“Holy shit, I can’t believe I got killed by Uncle Fester.”
~An Actual Murderer
“Actors aren’t as tough as they used to be” sounds like a sentence you’d hear an angry old man shouting from his porch, possibly to children gliding down the sidewalk on Heelys. But there is some truth to it. Sure, a lot might have to do with the times we live in, but it’s easy to forget that Hollywood wasn’t always full of glamour and George Clooneys. The Golden Age of Hollywood was pretty much fueled by animal deaths on set and carefully regimented drug cocktails forced upon strung out teenage actresses off it, and if you managed to pull through that minefield relatively successful and sane, then you had to be made of some pretty solid stuff.
We mention that because while we (correctly) look back at groundbreaking actors such as Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, and Humphrey Bogart as visionaries and badasses, there’s one actor who probably was the toughest son of a bitch to step in front of a camera (yes, we know that list includes Danny Trejo) if for no other reason than the fact that his childhood, we’re pretty sure, was haunted. Which probably helped him prepare for the role of Uncle Fester.
Yes, we’re going to talk about Jackie Coogan, who could totally beat you up.
Jackie Coogan: Uncle Fester Was Kind of a Badass
“*gets hit by lightning* *chugs a beer* Don’t worry guys, I’m good.”
Most history curriculums are pretty bad at telling us about the crazy things that have actually happened in the world, if you think about it. Sure, McCarthyism during the Cold War is “something we should know” but how come no one talks about the time we tried to build a military base on the moon in 1959? Hell, even when history tries to get edgy (like, for instance, the existence of Teddy Roosevelt) it somehow manages to leave out some of the best parts (like how his daughter was a pet-snake keeping badass). This goes double for history. We know about Babe Ruth and his philandering, boozy ways, but we don’t know about the pure insanity that was Charlie Sweeney. Likewise, everyone and their mother knows at least the name “Cy Young” when it comes to pitchers, but was Cy Young an alcoholic who once was struck by lightning during a game that he stayed in and finished? We didn’t think so.
So we here at America Fun Fact of the Day have decided to do history a favor and help them spice things up a bit by telling you a little bit about Ray Caldwell, one of the most badass pitchers to ever play professional baseball, and one of the few people who can give Charlie Sweeney a run for his money.
Ray Caldwell: The Alcoholic Lightning Rod of Major League Baseball
“Wait. His name was Alfred Mosher Butts? Are you sure? This wasn’t someone on staff fucking with Wikipedia again, was it?”
~AFFotD’s Fact Checking Team
We’ve all at one time or another played Scrabble—statistically, it’s in 1/3 of every American household, and 95% of every American grandparent household. If you haven’t played it before, you’re probably not reading this article, due to your severe and truly heartbreaking illiteracy, but on the off chance that someone told you how to use those programs that read websites out loud for blind people, we’ll throw you a bone. Scrabble is a classic American game where you form words on a grid to get points. If you said, “Oh, just like Words With Friends?” hello readers who were born after 9/11. But yes, it’s what Words With Friends ripped off. It’s a simple, yet enjoyable, game that stupid people absolutely despise for obvious reasons.
But it is an American invention. And not only that, it was invented by a man that we can’t believe isn’t better known in society. Partly because he invented an iconic game enjoyed by millions, if not billions. But also because his name was Alfred Mosher Butts! We are children, but we don’t care, we will always find that funny. So let’s talk about him!
The Inventor of Scrabble Was Actually Named Alfred Mosher Butts
“Even to make love, you need experience.”
~Pedro Ramos, 54-year-old pitcher for the Senior Professional Baseball Association. Seriously.
As a nation, we have more options for live sporting events then we know what to do with. Between high school, college, and professional levels of football, baseball, basketball, and sure, hockey, Americans could conceivably see a live sporting event every single day of the year without even having to consider lowering themselves to watch a Major League Soccer match. But with so many games at our disposal, we’ve reached a bit of a saturation point, and trying to add another league to the market is practically impossible. Remember the XFL? A multi-millionaire tried to make a new football league, and even with a player named “He Hate Me” basically got laughed out of existence in less than a year.
It’s hard to start a sporting league now and really get enough interest to keep it in existence. Never was that more obvious than in 1989 when real-estate millionaire Jim Morley decided to start the Senior Professional Baseball Association. What’s the SPBA, you ask? Well, unfortunately for those of us that have to type it out, they didn’t call it that. It went by “The Senior League.” But the Senior League was a short lived (it lasted one-and-a-half seasons) winter professional baseball league that took place entirely in Florida with players who had to be older than 35 (except the catchers, who could be 32). And it is probably one of the most delightfully batshit leagues to have ever been played in these United States. So let’s go on a history lesson, shall we?
The History of the Senior Professional Baseball Association
Why do people keep asking me about green eggs and ham, dammit?”
America is a young enough nation that history can pretty accurately tell us about our founders, with some embellishment and omissions because if we’re being honest and cynical enough we can admit that history writers used to pretty much be the old time equivalent of PR agents. But we know a lot about the lives of the people that helped create this nation. We know about George Washington’s wooden teeth (which is a myth), we know that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a key on it to discover electricity (which was also probably a myth) and we know about Paul Revere riding through the streets warning “The British are coming” (also bullshit). Okay, so these are some bad examples. But the point is, the people that represent America, people like Washington, Jefferson, and Monroe, are at least historical figures that we know a decent amount about.
