Monday, December 21, 2009
Thomas David Henrich was born on February 20th, 1913 in Massillon, Ohio, football country. Despite his proximity to Cleveland, young Tom became a Yankee fan. The Cleveland Indians signed him in 1934 and sent him to Class D Monessen, the lowest level of the minors at that time. In those days when minor league clubs acted independently it was common practice for major league teams to hide promising players in the minor leagues until they were ready to be brought up, with the hope that they would not be drafted by another club. This practice - known as "covering up" - was strictly illegal, and enforced py the powerful Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis. An individual player, however, had very little say in the matter, as they were considered bound to the team that signed them.
Henrich thrived in the minors, moving quickly up the ladder, first to the Class-C Zanesville Greys, and then in 1935 to the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association. In 1936 - his second season with the club - he drove in 100 runs and batted .346, but a major league promotion was still not in the offing.
In 1937 Henrich and his father wrote to Commissioner Landis and complained that the Indians were unfairly denying Tommy a chance to advance to the big leagues. In April of 1937 Landis ruled in Henrich's favor, instantly making him a free agent. (Many thought Landis' ruling was payback for allowing Cleveland to keep Bob feller in a similar dispute a year earlier). He was signed by his boyhood favorite team - the Yankees - four days later. After a 7-game stint at Newark, Henrich was in the Bronx.
Henrich in the home version of the Pelicans jersey in 1936.
Henrich took over the right field spot for the Bombers from George Selkirk, who had succeeded Babe Ruth. His eleven seasons with the Yankees was interrupted for three years by military service. Although not in the top tier of Yankee performers statistically, Henrich was involved in many key plays, including in two World Series. Henrich hit baseball's first World Series walk-off home run in 1949, but it was a play in the 1941 Series for which he became famous (and infamous to Brooklyn Dodger fans).
To set the scene, it's Game 4 at Ebbets Field. The Yanks lead the Bums, two games to one, but Brooklyn has a 4-3 lead with two outs in the ninth. One more out ties the Series at two. Henrich is at the plate with two strikes. He tries to hold up his swing but can't, missing the pitch for strike three. Game over...or is it? Dodger catcher Mickey Owen can't handle the sharp curveball from Hugh Casey. The ball scoots away and an alert Henrich dashes to first base, safe. Instead of three outs and a Dodger win the Yanks score four runs to win the game and take the Series the next day on Henrich's homer. "Old Reliable" indeed.
About the jersey: The 1936 New Orleans Pelicans road jersey features block felt lettering in a slightly compressed style. The sleeve has a felt star with an "NO" superimposed - the "O" encircling the "N". Research indicates that Henrich likely wore #6 in New Orleans. The jersey is featured for $99 through January 2010.
We here at EFF wish all of our friends and customers and their families a joyous holiday season, and offer our best wishes for the new year.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tempe History Museum
The only detail on the photo was a written "circa 1910". After the initial article appeared, local historian Ken Reid promptly came up with two newspaper articles from 1900 and 1901, which described games played by the Crimson Rims. The 1900 article describes a defeat for the Crimson boys at the hands of "the DeMund Nine". The 1901 piece reflected the propensity of newspaper editors of the day for hyperbolic headline writing: "An Atrocious Proceeding - National Game Hit In The Solar Plexus Yesterday". This article went on describe a 28-11 drubbing of the Crimson Rims by an opponent identified simply as "Phoenix".
My limited research into this team has come up nearly empty. There apparently was a brand of bicycle known as "Crimson Rim" in the late 1800s. It is possible that this was a company-sponsored semi-pro team. The team was not a member of any professional league we are aware of, yet was well-known enough to be covered by the local newspapers of the time. If anyone can identify the league they played in, or any of the players, the Tempe History Museum and EFF would love to know!
About the jersey: This is a byron-collar pullover style, common at the turn of the last century. It features a contrasting red wool collar and red felt letters. No numeral on back, as they were not worn at the time. It is available for a limited time at $99.
