S1: The following podcast contains explicit language, including the words, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor at the sign up and listen to the week of April 12, the two thousand twenty one on this week’s show, we’re going to talk about the Texas Rangers opening their stadium at full capacity. The Vancouver Canucks having more than 20 positive covid cases and other scenes from the sports world, pandemic purgatory. We’ll also discuss what sports achievements remain undone now that the San Diego Padres have thrown their first no hitter. And Luke Aplan will be here for a conversation about his book, Our Team on the nineteen forty eight Cleveland Indians and the lesser known story of the second black player in the major leagues, Larry Doby. I’m in Washington, D.C. I’m the author of The Queen and the host of Slow Burn Season four on David Duke, also in D.C.. I think I got it right this week. Stefan Fatsis, author of the book Word Freak A Few Seconds of Panic. I just live in fear of getting your location wrong. Stefan Eutaw, the paint off the walls last week.
S2: I did. I mean, it was pretty obvious where I was or where I wasn’t. I mean, you know what my background looks like here in D.C.?
S1: Is there a Broncos helmet? Yes. OK, I think we’re good. Yeah, I think you are in D.C. and with us from the West Coast, the reliable Joel Anderson, Slate staff writer, host of Slow Burn Season three and the upcoming Season six. Hello, Joel.
S3: Good morning. I got to doing well.
S1: Have you thought about putting a particular helmet?
S3: No, I don’t have any. I still have a lot of. Do you have any stuff.
S2: Yeah. Do you have a helmet?
S3: I know I don’t think people were getting helmets back in the 90s like that. I have like a little bit of warm up gear and my old cleats, which I think I’m pretty sure I stole. I don’t think I was allowed to take those, but I took them anyway.
S1: But that’s it in case them in Lucite, maybe maybe send them to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
S3: Oh, yeah. I’m sure that they could use a door jam or something like that.
S2: I know Jersey, you
S3: know, I wasn’t good. And like I shared I, I suited up only a couple of times for home games. You know what? I think my name was on the back of it. I couldn’t even tell you, but I definitely handed it back in after the game, got it washed and I didn’t get to keep doing so.
S2: Are you one of those college football players that has to share a number with another player on the roster? Because there’s like two hundred guys on the sidelines.
S3: I had three numbers and two years. I came in at twenty five when I suited up for game. I was thirty four and then. By the next year, I was 17 for some reason, it just rouble’s left over clearly, which it would have actually would have been a cool number for a running back. But yeah, I mean, I didn’t register any stats or anything like that, so I’m pretty sure they were just like, whatever, kid, just take whatever number we
S1: got 17 stuff. You got to love that as a running back.
S2: Yeah, absolutely. So good like that. Yeah. Major League Baseball opened its regular season on April 1st. The Washington Nationals didn’t open their regular season until April 6th because almost a dozen players either tested positive for the coronavirus or may have been exposed to it on the other side of the continent. The NHL Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a two week covid hiatus as at least twenty six people in the organization, including twenty two players, have tested positive, all apparently for the Brazilian coronavirus variant. Meanwhile, baseball is welcoming fans back into stadiums, and the NHL and NBA are to. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that he expects full stadiums come fall and fans in khaki shorts and pastel shirts were crowded together at the Masters over the weekend. Josh Sports remain in a very weird and it still feels a very tenuous place, though. I guess, you know, when you’re your lizard brain kicks in, it’s like, wow, it’s cool. Their fans in stadiums cheering at baseball games.
S1: It’s patrons at the Masters stuff.
S2: And I say fans, oh, my God, are we going to be canceled now by Augusta?
S1: Regrettable move by you. So over the weekend, I went to see some outdoor music and like a public kind of lawn thing, they’re not that far from where you live. Stefan, it felt really nice and people were distanced and most people were wearing masks. And I felt pretty good and reasonably safe. I’ve had one vaccine this at this point. And so I think that the baseball stadiums, for example, that are open like 20 percent capacity or twenty five percent capacity, which is the vast majority of them, I don’t personally have any problem with that. And I think in this purgatory moment. That we’re in. It’s just this, like, constant. Internal push and pull about like I really want to be out and doing things and going places, and it’s an understandable human emotion and impulse which I have felt and I have acted upon. And so I don’t think I mean, you guys are welcome to say whatever you want, but I don’t think I can sit here and be like, how dare they go to the Masters or how dare they go to the games? But there are these sort of outliers like what’s happening in Texas at the Texas Rangers Stadium, where I just saw the video of the opening day crowd on Twitter. And it was just like so revolting and horrifying to see a full baseball stadium in this moment. And so it is just interesting where when you see a kind of smaller crowd, or at least when I see kind of a small crowd, I’m like, oh, that’s nice. It’s like a vision of the future. A larger crater like this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And like, I can’t imagine ever being in, like, a crowded space like that ever again in my life.
S3: Yeah. I mean, I think that we’re pretty much sort of through the looking glass on this thing, right? I mean, we’ve always sort of been building up to this moment and somebody was going to have to fill their stadiums first or somebody was going to do it. Maybe they didn’t have to do it, but somebody was going to fill their stadium up first. And so that’s what it’s going to look like. And we’re just going to have to deal with it. And, of course, there’s going to be in Texas or Florida like one of the to the right,
S2: because the Marlins and the and the Rays aren’t going to fill their stadium under any circumstances.
S3: Right, exactly. Like if they welcomed everybody in with free tickets instead, they still probably couldn’t sell it out. But yeah, so inevitably this was going to happen. This is going to be the season we have. It’s just going to be a test of we’ll find out soon enough whether or not they hosted a super spreader event there in Arlington, Texas. We’ll find out soon enough if you know our fears are overblown. But it’s hard to think that. I mean, you know, people are still being hospitalized. You know, there’s still spikes in places around the country. People are still dying of covid around the country. So, you know, I mean, we’re basically still having the same fight that we’ve been having in the past year, except now franchises have a little bit more discretion as to whether or not they want to fill out their stadiums. And, you know, I mean, I’m sure that Jerry Jones, if he was given the chance, you know, like today, if I if there was a way that he could host an event there at Cowboys Stadium at full capacity, he probably would do it and he would be allowed to. And I think that’s something we’re going to have to get used to in the next couple of months. And hopefully it doesn’t drag us too far back into the bad old days of winter when, you know, the pandemic was at its worst. But I kind of feel like the argument over this is over, right, Stephanie? I mean, I don’t
S2: I think the I think argument is definitely over. And I think it’s going to be one of just personal preference. You know, are you willing to go sit on a lawn? And, Tony, upper northwest D.C., where people are going to wear their face masks, or are you willing to be a patron sprinting toward the award ceremony at Augusta, which was like the weirdest, you know, one of the really weirdest images I saw in the last week. They had an overhead shot after the Hideki Matsuyama wins the Masters. The fans sort of rushed toward the area where they’re going to hand out the awards and, you know, let them put on the green jacket. And it was just really odd. And, you know, I’ve become sort of interested in the forensics of all this, you know, looking at the videos and seeing how many people are wearing masks are not. I looked at one picture from opening day in for the Texas Rangers and I counted eighty three people in the image. Sixty seven of them were not wearing a mask at eighty one percent. So I don’t know at this point. We’re also going to face the reality that a lot of people are getting vaccinated and a lot of people in Texas are getting vaccinated. So I think we’re going to have to be less judgmental about crowds than we have been for the last year. But I think that’s that anxiety of watching big sporting events with lots of unmasked fans is still going to exist.
