Baseball News, And How It BeganBack in April, I wrote a story about a 30-year-old knuckleball pitcher named Chris Nowlin. Living on Kaua’i at the time, Nowlin is still trying to realize his dream of becoming a major league baseball player. For the story, I spoke with a friend and mentor of his, New York Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey.
Since that time, Dickey has become something of a phenomenon in New York and around the baseball world. It hasn’t quite reached “Linsanity” levels, but the 37-year-old is at the height of his powers, leading the National League with an 11-1 record, posting a 2.31 ERA and throwing 44 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. He has also been fooling batters at a higher rate than at any point in his career, demonstrated by more strikeouts than innings pitched and just a .196 batting average against him on the season.
After having to adopt the knuckleball to revive his career, Dickey is now in a group of three likely pitchers to start for the National League in the All-Star Game – the others being San Francisco’s Matt Cain and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg.
Doing so almost exclusively with the knuckleball, in this day and age of radar guns and power pitching, makes Dickey something of a pioneer.
When it comes to pioneers in baseball, some names are more often discussed and better known than others. Abner Doubleday is thought to be the inventor and creator of the game. Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in the previously segregated major leagues. Curt Flood was the reason players are now able to determine their own destiny in free agency.
One name not as familiar to casual and die-hard baseball fans alike is Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr.
While Doubleday was initially determined as the game’s inventor, the U.S. Congress officially declared Cartwright the inventor of the modern game of baseball on June 3, 1953.
I have to admit that while I have claimed to be a huge baseball fan all my life, I have never known anything of Cartwright until I received a book titled The Ball That Changed The World: The Story of Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr., The True Father of Baseball. It was written by established author Don Chapman, who also happens to be the editor-in-chief of this very publication. While some may feel obligated to praise their superior’s work, I can honestly say this was a fun read; both a page-turning story and a welcome addition to my knowledge of baseball’s origins.
The book breaks down Cartwright’s entire life into enjoyable anecdotes, spanning his early years as a child in New York City, his obsession and admiration of firefighters, his diagramming of what we now know as “baseball,” sharing the game across the country while traveling all the way to California during the 1849 Gold Rush before deciding that Hawaii would be his permanent home in 1850. The ball in the title refers to the ball Cartwright used in the first organized game, which he carried across North America and to Hawaii, teaching his game.
A member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, Cartwright also was the first chief engineer of the Honolulu Fire Department and co-founder of the first library, as well as a financial adviser to Hawaiian royalty, including Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. He died in 1892 and rests at Oahu Cemetery with a prideful legacy of having brought baseball to the Kingdom of Hawaii, and to the world.
I recommend giving this book a read to gain a better sense of how America’s pastime came to be. Though written for a “juvenile” audience, it’s a good read for anyone. The Ball That Changed The World is available though amazon.com.
Cartwright was a pioneer in every sense of the word, and he certainly deserves to join that list of more recognizable and legendary names in baseball history.