Sunday, October 21, 2012

Moran and the Reds

A photograph from the American Memory collection through the Library of Congress.

Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of Chicago History Museum.
The photograph was taken by the Chicago Daily News in 1919. Patrick Moran, then manager of the Reds, sits closest to the camera in the middle of the frame. The summary of the photo suggests that the photo may have been taken during the 1919 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. Baseball fans would remember this Series as the infamous "Black Sox Scandal." Immortalized in numerous books and films like, Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Home Plate, Leaving and Returning

I recently purchased Baseball and Philosophy as part of the Pop Culture and Philosophy series. Other titles include, Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Simpsons and Philosophy, The Sopranos and Philosophy, etc.

Though I'm only a few pages in, one particular passage struck me about the concept of home plate.

This selection comes from, "There's No Place Like Home!" by Joe Kraus.

"The goal is to get 'home', and yet, every batter starts off at home. As soon as you walk up to face the pitcher, you're standing at the place you're eventually trying to reach. It's not hard to imagine Jerry Seinfeld asking the question, 'So, why leave? Why not just stay at home in the first place and forget about first, second, and third bases?' The answer, of course, is that 'home' in baseball doesn't count until you've left it...Put differently, home doesn't become meaningful until you have experienced the risk that lies in front of it. Homer told us, 'home is all the sweeter when you've braved adventures to get back to it.' (page 10)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Patrick Moran Baseball Card (1912)

1912 Patrick Moran Baseball Card
This card was made while Patrick Moran played for the Philadelphia Phillies. The set is known as the "Brown Background" set because of the sepia tones in each player's portrait. There were 200 cards issued in this set.

The back of Moran's card reads,

"Paddy Moran, catcher for the Philadelphia Nationals, is 36 years of age and started out as a professional in 1897 with the Lyons team of the New York State League. He joined the Boston Nationals in 1901 and was a member of that team for five years. In 1905 he figured in a trade and landed with the Chicago team just in time to share in the prosperity of the Cubs, who won three pennants and two world's championships in the next four years. Moran was traded to the Philadelphia club in 1910 and his specialty now is coaching young pitchers. He batted .184 and fielded .984 in 1911."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Burkett and Moran

Through the American Memory collection through the Library of Congress, I found an early baseball card of Jesse Burkett. The set is known as the 1909 T204 Ramly Cigarettes set.

1909 Jesse Burkett Baseball Card
There were 121 cards issues in this set and the LoC has 56 of them in their online digital collection. What makes Burkett's presence in this set interesting is the fact that the Worcester Busters (the team he managed from 1906-1913) was a minor league team. All of the other teams featured in this set are from the major leagues.

Though not found in the LoC's collection, but elsewhere online, another familiar face was featured in this set.

1909 Patrick Moran Baseball Card
Fitchburg native Patrick Moran (seen here as P.J. Moran) was catching for the Chicago Cubs in 1909. Notice the square gold background in Moran's card, rather than the oval in Burkett's. The Cubs finished in 2nd place in 1909, winning 104 games.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Just when I thought I was out...

Though I mentioned in an earlier post that I would be moving on to a new research topic, the unfinished work of the H.M. Francis inventory calls me back...

On September 6th, I gave a short presentation at the Fitchburg Historical Society about my H.M. Francis research. I highlighted pieces of Francis's life as well as outlined my inventory of his buildings. The turnout was excellent and I was very happy to see and meet so many people interested in Fitchburg's architectural history.

Before moving on to graduate school next fall (still to be determined where) I am going to resume working on the inventory and try to bring it to the wonderful world of the internet.

"Just when I thought I was out...they pulled me back in!" - Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Part III

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Map for Francis Inventory

The digitization of the H.M. Francis Inventory has begun.

Below is a rough map of where the inventory gets its data.

You may need to adjust your browser window to view it properly, Blogger needs to adjust its image viewing capabilities.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jim Thorpe, Almost in Fitchburg Colors

The 2012 London Olympics has captured the attention of most Americans for the past few weeks. Sure, some athletes and sports are more popular than others (Michael Phelps/Swimming, Misty May-Treanor/Women's Beach Volleyball) but the Olympics are also the penultimate stage for athletic achievements. Each Olympics features many World Records being set and broken and some even set and broken again. It is a natural obsession to be awed in the continual 'one-upping' of physical efforts.

