Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15- Chicago Cubs

Tonight’s post is the first that I can honestly say that I’m doing as a journalist having graduated with my first two degrees in News/Editorial Journalism and English from the University of Oregon. For the last few years I had thrown that label around, but it never really seemed to stick. I suppose I have the beard, hats and variety of tattoos to thank for that. Nonetheless, I’ve always stayed true to my convictions and principles that it is my responsibility to relay the truth, or at least some version of the truth, to the masses. Writing and storytelling are my gifts, and I am truly honored by all the positive response that I’ve received for doing something I enjoy.

The first time I ever saw this cap was when I was seven or eight years old and living in Bakersfield, California. My best friend Bryan Gildner’s older brother Joel wore the franchise version for a solid year. For the longest time I had thought that it was a Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear hat that had been bleached in the sun. As I got older I was thankful that I had never looked like a dummy and opened my mouth to ask that… even though I’m now admitting my failure at life some 22 years later. You know what? Let’s just move on.

The Chicago Cubs only rocked this cap for one year back in 1914 as it served as their game cap for both home and road games. It should be noted that during the 1910s the Cubs changed their caps eight times, but more importantly, this is the only cap in the 137-year history of the Cubs organization to feature any version of a bear on their cap (excluding batting practice caps). That’s kind of a mind-boggling stat. Even more amazing is that the Cubs are also the oldest organization to not have an official mascot. Yes, I realize over the years the Cubs have had different variations of a bear in the form of a patch on their jackets and jerseys; however, I’m taking about the lack of a dude in a ridiculously elaborate and sweaty suit glad handling children, chucking peanuts in the crown and trying fir up the masses. Needless to say, the Cubs are one of the few longstanding professional sports organizations which have refused to stray far from the old days of conducting business.

Keeping in sync with the one-and-done, old school mentality of the ball club, I didn’t get too crazy with markings on this cap. Rather, I went with the only two notable things to occur that season.

’14- As I mentioned earlier, the Cubs only used this hat for one year in the franchise’s history, 1914. The team had gone 78-76 which was good enough for fourth place in the National League. The Cubs had been six years removed from their final World Series victory, two years removed from Franck Chance, their most successful manager in franchise history, leaving the club and certainly in need of a moral boost. Johnny Evers had taken over as player/manager in 1913 and faired rather well, going 88-65 in his one and only year in that specific role. In a reality, 1914 was just a wash year for the Cubs, so much that they ended up hiring an umpire to handle managerial duties that season.

O’Day- For those of you who don’t know who Hank O’Day is, you should get right on top of conducting your own independent research after reading this. O’Day had only managed for two seasons in Major League baseball: 1912 with the Cincinnati Reds and now the 1914 Cubs. O’Day, a Chicago native, was one of six children born to deaf parents in 1862. He had started out as a steamfitter’s apprentice, but found himself getting heavily involved in baseball at the age of 16. As a pitcher and left fielder, he bummed around the minors for five years before making his Major League debut with the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884. O’Day played a total of seven years in the Majors which included stints with the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (Pirates), original Washington Nationals and the New York Giants.

After O'Day finished his playing career, he worked as a clerk for the Chicago city recorder's office. While attending a Chicago baseball game as a spectator one Sunday, O'Day was recruited from the stands to substitute for umpire Thomas Lynch, who was unable to make it to the game due to a train service cancellation. O'Day performed so well that he was recruited into full-time service as an NL umpire. Crazy! I wish I could get fitted for a job like that.

O’Day umpired in 10 World Series (1903, 1905, 1907-08, 1910, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1923 and 1926), only Bill Klem, the first umpire elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a hiring choice of O’Day’s, has umpired in more. O’Day called balls and strikes for four no-hitters, a record matched over 50 years later by Harry Wendelstedt, who you may remember from my National League umpire hat post from February 20. But, the one thing that O’Day will forever be associated with is the infamous “Merkle’s Boner” game witch took place September 23, 1908.

He was working as the plate umpire in the game between the Cubs and the Giants, which ended when Al Bridwell's single drove in the apparent winning run. However, base runner Fred Merkle never advanced from first base to second, in keeping with the common practice of the era. When the Cubs produced a ball – not necessarily the game ball, which had been thrown into the stands – and claimed a force play at second base, which would negate the run, the debate erupted.
Emslie, who as base umpire had been watching the play at first base to verify that the batter had reached base, had not seen the play at second. O'Day ruled that the force play had been valid and that the run did not count, causing the game to end in a tie. It is noteworthy that at that time, Emslie and O'Day ranked as the two longest-serving umpires in major league history. – Wikipedia bio on O’Day

Go figure; a dude born in Chicago, umpiring at a Cubs game, and who later ended up managing the Cubs six years later ended up being the guy who had the balls the size of the attitude at The Weiner’s Circle to make that call. Nice!

O’Day hung it up at the end of the 1927 season. One can only assume that after witnessing the greatest New York Yankees team ever assembled drove him away from the game. (The last sentence I made up… sort of) In the years afterward O’Day served as an umpiring scout, but passed away in 1935 after contracting bronchial pneumonia and stomach cancer.
Despite the lack of player talent not being elected into the Hall of Fame this season, the Veteran’s Committee was at least wise enough to finally elect O’Day into the umpires’ shrine. He will be the 10th umpire to being given such an honor.

No comments:

Post a Comment