EPISODE #83: The Baltimore Orioles, Boston Beaneaters & the 1897 NL Pennant Race – With Bill Felber

Career journalist and baseball history author Bill Felber (A Game of Brawl: The Orioles, the Beaneaters, and the Battle for the 1897 Pennant) joins the big show to discuss the most cut-throat pennant race in American baseball history – a multi-level study in contrast that also symbolically set the course of how the modern-day game would ultimately be played.

On one side was the original incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles – a charter member of the 1882 American Association who migrated to the National League ten years later (and not genealogically connected to today’s current American League club).  Led by eventual baseball Hall of Famers John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, and managerial innovator “Foxy” Ned Hanlon (no relation to your humble host?), the original O’s had a reputation as the dirtiest team in baseball – though many of the tactics they employed (e.g., tight pitching, base-stealing, hit-and-run plays, and precise bunting) were simply edgy approaches to the rules that later became strategic staples of the modern game.

On the other, the comparatively saintly Boston Beaneaters – part of the longest lineage in baseball history dating back to the earliest days of the professional game and predecessors of today’s Atlanta Braves – and eight-time National League champs over the course of the late 1800s.  Boasting five of their own Cooperstown enshrinees – pitcher Kid Nichols, outfielders Hugh Duffy and Billy Hamilton, third baseman Jimmy Collins, and manager Franke Selee – the 1897 Beaneaters were the latest installment of a franchise that largely dominated the NL for most of the 1890s.

A hotly contested battle throughout the season, the pursuit of the pennant was the most intensely watched team sporting event in the country’s history to that time, right down to the dramatic final week that climaxed with a decisive three-game series.  The effective championship match on the last day of the season saw 30,000+ crazed Boston fans – including a rabid self-appointed supporters group known as the “Royal Rooters” – break down the gates of the 10,000-capacity South End Grounds to watch the Beaneaters grind out a win and bring down baseball’s first and most notorious “evil empire.”

PLUS: soap suds on the pitcher’s mound; the Temple Cup; late-Senator Ted Kennedy’s grandfather; the “Baltimore Chop,” and "Nuf Ced" McGreevy!

AND, we fire up the old Victrola to hear one of (if not) the earliest known recordings of the Boston “Royal Rooters” de facto fight song, that originated with the Beaneaters during this memorable season!

Thanks to 503 Sports, OldSchoolShirts.com, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, Audible, and MyBookie for their support of this week’s episode!

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EPISODE #73: The Union Association’s Wilmington Quicksteps – with Jon Springer

Professional baseball was barely into its adolescence in 1884 when a hard-playing, hard-drinking minor league club out of tiny Wilmington, Delaware―the Quicksteps―got the opportunity of a lifetime.

Led by prototypical early era stars like loud-voiced outfielder/team captain Tommy “Oyster” Burns (aka the “Wilmington Growler,” who sold shellfish in the off-season), and Canadian-born curveball pioneer Edward “The Only” Nolan (who was briefly blacklisted from the National League for lying about missing a game to attend a funeral when he was, instead, out drinking) – the Quicksteps attacked opponents with a spike-sharpened, rough-and-tumble style befitting the major league style of the era.

Managed by a cricket-playing New Yorker and bankrolled by a cigar-chewing sporting goods dealer who ran illicit gambling rings by night, the Quicksteps were the talk of the town and the East Coast baseball establishment – accruing an .800 winning percentage in the minors and holding their own (and occasionally winning) in exhibitions with big league clubs. 

The National League was less than a decade old then, and the American Association, which had been established two years earlier, was nipping at its heels. But when a maverick millionaire named Henry Lucas established a third major league that year―the Union Association―the pro game erupted into chaos.

When the ensuing battle for players and fans overwhelmed the upstart circuit’s Philadelphia Keystones midway through its inaugural 1884 season, the Quicksteps were invited and abruptly promoted to the Union Association to take their place in a single mid-season fell swoop.  Their arrival in the majors, however, was anything but a dream come true.