One of my favorite topics has been the one hundred year anniversary of Jim Thorpe's gold medal victories in the pentathlon and decathlon. 

It was because of these two medals that King Gustav V of Sweden was rumored to have told Thorpe, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."
Fig. 1: Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden
A quick glance at the athletic resume of Thorpe reveals his natural prowess at nearly every popular sport: football, baseball and even basketball, in addition to his Olympic pursuits. It was his baseball years that had me naturally intrigued. 

Thorpe played professional baseball primarily with the New York Giants, but also played a year with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves. His last year at the major league level was 1919, the same year as the infamous Black Sox Scandal.

According to Baseball-Reference, Thorpe played for three minor league teams in the 1922 season: the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, as well as the Hartford Senators and the Fitchburg/Worcester Boosters of the Eastern League. The 1922 season would prove to be the final season for Thorpe's baseball career.

Fig. 2: Sports headline from June 23rd, 1922 issue of the Fitchburg Sentinel

Following a suspension from the Hartford Senators, there were strong efforts from Fitchburg club owner, John Kiernan, to entice Thorpe to come to the mill city. The efforts, unfortunately, were not enough for Hartford, who ended up releasing Thorpe to Worcester. The Greatest Athlete in the World hit .344 in his final year of minor league ball, at age 35.

Ten years removed from his Olympics performance, Thorpe was still a draw to the towns and cities he visited. It is still a spectacle to see some of yesterday's athletes in the flesh, or better yet, in a smaller setting. This past May, I went to the opening night of the Worcester Tornadoes primarily to see Jose Canseco. A few years ago, incidentally, at another Tornadoes game I attended, Eric Gagne, was the starting pitcher for the Quebec Capitales. Gagne scrubbed out of his MLB career with admissions to steroid abuse after a spectacular fall from grace. It may be the stuff of legends and hearsay, but it has often been claimed that "Shoeless" Joe Jackson played amateur baseball under a pseudonym after being banned from the major leagues. 

It's been said that Thorpe did not manage his money and fame very well and was constantly in need of extra cash. The same can probably be said of both Canseco and Gagne, playing in much smaller market venues. Whatever their motives or reasons for returning to the game, being able to see your heroes on your turf, is still magical. I'm sure the folks of Fitchburg were more than excited to see the greatest athlete in the world grace their field, even if the stakes were not so high.

Fig. 3: Jim Thorpe batting for the New York Giants

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Past and Future of U.S. Patent Drawings

Today, Wired featured a great article about the artistic de-evolution of patent drawings.
Some of these images were just too unique and beautiful to pass up.

Read the article here.

From the article:

Flying Machine, 1869

This drawing of a flying machine shows great detail in the man’s hair and even his arm muscles. The rear perspective of the man even shows the edge of his mustache and the slight appearance of eyebrow hair. How’s that for attention-to-detail?
Of course, the patented invention itself is drawn with care, showing exactly how a person would fit inside the flying machine, and where strings attach to his body. The drawing also has the advantage of using color to show different types of material -- from wood to metal to the cloth on the wings. Eventually, the USPTO enforced a rule that patent drawings must be done with black ink in order to make them easier to reproduce. Even today, applicants can only submit a color drawing if they file a petition and pay an extra fee.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Memory, Forgetting, and Joe Paterno

It's been a while since I've posted original research on this blog.
I'm hoping that will change in the coming weeks.
Until then, here is a link to an article I wrote about Joe Paterno that is featured on the American Studier website.

Friday, June 1, 2012


When I was seventeen I had the incredible privilege of going to a summer collegiate program in New Hampshire. The program was an intensive two week introduction to liberal arts and the Great Books program. In those two weeks, I took four classes: Apologetics, American Political Traditions, Literature and Philosophy.
Though the program was short, it left an indelible mark on me as a student and a person.
I was able to meet other curious students from different parts of the globe. One student from Ecuador, seven from Italy, as well as some from Los Angeles, Virginia, Mississippi, and Montana were in attendance. In addition to reading and learning, we also climbed Mt. Monadnock and went to York Beach for the day in Maine. For one student from Kansas, this was one of the first times he saw the ocean.

