Since it’s baseball season, let us remember that Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League, signed with the Cleveland Indians on this date in 1947. It was just eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The next year Cleveland won its second – and last to date – World Series. From the Indians’ website: “In the pivotal Game 4 of the 1948 World Series, Larry Doby’s home run makes the difference in a 2-1 Tribe victory.”
Doby, a center fielder, appeared in seven all-star games and by 1954 finished second in American League MVP voting.
Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Lou Boudreau , Bill Veeck – these guys were the topic of conversation so often in our house I thought they lived in the neighborhood. My dad and his friends talked Indians baseball non-stop and even my mom had the game on while she ironed on hot summer afternoons. Baseball announcers are still for me the ultimate soothing background noise of summer.
Bill Veeck was the colorful owner of the Indians then, having bought the team the year before. He moved the team to the giant municipal stadium, put the games on the radio and hired a famous clown as a coach (a real crowd-pleaser). My favorite Veeck story is the one about the center field fence – he had a portable fence built and moved it around to favor the Indians, depending on the competition. Once he moved it 15 feet. The next year, the American League initiated a rule that fixed the distance of the outfield fence.
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And today is Sylvester Graham’s birthday. He was born in 1794 in Connecticut and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1826. A staunch puritan, he felt that a bad diet led to impure thoughts and so he began to lecture the public on the evils of white bread. He invented the Graham diet, which included his own creation, Graham bread, as well as a whole wheat cracker. A vegetarian, he also inveighed against meat-eating.
In fact, a description of Graham’s dietary philosophy sounds eerily modern: he urged fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat and high fiber foods, No meat and spices and moderation in consumption of dairy.
Very revolutionary ideas for the time – once in Boston, his speech was cancelled because of a threatened riot by outraged butchers and bakers. His ideas never attracted a huge following, but they did get the attention of the Kellogg brothers, who ran with it. Graham died at home in Northampton, Mass., where his house still stands. It has been converted to a restaurant properly called ‘Sylvester’s.’ I’m guessing the crackers are on the menu.
Finally, on this day in 1891, hail killed six horses in Rapid City, S.D.