We’d Like To Hear From Houdini (And Teddy Roosevelt While We’re At It)

On The 90th Anniversary of Houdini’s Death, We’d Like Some Advice From Houdini and His Friend Theodore Roosevelt

From left to right: William Hamlin Childs, Harry Houdini, J.C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, unidentified, Philip Roosevelt, L. F. Abbott

Aboard The Imperator June 23, 1914 – From left to right: William Hamlin Childs, Harry Houdini, J.C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, unidentified, Philip Roosevelt, L. F. Abbott

If there is an afterlife maybe Houdini is hanging out with President Theodore Roosevelt like he was in 1914. If so, I’d like to know what they think about the current state of our country.

October 31, 1926 marks the 90th anniversary of the death of the world’s most famous magician, Harry Houdini. Before he died, Houdini told his wife Bess that if there really was life after death, he would contact her. After all, Houdini spent a lot of his time showing how all people who claimed to contact the dead were charlatans. If anyone could prove that there was life after death it would be Houdini.

He never made contact with Bess. There are still seances held each year that try and contact Houdini.

So every so often we’ve asked the question: has Houdini made contact from other side like he said he would?

Of course not. Houdini is still dead and there’s no word from him. Continue reading

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1945 Cubs Sluggers and A 1948 Indians Championship

The Last Time:

Cubs In World Series, 1945; Indians Were World Champions, 1948

Cubs May Have Had Sluggers, But They Still Lost to Tigers in ’45; Indians Prevailed Over Braves in ’48

1945 Cubs Sluggers: Lowery, Secory, Nicholson, Pafko and Sauer photo: William Greene

1945 Cubs Sluggers: (l-r) Lowery, Secory, Nicholson, Pafko and Sauer photo: William Greene

The news photograph above was captioned “1945 Cubs Sluggers.” That may be a bit of a misnomer as Harry “Peanuts” Lowery hit seven home runs in 143 games, the most he ever hit in his 13 year career.

Frank Secory hit no homers in 35 games. Bill “Swish” Nicholson, the only true slugger in this photograph led the National League in homers in 1943 and 1944 with 29 and 33 home runs respectively. In 1945 Nicholson led the Cubs with a mere 13 home runs in 151 games. Andy Pafko hit 12 home runs and drove in 110 runs in 144 games. And Ed Sauer had two homers in 49 games.

As a team the 1945 Cubs hit only 57 home runs. On the other hand their pitchers allowed only 57 home runs.

In the closely contested World Series, none of the “Cubs sluggers” hit a home run. National League MVP Phil Caverretta hit the only homer and led the Cubs with a .423 batting average.

Claude Passeau and Rudy York before game 1 1945 World Series photo: International News

Claude Passeau and Rudy York before game 1 1945 World Series photo: International News

Before game 4 of the World Series began, this photo was taken. The caption reads: Continue reading

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These Are The World Champion 1908 Chicago Cubs

Players on the 1908 World Champion Chicago Cubs In High Definition Photographs

Joe Tinker Second Baseman of the 1908 Chicago Cubs

Joe Tinker, Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

For the moment it seems all of America is talking about the Chicago Cubs. As everyone now knows it has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series four games to one against the Detroit Tigers.

But what do you know of the 1908 Cubs team?

Maybe you’ve heard of Tinker to Evers to Chance the famous Cubs double play combination immortalized in a newspaper poem by the once legendary Franklin P. Adams. It should be noted that off the field Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers refused to speak to one another. Besides the trio of Cubs Hall-of Famers, you probably know little of the 1908 Cubbies.

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Kling, Catcher 1908 Chicago Cubs (check out that bat!)

The 1908 Cubs are comprised of forgotten names. Their achievements are just dusty remnants that reside only in the record books. There is no one alive today who actually saw the 1908 Chicago Cubs play.

They were a hardened lot, these players. They usually had to work at other jobs in the off-season. It was a time when baseball players scrambled for a job on one of 16 ball clubs. They had to be constantly looking over their shoulder because there was always some youngster trying to take their $2,000 a year baseball job.

