Monday, February 7, 2011

Spring Training Begins, Monday, March 10, 1924


A few things to note above. One is obvious, Tony Lazzeri and his SLC teammates playing against a Japanese athletic club team. I've always maintained that the separation or desegregation present in the Majors or even high minors didn't reflect what was really going on in society, its the interactions you would see below the majors, with company teams, college teams, semi-pro teams, etc. At the semi-pro and barnstorming levels, baseball was where different communities came together, interacted, and, most importantly, played together. As far back as  baseball being reported on, we see these other stories in the fringes, written or implied, and we see them because the information would have been demanded by the news consumer. Its not that there wasn't segregation, of course there was. It's about where it was and how it was manifest and what all that means that is capable of elucidating the past and how it impacts today. These Bees were playing the Fresno Athletic Club and their great second baseman, Kenichi Zenimura. Fresno was one of the better semi-pro baseball teams.
Tony Lazzeri was a 20-year-old second baseman from San Francisco who would soon star in New York with the Yankees, along with a fellow San Franciscan, 19-year-old Mark Koenig, who was playing short stop that season in St. Paul, and a 21-year-old Eastern League star by the name of Lou Gehrig. Koenig was the first Yankee to wear #2 (although when he joined, he mostly hit leadoff, switching to 2nd in the order in 1927, with Combs hitting leadoff, the numbers themselves didn't make it onto uniforms until 1929, when Gene Robertson actually hit 2nd more), a number we will have to assume gets retired soon for Jeter. Tangent: I'm not much of a Yankees fan, by why doesn't Billy Martin 'share' his retired number with Earle Combs? Anyway, Lazzeri would hit 60 home runs in 1925 in 197 games for SLC (512 total bases!!!), and in 1926, he was a rookie and the leading home run hitter in the Yankee infield, with 18, since 1927 is really when Gehrig found his Major League home run stroke.

Two other names of quick note: Mickey Cochrane and Jack Quinn. Cochrane was still a month away from turning 21 on April 6 when he caught Portland's game against the Ambler's Athletic Club of Stockton (their hall is still for rent if you need a meeting space in Stockton). Jack Quinn? He's not listed above, but he pitched to Cochrane for the Athletics, played twice for the Yankees, and died the same year as Tony Lazzeri, although Lazzeri was 42 and Quinn was 62. One of four Major Leaguers, and the only one of note, born in Austria-Hungary. He would lose a World Series in 1921 with the Yankees and win two in 1929 and 1930 with the Athletics. Here are some webcams from where he was born, which is now part of Slovakia. Actually, Elmer Valo was also from an area that is now part of Slovakia, but that was in 1921, by which time the Empire had fallen. Oddly enough, he also played for the Yankees and Athletics!

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