Billy Hunter – 1958 Topps
July 19, 2011
Know Your History!
A blog post I was reading (no names, because I’m nice) made an off-handed comment about some piece of history that was enclosed in a package of cards.
Now, it was quite the interesting piece of history, especially since it’s down the wheelhouse for me. It covers early baseball (though not quite my beloved 19th century, but close enough), intrigue, drama, characters that we’ll never see the like of again, and people with enough chutzpah to do whatever they wanted with no fear. (I bet they could say it properly too!)
So I had to post the oldest card I had in my collection (thanks to a grab bag box at my secondary LCS) to remind people NOT to dismiss anything about the history of the game. It adds to our knowledge base, and makes you realize that the issues in the game are remarkable similar, and the people inhabiting the game were very much like they are now.
A. Players would do anything to make more money.
B. Players would do anything to get a competitive edge.
C. Owners would do anything to make more money.
D. Owners would do anything to get a competitive edge.
E. Teams traded veterans to contenders to make room for young players.
F. Teams traded veterans to contenders to relieve payroll pressures.
G. Sports columnists were homers.
H. Sportswriters were dicks to players they didn’t like.
The only thing that’s different is that if a sportswriter liked a player, they probably went out drinking and chasing skirts together. So that wasn’t reported.
Right now, I’m reading Under Pallor, Under Shadow which is a fascinating account of the 1920 AL pennant race. It’s a follow-up, of sorts to two great books: Eight Men Out and The Pitch That Killed (my favorite baseball book EVER!)
What great characters:
1. You had the Indians, who lost their sentimental star player to a horrific death on the playing field to a player that was universally reviled. Think of Derek Jeter being brained by someone like Kevin Brown. But add to that a vicious fistfight involving three members of the team over the funeral services that knocked their star and manager out of the lineup for a week.
2. You had the Yankees with great star power but a lack of depth in key positions. Sounds familiar.
3. You had the White Sox, a team bifurcated into two cliques with little crossover that was only unified in hating their owner. A wily vet came to the team and was totally befuddled by the lack of any sort of camaraderie between the camps. The chatter that they threw the 1919 Series grew louder, and each loss that the Sox took that featured an error, misplay or mental lapse by the tainted players was put under scrutiny.
4. You had an ineffectual leader who was basically powerless to do anything in regards to discipline thanks to court fights and a loss of allies due to his bullying and petulance.
Oh, and they played baseball too. The pennant race was a doozy!
Know your history!