Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #14

29 Apr

Wishful Thinking in Boston–1921

Arthur Duffey was a former track athlete—he finished fourth in 100 yard dash in the 1900 Olympics—turned sports columnist for The Boston Post.

Arthur Duffey

Arthur Duffey

Like many in Boston, he hoped Babe Ruth would be unable again put up the type of numbers he did in 1920—54 home runs, 135 RBI, .376 average– after being sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees.



Duffey had received word in March of 1921 that his hopes would be realized:

“According to all reports from Hot Springs way where Babe Ruth is putting in his preliminary canters for the coming American League race, Babe evidently believes in that old slogan about ‘Living to eat instead of eating to live,’ for the Bambino is pounds overweight and not a few predict that he is going to have his troubles in getting down to anything like his baseball scale of last season…(Ruth) has no doubt been living the life of Reilly since he has proven himself the ‘King of Swat.’ But, is he going to eat himself out of another chance to beat that home run record?”

Ruth managed to “eat himself” into a season that included new career highs for games (152), at-bats (540), runs (177), home runs (59), RBI (168), and batting average (.378).  The Yankees won the American League pennant and the Red Sox finished their second straight fifth-place, Ruth-less season.

Wishful Thinking about honesty, 1901

George Erskine Stackhouse, sports editor of The New York Tribune, assured readers of “Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated” magazine, that there was no corruption in baseball:

“Baseball is honest.  Some peculiar things happen in baseball at times, but I have watched the game very closely for a great many years and believe that it is at least as close to perfect honesty as any professional sport in the world.”

George Erskine Stackhouse

George Erskine Stackhouse

Stackhouse also refused to believe that gamblers had any role in the game:

“Baseball has no side-show features, such as betting and the like, and soon as the average ‘fan’ thought the games dishonest he would lose all interest in the sport.”

But, Stackhouse assured his readers he was not naïve, but everyone involved in baseball had learned their lesson from the scandals of the 19th Century:

“I do not mean to say that there are not players and club owners who would not be tricky if they dared.  They simply don’t dare.

“The lesson dealt out to the early evil-doers who were charged with selling games in the interest of certain gamblers, has had a splendid effect.  The sentence hangs over those men yet, and the disgrace will remain with their children and their children’s children.  I believe that there have been hundreds of fake horse races, prize fights, wrestling matches, and professional running races to one really crooked baseball game.”

Stackhouse died in 1903 at the age of 42, content in the knowledge that baseball remained “close to perfect honesty.”

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