J. D. Thorne, speaker and author of the new book Baseball’s Winning Ways (Available on Amazon Books).
Just Over Half Done
This season is just over half done, yet the Giants, Dodgers, Red Sox and Grandpa Tony La Russa’s White Sox have already reached over 50 wins, and several teams, like the Brewers are closing in on it. “Well begun is half done,” is a time-honored British axiom. A good first half however only puts a team in contention to win league division crowns and play in the play-offs for the league pennant. Winners either stay hot, or get hotter in the final sprint for the finish in the last six weeks of the season. Think of the 2005 White Sox, 2007 Red Sox, 2016 Cubs, and 2018 Astros who rode that pony all the way through the World Series, too.
Of course, the most famous “hot” ball club of all time was the “Miracle Braves” of 1914, “You could look it up,” as Damon Runyan has written. The Braves were in last place in an eight team league with a 26 win, 40 losses record on the 4th of July, yet got hot in the second half of the season to take the pennant pulling away. I have mentioned them in past blogs, but the team keeps capturing my imagination, I just can’t stop. Recently, I came across a book I had not seen before from 1959, The National League, edited by the legendary author and publishing executive Ed Fitzgerald (Grosset & Dunlap, New York). What interested me most was the team’s attitude going into the World Series.
The Braves opponent, Connie Mack’s fabulous Philadelphia Athletics featuring the “$1 Million infield.” (Connie Mack was asked by a reporter if he would trade his infield for $1 Million Dollars, and he said “no.” Hence, third baseman “Home Run” Baker and his infield teammates had their famous moniker.) The Athletics were the betting favorites going into the Series. The fans treated the Braves as lucky and unworthy challengers. In what became an infamous story at the time, a Boston baseball writer, Jake Morse, was given by a friend $500 too place a bet for him on the Braves to win the World Series. The odds were about 2 to 1 on the Athletics to win. So as a service to his friend he placed the $500 in his desk drawer and did not the place the bet. Instead of saving his friend $500, this move cost his friend a $1,000 win in the end. The immortal sports writer Grantland Rice wrote in 1914, “The Braves proved that no fight is hopeless.” But I got a kick out of the team’s attitude going into the series as it was reported by Fitzgerald:
“The Braves gave the Athletics the full treatment. The manager deliberately made Connie Mack look petty when, with the room full of reporters, he telephoned Mack and demanded the right to practice at Shibe Park at 2 p.m. the day before the first game. “‘As I told you yesterday, we’re using the field at two,”’ said Mack. “‘But you can have it at noon or at four.”’ The manager, George Stallings, screamed at the injustice. He threatened to punch Mack in the nose. The newspapers went for the phony squawk. The next day, the Braves carried the feud onto the field. When the Athletics tried to be nice to these Boston boys they were about to humble, the Braves ignored their salutations and instead reached into the gutter for insults to fling at their bewildered rivals. “‘Ignore them or insult them,”’ Stallings told his players. They took the easy way. They insulted them. The Braves won the first game, 7 – 1, Rudolph outpitched Chief Bender, who would not scout the Braves, saying “‘There’s no need scouting a bush-league club like that.”’ When Bender was relieved in the sixth inning, Mack fixed his chill blue eye on the hurler, and said, ‘“They hit pretty well for bush-leaguers, don’t they?”’ The Braves won the WS in four games. Yet Mack still had the audacity to say after the series, “‘The best club did not win the World Series.’”
Baseball’s Winning Ways is written for enjoyment, inspiration, and information by the author of The 10 Commandments of Baseball, J. D. Thorne. Winning Ways explores baseball history and high profile players both current and past. American history highlights provide a more complete point of reference. The drama of the game, its history, baseball superstitions, statistics explained, and more provide features of interest to all fans from age 12 on up. The central theme of the book is baseball’s winning ways, those principles essential to the game itself–values that parents, grandparents, teachers and coaches want to pass down that are as important now as ever.