S1: You know, like so Fauci has said, you know, in reference to a place like Nationals Park, which at this point I think is that like 12 percent capacity.
S2: That’s right. At the bottom of baseball. I think the Nationals and the Red Sox are at 12 percent.
S1: He said if you have an appropriate, prudent spacing of people, the risk is very low. The head of the Rangers, I don’t want to be critical of that, but that I would not start off with 100 percent capacity. Very political statement there from Dr. Fauci. But you’ll recall that last year. In Florida, the Santos gave all of the teams permission to have full capacity then, and it was only due to the forbearance of, say, the Miami Dolphins that we didn’t have a full NFL stadium in 2020. So I think, you know, you’re right, Joel, that people like Jerry Jones are obviously what’s what’s going on with the Rangers baseball team, that the kind of social stigma, at least in certain places, around allowing fandom at full capacity has has lessened. But I guess I mean, it’s a good thing we haven’t seen this even earlier. And, you know, one conversation that some of our colleagues were having today that I think is really interesting is around is they’re just going to be a day when people stop wearing masks. Is it going to happen really gradually? Are people going to start wearing dog tags that say, I’ve been vaccinated? So they’re going to be I’m with two doses of Moderne, a t shirt that you can wear. Our stadiums are going to require people to have vaccine cards. I’m sure. I’m sure Greg Abbott would be happy about that. In Texas,
S2: the Yankees and the Mets are apparently requiring proof of full vaccination or a negative covid test.
S3: No. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s you know, I think anything is pretty much possible at this moment right now is we’re still sort of moving towards with a post pandemic. Life looks like. And, you know, as I mentioned, people are still sort of dealing with this. But I think the person that may be sort of best typified the national sports mood. You know, people that are involved in sports with somebody else from Texas, you know, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kimochi, you know, after Baylor was eliminated from the women’s basketball tournament a couple of weeks ago. And I think she didn’t receive a lot of heat for this because the news cycle sort of moved on and it was like a particularly crowded sports calendar. But she actually argued against covid testing period that, you know, that they should they didn’t she didn’t want she didn’t think they should test anybody that made it to the women’s final four because you didn’t want to ruin the opportunity for somebody to play in sports. And so I’m torn as to whether or not she didn’t get any attention for that statement because of sexism, because people just don’t pay attention to women’s sports. And it was easy to sort of overlook what she said or because it’s not that controversial anymore, that maybe some people think that, well, you know, we’re sort of past this. It’s not a big deal. And people can essentially make the decisions about what risk factors, you know, the amount of risk that they want to take. Well, I think
S2: I think another factor here, Joel, is that that there’s no sort of there hasn’t been an overwhelming consensus that outdoor gatherings have led to huge spikes in covid positives. I mean, there has been there was a recent story about new research that was done last month that there was, in fact, a link between NFL games that had a lot of fans last fall and an increase in infections in the areas around stadiums. So there is some evidence on that side. The NFL counters that and there
S1: was no evidence of a causal link. There could just be a correlation between the fact that places that were inclined to have NFL games with crowds are going to be places that are inclined to have indoor gatherings or to have relaxed rules and all sorts of different ways. But it was that mean, I think, the consensus. Right. I think the well, there could have been a spike related to other things as well. But I think the general consensus is that indoor events are much more dangerous in terms of their being the likelihood or the possibility of a super spreader moment. And so, again, I feel like the majority of teams, it seems like in baseball in particular, are thinking about this in a responsible way or in the right way and are following like Forces’ advice. And it’s very easy to fixate on the Texas Rangers and we should be fixating on them because what they’re doing is pretty appalling. But I don’t think that every sports entity, an organization is being irresponsible or is even doing anything that other kind of large organizations are doing.
S2: No, I don’t think so either. Josh and yeah, baseball’s got the lowest risk factor because it’s outdoors. But even according to CDC guidelines, baseball ticks high risk for a lot of other things, people not wearing masks when they’re sitting in one place for an extended period of time outside in a. Ability to enforce restrictions on social distancing. There are no restrictions on things like yelling and chanting and singing, raise the
S1: game and so people don’t have anything to cheer or yell about.
S2: So, yeah, I mean, the sports are managing these things well, but that doesn’t mean that this is flawless.
S3: It’s not really incumbent upon sports teams, owners, players, unions to be in charge of this. Like this is supposed to be a top down sort of thing. Our governments are the ones that are supposed to protect us and sort of lay down what the ground rules are.
S1: That’s what Contra Costa County did, right?
S3: Yeah, right. Exactly. I mean, that’s the reason why Stanford’s women’s basketball team spent most of the year on the road because there were rules against gathering, particularly inside. If the government is going to allow it. I mean, it’s hard to sit here and ask these moneymaking entities to say, oh, yeah, I’m going to pass up on that money, especially after a year in which they lost a tremendous amount of revenue. So, you know, whatever is happening now is a result of the government
S2: that we have. I was going to say that the last thing I think we should address is that I think what we’re seeing now is the distinction between what happens in arenas and stadiums and what’s happening inside the leagues and teams themselves. And there’s for me, like the real disconnect now you’ve got you’ve still got, you know, by and large, of course, the number of covid positives and the number of illnesses among players in sports has been fairly low because of aggressive testing and care. But we’re still seeing these cases like with the Nationals who’ve only played like five or six games so far this season, compared to 10 or 11 for other teams because they had games postponed. And the Vancouver Canucks, which is a full fledged outbreak in what is now April of twenty twenty one inside a professional sports team. So it’s it still raises the alarm bells that we still have problems, not just societally, but even managing sports. And the NHL is like, you know, we’re going to postpone we’re going to delay the end of the regular season. We’ll start the playoffs later. It’ll all be fine. But you’ve got a variant spreading in British Columbia and issues with vaccination in Canada that are sort of raising anew the the questions of how smart it is to keep going for teams and leagues. And just kind of
S3: the closer, I imagine that we probably won’t have many more covid conversations about this, because I think we’re pretty much through this. I saw in the frozen for this weekend at UMass, won the championship, but they played the semi-finals without their goalie, Philip Lehnberg, because he was isolated, because he’d been exposed to cold. And that’s probably one of the last times we’re going to see outcomes in games affected by covid. So I’m just I think that, like, at this
S2: point, really, what do you think is the last one of the last time we’re going to see outcomes of games affected by covid? I mean, they’re still canceling all the sports marketing
S3: people are getting vaccines vaccinated. And, you know, I just I think we’re going to be leaning into the Kimochi East Coast Guard for as opposed to anything else.
S1: And I’m curious why the NHL hasn’t just taken Vancouver out of circulation. I think they could just be like, you know what, we’re done with you like that. That would be the very kind of unsympathetic version. I mean, I guess you could look at it either way, like there is a sort of like denialism in saying like, oh, yeah, we’ll finish the regular season, we’ll delay the playoffs. They’re going to play. It’s not even just that. They’re like Vancouver is going to play all of their games, all of the games that they’ve missed. They’re going to make them up. And so I don’t I don’t know whether it would be better or worse for them to just be like, you know what, Vancouver, like, you guys should just, like, get healthy, get better, and we’ll just like play the rest of the season without you or to just delay, delay, delay, I guess just like cross your fingers that everything’s going to be OK and you’ll be able to quote unquote, finish the season as normal.
S2: Yeah, but Josh, the integrity of the results of these Scotia North Division are at stake here because you wouldn’t want to have an unequal number of games compared to the MassMutual Eastern Division or the Discover Central Division or Hondo, west of Division.