I am now five years removed from that two week adventure. So much about me has changed yet fundamentally remains the same. After the program, I was dead set on attending the school for my college years. Tucked away into the woods of New Hampshire, I would've been part of a tiny contingent of less than one hundred students all extracting the marrow of life. But of course, as fate or Medusa would have it, I ended up on a different trajectory. A trajectory that has recently culminated in my graduation last week. I am happy with my decision to have gone down a different path, but once a month I would sit awake at night and wonder of where the other might have taken me.

In a DVD to entrance prospective students to the college, the poem "The Beautiful Changes" by Richard Wilbur is the centerpiece.

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides   
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you   
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed   
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;   
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves   
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.
Your hands hold roses always in a way that says   
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes   
In such kind ways,   
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose   
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

So it comes with the ending of one adventure and the waiting on the threshold for another to start. The careful, emotional reflection of where one has been and where one could have been; it must be part of this "growing up" business.

I remember feeling content sleeping in the humid dorm, the complaints of my Vermont roommate about too much work and not enough play, the wafting of cigarette smoke into the tiny room, and the sound of Josh Ritter's tale, Harrisburg. The hallways became our hangout areas and the trees were our smoking lounges.

The final assignment at the program was the oral delivery of a speech written about a philosophical concept that was touched on by our numerous readings and lectures. I was assigned to write about the nature of faith, which to a non-believer in his third year of catholic high school, was a familiar task. Poring through Kierkegaard, Socrates and The Bible during the rainy afternoon was daunting and intimidating. I was called on first to deliver my speech and after its transmission was grilled by all of my instructors. This was the part we were not warned about, the critiques of our work, the "so what"s and the "how come"s. After listening to everyone's speeches in the hot summer evening, I finally understood that old adage about "the ivory tower" of college.

Now on the bookshelf, the stained, highlighter-ridden copies of Sir Gawain, Faulkner, O'Connor, Hamilton, Adams, Marx and Socrates have nestled in with Thompson, Pinchbeck, Castaneda, Wood, Zinn and now most lovingly, Gould. For a moment all they touch turns back to wonder.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Fenway

Last Friday, I was very fortunate enough to be at Fenway Park for their 100th Birthday celebration.
At first, I was interested in the game, the Yankees coming to Fenway for the first time in 2012 season.
I was more concerned with seeing our current team battle in a symbolic representation of our nearly 100 year rivalry.

I was not at all concerned with the pre-game ceremonies. As a historian, I was cynically assuming that it would be a massive, commercialized pomp and circumstance over discounted beer and historical ripoff gag gifts. Luckily, for me, I was proven wrong. Dead wrong.

The pre-game ceremony began very quietly with the Yankees leaving the field following batting practice. The Red Sox grounds crew disassembled the batting cages and the field was cleared. Then after a very brief introduction by the public announcement system, silence fell over the field. 

Using the center field garage door as the stand-in for Ray Kinsella's Iowa corn fields, Red Sox alumni from bygone years stepped forward to cheering fans and took their position on the field. The main video screen in center field showed a live feed of the player stepping into center field while another screen displayed their name, picture and years of wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Of the dozens of players introduced, the most poignant of all was first baseman Bill Buckner.

Fig. 1: Bill Buckner takes the field at Fenway Park.
Fig. 2: Red Sox Alumni walking back into the symbolic corn fields of Fenway Park.

The legacy of Bill Buckner needs no explanation here, but in a gesture of gratitude, he was the first first baseman introduced and was able to walk his way to first base before any other player was introduced. This was one of the first players to receive a standing ovation and it was clearly an emotional experience for both Buckner and the fans. Being twenty-six years removed from his infamous play, the demons appeared to have been kept at bay. For the Red Sox have won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, therefore lifting any sort of "blame" on Buckner. He has made his peace with the fans and the media since those many years ago. The romance of baseball is too hard to eliminate and forgive me while I indulge for only a short while.

Watching Bill Buckner emerge from the symbolic corn fields of Fenway Park and take his position at first base reminded me of Terence Mann's (played by James Earl Jones) speech in Field of Dreams, 

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again."

If Buckner's career being immortalized by one groundball is a tragedy, then I propose that the ultimate redemption came when he could take the field at Fenway Park. Not to throw out a first pitch or hold a championship banner but to walk to first base and be engulfed in applause. 

