The Wrong Man

Is it possible to be innocent and guilty at the same time?

Iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock had a recurring theme in many of his most famous movies – an innocent man is accused of a terrible crime and then spends the remainder of his screen time trying to prove his innocence.  All the while, circumstantial evidence layers around him while the police and the actual guilty party close in.

Wrong

However, in Hitchcock’s world, no one was innocent.  Even the wrongly accused had scar tissue – typically, character blemishes that required varying degrees of salvation.  Beating the charge was one thing; a cleared name with a reformed persona quite another.

Under such a plot premise, Hitchcock would – cinematically – stuff his leading man into a burlap sack, toss him into a river, observe the inevitable struggle, and then use some spectacular backdrop to highlight his rescue.  Most famously, in “North by Northwest”, Hitchcock dangled Cary Grant from Mount Rushmore (or at least a studio mockup) after making him serpentine through 136 minutes of cornfields and crop dusters, staged murders, and international espionage before finally reeling him in – an innocent and changed man.

North

Thirty-four years before “North by Northwest” made its debut in 1958, there was, sadly, no one around to reel Jimmy O’Connell to safety.

O’Connell, a professional baseball player, didn’t need salvation, though.  His naïve identity was as smooth and unmarred as a frozen lake before the first skate.  He only needed to have his name cleared, to be found innocent of his crime.

OConnell

Unlike the movies, though, real-life exoneration isn’t as tidy or timely – if it comes at all – as a script that has been worked and re-worked by a creative team exclusively focused on making it tidy and timely.  No, O’Connell’s acquittal quest hadn’t an ounce of Hollywood magic in it.

A big part of O’Connell’s problem was that the only arbiter capable of clearing his name was an utterly ruthless sort, not equipped with either a sympathetic ear or compassionate heart.  He dealt entirely in absolutes and brandished the derived determinations viciously, unconcerned with the resulting damage – collateral or not.

Another not-so-minor obstacle stood in O’Connell’s way as well.  He was guilty.

Perhaps, “guilty” isn’t the correct term.  O’Connell had, indeed, done what they accused him of doing.  However, what he had done wasn’t really a crime – certainly, not in a legal sense, and probably not in an ethical sense, either.

Even decades later, the argument isn’t really over whether he committed the act – he had – it is whether or not the act itself merited any sort of punishment.

EXHIBIT A

As context to O’Connell’s case, consider Exhibit A – the “crime” itself.

In 1924, O’Connell was an eager, second-year player for the New York Giants, and, prior to a late-season game against the lowly Philadelphia Phillies, he approached the opposing shortstop, John Sand, with a curious bargain.

Sand

O’Connell offered Sand $500 if the Philadelphia player agreed “not to bear down too hard” on the Giants that afternoon.  Sand refused and reported the incident to his manager, Art Fletcher.

The Giants won the game, anyway, 5-1.

Although O’Connell and Sand both started for their respective teams, neither did much of any value in the contest. O’Connell had a double in four at-bats but did not figure directly in any of New York’s five runs.  And, even with Sand “bearing down” in the ballgame, the Phillies’ shortstop failed to record a hit in four trips to the plate; although he did score Philadelphia’s only run.

The victory clinched the National League pennant for the Giants and punched their second straight ticket to the World Series.

1924 World Series

Meanwhile, the Phillies were fated to complete their seventh straight losing season.  Simply put, a really good team had beaten a really bad one, and that should have been that.

However, word of O’Connell’s bribe attempt swirled from the Phillies’ dugout to the locker room and then all the way the desk of the Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Landis.

Landis

Landis was a humorless, pompous former federal judge from Chicago, who many believed made rulings from the bench as much to satisfy his own sensibilities as on the actual merits of the case.  He had been appointed the first Commissioner of Baseball following the scandalous 1919 World Series, in which several members of the American League champion Chicago White Sox took money from gamblers to lose games.

His appointment was designed, in large part, to deal with the public relations mess of the rigged World Series and, by extension, prevent another one from happening.

1919 News

One of his first official acts as commissioner was to ban the tainted White Sox players from baseball for life.  Although only seven Chicago players could be tied, directly or indirectly, to the illicit cash, Landis banned third baseman Buck Weaver as well – even though he hadn’t been paid or actively participated in the conspiracy – for keeping quiet about the plot as it was happening.

To Landis, ignorance slept in the same bed as instigation.  That is, what you didn’t do could be as damning as what you did.  Moreover, Landis refused to consider any gradients of accountability – there were only those involved and those who were not.  And when he affixed punishment, he used an equally rigid scale – the scarlet letters he handed out were all the same size.

scarletLetter

So, when it came time to take action on the fixed game that wasn’t fixed in 1924, he ruled on the notion of corruption rather than any resulting fraud.  Because of that, the scarlet letter he handed Jimmy O’Connell was precisely the same size as those he handed to the Chicago players who had deliberately disgraced baseball’s most cherished event five years earlier.

O’Connell was banned from organized baseball for life.

Despite the fact that no money was actually exchanged, the Giants-Phillies game itself seemed entirely unaffected, and the transgression was ultimately little more than a young player saying something foolish, Landis saw O’Connell’s brief liaison with duplicity as being just as damaging to the sport as the seven men who took pick axes to the World Series.

Unfortunately, there were no cooler heads around to prevail.  When Landis had been appointed commissioner, he had essentially been given tyrannical reign.  As part of the deal – made at a time when frightened team owners were desperate for order to be restored in baseball – Landis was made bulletproof.  He couldn’t be fired, his decisions couldn’t be reversed unless he nullified them himself, and he required no other counsel before passing judgement.

Landis2

He was a baseball despot.  And for a bombastic, self-important curmudgeon like Landis, that elevated status was intoxicating.  He drank up the autonomy like a stranded man in the Kalahari who had just been thrown a great, big canteen of glacier water.

With a more even-handed view, though, most undoubtedly see the staggering difference between O’Connell’s carelessness and the massive gambling conspiracy that swallowed the White Sox.  And with a closer look at some of the details and circumstances surrounding O’Connell’s incident, the chasm between his transgression and the dishonesty of the 1919 World Series widens even further, making his punishment seem all the more egregious.

EXHIBITS B & C

Consider, then, Exhibits B and C – motives and mitigating circumstances.

Why on earth would a 24-year old backup outfielder still trying to earn his professional stripes like O’Connell do something as outrageous as offering a bribe to a mediocre player on a floundering team, especially at a time when gambling was so widely condemned and scrutinized in the sport?