At least we can see what they looked like. We’re bringing the Chicago Cubs of 1908 back to you in high definition photographs. All photographs are from the Library of Congress and can be clicked on for enlargement in great detail.

With their heavy flannel uniforms, small fingered gloves, heavy bats and grizzled looks, here are some of the 1908 Chicago Cubs:

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown, really only had three fingers, his index finger was a stump that was the result of catching his hand in a corn shredder when he was seven-years-old. That accident gave Brown an odd spin on his fastball which confounded hitters. He won 239 games while losing only 130 in his career. His ERA was 2.06, the third lowest in history for pitchers with over 2,000 innings.

In the 1908 World Series Brown was one of two star pitchers, winning two games against the Detroit Tigers. Brown was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

Orval Overall Pitcher 1908 Chicago Cubs

You would think anyone named Orval Overall would be remembered just because of his name. A short career doomed Orval to obscurity despite a 108-71 lifetime record with a 2.23 ERA. There was no Tommy John surgery when Overall hurt his arm and his career was over in 1913 at age 32.  Overall won the other two games for the Cubs in the 1908 World Series.

Johnny Evers Shortstop 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers Second Baseman 1908 Chicago Cubs

Johnny Evers was considered one of the scrappiest and smartest players to ever play the game. Evers batted .300 in 1908 and .350 in the World Series. If you enlarge the photograph you will see a man who had lived quite a bit. This photograph of Evers is from 1913 when he was only 32. Continue reading

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Old New York In Photos #67 – Sightseeing In New York 1906

Sightseeing In New York – 1906

sightseeing-by-automobile-circa-1906If you’ve ever visited New York City you’ve probably seen the double deck buses that are all over Manhattan with a guide giving tourists facts over a loudspeaker.

This tradition of showing off the city from a motorized vehicle has been going on for over 110 years. Continue reading

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Old New York In Postcards #16 – 1960s & 70s Aerial Views of Manhattan In Color

Color Aerial Views of Manhattan’s Skyline In The 1960s & Early 70s

nyc-skyline-1-1

The Staten Island Ferry is arriving as Manhattan’s classic skyline is seen from the south c 1963

As Manhattan grows more crowded with slender glass boxes rising all over the island, some say New York is losing its classic skyline.

The truth is that classic skyline started to be lost  in the early 1950s as box-like buildings replaced older “obsolete” structures.

Developers were aided by city planners like Robert Moses whose vision of urban renewal often lead to urban devastation. In the mid 1950s Moses proposed building a ten lane elevated highway, the Lower Manhattan Expressway, across the neighborhoods now known as TriBeca and SoHo. Dozens of historic buildings would have been bulldozed in the process to connect a highway from the Holland Tunnel to the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Fortunately after a long debate the city abandoned the plan in 1969.

For the most part in the past 300 years, progress and the money involved in Manhattan real estate has never let sentimentality or a sense of history stand in the way of demolition.

Sites that once held classic tall buildings such as the Savoy Plaza Hotel and the Singer Building were demolished in the 1960s to make way for even bigger skyscrapers. With the exception of a few well designed buildings, hundreds of nondescript office and residential buildings have been constructed over the past 60 years.

The current skyscraper building craze has blocked views from many vantage points of Manhattan’s iconic buildings.

These photo postcards were all taken between 1963 and 1974. Manhattan still had many vestiges of its classic skyline and sense of scale in place. They capture lower and midtown Manhattan from various angles just before the permanent eradication of these classic views.

nyc-skyline-1A close view of lower Manhattan’s financial district looking north in 1963. Only a few post-war buildings have been constructed in the financial district.

nyc-skyline-1-2Looking northwest, change has begun as several boxy buildings are under construction near South Street and the FDR Drive as seen directly behind the Staten Island Ferry terminal (1965).

nyc-skyline-2Looking south in 1964 towards the financial district. On the left are the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges spanning the East River. The tallest building on the right is the Woolworth Building. Other tall buildings seen in the center, include the Cities Services Building, the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, and the City Bank Farmers Trust Building,. The modern tall glass and aluminum structure is the 60 story Chase Manhattan Bank Building bounded by Nassau, Liberty, William and Pine Streets. When opened in 1961 it was the sixth tallest building in the world. Continue reading

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What An Instant Messaging System Looked Like In 1984

This 1984 Advertisement For An Instant Messaging System Will Amaze You (Or Maybe It Won’t)

If you were born after 1986 you have always had the internet and email at your disposal since childhood. It may come as a surprise to you that in one form or another email has been around since the 1960s.

