Five Random and Somewhat Obscure Baseball Facts
1. The first baseball player to hit more than 20 home runs in a season. Babe Ruth? Nope. Ned Williamson. Yes, THE Ned Williamson. Who?
Ned Williamson, Chicago White Stockings, 1884, hit 27 home runs, which is a ton for the dead-ball era (when baseballs weren't wound as tightly as they were starting in 1920, and when one baseball was generally used for an entire game). So why so many homers? Perhaps because the Stockings played in a virtual Little League park...the distance to the fences were between 185 and 190 feet to the foul lines and 300 feet to center field. The MINIMUM allowable distance down the foul lines these days is roughly 315 feet.
Also, a teeny little rules change helped Ned. Prior to 1884, any ball hit over the fence was counted as a double. The rule was changed to make it a home run because 1884 was also the year that pitchers were allowed to throw overhand for the first time.
2. The oldest player in Major League Baseball history....Satchell Paige, pitcher, member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. His best years were spent in the Negro Leagues, when black players were banned from Major League Baseball. He made his Major League debut in 1948 at the age of 41....maybe. You see, Satchell doesn't actually know when he was born, and there is good evidence he was 46 or 47 in 1948. So while he was officially 58 when he made his final big league start in 1965, he may very well have been in his early 60's.
Even more amazing, in that last game, Paige pitched three scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics against the Boston Red Sox. The last player ever to get a hit off Satchell was another Hall-of-Famer, Carl Yastrzemski, who four years earlier made his Major League debut....against the Kansas City Athletics.
3. Only one player played for my team, the Braves, in all three cities in which they have been located; Boston (1876-1952), Milwaukee (1953-1965), and Atlanta (1966-present). That player was Hall-of-Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews (yes, only one 't'). Best known as Hank Aaron's teammate now, but was probably a better hitter than Hank in the 1950's, and he played a tougher defensive position (third base vs. left field for The Hammer). Unlike Hank, Eddie only had a couple decent seasons after he turned 30 years old, whereas Hank was either great, or at least very good, until he turned 40.
(yes, I know this is too dang long, sorry... not a blog pro like the Mrs.)
4. The first player since 1900 to lead each league in home runs, as in he led the American League one season then led the National League later in his career. Not even the biggest baseball fan usually gets this one.....nope, not McGwire (AKA Muscles Marinara)...
Fred McGriff, who led the American League with 36 homers while playing for Jen's Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, then led the National League in 1992, hitting 35 homers for the San Diego Padres. Muscles first led the AL in his rookie year of 1987 with Oakland, then after discovering chemistry, led the NL with his then-record 70 dingers in 1998 with the Cardinals.
5. The last legal spitball thrown in Major League Baseball was sometime in September of 1934. The spitter and other doctored pitches were banned in 1920, but baseball allowed 17 pitchers to continue using it via a grandfather clause. MLB allowed teams to designate pitchers who threw mostly spitters and, theoretically, who would have been useless had they not been allowed to throw spitters. The last legal spitball was thrown by Burleigh Grimes, a Hall-of-Famer who (I think) really shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame...he was good, not great. Not sure of the exact date of his last game, but Grimes' last win came as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Sept. 10, 1934, against the New York Giants.