Baseball is a series created by Ken Burns, about the evolution of the game of Baseball, produced by PBS in 1994. In its original broadcast, it was divided into 9 episodes or "innings", which were narrated by John Chancellor. A 10th inning, which focuses on Baseball since the 1994–95 Major League Baseball Players' Strike, was completed and broadcast in 2010.
Inning 1: Our Game (1840s to 1900)
- In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing "base", a certain game of ball … Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms … the game of ball is glorious.
- Opening statement, a quote of Walt Whitman, from the 23 July 1846 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
- It is played everywhere: in parks and playgrounds, prison yards, in back alleys and farmers’ fields; by small boys and old men, raw amateurs and millionaire professionals. It is a leisurely game that demands blinding speed; the only game in which the defense has the ball. It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime and ending with the hard facts of autumn.
Americans have played baseball for more than 200 years; while they conquered a continent, warred with each other and with enemies abroad, struggled over labor and civil rights, and with the meaning of freedom.
At its heart lie mythic contradictions: a pastoral game born in crowded cities, an exhilarating democratic sport that tolerates cheating, and has excluded as many as it has included. A profoundly conservative game that often manages to be years ahead of its time. It is an American Odyssey that links sons and daughters to fathers and grandfathers, and it reflects a host of age-old American tensions; between workers and owners, scandal and reform, the individual and the collective.
It is a haunted game in which every player is measured with the ghosts of those who have gone before. Most of all it is about time and timelessness, speed and grace, failure and loss, imperishable hope, and coming home.
The game’s greatest figures have come from everywhere: coal mines and college campuses, city slums and country crossroads. A brawling Irish immigrant’s son [John McGraw] who for more than half a century preached a rough and scrambling brand of baseball in which anything went so as long victory was achieved; and his favorite player, a college-educated right-hander [Christy Mathewson] so uniformly virtuous that millions of schoolboys worshipped him as 'The Christian Gentleman'.
A mill hand [Shoeless Joe Jackson] who could neither read nor write who might have been one of the game's greatest heroes if temptation had not proved too great. A flamboyant federal judge [Kenesaw Mountain Landis] who at first saved baseball from a scandal that threatened to destroy it, but later became an implacable enemy of reform.
A miner’s son from Commerce, Oklahoma [Mickey Mantle], who made himself the game’s most powerful switch-hitter despite 17 seasons of ceaseless pain. A tight-fisted Methodist [Branch Rickey], "a cross", one sportswriter said, "between a statistician and an Evangelist", who profoundly changed the game twice. And there were those whose true greatness was never fully measured because of the stubborn prejudice that permeated the nation and its favorite game.
Two of baseball's best began life in rural Georgia: A swift and savage competitor who may have been the greatest player of all time [Ty Cobb], but whose uncontrollable rage in the end made him more enemies than friends; and another no less fierce competitor [Jackie Robinson] who, because he managed to hold his temper, made professional baseball a truly national pastime more than a century after it was born.
And then there was the Baltimore saloonkeeper’s turbulent son [Babe Ruth], who became the best-known and best-loved athlete in American history.
- It's fun. That's what it is. It's fun. Baseball's more fun than anything else. You can watch it and just love it and enjoy it. I don't think there's anything tremendously philosophical about it. I don't think there's anything metaphysical. I just think it's so much fun to watch. You watch a player do something. You watch a second baseman go up in the air on a double play, and he throws the ball, and he's like a bird in flight. And he's watching to see what happens. You see a first baseman take a bad throw in the dirt and come up with stuff like that and sort of wander off the bag as if there's no problem at all. It's just delightful.
- Robert Creamer
- One summer day in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, on the shores of Lake Otsego, the local academy was playing a game of town ball against Green's Select School. The rules of town ball were so loose that every hit was fair, and boys sometimes ran headlong into one another. That day, an academy player named Abner Doubleday sat down and, on the spot, drew up the rules for a brand new game and called it Baseball. Abner Doubleday would eventually become a hero at the Battle of Gettysburg, and his game would become the national pastime. Or so the legend has it. Abner Doubleday really was a distinguished soldier, but he was at West Point, not Cooperstown, that summer, never claimed to have had anything to do with baseball, may never have even seen a professional game. Baseball's real history is more complicated.
