More Than Merkle: A History of the Best and Most Exciting Baseball Season in Human History

More Than Merkle: A History of the Best and Most Exciting Baseball Season in Human History

More Than Merkle: A History of the Best and Most Exciting Baseball Season in Human History

More Than Merkle: A History of the Best and Most Exciting Baseball Season in Human History

Excerpt

If you didn't honestly and furiously hate the Giants, you weren't a real Cub. — Joe Tinker, Second Base, Chicago Cubs

For better or worse, it's called the Dead Ball Era — that's what some baseball historians generally call the two decades between 1900 and 1919. The 1919 or 1920 season has been used as a convenient divide between the Dead and Lively Ball eras, primarily due to the emergence of Babe Ruth and the home run as a significant offensive weapon and the resolution of the 1919 World Series scandal.

However, a technical argument can be made that the Dead Ball Era ended when the major leagues adopted the cork-centered baseball in 1910 and 1911. Run production increased as a result of the new tighter, livelier ball, but the strategy of the game did not change significantly until Ruth became an everyday player. Thus the extension of the Dead Ball Era to 1919 can be defended, despite being technically incorrect. If some historians dispute the duration of the Dead Ball Era, there is no argument that early-twentieth-century baseball was as exciting and competitive as any other brand of ball played during the past hundred years.

Meant to describe dominant pitching and low scoring using a mush ball, the term Dead Ball Era does a huge injustice to those pioneering players, managers, umpires, and owners who lived during the era and participated in fierce competition both on and off the field. The Tinker epigraph stands as an example of how players approached competition with other teams and viewed the concept of team loyalty.

This competition was essentially among cities and their teams, but there was a personal element to it too. Players generally stayed with the same teams for a longer period than they do now, which allowed for a stronger sense of team and regional loyalty on the part of fan and player alike. This loyalty concept has been dampened by free agency and other modern influences.

The highly partisan local sports press contributed to building team loyalty and civic pride. Baseball executives eventually, and in some cases grudgingly, recognized the vital role newspaper coverage played in generating interest in teams, individual players, and in the game itself. During an age when most major cities were served by at least three or . . .

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