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Stories, Quotes and Player Profiles
Page 1
Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time's constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime." -- Ken Burns
So much happens each day in baseball, so many statistical milestones are approached or reached, that it becomes an impossible task to properly log everything. For example, when Hank Aaron retired after the 1976 season, did anyone note that he was the last player to arrive in the majors from the old Negro Leagues? .... Has anyone noted that Tug McGraw is the last major leaguer still active to have played for Casey Stengel? ....
Some of the achievements in baseball's modern, or post-World War II era, have been in the appearance of the game, such as tight uniforms, instant replays, or batting helmets, while others have been individual achievements.
Ron Blomberg was baseball's first designated hitter, stepping up to the plate for the New York Yankees in Fenway Park on April 6, 1973. But in 1978 Blomberg became the first player with a guaranteed, multiyear contract to be released and paid in full when the White Sox made such a decision ....
The game-winning RBI became an official baseball statistic in 1980, and the very first one was recorded by Cincinnati's George Foster on April 9. He was an appropriate choice for the distinction, having led the National League in RBIs three times.
The "save rule" for relief pitchers became an official baseball statistic in 1969, and the first save was recorded by Los Angeles's Bill Singer on April 7 against the Reds.
....The last Brooklyn Dodger to remain active in the majors was Don Drysdale, who retired in 1969 twelve years after the club's final year in Brooklyn. The last New York Giant was Willie Mays, who concluded his career with the 1973 New York Mets.
The World Series itself has of course been full of subtle "firsts" and milestones in modern times, many unnoticed or underappreciated at the time .... The Dodgers pennant in 1959 brought about the first World Series games on the West Coast, but it wasn't until 1974 (Los Angeles vs. Oakland) that the entire series was played in the Pacific Time Zone.
The first World Series game to be played on artificial turf was in 1970 in Cincinnati; the first all-artificial turf Series was [the 1980] Kansas City-Philadelphia one. The Royals-Phillies matchup also produced the first Series in which both managers were rookies and the first in modern times in which both teams were seeking a first World Championship.
The Royals were the first American League expansion team to make it to the World Series, but the New York Mets of the National League got there first -- in 1969, and again in 1973, winning it all in '69 against Baltimore.
....Did you know that it wasn't until 1947 that anyone hit a pinch-hit homer in a World Series game? It was the Yankees' Yogi Berra, hitting for Sherm Lollar[,] who accomplished it. And a year later, 1948, marked the last appearance to date of a playing manager in a World Series, when Lou Boudreau led the Cleveland Indians against the Braves.
The first World Series in which six umpires were used came in 1947 and gave the National League's George Magerkurth and the American League's Jim Boyer the distinction of being the first "foul line" umpires in history.
....Ballparks have certainly undergone changes over the years, most dramatically with the introduction of indoor baseball through the construction of the Astrodome in Houston, which opened in 1965. That brought about the need for the first artificial turf, and a year later it was installed in the Astrodome following lengthy tests. Chem Strand, a division of Monsanto, designed the product, and it lasted twelve seasons before a new carpet was necessary.
....Dodger Stadium, opened in 1962, was the first to have different-colored seats in each section and the first to have an organist excite the crowd with a call of "CHARGE!" .... Shea Stadium in New York was the first to do away with light towers in favor of rows of lights along the roof of the upper deck. The year was 1964.
The Giants, at Candlestick Park, were the first to have a so-called dugout at field level rather than dug out below the ground. It was Riverfront Stadium that first measured fence distances in meters and the Kingdome in Seattle that took it one better, measuring the distances in fathoms, in keeping with its nautical theme.
The first message board in a stadium was built by the Yankees in 1959 in the old Yankee Stadium, a simple board eight lines high, eight spaces wide. A year later, Bill Veeck introduced his exploding scoreboard in Comiskey Park, Chicago.
The Astrodome, in 1965, brought animation in lights to scoreboard art, opening the gates for complex message boards. The first instant-replay boards in baseball came along in 1976, in the new Yankee Stadium and in ol' Fenway Park....
-- Marty Appel
"Noting the Milestones"

IMAGE: The Astrodome scoreboard circa 1965


 The Armchair Book of Baseball II, John Thorn (ed.)
Copyright 1987 by John Thorn and David Reuther
Foreword copyright 1985, 1987 by A. Bartlett Giamatti
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons (New York), 1987

available at ABEBOOKS