Thursday, October 31, 2013

How Long It's Been: The Red Sox Won the World Series Without Cheating

Tonight, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

This, of course, is bogus, as are the World Series they won in 2004 and 2007. And we know why: Performance-enhancing drugs.

Manny Ramirez, and whoever else was cheating on the '04 and '07 Scum is gone, but David "Big Papi" Ortiz is still there.

He used PEDs.

He was tested for them.

He failed the test.

He said he never used them. He lied.

He was exposed. Exposed as a cheater and a liar.

He still lies about it.

For all we know, he still cheats.

And yet, he is not only still permitted to play professional baseball, he is allowed to be crowned Most Valuable Player of the 2013 World Series.

So even with these 3 tainted titles, the Red Sox have still not won the World Series without cheating since...

September 11, 1918.

"Wait a minute, Mike," you say, "September? Don't you mean October 11, 1918?"

No. That year was different. World War I was going on, and the U.S. Department of War (which became the Department of Defense in 1947) decided that baseball was not a vital industry, and ordered the season cut short, intending that the game be shut down for the duration of the war.

At the time, no one knew how long the war was going to last: It had already been going on for 4 years, and 1918 was the first year in which U.S. troops were actually in combat in Europe. As it turned out, the American entry into the war made the difference, and on November 11, Germany surrendered, and the war was over, and baseball resumed on schedule in April 1919. (In World War II, the Commissioner wrote to the President, and FDR said baseball should continue.)

The 1918 season got a reprieve in that the World Series was allowed to be held, but it began on September 5, and, on September 11 -- a date fraught with difficult history in America long before 2001 -- the Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in Game 6 and took their 4th title in the preceding 7 years.

That's 93 years, 1 month and 19 days.  How long has that been?

The 1918 Boston Red Sox included some interesting names: Babe Ruth, Wally Schang, Everett Scott, Carl Mays, Bullet Joe Bush and Sad Sam Jones. All of these men would be on the Yankees by the time they won their first World Series in 1923. 

Indeed, thanks to the friendship of theatrical producer and Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, and brewer and Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, of the 25 men on the Yankee roster that season, 12 had previously played for the Red Sox, including the legendary Babe and the triad of Mays, Bush and Jones, the bulk of the Sox pitching staff in their 1915, '16 and '18 title seasons -- along with Ruth, who, due to the wartime manpower shortage, had been appearing more and more as an outfielder.

Harry Hooper, the Hall of Fame center fielder who was sold off to a different team, the Chicago White Sox, said that the 1920s Yankee Dynasty was effectively the 1910s Red Sox champions. He had a point.

Major League Baseball -- only nobody called it that back then, it was just "baseball," or maybe "Organized Baseball" -- had 16 teams in 10 cities: New York (the Yankees, the Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers), Boston (the Red Sox and the Braves), Philadelphia (the Athletics and the Phillies), Washington (the Senators), Pittsburgh (the Pirates), Cleveland (the Indians), Cincinnati (the Reds), Detroit (the Tigers), Chicago (the Cubs and the White Sox), and St. Louis (the Cardinals and the Browns). Of those 16, only the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phils, the Pirates, the Indians, the Reds, the Tigers, the Cardinals and the Chicago teams are playing in the same cities today.

There were no major league teams south of Washington, Cincinnati or St. Louis, and no teams west of St. Louis. Milwaukee, Baltimore, Kansas City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Twin Cities, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, San Diego, Dallas-Fort Worth, Toronto, Denver, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, Tampa Bay? At the time, those cities had, between them, 23 minor league teams; they now have 18 major league teams.

There were no ballparks with lights, domes, or electric scoreboards or public-address systems. The players wore no numbers or names on their backs. There were no batting helmets, and gloves were a lot smaller, thus error totals were a lot higher. There were a few white Cubans playing in the majors, but no nonwhite players: No African-Americans, no black Hispanics, no Asians. The spitball and its ball-doctoring siblings like the mudball and the shineball were legal; the designated hitter was not.
And the reserve clause was in effect: The average major league salary was $4,000, and the highest-paid player was Ty Cobb at $20,000.  (In 2013 dollars, the average would be $60,000, and Cobb's capper $300,000 -- or 1/100th of what Alex Rodriguez makes.)

The National Hockey League was about to start its 2nd season, with 4 teams: The Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto Arenas (who became the Maple Leafs in 1927), the Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs. There was professional football, but, as yet, no National Football League. If there was professional basketball at all, it was kept out of the newspapers.

Old-time baseball legends like 1869 Cincinnati Red Stocking George Wright, professional pioneer Joe Start, and Jim O'Rourke, legend of the 1872-75 National Association Champion Boston Red Stockings and the 1888-89 National League Champion New York Giants, were still alive. John L. Sullivan, the man regarded as the first true Heavyweight Champion of the World, a.k.a. The Boston Strong Boy, had died earlier in the year. (The current champ was Jess Willard, but he would soon lose the belt to Jack Dempsey.) Joe DiMaggio was about to turn 4.

The President of the United States was Woodrow Wilson. Former President Theodore Roosevelt was still alive, but was dying. Former President William Howard Taft was also still alive. Warren Harding was a U.S. Senator from Ohio, Calvin Coolidge the Governor of Massachusetts, Herbert Hoover the director of a food relief service that was easing the starvation conditions of war-torn Europe, Franklin Roosevelt the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower were both Captains in the U.S. Army; ironically, Truman saw combat in "The Great War," while Ike was never transferred overseas. Lyndon Johnson was 10 years old, Ronald Reagan 7, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford 5, John F. Kennedy a year and a half.