As each player walked onto the field, some more famous and popular than others, some younger, older, able-bodied and wheelchair / walker accompanied, they all shared that bond of being part of 100 years of history. Fenway Park was the ultimate time capsule yesterday during this pre-game ceremony. As fans, we were on hand to see our ghosts of the past take the field. We of course recalled those who were not able to be in attendance, but those who were became immortalized. It was surely no accident that Fenway Park decided to choreograph this ceremony with homage to Field of Dreams. For Fenway has remained constant throughout the years. The field is part of our past, it reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.

If there were any somber moments during the ceremony they may be found in the complete silence that took over fans. Save for the cheering and applause for each player, there was no talking. The only words heard were "Wow", "My gosh", "I can't believe it." Some of the men sitting near me were fighting back tears of memory and I can honestly say that more than once I could hear the quiet, broken-voiced whispers of, "I wish my father were here."

If baseball is that ultimate American pastime, that ultimate connection between yesterday and today, and that ultimate connection between families, friends and neighbors, then Friday, April 2oth was its ultimate day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Ashby Free Public Library

On Saturday, I made a short trip to the Ashby Free Public Library in Ashby, Mass.
This is the first of my many "Francis Library Field Trips" that I hope to take this summer.

The Ashby Free Public Library is the closest standing library to my home and I thought it would be the easiest to travel to and document.
The reasons to visit these Francis libraries are: 1) see the building in person, 2) take pictures, 3) use local records to learn more about their design and construction.

I'd say I met all three of those objectives on this trip.

Fig. 1: Ashby Free Public Library
Fig. 2: The stained glass atrium in the center of the building.
Fig. 3: Front door of the library with "PUBLIC LIBRARY" visible.

The land that the library was built on was bought from a Mrs. Elizabeth S. Green and the library building was built by Lewis Damon, a resident of Ashby. The building was designed by H.M. Francis and his firm and the library was dedicated on June 17, 1902. The building was designed in the Classical Style with red pressed brick and brownstone trimmings. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Library Road Trip

With a week's vacation looming over the horizon, I've decided to take a road trip to H.M. Francis libraries in Vermont.
Though I intend on devoting more energy towards baseball research this summer, I've wanted to photograph these libraries and visit them while I could. I think this road trip as well as others to New Hampshire and around Massachusetts will be a good way to book-end my Francis research for the time being.

The libraries in Vermont that I plan on visiting are:

  • Tenney Memorial Library in Newbury
  • Kimball Library in Randolph
  • Blake Memorial Library in East Corinth
  • Abbott Memorial Library in Pomfret
  • Rockingham Public Library in Bellows Falls

Patrick Moran Baseball Card (1 of 5)

Fig. 1: 1911 Patrick Moran baseball card
Fig. 2: Backside of the 1911 Patrick Moran baseball card

Through the same collection in the Library of Congress, this was the first of five baseball cards with Patrick Moran.

The backside of the card reads:


Patrick J. Moran, who caught for the Philadelphia Nationals in 1910, came to that team from the Cubs, with whom he had played four seasons. Before that he had been with the Boston Nationals, and in his last year with them, in 78 games behind the bat, led all the catchers in the National League, with the high average of .986.
In 1910, his average for the year was again the highest recorded for any National League backstop."

John James "Nixey" Callahan Baseball Card

Fig. 1: "Callahan-Chicago-Amer." A 1912 baseball card of "Nixey" Callahan
Fig. 2: Backside of the "Nixey" Callahan baseball card.

The American Memory Project of the Library of Congress has a great collection of baseball cards from 1887-1914. I found this one of "Nixey" Callahan. It is the only card of him in their collection, but there may be others.

The backside of the card reads:

"John James Callahan

Jimmy Callahan, the greatest 'come-back' of balldom, began playing ball in Pepperell, Mass., in 1893, just 19 years ago. He was tried out by the Phillies in 1894, but it was not until 1897 that he was finally judged fast enough to stick in polite society. The Chicago Nationals took him on and he stuck until jumping to the White Sox in 1902, where he worked as combination pitcher and outfielder. Cal has the come-back habit strong. After several years of retirement, he came back as a player in 1911 and as a manager in 1912. Last season Callahan hit .281, with a fielding average of .963."