S1: Stefan has learned that the NHL is sponsoring its divisions. This perhaps can be a discussion for another week. Next up, we’re going to talk about the sports feats that still have never been achieved.
S3: The San Diego Padres have one just two minutes and their fifty two seasons of existence and none since 1998. They also have the worst winning percentage in the majors, edging out the Miami Marlins. So it’s fair to say that the Padres are so inconspicuous, they’re not even known for all of their losing. But the twenty twenty one Padres do have two of the most exciting players in the game in many Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. and they were headliners for a moment last week, thanks to right hander Joe Musgrove, who grew up about 10 minutes away from Petco Park. Musgrove pitched a no hitter on Friday, beating the Texas Rangers, the same ones we talked about the previous segment, who had a full stadium, three nothing. The Padres had been the only team in the majors to never throw one. Now, every franchise as a no hitter with that feet crossed off, it got us wondering what are the other sports achievements that still haven’t been done yet? And so before we get to that, Stefan, you actually watch the end of the game on Friday night. Did it feel like sports history?
S2: Yeah. Did I mean, somebody on Twitter said do it on Padres is throwing a no hitter, turn on television. And I did because I’m obedient and it was great. I mean, every no hitter feels like history because every no hitter is history. There have only been two hundred and sixty three of them since nineteen one. I’ve never seen a no hitter live, but my favorite no hitter memory is listening to Dave Righetti of the New York Yankees. Throw one on July 4th. Nineteen eighty three on the car radio. I was listening as I was driving home for a weekend. I was interning for the Providence Journal that summer. I remember pulling into the driveway before the last inning and running inside to catch the end of the game. And here’s what it sounded like. He said the kick and the pitch. Hey.
S4: He’s straight out for the final. And the Yankees on the
S2: field to congratulate Dave Righetti, but that, of course, wasn’t the Yankees first no hitter, it was their seventh. And what makes Joe Musgrave’s no hitter really cool and interesting is that it was a statistical anomaly. Grab all to shortstop
S4: to first the San Diego. The history of the franchise
S5: belongs to Santiago’s own
S1: Joe Mostro, sending the
S2: faithful into a frenzy. The Padres were an expansion team. In nineteen sixty nine, they played eight thousand two hundred and six games before one of its pitchers threw a no hitter. Compare that to the Montreal Expos, who also joined baseball in 1969. It took them nine games to throw a no hitter like Bill Stoneman on April 17th. Put another way, the Expos franchise needed 10 days to throw a no hitter. The Padres needed eighteen thousand nine hundred and ninety five days. So I think the taxonomy of quirky sports feats, Josh, might fall into two categories, pretty normal stuff that hasn’t happened for no good reason, like the Padres not having a no hitter and extraordinary stuff that hasn’t happened because it’s really hard to do.
S1: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting to think about the kind of guardrails to put on this conversation, because there is stuff just like records, like we could talk about, you know, when well, somebody’s top Will Chamberlain’s 100 points or any number of things like that. And then, yeah, like you said, there’s just like weird stuff like this. And there’s for me, it’s kind of like sad that the Padres threw a no hitter because it’s I like the preservation of a trivia question or just like a weird, dumb thing that doesn’t really make any sense. And really the only comparable thing that’s left now in baseball and this one is just like about 30 percent dumber than not having a no hitter, is that no marlin has ever hit for the cycle. That’s the only franchise that does not have a cycle that’s hitting single double, triple and a home run for the same player in the same game. And that’s just like a little bit lamer. Joel. Yeah, I miss the Padres never having thrown a no hitter,
S3: another loser franchise. Yeah, it actually is pretty cool, at least to me, because I have not I’m trying to think if I’ve ever thought about the Padres since Tony Gwynn retired, you know, when I was growing up in Houston, there was a family that lived down the street from me, Joey and Audrey. I did not remember their last name, but they were fans of the San Diego Padres. For some reason, they the only people I’d known in my entire life who were Padres fans. And I’ve never thought of them since the 80s because, I mean, they also the only family in our neighborhood that had a pool. But but they were Padres fans. And I was it was kind of cool for me to think about the Padres again just because I had not. But, yeah, it is kind of sad that they’ve lost this bit of, like, trivia, right. That something that made them distinctive besides their losing, they’re losing. And the inconspicuous list. And I kind of you know, you kind of wish that that kind of stuck around because, I mean, a no hitter really doesn’t tell you anything about anything. Right. Like like it’s not I know Stefan said that it’s a big deal like that. It feels like history. But I feel like you said. How many times does it happen? Two hundred and sixty three.
S2: Sixty three more than you think, right? Yeah, right. It’s a couple it’s a few times a season.
S3: It isn’t at least it ceases to be an impressive accomplishment when somebody who’s like a Stoneman. Is that the guy you don’t something. Yeah. Yeah. Big stuff. If you throw
S1: a no hitter then I would give you a pat on the back door.
S3: Yeah. All right.
S1: They’re not doing it every day.
S2: I’m just happy to have thrown a no hitter
S3: for the it’s like running a ten second. It’s like running a sub 10 second. One hundred. Yeah. It’s very impressive. Not a lot of people have done it, but it happens enough that it’s not quite that big of a deal anymore.
S1: So I asked on Twitter now that the Padres up there in the no hitter, what are the remaining feats across all sports that have never been done? And a couple of the responses were just like certain teams not having achieved anything like the Cleveland Browns never playing in a Super Bowl, the Seattle Mariners never making it to the World Series, Detroit Lions never appearing in a Super Bowl. There are some college football things. Johal, Arizona. I didn’t actually notice Arizona, the only PAC 12 school never to go to the Rose Bowl. That’s kind of embarrassing. Come on, Arizona.
S3: I’m surprised to Dick Tomey, Desert Swarm era Wildcats hadn’t done it. They weren’t really talented in the nineties.
S1: So they had that some some dudes. Ben Matheson, of course, noted that Michigan has not played in the Big Ten title game that has been around for very long now. No Matt has ever won the MVP award. Yeah, that was
S3: that’s kind of surprising, right?
S1: The one that I thought was the best. Actually, it’s not quite the same as the putter, an innovator. But I still think that it’s in the sweet spot of where we’re talking to is Adam Hirsch noted there’s never been a perfect sweep of the NBA playoffs and the Warriors actually came really close in twenty seventeen. They won their first fifteen games before LeBron heroically won a single game for the Cavs and that finals and that the Warriors ended up sixteen and one. Do you feel like, Stephon, is that the kind of feet we’re looking for? No. Perfect, sweet sweep of NBA playoff timing.
S2: You know, the difference, I think, is that, you know, a no hitter is pretty prominent. I mean, you’d have to sort of scrape your brain to come up with, you know, the sort of manufactured anomaly. You know, the perfect sweep, I think came into the sort of consciousness back in nineteen eighty three the same year, the day for getting through his no hitter. When Moses Malone of the Sixers said that the team’s goal was foa foa foa, they were going to win four games in all three of the series and go perfect 12. And so they ended up losing one game like the Warriors did. But that does feel a little more manufactured. But I do I do like that as a weird statistical thing because it shows some level of greatness the way that a pitcher having an amazing day throwing a no hitter shows some level of greatness. I mean, does it fall into the same category as a perfect season in the NFL? You know, the the Patriots almost got to 19. No, thanks. Thank you, New York Giants. And now it will have to be 20, you know, I guess, to four for a perfect season that feels more like these group achievements that we’ve attached some statistical significance to, as opposed to something, you know, weird or super human, like running for three hundred yards in an NFL game. Right. Or hitting five home runs in a Major League Baseball game.