Granted, O’Connell’s team – the New York Giants – were in a hotly contested race with Brooklyn for first place in the National League that season.  Before the September 27 game with Philadelphia, New York held a narrow 1 ½ game lead over Brooklyn.

O’Connell, eager to prove himself, might have seen convincing an opposing shortstop to gift wrap an important win as a way to get that much coveted badge of approval.  As for the consequences – dire as they were at the time – history is peppered with an unending litany of young men in their twenties doing reckless things for validation.

reckless

Still, no matter how badly O’Connell wanted to win over his teammates the bribery scheme seems an odd and very impractical way to do it.

First, the Giants really didn’t need any conspiratorial aid in beating the Phillies. On September 27, they were 37 games ahead of Philadelphia in the standings.  Paying a player on such a pitiful team to lose to a juggernaut like New York would have been like rewarding a fly for an intentional defeat to the swatter.

The 1924 Giants were also the defending National League champs, so they understood the rigors of a championship run.  They were a powerfully built team, with five eventual Hall of Fame players in the starting lineup and one of the game’s greatest managers – John McGraw – leading them from the dugout.  They were abundantly capable of beating the best teams in the league, much less dispatching a leaky rowboat like the Phillies.

Rowboat

Also, there was a distinct hierarchy on teams of that time, mostly driven by talent and tenure. Befitting the customary attitude of the day, veteran players regarded their less experienced peers as clear subordinates.  And with such a talented roster, the Giants had a clear division of influence in the clubhouse.  Older star players had little patience for defiant young teammates.

McGraw, the team’s venerable manager and unquestioned leader, might have summed up the ballclub’s class structure best when he told one of his players, “Don’t ever speak to me.  I speak to you and you just shut up.”

Giants McGraw

That structure worked, though.  In his 23rd season with New York, McGraw had already guided the team to three World Series titles and had just captured his tenth National League pennant in 1924.

So, the idea that O’Connell would usurp all of the intimidating layers above him and approach John Sand on his own with the bribe scheme is as unlikely as the need to pay for such an easily attainable win in the first place.  No matter how eager he might have been to gain endorsement in the locker room, he surely must have known that independent and impulsive was entirely the wrong way to do it.

Indeed, when Landis called O’Connell in to give his version of events, he told the former judge that New York coach Albert “Cozy’ Dolan had instructed him to make the offer to Sand.  Not wanting to disobey a coach’s direct missive but also fearful of the gambling aspect of the errand, O’Connell asked three of the team’s leaders – second baseman Frankie Frisch, first baseman George Kelly, and outfielder Ross Youngs, all future Hall of Famers, by the way – for their guidance.

Frisch

O’Connell told Landis that the three star players all agreed that he should to do what Dolan had asked.

If true, O’Connell likely felt that he had little choice but to comply.  Refusal might bring reprisal and alienation, making big league success and acceptance that much more difficult.  Besides, the messenger couldn’t be more culpable than the sender, could he?

However, when Landis questioned the three players, they denied knowing anything.  When Dolan was interrogated, he strangely feigned amnesia – neither denying nor admitting guilt, only saying that he could not remember any details of September 27th.

It turns out, the messenger could, indeed, be blamed more than anyone else involved.

Messenger

Although Dolan was also banned from baseball – Landis didn’t accept memory loss as an acceptable plea – it is hard to equate the exile of a 41-year old coaching assistant who had already played out his big league career with the expulsion of a 24-year old hopeful who would never have the same chance.

In the end, the whole sorry episode was a simply case of testimonial weight – who said what and how much it was believed.  No hard evidence was considered, because none existed.

As such, Landis’ decision indicates that he believed O’Connell and Dolan acted in concert and that O’Connell was as responsible for the plot as the older coach.  Further, Landis believed that the three star players – Frisch, Kelly, and Youngs – had no involvement and that O’Connell had fabricated their inclusion in the plan.

However, this version of events raises many more questions than it answers.

First, if Landis believed O’Connell when he confessed to his own part in the incident and the involvement of Dolan, why did the judge think that O’Connell then lied about Frisch, Kelly, and Youngs telling him to proceed with the plan?  And why would a young player like O’Connell implicate his star teammates if he knew they were innocent?  Finally, if Dolan was the instigator, why wouldn’t Landis consider the possibility that O’Connell was coerced into participating, fearful of disobeying his coach’s order?

Dolan

Though, no matter which version of events is to be believed, the biggest question of all is why was the bribe plan created in the first place?

The likely answer to that is as simple as it is sad.

It was a joke.

Given the nature of ballplayers of the time and the accepted hierarchy of the day, veteran players were notorious for hazing young players as a penance to be paid for membership on the team.  As with most hazing, the degrees of the ritual ranged from harmless laughs at a rookie’s expense to physical, psychological torment of a newcomer.

As an example of the latter, the great Ty Cobb was hazed so mercilessly by his older Detroit teammates early in his career that he suffered a nervous breakdown and missed two months of the 1906 season.

Cobb

Mostly, though, hazing involved variants of the former – the long, arduous crawl of a baseball season practically demanded it. A well-crafted gag that involved a gullible neophyte went quite a way towards livening up an otherwise stale routine.

How else to explain why an impressionable young player like O’Connell would offer money to an opposing player on a bad team at the behest of his coach – and likely three of his veteran teammates?

The very idea of making a greenhorn like O’Connell offer to buy something the older players knew they could get for free would have been worth plenty of laughs.  Unfortunately, the premise of the joke involved gambling, and gambling was the great, big boogeyman in the sport.

Once Landis got involved and brought a stenographer into the room, it makes sense – ethics and decency, notwithstanding – why the architects of the joke would have wiped their fingerprints off the whole thing.  Whether it was just Dolan or any of the players O’Connell named who were responsible, they probably – and rightfully – figured that admitting participation, even as a joke, to the stone-faced Landis could have dire consequences.

So, Jimmy O’Connell took the fall and as did any hope of his personal baseball glory.

EXHIBIT D

Finally, consider Exhibit D – the punishment and its aftermath.

Ideally, penalties should be partly punitive and part deterrent with an eye towards reform and meted out mostly on the severity of the offense.

In O’Connell’s case, the punitive portion swallowed everything else.  He’d essentially been given the same sentence for shoplifting that others had received for armed robbery.