New Project

After nearly three years of studying the architecture of H.M. Francis in Fitchburg, I'm moving on to a new research topic.
The work of the Francis firm will always be something I'll have a fascination in, but I feel it is necessary to begin working on another project.

Starting in May, I'm going to begin researching baseball teams in Fitchburg. Baseball was a very big part of my childhood as well as the lives of countless other young boys in America. I have very strong, emotional ties to Little League Baseball, Major League Baseball and even the minor leagues. The intricacy, chess match-like qualities of baseball have always fascinated me to a great degree. I enjoy the silence of the game. The pops of the bat, the skidding of the grass, the hurried footsteps of the batters as well as the smell of fresh cut grass, and the heat of the afternoon sun all have a special place in my heart. Through all of the events of a baseball game, the voices of the players are often subdued, and muted to spectators. You have to rely on umpire signals, player body language and dirt kicking to understand what the players go through. Today's television coverage will sometimes feature a player wearing a microphone through warm-ups or even in the dugout but those invasions taint the game for me. It's much more powerful to be a casual onlooker interpreting the grimaces and celebrations than a fly on the wall. I've attended numerous baseball games in my life, whether it's professional (Red Sox), minor league (Spinners, Sea Dogs, Paw Sox) or even amateur (Tornadoes) and no matter where my seat was, I rarely heard the dugout banter or discussions amongst players.

I much prefer that atmosphere, that wall between the spectator and athlete, the fan and the superstar.

My research is a bit open-ended at this point. I haven't devoted much time to preparing an outline towards a thesis or working goal, other to simply learn. I decided upon Fitchburg baseball because it is my current home but also because baseball at its infancy, as well as during the "deadball era" had many social and cultural implications on a community.

Two players that I want to focus on, in regards to their relationships to Fitchburg are Patrick Moran and "Nixey" Callahan.
Both grew up in Fitchburg, playing on local youth teams but later made it to the American and National Leagues.

Patrick Moran was manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1919 when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series and were blacklisted from baseball. It's also been said that Callahan threw the first no-hitter in the American League.

Though their major league exploits are fairly well-documented in various encyclopedias and online databases, I'm interested in seeing Moran and Callahan at a more local level before they made it to the big stage.

As the school year winds down and summer begins, I'll continue to post my research findings and get back into old grooves.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

An Undergraduate Degree (in book form)

Now that I am approaching my graduation date I wanted to take a moment to reflect on four years of undergraduate study. I was inspired by Dan Allosso's index of books to think about all of the books I've had to read in my college classes. Though one day I may expand on them as Mr. Allosso has, I figured a list would suffice for now. Thankfully, for your eyes and mine, I'm not going to list all of the articles I read from academic journals.

Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent by Larry Berman

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns by Jane Tompkins

Vietnam: A Portrait of Its People at War by David Chanoff

The Virginian by Owen Wister

The Indian Frontier of the American West, 1846-1890 by Robert Utley

The Challenge of Rethinking History Education: On Practices, Theories and Policy by Bruce VanSledright

Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel

Ho by David Halberstam

Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois Prairie by John Faragher

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus: What Your History Books Got Wrong by James Loewen

Doing Comparative Politics: An Introduction to Approaches and Issues by Timothy Lim

Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, 1760-1791 edited by Richard Brown

Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century by Mark Mazower

The River Runs Salt, Runs Sweet: A Memoir of Visegrad, Bosnia by Jasmina Dervisevic-Cesic

The American Revolution: A History by Gordon S. Wood

The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007 5th edition, Sidney Milkis

A Pocket Guide to Writing in History by Mary Lynn Rampolla

A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941-1945 by Antony Beever

Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment by Anthony Lewis

Benjamin and William Franklin: Father and Son, Patriot and Loyalist by Sheila Skemp

Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography by Robert Graves

Wartime by Paul Fussell

After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection by James West Davidson

The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L. Friedman

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

Ama by Manu Herbstein

Electroboy by Andy Behrman

The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race and War in the Nineteenth Century by Martha Hodes

Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919 by Nell Irvin Painter

Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635-1848 by Bernard Moitt

Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World by Trevor Burnard

The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition by W.J. Rorabaugh

Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 by Jon Butler

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales