Archive for The History of History

Jim Palmer, Near-Framer of the Constitution

It is an unassailable fact of the historical record that Jim Palmer was tasked with writing very specific passages of the Constitution. “But James,” Gouverneur Morris cautioned him, “pen only the sexy parts.”

Jim Palmer, framer-to-be, was en route to the Constitutional Convention to fulfill his obligations as a member of the Patriotic gentry when the urges of Jim Palmer, passionsmith, took firm yet tender hold. “Milkmaids,” he said to them, “when the loins speak, the heart can’t help but listen.”

No one ravished another, yet there was ravishment …

Jim Palmer, Passionsmith

In Philadelphia there was heard the unmistakable click of many fingernails against a single headboard. Hamilton sighed resignedly. “Lord Palmer will not be joining us, it seems,” he said. “Jefferson, you may write the soiled parts.”

On this, that and every day and night, Jim Palmer set these prairies ablaze with dirty rapture.

How to Defeat the Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee’s Brewers once shared a league with the Tigers of Detroit. They don’t any more, but sometimes, under cover of night, they still play each other in the darkened streets of the American Midwest. Third-generation Poles part their bungalow curtains and watch, and they smell bad as they watch.

Across all such contests, whether sanctioned or questionable, the Brewers are 1,005-0 against the Tigers. To what is their rousing success against the Jungle Cats O’ Michy-Gan owing? Crippling alcoholism.

Witness this revealing pen-and-ink dispatch:

Drunken louts

The Tigers, miserable sots one and all, are unable to resist the foggy inveiglements of the tipple. “Firewater, as fresh as it is cold? The promise of a teeming pour? We are stinking with foretaste!” The Tigers say in benumbed unison. “On this day, death to all other toil!”

Then they get drunk and lurch around those Michigan towns named after dead Anglicans and boot in mullioned windowpanes in a red-eyed search for copulus — a search they’d dare not abate even if they had the will, which they do not, on account of their intemperance.

The villagers are left ensnared in that very moment when they can’t tell whether the hoof-beats are approaching, or passing them by.

A Baseball Odyssey, Part One

I awoke last Saturday to a phosphorescent glow pouring through the windows, the mixture of weak sunlight and stale white fog, a weather grown tired of itself and everything. It was a dead morning, a morning for weak instant coffee and textbooks, the kind Roy Hobbs would see out of a train window, the kind where even a boy in a Bradbury story grows old.

It was on such a sickly January morning that I stared out into the wilderness of my own uncut lawn and thought: “Yes, today. Today is the day. I shall go and carve life out of this lingering low pressure front, and drink from its sap.” I would go, I decided, on a baseball pilgrimage.

I already knew my destination: the old Sick’s Stadium, nestled in the heart of South Seattle. It was the home of the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League and, for one magical season, the Seattle Pilots. I took my copy of Ball Four, a camera, a can of Rainier Beer to pour out for my baseball ancestors, and some mittens.

The voyage was a treacherous one, and like the pilgrims of misspelled British sagas of yore, I endured innumerable hardships. I had to scrape the ice off my car windows and got caught at no less than five consecutive red lights. My soul was tested, and I turned from Dearborn Avenue onto Rainier stronger, wiser, and somewhat colder than ever before. The check-cashing places and sausage outlet stores rolled past my vision until finally my destination crept above the horizon.

Sick’s Stadium.


Read the rest of this entry »

Giant Cat, Illegal Dice Game, Wrigley Field

Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping

It began when young Mickey Blaszczyk of Portage Park stumbled upon a baby cat. He kept it. His father, a subcontractor of vast body odor, once found the baby cat curled up in his work pants. Rather than identify this as one of the moments of haphazard beauty that sustains us, Mickey Blaszczyk’s father and his meaty hands took it as an affront. This baby cat is anti-union, he thought. I’m getting rid of it, he told Mickey. He flushed it down the toilet.

The cat — soon to forget his given name of Mittens Blaszczyk — found that the sewers of Chicago nourished him beyond his wildest imaginings. A relentless diet of activated sludge and ward-heeler’s turds helped him defy the growth charts of every sewer-dwelling cat pediatrician whom he encountered. And he encountered many. Because of his size, visiting alligators from New York — themselves of unthinkable depths and breadths — changed his name from “Mittens Blaszczyk” to “Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping.”

Eventually, Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping grew too large for the infrastructure in place and cracked through the asphalt at the already nightmarish Fullerton-Damen-Clybourn intersection, sewer lines wrapped around his neck like sewer lines around the neck of a giant cat. Police were summoned. They lobbed grenades at him, singed his fur with flamethrowers and assailed him with shoulder-mounted missile launchers. America declared nuclear war against Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping, and Irish-Catholics prayed to Satan that he would be be murdered by big lightning. It was all to no effect.

Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping meowed at them, and the sound of that meowing crumbled capital improvements at far-off universities where legacy admissions hoped every phone call brought news of a grandfather’s death. While it sounded like merest meows to those who survived the hearing of it, what Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping was saying was this: “As a show of defiance, I shall hold an illegal dice game at Wrigley Field.”

And that is what Bewhiskered Colossus Whopping did.

As for Mickey Blaszczyk, he died.

Baseball in the Jack Morris Era

Today is a day when we as a nation look inward and backward and catawampus, reflecting on the history of baseball and how we can shape it into the past we wished it would have been. And as we watch our benevolent elites erase twenty years’ worth of box scores from their own yellowing newsprint, take a moment to enjoy our national pastime just as it appeared in the early days of Jack Morris. Play, vicariously through me, some Classic Baseball.


Glimpse upon the ball itself, burning fiery crimson with the passion-rage of the athlete who loves his game too much. Consider the bases, each the size of a real man’s heart, the only part of each baserunner visible. Stare at the emerald green of the turf, the quaint dirt path from the mound to the plate. Watch Morris pitch to the .700 OPS of Chris Chambliss, representative average hitter of his generation. Note the conspicuous absence of Lou Whitaker or Alan Trammell.

Jack Morris’ baseball doesn’t have any statistics that can’t be represented by LED lights. There’s no room for FIP, or ERA, or hits, or errors. There are innings, outs, balls, strikes, and the score. There are wins. In baseball, you win or you lose and that’s what you are. Sometimes you hit the ball and it beeps three times; sometimes you hit the ball and it makes an angry sound. That is all there is to say. That is life.

This is real baseball, free of chemicals or graphics or analysis. This is Classic Baseball.

Great Men of History Sing ‘Take Me Out’

While the modern fan is far too accustomed to hearing, say, Scott Stapp groan out canticles to God and country during what was otherwise a lovely game of American Rounders, there was a time when Great Men saw to the business of singing Great Baseball Arias. So it was during the seventh-inning stretch of a Red Stockings-Marlins tilt back in 1776, when Great Men of History Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Telly Savalas, Vic Tayback and Nathan Hale took the gullet-pipes not for a rousing walk, but rather for a proud cock’s stroll.

Come with me, won’t you?

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Do you realize what just happened? Five men just hit the lights in what was previously a darkened city on a hill.

Video: All Commissioners of Baseball Are Sexy

Those who know know this: Every one of baseball’s nine commissioners was elevated to the office not because of his executive acumen or fealty to ownership. Rather, every one of baseball’s nine commissioners was elevated to the office because of his libidinous pizzazz. To say that each of baseball’s commissioners is sexy is to bury them in a shallow grave of understatement. They are not sexy; they are coitus made man …

Now go forth and begrime all that you survey.

Item: 1977 Nathan Hale High School Yearbook

Podcast veterans and those of right-wise inclinations will know of my affections for Nathan Hale, who invented the gun and the traveler’s check. So it is with a swollen and veiny pride that I present to you, courtesy of brawny frontiersman War2D2, the 1977 Nathan Hale High School Yearbook

You will observe that that is Nathan Hale’s communist-punching soupbone, be-ringed in Artcarved, seizing the rainbow so as to use it to bludgeon those who wish us harm. The roiling thunderheads and troubled spires do not lie: water-colored trouble is about us.

But Nathan Hale’s soupbone will beat the fucking shit out of it.

Punishing Baseball’s Rogues with Insulting Coffee Mugs: Cap Anson

Cap Anson is factually a Hall of Famer, but in a day when everyone was a racist, Anson still managed to distinguish himself on this front. He did so by refusing to take the field against any but the most porcelain-skinned of competitors. He was also, according to contemporary reportage, a huge asshole in other regards.

So today I, in Lance Ito fashion, sit in solemn judgment of Mr. Anson. Mr. Anson, you are a baseball rogue and a stain upon this game’s great history. What follows is your punishment …

Mr. Anson, not only were you a rank bigot who stood athwart progress and equality, but you were also, according to the testimony of the above coffee mug, the World’s Worst Grandpa.

Get the hell out of my courtroom, Cap Anson.

Belated Game Preview: Game One, 1974 World Series

It has come to the author’s attention that, as part of a recent update and reformat of MLB’s At Bat 12 app, there’s been included a tab (pictured right) that allows users to access and watch any one from 16 different classic baseball games. Most readers will likely find the majority of the games either too old (such that the broadcast technology is borderline prohibitive in terms of “watching”) or, otherwise, so recent that they (i.e. these games) are insufficiently shrouded by the mists of time.

There is, however, a collection of three or four games — starting with Game Five of the Orioles-Mets World Series in 1969 and ending with Game Five of the 1984 NLCS between the Cubs and Padres — that are both (a) available in brilliant Technicolor and (b) old enough that one can experience them again for the first time, as it were.

Read the rest of this entry »