Granted, as a deterrents go, there could be few stronger than a lifetime ban for a minor infraction and first-time offense.  However, the impact of the deterrent wasn’t aimed at O’Connell – the punishment had wiped out any chance that he would ever repeat the infraction.  Landis wanted to send the message to the rest of the players in the game that gambling of any sort in baseball would not be tolerated.  So, he fed O’Connell to the wolves to punctuate the point.

And since part of Landis’ initial mission as commissioner was to ensure that there would not be another tainted World Series, he properly reasoned that fear had to be part of the reform.

However, as a reformer, Landis had his shortcomings in that role as well.

While he exiled a slew of individuals from the game for direct or tangential participation in gambling schemes, most were fringe players at the end of marginal careers.  The Black Sox scandal was different only because of the visibility of the mess. In order to put out that fire, Landis knew he would have to stomp on stars like Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte.

Jackson

It is curious, though, how few other notables Landis expelled after that initial purge.  Two years after he removed O’Connell, he certainly had the chance to prosecute two of the biggest names in baseball history.

In 1926, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were implicated in a betting scheme from 1919 when letters written to one of Cobb’s former teammates, including a letter from Cobb himself, became public.  The plan centered mostly around Cleveland, Speaker’s team, deliberately losing a meaningless late-season game to Detroit, Cobb’s team.  A group of players, including Speaker and Cobb, were going to pool their money and bet on the Tigers to win, since the outcome had already been agreed upon.

After the letters reached Landis, he made some inquiries and deliberated shortly before dropping the entire matter.  Detailed accounts of the arrangement in writing – one directly from the accused – were not enough to sway the great reformer into action.

Either an awful lot had changed in two years or – more likely – Landis had openly shown his preference to sacrifice lambs and spare lions.

There had even been whispers that John McGraw himself was involved in the O’Connell incident back in 1924, paranoid that the Phillies might stumble onto a win or two by accident while Brooklyn passed the Giants by dismantling the pitiful Boston Braves on that final weekend.  Even though the practical joke gone awry seems a much more plausible scenario, no one will ever know about the possibility of it actually being McGraw’s brainchild as a genuine bribe, because Landis never interrogated the New York manager.

And if Landis was truly interested in baseball reform, eliminating corruption was only part of it.  Integration also had to be a sizeable piece.  Of that possibility, he once said, “The colored ballplayers have their own league.  Let them stay in their own league.”

His obstinance on the matter – aside from being petty and hateful – played a critical role in keeping African-Americans out of Major League Baseball for decades.  Not coincidentally, it took the new baseball commissioner, Albert Chandler, less than two years to see what Landis could not in a quarter of a century, clearing the way for Jackie Robinson’s big league debut in 1947.

Robinson

As for Jimmy O’Connell, he played in an “outlaw” league in Arizona for a time, because it allowed players banished from organized baseball (Major and sanctioned minor leagues) to participate. Later, he returned to Central California, where he was born and raised, living a long and honorable life until he passed away at the age of 75.

However, it is in that space of time – from 1924 to 1976 – the fifty-two years after he was sacrificed by Kenesaw Landis that remains tinged with melancholy.

No one knows what kind of Major League career O’Connell would have had.  The odds of any player becoming a star at the big league level are remarkably slim.  Still, O’Connell had shown enough natural ability to attract the attention of John McGraw.  And McGraw had a solid record for spotting raw talent and refining it into productive Major League stock.

In fact, O’Connell had impressed McGraw enough to compel the veteran manager to get the Giants to purchase the young player’s minor league contract for $75,000, a record amount for such a procurement at the time.

Playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League (PCL), O’Connell hit .337 with 17 home runs in 1921 as a 20-year old.  The following season, he had a nearly identical stellar year, hitting .335 with 13 homers.  And the PCL was a high-quality baseball league, often producing players who went on to star in the majors.

As proof, a decade after O’Connell’s graduation, the PCL showcased the talents of three future Hall of Famers – Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Ernie Lombardi.

DiMaggio

So, when Jimmy O’Connell arrived in New York, there was a basis for hope.  He had starred in a league known for producing Major League talent, impressed a legendary manager with a keen eye for playing ability, and was joining a perennial championship-caliber team where he would be surrounded by great players.

Although he struggled for playing time and success during his rookie season, O’Connell saw the field in 87 games, hit six homers, and drove in 39 runs as the Giants cruised to the 1923 National League title.

At the start of the ill-fated 1924 season, though, he languished on the bench, playing in only 21 games through the first four months of the year.  Even then, he participated mostly as an afterthought – often entering games as a pinch-hitter or late-game outfield substitute.  In fact, in 8 of the 21 games he played during that stretch, he didn’t even get to bat.

However, as injuries depleted the active roster, O’Connell started to play more.  In August, he started 11 games and responded to the expansion of his role by hitting .302 for the month.  In September, as the Giants raced to stay ahead of Brooklyn, O’Connell responded to the pressure by having his best month in the big leagues.  He batted .349 and hit both of the home runs he would tally for the year.  In one memorable series against Boston, he collected 9 hits in the four-game set, including a perfect 4-for-4 performance in a 10-2 win.

As if to punctuate his rise as a player on a pennant-winning team, O’Connell had three hits and a home run in the final game of the regular season and, as it turned out, the last game he would ever play in the majors.

New York went on to lose the World Series to the Washington Senators in a tightly contested seven game set.  In fact, Game 7 went 12 innings before the Senators finally pushed across the winning run on a bad-hop single.

Senators

By then, O’Connell had already been removed from the team and was not allowed to play in the Series.  While there is no way of knowing, it is compelling to wonder if having a player who hit nearly .350 in the final weeks of a tight pennant race would have helped swing the results of such a close championship series towards the New Yorkers.

Sadly, like the rest of Jimmy O’Connell’s big league baseball life after September 28, 1924, there are only hypotheticals instead of concrete accomplishments.  If there was any real crime committed in 1924, it didn’t involve a rejected bribe; it was the theft of a young man’s future.

OConnell2

They got the wrong man, and Alfred Hitchcock was nowhere to be found to reel him in to safety.

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The Tall Tale of Madison Bumgarner

If Madison Bumgarner didn’t exist, someone would have to invent him.

Trouble is, no one would believe it if they did, because Bumgarner’s rise to baseball stardom and celebrity seems more folk tale than unembellished biography.

