A sumo wrestling tournament. A failed coup ending in seppuku. A search for a forgotten man. How one writer’s trip to Japan became a journey through oblivion. [slGrantland]
"This project started with my dad on Thanksgiving. He was reminiscing about Doug Williams, who in 1988 became the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. All these years later, he was still proud of Williams, whose name to some may be that of a half-remembered player from the past but to millions of others remains a powerful symbol of progress. It stayed with me, and it seemed that it was worth telling the story not just of Williams, but of everyone—of all those generations of players who struggled so that Russell Wilson could be, simply, a good young quarterback." Deadspin's The Big Book of Black Quarterbacks.
Don't fight it. It's the year of the oral history. If there hasn't yet been an oral history on your favorite pop culture phenomenon, it won't be long. In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, how about starting with an oral history of Captain Marvel: The Series? Or perhaps you'd rather read about The Telluride Bluegrass Festival? If your taste runs more toward technology, check out an oral history of Apple design. More reading inside! [more inside]
Each of Historian Barbara Wells Sarudy's six blogs contains a wealth of esoteric treasures: "President John Adams declared, “History is not the Province of the Ladies.” Oh well, I'll give it a try." [more inside]
"I'm just looking for a second chance. Other people get second chances. Alcoholics. Drug addicts. Spousal beaters. Not gamblers, though. But, if you want to put something on my tombstone that was very important to me, it’s 1,972. That’s how many winning games I’ve played in. So that makes me the biggest winner in the history of sports. No one else can say that." Here, Now is a short documentary that looks at baseball legend Pete Rose, as he lives his life today. [more inside]
Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities. So wrote John Updike in his moving tribute to Red Sox legend Ted Williams -- an appropriately pedigreed account for this oldest and most fabled of ballfields that saw its first major league game played one century ago today. As a team in flux hopes to recapture the magic with an old-school face-off against the New York
Highlanders Yankees, it's hard to imagine the soul of the Sox faced the specter of demolition not too long ago. Now legally preserved, in a sport crowded with corporate-branded superdome behemoths, Fenway abides, bursting with history, idiosyncrasy, record crowds, and occasional song. [more inside]
'Few Americans today can name more than one or two current boxers, but boxing once stood at the center of American life. It has become a ghost sport, long discredited but still hovering in the nation’s consciousness, refusing to go away and be silent entirely. But there was a time when things were very different. Boxing's history winds a thread through the broader history of the nation.'
Your NFL team probably has cheerleaders. But this team's cheerleaders had a movie made about them. And because they're from a place where they like to do things big, when that movie was broadcast, it was viewed on 60% of the televisions in use at the time. [more inside]
Fun While It Lasted is a blog that details the histories of long-dead sports franchises, including the Hawaii Leis/Sea-Port Cascades/Seattle Cascades, the Portland Lumberjax, the Columbus Minks, the Denver Comets, and the Phoenix Fire -- a professional soccer team that never actually played a game. [more inside]
Every Hall of Famer is a blog where Summer Anne Burton is drawing pictures of all 295 members of the baseball Hall of Fame. She started in January and plans to finish by the end of the year. Here's an interview with her about the project. The drawings include telling bits of information and cool quotes. It's a fun way to learn about baseball history. Here are three of my favorites so far: Charles Radbourne, Dan Brouthers and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Everybody knows TVTropes is the best and most time-killing-est way to learn about the clichés and archetypes that permeate modern media. But dear reader, there is so much more. Enter Useful Notes. Originally created as a place for tropers to pool factual information as a writing aid, the subsite has quietly grown into a small wiki of its own -- a compendium of crowdsourced wisdom on a staggering array of topics, all written in the site's signature brand of lighthearted snark. Though it reads like an irreverent and informal Wikipedia, its articles act as genuinely useful primers to complex and obscure topics alike, all in service of the project's five goals: "To debunk common media stereotypes; to help you understand some media better; to educate, inform and sometimes entertain; to promote peace and understanding (maybe); and... to facilitate world domination." Sounds about right. Click inside for bountiful highlights... if you dare. [more inside]
Vintage photos of women in sport. "At the turn of the last century women in the western world were finding a voice, both collectively and individually. As the Victorian era lapsed in to memory and the Edwardian Era commenced many women chose to pursue sports." [more inside]
"When the eminent French poet Jean Cocteau died last October at the age of 74, his obituaries noted that he had followed an astounding number of part-time careers as well—novelist, playwright, choreographer, film director, critic and artist. But Cocteau's journalistic biographers overlooked the most bizarre of his avocations: he was once the successful manager of a world champion prizefighter." - Sports Illustrated, March 2, 1964 [more inside]
Mamie "Peanut" Johnson is one of three women to play in the Negro Leagues, and as of yet, the only woman to pitch at the major level in the United States. [more inside]
International Gymnast Magazine reports the passing of trampoline inventor George Nissen, whose brainchild trained World War II pilots, transformed into an Olympic sport, and became a pop culture fixture.
The Academy of Achievement brings students face-to-face with the extraordinary leaders, thinkers and pioneers who have shaped our world. Through profiles, biographies, and interviews Achievers in The Arts, Business, Public Service, Science, and Sports teach us how the Academy's core values of passion, vision, preparation, courage, perseverance, and integrity can, and will, lead to success. [more inside]
The Journal of Footballing History is a scholarly journal about the history of football (soccer) all over the world. You need to register (or "subscribe" as JOFH calls it) but it's free. Gloriously, gloriously free. After you've subscribed you can enjoy articles on matters such as France's footballing culture, a back and forth about the state of African football, a pair of articles about Euro 2000 and what England's dismal failure at that European Championships tells us about the national side and on shooting from free kicks. There are also short histories of kits, boots, passing and squads and a book review section.
Marshall ("Major") Taylor was the first black American to be crowned World Champion in any sport, ever. Care to guess the sport? In 1899, he set the world one-mile track record in cycling (and repeated his win in 1900 and 1901. His legacy continues today with an association, a society, a foundation, cycling clubs, and a velodrome. [more inside]
We all have to go sometime. Frank Russo has an obsession, dead ballplayers. Some died in accidents, some were murdered, some couldn't take it anymore, and some were cursed. They were all human. (via HNT)
I saw a feature on ESPN last night about Britt Gaston and Cliff Courtney, two Georgia teenagers who are indelibly linked to history as the kids who ran alongside Hank Aaron after the famous 715th home run. Then I googled around a bit and discovered Jim Leavelle, the former Dallas cop who will forever be known as the guy in the hat watching Ruby take care of Oswald in the precinct basement. And then there's Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway who was photographed wailing over a dead body at Kent State in 1970. And, of course, there's Afghanistan Girl. Can anyone think of other bystanders to historical events whose faces we all know but identities remain anonymous? Is there anyone who has not yet been rediscovered?
Olympic Farce "...there has been an attempt over the past few years to hijack the Olympic spirit, to minimize national pride and turn the events into a UNICEF-style celebration of global harmony and cooperation. The organizers are trying to turn the Olympics from a series of sporting contests into a multinational festival..."
Muhammad O' Ali. Geneologists have uncovered his Irish roots. His great grandfather was an Irish emigree who married an African American woman in Kentucky.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.... for Boston Red Sox fans. This story from espn.com's Page 2 about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series is well-written and fills me with sympathy and empathy for Sox fans. See, as a Yakee fan, I was rooting against them at the time, but I feel sorry for them now. What a cruel punishment that game must have been. So close, and yet so far. (Please pardon my sports digression and shameless use of cliches.)