This just in: Blaise Lamphier and an anonymous poster have unearthed a roster from the Rims (see Comments). Based on Lamphier's research it appears possible that the team was sponsored by a Tempe bicycle shop...ed.
I found a 1901 newspaper article with the following Rims lineup:C PriestP Carroll1B Schureman2B Valenzuela3B UrbanoSS SigalaRF I. CelayaCF SurrateguiLF H. Celaya
"A regrettable incident occurred about the time the seventh inning was ushered in and it no doubt partly caused the poor playing at that time.
A Mexican named Bernal sat under the grand stand and on the grounds, in violation of the rules of the game, along with several other people No objection was made, however, until the attention of the Phoenix team was called to the fact that Bernal was tipping off the signals of the Phoenix catcher to the Mexican boys in the other team. Alexander, Captain of the Phoenix team, ordered the ground cleared and took particular pains to escort Bernal outside the fence. This resulted in personal remarks which ended later in a mix-up. Before the smoke cleared away Alexander had a painful but not serious wound in his cheek that looks like the work of a pocket knife though the presence of a knife in the melee is denied by some who saw it. The Mexican came in contact with a monkey wrench and also had a sore place to look after."
See Comments for more.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Very few people who know me from my current incarnation as a historical baseball uniform merchant know that I had a previous career in rock & roll. Nor should they. I was spectacularly unsuccessful. But from that day in February 1964, when as a six-year-old, I watched transfixed as The Beatles performed for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show. That date began a lifelong love affair with the group - and with music -that continues to this day.
Although my father did not share my interest in this newfangled music, he knew it was important to me, and every six months or so he would come home with a package: The latest Beatles LP, purchased in Manhattan. I would take the shiny wax disc out of the sleeve and put it on the old mono turntable, careful to avoid the mild electric shock that sometimes came with contact with the needle. I would listen to the new exciting music while deciphering the photographs and liner notes on the album cover as if they were newly-discovered sacred texts (which in a way they were). This, with only minor changes, was the routine from "Meet The Beatles" through "Abbey Road" and into the solo years (though we would eventually get a real stereo).
Of the four talented musicians in the group, Lennon was the guy I aspired to be like: Brilliant, acerbic, honest (sometimes painfully so), tortured. He was one of the first pop musicians the word "artist" was applied to. He was political before it was fashionable, when popular musicians were risking much of their appeal by taking political stands. As an instrumentalist, he was not as technically dazzling on the guitar as contemporaries like Clapton and Hendrix, but he could "make a rock move" in his words. (His searing, nasty solo on "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" is Exhibit A.) And his songwriting was revolutionary (pun intended).
In the days before MTV and VH1 (let alone YouTube), rock musicians on television were extremely rare, and usually came in the form of performances "for the kids" on the establishment network variety shows of the time. To get to The Beatles on Sullivan ("now for you youngsters!..."), one had to sit through crooners, a plate-throwing act, a Borscht belt comedian or two, and inevitably, the puppet Toppo Gigio. When the Stones appeared on The Dean Martin Show, they had to put up with Martin's drunk shtick and his blatant mockery of the band (after a trampoline performer segment, Martin remarked "that was the Rolling Stones' father. He's been trying to kill himself ever since").
So it was indeed a radical departure when in February 1972 talk show host and sometime nightclub singer Mike Douglas allowed John Lennon and Yoko Ono to co-host his show for a full week. John & Yoko were good sports, enduring Douglas' lounge singer rendition of The Beatles' "Michelle" ("I love you, I love you, I looooove youuuuuu". No doubt the fact that it was a McCartney-penned tune being mauled made it easier for Lennon to tolerate ). The couple participated in cooking segments and took questions from the audience. But the living rooms of middle America were also treated to Chuck Berry, Yippie leader Jerry Rubin, Ralph Nader, and much of Ms. Ono's art. Best of all, Lennon - backed by Elephant's Memory Band and Ono gamely banging a bongo drum - performed his signature tune "Imagine" sporting a pinstripe flannel baseball jersey with "EASTON" across the front. See the clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyW96tojeLU
The Lennons had recently moved to New York and had became involved with the anti-War movement and The Yippies, and (we know know) earning themselves the official enmity of Richard Nixon's White House and the FBI (Lennon was harrassed and wiretapped for years, and efforts were made to deport him). He soon fell out with the Yippies, but fell in love with New York, finally settling at The Dakota on the Upper West Side after a stint in Greenwich Village. He never returned to Great Britain. After the brilliance of his first two post-Beatle albums, the records grew more erratic and less frequent, and finally stopped altogether. There was a long retirement, and an all-to-brief comeback.