In fact, Bumgarner himself is more folk hero than sports idol.

Folk

Sure, he can throw a baseball with the kind of velocity and deceptive geometry that makes him an elite-level Major League pitcher. But he also does it with a unique quirkiness and self-assurance.   And for sheer scale, the folk hero quality suits him.

He’s a big man – 6-foot-5, 250 pounds – who does big things in big moments.

Consider the first time he commanded a national audience.  In Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, Bumgarner – a 20 year old rookie – threw eight shutout innings, allowed only three hits, and gave his San Francisco Giants a commanding 3-1 World Series lead.

2010 WS

But that probably doesn’t provide the full flavor of how impressive it was for someone with so little pro experience to own that big a moment when it should have swallowed him whole and spit out the bones.

Put another way – in action movie terms – Bumgarner stuffed the big, bad Texas Rangers into a dark room, locked the door, and kicked the keys down the hallway.  Without breaking a sweat.  And whistling the James Bond theme as he walked away.

Bond

World meet Mr. Bumgarner.

It gets better, though.

Almost four years to the day after he throttled the Texas Rangers in the World Series, Bumgarner stepped back into the spotlight and did something even more remarkable.

In the 2014 playoffs, the Kansas City Royals were the hottest team in baseball – downright incendiary.  They beat Oakland in the Wild Card game and then swept the Angels and Orioles out the door in consecutive series.  And they did it with a certain ruthless efficiency.

The Royals got on base and then stole them.  In fact, Kansas City stole so much and so often that the ploy gave them a huge advantage, both strategically and emotionally.  All of that running was a psychological wrecking ball to the opposition, kind of like a cat burglar who keeps getting into the house no matter what kind of security system is put up.

Burglar

In the Wild Card game against the A’s alone, Kansas City stole seven bases.  Seven.  That’s 630 feet – over two football fields – worth of pilfered ground in the span of a single game.

Royal Steal

The Royals also won with great defense – particularly in the outfield – and a bulletproof bullpen.  So, the scarcity of runs to be had against Kansas City made all of those stolen bases the Royals took even more maddening, especially when they were cashed in for runs on otherwise harmless fly balls and grounders.

As it turned out, though, the Royals’ post season formula for winning had a fatal flaw.  It didn’t work if they didn’t score any runs.

Kansas City meet Mr. Bumgarner.

In the four years since he shut down the Rangers in the 2010 World Series, Bumgarner refined his already impressive pitching skills.  In 2014, he had career highs in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts.  He’d also been selected to his second straight All-Star team.

There had been no let down after his outstanding World Series splash as a rookie.  If anything, the wakes he was creating just kept getting larger and larger.

So, when the irresistible force of the momentum-fueled Royals met immovable Madison Bumgarner to open the 2014 World Series, irresistible yielded.  Bumgarner gave up only three hits in seven innings, halting Kansas City’s lethal running game because, of all the bases to be stolen, first isn’t one of them.  The Giants won convincingly, 7-1.

Five days later, Bumgarner was even more immovable, throwing a four-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and no walks.  The Giants won again, 5-0.

Bum 2014WS

In his two World Series starts against the Royals, Bumgarner had only allowed eight baserunners and a single run in 16 innings.  More importantly, Kansas City had stolen precisely zero bases when he was on the mound.  And just like that, Bumgarner had managed to do what the entire American League could not – fold the Royals’ unblemished post season record into an airplane and sailed it into San Francisco Bay.

Plane

The problem, from the Giants’ perspective, was that Bumgarner couldn’t start every game in the series.  And when he didn’t start, the Royals mostly kicked the daylights out of San Francisco.  In the three games the Giants lost – with Bumgarner stored away safely in the dugout – Kansas City outscored them, 20-4.  Truly daylight kicking stuff.

World Series Giants Royals Baseball

When the Royals forced a decisive Game 7 – after clobbering the Giants 10-0 in Game 6 – they knew San Francisco couldn’t start Bumgarner in that big game, either.

Three days earlier, he had thrown 117 pitches during his masterful Game 5 shutout.  So, conventional thinking had Bumgarner right back in the San Francisco dugout for the entirety of Game 7, his pitching arm safely holstered.

After all, the modern manual for proper use of a Major League pitching staff clearly draws the line of demarcation for a starting pitcher at 100 pitches per start.  Anything over that number requires management to place the affected hurler’s arm on a velvet pillow for five days before he can take the mound again.  It’s right there in writing and bold type.

Except, how many folk heroes are conventional, instruction followers?

Given that, Bumgarner not only made himself available to pitch in Game 7, he placed no caveats on the role or length of his participation.  With a championship to be won, he knew he was the best chance for San Francisco to win it.  And so did the Royals.

However, Bumgarner sat undetonated in the Giants’ bullpen for four innings at the start of Game 7.  Everyone knew he was there – his teammates, the Royals, and a stadium full of nervous Kansas City fans – just a wave of his manager’s hand away from entering the game and turning the whole series on its ear.  But through the early part of the game, he was more threat than tangible obstacle, like a great, big storm cloud hovering overhead needing only the necessary change in conditions to bring its pent up fury.

In the fifth inning, with the Giants holding a 3-2 lead, those necessary conditions presented themselves.  San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy waved his hand toward the bullpen, tapping his left arm, and that was pretty much that.

Bullpen

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, expecting the Royals to somehow figure out how to beat Madison Bumgarner when all he’d done for the past week and a half was punch them in the mouth would have been kind of insane.  Most everyone watching the game – and probably a goodly number of those who were playing in it – must have realized it, too.

Of little surprise – except to the Einstein-defined insane – Bumgarner just kept doing what he’d been doing to the Kansas City lineup.  He shut them out for an inning, then two, and three.  By the time he had recorded his fourth scoreless inning, he’d somehow squeezed more than 50 pitches out his arm – which were 50 more pitches than any modern baseball god-fearing soul had a right to expect.

The real question was whether or not he could keep it going for one more inning to close the game out.  Any chance the Royals had to come back and win in the ninth stemmed mostly on how many more pitches Bumgarner had left.

USP MLB: WORLD SERIES-SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS AT KANS S BBO USA MO

That number, it turned out, was 16.  Unfortunately for Kansas City, that was also precisely the number of pitches it took for Bumgarner to retire the last four hitters of the game.  That number also included a play that nearly wrecked his heroic evening.

