Jackie Robinson, April 15, 1947; Satchel Paige October 9, 1948; Sandy Koufax, September 9, 1965 — arguably some of the most memorable dates in Major League Baseball history.
On March 22, in American River College’s Raef Hall former English professor and baseball coach Bob Bates, who taught at ARC for 41 years, took a crowd of roughly 80 students and faculty members on a journey throughout the history of baseball.
Baseball is the only sport where the defense is in charge of the ball. Bates brought this to the attention of the audience when he asked “Who has the ball?”
Bates answered his own question vehemently citing “the defense.”
Bates reminisced on a time when baseball truly was America’s pastime. He discussed the Abner Doubleday myth, Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, Satchel Paige’s World Series, and Sandy Koufax’s perfect game.
In 1905, Albert Spalding headed an investigation to determine who created baseball; Spalding came to the conclusion that Doubleday, a resident of Cooperstown, New York was responsible for the game.
Until the mid-1930s, many people believed Doubleday was the creator, until Alexander Cartwright’s grandson wrote a letter to a group of baseball historians, claiming his grandfather’s role in the creation of baseball.
The historians verified that Cartwright’s grandson was telling the truth. Cartwright was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.
In 1947, Major League Baseball broke the color barrier when Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Robinson’s 10 year career was filled with impressive accolades. His career batting average was .311 and he led the Dodgers to six World Series appearances, including one World Series championship win.
The following year 42-year-old Satchel Paige became the oldest player to debut in a Major League Baseball game. Later that year he became the first African American pitcher to play in a World Series.
Before1958, Major League Baseball hadn’t been west of the Mississippi, until Walter O’Malley brought the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles and Horace Stoneham moved the New York Giants to San Francisco. “Baseball was an eastern phenomenon,” said Bates.
Bates recalled Sandy Koufax’s perfect game against the Chicago Cubs in which Koufax set the record for most strikeouts – fanning 14 in what resulted in a perfect game. That record still remains today.
Towards the end of his presentation Bates advised attendees to “Pay attention to what works for you, if you feel confident about what you’re doing chances are you’re enjoying what you’re doing.”
The hour that Bates spent talking was filled with comedy, passion, history, and many words of wisdom.
“At the end everyone gets a chance to slide in home,” said Bates.