S3: Yeah, a lot of these things to FTS that would be impressive, but not necessarily things you want to watch. Do you really want to watch your team go through the playoffs, the NBA playoffs, undefeated like that sucks. Like, I, I, I wouldn’t I don’t I wouldn’t enjoy that. I want to see close games. I want to see a team punished. I don’t want to see anybody that dominate or you know, I mean, again, I know the thing about a no hitter is that what you’re actually watching is a very boring game. You don’t be like I guess you get the tension, you get the tension of seeing somebody go through it. But like, it’s a game without offense, essentially, right in that list of things that hasn’t happened. So no NFL team has ever scored four points that be cool to read about. But I was not want to watch a football game,
S2: totally want to watch that. So it would be even better if it was a field goal and a one point safety. That is my dream for
S1: California for a tie with the other team having two safety. Yeah, that would be that would be your ultimate. That would be football. That’s fine. I’m going to run through some of these. We’ve aggregated them across some article, some Reddit threads, and you guys can just stop me if you have any any comment. Another kind of NBA perfect thing that was almost achieved was the Boston Celtics 85, 86 when 40 and one at home. So there’s never been a perfect home season in the NBA, but that seems quasi achievable.
S3: Rockets beat them in the at home in the finals, by the way. They beat them in the garden that year. Just just for the record, the
S1: rockets were basically the NBA champions.
S3: They they came in Keyman, Ralph Sampson. True. The Twin Towers.
S1: This is another one I thought was interesting. That seems like it could be done, but I understand why it hasn’t is that no pitcher in major league history has ever gone through an entire season without losing a game and qualified for the title, meaning like had enough innings pitched that it would you know, they would qualify statistically. That seems like it could maybe happen someday, Stephen, because like pitcher wins and losses are sort of random and you can imagine somebody having like an awesome season and also getting lucky and just not being rewarded with a loss.
S2: Right. It’s sort of the same way you can imagine, Jacob, the ground going on eighteen because the Mets haven’t scored a single run for him all season. So, yeah, I mean, then I think some of the other statistical ones are that we’d like to see. I mean, it’s always round numbers, right? Like we still haven’t had a twenty strikeout no hitter in baseball. There have been twenty strikeout games and you’d think like Joel, no hitters, dime a dozen some dude, you know, we’re striking out more batters than ever. At some point we should see those two amazing feats combined. I think that would be cool.
S1: Why are you stopping there? Why not. Twenty seven strikeout. No no hitter. Think big like
S2: the Little League. Know the Little League. Perfect game.
S1: Yeah, I like this one from Reddit. There’s never in the NFL been a touchdown awarded for a palpably unfair act where a referee like if somebody comes off the sideline and just like tackles the dude at the one yard line, they can award a touchdown.
S3: Do you think that should have happened to the Saints that year that they played against the Rams in the NFC championship game? Yeah, I
S1: mean, the best interference happened like inside the ten yard line, but that should have been a touchdown. Yeah, I think you’re right. Never been and never been in overtime in a Super Bowl. Nobody’s ever run for more than three hundred yards and an NFL game. Joel would like to see that one.
S3: I would love to see that
S1: the NBA ones, I think are are interesting. There’s never been a scoreless quarter that is definitely in the Joel Anderson Hall of Fame of things that would not. Your fund.
S3: Oh, do you guys you got see, I lived in the Dallas area when the Mavericks team was there, when they lost to the Lakers, and I do know who played the most minutes for the Mavs that night, A.C. Green.
S1: So this was April 97. The Mavs scored two points in the third quarter. They only lost by seven. They’d only scored ten points in that in that quarter, they would have been the Lakers.
S3: The leading scorer
S2: scoreless quarter does happen a lot in women’s basketball. And I think we saw one in the late stages of the NCAA tournament.
S3: Yeah, I mean, it’s
S1: only ten minutes,
S3: right? I mean, you know, I don’t that’s never going to happen now. I don’t want to say I shouldn’t say never, but like, I cannot imagine an NBA team going scoreless for a game at this point. So I mean. Right.
S1: I think it could happen. I think it could happen. It probably won’t happen, but I think it could theoretically happen. So the thing that that could happen that has never happened is father and son playing together. So if LeBron and Bronnie are on the same team and a couple of years, like, that’s the thing that’s happened in baseball with the grevious but never happened in the NBA. And then I guess the last thing I would say is that NBA records around individual scoring, I mentioned 100 points for well, in a game. The thing that I find so fascinating about that is that it’s all about kind of convention and about sort of the niceties of the game, because what’s stopping I mean, you’ve seen this like when guys are going for the scoring title, just like taking every single shot and like Kobe, who’s the most I don’t know what you can you can choose what adjective you want to is the most selfish, self-involved star player of the all got scored eighty one in the game. But there could be some night where, like the warriors, like, you know, staff, we’re going to pass it to you every time you’re going to shoot fifty something threes. What I’m saying is be more selfish. We want to, we want to, we want to see more individual scoring records, especially when you’re like, you know, not in contention for anything. Just, you know, try to try to make thirty three is in a game. So that’s why we’re three.
S2: That’s why I like the baseball records, because you can’t manipulate them in quite the same way. Will someone go eight for eight in a game that would be really cool. Will someone, as I mentioned, hit five home runs in a game? That would be really cool too. But they’re not dependent on teammates to help get it done, though, you know, there’s nothing wrong with with manufacturing records either. So, yeah, I am
S1: Steph Curry
S2: manipulation manipulate away. Let’s see Steph get one hundred and twenty and again.
S1: Up next, Luke Aplan on his book, Our Team in the Second Black Player in Major League Baseball. This Thursday, April 15th, is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball. It’s an annual celebration of the player who broke the league’s modern color barrier. And this year, it’ll be the seventy fourth anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. As far as I know, this July 5th will not be marked by a similar kind of special celebration by Major League Baseball. July 5th, two thousand twenty one will be the seventy fourth anniversary of Larry Dobies first game with the Cleveland Indians. Dobi was the second African-American player after Robinson to break the modern color barrier, and he was the first in the American League. His story is very different from Robinson’s, though it’s just as inspiring and infuriating. Luke Aplan tells that story and a bunch more in his new book, Our Team The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball. Luke, welcome to the show.
S5: Thanks for having me.
S1: Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers October forty five. You didn’t play the whole minor league season before his big league debut in Brooklyn. Larry Doby, he’s playing in the Negro Leagues for the Newark Eagles on July 4th. Nineteen forty seven, he made his Major League debut for the Indians the very next day. That’s really remarkable. So how did that happen?
S5: Yeah, so Bill Thek, who was the owner of the Cleveland Indians, he bought the team in 1946, had plans to integrate the Indians pretty much off the bat that he had tried to buy the Philadelphia Phillies in nineteen forty two whenever he was a minor league owner. And he really wanted to integrate that team as well. So he has integration in his mind. He waits until Jackie Robinson breaks the Major League Baseball color line in April of 1947, and then he sort of decides that he’s going to take a much different tact than Branch Rickey took with Robinson. As you mentioned, Robinson has basically an eighteen month build up from whatever the signing is, is announced with the Brooklyn Dodgers to the time that he actually debuts on the Brooklyn Dodgers, then thought that this sort of thing puts a put a little bit too much pressure on Robinson, that it gave him sort of a lot of time to be under the spotlight, to have to sort of go through a bunch of things rather than just getting thrown into the major league fire. And he even told Vašek told a reporter from the Pittsburgh Courier that one of these days the Indian players are going to go on to the field and there will be a black player with him. So he decides to take a completely different tact with Larry Doby. He wants to infuse the Indians with talent. In 1947, they had been sort of sixth place team the year before. And so he started scouring the Negro Leagues. They come across Larry Doby, who had just won the Negro League World Series championship with the Newark Eagles the previous season. Dobies tearing up the league in 1947. Vick consults with a man and decides to purchase the contract of Larry Doby on July 1st. Dobi himself does not find out. He’s signed by the Indians until July 2nd. He plays another game with the Newark Eagles, goes to a train station in Newark, New Jersey, and then is on an overnight train to Chicago the very next day. It is a whirlwind for look.