- By the spring of 1861, there were 62 member clubs in the National Association of Base Ball Players. Free Blacks in northern cities had established their own teams, and Henry Chadwick was trying to start a baseball club in Richmond, Virginia, when the new season was suddenly interrupted.
- Virginia, April 3, 1862. It is astonishing how indifferent a person can become to danger. The report of musketry is heard but a very little distance from us,…yet over there on the other side of the road is most of our company, playing Bat Ball and perhaps in less than half an hour, they may be called to play a Ball game of a more serious nature.
- Frederick Fairfax, 5th Ohio Infantry
- In October 1867, as federal troops enforced civil rights laws in the South, the African-American Pythian Baseball Club of Philadelphia applied for membership in the Pennsylvania Association of Baseball Players. They were turned away. Two months later, the National Association took up the issue: "If colored clubs were admitted, there would in all probability be some division of feeling, whereas, by excluding them, no injury could result to anyone." Despite the ban, the Pythians became the first recorded all-black team to play a white team, the Philadelphia City Items: a group of newspapermen. The Pythians won: 27–17. Their captain, Octavius Catto, was later killed in a Philadelphia race riot that started when Blacks attempted to exercise their right to vote.
- On many summer day, I played baseball starting at 8 in the morning, running home at noon for a quick meal, and again with fielding and batting until it was too dark to see the ball. There were times when my head seemed empty of everything but baseball names and figures. I could name the players who led in batting and fielding, and the pitchers who had won the most games. And I had my opinions — about who was better than anybody else in the national game.
- Moses Fleetwood Walker, an Ohio clergyman's son who first played varsity ball for Oberlin College, was the first black to make it all the way to the majors. He joined Toledo of the American Association as a catcher in 1884 and immediately ran into a wall of bigotry. The Irish pitcher, Tony Mullane, ignored Walker's signals because, he said, he wouldn't take orders from a black man. Cap Anson himself tried to have Walker ejected from an exhibition game, threatening not to play if someone didn't "get that nigger off the field!" Anson backed down only when he realized he'd have to forfeit his pay if he really did walk out.
- In 1884, when diphtheria swept through his village, he [John McGraw] was a slight, eager eleven-year-old whose proudest possession was the battered baseball he had been allowed to order from the Spalding catalogue. He watched helplessly as, one by one, his mother and four of his brothers and sisters died. His father took out his grief and anger on his son, beating him so often and so mercilessly that at 12 he feared for his life and ran away from home.
- He [McGraw] supported himself at odd jobs until he won himself a place on the Olean [New York] professional team at sixteen and never again willingly took orders from any man. Although he was short and weighed barely 155 pounds, he held far bigger base runners back by the belt, blocked them, tripped them, spiked them—and rarely complained when they did the same to him.
Inning 2: Something Like a War (1900 to 1910)
- Once, early in his career, a shy young outfielder dared compliment a New York Giant for hitting a home run. "Nice hit," he said. The veteran answered, "Go to hell." The young player was Johannes Peter Wagner, "Honus" Wagner, on his way to becoming the greatest player in the National League.
- Now, Ban Johnson ordered his American League owners to have their stadiums patrolled to keep rowdiness down. Players and managers, as well as fans, were expected to behave. But there was one man who constantly challenged his authority. John Joseph McGraw, player-manager of the contentious Baltimore Orioles, had been one of the first National Leaguers to jump to the American League in 1901. But he had not liked it there. He could not bear to have anyone tell him how to play the game. When McGraw refused to stop the constant abuse of umpires—for which he was infamous—Johnson suspended him. McGraw never forgave Johnson. He returned to the National League as manager of the New York Giants, a job he would hold for 31 years, leading his team to 10 pennants and ending in the First Division 28 times.
- For African Americans, it remained the worst of times. Eight-hundred and fifty-eight Blacks were lynched during the decade. Separate but unequal laws held them in virtual bondage in the South, and helped drive thousands north to already dangerously-crowded cities in search of a better life. The National Pastime too had nothing to offer; Blacks were still barred from playing in organized white baseball.
- In 1901, a twenty-year-old elementary school teacher named Branch Rickey managed to scrape together enough money to enter Ohio Wesleyan University. His mother sent him a dollar bill each month to help him out, but he always returned it. Rickey was determined to make something of himself and to do it on his own. To pay his school bills, he helped coach the Ohio Wesleyan Baseball Team, urging his players on with a booming voice no one ever forgot. "Rickey is one of the noisiest men who ever played on the field," wrote a campus sportswriter. When the team stopped in South Bend, Indiana, a hotel manager refused to allow the team’s star, a catcher named Charlie Thomas [a black man], to register. The memory of the player’s humiliation never left Branch Rickey.
