(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)
We’re starting to see the history of our city through the diamonds of baseball. And, like most things, it begins with a book.
Last weekend, the local Little League held a Baseball Equipment sale. Families donate things that don’t fit anymore and then they come to find things that do fit. It’s a nice reciprocal trade agreement that benefits the kids. But there are also usually a bunch of odds and ends that I always find fascinating. I picked up a couple of baseball books that I know the boys are loving. As I was perusing the book table, one book in particular caught my eye.
It is called The Last Hurrah: Baseball in Northampton and in it, writers and historians Brian Turner and John Bowman explore the world of the early days of baseball in our city, from the various semi-pro leagues that sprouted up around town in the early days to the legends of the day that still spark the imagination.
The book was developed as part of a series at the local historical society. Inside, there is a wealth of photographs of baseball teams and baseball diamonds, and all sorts of characters who made their way through the area in the days before baseball took hold as America’s Pasttime.
One interesting fact: Northampton is the oldest place on record to indicate that one of the teams was integrated with black players. The writers used historical evidence to place a black player on the Northampton Meadowlarks in 1878 (his name was Luther Askins). This is not too surprising if you know that Sojourner Truth lived here and was a local leader. Frederick Douglas was also a regular visitor. Still, this is the kind of fact that makes me proud to be here.
My son was also interested in Stu Miller, a local boy who went to pitch in the Major Leagues. And then there was also the story of Buck Weaver, who played in Northampton before going off to the Chicago White Sox and then being implicated, along with others, of throwing the 1919 World Series as part of the infamous Black Sox.
It’s pretty fascinating stuff, and it made it all worthwhile when the older son, after digging into the book for quite some time, announced: “I guess this place isn’t so boring after all.”
History is all around us. You just have to know where to look.
Peace (in the ballfields of yore),