Author Jon Springer (Once Upon a Team: The Epic Rise and Historic Fall of Baseball's Wilmington Quicksteps) joins the pod to describe the story of the briefly major league team loaded with colorful characters, highlight plays, comical misfortune, and behind-the-scenes drama that, for a tumultuous and remarkable summer, was driven and ultimately destroyed by its own dream of success – while yielding a virtually unassailable record for baseball futility.

Thanks to our new friends at OldSchoolShirts.com sponsoring this week’s show!

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EPISODE #72: Baseball’s “Miracle” Boston Braves with Historian Charlie Alexander

When you’re the oldest continuously operating franchise in baseball (or in all of American professional sports, for that matter), you’re bound to have some stories – and the proverbial dusty boxes of history sitting in the attic of the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park are certainly full of them. 

This week, we rope in noted baseball historian Charlie Alexander (The Miracle Braves, 1914-1916) to delve into one of the more interesting and oft-forgotten periods of Braves baseball history, when the then-Boston version of the franchise shocked the baseball establishment by rising from last place in the National League on July 4, 1914 to win the league pennant by an astonishing 10 ½ games by regular season’s end (going 68-17 over their final 87 games – a winning percentage of .782), and then sweeping the heavily favored Connie Mack-managed Philadelphia A’s four games to none in the 1914 World Series.

Although also uncharacteristically competitive in the next two seasons (finishing second in 1915 and third in 1916), the “Miracle Braves” of 1914 remained the high-water mark for the Boston franchise over the three decades that followed – finishing no higher than fourth in the eight-team NL during that time, including four seasons in dead last.   It wasn’t until 1948 that the team won another pennant (losing in the World Series to Cleveland) – the last hurrah of the Braves’ run in Boston until absconding to Milwaukee during the 1954 preseason.

Buckle up for stories featuring umpire-baiting and platoon-pioneering manager George Stallings, the double-play infield (and eventual baseball Hall of Fame) duo of Johnny Evers and “Rabbit” Maranville, and the ferocious pitching trio of Dick Rudolph, Bill James, and Lefty Tyler – and the curious stadium swap between the Braves and the rival cross-town Red Sox during their respective 1914 and 1915 World Series championships.

Thank you SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, Podfly, and Audible for sponsoring this week’s show!

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EPISODE #68: The Birth of Major League Baseball’s World Series with SABR Historian Steve Steinberg

At the beginning of the 20th century, the professional game of baseball had already taken on much of its modern shape – where pitching and managerial strategy dominated, and “manufactured” offense meant taught and tense contests, albeit often with limited scoring.  Stretching roughly from 1901-19, the period dubbed the “Deadball Era” by baseball historians saw teams play in expansive ball parks that limited hitting for power, while featuring baseballs that were, by modern-day comparison, more loosely wound, weakly bound and regularly overused. 

Against this backdrop, the established National and upstart American Leagues hammered out their seminal “National Agreement” in 1903, which not only proclaimed the competing circuits as equals, but also mandated a season-ending (and aspirationally titled) “World’s Championship Series” to determine annual supremacy in the sport – now known more simply as the World Series.

Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) historian Steve Steinberg (The World Series in the Deadball Era) joins the pod this week to discuss the October Classic’s eventful first years, as seen through the dramatically-licensed written journalistic accounts (featuring literary luminaries such as Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, and Damon Runyon, among others), and revealing black-and-white (and often uncredited) photography of the leading newspapers of the time – a media environment devoid of Internet, social media, television, or even radio coverage. 

Of course, we discuss the bevy of previously incarnated teams that featured prominently during the period, including the first-ever World Series champion Boston Americans (now Red Sox), the “miracle” Boston Braves of 1914, the Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and then Los Angeles) – and the two most dominant clubs of the era: John McGraw’s New York (now San Francisco) Giants and Connie Mack’s Philadelphia (later Kansas City, and ultimately Oakland) Athletics. 

Thanks to SportisHistoryCollecibles.com, Audible and Podfly for their sponsorship of this episode!

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EPISODE #63: Baseball’s Federal League with Author Dan Levitt

In late 1913, the newly formed Federal League of Base Ball Clubs – more simply known as the “Federal League” – declared itself a third major professional baseball league in competition with the established circuits of organized baseball, the National and American Leagues.