S3: Do you mind briefly telling us what the impact of losing players like Dobi had on the managers of the New York, Newark Eagles and broadly the Negro Leagues? Because this was sort of like a drip, drip, drip thing, and then all of a sudden the floodgates opened.
S2: Right. And they were and they were put in a really weird position to in as much as Vak, who was, you know, store has viewed historically as a really noble, progressive guy, totally lowballed the Eagles and family of the owner in terms of her price for asking price for Larry Doby, because he knew that, you know, because he knew that she would know that she couldn’t stand in the way of this progress even though it would hurt them financially.
S5: Yeah, family is is a is a key figure in all of this with her husband, Abe Manley, they owned the Newark Eagles, purchased the team in nineteen thirty five, brought them over to Newark in nineteen thirty six. They’ve been trying to win a Negro League World Series since then. And in nineteen forty six they had sort of a roster that could finally do it. They had Leon De an amazing pitcher on that team. Then of course Monty Irving and Larry Doby. The thing to keep in mind is that the Newark Eagles had already lost Don Newcombe to the Brooklyn Dodgers before the nineteen forty six season, and Branch Rickey practiced a much different sort of tactic than Veck. Rickey thought that the Negro Leagues were kind of a racket. In his words. He thought that the sort of contracts they signed were not standard, that they were a little bit flimsy. And he believed that after each season, every Negro League player basically became a free agent. So he did not consult with the Newark Eagles. In terms of signing Don Newcombe, who was a young pitcher for them at that time, and so Manly was furious at this idea, and she really thought that Negro League owners needed to be compensated for finding developing the the players on their rosters. With Vleck, as you mentioned, he did contact Manly and offered to offer her some compensation and it was low and manly. Talks about in her autobiography how that Vick would have offered 10 times that much for a player of Dobies talent if he were white. But she knew that if she tried to fight him or blocked Dobies sort of way into the majors, it could sort of start a firestorm of criticism, both within both among players and also within the black press, which at that time really wanted to see black players cross over into the major leagues and do well. And as Joel was saying, it was devastating for the New York Newark Eagles. They drew a record number of fans in 1946 after the war. They won the World Series. The next year, the fan, the fan total was just sort of slashed in half. They were leading the Negro Leagues again in nineteen forty seven. And then Manley said after Dobi was signed, it was like the air got taken out of the tire. The players kind of didn’t have the same sort of fire as they did before that, that they kind of sense that things were maybe sort of crumbling in the morale went and by nineteen forty eight the Eagles were averaging a little more than thirty thousand fans a season so far. And a manly end up unloading the team the next the next season.
S1: So the thing that comes through very clearly in the book, Luke, is that, you know, this decision to just throw Larry Doby into the fire, it was not very sensitive to Dobi as a human being. He gets to, you know, the clubhouse in Cleveland. It doesn’t seem like the players were really prepped for this. Know, one player in particular, the first baseman sees them as a threat, like he’s going to steal his job. The players very like kind of ostentatiously refuse to play catch with him on the field. Certain players don’t shake hands with him. You know, it’s unimaginable what this must have felt like for Dobi to have this, like, amazing achievement, first black player in the American League and also feeling like he has to perform well or else that, you know, discredits his race and discredits the entire Negro Leagues and then to come and to get this sort of reception, it just was incredibly hard on him.
S5: Yeah. And Dobe himself was a introverted, quiet, shy individual. And he doesn’t really have a lot of time to sort of wrap his mind around what what is happening and what it means. He literally journeys overnight from the Negro Leagues to the major leagues, and he is unprepared for what is to come. Just as the players on the Cleveland Indians who had found out about this only a day or so before are sort of unprepared for what what is going to happen. Dobi, in addition to that, was a second baseman in the Negro Leagues for the Newark Eagles and the Indians. The previous offseason had just traded for Joe Gordon, who was a former MVP for the New York Yankees, and he recovered his form that year. In fact, he was the starting second baseman for the all star game. The Indians infield was pretty set at third shortstop in second. So the only place where Dobi could really play was first base and first base was being manned by an individual named Eddie Robinson, who is from Texas and was really struggling to sort of make his way in the majors. He was twenty six years old. He’d been in the service and in the minor leagues, and he was struggling to sort of raises batting average above to twenty. And so when it’s announced that Larry Doby is going to be starting at first base, the second day that Dobias is on the Indians, Eddie Robinson quits the club and says, well, I’m just not going to play then. And you can definitely see that, that the Indians players rallied around Robinson and Larry Doby never starts a game, not only at first, but anywhere in the field the rest of that season. That does seem like there was a fear for further dissension on the Indians. And so he becomes kind of a bench player and is quite isolated alone for four most nights and not really sort of a part of that team.
S2: That’s what I didn’t realize, is remembering what I know about Larry Dhobis history that that the year he came up, he didn’t do anything, but he was ostracized and benched. He only had five hits over the three months that he spent in the big leagues with the Indians in nineteen forty seven. And that winter, because of Dobias bad performance, you write how Veck and Branch Rickey among them, nobody signed any more players from the Negro Leagues, that the view was that Jackie Robinson looked like the outlier and Dobies experienced press experience presaged this caution that that that pervaded among among big league owners. But things changed in 1948. And the subject of your book is the 1948 season. So how does Larry Doby go from last guy on the bench, outcast, ostracized by his teammates to an integral part of what’s going to become a World Series winner?
S5: It’s really one of the most improbable stories in baseball history. As you said in 1947, Larry Doby does not look like a major league quality player. His teeth chattered whenever he came to bat because he was sort of sort of nervous being where he where he was and just the ostracization that that he faced. In fact, after the 1947 season, he went to a coach named Bill McKechnie on the Indians and said, can I even make it in the majors? And McKechnie told him, I don’t think you’re an infielder. I think you’re an outfielder. And that’s what you need to do. Dobias so inexperienced in the outfield, he’s never really played there before. He’s checking out books in the library in the off season called How to Play the Outfield he makes he goes to spring training in 1948,
S1: had the time of Manski instructional ideas,
S5: but he really missed out. He goes to spring training in nineteen forty eight. The Indians have eight outfielders vying for just a handful of spots, and it is sort of understood that Dobi is not going to be among those. He needs more sort of season in the minors if he’s going to make it at all. But he just comes out and he’s a completely different person. It’s like night and day. He is suddenly sort of tearing the cover off the ball and he makes a lot of mistakes in the outfield. He has quite an error prone season early in nineteen forty eight because he basically has to learn the entire position on the fly. And early in nineteen forty eight, the Indians are sort of contemplating at various points whether they need to send him down, whether he in fact does need to sort of learn how to play the nuances of of a position that he’s never played before. And every time they’re thinking of doing that, Dobie hits like a mama’s home run or does something that sort of hints at his athletic potential and they just kind of continue to keep him on the roster. And basically, by the midpoint of the nineteen forty eight season on toward the the World Series, Dobi is the indispensable star of of that team.
