Ed Reulbach: Pioneering Jewish Baseball Star?*

Baseball card of one of the century-ago stars (1905-17)

Baseball card of one of the century-ago stars (1905-17)

In the history of MLB, only one pitcher has thrown shutouts in both ends of a doubleheader. (For cricket fans and the many baseball fans too young to remember or know, the regularly scheduled doubleheader means two games in one afternoon; or the so-called Twi-night Doubleheader, of the late afternoon into the night. Each was a single-admission.)

Edward “Big Ed” Marvin Reulbach of the Chicago Cubs must be ranked with Sandy Koufax among the greatest Jewish pitchers of all time. Reulbach’s stats are here. He was on three pennant winners, including the Cubs last in 1908. He played on the same teams as the legendary Mordecai (Three Finger) Brown, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance (“Tinkers to Evers to Chance” is as famous as “Who’s on First?” In a big-time aside, see below for the 1598 Shakespearean version of Abbott and Costello.)

Against the Brooklyn Superbas (later the Dodgers) on September 26, 1908, Reulbach hurled his two shutouts. This was part of a string of four consecutive shutouts that he pitched. (There are more than a few historic and even freaky aspects to the 1908 season. “Take Me out to the Ball Game” was introduced. One of the weird ones—to warm the cockles of any cricket-lover’s heart—occurred on August 4, between the Superbas and the St. Louis Cardinals: only one baseball was used in the game.)

Between the N.L. and Federal League, Big Ed won 182 games, plus 2 in World Series, in his distinguished career. Few Jews played professional ball then. He is a borderline Hall of Famer, and perhaps some day he will be recognized by the Pre-Integration Veterans Committee.

* (Early Feb. 2016, it came to my [Evander] attention, via Ron Kaplan, that there are questions regarding ER’s Judaic background and heritage: this according to the original source, one-time UPI correspondent to Israel [Newsweek and Time] Robert Slater, as reported by RK.)

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Great Stadiums (9): PPC Newlands

imagesI (Evander) suspect—tho my suspicions may be nugatory—that readers of this blog will be hearing more about this one, in Cape Town, before we’re very far into the new year 2016. I was once again blown away by a cricket venue, and couldn’t contain my enthusiasm on this Boxing Day.

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Dazzy Vance and W. C. Fields

W. C. Fields trashes a Palm Beach estate in It's the Old Army Game. Dazzy Vance was not far away.

W. C. Fields trashes the real-life Palm Beach estate of Edward Stotesbury in It’s the Old Army Game. Dazzy Vance was not far away.

In 1926, W. C. Fields filmed It’s the Old Army Game. The silent movie has something to do with Florida real-estate scams. It is perhaps best known for showcasing the brilliant and complex Midwesterner Louise Brooks before she left Hollywood pictures for Germany, becoming an international star under G. W. Pabst in the Frank Wedekind-inspired Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora). Brooks was married to Edward Sutherland at the time of the Fields movie. He was a handsome director, a man’s man, who took to Fields like the proverbial duck to water (or gin to tonic).

Some of the movie was shot in Ocala, near the home of Dazzy Vance, another legendary Midwesterner, who would be buried in nearby Homosassa, and who also took to Fields. The pair were friends, undoubtedly from Brooklyn, as the actor starred for Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (when not making movies) and lived in Bayside and Great Neck (Russell Gardens), while Vance was striking out batters at a record clip for the Dodgers. Indeed the unusual Vance, who came up with the Yankees but had arm troubles and didn’t begin his MLB career in earnest till he was thirty-one, would lead the N.L. in strikeouts for seven consecutive seasons. He was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame sixty years ago as I (Evander) write this, in 1955, and died six years later, aetat. sixty nine.

(W.C., by the way, claimed to have beaten off an alligator in the Everglades while getting a cool drink for Linelle Blackburn. See Simon Louvish’s Man on the Flying Trapeze for a lot more as well as Louise Brooks’s classic Lulu in Hollywood.)

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Spring Hopes Eternal

In the words of the old Citibank ad: Any day now...aaaanny...daayyyy...nowwwww....

In the words of the old Citibank ad: Any day now…aaaanny…daayyyy…nowwwww….

The New York Yankees have announced highlights of their spring 2016 schedule, including sixteen games at the pictured venue in Tampa, Florida. As of this writing, we are 96 days from the first reporting by pitchers and catchers, and something like 107 days away from the first exhibition (“preseason”) game.

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Cricket Comes to Citi Field Revisited

Not quite....

Not exactly….

The crepuscule of early November settles in Citi Field. The World Series is over, tho there are still faded signs stenciled outside the first- and third-base lines proclaiming it. The mound has been flattened and covered, and there is a mostly dirt pitch carved in what used to be, just a week ago, no-man’s land between second base and center field. Swirling young women dressed in bright-yellow and mulberry silk energetically dance and sing, hip-hop Bollywood-style, in right field.

What am I (Evander) doing here? I am witness to an event unique in NYC-professional sports history. And I’m loving every minute of it. I even brought along my Canon portrait lens to capture the sights: the last days of the Pepsi Porch (to be replaced by the Ovaltine Overpriced Seats or maybe the LSD Lounge I joke), the giant images outside the stadium of Hodges and Seaver; and oh yes, guys inside the coliseum named Sachin Tendulkar, Muttiah Murallitheran, Ricky Ponting, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Shaun Pollock, and many more.

