Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sweetbread Bailey: Presidents and Pastries (In it for the dough)...

...which is also the title of my new band's debut release. It's a mix of early New Wave dance beats with underpinnings of pop art and minimalism. Our biggest influences are Jean-Paul Sartre, ironic mustaches and money from our suburban dads. And we all dress like it's 1983, which is actually 8 years before we were born. Our live performances are eye-opening, but the bourgeoise types wouldn't get it. We haven't had our record reviewed by Pitchfork yet, but we're confident it will score at least a 7.6.

Wait, what?

This is a baseball blog. Ostensibly, anyway. Sometimes I write a little bit and then discover that it's clever and I digress. Imagine that: A self-indulgent blog1. But we'll save that discussion for a later, much more self-referential post.

Today's GNIB post covers the life and times of Abraham Lincoln Bailey, a native of the, well, Land of Lincoln. That's hardly surprising, I guess; Illinois has an infatuation for the 16th commander in chief. The name puts in him some good company with other players named after presidents.

But Abe Bailey actually played under the auspices of Sweetbread Bailey, a name which adds him to the All-Time Pastry Team: Cookie Lavagetto, Pie Traynor, Jim "Cakes" Palmer, Doughnut Bill Carrick, Danny Tartabull, minor leaguer Christopher Danish, minor leaguer Russell Loafman and Baklava Van Troy.

As a young phenom in Joliet, Sweetbread passed up an opportunity to pitch for the Chicago Cubs in 1917, instead serving in World War I with the 72nd Field Artillery in the army2. Upon returning, however, the Cubs signed him to pitch for the club. Bailey pitched in relief for the Chicago Cubs from 1919 to 1921, when he was traded to the Brooklyn Robins. His career was over after the 1921 season.

Sadly, Bailey died in 1939 at the young age of 44 in the same town in which he was born. Naturally, coffee and sweet rolls were served after the burial.

1 If your blog isn't sufficiently self-involved, then you're doing it wrong.

2 Bailey is alleged to have invented the bread helmet during the Great War, a device that would not gain popularity for nearly another 100 years.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Amos Rusie: The Hoosier Thunderbolt

Honors for the Hoosier Thunderbolt1 in three hastily-hewn haiku2:


One Thunderbolt please.
Don't skimp on the gin, either.
Two dimes for the 'keep3.


The Amos Rusie--
Flail at one, two, three fastballs.
Repeat and again.


Spring training's arrived.
How 'bout a drink or seven?
He's as good as e'er.

Read about Amos Rusie's drinking baseball exploits here.

1 This sounds like a much better name for a train line than the Hoosier State. Mitch Daniels, forget all that government crap and legislative process and so forth. Make this a priority.

2 The plural of haiku is haiku. Also, this hack writer is terrible at creating them.

3 Rusie's grand moniker led to a drink of the same name. While research does not turn up any information on a recipe, it's probably safe to assume it had gin in it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Studs Bancker: Investing in pain

John V. "Studs" Bancker played during the year when New Haven had a professional baseball team and that professional baseball team was called the Elm Citys.

Studs fancied himself a catcher and an infielder, though he was a not regular starter on the 1875 club and in fact was a poor hitter.

After his sole season in professional ball, Bancker worked successfully in private securities. And by this, I mean that he wielded a cudgel, which he used to break debtors' extremities.

It's rumored that 11-year-old Philadelphian Ossee Schrecengost once watched Studs go 3-for-3 on a trio of downcast gamblers. Young Ossee remembered that day and frequently described it in wistful tones after a few servings of pitcher's juice.

Studs Bancker died of dysentery in 1888 at 35, having collected a record-high 3,762 kneecap hits.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lou Skizas: Slugger, time traveler, sound investor

Lou Skizas ostensibly earned his nickname "The Nervous Greek" from a lengthy routine he performed before each at-bat. The Chicagoan outfielder's ritual makes Nomar Garciaparra's pre-batting routine look like Warren Newson's, if you know what I mean.

However, in a rare and completely fabricated interview, Skizas disclosed that he actually picked up the nickname after constantly mumbling to his 1950s teammates about the financial crisis striking his 2010.

Teammates dismissed his ramblings as incoherent babbling and a nervous tic. But Skizas HAD traveled to the future, thanks to a clever device obtained from the back of a cheesy science fiction paperback. While in the future, Lou visited with his still-alive self in 20112 and returned to the 1950s to tell of the great embarrassments suffered by the Greek people in the 21st Century.

After many years of arguing about the future, Lou realized no one would ever believe him, so he settled in to everyday, post-baseball life. He earned a PhD in biology and taught at Illinois State University and the University of Illinois, where he also coached the baseball team.