S3: Obviously, the big piece of the story is as Jackie Robinson, the first black player to play in the majors because of that Larry story tends to get overlooked. And it had never even occurred to me that maybe they those two men had a relationship. And you mentioned that, you know, they did develop a relationship and that Larry actually leaned on Jackie Robinson and a lot of ways to get through, you know, I mean, what was pretty much a really difficult time for him, correct?
S5: Yeah. When Dobe comes up in nineteen forty seven on the Cleveland Indians at that time, it was the standard practice for baseball players to have a roommate on the road in hotels. Of course, Dobi couldn’t stay in some of the hotels that the Indians were playing and he was often shunted to separate accommodations. And even if he was staying in the same hotel as the Indians, it wasn’t practice to have a white teammate room with a black teammate. So Dhobi was quite alone a lot of the times. And this was a thing that he really talked about, particularly to black reporters at that time, the sort of isolation and alienation that he felt and just being alone, constantly, not able to sort of take his mind off of if he had a bad day, if he struck out any sort of thing like this. And really the only person at that time that could sort of understand what he was going through was Jackie Robinson. And so Dobie talked several times in interviews about how they would call each other late at night whenever they were alone in their hotel rooms and sort of work through these things that they were dealing with that the white teammates wouldn’t have been able to understand. In fact, probably very few people would have been able to to understand it basically through that entire first year from forty seven until midway through the nineteen forty eight season, Dobias pining for some sort of roommate that that he can sort of talk to and and get his mind off of these things. What he gets is Satchel Paige in nineteen forty eight and those two did not always get along.
S1: Yeah. You wrote that as someone who’d broken into the American League as an elderly legend whose lofty reputation preceded him, Paige could act and speak in ways inconceivable to Dobi. Can you sort of explain the differences in the tension between those two men?
S5: Yeah, they came up. Very different times there are sort of occupying opposing ends of a generational spectrum, page is 17 years older than Dobi. He was 42 when he broke in with the Indians in nineteen forty eight. Dobi was twenty three in nineteen in nineteen forty seven. So Page grew up at a time of just extreme sort of Jim Crow rigid segregation. And he kind of develops this persona that enables him to sort of navigate the segregation that he’s facing while he’s on the road. He did quite a bit of barnstorming. Dobe kind of looks at page and sees somewhat of a caricature, perhaps like almost like a Stepin Fetchit sort of figure. And it wasn’t the sort of image that Dobi himself wanted to project. He he keeps using the word the term dignity. And he didn’t see that in sort of Page’s persona. And page is just kind of this. I mean, he’s he’s basically a baseball legend. His lawyer crossed racial lines even before he made it into Major League Baseball. And so they were kind of at loggerheads with the with each other. Dobi was always sort of telling page, you have to act like a big leaguer. And Paige was doing his thing. He occasionally missed trains. He occasionally didn’t show up if it was raining outside things like this. And Dovi was was frustrated by it.
S2: And it does reflect the sort of different experiences of these men growing up. We haven’t talked about Dobies childhood, but he he grew up in New Jersey, went to an integrated high school, only a handful of black students. But he was like a legendary figure as an athlete. And you write in the book how how Dobies first taste of actual searing racism and segregation comes when he is inducted into the military.
S5: Yeah, Dobi grows up, or at least he goes to high school in Paterson, New Jersey, and he becomes a force sports sensation. He is so popular in high school that there is a testimonial dinner in Paterson that is convened in his honor his senior year, and the poems are composed about him. Music is composed and he’s given like a gold watch, something that hasn’t been enough for any other athlete at that time. He’s certainly faced racism from the stands on the field, things like this. But he claims he didn’t get his first sort of real dose of it until he went into the military. He gets drafted into the Navy and he takes a train from Newark to Chicago where he was going to do his training. And he kind of looks around the train and he sees white recruits and black recruits together. And he’s thinking to himself, well, we’re all going to the same place. We’re all going to fight in the same war. We’re going to be in this together. And he even sort of recognizes people on the train, people from his sports that he played against or people from his high school. But once he gets to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Chicago, the white recruits are immediately separated from the black recruits. And Dobie says many times that it was the first time that racism really kind of punched him in the face, like it was just sort of starkly drawn out for him and and it really wounded him.
S1: So we haven’t gone through the whole kind of excitement of the nineteen forty eight season and Larry Dobies heroics in the nineteen forty eight World Series. But we’ll leave some for the book to help give the the book fails here, but we are going to have Luke stick around for the bonus segment so that Stefan tell as Bob Feller story. Bob Feller being one of the four men that is written about in our team. Luke Kaplan. Luke, thank you so much for your time. Congrats on the book.
S5: Thank you, Josh.
S2: And now it is time for after bawls, we got a few responses to my mentioned last week while I was in western Massachusetts of Williams and Amherst Colleges and also Joel correctly identifying their conference as Nesquik, the New England Small College Athletic Conference. I said that they played some good basketball out there, and it’s true. The Williams man, the FS EBP H. S after founder Ephraim Williams, the Chiefs won the three championship in 2003. They were runners up in 2004, 10 and 14 before transferring to Michigan and making the NBA. Duncan Robinson was an IEF and MyState. Forty three footer at the buzzer in a seventy five seventy three loss to Wisconsin Whitewater in the twenty fourteen final rival. Amherst, meanwhile won it all in twenty seven and twenty thirteen and was the runner up in 2008. But Listener at official tweeted that few coaches anywhere have been more successful than the women’s coach at Amherst g.P Jackie. Look him up at official wrote Hech name an after ball after him. OK, so that’s we’re going to do in thirteen seasons. Gramacho he has a record of three hundred and seventy seven wins and thirty two losses, three national championships in 2011 and an identical thirty three and O’s seasons in twenty, seventeen and eighteen. He’s taken the mammoth’s to eight. Final Fours was shooting for another one in twenty twenty when the tournament was canceled after the second round under Gramatica. Amherst also has had winning streaks of sixty eight games overall and one hundred and twenty one at home. Graham Mackey told the New York Times in 2015 that he liked coaching D three because it gave him the freedom to coach his kids soccer team in the off season. Chris coaching legend. Joel, what’s your Graham Mackey?
S3: The women’s team is called The Mammoth’s. That’s their mascot.
S2: It’s the Amherst mascot.