With two outs, Kansas City’s Alex Gordon hit a lazy, looping drive into shallow center field.  However, San Francisco outfielders Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez misplayed the ball so badly – even kicking it across the warning track at one point – that Gordon motored all the way to third base.

With the tying run at third – and was only there because Blanco and Perez had decided to step on banana peels at the worst possible time – Bumgarner calmly got the next hitter to hit a harmless infield popup to seal the win.

End Game7

When Bumgarner was named Most Valuable Player of the series, it was probably the least suspenseful announcement in the history of the award.  He’d commandeered the entire championship competition, single-handedly shaping the outcome like few others ever had, from the opening game to the very last pitch.

It was, in fact, a king making moment – the kind that only happens after total victory with the whole world watching.  However, a funny thing happened in that moment.

And maybe this gets directly to the heart of his folk hero quality.  He did something truly magnanimous when he didn’t need to, and he did it mostly on his personal instinct to be gracious in success.

With everyone expecting him to take a well-deserved bow and revel in all of the singular adulation, Bumgarner deflected the praise.  Instead, he thanked his teammates.

“I couldn’t be happier for my teammates. There were a lot of guys that couldn’t deserve it anymore (than) they do. Like I said, I’m thankful for them and (it’s) truly an honor to be part of this team and organization.”

Press Conference

Even though he’d been the one who kicked in every single door that needed kicking to win a championship, he couldn’t bring himself to take appropriate credit for it.  So, he thanked his team – thanked them for essentially allowing him the opportunity to save them.

But if anyone thought that seemingly misplaced gratitude was false humility, they really don’t understand what Madison Bumgarner is all about.

He can be a lot of things, a jumbled bag of dichotomy at times, but entirely genuine in his expression.  Maybe growing up in tiny Lenoir, North Carolina – a place where humility and honest intentions are part of the local harvest – had a lot to do with that.  He says what he means and believes in what he does.

So, thanking others for something he had accomplished wasn’t a dodge.  It was part of his truth.

However, the truth about Bumgarner is sometimes edgy and sophomoric and curious, too.

While he’s been a humble champion, he can also be brazenly cantankerous in competition.  On several occasions, he has stepped off the mound, loudly challenging opposing players whom he felt disrespected by.

The most famous iteration of this happened in 2014, when Los Angeles outfielder Yasiel Puig flipped his bat after hitting an enormous home run off of Bumgarner.  Before Puig reached home, Bumgarner confronted him halfway down the third base line and yelled at the outfielder for his showmanship.

Puig

A year later, he had three separate altercations with players who had thrown their bats in anger after failing to get hits against him.

Like any self-respecting Carolina farmer, Bumgarner would never back down from a fight, even if he’s the one who starts it.

However, it is strange that someone known for his calmness during high-pressure playoff baseball also has a reputation for anger issues during less intense regular season games.

Yet, it is easy to forget that for all Bumgarner has accomplished in his big league career he is still a very young man.  When he confronted Yasiel Puig in May of 2014, Bumgarner was still 24 years old.  Later that season, after the Giants won the National League pennant, he decided to celebrate the moment like any good twenty-something would.  He picked up five beers and chugged them all at once.

Division Series - Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants - Game Four

After all, big men do big things in big moments.

For someone who mostly tries to deflect attention while in the spotlight, it is curious how much of a knack he has for creating spectacle.

He’s a pitcher who people want to see compete in the All-Star Home Run Derby.  When he hits, he swings as hard as he possibly can, like he’s channeling his inner Ted Kluszewski.

Ted Kluszewski

And it’s working, because he’s hit the most home runs by a pitcher since 2014 – nine – including two off of Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw, widely considered the best pitcher in the big leagues.

Batting

During batting practice before a game in St. Louis this season, Bumgarner hit a ball that reached the highest deck in left field, traveling over 450 feet.

On the mound, he routinely blows his nose directly on to the ground.  These blasts, affectionately referred to as “snot rockets” by Giants fans, have become so commonplace that they almost look like part of Bumgarner’s pitch routine.

Rocket

Other quirky details about San Francisco’s reluctant pitching hero include his request to ride a horse in the victory parade after the 2014 World Series, the team’s refusal on the parade request but allowing him to ride a horse into the ballpark for the following Opening Day, and his purchase of cattle as a birthday gift to his wife in 2011.

He’s part rural pragmatist – with little patience for egocentric nonsense – part frat boy, part Southern gentleman, and part Bunyanesque sports hero with a healthy dose of humility.  He hits tape measure home runs and baffles hitters with a lethal pitching repertoire.  He’s a devoutly loyal teammate and post season badass who’s never been defeated in the World Series.

He’s also a devoted husband, with a penchant for unpretentious gifts, and mindful of his hometown roots.  He does commercials for Ford, because he drives a Ford pickup truck. After being named Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year” in 2014, he had to buy a suit to attend the ceremony, marking not only the first suit he had ever purchased but also the first time he’d ever worn one.

Suit

Bumgarner is all of these things – all rolled up in one person.

So, the next time he does something that draws widespread attention, take a good look.  Otherwise, you might not believe it.  That’s how folk heroes work.

And Madison Bumgarner is most certainly one of those, too.

Folk2

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/bumgama01.shtml
http://m.mlb.com/news/article/100048920/oct-29-bochy-bumgarner-postgame-interviews
http://www.csnbayarea.com/giants/instant-replay-bumgarner-silences-dodgers-giants-win-3-1
http://mlb.nbcsports.com/2015/07/31/the-benches-cleared-in-fridays-giants-rangers-game/
http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/10/madison-bumgarner-six-beers-nlcs-giants
http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/after-going-upper-deck-in-bp-bumgarner-says-he-wants-to-be-in-home-run-derby/
http://www.people.com/article/world-series-mvp-madison-bumgarner
http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2014/12/09/103643608/madison-bumgarner-wears-a-suit-and-tie-for-the-first-time–in-his-life

Photos:

http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/10/61/75/2301778/25/920×920.jpg
http://fm.cnbc.com/applications/cnbc.com/resources/img/editorial/2012/10/05/49168054-James-Bond-Collectibles-cover.600×400.jpg?v=1349460991
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http://www.dispatch.com/content/graphics/2015/07/08/all-star-1953-art0-g1r12g1ar-1ted-kluszewski-jpg.jpg
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http://sports.cbsimg.net/images/visual/whatshot/Bumgarner_102914.jpg
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https://lintvwwlp.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/world-series-giants-r_fay.jpg?w=650
http://larrybrownsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/yasiel-puig-madison-bumgarner.jpg
http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2144876/images/o-BUMGARNER-facebook.jpg
https://bumgarnersnotrockets.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/giants-bumgarner-snotrocket-2014-07-23-5.jpg
http://cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/videos/2157889318001_3933497728001_Screen-Shot-2014-12-09-at-11-40-15-PM.jpg
http://ww1.hdnux.com/photos/33/50/60/7244816/6/rawImage.jpg

 

An All-Star Game without All of the Stars

The first Major League Baseball All-Star Game took place in 1933, which was about 15 years too late.