- The greatest ballplayer of all time? ... I pick the Detroit man because he is, in my judgment, the most expert man in his profession and is able to respond better than any other ballplayer, to any demand made on him. ... He plays ball with his whole anatomy — his head, his arms, his hands, his legs, his feet. ...I have never seen a man who had his heart more centered in a sport than Cobb has when he’s playing. ... I believe Cobb would continue to play ball if he were charged something for the privilege, and if the only spectator were the groundskeeper.
- Charles Comiskey
- Ty Cobb liked sentimentality in his opponents, because he had none himself. Baseball, he said, is something like a war.
- Every rookie gets a little hazing, but most of them just take it and laugh. Cobb took it the wrong way. He came up with an antagonistic attitude, which in his mind turned any little razzing into a life-and-death struggle. He always figured everybody was ganging up on him. He came up from the South and he was still fighting the Civil War. As far as he was concerned, we were all damn Yankees before he even met us.
- Sam Crawford
- [Ty] Cobb got into trouble again in 1909. During a crucial August game between the Tigers and the Philadelphia Athletics, he was accused of deliberately spiking the third baseman, Frank Baker. Connie Mack, the normally courtly Philadelphia manager, even called Cobb "the dirtiest player in baseball," and Ban Johnson suggested that if he didn’t "stop this sort of playing he will have to quit the game." Cobb just went on playing his sort of game, snarling, swearing, shoving, spiking – while hitting .650 in sixteen games at home, and averaging one stolen base every afternoon.
Inning 3: The Faith of Fifty Million People (1910 to 1920)
- He never complained, never alibied. He was never known to criticize a teammate or call an opposing ballplayer 'lucky'. He accepted his great success modestly, and the many vicissitudes of his life in silence. He was easy to like, and hard to know.
- New York World Telegram, describing Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander
- Baseball suits the character of this democratic nation. Democracy is government by persuasion. That means it requires patience; that means it involves a lot of compromise. Democracy is the slow politics of the half-loaf. Baseball is the game of the long season where small incremental differences decide who wins and who loses particular games, series, seasons. In baseball, you know going to the ballpark that the chances are you may win, but you also may lose. There's no certainty, no given. You know when a season starts that the best team is going to get beaten a third of the time; the worst team is going to win a third of the time. The argument, over 162 games, is that middle third. So it's a game you can’t like if winning is everything. And democracy is that way, too.
Back in 1909, a rookie outfielder named Harry Hooper reported for spring training with the Boston Red Sox. He was a college man, and he began to keep a diary of the often-dreary life on the road:
Thursday, March 25: Played the bench. Came near getting into game when [Tris] Speaker got hit sliding home, but stayed in the game. Harry Wolter and myself take in moving pictures in evening.
Friday, April 16: Walk to top of Washington Monument with Nickerson.... Play left field in afternoon.... Get two hits in four, one single, 3 [putouts, and] one assist to plate.
Monday, April 19: President Taft sees game.
Monday, April 26: Doc Powers [catcher Mike Powers], who took sick at the finish of opening game, died today. We sent $25 for a wreath
Monday, May 10: Rained all day. Sat around in hotel.
Wednesday, May 12: We are invited to the Burlesque at the Empire. Good show—for its kind.
Monday, June 28: Beat Washington. Got hit off [Walter] Johnson which scores winning run.
- In 1919, no team played better than the Chicago White Sox, Pennant winners of the American League, and few teams were paid as poorly, or got along as badly. Players deliberately crossed each other on the field. During infield practice, no one threw the ball to second baseman Eddie Collins, Chicago’s highest-paid player, all season long. Teammate Chick Gandil had not spoken to Collins since 1915. “I thought you couldn’t win without teamwork,” Collins said later, “until I joined the White Sox, yet somehow we won 100 games and the Pennant that year.” The White Sox were heavy favorites to beat the better-paid but far weaker Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. The Chicago owner was the Old Roman, Charles A. Comiskey, himself a former player, but now among the game’s most parsimonious executives.