S3: Yeah. Interesting. OK, well, very appropriate to start this with not quite prime time. Whoops. So when Huba Davis was announced as the new men’s head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina last week, it was further validation of one of Dean Smith’s more traditional ideas about program building. Not everyone who plays on a team needs a leather jacket. So let me explain. Sure, there were plenty of reasons to elevate Huba Davis to the top job at North Carolina. Davis as an alum, a formerly overlooked recruit from Virginia who eventually turned himself into a first round NBA draft pick by the New York Knicks. Davis played for Dean Smith and has been an assistant at North Carolina under Roy Williams for the past nine years, a role that connects him to the program’s glorious past. And it’s, well, you know, slightly less glorious present. But Davis’s resume also includes a fairly reliable predictor of success for future college basketball coaches. He spent the last few years coaching the Tar Heels junior varsity team, a holdover idea from the Smith era at USC. Yes, North Carolina still has a junior varsity program, just like your old high school. Well, maybe not quite like your old high school, but the Heels JV team is a throwback to a long ago time in college sports when freshmen weren’t yet eligible to play on varsity teams and pro sports leagues didn’t have nearly as much money to entice college stars to leave school early. North Carolina’s JV team started as a freshman team, which weren’t all that uncommon 40 or so years ago. Lots of powerhouses had freshman teams, schools like UCLA, Nebraska and Texas, just to name a few. And keep in mind that even the former Lou Alcindor, better known later as Kareem Abdul Jabbar and described by the Associated Press in nineteen sixty five as a, quote, younger combination of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell was stuck on UCLA freshman team at the nineteen sixty five sixty six season in Abdul Jabbar. His autobiography, Giant Steps, he wrote of a preseason match up between his freshman team and UCLA Varsity, which was then coming off of its second consecutive national championship six months earlier. The game was never close, Abdul Jabbar wrote. There was no defense against us. I scored thirty one points and we won by fifteen. And that’s pretty much how UCLA freshman handled the rest of their opponents that season, which were largely freshman and JV teams and junior colleges across Southern California. Abdul Jabbar wrote. We went all twenty one of our games and not one of them was close. So when the NCAA finally embraced freshman eligibility in nineteen seventy two, Sports Illustrated wrote that, quote, Basketball coaches prefer to think freshmen were allowed to play primarily for basketball and more specifically to help them get UCLA. By that point, even a blueblood program like USC had to. Use gimmicks to keep games closed against UCLA and the 1968 national championship game, Dean Smith in the Tar Heels resorted to that old boring ass Four Corners offense to keep things closed against Abdul Jabbar in the Bruins. And it did not work. UCLA won in a twenty three point rout. So a few colleges reason, though. Maybe we could get a little bit more out of some of these highly touted freshman guys like David Thompson at NC State, Kassie Russell at Michigan, or even John Lucas at Maryland. But for as many coaches who wanted freshmen on the court, many more were against the change. A poll of major college football coaches at the time indicated they were two to one against using freshmen on varsity teams. Imagine that right. There was also a belief that the NCAA is new freshmen rule was pushed by faculty, athletic advisors, particularly those who worked in administrations concerned with saving money. As The New York Times wrote then, their feeling is that by eliminating freshman teams, they will save money. As you can see, that clearly worked out right. Anyway, Dean Smith, like the vast majority of his peers, elected to keep a sub varsity team at North Carolina and a profile of the school’s JV team. Last year, The New York Times wrote that Smith wanted to give regular students a chance to be around North Carolina basketball while also letting potential walk ons learn the varsity system. And that’s apparently what it was. It wasn’t really a pipeline for players for the Tar Heels varsity. In fact, I can’t find much evidence that any junior varsity player ever became a significant contributor to you and CS varsity. Remember, within a decade of freshmen being eligible, UNC was already leaning on rookies like Michael Jordan. But it did turn out to be a really good way of developing coaches, or at the very least, it gave them a chance to work a sideline of their own. Roy Williams coached North Carolina’s junior varsity team for eight seasons while serving as an assistant for Dean Smith. Jerrod Haas, who’s the coach at Stanford, now coached the North Carolina JV team for three years while working as an assistant for Roy Williams and even Phil Ford, who became the first freshman under Dean Smith to start in his first college game. He coached the JV team in North Carolina in the 90s. For a few years, Roy Williams liked the concept of a JV team so much that he started one while he was at Kansas. And out of that Jayhawks JV program came Mark Turgeon, now the head coach at Maryland, Steve Robinson, who was later head coach at both Towson, Florida State. And another guy you may have heard of, John Calipari, but that team only lasted there for a couple of years. And it finally ended when the Kansas administration argued that the male junior varsity skewed the school’s Title nine balance. And, you know, Williams was angry and his folksy sort of retrograde way saying that made me so mad. It was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. People will use excuses, money, time. I think it’s hogwash because the value you get from it is so much more so. It’s no surprise that when Roy Williams returned to North Carolina as the head coach in 2003, he kept the junior varsity program and later placed Hubert Davis in charge of it. But if the program is as important as they say it is, I still can’t find much about it on the Internet. There’s no schedule, no record, and not even right now a roster on the team website. So maybe the best way to keep up with the team is through its Instagram page at USC JVB Ball. The last post there is from March 3rd. Twenty twenty promoting the team’s final game of the regular season against Milligan College in Tennessee. But there’s no update on the final score. We do, however, know that the North Carolina JV plays as many as 18 games a season, all of them about three hours before the varsity games at the Dean Smith Center. They tend to draw a few dozen fans a game. Mostly family members are students looking for free food and something to do. Their schedule mostly consists of games against the local community and junior colleges and prep schools. No, they don’t play any games because no other program has a junior varsity team. And the Hills’s JV rival is probably Hargrave Military Academy, which has alums including Larry Brown, who played a postgrad year there on his way to North Carolina, where he later played under Dean Smith. All roads lead back to Dean Smith. Right. So anyway, Huba Davis, Davis’s release doesn’t say much about his experience coaching the JV, but some of his former players told the Inside Carolina website that he was very much an acolyte of the Carolina way. The JV runs the Hills. Renowned secondary break, an offensive system. Smith made his famous as he did that as stupid as Four Corners offense. They run an elevator door play to get a three point shooter open at the top of the key, just like all UNC teams do. And, you know, if you watch them, they look awful, like the North Carolina we’re all familiar with except say, you know, Jerry Stackhouse or Ty Lawson. Right. So now Davis will get his chance on the varsity, like surely many of our listeners did after getting called up from JV. Let’s just hope that he’ll be as proud of his promotion as he is of his wife.
S1: Stephon, any J.V. experience for you?
S2: Oh, yeah, the most embarrassing Jarvie experience was that I had to play on the J.V. ice hockey team in 11th grade because I just wasn’t very good.
S3: Did you star on the JV team that year, though?
S2: I didn’t start playing ice hockey at all, but I scored a few goals. Yeah. You know, going against eighth and ninth graders on the other other teams
S1: being from Louisiana, anyone who can ice skate is, you know, deserving of applause from me yesterday.
S2: I should. I should. I should have. I should have moved to Louisiana. That was terrific. All I do want to circle back to your comment about the mammoth’s at the beginning of the mammoth’s are actually knew I had forgotten this, that Amherst was the Lord Jeff’s for like a century. And then in twenty seventeen they renamed the the team and created a mascot because there’s a mammoth skeleton that was discovered by an Amherst professor that’s in the school’s museum because Lord Jeff was was a British general named Jeffrey Amherst, who in the 18th century wanted to give smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans.
S3: So there was no way when you said British general, there was no way that anything that followed was going to be good. You know, I mean I mean, he was I just as soon as you said that, I was like, OK, I know what they had to change it. So it makes sense.
S1: Hooray for the Men. That is our show for today. Our producer this week was Margaret Kelly, chosen to Pasha’s and subscribe or just reach out, go to sleep dot com slash hang up. You can email us and hang up and sleep dot com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show and rate and give us an Apple podcast that helps us out. And you want to be helpful. I can tell Joel Anderson, Stefan Fatsis and Josh Levine remembers MBT and thanks for listening. Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members back with us, Luke Aplan, author of Our Team about the nineteen forty eight Cleveland Indians. Hey, Luke. Hey, Josh and Stefan. We need to tell tell America. Remind America about your Bob Feller story. You first told the story on hang up in, I believe, 2010. You didn’t mark the 10 year anniversary of the story, but so why don’t you tell the the story and then we can have Luke as our resident Bob Feller expert sort of comment on Feller and the fella persona.