He's since retired from teaching, though he at times worked a scout for the Chicago Cubs. Today, Skizas lives near Chicago somewhere, sitting on top of a pile of money he's made on sports betting, thanks to a sports almanac he's kept under his pillow for 55 years.

Read Lou Skizas' actual story here.

1 Actually, Skizas' homeland was Chicago, though his parents had immigrated from Greece.

2 The astute reader will mention paradoxes here. The author wonders why this interrupts your suspension of disbelief, but you can believe the plot of any episode of Doctor Who. Sure, it's fine when writers pull magical sci-fi crap to whitewash poor plot planning, but when someone tries to create a fictional account of a real person's life, it becomes unacceptable. Well screw you! We don't need you anyway2A!

2A Please don't stop reading. Although if you do stop reading, our sponsor will send hooligans to your front door with bar mallets in hand.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Elton Chamberlain: Cool as Ice*

Elton "Ice Box" Chamberlain may have been the original mold for the late nineteenth century baseballist. A sturdy and reliable pitcher for 10 years, Ice Box picked up his nickname from hyperbolic scribes' descriptions of his coolness in the pitcher's box1. In 10 seasons, he won 157 games and was an above-average pitcher in an era where offense ruled the game. He even pitched with his left hand on occasion, an accomplishment also undertaken by one of Chamberlain's contemporaries: lady killer and GNIB honoree Tony Mullane.

In addition to his pitching credibility, Ice Box engaged in all of the traditional, unsavory baseballist off-field engagements of the times.

He bet heavily on boxing. Of course, this is not in itself a crime. But Chamberlain netted himself a hefty $50 (!) fine for helping fix a match in 1891. In another match, Ice Box won a diamond ring from a bet on brawler Edward Gorman. Like any good bettor, Chamberlain lent Gorman the ring. After it became apparent that the ring was never coming back, Ice Box had Gorman arrested and jailed for grand larceny2.

Of course, the natural post-career appointment for a man of such repute is self-evident: Ice Box was hired to be a National League umpire in the 1896 offseason. While the reason is unclear, the result is not. Chamberlain was fired before long.

Not only was Chamberlain a fisticuffs fan, he fancied the occasional participation in what can only be dubbed "assault and battery for fun and profit."

In one instance, Cincinnati teammate and outfielder Jocko Halligan ravaged a bar during what baseball historians have determined "an ordinary baseballist's Thursday." After battering one teammate into a pulp, Halligan3 spotted Chamberlain at the bar and decided that a doubleheader was in order. Ice Box, however, was watching Halligan's approach in the bar mirror. As Jocko lunged, Ice Box turned with a bar mallet4 in hand and coolly dispatched of the raging outfielder.

Ice Box's post-baseball life is not at all documented, outside of his death in 1929. Some say that he worked in a consulting role with baseball hatchet-man extraordinaire Ossee Schrecengost and that he once began a brawl in Cleveland that ended 390 miles away.

All we know is...he's called a prick.

Read the SABR Project bio of Ice Box Chamberlain here.

* For information on this article post's title, rent Cool as Ice (1991), starring award-winning human being Vanilla Ice. Also, please take a moment to enjoy Ice Box Chamberlain's baseball card, presented by Old Judge Cigarettes. Remember kids, Old Judge Cigarettes wrote THE verdict in smoothness.

1 A thorough researching has indicated that rejected nicknames included: Iceberg Spleen, Glacial Glands, Winter Worm, Nattering Nabob of Numbness, Chisel Cheeks and The Rimy Buffalo Hurler.

2 Ed Gorman once defeated a Kiwi world champion named Torpedo Billy Murphy in 1891 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He also allegedly won a 53-round bout with Billy Hawkins in Chicago by forfeit, though at least one press outfit claimed the fight was a canard. This author finds the claim confusing and dubious, for airplanes had yet to fly, let alone planes with complex aerodynamic surfaces.

3 Jocko was a common enough nickname in baseball. For more information on Halligan's story, please see his succinct entry in the SABR encyclopedia.

4 Can anyone tell me what a bar mallet is, by the way? All of my research indicates that it was either a golf club or a piece of percussion equipment. Because I don't want to venture off on a tangent of a tangent about why he was carrying a golf club or percussion equipment4A, I'll just assume that a bar mallet is a
10-lb. hammer (because Nine-Pound Hammers are for hillbillies), which Ice Box carried with him because Ohio state laws permit concealed carrying of large, blunt objects for just such occasions.

4A Actually, that's never stopped this author from supposition. However, in this instance, I can find no other reason why a roughshod baseballist would carry such items other than to flog his opponents in battle. Chamberlain certainly was not a purveyor of gentlemanly pursuits like golf, nor was he inclined to song, save the dull, rhythmic thudding of a melee.