- In two years, he [Shoeless Joe Jackson] had risen from a poor mill hand to the rank of a player in the major leagues. The ignorant mill boy had become the hero of millions. Out on the hot prairies, teams of "Joe Jacksons" battled desperately with the "Ty Cobbs." There came a day when a crook spread money before this ignorant idol and he fell. For a few dollars...he sold his honor...
- Hugh Fullerton for New York Evening World
- [Shoeless Joe Jackson] A South Carolina country boy, had learned to bat from a Confederate veteran who had learned his baseball from Union soldiers in a northern prison camp. He had hoped to be a pitcher until he broke a batter's arm with a wild pitch.
- Jackson could neither read nor write, but he could hit; .408 in his rookie year, .356 lifetime — the third highest average in history. His home runs were called Saturday Specials because most of the textile workers' games in which he got his start were played on Saturdays, and he hit them with a special 48-ounce bat, Black Betsy, made for him by a local lumberman from the north side of a hickory tree and darkened with coat after coat of Jackson's tobacco juice.
- Only at bat did Jackson evidently forget the script—he would bat .375 in the Series.
- Well I was at all the Chicago games, and Eddie Cicotte, one of our pitchers, who had won 29 games and lost 7 during the season, lost his two games, and Lefty Williams lost his two games. I’ve forgotten what his 1919 record was, but it was great, and it was just virtually impossible for those two men to lose two games each and be honest.
- Chicago White Sox fan Gardner Stern on the 1919 World Series
Inning 4: A National Heirloom (1920 to 1930)
- Who is this Baby Ruth? And what does she do?
- George Bernard Shaw
- If you have us play against the best clubs in the land–white clubs, as you say–it'll be a case of Greek meeting Greek. I fear nobody.
- Andrew Rube Foster
- The Yankees were on their way to a fourth consecutive pennant in 1924, when they were stopped cold by one man: Walter Johnson.
Inning 5: Shadow Ball (1930 to 1940)
- The idea of community, the idea of coming together—we’re still not good at that in this country…In moments of crisis, we’re magnificent at it—the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt lifting himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees. At those moments, we understand community—helping one another. In baseball, you do that all the time. You can’t win it alone. You can be the best pitcher in baseball, but somebody has to get you a run to win the game. It is a community activity. You need all nine people helping one another. I love bunt plays. I love the idea of the bunt. I love the idea of the sacrifice. Even the word is good. Giving yourself up for the good of the whole. That’s Jeremiah. That’s thousands of years of wisdom. You find your own good in the good of the whole. You find your own individual fulfilment in the success of the community—the Bible tried to do that and it didn’t teach you. Baseball did.
- Mario Cuomo
- He died two years later, mourned by many as the greatest of all baseball managers, the winner of 10 pennants. Not long after his death, his wife found among his effects a list of all the Black players he had secretly wished he could hire over the decades.
- The Depression was the worst crisis in America since the Civil War. In Harlan County, Kentucky, where the coal industry had died, whole communities tried to survive on dandelions, and blackberries, and pokeweed. Farm prices collapsed, and farm families were driven off the land. In just one day, one quarter of the entire state of Mississippi went under the auctioneer’s hammer. Banks failed, and in several bankrupt cities, the animals in the zoo were shot and the meat distributed to the poor. Hundreds of boys and men thumbed their way to Florida to try out for the big leagues, hoping not for stardom but simply for a job. Half-starved and in rags, without money, gloves or shoes, most were turned away. Some who did get a tryout collapsed on the field from exhaustion and hunger.
- By 1934, the world economy was in ruins, and fascism was on the rise. In Germany, the National Socialists had come to power and [had] begun to institute exclusionary laws against Jews, in an eerie echo of Jim Crow statutes in the United States.
- That winter, Chester Washington of the Pittsburgh Courier sent a telegram to the manager of the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates. 'To: Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates, Congress Hotel. Know your club needs players. Have an answer to your prayers right here in Pittsburgh. Josh Gibson, catcher. Buck Leonard, first base. S. Page, pitcher and Cool Papa Bell all available at reasonable figures. Would make Pirates formidable pennant contender. What is your attitude? Wire answer, Chester Washington.' There was no answer.