On that night in December I was visiting my parents in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was a low-key evening, with a "Lou Grant" rerun on television. When the bulletin was read, I went into the den and called my girlfriend at the time. "Did you hear?" I asked. "Yes" she replied. There was nothing more to say. I hung up the phone and sat in the darkened room for a very long time.
I personally don't think Lennon would have approved of his canonization as the sort of "peace saint" he has been turned into. While he sincerely believed in and fought for peace, he would be the first to acknowledge that like many great artists, he was a complex and imperfect figure. Lennon had huge insecurities to go along with an enormous talent and outsized ego. He could be verbally cruel and cutting, even with those he loved. But he also was willing to laugh at himself - often saying he was willing to be the world's clown if it helped get his message out. He was probably the wittiest musician who ever lived.
I have the great fortune to count Michael Lyndsay-Hogg - the director of "Let It Be" and many other Beatle projects - as one of EFF's most loyal customers. Michael patiently indulges my inexaustible thirst for firsthand accounts of my heroes. Lennon was aloof and uninterested during much of the recording and filming of what became "Let It Be". It fell to McCartney to try to motivate the group during their last days. Even while standing in the hallway moments before the famous "rooftop concert" that ends the film - their last public performance - The Beatles could not decide whether or not to actually go through with it. Finally they looked to Lennon and he said "Fuck it, let's do it". He started the group, and in the end he was still the leader.
I lived on the Upper West Side briefly earlier this decade. The Dakota apartment building where the Lennons lived (and where Lennon died) was a short walk from my apartment on 71st street. Across the street was Central Park, and the Strawberry Fields section, with the simple marker saying "IMAGINE" in the cobblestone sidewalk, was a place I often went to collect my thoughts and sometimes find a bit of inspiration and peace in the city I was born in and one of my heroes made his own.
This just in: EFF customer James Poisso has sent us a photo with "Easton" players posed with a player from Lafayette College. Since Lafayette is in road uniforms, it is possible that Easton was their opponent. (Scroll down past Comments to see the photo).
The jersey is a gorgeous cream pinstripe with unusual red, white and blue trim. We have replicated Lennon's #30 on the back. This authentic jersey is $99 for a limited time only.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
It was an evening at home like any week night. I was getting some dinner ready in the kitchen. The Rachel Maddow Show was on in the background. I heard the word "baseball" and ran into the living room to see what baseball could possibly have to do with the day's political events. Rachel was talking about the Iraqi National Baseball team. Intrigued, I sat down and watched.
The Iraqi Olympic Committee gave recognition and some funding to the fledgling team, but not enough to cover the cost of uniforms or equipment. The only bat - a Chinese-made softball bat - bent after the first contact with horsehide. There were no cleats, no batting helmets, and no uniforms. Enter Roy Gutman of McClatchy News, who picked up on the story, and Rachel Maddow, who followed up the McClatchy piece with a segment on her television show, and an appeal to help what was now dubbed "Operation Iraqi Baseball".
Next up was actually getting the uniforms to the team. Easier said than done. First there's the small matter of shipping into a war zone. Fortunately one of the companies that joined "Operation Iraqi Baseball" was a freight carrier with some expertise on getting deliveries into the country. We arranged for the uniforms to be picked up.
