Category Archives: Athletes

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how American you are when you play the game.

The History of the Senior Professional Baseball Association

“Even to make love, you need experience.”

~Pedro Ramos, 54-year-old pitcher for the Senior Professional Baseball Association.  Seriously.

legends baseball

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

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Annie Londonderry, America’s First Star Cyclist

“I like to ride my bicycle.”

~Queen

annie londonderry

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

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The National League Blacklisting of 1881

“Listen, we’re just sort of winging this as we go along.”

~1800s Major League Baseball Commissioners

hubert

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

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Even More of the Goofiest Baseball Player Names of the 19th Century

America’s Official* 2015 NLCS Preview

“Trust us, it’s much more exciting when you’ve gotten a few drinks in you.”

~MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

mlb-baseball

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

cubs mets

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More of the Goofiest Baseball Player Names Of The 19th Century

“Heh, guys, remember Dickie Flowers?  AHHH HA HA HA.”

~AFFotD Editor-in-Chief, Johnny Roosevelt

old school baseball

A few weeks back, we posted an article where we dug around the annals of Major League Baseball lore for the all-important purpose of laughing at silly names.  And ho boy, were there a lot of silly names to be found.  So many in fact that we couldn’t stick with just a single article.  Yes, there are more names that, either by a lack of parental foresight or the wanton cruelty of their teammates, are hilarious to our perpetually adolescent minds.  Sure, a lot of them are nicknames, but this was during a time where a player’s nickname actually went on his box score.  These people are remembered by as having these names, which we find delightful, because these names are goofy as shit.

More of the Goofiest Baseball Player Names Of The 19th Century

he's SAFE

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The Goofiest Baseball Player Names Of The 19th Century

“You can just call me Wild Bill.  Holy shit, wait, you’re actually going to do that?”

~Wild Bill Widner

walter chickering

We’ve talked about early baseball, and especially baseball in the 19th century, here before.  Simply put, the 1800s were a lawless time in a lot of ways, and professional baseball was definitely included in that list.  Hell, back then, foul balls didn’t count as strikes, in 1879 it took 9 balls to get a walk, and people wouldn’t even play with a glove so errors were almost more common than hits.

Now, these oddball rules were the result of a new sport coming into its own, which was a trying process for both owners and players.  Teams and even Leagues folded overnight, and the salary a professional baseball player could hope for was about as high as you’d expect from someone placed in this tenuous position.  So while the quality of play was, by modern comparison, pretty shitty, the 19th century did have us beat in one very significant field.

The ridiculousness of their names and nicknames.  Nowhere does baseball offer more accidental hilarity than with the names that players, who though underpaid were professional athletes, went by.  These are names that fans chanted (or like, respectfully muttered to each other, we know that people wore fancy hats to baseball games back then so maybe it was a more refined affair at the time) and that are forever linked in the history books of the game as these people’s identities.

And there are some doozies of identities here.  So no more backswallash (Is that a 19th century word or did we just write gibberish?) let’s dive into some of these names.

The Goofiest Baseball Player Names Of The 19th Century

 old time baseball

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Charlie Sweeney: America’s Greatest Drunk Pitcher

“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘drinking while pitching a professional baseball game.’  Or there are six ‘I’s’ there.  Shut up.”

~A Drunk Charlie Sweeney

charlie sweeney

The infancy of baseball in America was lawless time.  The World Series wouldn’t became an established event until 1903, entire leagues were created and disbanded over the course of just one or two seasons, and most team names were just, well, silly.  Considering that, in the 1800s, baseball was relatively new and didn’t really pay particularly well, the players that decided to pursue a professional career in the sport tended to be pretty eclectic.  They had names like Ice Box Chamberlain, they routinely threw games for gamblers, hell, in 1872, during the season, a team’s left fielder straight up drowned while fishing.  So in order to stand out as someone truly (and hilariously) noteworthy during this period, you had to either be one of the early greats in the sport, or you had to be an absolute nut job.