- But for black baseball players in America, nothing had changed. For most, the season didn't end in October. When the weather turned cold, they headed south to Latin America, Cuba, and Mexico, where they found a warm welcome playing wintertime baseball. "Not only do I get more money playing here," shortstop Willie Wells wrote after leaving the Newark Eagles for the Mexican league, "but I live like a king. I've found freedom and democracy here, something I never found in the United States. Here in Mexico, I am a man."
- On May 1, 1939, something that had not happened for 14 years, happened to the Yankees. Lou Gehrig took himself out of the lineup. He had played in a record 2,130 consecutive games and earned himself the nickname "The Iron Horse." But now, something was terribly wrong. He was only 35, but had begun to play like an old man: dropping balls, missing again and again at bat, sliding his feet along rather than lifting them. During batting practice one afternoon, Joe DiMaggio watched in astonishment as the Yankees' hitting star missed 10 fat pitches in a row. Gehrig could not understand what was wrong; neither could his teammates. But he could not stand the thought of letting them down. He was benching himself, he said, "for the good of the team."
Inning 6: The National Pastime (1940 to 1950)
- In December 1944, a Japanese troop ship was torpedoed off the island of Formosa. Among those lost was 26-year-old Eiji Sawamura, the pitcher who had once struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
- What about the Satchel Paiges of the future? Will they be playing in the Big Leagues? The question becomes more pressing yearly. It has been tossed into old Judge Landis' lap more than once. And the spectacularly adroit manner in which this articulate apostle of Lincoln tosses it out the window, is a source of much marvel.
- Joe Williams, New York World Telegram
- On July 6, 1944, a month after D-day, a young army lieutenant named Jack Roosevelt Robinson boarded a military bus near Fort Hood, Texas. The driver ordered him to get to the back of the bus where the "colored people belong." Robinson refused and was court-martialed. But the Army judges found him fully within his rights and acquitted him. "I had learned," Robinson wrote, "that I was in two wars: one against a foreign enemy, the other against prejudice at home."
- And Wendell Smith, still pressing for integration, arranged a tryout for Robinson and two other young Negro League players with the Boston Red Sox. Although Boston manager Joe Cronin was impressed by Robinson's skills, Boston passed up the opportunity to become the first major league team to integrate. Instead, it would be the last.
- Swung on, belted... it's a long one... back goes Gionfriddo, back, back, back, back, back, back, back... heeee makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen! Oh, Doctor!
- Brooklyn Dodgers play-by-play announcer Red Barber calling Dodgers' outfield Al Gionfriddo's catch off Joe DiMaggio in game 6 of the 1947 World Series
- I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I toss one that ain't never been seen by this generation.
- Satchel Paige
- I can't honestly say that I appreciate the way in which he [Babe Ruth] changed baseball..., but he was the most natural and unaffected man I ever knew...I look forward to meeting him again some day.
- Ty Cobb
- At the funeral, Ruth's old teammates had served as pall bearers. "I'd give $100 for an ice cold beer," said Joe Dugan to Waite Hoyt. Hoyt nodded. "So would the Babe.
Inning 7: The Capital of Baseball (1950 to 1960)
- That was the great tragic moment in the 50s in New York. It was the beginning of the decline we continue to observe today. Both O’Malley and Stoneham decided to pull their teams out. Both were profitable. There were just more profits to be made in California. It was a cynical, purely commercial-oriented move, which was immensely profitable in that narrow sense and ripped out the soul of New York City.
- Stephen Jay Gould on the relocation of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, for the 1958 MLB season.
- I met Ted Williams last year, and it was like seeing John Wayne. He's a gigantic man. He has a very large, imposing head, but he's very handsome. He's very distinguished, and if you said, "Why, that's Mr. Baseball," if that was his name, you'd buy it. And I walked up to him. And I had a picture, and he signed it to me and all that stuff. And I said, "Ted, I have home movies of you striking out against Bobby Shantz, 1957, Yankee Stadium, second game of a doubleheader." He says to me, "Curveball, low and away."
- For my money, Ted Williams is the greatest hitter of all-time. I'd take him over Ruth, I'd take him over Cobb. I'd take him over Cobb because of the combination of power and average. I'd take him over Ruth because with Ruth, you can only speculate about what he would have done in the modern era. Ted Williams hit .388 at the age of 39 in 1957. He was what few of us ever become; he was exactly what he set out to be. He said he wanted to be able to walk down the street some day and have people say "There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived". And if they don't say that, it's only because they don't know what they're talking about.
