The human hand is made complete by the addition of a baseball.
As a hitter, there’s nothing like that feeling of the ball launching off your bat and sailing farther than you ever thought you had the strength to hit it. I like how this piece speaks to that feeling. Written by Bill Meissner, it was published in the journal NINE in the Fall of 2013.
The tightly-wound baseball is the ball that always seems to poke a hole in the sky when you hit it. It’s the ball, in Little League, that gives you your Magic Swing, flying farther than you’ve ever hit a baseball before.
There’s a logical explanation for the tight-wound, of course. Perhaps the climate was unusually hot in Haiti, or Costa Rica, or perhaps the women in the baseball factory were upset with their husbands or frazzled by their children, angry at the looseness of the world. On a specific morning at one spool, a woman wound the yarn tighter than she’s ever wound it before, tugging at it with each rotation until the pain subsided, and in its place appeared a perfect, firm sphere.
The tight-wound is the baseball that spins during your afternoon nap; sometimes it unwinds as it spins, spooling out yards of blue yarn, but by the time you wake, it will have rewound itself, slipped its leather clothes back on and sealed them again, seamlessly, with red stitches.
The true tight-wound can be sensed by an uneasy pitcher as he squeezes and rotates it with his hand; the true tight-wound speaks to the lines on the palm. When a pitcher senses the taut leather of a tight-wound between his fingers, he wishes he could toss it away among the tall weeds.
But for the batter, the tight-wound is prized. He wants to see it rotating with that flip-flopping smile. The batter’s eyes widen as the ball reaches the plate, and for just one instant, wood falls in love with leather as his bat meets it and sends it up, up, up, high enough to land in the bleachers of his dreams.
Indians pitcher Bob Feller threw the second no-hitter of his career on April 30, 1946. He struck out eleven batters (and allowed five walks) as the Indians defeated the Yankees, 1-0. Feller said of the game, “The no-hitter on opening day in Chicago is the one that gets all the attention. But my no-hitter at Yankee Stadium was against a much better team than the White Sox. There was no comparison. I had to pitch to Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller and Joe DiMaggio in the ninth inning to get the Yankees out.” The lone run in the game came on a home run by Frankie Hayes.
Baseball is an island of activity amidst a sea of statistics.
In a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 25, 1905, outfielder Jack McCarthy of the Cubs gunned down three base runners at home plate. He was the first, and only, player to accomplish this feat during the twentieth century. All three of these plays resulted in double plays, and the Cubs defeated the Pirates, 2-1.
While I’ve heard the name Doc Adams before, though my familiarity was merely a vague one — and, really, continues to remain vague at the present time. Clearly, however, I’m going to have to change this. Headlines yesterday announced the sale of 1857 papers called the “Laws of Baseball” for $3.26 million at an auction. Written by Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams in 1856 or 1857 (sources vary), the documents seem to indicate that Adams is the true father of modern baseball, rather than Alexander Cartwright.
Adams had played for the New York Base Ball Club in 1840 and started playing for the New York Knickerbockers five years later, continuing to play into his forties. Adams is credited with creating the shortstop position, thus named for the task of fielding short throws from outfielders. He also determined that the bases should be 90 feet apart, the modern distance, and supported the elimination of the “bound rule,” which allowed for balls caught after one bounce to be recorded as outs.
Personally, I would love the opportunity to sit down with those papers and read them over. I would really be curious to see someone compare them to the present-day MLB rule book and analyze the evolution of the game in that fashion.
More information about the sale can be found at:
– ‘Laws of Base Ball’ documents dated 1857 establish new founder of sport (ESPN)
– Historic ‘Laws of Baseball’ documents sell for more than $3M (USA Today)
– ‘Laws of Base Ball’ sold for more than $3 million at auction (Sporting News)
– Laws of Baseball documents turn a $12K investment into $3.26 million at auction (Examiner.com)