Sports

Return of Ross Barnes’ tradition

THE 1876 CHICAGO White Stockings were the National League champs in what’s considered the first year of major league baseball (Wikipedia).

There have not been many signs of good news since the coronavirus knocked a lot of us into hospital beds and almost all of us into isolation, those blue masks and home schooling.

But one bright spot is emerging this week: major league baseball, or Major League Baseball, is back this week.

Sure, there will be empty stadiums, those weird masks, and a season that starts not in April but in late July, but that’s OK. A lot of ingenuity and resolve –along with a desire to make a lot of money – has kept us from having to skip summer baseball for the first time since the creature awoke in 1876, when National League teams played in such metropolises as Hartford and Louisville.

Ross Barnes was the heavy hitter in that inaugural 66-game season. He batted .429 for the old Chicago White Stockings, getting 138 hits. The long-ball champ was George Hall of the Philadelphia Athletics with five home runs.

Jim Devlin of the Louisville Grays pitched every game for his team and stuck out … 122 batters. Al Spaulding of the Chicago team racked up 47 victories.

That was historic, but so is this season. We’re going into unknown territory here. How many players will be sidelined merely for having a too-high temperature? Will there come a time when fans are allowed back in the ballpark, and not just via their cardboard cutouts? Which stars will miss a chance for the all-time record book because they missed 100 games in their prime? Will Mike Trout win yet another MVP Award? (Our advice. Don’t bet against it).

Of course, for us, the chief concerns are our more-or-less local teams, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles. Both teams are looking strong this fun-sized 2020 season.

The Dodgers, already stuffed with talent, improved by adding Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox, and will still have the best pitching in hardball.  They won’t win 100 games this season, of course, but they should nail down at least another National League West pennant. More than that, a World Series matchup with the Yankees is a distinct possibility.

The Angels haven’t quite been as successful, but with new manager Joe Maddon and third baseman Anthony Reddon joining stars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Halos have a good chance at finishing above .500 in the American League West and possibly even contending for a wild card spot.

After some exhibitions amusingly called “Summer Camp “ games, it all starts this week. The Dodgers will begin a three-game season hosting the San Francisco Giants Thursday through Sunday. The Angels will open on the road in Oakland in a series that runs from Friday through Monday.

So, with a tip of the cap to Ross Barnes, let’s play ball! Finally ….

The Wild World of Sports is posted on Mondays.

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