Granted, that All-Star debut didn’t lack spectacle or star power – seven of the nine starters for the American League were eventual Hall of Famers, while four National League starters later earned Cooperstown entry.

Even the managers carried legend with them.  John McGraw and Connie Mack led their respective teams for 86 years between them, collectively winning 19 pennants and 8 World Series titles.  Both earned Hall of Fame honors and are still considered two of the greatest managers in the history of the sport.

So, as debuts go, the 1933 All-Star Game was, indeed, gold plated and diamond encrusted.

1933 All Star

Still, if the All-Star tradition had started a decade or two earlier, the 1933 edition would have still been played in all of its magnificence, it just would have been the latest in a string of great games leading up to it.  Earlier contests would have also allowed a whole slate of star players the chance to shine in such an elite showcase – a chance not afforded in 1933 because they had already left the game.

Consider 1919 – yes, the year of the Black Sox and the eternal tarnishing of baseball’s soul.  However, if there was an All-Star game that year, the American League could have matched the 1933 roster with seven Hall of Famers in the starting nine. And that magnificent seven would have included top-tier talents like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, George Sisler, and Walter Johnson – all of whom had retired by 1933.

For good measure, the American Leaguers could boast about having Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest left-handed hitters in baseball history, on the team and having the version of him before he decided to corrupt himself and his sport in the World Series that fall.  Harry Heilmann would also be available to them – the only big league player to crest .400, win four batting titles, be selected for the Hall of Fame, and yet remain shamefully invisible in the public’s collective memory.

Harry Heilmann Detroit Slugger

And if the game was close and the team needed an immediate offensive dividend, they could use a 24- year old outfielder from the Boston Red Sox named George Ruth, who was on the cusp of changing the sport forever by tethering the age of power hitting to his booming bat and sling-shotting it forward.

Ruth1918

In 1919, Ruth hit 29 home runs, 17 more than anyone else in the majors.  He also won nine games on the mound with an ERA under 3.00.  So, if the American League needed it, Ruth was capable of launching a homer to grab the lead and then pitching an inning or two to protect it.

As for the National League, they weren’t exactly sacrificial mutton, either.  They could roll out five Hall of Fame starters themselves, including second baseman Rogers Hornsby, a two-time Triple Crown winner, and pitcher Grover Alexander, whose 90 career shutouts are still the second most All-time after Walter Johnson.

Alexander

Coincidentally, the managers for the hypothetical 1919 game likely would have been the same ones who oversaw the actual 1933 contest, John McGraw and Connie Mack – except they would have been 14 years younger and strategically devoted to the more nuanced “dead ball” aspects of play at that time.

Since the “Dead Ball” era (circa, 1900-1920 and so named because of the lack of carry of the ball) emphasized pitching and base running above all else, the 1919 version would have been more stealing than slugging, more spitballs than fastballs, and much more bunting than anyone has ever seen since.  That is, such strategy would permeate until Mack decided to play his trump card, Ruth, and then the big fellow would try to put a hole in the outfield grandstands with one swing of the bat.

That mythical 1919 All-Star Game would have been an extraordinary thing to behold, for sure.  There would be a few things missing, though – namely, diversity and equality, along with some truly remarkable players.

If the times were more enlightened and the people who ran the majors – as well as the fans who watched – in 1919 had been more accepting and progressive in their thinking, this hypothetical All-Star game would have surpassed the actual 1933 debut in most ways imaginable.

Had star players from the Negro Leagues been allowed to play in the majors in 1919 the infusion of talent and innovation would have been enormous and transformed the sport in ways that might well still be felt today. Such integration would have also allowed two full generations of players to shape big league identities, preserving their baseball legacies in ways only Major League notoriety seems able to do – fair or not – and cast them forward.

But integration didn’t happen in 1919 or 1929 or 1939, it took Major League baseball until 1947 to finally tear down the invisible fence it had built on ignorance and stupidity and fear.  And that fence had deprived the big leagues of decades’ worth of historical impact and memorable matchups – not to mention the utterly unnecessary insult and vitriol it directed at hundreds, if not thousands, of faultless players.

The failure to integrate baseball in 1919 is especially galling, because America was only a year removed from its participation in World War I.  Among the soldiers sent to fight for flag and country were 40,000 African-American troops.  They served honorably, fought with tenacity, and died courageously.

Soldiers

When the fighting stopped and the soldiers returned, African-Americans collectively hoped that the battle sacrifices of black troops abroad merited social progress at home. Sadly, that did not happen.  Not much changed – in the factories or political arenas or on baseball fields.

Black men could take a bullet in France fighting a faraway war but could not take the field alongside white players in America.

It was a great shame, not just from a social equality perspective but from a sporting standpoint, too, because many of the best players in the world at that time were black.

To underscore this, if the American League could have fielded seven Hall of Fame players with their best starting lineup in 1919 – a rather impressive number – the African-American community of the time could have done even better.  Comprised of black players playing in their own professional leagues that year, an African-American All-Star team would have included eight Hall of Famers.

Centerfielder Oscar Charleston could do it all – a power-hitting, defensive wizard with speed.  And he did it with the kind of competitive edge that bordered on rage but stayed just controlled enough to be considered productive fury.  In 1919, he was 22 and hit a whisper under .400, while belting eight home runs in just under 180 at bats.

Charleston Oscar_FL w bat 6545.76 PDCharleston’s outfield mates would have included Pete Hill – a lean base stealer with a slashing, line drive-making swing, and Cristobel Torriente – a stocky Cuban power hitter with surprising stealth.  Defensively, the trio’s superb athletic range would have swallowed would-be hits like few others ever could.