The Governor of the State of New York was Charles S. Whitman, but he was about to be defeated for re-election by Alfred E. Smith. The Governor of New Jersey was Walter Edge, and the Mayor of New York was John Hylan. The Mayor of the city in question, Boston, was Andrew J. Peters. The Governor of Massachusetts was Samuel W. McCall.

The monarch of Great Britain was King George V, the Prime Minister of Britain was David Lloyd George, and the Prime Minister of Canada was Robert L. Borden. Britain's Football League, and its FA Cup competition, were suspended for the duration of the war after the 1914-15 season, and would resume for 1919-20.

There have since been 11 Mayors of Boston -- counting 4-time Mayor James Michael Curley only once -- 26 Governors of Massachusetts, 17 Presidents of the United States, 4 monarchs of Great Britain, and 9 Popes.

Major novels of 1918 included My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, and, with the war in mind, The Marne by Edith Wharton and The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West. British poet-soldier Siegfried Sassoon published Counter-Attack and Other Poems. Nonfiction works published that year included Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey, The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler, and The Education of Henry Adams, published posthumously, as Adams had died earlier in the year.

There were no credit cards or automatic teller machines in 1918.There was no radio broadcasting. There was no television, either. No Internet. No computers. Fewer than half of all Americans had a telephone in the home. 

There were, however, records, and hits included a lot of songs that had, or seemed to have, a war theme: "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "Hello, Central, Give Me No Man's Land," "Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo," "If He Can Fight Like He Can Love, Good Night Germany," "Mammy's Chocolate Soldier" (this was as respectful as race relations got in 1918), "Oh! Frenchy!" "Oui Oui Marie," "The Rose of No Man's Land," "Those Draftin' Blues," "Till We Meet Again," "We'll Do Our Share While You're Over There," "When Tony Goes Over the Top" (I'm guessing a song for Italian-Americans), "Without You," "Would You Rather Be A Colonel With An Eagle On Your Shoulder Or A Private With A Chicken On Your Knee?" and "You'll Find Old Dixieland In France."

Irving Berlin contributed "Good-bye, France," "They Were All Out of Step by Jim," and "Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," which he would sing in a World War II film, wearing a World War I "doughboy" uniform even though he was 43 years old. Having gotten his big break in 1911 with "Alexander's Ragtime Band," Berlin got ripped off by Alfred Bryan, Edgar Leslie and Cliff Hess with their "When Alexander Takes His Ragtime Band To France." 

But, along with earlier classics like "Over There," "Pack Up Your Troubles" and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," the definitive World War I song may have been "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On the Farm" -- "after they've seen Par-ee" -- by Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young and Walter Donaldson. With Pete Wendling, Lewis and Young wrote "Oh How I Wish I Could Sleep Until My Daddy Comes Home." And with Jean Schwartz, they wrote the non-war song "Wedding Bells, Will You Ever Ring For Me?" All in 1918. 

Al Jolson, the biggest Broadway and recording star of the time, sang of war ("On the Road to Calais" and "Tell That to the Marines") and Peace ("Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"). The biggest non-war songs of the year, aside from Jolson's "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby... ," were "Somebody Stole My Gal" and "Tiger Rag" (a.k.a. "Hold That Tiger"). 

There were movies, but they were black and white, and silent. Buster Keaton and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle were the leading comedians of the day, while Charlie Chaplin was just getting rolling. Sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish starred together in D.W. Griffith's Hearts of the World. Elmo Lincoln starred in the 1st Tarzan film, Tarzan of the Apes. Pola Negri starred in a film version of Carmen -- although the film being silent kind of defeats the purpose of opera.  

Mary MacLane, a bisexual feminist writer who became a sensation in 1902, only 21 years old at the time -- making her the Miley Cyrus of her day -- adapted her 1910 syndicated articles "Men Who Have Made Love to Me" into a silent film, in which she starred. The title, and the content, describing 6 affairs, 1 with a married man, were incredibly scandalous for the 1910s -- they would have been risqué even for the 1950s -- and the film has been lost. She died in 1929, from tuberculosis, only 48, and has been mostly forgotten since. 

While we're on the subject of early death: There were no antibiotics. An infection could kill, and an epidemic of influenza would end up killing about 50 million people -- around 3 times as many as died as a result of the war, military and civilian combined.

Most of the warring countries, in order to remove this potential blow to morale, hid the true extent of the epidemic, but Spain, neutral and not in the war, published the details of how the flu hit their country. Even King Alfonso XIII fell victim, although he survived. Thus, it became known as the Spanish Flu Epidemic.

It would continue into 1919, striking down several Montreal Canadiens and Seattle Metropolitans players, making it impossible to bring the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals to a conclusion -- the only time the Cup has been competed for, but not awarded. Canadiens defenseman Joe Hall, known as "Bad Joe" for his dirty play, died from the flu, and so his reputation was obscured by his martyrdom, as he became the 1st active NHL player to die.

In the fall of 1918, in events not directly related to World War I, Vladimir Lenin was shot by Fanya Kaplan; he survived, but his health never fully recovered. London policemen went on strike for increased pay and union recognition. Mayaguez, Puerto Rico was nearly destroyed by an earthquake and its resulting tsunami. Cloquet, Minnesota was destroyed by a fire that killed 453 people.

American poet Joyce Kilmer, and British poet Wilfred Owen, and French pilot Roland Garros, for whom the French Open's main stadium would be named, died -- all in combat. American actors True Boardman and Harold Lockwood also died, in the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Leonard Bernstein, and Nipsey Russell, and Ted Williams were born.

September 11, 1918. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

It took them 86 years to win another. They have now won 3 World Series since 1918.

None honestly.

And they, and their fans, damn well know it.

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