Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Baseball as Means of Keeping the Doctor Away

With the MLB season just resuming again last week, let’s take a trip back to 1918, when the two biggest sports were baseball and boxing. Basketball and football were very much secondary on the popularity scale.

A recent conversation with my brother speculated about which people from 2018 would still be remembered by the general public in 100 years, with my brother suggesting that LeBron James would, under the logic that “Babe Ruth is still remembered 100 years later.” But even Babe Ruth hasn’t truly passed the 100-year test yet — although his professional baseball career began in 1914, he didn’t truly start becoming a legend until the 1920s, with his first MVP award not until 1923.

In this 1918 article, the biggest baseball players mentioned at the time and included in the featured illustrations were Ty Cobb, Charley Herzon, and Willie Keeler — none of whom are much remembered by anybody today outside of hardcore baseball fans. Just goes to show that you never really know who or what will last in the public consciousness.

This article describes how baseball was as much a psychological sport as a physical one:

“Then the discovery was made. The habit of many seasons had become somehow altered. He no longer swung with ease in a parallel to the ground. Instead he popped flies and hacked the ball toward the ground. The points found, it was necessary to discover what made the change.

“On examination again, it was brought out that a few enlarged glands in the neck, from some poor teeth, would become a little sore only when his bat was swung as he had originally trained, namely, on the horizontal. It was not much of a pain, but unconsciously for a month he had avoided that important movement. A batting “slump” was the result. Once the diagnosis was made, despite some delay in the removal of the cause, he resumed the horizontal swing and his restored batting average became apparent.”

Baseball as Means of Keeping the Doctor Away: How the Expert Batter Needs the Vigor and Sharpened Senses of Perfect Health — A Little Psychology on the Side (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 7, 1918

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Written by Jesse

April 8th, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Health,Sports

Super-Golf Among American Players

In 1917, James Barnes set a new 72-hole golf record with 283 strokes.

In January of this year, Justin Thomas set the current 72-hole record with 253 strokes at the Sony Open in Honolulu — a full 30 strokes lower than the world record a century ago. That’s an astonishing average of only 3.51 strokes per hole.

Is there any world record from the worlds of sports, athletics, or physicality from 1917 that still stands today?

Super-Golf Among American Players: Professionals and Leading Amateurs Attain Perfection on Many Greens, Even the Casual Competitor Sometimes Gets a Record (PDF)

From Sunday, October 7, 1917

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Written by Jesse

October 6th, 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Sports

Ranks of Outdoor Sport Are Thinned by War

World War I was preventing athletic competitions from occurring as they normally would:

“For the first time in forty-one years the intercollegiate games, in which all the larger college teams of the East and many from the West have been participants, have been abandoned because of the fact that more than a thousand of the students who would under normal conditions have been training for the sports have either left college for the preliminary training camps or have given up athletics for the military drill which monopolizes the athletic fields. For the first time since the close of the war between the States there will be no big college regattas, nor any national rowing regatta. National golf and tennis championships have been declared off, either for good and sufficient sentimental reasons or because of ‘unnecessary hysteria’ over the sporting situation, as some of the followers of these sports declare.”

Read the mesmerizing Sports Illustrated cover story “The Week That Sports Stood Still” from their first issue after 9/11 for a more contemporary example of the same phenomenon.

Ranks of Outdoor Sport Are Thinned by War: Athletic Leaders in Camp, and Colleges Cancel Dates, But Government Is Trying to Prevent Stoppage of Healthful Recreations (PDF)

From Sunday, June 3, 1917

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Written by Jesse

June 2nd, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Sports,War

Where College Boys Prefer Study to Baseball

Reed College in Oregon, which held its first classes in 1911 only six years prior to this article, undertook several unusual initiatives among colleges at the time to created a student body excelling in academics. Among them was a mandatory senior thesis for undergraduates, not just graduates, and a lack of official intercollegiate sports teams. Both the undergraduate senior thesis and lack of NCAA sports teams still exist to this day.