Led by inveterate baseball promoter John T. Powers, and backed by some of America’s wealthiest merchants and industrialists, the Federal League posed a real challenge to baseball’s prevailing structure at the time – offering players the opportunity to avoid the restrictions of the organized leagues' oppressive and despised reserve clause.  The competition of another, better-paying (though detractor-labeled “outlaw”) league caused players' salaries to skyrocket, and quickly demonstrated the bargaining potential of free agency for the first time – seeds first sown two decades earlier by the similarly-intentioned Players’ League in 1890.

For the next two seasons, NL and AL owners fought back furiously in the press, in the courts, and on the field – while the Federal League drew substantial fan attention with its high-quality play and superior stadia across its mix of directly competitive (Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis), and underserved (Buffalo, Indianapolis [later Newark, NJ], and Kansas City) markets. 

After sustained behind-the-scenes interference by owners of the senior leagues, the Federal League folded after the 1915 season, but not without leaving lasting marks on America’s Pastime that still define the sport today – including a landmark federal lawsuit (Federal Baseball Club v. National League), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the Sherman Antitrust Act did not apply to Major League Baseball; and the construction of one of baseball’s most iconic and enduring stadiums (Chicago’s Wrigley Field), originally built for Charles Weeghman’s Federal League Chicago Whales.

Award-winning author Dan Levitt (The Outlaw League and the Battle That Forged Modern Baseball) joins the podcast to discuss the history and legacy of the last independent major league outside the established structure of professional baseball to make it to the playing field, and the last serious attempt to create a third major league until the abortive Continental League of 1960.

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EPISODE #60: Baseball’s League That Never Was: The Continental League with Professor Russ Buhite

By the summer of 1959, the absence of two former National League franchises from what was once a vibrant New York City major league baseball scene was obvious – and even the remaining/dominant Yankees couldn’t fully make up for it.  Nor could that season’s World Series championship run of the now-Los Angeles Dodgers – a bittersweet victory for jilted fans of the team’s Brooklyn era. 

Fiercely determined to return a National League team to the city, mayor Robert Wagner enlisted the help of a Brooklyn-based attorney named William Shea to spearhead an effort to first convince a current franchise to relocate – as the American League’s Braves (Boston to Milwaukee, 1953), Browns (St. Louis to Baltimore, 1954), and A’s (Philadelphia to Kansas City, 1955) had recently done.  When neither Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or even MLB Commissioner Ford Frick, could be convinced by the opportunity, Shea and team moved on to an even bolder plan –  an entirely new third major league, with a New York franchise as its crown jewel.

Financial backers from not only New York, but also eager expansionists in Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Toronto, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and Buffalo joined in the effort – christened the “Continental League” – and recruited longtime pioneering baseball executive Branch Rickey to do the collective’s bidding.  In preparation for an inaugural 1961 start, Rickey immediately preached the virtues of parity, and outlined a business plan that included TV revenue-sharing, equally accessible player pools, and solid pension plans; properly executed, it would take less than four years for the new league to be a credible equal of the National and American Leagues.  His plan: poach a few established big-league stars, and supplement rosters with young talent from a dedicated farm system that would quickly ripen into a formidable stream of high-caliber players and, in turn, a quickly competitive “major” third league.  That, plus an aggressive legal attack on MLB’s long-established federal antitrust exemption – designed to force greater player mobility and expanded geographic opportunities.

Suddenly pressured, MLB owners surprisingly responded in the summer of 1960 with a hastily crafted plan for expansion, beginning in 1962 with new NL teams in New York (Mets) and Houston (Colt .45s) – undercutting the upstart league’s ownership groups in those cities, and promising additional franchises in the years following.  Within weeks, the Continental League was no more, and the accelerated expansionary future of the modern game was firmly in motion.

Original Continental League minor leaguer Russ Buhite (The Continental League: A Personal History) joins host Tim Hanlon to share his first-person account (as a member of the proposed Denver franchise’s Western Carolina League Rutherford County Owls in 1960) of both the build-up to and letdown of the “league that never was” – as well as the broader history of the unwittingly influential circuit that changed the economic landscape of modern-day Major League Baseball.

Thanks Audible, Podfly and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for your sponsorship of this week’s episode!