The way Ruth and Gehrig barnstormed the Far East in the 1930s, the way “the Pearl” attempted to interest largely indifferent Americans in soccer during the 1960s and 1970s, an all-star—make that an all-time all-star—so an amalgam of international cricket stars have descended from the firmament to entertain, to recapture their glory, to instruct on the mighty elegance of cricket.

Purists cluck: This is not cricket! (On the Houston leg of the tour, T20 was played…under a dome.) There is no real drama for one. I am in no position to disagree. Yet, I do. My only puzzled exposure to the noble game had been exactly forty summers ago in Cambridge, county-cricket spread over several evenings, played into 9:30 in the evening—UK-summer dusk. We talk about this in Right off the Bat. But this afternoon, thanks to Martin, to the work on the book, I had a pretty fair notion what I was watching. At the risk of gushing, let me say this: Cricket is majestic. Although I cannot exclaim I came, I saw, I conquered, I did experience the best even if at three-quarters’ speed.

Sadly, I had a mishap rewinding my spool of b&w. All the photos are lost I’m afraid. When shooting with a superior lens, occasionally a photographer sees a good one, long before the image is developed and printed. I had at least half-a-dozen good ones. Oh well.

The match was on 11/7. Our book had been published on a 7/11. It was 19 years and a little over since 9/21, that pristine first day of fall, Fan Appreciation Day, when I took Martin to his first baseball game. He caught on right away—aided no doubt by a familiarity with rounders. Thanks to Martin, I caught on last week, if not as keenly as he did during those far-off days ago. Above all, there is not a shred of doubt that this 11/7/15 was a new beginning. I now know for sure, firsthand, that there are World Series and there are world series.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata. Shantih shantih shantih

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The Meaning of Rabada

The history of cricket, like that of baseball, is marbled by the legacy of racism and national identity. The case of Kagiso Rabada, the young South African fast bowler, illustrates that the issue has not gone away, as this article from the Africa Is a Country website attests.

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Cricket Comes to Citi Field

Cricket All-Stars

The stars walk off the field at the end of the game.

Evander and I (Martin) witnessed history on Saturday when we attended the first Cricket All-Stars T20 smackdown in Citi Field, home of the Mets baseball team, in Flushing, New York. The Cricket All-Stars featured a “who’s who” of the world’s best cricketers from the last three decades: from the venerable West Indian fast bowlers Courtney Walsh and Sir Curtley Ambrose (both aged 53) to comparative young uns, such as the Sri Lankan giants Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara (a mere 38), who only retired from the game this year. In fact, six of the eight leading run scorers and three of the top five wicket takers in cricket history were present.

The teams were led by the Albert Spalding of global cricket, Shane Warne (who doubles as the greatest leg-spinner the world has seen), and the most famous player in the world, Sachin Tendulkar—whose every utterance, move, and sighting on the big screen was greeted with rapturous cheers from a crowd of 30,000, the vast majority of whom were of Indian ancestry and for whom the chance to see him in the flesh was an opportunity they never thought would be theirs. It’s hard to convey the level and pitch of excitement that hummed around the ground at the fact that “The Little Master” was gracing us with his presence. Suffice to say, however, that when the crowd saw a sign that had a picture of Sachin with the legend “God Blessed the United States,” the sentiments were a mixture of admiration at the fan’s wit and an acknowledgment that perhaps, indeed, this was a darsana.

It was perhaps only natural that, given the age of the players, the game itself was more an echo of glories past than present cut-and-thrust. But it was a real game, and you could still see the skills at which these greats had excelled, and, in former Australian captain Ricky Ponting’s case, the competitive spirit that drove them to the top of their sport.

I’m not sure what the cricketers themselves made of the whole experience. But it’s possible that the titans were as awestruck by the lineup, the location, and the masses of cricket fans as we were of them. When South African all-rounder Shaun Pollock struck a delivery from the great South African fast bowler Allan Donald only to be caught on the boundary by  Kallis, it was difficult not to be as amazed by that combination as the fact that the three of them had taken 1043 Test wickets combined. When Virendar Sehwag strolled out to open the batting with Sachin, you were observing a pair that had amassed 74 Test centuries and 26,699 one-day-international runs between them. That would have been a moment worth pondering whether you were on the field or not.

This was not the first international cricket game in the United States, nor even in New York City (that honor goes to a match up between the U.S. and Canada in 1844). But there was something momentous about the occasion that made it seem unique and, like many sightings of the divine, transformational. When Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar steamed in from the “Apple End” and delivered a nasty rising delivery to the usually phlegmatic human Dreadnought Jacques Kallis, and then beamed a broad smile that proclaimed, “See! I’ve still got it!”), the crowd roared their approval. Nobody cared that the Rawalpindi Express now more often runs on the local track; it reminded them of former glories and of the many hours they’d spent watching these masters ply their trade when both fan and cricketer were young. It was nostalgia condensed to its elemental, nucleic simplicity—and no less explosive for it.

The Cricket All-Stars play in Houston tomorrow (November 11) and then go on to Los Angeles. It seems almost certain that they’ll be back—a little wiser, a lot richer, and with even more fanfare—to NYC, and Right Off the Bat recommends you book your tickets as soon as you can. We can guarantee some kind of revelation.

 

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