J. D. Thorne, speaker and author of the new book Baseball’s Winning Ways (Available on Amazon Books).
“The Field of Dreams 2”
It was a just ball game, but nonetheless the first national league game ever played in Iowa.
It was played on the Hollywood set created for it. No other MLB game was played at the time that night. It was not an “All-Star” game. It was not even played by teams contending for a season ending playoff spot, but it demonstrated the athletic skill of all MLB players. But the teams—the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs—are among the oldest baseball franchises. Dripping with nostalgia, the game was interesting to watch. There was a wonderful tribute to the recently-deceased actor Ray Liotta who wonderfully portrayed “Shoeless Joe Jackson” in the “Field of Dreams” movie. The game was a creation of the imagination; and a delightful exhibition highlighting the nature of the great American game invented by the kids in Massachusetts and on New York playgrounds in the 1830’s or so.
It is especially meaningful to me because in the 1990’s my family visited the field, and played on it. I pitched to my young son, who hit one deep enough to make the cornfield. My wife and daughter played a game of “catch,” which in the Thorne family following my mother’s malaprop we always called, “Throw Ball.” It was pretty funny to us kids at the time!
The broadcast night was a beautiful summer evening. The full moon shone brightly over the seemingly unending Iowa cornfields. It was great. The Cubs won 4–2 by scoring three runs in the first inning. They led all the way, but it did not dim the glamor of the game. I didn’t really know the players, except for maybe Cincinnati 1B Jimmy Votto. He was wearing a microphone for a half inning in the field. He managed to both play and talk, a considerable achievement with just that. He made no muff, which would have been embarrassing, either speaking or fielding, although he was a little nervous at times.
HOF Johnny Bench of Cincinnati appeared in the broadcast booth. I remarked to my son I recalled being in the Wrigley Field bleachers at a game during his rookie year. I watched him shagging fly balls during batting practice in left field. Someone in the stands said, “Watch him. He is going to be good!” Guess so. Bench was precise in his recitation of early baseball history. It was a joy to hear someone like him get it right. While the game did not have the drama and excitement of the first “Field of Dreams” game won by the White Sox over the Yankees on a walk-off homer, to me as a baseball fan it was just as enjoyable.
Here is my nostalgic baseball trivia question. Use it. It typically stumps everyone.
Question: Which Major League Franchise is oldest continuously operating professional team?
- Cincinnati Reds
- Chicago Cubs
- Boston Red Sox
- Atlanta Braves
Answer: The first “professional” team was organized by Harry Wright in Cincinnati in 1869. Baseball at the time was completely amateur, but he got the idea that if he actually paid his players to play for him, he might recruit the best players to play for his team. Brilliance! Once organized the Cincinnati Red Stockings took on all comers barnstorming across the country winning 138 straight games before losing in extra innings on a throwing error by their first baseman to a team from Brooklyn. Once beaten, the “magic” was gone, and they no longer attracted crowds to watch them. The team franchise broke up ending that franchise.
But General Manager Harry Wright moved to Boston and started a new franchise. He named it the “Boston Red Stockings.” One of the players he recruited was the pride of Rockford, Illinois, Albert Spaulding. Spaulding later joined a team in Chicago, the “White Stockings,” eventually taking it over as General Manager, and later owner. It became known as the “Cubs.” But it was not formed earlier than the Boston “Red Stockings.” A new Cincinnati franchise began later too, picking up on the “good will” of the earlier name, calling itself the “Reds.” In Chicago around the turn of the century in 1900, a new team came in and adopted the name of “White Sox” because of the good will left in the name.
So the longest surviving franchise is neither Cincinnati nor Chicago. A second team organized itself in Boston, and adopted the name of the “Red Sox.” So it is not the Red Sox either.
It is Harry Wright’s second team, the Boston “Red Stockings.” Over the early years, it went through various name changes, at one time being known as the Boston “Doves” and later the “Beaneaters.” Playing in the National League, eventually it became known as the “Braves.” The franchise in 1953 moved to Milwaukee, and in 1966 to Atlanta. So the answer to which is the oldest continuing franchise in major league baseball is the Atlanta Braves.
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