Starting pitcher Charlie Sweeney was a little bit of both.

If you claim to have heard of Charlie Sweeney before, we might have a hard time believing you.  His career wasn’t particularly remarkable, save for a few bright spots.  He played for five seasons, winning one Union Association pennant, and finishing his career with a 64-52 record with a 2.87 ERA and 505 strikeouts.  However, in his short time on the field (and off the field) he managed to leave a legacy filled with prostitutes, alcohol, manslaughter, and a few MLB records. So hold onto your britches or whatever the fuck people said back in the late 19th century, because we’re here to tell you about…

Charlie Sweeney:  America’s Greatest Drunk Pitcher

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Rupert Mills: The One-Man Team of the 1916 Federalist League

“I said.  A contract’s.  A contract.”

~Rupert Mills

rupert mills

On an instinctive level, just about everyone feels that it must have been much easier to become a professional athlete a hundred years ago than it is now.  Part of that stems from our general belief in progress—each year we get stronger, faster, better at writing hilarious jokes about American topics.  Shut up, it’s called intangibles, ask a scout.  Another part of this belief comes from the leaps and bounds our scientific knowledge about human physiology has made in the past century.  We know how to handle, and prevent, injuries, how to train our bodies in the most efficient ways- we’re no longer blindly hoping that we were born as naturally athletic freaks like Jesse Owens.  Oh, and speaking of that, we also stopped  limiting our professional athletics to random white guys who tended to get lucky enough to get exposed to sports right when they were being invented.  That’s a huge step.

The distinct disparity between, say, baseball athletes today and those during the Dead Ball Era might not have anything to do with this article, but it is important to note that Rupert Mills, who you have never heard of (unless you caught a brief story about him in our article about silly baseball team names), almost definitely would not have been considered a world class athlete if he were competing today.  And that’s okay!  Hell, he wasn’t considered a world class athlete when he was competing 100 years ago!  But maybe, in a weird way, the ability for “good but not stellar” athletes to play on a national stage in the 19th century was a blessing in disguise, because sometimes the best stories happen when a sport’s not yet at the point where it’s fully taken seriously.  Because while the level of play in 2015 might be higher than it was in 1916, you’ll never see a player show up to an empty field every day in order to take advantage of a loophole in his contract to get paid.

That’s what Rupert Mills did, and Rupert Mills was hilarious and amazing, and that’s only part of his story.

Rupert Mills:  The One-Man Team of the 1916 Federalist League

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The 1959 Chicago Pan American Games: The Most Hilarious International Competition Of All Time

“What?  Is that like, a cooking show or something?”

~The Average American Response to the Pan American Games

pan am games

As roughly two of you already knew, this year saw the 17th Pan American Games take place in Toronto.  41 nations in the Americas competed, with America leading the way with 103 gold metals and 265 total metals.  Many of you might not be familiar with the Pan American games, and that is because, like most red blooded Americans, you only can muster up enthusiasm for the Olympics, which is understandable.  If you’re going to try to give a shit about track and field more often than once every four years, you’d better have just married a hot wife with a high school aged son from a previous marriage who you try to support in order to make him begrudgingly like and respect you (sorry, though, no matter how hard you try, he totally won’t).

For most American athletes, the Pan Am games are a way to clean up and snag a lot of metals when you only have to worry about going up against 2 of the 6 continents that field athletes competitively in international competitions.  And for most Cubans, the Pan Am games are a way to defect the fuck out of Cuba.  However, for a relatively inconsequential (as far as the typical American sports fan is concerned) competition, the history of the Pan Am games are both deeply interesting and kind of unintentionally hilarious.  And never in the 64 years that this sporting event has been held has there been more unintentional hilarity as the first ever Pan American games to be hosted in the United States.

Because, holy shit, Chicago had no idea what it was getting itself into when it tried to plan an entire international competition in less than two years, and as a result, history will always have the wonderful train wreck that is…

The 1959 Chicago Pan American Games: The Most Hilarious International Competition Of All Time

chicago games

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