Inning 8: A Whole New Ballgame (1960 to 1970)
- On February 23rd, 1960, a brass band played Auld Lang Syne and 200 diehard fans watched, as a two-ton wrecking ball, painted to resemble a baseball, began to demolish Ebbets Field in Brooklyn: the home of the Dodgers, from 1913 to 1957. Roy Campanella was given an urn filled with dirt from behind home plate: his home, for 10 years, before a car accident ended his career. For 44 years, since Charles Hercules Ebbets had built his park on a garbage dump called Pigtown, Ebbets Field had united the hopes of the borough of Brooklyn, and had been home to Wilbert Robinson and Dazzy Vance; Red Barber, and Hilda Chester, and the Dodgers Sym-phony; Leo Durocher, and Pee Wee Reese, and Duke Snider; Larry MacPhail, and Branch Rickey, and Jackie Robinson.
- But now the pressure on Maris intensified. "Would he break Ruth's record," reporters asked again and again. "How the hell do I know," he answered, "I don't want to be Babe Ruth." He wasn't Babe Ruth, and Yankee fans never let him forget it. Even the front office tried to change the lineup to favor the more-popular Mantle. Under the relentless strain, Maris' hair began to fall out in clumps. Always taciturn, he now kept silent: refusing most interviews, keeping to himself.
- Through it all, Maris kept hitting. And in mid-September, Mantle's injuries finally forced him out the race with 54 home runs. In the locker room before the 154th game of the season, with the Yankees 1 win away from the pennant and Maris 2 home runs short of Babe Ruth's record, he broke down. His manager, Ralph Houk, consoled him in his office. "If I can help win the game with a bunt, would you mind if I bunted? It wouldn't make me look bad, would it?" Houk replied: "No; it would make you a bigger man than ever."
- The institution of the asterisk, the most important typographical symbol in American sport, terribly unfair. To take away Ruth's record, his single season record, was to take away something that was held so close to the hearts of the baseball establishment. They couldn't see doing it. Nonetheless, Roger Maris did it. He did hit 61 home runs. And the fact that it took 162 games, well, he also did it having to play at night, having to bat against the screwball, having to travel to the West Coast for games. And to do it all with a parade, a mob of reporters following him around, I think it’s unfair.
- Daniel Okrent
- An amazing thing happened, which was that New York took this losing team to its bosom. Everybody thinks New York only cares about champions, but we cared about the Mets. I remember going to some games in June that year, and they were getting walloped; they were getting horribly beaten. But the crowds came out to the Polo Grounds in great numbers, and people brought horns and blew these horns. And after a while, I realized this was probably anti-matter to the Yankees, who were across the river and had won so long. Winning is not a whole lot of fun if it goes on. But the Mets were human, and that horn, I began to realize, was blowing for me. There’s more Met than Yankee in all of us. What we experience in our lives, there’s much more losing than winning, which is why we love the Mets.
- Roger Angell, discussing the 1962 New York Mets
- On December 9, 1965, the day Branch Rickey died, the Cincinnati Reds let outfielder Frank Robinson go. He had played magnificently for them since 1956, when he hit 38 home runs to tie the rookie record. He charged into outfield walls to make spectacular catches, hurled himself into opposing infielders to break up double plays. And in 1961, won the National League's Most Valuable Player award. In casting him off, the Cincinnati owner explained that Robinson was too old at 30. He wasn't. Robinson moved to Baltimore, where in his first season he won the American League Triple Crown and became that league's Most Valuable Player. No other player has ever won the award in both leagues. Once, early in Robinson's career, when Branch Rickey had desperately wanted him for the Pirates, the Reds general manager said, "I wouldn't give you Frank Robinson for your whole team."
- In 1966, the Boston Red Sox wound up as they so often had before: at the bottom of the standings. Then, in 1967, they got a new manager, Dick Williams, and a new lease on life. Right-hander Jim Lonborg won 22 games, all the while serving in the Army Reserves as the Vietnam War continued to escalate. But it was the play of one man who made the difference. Carl Yastrzemski, the son of a Polish potato farmer from Long Island and Ted Williams’ replacement in left field, almost singlehandedly carried the Red Sox that year. He led the league in nearly every batting category: a .326 average; 44 home runs; 121 runs driven in; and was named Most Valuable Player. "We went from losers to winners," he remembered. "Suddenly it was a joy to go to the ballpark."
