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
Published: Sunday, April 7, 1918