But when did IM (Instant Messaging) come into being?

The early 1980s saw the dawn of what would later be termed instant messaging.

From an advertisement in the November 12, 1984 issue of Newsweek magazine, this is what one of the first instant messaging systems looked like:

Easylink 1984 advertisement

Easylink 1984 advertisement

Introduced in 1982 Western Union’s EasyLink system was considered revolutionary. EasyLink’s messages were stored in the computer memory and not seen until the user checked to see if there were any messages. Continue reading

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Pitchers Hitting In The Postseason

It Still Happens – Pitchers Hitting In The Postseason (And Making A Difference)

sandy-koufax-singles-world-series-october-12-1965This photograph of pitcher Sandy Koufax shows a rarity.

In 20 times at bat, Dodger great, Sandy Koufax got only one hit in postseason play.

Koufax is leaving the batters box after stroking a single in game six of the 1965 World Series driving in Ron Fairly. Koufax’s single gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh in an eventual 7-0 shutout over the Minnesota Twins. It wasn’t Koufax’s hitting that won the game, it was the complete game, four hitter with 10 strikeouts that he hurled. Still to everyone watching, sans Twin fans, Koufax’s hit was a pleasant surprise.

The Dodgers went on to win the seventh game and Koufax was named the series MVP.

Koufax was one of the worst hitters ever, compiling a miniscule .097 career batting average over 12 seasons. But no one ever came to see Koufax hit, they came to see him pitch. As bad as a hitter as Koufax was there was always the slim chance that he might get a base hit. And when he did guess what? It was exciting.

The use of the designated hitter in the American League and the DH’s use in World Series games only in American League ballparks has effectively eliminated the thrill out of watching the pitcher impacting the game with his bat.

So in this day and age when it is considered a shock when a pitcher comes to the plate and gets a hit, it is refreshing to see pitchers in the 2016 postseason hitting and making a difference in many games.

Travis Wood homers photo: Dennis Wierzbicki USA Today

Travis Wood homers photo: Dennis Wierzbicki USA Today

Giants starter Madison Bumgarner was actually used as a pinch-hitter in game two of the NLDS playoff game against the Cubs.  In that same game, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks singled in two runs and reliever Travis Wood blasted a home run against the Giants pitcher George Kontos.

Then in the next game of the series Cubs starter Jake Arrieta hit a three run homer against the Giants. In the fourth inning of game 4 Giants pitcher Matt Moore singled home the go ahead run in a losing effort.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw helped his own cause in game four against the Washington Nationals by doubling and scoring the go-ahead run in what ended up being a 6-5 L.A. victory.

If you polled baseball fans most would say they want more offense and never have pitchers bat. Continue reading

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World Series Action 1950

October 6, 1950 World Series, Game Three – Yankees Hold off The Phillies in the Top of the Ninth

yogi-berra-granny-hamner-sequence-1-2-world-series-oct-6-1950yogi-berra-granny-hamner-sequence-3-4-world-series-oct-6-1950Remember when the World Series used to be played and concluded by early October? Of course you don’t unless you are over the age of 50.

The endless rounds of playoffs, a 162 game season and the elimination of scheduled doubleheaders during the regular season have lengthened baseball’s post-season to an interminable length. Baseball’s fall classic is moving closer to becoming a winter classic. If there is a game seven this year, the World Series will conclude November 2.

Maybe that’s okay if the game is played in Los Angeles, but if it ends up in Cleveland, Chicago or Boston you can rest assured the players will not be playing under the best possible conditions and the attendees will not be warm.