The media arrived to watch us pack up the boxes and with great fanfare the uniforms were finally sent off. And then...nothing. Weeks passed. I finally got a call from Roy explaining the situation. Iraqi bureaucracy is legendary. Apparently the uniforms were "appropriated" by someone in the Iraqi Baseball Federation. This individual took it upon himself to "distribute" the uniforms as he saw fit. Alas, a negotiated settlement was reached, and the unis were finally handed over to a delegation of six players. The payoff for us was seeing a photo of a group of Iraqi ballplayers beaming in their new uniforms.
On seeing the players in uniform top hitter Bashar Salah said "Now we're a real team". All I can say to that is "Ilaab!" ("Play ball!")
About the jersey: The Iraq National Team jersey is a lightweight poly mesh shirt with sewn tackle twill letters and numbers. An embroidered Iraqi flag is sewn onto the left chest. The shirt is $99. You may choose the number. Ebbets Field Flannels will donate 10% of the gross sales of all Iraqi jerseys to the Iraq-Afghanistan Veterans Association, a fine organization which helps American veterans from the current conflicts.
Thank you to Roy Gutman, McClatchy News, Rachel Maddow and the other donors (as well as all who offered to donate) for helping the Iraqis plant the seed of our great game in fertile new soil.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
After boarding an unlisted flight on a Bolivian airline at the Miami airport, and only 30-minutes enroute, we landed in another world. Although the Soviet Union had collapsed, and the Soviets' former European satellites were busy transforming themselves, Cuba was having none of it. All the trappings of the communist state were in place, although tourists were pretty much allowed to roam free - their dollars welcome, if not their ideas.
Our group was a curious mix of middle-aged baseball players, lefty activists, and even one token right-wing DC attorney, Arnold, who bore a striking resemblance to Nikita Khruschev (and, who despite our political differences I developed a great fondness for). We were met at the airport by our government-appointed guides, who whisked us away in a Mercedes mini-bus to a park for "orientation".
The first thing one noticed was the complete lack of motor vehicle traffic - in fact our bus often appeared to be the only vehicle on the road. The recent collapse of the Soviet Union (along with the subsidies that kept Cuba's socialist economy afloat) had initiated what the government and our guides euphemistically called the "Special Period". This meant that gasoline, as well as other staples, was unavailable or strictly rationed. The population appeared to be moving around on newly-imported cheap Chinese bicycles, or long flatbed trucks that served as buses.
At our orientation (which by the way, was my introduction to Cuban cigars, a habit only recently given up) it was apparent that our guides had planned a typical boring propaganda schedule of government health clinics and other not-so-thrilling officially-sanctioned activities. We patiently allowed the guides to finish their presentation of our proposed itinerary and then one of us said "we're here to play baseball. If you want to help us, you'll arrange some baseball games". This seemed to take our guides aback momentarily, but they promised to work on it for us.
After checking into the Hotel Plaza (where Babe Ruth lost a bundle to Cuban gamblers and Albert Einstein was feted by Havana's Jewish community), I went for my first walk through the streets of Havana. What was notable was the complete absence of commercialism - no McDonald's, no billboards, in fact hardly any shops or commercial enterprises of any kind. What I did see was baseball - plenty of it. Within five minutes of my walk I came upon a traffic circle where no less than three separate pick-up games were taking place - each involving a different age group. There were very small kids playing in one area, young teenagers in another, and in a third group young adults. After stopping to watch the latter bunch play I was invited to join in. There was no infield or bases to speak of. The rules were explained to me in Spanish and broken English: Pitching was "suave" - soft. The pitcher tossed the ball to the plate, allowing the batter to hit it. I took a turn at bat and then borrowed a beat up glove to play the field. Although there were no umpires, uniforms, or even a common language, this was perhaps the most joyful game of baseball I have ever played.
After a couple of days - itching to play a "real" game of baseball - we finally received word from our guides: Show up at the Plaza de la Revolucion under the giant image of Che Guevara at 10 AM. We did, and as we waited bicycles dangling baseball gloves began to approach from all directions. Our guides had apparently put the word out that the Yanquis were here to play. I honestly don't remember the score or the highlights of the game, but I do recall joyously swapping jerseys with the Cuban players, most of whom seemed about 18 or 19 years old (I was proud to give my EFF 1952 Habana Leones home jersey shown here to one of the kids).