- I often wondered what I would do if I were ever traded because it happened many, many times, and it was "part of the game." And then suddenly it happened to me. I was leaving probably one of the greatest organizations in the world to at that time what was probably the least liked and, by God, this is America, and I'm a human being. I'm not a piece of property. I'm not a consignment of goods.
- Curt Flood
- Flood did not report to the Phillies' training camp. "I am a man," he told baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
- Dear Mr. Kuhn: After twelve years in the Major Leagues, I do not feel that I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States. It is my desire to play baseball in 1970, and I am capable of playing. I have received a contract from the Philadelphia club, but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decisions. I therefore request that you make known to all Major League clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season. Sincerely, Curt Flood.
- Curt Flood reading his 1969 letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn
- The Commissioner refused to exempt him from the reserve clause. Flood refused to play, and vowed to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court. The century-old struggle between the owners and the players was approaching a climax.
Inning 9: Home (1970 to 1994)
- My best pitch is a strike. A sinking fastball which you grip like this so you only get two seams into it, and if you turn your hand a little bit like this, it comes out, the wind pushes here, forces it down and away from a right-handed hitter. Thereby, he thinks it's a good pitch; at the last minute, it sinks, he hits the top half of the ball, and he hits a groundball to Burleson, Burleson picks it up, throws it to Yastrzemski, one away. And you do that twenty-seven times in a ball game, make perfect sinkers, then you get twenty-seven outs. Unless the hitters are smart, and then what they do is they know it's a sinker, they get up and drive the ball to right-center field between Lynn and Evans, and that's called a double, and then the pitcher has to run behind third base and back him up, and hopefully, they get the guy out at third, or it's a triple. And then, you get a runner at third and less than two outs, so they bring the infield in, and you don't want them to hit a sinker now, you gotta strike them out, so then you go to a cross-seam fastball, which I don't have.
- Bill Lee
- "Brooks Robinson," Cincinnati's Pete Rose said, "belongs in a higher league."
- What was incredible about Clemente was not only how skilled he was at each part of the game, but this kind of ferocity that he played with on each play of the game — even in years when they were pitiful and they had no chance to get into the pennant or anything like that. He would throw it in, he would pick guys off who got a single who took too much of a turn going around first; there was just something intense about this guy that was not necessarily what was going on in Baseball at that moment.
- John Sayles
- When things look dark, void, and altogether hopeless to the colored youth of America..., when they need an inspiring thought that should urge them onward to the road of achievement despite forbidding obstacles, they will only need to read of and reflect upon the remarkable career of Jackie Robinson.
- Kansas City Call
- Things happened to me, all through the three years, that I kind of erased out of my mind. I got threatening letters about kidnapping and things like this. Vicious, racist letters. I went to play in baseball parks like Chicago, Cincinnati. All these ballparks I played in, I had to slip out of the back of the ballpark with escorts, and things like this. It was terrible, terrible. It was bad times for me.
- Henry Aaron
- "I don't want them to forget Ruth," Henry Aaron once said, "I just want them to remember me."
- In the decades to come, the memory of the scene might blur. But the memory of the sound will remain with everyone who was here. Not the sound of the cheers, or the sound of Henry Aaron saying "I'm thankful to God it's all over," but the sound of Henry Aaron's bat when it hit the baseball tonight... At home plate, surrounded by an ovation that came down around him as if it were a waterfall of appreciation, he was met by his teammates who attempted to lift him onto their shoulders. But he slipped off into the arms of his father Herbert Sr., and his mother Estella, who had hurried out of the special box for the Aaron family near the Braves' dugout. "I never knew," Aaron would say later," that my mother could hug so tight."
- New York Times on Aaron hitting his record-setting 715th home run on April 8, 1974
- Foster made the catch in foul territory. He needed a perfect throw to keep the Reds from losing this game, and it was...No question about it: Denny Doyle out at home.
- Dick Stockton describing the video replay of Cincinnati Reds left-fielder George Foster's throw to Reds catcher Johnny Bench to tag out Denny Doyle on a sacrifice fly in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
- Throughout the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Pirates were a perennial National League power. They had been the first club in major league history to field an all black and Hispanic team, and they saw their team as a tight, close-knit family. In 1979, with the disco beat of We Are Family, they won the pennant, and in the World Series, again faced their old rivals from 1971: Earl Weaver's Baltimore Orioles.
- Willie Stargell really was a good man. All the hopes that he would direct toward other ballplayers came true in his case. I remember the 1971 World Series where those teams [the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates], same two teams that played seven games, and Stargell was a great player that year, and the leader, had led the League in runs batted in and did almost nothing in the World Series. He popped, struck out – same in the Playoffs. And he never complained, he never said anything, he walked back, he never threw his bat down. And I went up to him after the series, and near the end, and I said, "How can you do this? You must be dying." And his little son, Wilver Jr., Wilver Stargell Jr. was playing in the locker and Willie made a gesture toward him and he said, "The time comes when a man really has to be a man," it just came out of him like that. And that’s the kind of man he was.
- Roger Angell
- Aguilera brings it in, to Henderson. Swing...and a long one into left field...that ball might leave the park! It's a home run and Boston leads here in the 10th inning!
- Jack Buck calling Dave Henderson extra-innings home run in game 6 of the 1986 World Series
- I collected baseball cards, so I could take all my Mickey Mantle and other Yankees, Moose Skowron, and I could put them on my bike, and I could ride down the hill and make me sound like I was going faster. There goes $5,200, $5,200 burning up down the highway. Kids today, they go, "How much is your baseball card worth?" And I'm going, "A plug nickel, son. A plug nickel." I'm saying, "Son, be your own person, do not collect baseball cards. It'll be the ruination of you. Maybe you'll learn economics a little bit or learn what value is, but you're being an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur takes something of no value and makes money on it." And I do not believe in that in the kids. I teach them right off the bat, "Learn the game. Do not look at Youppi, do not look at the Chicken, do not look at that, look at the groundball. Field it cleanly with both hands, be as smooth as silk. Make the nice throw at second, have the nice breaking curveball, subtract on the change-up, see the ball and hit it. Don't associate with the other things of the game. It will eventually bring you down, eat you up, and spit you out."
- Bill Lee
- I hope we’re reaching a period where we don’t look up to the ballplayer or down at the ballplayer, but try to look at him levelly and see his gifts and his determination and his craftsmanship as heroic, but at the personal level, don’t demand more of him than we do of people in our own family, ourselves, or our friends.
- Thomas Boswell
- We have these unreasonable expectations of all baseball heroes. We want them to be good at life as well as good at baseball. If you think about it, it’s unfair. It’s hard enough to expect them to play baseball well. I’m convinced there is the same division in baseball that there is in life itself: of true heroes; of people of strong principle; of ordinary everyday people; of rogues; of weaklings.
- Roger Angell
- We’ve done a whole lot of things to hurt it, but it’s a type of thing that you just can’t kill it. You can’t kill Baseball because when you get ready to kill Baseball, something is going to come up, or somebody is going to come up to snatch you...I heard Ruth hit the ball. I’d never heard that sound before, and I was outside the fence but it was the sound of the bat that I had never heard before in my life. And the next time I heard that sound, I’m in Washington, D.C.,...I rushed out…and it was Josh Gibson hitting the ball. And so I heard this sound again. Now I didn’t hear it anymore. I’m in Kansas City...I heard this sound one more time that I had heard only twice in my life. Now, you know who this is? ...Bo Jackson swinging that bat. And now I heard this sound... And it was just a thrill for me. I said, here it is again. I heard it again. I only heard it three times in my life. But now, I’m living because I’m going to hear it again one day, if I live long enough.
- Buck O'Neil
- We respect the people of other generations in baseball perhaps more than we respect other generations in other fields in this country. We’ve been called a disposable society, but we don’t dispose of Babe Ruth. We don’t dispose of Walter Johnson. We treat them as though they are equals, and contemporaries though they’re dead. That’s a very special thing to hand onto children.
Inning 10: (1994 to 2010)
- I think fans have been able to compartmentalize their disappointments and still enjoy it the way they used to, and I think we've built up the same sort of sieve for living experience through that we have with real people in our real lives. We don't expect them to be saints and we no longer expect our athletes to be. We expect them to be the same range of people that we see in the rest of our life. And I think that one of the reasons that baseball has not only not lost popularity but gained it, is as its flaws become apparent, it actually gains depth and humanity even as it loses its fairy tale mythic qualities.
- Thomas Boswell