Where College Boys Prefer Study to Baseball: Reed College of Portland, Oregon, Now in Its Sixth Year, Has Emerged Successfully from Unique Experiment in Education (PDF)

From Sunday, April 15, 1917


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Written by Jesse

April 13th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in Education,Sports

Golf Clubs Make It Hard for Women to Play

From July 30, 1916

Golf Clubs

Golf Clubs Make It Hard for Women to Play: Restrictions on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays Are the Rule at Most of the Organizations Round About New York (PDF)

Golf clubs have long been male-dominated, to the point that Augusta National Golf Club didn’t admit its first women until 2012. After an Olympics absence since 1904, both men’s and women’s golf have been reinstated at the 2016 Olympics in Rio next month. But it’s long been a struggle for women to be accepted into the sport, as the 1916 article above described:

These are the days on which the tired business man feels it — and not unjustly — his peculiar prerogative to rest and recreate. Obviously, if he is a golf player and therefore lost to other forms of outdoor sport, he wants the links to himself and his male friends, at least for a part of the day. The result is a host of varied limitations upon woman’s freedom of the links.


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Written by Jesse

July 27th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Sports

Sure Sign Of Woman’s Emancipation In The Increased Size Of Her Shoes

From July 23, 1911


SURE SIGN OF WOMAN’S EMANCIPATION IN THE INCREASED SIZE OF HER SHOES: Because She Swims, Walks, Plays Golf and Tennis and Works for a Living, She Can No Longer Pose as Wasp-Waisted and Tiny-Footed. (PDF)

Shoe manufacturers don’t make small-sized shoes for women any more. They say women’s feet have grown bigger in the last fifteen or twenty years. Small feet, of course, are only comparative. A small foot for a woman twenty years ago was 2 or 2½. Now it is said that there are few if any 2 or 2½ feet of narrow width, say, AA or A.

All this was revealed at a fair that the shoe manufacturers of America held in Boston about a week ago. The leading manufacturers had exhibits there, and they had observed in turn that the demand for small-size shoes for women had been declining year by year until now it had practically passed out.

One had stopped making the small shoes for women altogether. Consulting his competitor at the fair, which is an annual event with the great manufacturers, he learned that his competitor was not making the old-time small sizes either. This led to a canvass and this astonishing fact was developed:

The average size of shoes that women wear to-day is 4 to 5, whereas the average size twenty years ago was 3 to 5. The No. 2 size in women’s shoes, not uncommon twenty years ago, and almost usual twenty years before that among fashionable ladies, had entirely disappeared.

According to a 2002 article in Slate, the average women’s shoe size had gone up to 5½ in the 1940s, a 6 in the ’60s, and a 7½ in the ’70s. In the ’80s it was 8 to 8½. The article says that “the best-selling sizes at Manolo Blahnik — the Holy Grail of the shoe-obsessed — are 7.5 to 8.”

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Written by David

July 22nd, 2011 at 10:30 am

Posted in Life,Recreation,Sports

Business Girls’ Noonday Diversion

From July 23, 1911


BUSINESS GIRLS’ NOONDAY DIVERSION: A Novel Amusement That Is Gaining in Popularity Downtown. (PDF)

Have you heard about the latest craze that all the business girls are doing on their lunchbreak? That’s right, they’re Ballroom Dancing.

“Gracious, May, you don’t want any ice cream; we haven’t time.”

“Yes, we have. I’ll eat it fast. It’s only 12:30. We can get in two waltzes and a two-step easy.”

This is what you are beginning to hear in downtown New York every noontime nowadays, wherever young, bright-faced “business girls” gather. For a new delight has been prepared for that energetic, youthful person. In the very heart of things, where girls in the middle of the day crowd the sidewalks as thick as roses in a rose garden, just where the jewelry, financial, insurance, and legal districts join, where now, it seems to the bystander, there are at the luncheon hour more feminine personalities than masculine, a ballroom has been provided in her behalf. She may dance, to the music of a capital orchestra, any time from 12 to 1:30.

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Written by David

July 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Scientific Baseball Has Changed The Old Game

From April 30, 1911


SCIENTIFIC BASEBALL HAS CHANGED THE OLD GAME: Quick Thinking, Clever Guessing, Faultless Team Work and Intelligent Signaling Necessary for a Pennant Winner To-day — Teams Made Up of Specialists. (PDF)

Fans of baseball with enjoy this look at how the game was changing 100 years ago.

Scientific baseball of to-day — “inside ball” they call it — consists in making the opposing team think you are going to make a play one way, then shift suddenly and do it another.

The modern game has developed quick thinkers and resourceful players such as the pioneers of the game never dreamed of. There are few of what were known as “good all-around” players nowadays. The inside game has developed teams made up of baseball specialists. They excel in one position, are trained with that object in view, and are never called on to play in any other position.

The article goes on to discuss signaling, curve balls, and other strategies we take for granted today.