S2: Yeah, I told the story as an after ball in the early days of hang up and listen. After Bob Feller’s death, I had met Feller in nineteen ninety six in February, nineteen ninety six in Fargo, North Dakota. This was the year after my first book, Wild and Outside have been published. I was invited to be like the warm up act for a feller at a hot stove winter banquet in Fargo. What a bill that was having a team. So Feller was the keynote speaker. He was like seventy seven at the time and his reputation did precede him. I was like cantankerous, grumpy, opinionated person. After his death, Allen Barra wrote in The Village Voice that feller was cantankerous, cranky and irascible, even as a young man. But I really didn’t know any of this when I met Feller. So he goes on stage and he basically delivers a sort of grumpy rant about kids these days. And baseball players are all a bunch of lazy so-and-so. And he tells his life story. I was born on a farm in Van Meter, Iowa, population 300. I was found by a scout named Cy Slap NECA. And he talks about, you know, he makes it to the majors at seventeen and he strikes out fifteen in his first game and seventeen to tie the major league record and his second start. And so I spend the night with my mouth open watching Bob Feller deliver this keynote address. And then the next morning we’re staying in the same hotel and we walk out at the same time. And I’m like, Mr. Feller, would you like to go to the airport together? And so we ride in a car together. And he continues to tell me some of his stories. He tells me how every year I go down to spring training, I put on a uniform and shake some hands and try to show these kids to do. I don’t know. I don’t I don’t know anything about baseball. And I throw a hundred and seven miles an hour and then we get to the airport and we’re walking to the airport. And the kicker is coming here, be patient. And we’re sort of walking a feller. Seventy seven. He’s not exactly sprinting through the airport and a woman rushes by him and passes us to get to the gate. And she must, like, I’ve touched his bag or touched him slightly. And Feller and I will never forget this as long as I live. Just keep walking straight ahead and says I like a little bitch. Oh my Bob Feller story.
S1: Wow, wow, wow. So look, we give you a little preview of the Bob Feller story before before he started recording. And I is it fair to characterize you as unsurprised to hear that someone had a similar interaction with Bob Feller?
S5: Yes, that that is something that I’ve heard. I mean, I haven’t heard that exact story, but I’ve heard similar. That’s my story about Feller. He was yeah, he was a very opinionated individual. And I think he said exactly what he meant. There is a recording in in Cooperstown of Bob Feller, where they’re doing oral histories of players and fellows was one of the only ones that I remember seeing that had a sort of a parental warning on it, because he he does use the same word, that fellow that that stuff and just said in that recording. So, yeah, that that doesn’t surprise me.
S3: I’m just surprised that guy wasn’t more explicitly racist. I’m not saying that he wasn’t. You know, I’m saying that he didn’t have any racial animus in his private time, but every adjective used to describe him in my mind, when you’re building that up, that equals racist typically. But it seems like he was a little bit more complicated than that.
S5: Yeah, he was a little bit more complicated. He I mean, his origin story is really just one for the ages. It is quite incredible. He as as Stephan said, he was born in a farm Van Meter, Iowa, very small town Iowa. And VanMeter, his dad basically senses this incredible ability in him from an early age. And so when he’s a preadolescent, his dad takes a portion of their farmland, just kind of clears it off, creates a baseball field on there. It’s its feller would like to say later in his. Life, that it was the original field of dreams, he kind of just goes through the competition so well in Iowa that that other high school teams refused to schedule VanMeter because they didn’t want to have to face failure. He was throwing hard and he was wild. And so it was like he had a dangerous weapon that was coming at you through happenstance. He makes it on to the Indians at age 17, is a high school junior. He ties the American League record for strikeouts and his first start, he ties the major league record for strikeouts and his fifth start. I mean, it’s it’s just a rocket ship. And it’s right when Babe Ruth is retiring and the Depression is still kind of among them. And so he becomes this tremendous symbol of depression. America writers really sort of talk about him and these sort of classic American terms that the American dream is alive. Bob Feller did this. Look at what this sort of plucky adolescent from this simple farm and what he was able to do. It’s at a time when regionalism is really sort of salient in art and people are looking towards sort of supposed older values to get back to the way America was, things like this. And so fellow really fills that void. But at the same time, he was a capitalist and he he very much knew how to make money and he knew how to leverage his story. And that story was gold that he spun for the rest of his life. And so whenever he whenever he comes back as a 17 year old high school junior, the very next game that he pitches is against Satchel Paige. On the barnstorming trail, Paige comes through Iowa and Feller and Paige match up right at the start of fella’s career. And they’re sort of mirror images or like reverse mirror images of each other. They pitch kind of identical games. And I think Feller strikes out something like eight strikes at seven over three innings and they kind of hook up together for the next dozen years. And Feller Feller is is very into barnstorming, I think mainly for economic reasons. But he’s also sort of, you know, elevating these games really, really quite well. His his barnstorming tours are very well publicized. He’s introducing white fans who might not have seen certain black players, things like this, and he’s ignoring Southern writers that are telling him not to sort of barnstorm that much with Negro League players. But every time Feller is asked about do you think any black players can make it to the majors, invariably he says, no, they’re fast. Some of them are, you know, can hit whatever, but they don’t combine the qualities all together that is necessary for a major league star. And so it’s this sort of contradiction of of of fellow right there.
S2: Well, feller, yeah. I mean, Feller understood that he could make money because he could bring black fans to watch these barnstorm games. Yes, he was a naked capitalist and he talked about it. Right. I think one of his one year salary was like fifty thousand, which was one of the highest in baseball. And he doubled it through his promotions and his and his barnstorming and his and his business skills. But as you said, in terms of acknowledging and recognizing black players, he just never did it. At one point, I think he was asked about Jackie Robinson explicitly and he said he was too muscle bound to make it in the majors and wouldn’t have made it had he been white. He later admitted or acknowledged that he was wrong, though I guess there is some some doubt as to whether he ever expressed that to Robinson personally. And the irony in the end was that he and Robinson went into the Baseball Hall of Fame together. Yeah.
S5: And never did really strike up a warm relationship. And whenever they went into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I believe that feller was asked about whether whether Major League Baseball was ready for black executives. And Feller said something along the lines of, well, whenever whenever the sort of black players get sort of sort of more developed enough to become an executive, then it’ll happen. So it’s very similar line that he said about black players at the same time. I mean, the way that I sort of characterize it in the book is that he has this sort of miraculous origin story that he both manipulates and uses to his advantage, but does seem to sort of genuinely believe and like he sort of ascribes to these very classic sort of white American values of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, rugged individualism, self-reliance, things like this that were sort of part and parcel of the white American dream. And his sort of his sort of thing is that I was able to do this. And so he’s kind of looking at black players and rather than seeing the sort of systemic and structural racism and barriers that are disallowing them from crossing the color line at that time, he’s seeing that well, they’re just not good enough individually. That’s why that. It isn’t happening, it’s almost like he’s blinded by the narrative story that that that captivated his own life.
S3: I’m Bob Feller. Could be a news manager in twenty twenty. I mean, you know, that’s that’s his belief that that black people may have not been ready for time is not all that uncommon today, by the way. But anyway, I just want it to be a shady person at the end of the segment. I’m sorry,
S1: but that’s OK. It’s a it’s an apt comment. The book, again, is Our Team The Epic Story of Four Men in the World Series, The Change Baseball. Luke Kaplan, appreciate the time. Thank you. And Slate plus members, we always appreciate your time. Will be back with more next week.