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The game the way it used to be

Updated on August 17, 2011

Baseball Legends

When baseball was baseball

There was a time when baseball was played with heart and true love of the game and players were real heroes and played for the pure joy of it. It was a better time and the players were of a different generation and they played without the pampering that today's players are accustomed to. There was not all the commercial and business aspects of the game then like today either. You can't find ball players today like you did decades ago. The only thing about baseball today that is better than the earlier days is the integration of ball players of different color and ethnicity. It is hard to believe that in the early days black ball players were not allowed to play in the majors and when they first started to they were discriminated against by fellow ball players and fans. This was a sad part of baseball because it left some of the most talented players out of the game.

This necessitated the growth of negro baseball leagues and legendary players in their own right that never had the opportunity to play in the majors which is unfortunate and a black mark for the game. Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey made it possible for all that to change when they met and signed a contract for Jackie to play for the Brooklyn Dodger's in 1947 and become the first negro player to play and be accepted in major league baseball. It was not easy for him and he was the subject of ridicule and hatred but his courage never wavered and he proved his worth and played the game hard and earned the respect he deserved and paved the way for the other many negro stars in the game. Larry Doby was the first in the American league and was very proud that Jackie paved the way for him and others.

When I see the ball players of today and the greed in the game as exhibited by the recent history of strikes in the game and the unshakable power the player's union has I get upset and feel that the game has lost some of its innocence and true spirit. I only wish I had the chance to have seen the legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Casey Stengel, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Ted Williams and so many others of those earlier generations play. It would have been a real privilege to have seen Babe Ruth call his home run shot at Yankee stadium and Lou Gehrig replace Wally Pip in a game and play the next 2,130 games without missing one. It was a truly special and magical time for baseball and the New York Yankees seemed to be at the pinnacle of it all with their legendary teams, players, ownership and dynasties earning them the claim to their many world championships.

I am a fan of baseball and do enjoy watching the game today despite my feelings that the game certainly has changed. I also appreciate the history of the game and reading the many wonderful books on the game by the many celebrated authors. One of my favorites is Roger Kahn and his celebrated books, one of course being the world renowned "The boys of summer" about the Brooklyn Dodgers and their celebrated history and place in baseball and Roger Kahn's personal experiences of growing up as a fan with his father and his experiences in covering their games as a sports writer. My biggest enjoyment in being a fan of major league and minor league baseball is sharing the day at the ball park with my son on a summer day and having a hot dog, french fries, cracker jacks, ice cream and a soda. That is the simple and memorable part of our lives that have so much meaning and bring smiles to our faces.

In developing my love of baseball I have read a lot about the earlier days and the start of baseball which seems to be an ongoing debate as to who was responsible for the beginnings of the game. The very first Major league professional baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings who were formed in 1869 with 10 salaried players and they have been a mainstay ever since now known as simply the Cincinnati Reds. The very first organized team recorded to wear the very first baseball uniform was the New York Knickerbockers in 1849 founded in 1842 by Alexander Cartwright, a NYC fire fighter with the Knickerbocker engine company who has been credited as the inventor of the modern game of baseball and is referred to as one of many nicknamed as the "father of baseball".

The common misconception is that Abner Doubleday, a field general who served during the Civil War invented the game in Cooperstown, NY in 1839 but that has been disputed and subsequently debunked as just town legend. The Knickerbockers had played their games from 1845 on in Hoboken New Jersey at Elysian Field which is known as the site for the first organized baseball game and earning its nickname as the birthplace of baseball. Other popular NY ball clubs that played during the 1850's thru the 1870's were the NY Mutuals, the Brooklyn Atlantic's and the Eckfords of Brooklyn. The NY Metropolitan Ball club played in New York City from 1880 thru 1887. Many other teams started out in NY City and Brooklyn that would take another hub entry to incorporate their names, histories and place in baseball.