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Written by David

April 28th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Recreation,Sports

Modern Woman Getting Nearer The Perfect Figure

From December 4, 1910


MODERN WOMAN GETTING NEARER THE PERFECT FIGURE: Dr. Dudley A. Sargent of Harvard Denies that She Is Getting Masculine, But She Is Getting More Sensible. (PDF)

The woman pictured on the top left is Annette Kellermann, an Austrian professional swimmer. She was so renowned for being a “perfectly proportioned woman” that she eventually wrote a book and health plan so that, as her ad says, “you CAN have a figure as perfect as mine!”

Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, the focus of this article, agrees that she has just about the most ideal figure he has ever studied.

In all seriousness, the doctor isn’t as nutty in his assessment of the ideal figure as I imagined he would be (although his method of examining thousands of bodies in search of the ideal figure must have raised some eyebrows or snickers). His focus is on health, and his advice makes sense. He explains that corsets, which were all the rage, are unhealthy. And he encourages women to do the same kinds of exercise as men.

I couldn’t decide what to excerpt, so I encourage you give the whole article a read.

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Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:45 am

The Psychology Of Baseball Discussed By A. G. Spalding

From November 13, 1910


THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BASEBALL Discussed by A. G. SPALDING: The Game Elevates and Fits the American Character — It Brings Into Play the Emotional and Moral as Well as the Physical Side of Man’s Nature. (PDF)

By 1910, Albert Spalding had been a Major League Baseball player and manager, and had launched the Spalding line of sports equipment. At 60 years old, just five years before he would die, he gave the Times Magazine this wonderful and lengthy answer about why he loves baseball in response to a question about the psychology of baseball.

“The psychology of baseball?” he said thoughtfully. “I confess that the ‘psychology of baseball’ is a new one on me.

“I take it that you are trying to find out what effect the game has on the mind, and what effect the mind has on the game. The general impression among those who do not know, and, although there are several million people in this country who do know, still, there remain a few who don’t, is that baseball is simply a form of physical exercise which is interesting to watch and to take part in. Those who have played the game know well that it is more — much more. They know that it is quite as much a mental as it is a physical exercise.

“As a matter of plain fact, it is much more a mental exercise than a mere physical sport. There is really no other form of outdoor sport which constantly demands such accurate co-ordination between the mind and body as this National game of ours. And that is rather fine, when you come to think about it.

“Baseball elevates, and it fits the American character. The emotional and moral as well as the physical side of a man’s nature are brought into play by baseball. I know of no other medium which, as completely as baseball, joins the physical, mental, emotional, and moral sides of a man’s composite being into a complete and homogeneous whole. And there is nothing better calculated than baseball to give a growing boy self-pose, and self-reliance, confidence, inoffensive and entirely proper aggressiveness, general manliness. Baseball is a man maker.”

If you’re a baseball fan, it’s well worth reading the whole article. Mr. Spalding explains how baseball helps shape a man morally as well as physically, and how the skills translate to a man’s later life and business affairs. His wife and nephew both weigh in on the topic, too.

In related news, The Onion has an editorial this week by Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay called “If I Had One Piece Of Advice For Today’s Youth, It Would Be To Throw A Baseball Really, Really Well.”

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Written by David

November 12th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Life,Recreation,Sports

Scientific Croquet A Popular Pastime For Men In Central Park

From October 23, 1910


SCIENTIFIC CROQUET A POPULAR PASTIME FOR MEN IN CENTRAL PARK: The Union Croquet Club Has Played There for a Quarter of a Century — Its Oldest Active Player Is Eight-Five. (PDF)

If you’re like me, you played croquet a few times as a kid, but have no idea what scientific croquet is. Well, it turns out that scientific croquet is the less wimpy version of croquet. Instead of grass, it’s played on a hard, smooth surface. While regular old croquet was enjoyed by men, women, and children alike, scientific croquet was for hardcore players only.

As a 1954 article from Sports Illustrated explains, scientific croquet later became known simply as roque because it is the heart of the game: c(roque)t.

If you’re interested in playing croquet in Central Park, the New York Croquet Club has free sessions every Monday from May through September just north of the Sheep Meadow.

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Written by David

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Recreation,Sports

Personally Directed Sports Are Popular With Children

From July 24, 1910


PERSONALLY DIRECTED SPORTS ARE POPULAR WITH CHILDREN: Park Commissioner Stover Finds that This Plan Makes Play More Attractive to the Youngsters of the Streets (PDF)

Around 1900, a group called the Playground Association organized sports for boys in some of the city playgrounds. It was going well until the city took over the playgrounds, and ended the supervised games. The city figured that “play was just play, and if the spaces were there the boys would go, whether an instructor presided or not.” But they didn’t. It turned out that streets were just as fun to play in, and had more shade to cool down in.