Which is why it’s interesting that we don’t often talk about Uncle Sam, the finger-pointing goateed patriot who is basically timeshares with bald eagles to be America’s mascot. That’s because we just assume he was an invention created to get people to support various war efforts. But most of us don’t really think much about his actual origin. Sure, you might point to Columbia or Brother Jonathan as examples of America-personifying precursors, but you’d have to be a very specific type of person to both know about those examples and want to nerd out over it. But for the rest of us, not only does Uncle Sam have a relatively rich history, but he’s actually based on a real person. So let’s talk about Samuel Wilson, the man who actually was Uncle Sam. Well, at least officially.
Samuel Wilson- The Man Who Was (More or Less) Uncle Sam
“I like to ride my bicycle.”
The average American exercises only four times a year, terrified with the knowledge that a fifth instance of physical excursion would cause their chest to explode and shower the room with under-digested hot Cheetos. Don’t hold us to that, but we’re pretty sure we’re right. And if we’re wrong, don’t tell our doctor because otherwise he’d probably start giving us shit for our lifestyle choices. However, some Americans are immune to this totally-not-made-up-by-us exercise allergy. In fact, some manage to get themselves out there past all the marathons and Tough Mudders to find truly badass ways to get their sweat on.
One of those intrepid athletes? Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, the woman who biked around the world in 1894.
Annie Londonderry, America’s First Star Cyclist
“Listen, we’re just sort of winging this as we go along.”
~1800s Major League Baseball Commissioners
We’ve been talking a lot about baseball in the past several months, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering that the sport is a topic we have very rarely discussed over the past four years. Yes, it’s America’s Pastime, but it’s also kind of boring from an outside perspective. But we stumbled upon something when looking up the silliest Major League Baseball team names that we could find during their early years—before baseball was a bankable commodity, they pretty much let anyone pick up a bat and play for (not much) money. That led to crazy ballplayers, goofy names, and that one time where a guy got paid a full professional baseball salary to show up to an empty stadium every day and play himself in a disbanded league.
Baseball during the 19th, and somewhat during the start of the 20th, century was at times hilariously inept, completely marginalized, and interesting as fuck. So we’re going to look into our high tech time machine (read as: Googling shit while drunk) to bring you another chapter from the early annals of America’s most interesting sport that involves players standing still for the majority of each game.
The National League Blacklisting of 1881
Posted in All things baseball, American Heroes, Athletes
Tagged 19th century baseball, America, Baseball, Blacklist of 1881, Buttercup Dickerson, Emil Gross, Lip Pike, Major League Baseball, Mike Dorgan, MLB, MLB Blacklist, National Association, National League, Pete Rose, Sadie Houck, The Only Nolan, William Hulbert
“It’s the greatest invention since sliced bread.”
~Literally every single salesperson you have ever met, every goddamn one
We take a lot of the simple things in our lives for granted. That’s just human nature—if something doesn’t look difficult, or inherently present itself as some technological triumph, we tend to assume that these have always existed. We can marvel at the technology behind, say, a smart phone, but overlook the fact that the first calculator was made in 1959, looked like this, and was able to compute less than your smart phone’s calculator app.
We’re going about this in a roundabout way, but the moral here is that many assume sliced bread has been around since, oh, roughly the same time as bread and knives co-existed, when in reality it’s a 20th century phenomenon. Yes, sliced bread was first packaged and sold in 1928, and it is an American invention. Specifically, by an enterprising Midwesterner who devoted over ten years of his life to designing and perfecting a machine to slice whole loaves of bread at once to ensure that we would forever be able to take an arduous step out of the process of making toast and sandwiches. That man, nay, that hero, was Otto Frederick Rohwedder, and this is his story.
Otto Frederick Rohwedder and the Invention of Sliced Bread
“Trust us, it’s much more exciting when you’ve gotten a few drinks in you.”
~MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
Baseball is America’s pastime, mainly because it was the first sport to establish itself here so it kind of called dibs. It’s the same reason why we call the moon the “Neil Armstrong Sphere in the Sky” but we’re willing to allow it because baseball has given us a rich history that’s tied to everything we love about being American, included but not limited to 19th century pitchers getting kicked off their team for pitching a game drunk and then leaving the stadium with prostitutes.
In the modern era, however, baseball tends to fall by the wayside in terms of popularity when compared to your more concussiony sports out there. Part of it is the fact that baseball is, at its heart, a 3 hour event with a pace of play that we would be generous in describing as “cerebral.” A day out at the ballpark is a right of passage for Americans, and a relaxing way to get shitfaced on beers while eating whatever the fuck the stadium tries to toss your way, but everything sort of melds together in a season of 162 games where your team is almost always playing. It’s a grind, and many would rather watch 16 high-importance games played out over a season than a thousand innings where even historically good teams can count on losing 60 games while their fans who have shitty tastes in food shout to anyone that can hear them about how they, not you, are the Best Fans In Baseball™.
All that changes in the playoffs, however, when stakes are raised and the sport that we grew up mumbling “yeah I guess I like it” about actually becomes one of the best sources of sports drama in all of America. So, in a rare case of being super topical, we’re going to give you a preview of the National League Championship Series between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. For those of you who root for the American League, well fuck off we’re not doing a preview for that series because the Blue Jays are not American and if we wanted to write about Canadian professional sports we’d become a hockey blog.
So now, without further adieu…
America’s Official* 2015 NLCS Preview
Posted in All things baseball, Athletes
Tagged 2015 NLCS, 2015 NLDS, America, Anthony Rizzo, Baseball, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Mets, Jake Arrieta, Joe Maddon, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Major League Baseball, NLDS, pizza series, Terry Collins, Wilmer Flores, Yoenis Cespedes