A standout ball player who started his baseball career with the Brooklyn Atlantic's was Joe Start who was a first baseman and hit for power and was nicknamed "Old Reliable". His career spanned from 1862 - 1886 playing for the Brooklyn Atlantic's, the NY Mutuals, the Hartford Dark Blues, the Chicago White Stockings, the Providence Grays and the Washington Nationals in his very last season.

A popular film maker who chronicled the game of baseball and its history in a compelling documentary and a very entertaining series was Ken Burns and his series was divided into 9 innings starting with the early history of the game and showcasing it's founding members and the many baseball personalities and stars throughout the many eras of the game. The early days of baseball can be traced back to before the civil war and back in the early days there were barnstorming teams that travelled with its star players and played in many towns in their travels.

The National League was formed in 1876 by businessman William Hubert of Chicago, Illinois to replace the National Association of Baseball Players and the teams participating in it's early years were as follows:

Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs), Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Mutuals of New York, St Louis Brown Stockings, Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays.

The American league formed in 1901 with 8 teams that later moved to other cities and formed as new teams starting out as follows:

Baltimore Orioles (now New York Yankees), Boston Americans (now Red Sox), Chicago White Stockings (now White Sox), Cleveland Blues (now Indians), Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers (now Baltimore Orioles), Philadelphia Athletics (now Oakland Athletics) and the Washington Senators or Nationals (now Minnesota Twins).

Baseball has been very popular from it's infancy and has been widely known as Americas's past time and has been depicted in a famous Currier and Ives litograph print of a ballgame played at Elysian Field in Hoboken, NJ between the Atlantics of Brooklyn and the Mutuals of New York in a championship match in 1865 attended by an estimated 20,000 fans. From its earliest roots to its legends who made it the game we all grew to love and respect to the game today which has changed in ways for both good and bad but still retains a special place in the hearts of every young boy and girl growing up. It is a game that allows fathers and sons or mothers and sons or fathers and daughters or mothers and daughters to bond and cherish their team's special moments and memories and provides lasting and thrilling entertainment that brings us back to a special place in our lives and makes us realize how a game of baseball means so much more than just a game.

Growing up as a kid my baseball heroes were Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Henry Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tommie Agee, Joe Morgan, Ray Knight, Ernie Banks, Willie Stargell, Bobby Murcer, Buddy Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Jerry Grote. Special mention goes to Duffy Dyer a catcher for the Mets because I met him in person at my little league championship dinner and he signed my trophy and gave me some baseball advice and shook my hand and wished me good luck.

The memories of experiencing a game at a ballpark with your child is what makes the game a special thing. Ask Billy Crystal what baseball means to him and what growing up as a Yankee fan meant and he will tell you of the special times he spent with his father at Yankee stadium and the magical 1961 baseball season when Micky Mantle and Roger Marris were on their home-run journey to eclipse the Babe. It was fascinating seeing his movie "61" and seeing him cry as he recounted those special times with his dad. That is what is so special about baseball, the players, family and allegiance to your team. I love baseball and cherish the wonderful memories watching ball games as a kid with my mom and dad and I get to cherish new glorious memories now watching games with my wife and son. I plan to take both my wife and son to the magical place of Cooperstown, New York to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. We did that trip many years ago when Matty was only 9 months old in his little baseball outfit and it would be wonderful for him to see it now as an 11 year old boy. I always enjoy our visits to Cooperstown.

Play ball!

Edward D. Iannielli III

The Iron horse -Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig played by Gary Cooper

Baseball early days


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      ediann, thanks for bringing up those memories. Watching Ryan firing peas at the opposing hitters while the shadows were creeping up in Anaheim Stadium, watching Lou Burdette get all hyper on the mound, and checking out some spring training games when the Angels trained in Palm Springs. I'm not real wild about the designated hitter, and I still tune out all interleague games unless they're in October where they belong.

    • bayoulady profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      Wow! Fantastic! ...and where is my hotdog and popcorn?

    • B Stucki profile image

      B Stucki 

      8 years ago

      This is a really well done hub! I wish I could have been around to watch those legends play the game.


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