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EPISODE #58: The Intersection of Sports & Art with Artist/Designer Wayland Moore

Internationally acclaimed multi-media artist/illustrator/designer Wayland Moore joins the podcast from his studio in suburban Atlanta to discuss his nearly six-decade career as one of America’s most recognizable commercial artists – including some of his most notable works in the realm of professional sports.  

Designer of such iconic team logos such as pro soccer’s Atlanta Chiefs (National Professional Soccer League, 1967; North American Soccer League, 1968-73 & 1979-81); and, most legendarily, New York Cosmos (NASL, 1971-85) – Moore is also known for his extensive promotional artwork for baseball’s Atlanta Braves, including the design and color scheme for the team’s 1974 season uniform, in anticipation of the worldwide attention surrounding Henry Aaron’s eventual record-breaking 715th career home run on April 8, 1974 – forever memorialized in “Hammerin’ Hank”’s Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit.

In this very intriguing conversation, Moore reflects on: his most memorable commissioned pieces from major sporting events like US Hockey’s 1980 Winter Olympics “Miracle on Ice” and 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes” between tennis legends Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King; his curious sports Impressionism “rivalry” with LeRoy Nieman; and his experiences in the age-old economic tension between art and commerce that most pointedly and persistently presents itself in the business of professional sports. 

Moore also shares his surprising advice for well-intentioned nostalgia lovers faced with opportunities to purchase newly-reissued items of memorabilia featuring his formerly trademarked designs, from which he no longer financially benefits.

Thanks to SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, Podfly and Audible for their support of the podcast!

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EPISODE #56: The Players’ League of 1890 with Professor Bob Ross

With Major League Baseball finally back in full swing, we dial the Wayback Machine all the way back to the year 1890, when the professional version of America’s Pastime was still nascent, its business model was largely unproven, and the players of the day seethed at their team owners’ increasingly restrictive operating practices – to the point of dramatic and open revolt that ultimately set the contentious tone of owner-player relations for baseball and all of US pro sports for generations to follow.

Global cultural studies professor Bob Ross (The Great Baseball Revolt: The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League) joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss the short-lived professional baseball league controlled and owned in part by players themselves – a response to the dominant National League’s salary cap and “reserve rule,” which bound players to one team for life.  Led by curveball-pioneering and first-ever sports labor union-founding (and eventual baseball Hall of Famer) John Montgomery Ward, the Players’ League was a star-studded circuit that included most of the National League’s best players, who bolted not only to gain more control of their wages, but also to share ownership of the teams.

Lasting only one season and spanning eight major markets (Boston, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh), the league impacted both the professional sports and the labor politics of athletes and non-athletes alike.  Though it marketed itself as a working-class entity, the players were badly underfunded; ironically, they had to turn to wealthy capitalists for much of their startup capital outlays – including, in many cases, new ballparks – which, along with baseball’s best talent, helped the Players’ League initially outdraw the National League at the turnstiles.  But when the National League retaliated in the press by overinflating its attendance and profits, the backers of the upstart league pulled out at season’s end, and the unionized players’ bold experiment folded.

But a clear message had been sent – and the business of baseball and American professional sports would never be the same.

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The Great Baseball Revolt: The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League - buy book here

EPISODE #54: Effa Manley & the Negro National League’s Newark Eagles with Biographer Bob Luke

Baseball historian Bob Luke (The Most Famous Woman in Baseball: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues) joins host Tim Hanlon to delve into the intriguing story of the first (and still only) woman to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame – and the second Negro National League’s Newark Eagles franchise she successfully co-owned (with husband Abe) and general managed from 1936-48.  

A student of the sport since early childhood with a keen sense of promotion, marketing and player welfare, Manley blended a strong baseball operations IQ with a savvy aptitude for local politics and African-American community issues to become a dominant front office force in the Negro Leagues, and a persistent champion of player integration that ultimately transformed the white-male-dominated National and American “major” leagues in the late 1940s. 