Soon our little group had a regular routine. Each day we would be driven to some officially-sanctioned event in our bus, the bus invariably being greeted by a small group playing "Guantanamera" (God, did I get sick of that song!). Many of these were essentially propaganda events, how Cuba had the freest elections in the world, etc. We would mostly listen politely, but Arnold, our stout, short and bald right-wing lawyer would get right in the face of the Cuban leading the discussion and say "that's a bunch of bullshit!". After a few seconds of edgy silence, usually someone would bring out the rum, and then the discussion invariably became more animated, but always friendly. These encounters were interrupted by ballgames every couple of days. We seemed to never run out of cigars or rum. Not a bad way to travel.
The common language we had with the Cubans was baseball - and it was a language they spoke very well. I kept noticing a group of men in Parque Central near our hotel who would gather every evening and have animated discussions and arguments. I finally could no longer contain my curiosity and waded into the crowd. It turns out these men were arguing about the previous night's televised game, acting out plays from the night before in rich pantomime. Another image I remember is wandering into a rundown apartment complex and seeing a little boy who could have not been older than three or four swinging a stick in lieu of a bat (see photo at top). Older men would come up to me unbidden and recite major league statistics from the 1950s (one odd thing about the embargo is an awareness of U.S. popular culture by older people that seems to cut off around 1960). We have the equipment, stadiums, and money, but Cuba has the passion for the sport that we have lost. Kids don't play sandlot ball in our country anymore, and grown men certainly do not gather in parks and bars just to talk baseball.
Manager Napoleon Reyes looks less than thrilled about modeling his hastily-made Jersey City Jerseys shirt, after the Sugar Kings were transferred out of Havana in the middle of the 1960 season under pressure from the U.S. State Department.
Cuba once had a thriving professional league that played in the winter, as well as a Havana franchise in the U.S. minor leagues (the Havana Cubans - later Sugar Kings). When Fidel Castro decided to throw his lot in with the Communist bloc, it spelled the end of professional baseball in Cuba. The decades-old Cuban League was finished (an amateur system was put in its place) and the Sugar Kings of the International League were pulled out of Havana and transferred to Jersey City in the middle of the 1960 season, as tensions between the U.S. and Cuban governments mounted.
About this flannel: The 1947 Cubans won their second of five consecutive Florida International League pennants. Cubans uniforms used both Spanish ("Cubanos") and English versions of the team and city name at different times. The 1947 home jersey has the Cuban flag shield on the left sleeve and "Havana Cubans" in sewn felt. Our Flannel Of The Month is available now for a special price of just $99.
American cars from the 1950s ares still a common site in Havana, kept alive by the ingenuity of Cuban mechanics, who often machine their own parts.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I happened to drive through Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen last week (it is unavoidable if one wants to get from Seattle to Washington's Pacific Coast beaches), and it reminded me that professional baseball once flourished in these lumber towns of the Pacific Northwest. Aberdeen (then known as the Pippins) first made an appearance in the Class-D Southwest Washington league of 1903, together with the Hoquiam Perfect Gentleman, Centralia Midgets and Olympia Senators. In a curious footnoot to the SWL, teams played six times a week, but only weekend games counted in league standings. Games were played at Electric park, which fans reached by trolley.
The jersey itself is fairly typical of the era, a pullover with a byron collar and five-button placket. The sillouetted cat design, cut out of felt, is fairly imaginative for a time when single-letter crests or simple block lettering was the norm. Jersey numerals were not worn in this era, so our Black Cats shirt is numberless. It is available now for the special Flannel of the Month price of $99.
Every month we will pick one baseball shirt and tell the story behind it. This is our first entry. We welcome your comments.
Thanks to Dave Eskenazi for his contributions to this article.