Let’s look back to a simpler time. The year was 1950. The date – October 6 and game three of the World Series was played at Yankee Stadium. The Philadelphia Phillies lost the first two games of the series to the New York Yankees by scores of 1-0 and 2-1. The sequence of photos from above capture exciting action that would probably be against the rules today Continue reading

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 3

The Bronx In 1897 and Its Beautiful Homes – They Gave Way For Progress

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concert in a Bronx Park 1897

Concluding our series on the Bronx from 1897 we look at the final set of photographs excerpted from the 1897 book The Great North Side.

The editors stated purpose in publishing the book was “to attract population, capital, and business enterprise to the Borough of the Bronx.  It is not issued in any narrow sense with the desire of building up this borough at the expense of the other boroughs, for the reader will observe that the writers evidence an equal pride in advantages distinctively the possession of the Borough of Manhattan. We are first of all New Yorkers — citizens of no mean city — and proud of the fact. But our particular field of activity is the Borough of the Bronx, and we know that whatever tends to the upbuilding of this borough redounds to the credit, prestige, and glory of our common city.”

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Fred Ringer residence Sedgwick Avenue Fordham Heights Bronx 1897

The editors of The Great North Side really never saw the realization of their goals. The population increased and the borough was developed, but not in the way they envisioned.

What was once a roomy  borough with splendid homes and wide open spaces became overdeveloped. The construction of the subway in the early part of the 20th century brought land development, a building boom and hundreds of thousands of people to the Bronx.

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

Samuel W. Fairchild residence Sedgwick Avenue Bronx 1897

By the 1930s many of the fine old homes had been demolished and large parcels of land were subdivided and developed with apartment buildings.

John Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

John S. Bush residence Webster Avenue and Tremont Bronx 1897

In the 1950s Robert Moses cut the Bronx’s jugular. Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway bulldozed a wide swath of the Bronx destroying thriving neighborhoods and essentially splitting the Bronx in two halves.

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hoskins residence Fordham Bronx 1897

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Believe It Or Not This Was The Bronx In 1897 – Part 2

The Bronx In 1897 – Beautiful Streets and Homes Part 2

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Lewis Morris homestead Morris Heights Bronx 1897

Poet Ogden Nash once quipped, “The Bronx? No thonx.”

By 1964, Nash had changed his mind and said “I can’t seem to escape the sins of my smart-alec youth. Here are my amends. I wrote those lines, ‘The Bronx? No thonx!’ I shudder to confess them. Now I’m an older, wiser man I cry, ‘The Bronx, God bless them!”

Many people deride the Bronx without actually setting foot in it. In the 19th century, no such derision existed. The Bronx’s reputation as a great place to live and work was justified.

Let’s continue our look at the Bronx in 1897 from the book The Great North Side.

The following words were written for the book by Albert E.  Davis, architect & and a North Side Board of Trade organizer:

“The conditions which caused over-crowding on Manhattan Island do not exist on the North Side. It contains about two-thirds of the combined area of both, is broader and less closely confiued by water, and has unlimited room to expand northward into Westchester County whenever the growth of the city demands it.”

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

Martin Walter residence 2082 Washington Avenue Bronx 1897

“Hence, while the state of affairs below the Harlem was perhaps the natural outgrowth of the necessities of restricted area, it is absolutely unjustifiable and positively wrong to thus crowd the habitations of human beings where there is so much room to spread out, and the price of land is still low.”

Hugh Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

Hugh N. Camp residence Fordham Bronx 1897

“There are many attractive residence streets and avenues on the North Side, only a few of which can be here alluded to. Mott Avenue, a very pretty thoroughfare lined with fine old trees which arch over the roadway, starts in the business section of Mott Haven, just below the 138th street station, and extends northward along the westerly ridge known as Buena Ridge to 165th street. Mott Avenue will form the entrance to, and part of the Grand Concourse which is to be the finest boulevard in the country. Walton Avenue, on this ridge, is also a residence thoroughfare.”

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