When baseball was young

The January 31 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a column that appeared to be a regular feature in the paper (I’ve seen it in other editions). It was one of the earlier examples of a frequently-employed theme in baseball writing – namely, that baseball was much better back in the day than it is now.

In particular, note the complaint about modern (i.e. 1927) gloves being like “divan pillows”. (For a sample of what a 1927 glove looked like, see this photo of pitcher Walter Johnson’s glove.)

The Baseball Reference website, the definitive on-line source for baseball statistics, has an entry for the 1883 Boston Beaneaters mentioned in this article. It lists twelve players on the team, not eleven – but one only appeared in fourteen games, so he likely wasn’t with the team for the full season.

I also found information on the two players quoted:

  • John Morrill (1855-1932), nicknamed “Honest John”, served as player-manager for the 1883 team for part of the season. His career as a professional player extended from 1876 to 1890. He hit 16 triples in 97 games in 1883.
  • Joe Hornung (1857-1931) played professionally from 1879 to 1890, and was considered one of the best outfielders of the 19th century. He had a habit of shouting “ubbo ubbo” whenever he got a hit or made a good play; this became his nickname.

John B. Foster (1863-1941), the writer of the article, was a sportswriter, the secretary of the New York Giants from 1913 to 1920, and editor of Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide.


Popular third baseman

Here’s a photograph of baseball player Don Ross from the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


I am fascinated by baseball gloves in old photos. How did players ever catch anything in those things?

Don Ross went on to play parts of seven seasons in the majors. He played right through the Second World War, which suggests that he had some medical condition that made him ineligible to serve. He passed away in 1996.


No pro career

Here’s a photograph from the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring some athletes with their children.


The common theme was that the athletes didn’t want their kids following in their footsteps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out whether they did.

Glenn Cunningham (1909-1988) overcame a childhood accident to become a runner. He finished second in the 1500 metres at the 1936 Olympic Games, and held the world record for the mile for three years from 1934 to 1937. His Wikipedia page doesn’t mention his daughter.

Mike Meola (1905-1976) pitched parts of the 1933 and 1936 seasons in the major leagues before landing with the Toronto minor league club in 1937. After his career, he worked as a demolition contractor in New York.

There were a number of Hugh Borthwicks out there on the Internet, some of which were into golf, and some of which lived in Borthwick Castle.


On the job

Here’s a photo of a Canadian Olympic athlete from the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


Roxy Atkins (1912-2002) was a competitor in the 1936 Olympic Games; she was a hurdler. After the Second World War, she married and moved to the United States, eventually becoming an American citizen. She worked with American track and field teams in 1956, 1971, and 1983, among others.


Retains British golf title

Here’s a photo from the sports section of the June 4 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


The British women’s golf championship (then known as the British Ladies Amateur) has come up in this blog recently. The 1932 championship was held at the Saunton Golf Club, which was founded in 1897 and still exists.

Enid Wilson (1910-1996) went on to win the championship for a third straight year in 1933. She later wrote about women’s golf in England.

Clem Purvis-Russell-Montgomery had rather a lengthy surname. I found her here (I think) in a listing of members of the British peerage. Her full name was Clementina Helen Maud Purvis-Russell-Montgomery, and her father, the 7th Montgomery baronet, went through life with the full name of Henry James Purvis-Russell-Hamilton-Montgomery.


Titled athlete and bride

Here’s one more photo from the March 27 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


Lord David Burghley (1905-1981) eventually became David Cecil, the 6th Marquess of Exeter. His marriage to Lady Mary Theresa Montagu Douglas Scott (shown here) produced four children and ended in divorce in 1946.

The Marquess stayed involved in athletics, and eventually became the president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF). In this role, he presented the gold medals in the 200-metre dash at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and appeared in the photo of the two American medallists raising their hands in a Black Power salute. (He’s wearing the red blazer.)


Shorts at Wimbledon

Here’s a picture from the March 23 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, featuring a woman wearing shorts at Wimbledon.


A Google search for Miss G. E. Tomblin didn’t turn up much. There’s a stock photo of her at the Chiswick Hard Court Club in London, in which she is obviously wearing the same shorts. And Tennis Forum has a short biography of her (search for her name to find it).

Apparently, she tried to qualify for Wimbledon every year from 1925 to 1937; she made it into the main draw in 1929, only to be blown away 6-0, 6-0 by Helen Wills, the eventual winner.


A pretty tough customer

Here’s another photo from the March 23 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


I couldn’t find very much on Del Smith, as he has the same name as a well-known aviator. He doesn’t appear in the registry of American 1932 Olympic Games athletes.

A boxing records site shows him as having turned pro in 1932. He fought in 33 bouts, winning 18, before ending his professional career in February 1934.


Training sprint

Here’s another picture from the photo page of the March 11 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


Leo Lermond (1906-1986) competed in the 5000 metre run at the 1928 Olympics, but failed to qualify for the 1932 games.

Clarice Kennedy (1910-1998) was remarkably accomplished. Besides sprinting, she competed in swimming, hockey, tennis, and basketball, among other sports. At the age of 59, she went to university, eventually earning a Ph.D. In 1930, she also saved the life of a drowning boy.


One on the chin

Here’s a photo from the February 18 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


Jackie Fields (1908-1987) reached the peak of his boxing career when he regained the world welterweight title early in 1932. Later that year, he was in a car accident that damaged his left eye. In 1933, he lost his title, and retired from boxing after losing a second bout that year.

After boxing, he eventually moved to Las Vegas and became part-owner of the Tropicana Hotel. The marriage shown in the photo above did not last, as he remarried while in Vegas.