Grey Flannel on the Silver Screen - LBJ Movie Club Presents: The King of the Hill with Fergie Jenkins
Growing up a Rangers fan in the 80's, we didn't always have the caliber of baseball heroes that other teams did (thanks to the baseball gods for the 1989-1990 offseason for changing that). One we did have was a tall, hockey-loving Canadian that during those post-Watergate years could throw the baseball as well as anyone. And while he may be best remembered as a Cub, we all know his best seasons happened under the Arlington sun.
This hour long documentary by the Canadian Board of Film documents his 1972 and 1973 seasons in Chicago. There is great footage of him and his teammates in Spring Training, at Wrigley Field, traveling around, and just doing whatever mundane day-to-day activities a polyester suit wearing baseball superstar does. This doc is 98.8% appropriate for everyone with the other 1.2% being PG-13 due mainly to Joe Pepitone's overconfidence of his own masculinity in the locker room and as well as hid lack of confidence of an umpire's masculinity in a Spring Training game.
From the official synopsis: "This feature documentary follows the one of the greatest Canadian baseball player of all time, Ferguson Jenkins, through the 1972-1973 seasons. From the hope and innocence of spring training to the dog days of an August slump, the camera gets up close and personal at the home plate and records the intimate chatter on the mound, in the dugout and in the locker room. It provides a glimpse into the rewards and pressures of sports stardom and the easy camaraderie of the quintessential summer sport."
With populations of 49,000 and 180,000, upstate New York's Troy and birthplace of movie director Sam Fuller Worcestor, MA hardly seem like cities that would be considered for expansion by Major League Baseball. However, to get added to the schedule next year (or any year for the past 131 years for that matter) is build a stadium and field a team.
The Troy Trojans were admitted to the National League in January of 1879. They played 4 seasons with the best record being 41-42 in 1880 and had an overall record of 139-191. While they started out with strong attendance, interest in quickly waned for the Trojans and by 1881 they had a game against Chicago which drew a paltry 12 people, a woeful record that still stands. What was even more surprising about the Trojans record and attendance during this time was that they had 5 future hall of fame inductees on those teams - first basemen Dan Brouthers and Roger Connor, pitchers Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch and catcher Buck Ewing.
The Worcestor Worcestors (or sometime referred to as the Ruby Legs) entered the National League in 1880 and after going 40 - 43 in their opening season, good enough for 5th place in the 8 team league, finished in last the next 2 seasons. Their most notable accomplishments came when in December of 1879 they became the first American baseball team to play in Cuba. The trip was a failure and only 2 games were able to be played and left the team in a financial jam before they even began their inaugural season. The team's highlight was when on July 12, 1880 pitcher Lee Richmond threw the first perfect game in baseball history.
Tired of the lack of attendance and in the case of the Trojans, even having to pay for a decent-sized portion of the teams payroll, rumors circulated during much of the 1882 season that both teams would be removed from the National League. At the owner's meeting that December in Providence, RI, a vote was had on whether the 2 teams should return for 1883. The final tally was 6-2 with Chicago, Providence, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit voting to cast out the Trojans and Worcestors with, well, I will let you guess which 2 teams voted to return for the following year. However, an interesting caveat was added to the vote that is till binding. Both Troy, New York and Worcestor, Massachusetts are both still honorary members of the National League and as such if they ether field a team and stadium of major league caliber then each current National League team would be required to schedule between 2 and 4 games each year in those locations.
Roy Akin of the Houston Buffaloes - Third Basemen, Journeyman, and Adoptive Father of a Baby Left on the Train on a Team Trip
During the first decades of the 20th century the Tennessee raised Roy Akin played 14 seasons and for nearly as many teams. While in the Texas League he manned 3rd Base for Galveston, Cleburne (with a team that despite only lasting one season featured 8 future Major league players highlighted by HOFer Tris Speaker), Fort Worth, along with several others. He spent three seasons on the west coast splitting time among the Seattle Turks and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League.
In 1908 he was beginning his second season in a row, a rarity for Akin, with the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League. The team finished a respectable 79-60 the previous year and hopes were high for the team. Akin himself was coming off a career year and at 26 was considered one of the leaders of the team, a quality that was belied by stints as a player-manager with the Galveston Sand Crabs and Mexia Gushers. However, what defined Roy Akin's 1908 season was what happened on the train during their first road trip.
While the Buffs were preparing to disembark, a cry carried through the train cars. Further investigation revealed that it was a baby boy that had was left alone. After a search for the child's parents proved to be fruitless, officials deemed the child abandoned and he was now considered an orphan. Feeling sorry for the little guy, the team decided to foster him until a set of parents could be found. At first they took turns keeping him and would even pass the hat between innings of games to gather donations in support of him. After a period, Akin found himself growing attached to the foundling and adopted him, giving him the name of Roy Benjamin Akin, Jr in the process.