As for defense, few players had better reputations for glove work than third baseman William “Judy” Johnson and shortstop John Henry “Pop” Lloyd.  Johnson had remarkable defensive reflexes.  His ability to charge and field bunts became a trademark of his Hall of Fame skills.

Even though he was 35 years old in 1919, Pop Lloyd could still play.  In fact, Lloyd played another 13 seasons after 1919.  Like Oscar Charleston, Lloyd had all-around brilliance to his game.  On defense, he earned the nickname “El Cuchara” when he played in Cuba for his ability to dig out tough grounders, scooping them to nab base runners as though served up on a tablespoon.  At the plate, his tremendous hands allowed him to place the ball all over the diamond and, when needed, he could lengthen the bat and send a booming drive for extra bases.

Lloyd

First baseman Ben Taylor was a gentleman first and ballplayer second.  That he had Hall of Fame baseball talent speaks as much or more to his grace and integrity off the field than his magnificent skills on it.  As a player, he was a smart hitter with a penchant for getting big hits and a nimble defender recognized for his agility around the bag.  As a mentor and teacher, he guided young players for decades after his playing days.  His most famous protégé, Hall of Famer Buck Leonard, credited Taylor with not only teaching him how to play first base but also how to be a professional.

Behind the plate, William “Biz” Mackey was everything a great catcher is supposed to be – tough, smart, fearless, and strong armed.  When he called a game, pitchers followed him, because he knew the psychology of hitters as well as he knew the physics of pitching.  It was a lethal combination.  Add to that, a .300 bat and a towering but classy presence, and the result is one of the great catching careers in baseball history.

Mackey Biz 1052.86_FL_PD

On the mound, Joe Williams – appropriately nicknamed “Smokey Joe” – had a fastball that rivaled any of the time for sheer speed and intimidation.  From Seguin, Texas, Williams had the classic look of a power pitcher – tall, broad shouldered, and deadly serious with a baseball in his hand.  Soft spoken off the field, Williams let his searing fastball tell the story.  And when it did, that story included a 27-strikeout, 12-inning shutout, a string of 20 straight wins early in Williams’ career, and a poll naming the tall Texan the greatest pitcher in Negro League history.

Williams

Like their Major League counterparts, a 1919 Negro League All-Star team could also supply a Hall of Fame manager.

Andrew “Rube” Foster had an aura – an impressive mélange of confidence, defiance, and ambition.  As one of baseball’s greatest managers, Foster also had an impressive range of vision.  He saw things as they might happen, how they should happen, and how best to narrow the distance between the two.

Foster

Above all else, Foster’s vision of the game emphasized speed and precision.  The synchronicity of runners flashing from base to base and the hitter putting the ball in play at the just the right moment and location required immense discipline.

Under less demanding leadership, such a bold strategy would have disintegrated into chaos.  However, Foster demanded attention and obedience because of his supreme confidence in himself and his players.  Subsequently, those players succeeded largely because they simply believed they could not fail.

In 1910, Foster and his players perfected the concept.  Compiling an astonishing 123-6 record that season, the Leland Giants may have been one of the greatest teams to ever take the field.  Led by Pop Lloyd, the Giants were a blur on offense and seamless on defense, executing Foster’s demanding game plan flawlessly.

During one brilliant stretch, Foster’s teams won 12 championships in 13 seasons (1910-1922).  So, in 1919, Foster was still at the apex of his managerial genius.

After he left the dugout, Foster organized the Negro National League and became one of the most visible African-American entrepreneurs in the country.  When he was finished, Foster built some of the greatest black baseball teams in history, built the first black baseball league, and, finally, built a legacy which is still regarded as one of the most innovative and successful in the game.

So, if in some parallel universe, the powers that be organized an All-Star game in 1919 and were impartial and decent enough to allow all players of all races to participate, it would have been one hell of a show.

Consider some of the unforgettable showdowns.

Ty Cobb, sharpened spikes and all, racing into second on a steal attempt, in a virtual dead heat with Biz Mackey’s rifle-armed throw to the bag. Walter Johnson trying to sling his legendary fastball past Oscar Charleston, whose lightning fast reflexes rivaled those of any hitter that Johnson had ever seen. 

Johnson

George Sisler belting a ball deep into one of the outfield gaps then waiting to see if Pete Hill could run it down before it hit the turf.  And Joe Williams, with his cap pulled down taut, staring down brawny Babe Ruth with the game on the line. All the while, Rube Foster would match strategic wits with John McGraw or Connie Mack – three of the sharpest baseball minds in history.

As icing, all of this could have happened at the rollicking and rowdy Polo Grounds, right on the edge of Harlem in New York City.  It was the longtime home of the New York Giants and, with its enigmatic but fascinating oblong dimensions, would have been the perfect cathedral to house this perfect jewel of a game.

Polo Grounds

The fully integrated 1919 All-Star contest was the greatest game that never happened.

But if it had, it would have had a tremendous ripple effect by the time the American and National Leagues squared off in 1933.

Assuming integration continued – and thrived – the 1933 All-Star Game would not only have included big league greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Carl Hubbell, no fewer than 16 Negro League stars and eventual Hall of Fame players would have been available as well.

Catcher Josh Gibson, widely considered the greatest power hitter in Negro League history, and outfielder James “Cool Papa” Bell, similarly regarded as the fastest man to play in the league, would have provided remarkably dangerous levels of muscle and quickness to whichever side was fortunate enough to have them.

Gibson hit so many home runs and hit them with such force that the sheer volume – both in number and decibel level – seems overwhelming.  Some sources credit him with over 900 homers in his 17-year career, including one launched completely out of Yankee Stadium.  While debate may linger on the exact number of home runs he hit, few squabble over the devastating kinetics of his swing.

Gibson

Bell’s speed could not be reduced solely to the art of the steal – using the number of bases he took over his career as the only metric to evaluate his historic quickness.  He learned how to weaponize his speed, turning into as much psychological dagger as strategic windfall.  He often beat out routine grounders for hits and would sometimes score from second on a sacrifice fly.  And that consistent ability to take an extra 90 feet not available to ordinary players made Bell especially worrisome to opponents, because – as the cliché goes – speed never slumps.

Bell2

Pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige named his pitches, called out hitters, and then backed up all of that bluster the moment the ball left his hand.  Paige pitched for 25 seasons, hopping from teams and leagues like a symmetric stone skipping across a lake.  Everywhere he went, though, he entertained and impressed.  In exhibition games against white Major Leaguers, Paige garnered respect for his considerable abilities from a string of big league stars, including Joe DiMaggio and Babe Herman.  They all knew he could play at an elite level; it was only his circumstance that determined where.