Manley’s Eagles teams consistently performed well on the field and at the gate, and her deft management style culminated in a Negro World Series championship for the Eagles in 1946, and fueled the careers of no less than six eventual baseball Hall of Famers (Larry Doby, Ray Dandridge, Leon Day, Monte Irvin, Biz Mackey, and Willie Wells), as well as dozens of other players who soon found their way into the majors after the demise of the team and the Negro Leagues in the early 1950s.   

Manley, herself, gained Hall of Fame induction in 2006 – albeit posthumously – alongside a number of her fellow Negro League pioneers.

Thanks to Podfly, Audible and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for supporting this episode!

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EPISODE #50: National League Baseball’s Detroit Wolverines with Author Brian “Chip” Martin

While the Detroit Tigers hold the record as the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the American League (debuting as one of the league’s “Classic Eight” charter clubs in 1901), they were not the first team to play major league baseball in the Motor City.  That distinction actually goes to the Detroit Wolverines of the late 19th-century National League, which took to the field for the first time against the visiting Buffalo Bisons on May 2, 1881 in front of a curious crowd of 1,286 at Recreation Park – land now occupied by today’s Detroit Medical Center in the city’s Midtown.

Playing in what was then one of the best professional ballparks in America – and during a pre-automotive era when Detroit was known more sumptuously as the "Paris of the West" – the Wolverines traipsed through eight seasons of big league ball, including its final three under the brash and ambitious ownership of pharmaceutical baron Frederick Stearns that produced 1887 National League and “World Championship” titles, boasted a gaggle of the sport’s best players (including four eventual Hall of Famers), and rankled competing owners with unprecedentedly aggressive approaches to raiding talent and splitting gate receipts.

The Wolverines were also a product of their time: an era when baseball’s formative transition to professionalism was still rough and uncharted, players were rowdy and roguish, and owners were eager to profit by whatever means necessary – including collusively restricting player movement, a mechanism that would continue to haunt the sport well into the next millennium.

Author/journalist Brian “Chip” Martin (The Detroit Wolverines: The Rise and Wreck of a National League Champion) regales host Tim Hanlon with the curious tale of Detroit’s first and oft-forgotten major league baseball franchise.  Plus: the immortal "Pretzels" Getzein!

Thanks mightily to our sponsors Audible, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com and Podfly!

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EPISODE #38: Women’s Professional Baseball with Film Producer/Director Jon Leonoudakis

Documentary film producer/director Jon Leonoudakis (The Wrecking Crew!) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss Season Three of his digital video series The Sweet Spot: A Treasury of Baseball Stories – devoted to the plight of women in the pursuit of playing America’s pastime.  Over this season’s nine episodes, Shutout! The Battle American Women Wage to Play Baseball tackles the tortuous journey of women in baseball from multiple angles – including notable attempts at professional play over the last century, such as:

  • The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League – launched in wartime 1943 to keep interest in the sport alive while enlisted male players served overseas, the AAGPBL continued well into the early 1950s with a spirited blend of competitive moxie and girl-next-door femininity that delighted hundreds of thousands of fans across the Midwest and inspired a landmark 1992 film (A League of Their Own) that cemented its legacy generations later;
  • The Colorado Silver Bullets – formed in 1994 in the wake of the success of the movie, the Coors Brewing Company-sponsored Silver Bullets barnstormed the US for four seasons under the managerial tutelage of National Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro – holding its own against dozens of men's minor league, semi-pro and all-star amateur teams; AND
  • Ladies League Baseball – the short-lived 1997 West Coast-based women’s pro circuit (and its even shorter-lived 1998 successor, the Ladies Professional Baseball League) that sought to build on the Silver Bullets’ pioneering success, but failed to generate sustained enthusiasm at the gate.

This episode is supported by our friends at Audible and Podfly.