The article describes a movement under the new Park Commissioner to bring back directed sports in 1910. I especially like the dialogue here between a boy and a sports director:

The other day, when an instructor walked into a park to establish a new centre for games, the first thing every boy did was to take to his heels as hard as he could. The instructor was accompanied by the park guard, who was to show him the plot, and the boys knew him for a natural enemy. Only one boy stood, like Horatio, to keep the bridge — or maybe he was too lazy to run. The instructor beckoned to him, and the boy came, keeping a way eye out for an avenue of escape, but determined not to be bullied by any number of park guards.

“Look here, Johnny,” said the instructor easily, “we’re going to open a playground here, and we’re going to play baseball. Tell the rest of the boys to come back.”

“Huh?” said the boy.

The instructor repeated.

“They don’t let you play no baseball in the parks,” returned the boy scornfully, when the second explanation was finished.

“Yes, they’re going to let us. I’ve got a permit from the Park Department.”

“Park Department?” said the boy.

“Yes. Go call the boys.”

“Call ’em back?”

“Yes. Run along.”

The boy eyed the young man dubiously. The child of the streets is slow to believe, and this particular specimen stood on one foot, rubbing the other against his leg, for fully half a minute while he decided whether this was a fair offer or a trap.


“All right. Gee!” he said, and he was off like a shot.

Some of the directed activities included baseball, basket weaving, and gymnastics. No word on tag.

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Written by David

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Development,Life,Sports

Fifty Years Fight To Keep Central Park From Invasion

From July 10, 1910


FIFTY YEARS FIGHT TO KEEP CENTRAL PARK FROM INVASION: Since Back in 1859 Just After It Was Established Vigilance Has Been Necessary to Keep the Great Playbround from Being Used for Special Objects (PDF)

Believe it or not, sports were not permitted in Central Park when it opened. It was a place to stroll and relax, but but not to play. The website explains:

The reasons why lay in the transformation of popular sports, particularly baseball, just at the moment the park was being built. In the 1850s New York and other large cities experienced an athletic boom; interest burgeoned in cricket, prizefighting, boating, ice skating, gymnastics, foot racing, horse racing, and especially baseball… The ball clubs saw the new park as the answer to their dreams, but Olmsted and the board began to wonder whether their presence might prove, instead, to be a nightmare. In May 1861 the commission rejected the applications of baseball clubs for use of the park.

If the park board would not allow baseball and cricket clubs, what was to be done with the playgrounds that had been in the plans from the start? After nine years of intensive discussion… the commissioners restricted the playgrounds to schoolboys who could produce a certificate of good attendance and character from a teacher. And even these exemplary lads found the fields open to them only three days of the week. Working-class youths were largely excluded, since relatively few of them went beyond elementary school in this period. A year after the commissioners opened the fields to schoolboys, they made a similar arrangement for girls. In 1867 they permitted schoolgirls to play croquet on the lawns three afternoons each week.

So kids were allowed to play on the lawns, but adults wouldn’t be permitted to play until the 1920s. Here in 1910, we can see a proposal for tennis courts, a bowling green, and football field in the North Meadow, plus a running track around the reservoir. The article explains that these are all contrary to the park’s purpose:

The Committee on Statuary, Fountains, and Architectural Structures… found that if any portion of the Park was set aside for such special purposes the ground that could be used by children for their general play would be curtailed, and it was decided that it was more important to provide wide open spaces than special playgrounds.

If you compare the proposed map with the North Meadow as it appears today, you can see that the western tennis courts are exactly where they were proposed. The meadow itself now has several baseball and soccer fields. The track around the reservoir is one of the most popular places for runners in the park. And kids can play whatever they want no matter how bad their school attendance may be.

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Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Development,Sports

Humors Of Golf As Played At Van Cortlandt Park

From June 26, 1910


HUMORS OF GOLF AS PLAYED AT VAN CORTLANDT PARK: There Public Links Offer Excellent Opportunities to Study Human Nature — Growing Interest in the Game Shown by Big Increase in Army of Players (PDF)

I’m not a big fan of golf, but I absolutely love the illustrations in this article about people-watching in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The course opened in 1895, making it the oldest public golf course in America. It’s still in operation, and was recently upgraded. You can get there by subway, so if golf is your thing check it out.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Sports