilliant pitcher. Just ask Joe DiMaggio, “The best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.” He had longevity in America’s “favorite pastime”: Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues, Paige compiled such feats as 64 consecutive scoreless innings, a stretch of 21 straight wins, and a 31–4 record in 1933. For 22 years, Paige mauled the competition in front of sellout crowds. Sure, he liked the attention, but to him, there was only one goal. That goal would be to pitch in the Major League…In 1948, Paige’s dream came true. The Cleveland Indians were in need of extra pitching for the pennant race…In addition to Cleveland, Paige played for St. Louis and Kansas City... What made Paige so memorable was his longevity in the game. The main reason his age was so difficult to track was his seemingly endless success. He rarely answered questions about his age, and when he did, he replied with something like: ‘Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’ ” So, Satchel Paige was also famous for his showboating and his answers to questions, which would become Satchel Paige Quotes. But perhaps most of all he is revered for “Striking Out Jim Crow” and like Jackie Robinson, rising above discrimination to “Play Ball” for the Major Leagues.

With the 25th Anniversary approaching, the film, A League of Their Own, has made remarkable strides in educating baseball lovers and the general public about the role women have played in the game of baseball. During WWII baseball was suffering as the male population was called to serve, women were called to “fill in” for men. But, The Rockford Peaches and their competition in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL),did much more than entertain. With an “All-Star” cast this film provides the significance of women in baseball’s history.

While exploring the topic of women in the history of baseball, make sure to read Queen of the Diamond, The Lizzie Murphy Story. Lizzie Murphy was born “in 1894 and everyone said baseball was not a game for girls.” However, Lizzie was better than most boys and was willing to become a “batboy” and do whatever it would take to be near or in the game. Lizzie followed her brother, Henry, and his team and often saved the day by remembering key equipment, like the ball. Whenever Lizzie got the chance to prove herself in a game, she did. And therefore, “Lizzie Murphy was the first woman to play in a major league exhibition game and the first person to play on the National and the American leagues’ all-star teams. In one exhibition game, she faced the great pitcher Satchel Paige. If anyone expected Paige to soften his pitches for a woman, they were wrong. He bore down with everything he had. Nevertheless, Lizzie hit a single off him.”

Perhaps Satchel looked at Lizzie with mutual respect. He did not soften because Lizzie was his equal: “Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.” The greats of baseball may rise from average circumstances, and most likely have worked to overcome tremendous obstacles, but they are not common or ordinary.

So, embrace the rain delays, the crowds, and any additional logistics that might deter you from visiting the Ballparks of America. And if you need to brush up on your lingo, ask Frank and Ernest for help.

Quotations in this post are from primary sources listed and pictured.

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