“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
“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