Tag Archives: Ralph Davis

“Baseball After Dark Made its Initial Gesture in Pittsburgh”

18 Jun

With light standards set up just behind the first and third base coaching boxes, the Homestead Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs took the field for the first night game at Forbes Field on July 18, 1930.

duncanab

Frank Duncan at the plate, “Buck Ewing catching July 18, 1930

The night before, the Grays played under lights for the time.  A similar lighting system was deployed at the Akron, Ohio Central League ballpark, and Smokey Joe Williams shut out the Akron Guard, a local amateur club, 10 to 0, and held the Guard to two hits.

Ralph Davis, the sports editor of The Pittsburgh Press said:

“Baseball after dark made its initial gesture in Pittsburgh last night…More than 6,000 fans turned out through curiosity or other motives to see the spectacle, and the vast majority of them gave the night baseball plan their unqualified approval.”

Davis declared the field “as bright as day,” and said:

“With 33 huge floodlights as illuminants, the play-field of the Pirates was turned from inky blackness into something approaching mid-afternoon brightness.

“The scene was a revelation to many doubting Thomases who went to scoff and left the field declaring that perhaps, after all, the national pastime, if it ever has to be saved, will find night performances its savior.

“Hardly a shadow was discernible as the rival teams fielded apparently as surely and as speedily as they would have done in broad daylight.  Balls hit high in the air were easy to follow in their flight, and long hits to the outfield could be traced without ‘losing’ the ball.”

Davis said the one exception in the field were ground balls “which skimmed along the ground.” Pitchers he said, appeared “to use just as much speed,” as during the day, and the lights seemed to not affect the catchers, and:

“Pitched balls, waist-high or higher, were easy picking for the eager batsmen, but it looked as if balls around the knees were harder to judge.”

The first pitch was not thrown until 9:15, because “the darker it was, the better the lighting system worked.”

As for the crowd, which Davis said “The color line was not drawn,” and the number of black and white fans were roughly equal:

“It was a typical baseball scene, with enthusiasm just as evident as any major league game.  Rooters went into a frenzy when the Grays tied the score after the Monarchs had gotten away in the lead, and almost tore down the stands when they finally won out.”

crowdforbes.jpg

“The color line was not drawn” in the crowd

The game went 12 innings, and ended, The Press said, “Precisely at midnight,” when George Scales scored the winning run on a hit by catcher William “Buck” Ewing.

Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss was “an interested spectator” who “Watched the play closely,” Davis asked him his opinion:

“It is interesting, and provides entertainment for many people who cannot get away from work for afternoon contests.  It is not as fast as daylight ball, and I imagine the infielders have some difficulty in judging hard-hit grounders but it is remarkable how well the men handle themselves.”

Dreyfuss summed up his feelings:

“I don’t think night baseball will ever replace the daylight brand in popularity.”

Smoky Joe Williams, who had pitched in the Grays’ first night game in Akron two days earlier, agreed with Dreyfuss when Davis asked his opinion of playing under the lights:

 “’Night baseball causes an eye strain,’ said he.  “’It is all right as long as you don’t look into one of those big lights.  If you do, you lose sight of the ball entirely.  I’ll take the daylight stuff for mine.”

The next night, Williams pitched in the second night game to played in Pittsburgh, he took a 4 to 3 lead into the ninth inning when Kansas City scored five runs and beat him 8 to 8.  Two weeks later, Williams struck out 27 Monarchs batters under the lights in Kansas City.

Lost Advertisements–John McGraw for Coca-Cola

18 Mar

mcgrawcoke

“Haven’t you noticed that the men who do the biggest work for the longest time in baseball, both mentally and physically, are Coca-Cola enthusiasts?

John J. McGraw drinks Coca-Cola.”

After winning three straight pennants with the Giants from 1911-1913, McGraw was confident his team was heading for a fourth straight National League championship after his club took over first place on May 30.  In September, the surging Boston Braves–who were in eighth place when New York took over first– split a doubleheader with the Giants to remain tied for first place (The Braves were tied with the Giants for one day on August 25 and were in sole possession of first for one day earlier in the month).

That day, under the headline “Prophecies and sich!” Ralph Davis of The Pittsburgh Press presented a series of quotes he attributed to McGraw which nicely summed up the season’s pennant race:

“John McGraw said on June 1: ‘The big disappointment of the year has been the Boston Nationals.  I thought (George) Stallings would get his team into the first division at the start and keep it there.’

George Stallings

George Stallings

“John McGraw said on July 1: ‘Those poor old Bostonians are still at the bottom of the pile, where they seem to be anchored.  The team is surely the surprise of the season.’

“John McGraw said on Aug 1: ‘The Boston Braves have made a great showing during the past two weeks, and are now in fourth place.  They will probably slump again, but should not drop back into last place.’

“John McGraw said on Aug. 15: ‘Boston is now in second place, but we are not worried about that.  Their present spurt is merely a flash, and they will soon be headed the other way.’

“John McGraw said on Sept. 1: ‘As I predicted, the Braves did not stay with us.  They have dropped back to second place and have probably shot their bolt.  They will decline from this out.  Mark my words.’

“John McGraw said on Sept. 7: “Those Braves blankety blank, blank, etc…, ad infinitum!’

McGraw

McGraw

“Which being interpreted means Boston once more tied with the Giants for the lead, and shows no sign of breaking badly, as the eminent Mr. McGraw predicted.”

Davis’ prophecy that the Braves showed “no sign of breaking badly” was correct.  Boston beat the Giants 8 to 3 the following day, recapturing sole possession of first place.  They never looked back.  The Braves went 25-6  (with three ties) the rest of the season and cruised to the pennant, beating McGraw’s Giants by 10 1/2 games.