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EPISODE #36: Dead-Ball-Era Baseball’s “Chief” Meyers & the New York Giants with Author Bill Young

Author/historian Bill Young (John Tortes “Chief” Meyers: A Baseball Biography) returns to the podcast to discuss the life and legacy of one of Major League Baseball’s most intriguing personalities from the sport’s “dead-ball era” of the 1900s/10s.  The sturdy, hard-hitting battery-mate (and eventual vaudeville stage partner) of Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Matthewson – as well as a fixture in some of legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw’s most successful teams – “Chief” Meyers was also one of the few true Native Americans to ever star in professional baseball, overcoming enormous prejudicial obstacles along the way.   Unlike other Native American players who eschewed their tribal identities to escape bias and ridicule, Meyers—a member of the Santa Rosa Band of the Cahuilla Tribe of California—remained proud of his heritage, and endeared himself to fans and the press with his disarming, accessible and uniquely erudite personality.  After retiring from the game in 1920, Meyers quietly returned to his roots to become a tribal leader, only to be rediscovered by a new generation of fans and scholars in 1966 with the publication of Lawrence Ritter’s acclaimed oral history of the early game, The Glory of Their Times.

We thank Audible and Podfly for their continued support of the show!

     

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EPISODE #33: Early Baseball’s National Association with Author Bill Ryczek

Author Bill Ryczek (Blackguards and Red Stockings: A History of Baseball’s National Association) makes a return visit to the podcast – this time to regale host Tim Hanlon in the intriguing story of the raucous early days of organized baseball’s first attempt at forming and sustaining a true professional league.  Birthed in early 1871 from a hodgepodge, post-Civil War-era amalgam of amateur teams, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players – or “National Association” – became both a novel experiment and decidedly imperfect beginning to bringing professional status not only to the game of baseball, but ultimately to the entire landscape of American sports.  Despite persistent claims of gambling, contract jumping, player inebriation, and less-than-honest sportsmanship, the National Association quickly became an entertaining circuit that featured the world’s best baseball players – eventually producing eight National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees (though, glaringly, not the legendary “Iron Batter” Lip Pike); two modern-day franchises (the Atlanta Braves [née Boston Red Stockings]; and the Chicago Cubs [née Chicago White Stockings]); and the foundation for the first of baseball’s two “major” leagues – the National League – in 1876.

Thanks Audible and Podfly for sponsoring this episode! 

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EPISODE #32: Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Braves with Documentarian/Writer Bill Povletich

The lineage behind what is today’s Atlanta Braves is one of the longest, deepest and most uniquely enduring in all of professional baseball.  With early roots dating back to the launch of 1871’s National Association (when they were based in Boston, and known simply as the “Red Stockings”), the later-renamed Braves franchise boldly moved to the greener pastures of Milwaukee in 1953 – where for 13 years, the team never endured a losing season, won two National League pennants, and, in 1957, brought the city its first and only World Series championship.  With a talented lineup featuring future Hall of Famers Henry Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews, Red Schoendienst, and Phil Niekro, the team immediately won the hearts of fans, shattered modern-day attendance records, and ushered the city of Milwaukee into the world of the “big leagues.”  In the process, the Milwaukee Braves' success prompted Major League Baseball to redefine itself as a big business—clearing the path for franchises to  relocate west, its two leagues to expand, and teams to leverage cities in high-stakes battles for civically funded facilities.  But the Braves' instant success made their rapid fall from grace in the early 1960s all the more stunning, as declining attendance and local political greed led the team to Atlanta in one of the ugliest divorces between a city and baseball franchise in sports history.    

In this supremely revelatory conversation, TV documentary director/producer and author (and Wisconsin native) Bill Povletich (Milwaukee Braves: Heroes and Heartbreak; A Braves New World) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the historical importance of the Braves’ time in Milwaukee, and some of the specific events and personalities that shaped it.

Our continued thanks to our friends at Podfly and Audible for their support of the show!

     

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EPISODE #30: The Senior Professional Baseball Association with Author David Whitford

Inc. Editor-at-Large David Whitford (Extra Innings: A Season in the Senior League) joins host Tim Hanlon to retrace his journalistic odyssey covering the inaugural season of the short-lived, Florida-based Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) in the winter of 1989-90.  Whitford recalls the early-career events leading up to his plum writing assignment, and the process by which he went about chronicling this unique, but ultimately ill-fated eight-team circuit for former pro players over 35 (32 for catchers).  Despite half the franchises folding after the first 72-game season (and the rest of the league mid-way through the second), the Senior League, in Whitford’s view, afforded dozens of former big-league players and managers a "life-after-death fantasy" – one that attracted both stars and journeymen alike for a chance to either stay fresh for one last shot in the Show, recapture past on-field glories, or simply earn some needed money.  Whitford highlights a wide array of characters he met while covering the SBPA, including:

