Happy New Year to all! I did not expect to take so long in posting another entry, but then I didn’t expect Sarah to come down with pneumonia. And I was hoping not to come down with the flu with which Sarah started, but to no one’s surprise, I did. At 54 you become sensitive as to when Life is giving you the grand digital salute and I’m not talking about a YouTube video, either. Of course, I didn’t get a flu shot this year, so after thumbing my nose at Life, Life one-upped me in the finger-gesture department.
Right before all this nasty business started, however, I had the pleasure of reading Spalding’s World Tour: The Epic Adventure That Took Baseball Around the Globe–And Made it America’s Game. An enjoyable and informative book, it only takes slightly longer to read the 280 some pages than it does to read the title. Author Mark Lamster has carefully recreated the globe-trotting tour that Albert Spalding, owner of the Chicago White Sox and budding sporting goods magnet, assembled as a way to promote baseball–and his products–all over the world.
It is amazing what elements of the game have remained the same since 1889, but most reassuring to me and definitely most humorous is the story that finds Spalding’s all-stars having arrived in Nice just in time for the “battle of the flowers,” a Carnival ritual in which folks assembled along the street to throw bouquets at passing carriages, whose occupants, in turn, threw them right back. Apparently, this was a highly organized flirtation party in which a bouquet of flowers actually had a useful purpose unlike today when they represent an account book tally mark confirming that yes, the man remembered the wedding anniversary, or that he’s sorry, or that whatever, blah, blah, blah. But I digress.
It just so happened during that particular battle of the flowers in 1889, that Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales was riding along in his carriage, flowers in hand, looking for some comely French lass at whom to chuck them. When the ballplayers discovered this fact, it was obvious what needed to be done. They pooled their money and bought two bouquets apparently based less on the artistic merits of their arrangements and more on their ballistic qualities. John Healy and Mark Baldwin, two pitchers, were assigned the task of garnering the Prince’s attention, the thinking being that they were most likely to be the surest bouquet tossers on the team. They were. Baldwin’s heave hit Albert on the cheek and when the Prince turned to gaze upon that comely French lass who clearly did not throw like any girl who the Prince had ever met, Baldwin nailed him right in the nose.
While the game has changed some since 1889, baseball players clearly have not.