“*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
“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
“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
“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
“Heh, guys, remember Dickie Flowers? AHHH HA HA HA.”
~AFFotD Editor-in-Chief, Johnny Roosevelt
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
“You can just call me Wild Bill. Holy shit, wait, you’re actually going to do that?”
~Wild Bill Widner
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
Posted in All things baseball, Athletes, Strange America
Tagged America, Baseball, Candy Cummings, Dickie Flowers, Goofy names, Ice Box Chamberlain, Lady Baldwin, Major League Baseball, MLB, Pussy Tebeau, Silly Names
“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
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
“I said. A contract’s. A contract.”
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
“Let’s go Stogies! No wait that can’t be right, can it? We’re not honestly called that, right?”
~Pittsburgh Stogies fans
A few weeks back, we talked to you about some late 19th and early 20th century professional baseball team names that we felt were, frankly, kind of ridiculous. We’ve not always been great at naming teams, and well, considering the Phillies we’re still not that great at naming teams, but we’ve at least phased out the worst offenders. From the Columbus Solons to the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers, there are a whole slew of defunct major league baseball teams that had laughable, absurd names, and some of them even managed to not be from Ohio.
That said, as ridiculous as those names were, they weren’t the only ones out there. So we combed through the history of major league baseball to find some more hilarious names, because we’re easily amused when drunk.
More of the Silliest Major League Baseball Team Names of All Time
Posted in All things baseball, Athletes, Strange America
Tagged America, Baseball, baseball team names, Brooklyn Tip-Tops, Federal League, Hartford Dark Blues, Major League Baseball, MLB, Newark Peppers, Pittsburgh Stogies, Rupert Mills, Silly Names, St. Louis Terriers, Troy Trojans, Union Association, Wilmington Quicksteps