Paige

To prove the point, when integration finally came, Paige signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 and became an important part of the team’s championship season. Even at the age of 42, he still had enough left in his arsenal to go 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA.

In 1933, though, Paige was 27 and still in the prime of his career.  Had he played in the All-Star Game that year, he would have undoubtedly pushed Lefty Gomez and Carl Hubbell for the starting pitching nod.

Speaking of Hubbell, his extraordinary run of five consecutive strikeouts against five Hall of Fame hitters (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin) in the 1934 All-Star Game remains one of the most impressive moments in baseball history. 

Hubbell C 1498.68 = 68 NBLIt is fascinating to ponder whether or not he would have been able to accomplish the same extraordinary feat if Josh Gibson or Oscar Charleston (even at 37 years old) had been swapped in as part of that fearsome sequence.

As for fearsome clusters of hitters, the Home Run Derby did not become a staple of All-Star festivities until 1985, five decades after the inaugural All-Star contest.  However, since hypotheticals are ruling the day (or at least this blog post), imagine an integrated Home Run Derby in 1933.

The American League quartet of Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, and Al Simmons – Hall of Famers, all – combined to hit over 2,000 career homers in the big leagues.  Even today, Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx remain in the top 30 on the All-time home run list.  Foxx, in particular, was so physically intimidating at the plate that pitcher Lefty Gomez once mused, “He wasn’t scouted; he was trapped,” coinciding neatly with his nickname, “The Beast”.

Foxx

National League representation wouldn’t have quite the same pedigree, but the foursome of Mel Ott, Chuck Klein, Joe Medwick, and Wally Berger includes three Hall of Fame hitters and an aggregate career home run total of more than 1,200.  And Ott’s distinctive swing, which featured a prolonged and high-altitude leg kick, would have added a little panache to the proceedings.

Ott

Not to be outdone, the African-American contingent would have been comprised entirely of Hall Famers – Gibson, Charleston, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, and Jud Wilson.  Despite a relatively ordinary baseball frame (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), Stearnes won seven home run titles in the Negro Leagues and once led his league in stolen bases, for good measure. Wilson was barrel-chested and massively strong.  Despite only being 5-foot-8, many considered him one of the hardest hitters in the history of black baseball.  His nickname, Boojum, was derived from the sound his crushing drives made when they struck outfield walls.

Wilson

The modern day Home Run Derby is – as most modern entertainment pieces are – a glossy, overblown thing designed to fascinate momentarily before being forgotten entirely.  It’s laden with product placement and players who bask in the flash and worship of the moment.

Derby

Mind you, there’s not wrong with it – as fun, fluffy events go.  In fact, most notably, participants are as varied as the international amalgam of the game itself in the 21st century.  In that respect, maybe, the derby isn’t all that fluffy and inconsequential, after all.

Still, a home run contest involving the Bambino, the Beast, Boojum, and a power-hitting “Turkey” would have been far more compelling.  In it, twelve sluggers – all but one in the Hall of Fame – would unleash their celebrated torque, sending an endless stream of great, big soaring drives out of Comiskey Park in Chicago with the wind howling.

No sips of Gatorade or glitzy scoreboard odometer readings.  Just twelve guys in wool uniforms knocking the holy living hell out of baseballs. 

Gehrig Derby

And if it came down to Babe Ruth squaring off against Josh Gibson to see who claimed the home run crown, it would have settled an awful lot of arguments that are now forever in dispute.

So, yes, the debut of the All-Star Game came a few years too late, while the integration of baseball came decades too late.  And all of the remarkable moments that would have come with better timing of both are left in the regrettable place that all other hypothetical triumph resides.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/heilmha01.shtml
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ruthba01.shtml
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http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hornsro01.shtml
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http://baseballhall.org/hof/taylor-ben
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http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/fostera.html
http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-world-war-i.html
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/1933-batting-leaders.shtml
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/NL/1933-batting-leaders.shtml
http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/gibsonj.html
http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/bell.html
http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/paige.html
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/HR_career.shtml
http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/stearnes.html
http://coe.k-state.edu/annex/nlbemuseum/history/players/wilsonj.html

Photos:

http://jolietlibrary.org/sites/default/files/1930sa/All-Star%205%20-%203.jpg
http://f.tqn.com/y/detroittigers/1/L/K/0/-/-/Harry-Heilmann.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Ruth1918.jpg
http://sports.mearsonlineauctions.com/ItemImages/000053/53381a_lg.jpeg
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/46/9b/09/469b097580af2e7985f14bf230aefd1a.jpg
http://baseballhall.org/sites/default/files/styles/fullscreen_image_popup/public/externals/cb1e797507872e6cf1c0285af52acaa0.jpeg?itok=xdSXRkZk
http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/pressofatlanticcity.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/6e/46e9288a-982e-5ac6-93c2-55ddc174c077/571407ecd8204.image.jpg?resize=300%2C331
http://s.hswstatic.com/gif/biz-mackey-1.jpg
http://www.blackpast.org/files/blackpast_images/smokey_joe_williams.jpg
http://sports.mearsonlineauctions.com/ItemImages/000017/0280fb46-4019-4e2a-b3e3-191424bea192_lg.jpeg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Game1_1912_World_Series_Polo_Grounds.jpg
http://dailydsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/20150807-2-johnson.jpg
http://baseballguru.com/jholway/image001.jpg
http://sports.mearsonlineauctions.com/ItemImages/000017/3a3faefe-9517-4b59-8aa6-73972eab482e_lg.jpeg
http://dailydsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cool-5.jpg
http://dailydsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/20150707-6-satchel.jpg
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/9VxWiHonhkM/hqdefault.jpg
http://stuffnobodycaresabout.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Mel-Ott-swing-sequence-1.jpg
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-VznPJDAh68g/TWxuim1_4jI/AAAAAAAAAPg/gl1u07TPI0w/s1600/db_Jud_Wilson_20071.jpg
http://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2014/07/16/images/mlbf_34578115_th_45.jpg
http://s.hswstatic.com/gif/lou-gehrig-hof.jpg
http://baseballhall.org/sites/default/files/styles/fullscreen_image_popup/public/externals/357864d997ad4349df3881618d01e92b.jpeg?itok=EJ5JhkpR