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Looking Back April 17

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

It is finally baseball season again and for fans everywhere, it is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Here is a look back at bit of baseball history mixed with some fun facts about the game and its players.

The early years

1876

* The National League began playing with eight teams. They were the : Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Louisville Gray, Cincinnati Red Stockings, Mutual of New York and St. Louis Brown Stockings.

* The pitcher was required pitch underhand and the batter could ask for a high or a low ball.

* A strike was only called when the batter took a swing at the ball and missed.

* If the umpire was unable to see if a catch had been fairly made, he conferred with the spectators and/or the players.

1877-1879

* The standard for bases was set at 15-inches square with a canvas cover, the same as today.

* All pitched balls had to be called either a strike, a ball or a foul.

* The number of strikes to be considered a strike out was set at three.

1880-1884

* A base on balls was called after eight balls. This number dropped to six by 1884.

* The American League was formed.

* Almost all restrictions on a pitcher's motion were lifted.

* A spectator that hissed or hooted at the umpire or insulted the umpire could be ejected from the grounds.

1885-1889

* A base on balls was reduced to four 'called balls' and there it remains.

* The bat was allowed to have one flat side. This rule lasted through only the 1885 season.

* An umpire was allowed to throw in a new ball at any time. Previously, if a ball was lost, the team was given five minutes to find it before a new one was thrown in.

* The batter could no longer request a high or low pitch.

1890-1895

* Substitutions were permitted at any time during the game but once a player was taken out, he could not return to the playing field.

* The pitching distance was increased form 50 feet to 60 feet 6 inches and has not changed since that time.

* Bat dimensions were set to present-day values at a maximum of 2 3/4 inches in diameter and 42 inches in length.

1896-1910

* The American League joined the majors. Several rule differences had to be settled.

* Cork was added to the center of an official baseball.

* Pitchers were prohibited from scuffing or soiling a new ball.

* The first World Series was played in 1903. The Boston Americans of the American League defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League 3-0 in game eight, taking the series 5-3.

1911-1920

* Earned runs were charged to the pitcher when a player scored by means of a safe hit, sacrifice hit, base on balls, a hit batter, wild pitches and/or a balk.

* Spitballs were outlawed with a "grandfather clause for the 1920 season. Each team was allowed to designate two pitchers as spitball pitchers.

* Cleveland shortstop Ray Chapman died as a result of being hit in the head while in the batter's box. Chapman was beaned by a Yankee pitcher on August 16, 1920 and died the next day.

Did you know?

* Cy Young's first name was Denton. He was nicknamed Cy (for cyclone) because of the destruction of his fast ball.

* Considered by many as "The Father of Baseball", Abner Doubleday did not mention the sport once in his 67 diaries.

* Baseball manager Hal Lanier ordered all the television sets removed from the clubhouse of the Houston Astros in 1986. Apparently players were skipping infield practice to watch "Wheel of Fortune."

* Red Barber announced his first major league baseball game in 1934 for the Cincinnati Reds. This was also the first major league game Barber had ever seen.

* Southpaw John Vandemeer pitched two no-hitters, consecutively in June 1938. They were the only no-hitters of his career.

* The minimum distance to left and right fields is 325 feet in a major league park. The standard was set in 1959.

* Ty Cobb was the only major league player to have a brand of cigarettes named after him.

* Kansas City Royal slugger George Brett was issued a drivers license in 1985 without being required to take the usual vision test. The Kansas issuing officer said "If he can hit .350, we figured he could see."

* Reuben Berman won a lawsuit filed in 1921 against the New York Giants. Forever after, a fan has retained the right to keep a baseball hit into the stands.

* Roger Clemens hit a single to center in 1996. It was the first hit by a Red Sox pitcher in 24 years.

* Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates had exactly 3,000 career hits before he died in a plane crash on New Years Eve 1972. He was 38 years old.

* Former Giants star Willie Mays is the godfather of Barry Bonds.

* Five baseballs can be made from the hide of one cow.

* The father and son combo with the most career home runs is Bobby and Barry Bonds with 332 for Bobby and for Barry, 762.

* Phil Niekro holds the record for wins (318) without ever appearing in a World Series.

* President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's opening pitch for the 1940 season smashed the camera lens of a Washington Post photographer.

* Before an MLB games starts, the umpire removes the sheen from each new baseball by rubbing it with river mud most often from New Jersey. On average, six dozen balls are readied prior to each game.

* Sandy Koufax played first base in high school and had pitched only one season in college when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed him. Koufax was 19 years old when he received a $14,000 signing bonus and a $6,000-a-year salary in 1954.

* The Cincinnati Reds once sent an autographed second -base bag to Roy Rogers. The building where Rogers was born was torn down to make way for Riverfront Stadium (later renamed Cinergy Field), and liked to say that he was born right where second base is now located.

One of the greats - Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra

Berra played most of his 19-year career (1946-1965) as a New York Yankee. He is one of only four players to be named Most Valuable Player for the American League three times and one of only six managers to lead both American and National League teams to the World Series. Berra, who quit school in the eighth grade, is well known for his use of the English language.

Here are a few examples :

"You wouldn't have won if we'd beaten you."

"Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical."

"I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did."

"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

"Half the lies they tell about me aren't true."

"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."