I watched Elvis Presley documentaries all day yesterday and I am really hung up on his debut as an artist, so humor me today. 1954 was the year of Elvis, but it was also the year of “The Catch” by Willie Mays. If you think about the icons in sports and entertainment in ’54 it reads like the greatest year in the history of this country.
It had it’s quirkier moments, too. For example, the Maryland Terrapins lost 7-0 to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl — ruining their undefeated season — but were still declared National Champions. A placekicker who missed a third of his FG attempts, Lou “The Toe” Groza, was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, a first for the league. Incredibly, Mark Moseley repeated the feat in 1982.
Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe in 1954, while former Yankees teammate Yogi Berra was named AL MVP despite better seasons by Minnie Minoso, Larry Doby, Ted Williams, and pitchers Early Wynn and Steve Gromek. DiMaggio and Monroe divorced after just eight months of marriage.
— SheenaIsAPunkRocker 🧷🎸 (@77MASH) January 14, 2020
Les Paul, who had pioneered a technique for multi-track mixing, built the first eight-track mixer at his own expense in ’54. This is my favorite news story of the year, by the way.
Ernie Banks was a first-year shortstop for the Cubs, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year race to Cardinals first baseman Wally Moon. Chicago’s best player that season was left fielder Hank Sauer, who batted .288 with 43 home runs and 103 RBI, yet he finished 26th in the NL MVP race.
The Phillies had a second baseman named Granny Hamner. Yes, Granny was his real first name, short for Granville, and he finished seven places ahead of Sauer on the strength of a .299/13/89 stat line. Henry Aaron made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Braves that season, too, and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year race.
The Cubs’ catchers that year were El Tappe and Joe Garagiola. Tappe would gain more notoriety as a member of the team’s 1961 College of Coaches. The backstop actually proposed the idea to owner Philip K. Wrigley after Lou Boudreau was dismissed following the ’60 season.
April 11, 1954 was denoted as the most boring day in the 20th century by True Knowledge, an answer engine developed by William Tunstall-Pedoe. No significant newsworthy events, births, or deaths are known to have happened on that day. Perhaps through an idea born out of that boredom, Sports Illustrated made its debut on August 16.
Rock and roll exploded across America thanks to the song Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets. Alan Freed claimed to have named the new genre, though Memphis deejay Dewey Phillips truly deserves the credit.
Now, how about that catch by Mays? The centerfielder was named Male Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in ’54.
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) September 29, 2019
Cubs News & Notes
- The new minor league scouting department, led by Dan Kantrovitz, may have their sights set on selecting a starting pitcher with their first pick in the upcoming draft.
- A Cubs fan declared himself a free agent in 1981, offering his fandom up to other MLB teams. He even got a few responses.
- What’s your favorite Cubs uniform of all time? I personally dig the 1935 version.
- The Cubs proposed a crossover series to television show Parks & Recreation.
- Kyle Hendricks has his own digital bedtime story.
- If you’ve watched CI’s new daily video podcast, The Rant, then you know that EIC Evan Altman has a sneaker addiction. Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic will be today’s guest at 3:30 CT.
Find Your Inner Hero
Larry Connor is the CEO and founder of the Connor Group, a company that operates rental properties in 14 upscale markets. Larry recently made $1.6 million in the stock market and rather than keep the money himself, he gave every last cent to his 400+ employees, all deemed essential and all working through the pandemic.
“[Connor] led by example. He thanked [the associates] for their hard work. He praised them for their loyalty. He helped to lighten their financial burden amid an uncertain future. Check off all the boxes for Leadership 101.”
Apropos of Nothing
One of my favorite running gags of the show Entourage is Eric Murphy’s company, which he calls The Murphy Group, despite the fact he is the only manager with only one client in said “group.”
Odds & Sods
For the first time in nearly two months, I felt a small sense of normalcy yesterday. I still refuse to recklessly cling to any type of exuberance, but it was nice to finally exhale.
Some of the restaurants and bars on my street got to open today. Occupancy 10 max, no late night hours. Still happy for my friends. Can’t drink but went and bought a shot for my favorite bartender. For 5 minutes life felt normal. And I needed that.
— Michael Canter of Cubs Insider ✨ (@MEdwardCanter) May 1, 2020
MLB News & Notes
Major League Baseball’s proposal to have the 2020 amateur draft held from the commissioner’s office has been rejected by the MLB Players Association. The looming threat in these negotiations is a draft with even fewer than the initially proposed 10 rounds, something the players are against.
MLB has also been negotiating with representatives of the umpire’s union on a modification of their collective bargaining agreement, with the league proposing a 35% reduction of umpires’ salaries for a shortened season.
The league intends to use home stadiums as training sites if plans to play the season proceed. I’m guessing that rules out the notion of playing regular season games strictly in Arizona and/or Florida.
The Little League World Series has been canceled for the first time in its history.
Did You Know?
The first mass polio vaccination occurred in 1954.
Fred Lynn. Jim Rice. Tony Pérez. Carl Yastrzemski. Though Lynn is incorrect in calling Perez an MVP, this is nonetheless four of the best players of the 1970’s in one lineup. Carlton Fisk was on that squad, too. It’s unfathomable that the Red Sox finished in fifth place that season. Can you name their manager without looking it up?
PS – check out the old Comiskey Park scoreboard in the background.
— Fred Lynn (@19fredlynn) May 1, 2020
They Said It
- “These are tough times and the real heroes in our country right now are not athletes. They’re all the front line workers, the people who are going out every day putting their health at risk for us and to take care of people who are sick, so it’s been really moving to see how the country has rallied around all the frontline workers, the police officers, the firefighters. The list goes on and on.” – Anthony Rizzo
Friday Walk Up Song
That’s Alright (Mama) by Elvis Presley – Most historians name Bill Haley as the father of rock & roll, though I’d argue that the songs Rocket 88 by by Jackie Brenston with Ike Turner (1951) or Shake Rattle & Roll by Big Joe Turner (1954) deserve those accolades. Regardless, you have to credit Presley for this number recorded in 1954 as ground zero of the new genre. If you subscribe to big bang theories, this song is that small singularity that led to the cosmic microwave that became modern rock music. Jeez, I sound like Lester Bangs.