  • Founder Jim Morley , the thirty-something hustler who erroneously believed a senior league could generate cash flow sufficient to sustain his debt-ridden real-estate empire;
  • Commissioner Curt Flood, the indefatigable player’s union representativewho broke Major League Baseball’s reserve clause, but sacrificed his career in the process;
  • Pitcher Wayne Garland, the former Cleveland ace and early free-agent beneficiary who risked permanent shoulder damage by coming back to play pro ball after a five-year layoff;
  • Ex-Padres/Astros fastballer (and pioneer descendant) Danny Boone, who reinvented himself into a knuckleball specialist, and improbably made it back to the bigs with Baltimore in 1990 following the SPBA season; AND
  • A veritable who’s who of former big-name major league stars – each with their own personal reasons for returning to the diamonds:  Bobby Bonds, Joaquin Andujar, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Ferguson Jenkins, Dave Kingman, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Graig Nettles, Mickey Rivers, and even manager Earl Weaver – just to name a few.

Our thanks to Podfly and Audible for their support of this episode!

Extra Innings: A Season in the Senior League - buy book here

EPISODE #21: Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics with Author David Jordan

Author/historian David Jordan (The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants; The A's: A Baseball History) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the first incarnation of one of Major League Baseball’s most enigmatic franchises.  Jordan discusses how the Philadelphia As:

  • Helped launch the American League as a charter franchise in 1901;
  • Dominated the majors with six league pennants, three World Series titles and two 100+ win seasons in its first 15 years;
  • Were dismantled by long-time manager Connie Mack in the 1914 off-season after losing (or throwing?) the Fall Classic to the “Miracle” Boston Braves;
  • Posted the worst-ever record (36-117; .235) in baseball history two years later, and finished last every season thereafter until 1922;
  • Rose from the ashes to again become baseball’s most dynastic team in the late 1920s/early 1930s – rivaling that of the vaunted New York Yankees; AND
  • Succumbed to Depression-era economic realities that slowly drained the team’s talent and challenged management’s finances enough to push the team to ultimately relocate to greener pastures in 1954. 

We thank our friends at Audible for helping sponsor this week’s episode! 

The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants - buy book here

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EPISODE #13: Author Bill Young & the Legacy of J.L. Wilkinson's Kansas City Monarchs

Religious studies professor-turned-baseball-historian Bill Young (J.L. Wilkinson & the Kansas City Monarchs: Trailblazers in Black Baseball) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the life and legacy of one of baseball’s most overlooked and underappreciated executive figures.  Young recalls the photograph at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City that inspired him to pursue the telling of Wilkinson’s story, and describes how the quiet-yet-influential pioneer affectionately known as “Wilkie”: built one of the Negro Leagues’ most formidable franchises from modest Midwestern barnstorming beginnings; ingeniously kept his club relevant during lean Depression-era times through innovations such as portable night-time lighting; and nurtured a stunning array of all-star players that transcended both Negro and Major league rosters – 11 of whom were ultimately enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This week’s episode is sponsored by our friends at Audible!

J.L. Wilkinson & the Kansas City Monarchs: Trailblazers in Black Baseball - buy book here

EPISODE #07: “Krazy” George Henderson & The Art of Pro Sports Cheerleading

America’s most famous professional sports cheerleader “Krazy” George Henderson (Still Krazy After All These Cheers) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss some of the wackiest adventures from his 40+ years of live performances – and how a self-described shy, mediocre schoolteacher ultimately followed his passion to a unique and storied career converting passive game-day attendees into cheering fanatics.  Henderson (along with his signature drum!) recounts how a school field trip to an Oakland Seals NHL hockey game led to his first sustaining professional gig; describes how he and the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes changed the face of professional soccer in the mid-1970s; recalls how his success with the NFL’s Houston Oilers almost led to banishment from performing at pro football games; and breaks down the chronology of the formative elements of his most famous in-stadium creation – The Wave.

Krazy George: Still Krazy After All These Cheers - buy book here