The Banana Bat

https://www.google.com/patents/US430388

This would have livened things up: In 1890 inventor Emile Kinst promoted an “improved ball-bat” that he said would set baseballs spinning: “The object of my invention is to provide a ball-bat which shall produce a rotary or spinning motion of the ball in its flight to a higher degree than is possible with any present known form of ball-bat, and thus to make it more difficult to catch the ball, or if caught, to hold it.” It would also enable hitters to drive the ball more easily to every part of the field.

“Owing to the peculiar form of my bat, the game becomes more difficult to play, and therefore much more interesting and exciting, because the innings will not be so easily attained, and consequently the time of the game will also be shortened.” The Major League Rules Committee said no.

BTW, in recent weeks I’ve come across two sources that say that Ted Williams once returned a set of bats to the manufacturer with a note saying, “Grip doesn’t feel just right.” The bats were found to be 0.005″ thinner than he had ordered. I don’t know whether it’s true. The sources are Spike Carlsen’s A Splintered History of Wood and Dan Gutman’s Banana Bats & Ding-Dong Balls: A Century of Unique Baseball Inventions (where I found the bat above).

Rapid Transit

Buster Keaton’s 1925 silent comedy Seven Chances contains a remarkable transition — Keaton gets into a car and the setting dissolves into his destination. The car never moves. In 1964 interviewer Kevin Brownlow asked how this was done:

KEATON: Now that automobile’s got to be exactly the same distance, the same height and everything, to make that work, because the scene overlaps but I don’t.

BROWNLOW: Now, what about lighting on it?

KEATON: Standard lighting.

BROWNLOW: It was interior.

KEATON: No, all exterior.

BROWNLOW: If it was standard lighting and the sun wasn’t in the right place, the shadows would …

KEATON: We made sure of that, same time of day so the shadows would [be in the same place]. But for that baby, we used surveying instruments, so that the front part of the car would be the same distance from [the camera], the whole shooting match.

Keaton was also rumored to have relied on surveyors’ tools in 1924’s Sherlock Jr., but he said it wasn’t so. “Every cameraman in the picture business went and saw that picture more than once, trying to figure out how in hell we did some of that. Oh, there were some great shots in that baby!”

(From Kevin W. Sweeney, ed., Buster Keaton Interviews, 2007.)

Cross-Country Golf

https://pixabay.com/en/the-shoals-course-muscle-shoals-1613273/

In 1953, 150 golfers participated in a “Golden Ball” competition in which they teed off at the first tee at Cill Dara Golf Club in Kildare, Ireland, and holed out at the 18th hole at the Curragh, about 5 miles away. A prize of £1 million was offered for a hole in one, which would have been well earned, as the distance is 8,800 yards.

In The Book of Irish Golf, John Redmond writes, “The hazards to be negotiated included the main Dublin-Cork railway line and road, the Curragh racecourse, Irish army tank ranges and about 150 telephone lines.” The trophy went to renowned long hitter Joe Carr, who covered the distance in 52 shots.

In 1920, Rupert Lewis and W. Raymond Thomas played over 20 miles of countryside from Radyr Golf Club near Cardiff, Wales, to Southerndown Golf Club at Ewenny, near Bridgend. Most onlookers guessed that they’d need at least 1,000 strokes, but they completed the journey in 608, playing alternate strokes. “At one time, the pair had to wade knee deep to ford a river,” writes Jonathan Rice in Curiosities of Golf, “but dried out by jumping a hedge while being chased by a bull.”

Inspired by the P.G. Wodehouse story “The Long Hole,” eight members of the Barnet Rugby Hackers Golf Club played 23 miles across Ayrshire in 1968, from Prestwick, the site of the first Open Championship, to Turnberry, the site of that year’s event. They lost “only” 50 or 60 balls while negotiating “a holiday camp, a dockyard, a stately home, a croquet lawn, several roofs, the River Doon,” and another bull, for a final score of 375 to 385.

N.T.P. Murphy gives a few more in A Wodehouse Handbook: In 1913 two golfers played 26 miles from Linton Park near Maidstone to Littleston-on-Sea in 1,087 strokes; Doe Graham played literally across country in 1927, from Florida’s Mobile Golf Club to Hollywood, a distance of 6,160,000 yards (I don’t have the final score, but he’d taken 20,000 strokes by the time he reached Beaumont, Texas); and Floyd Rood played from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1963 in 114,737 shots.

The object of golf, observed Punch in 1892, “is to put a very small ball into a very tiny and remotely distant hole, with engines singularly ill adapted for the purpose.”

03/25/2017 UPDATE: Reader Shane Bennett notes that Australia’s Nullarbor Links claims to be the world’s longest golf course — players drive from Ceduna in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, stopping periodically to play a hole. Par for the 18 holes is only 73, but the course stretches over 1,365 kilometers. (Thanks, Shane.)

In a Word

http://www.psacard.com/cardfacts/baseball-cards/1955-topps/norm-zauchin-176/24769

pernicity
n. swiftness, quickness, agility

discoverture
n. the state of not having a husband

supersalient
adj. leaping upon

desponsate
adj. married

The Fenway Millionaires also have a ‘sleeper’ in Norm Zauchin, a massive fellow just out of the Army. Don’t underestimate him. When he was at Birmingham he pursued a twisting foul ball into a front row box. He clutched frantically. He missed grabbing the ball but he did grab a girl, Janet Mooney. This might not be considered a proper introduction by Emily Post but it worked for Zauchin. He married the gal. Nope. Don’t underestimate an opportunist like that.

— Arthur Daley, “Life Among the Millionaires,” New York Times, March 11, 1954

Drawn Onward

tintin

Comic strips offer even more opportunities for working with the symbolism of direction. W.A. Wagenaar, a psychologist at Leiden University and a Tintin fan, once tallied up all the acts and transitions in three Tintin books and discovered that in three out of four cases the characters move from left to right, even when their movement takes several frames to portray. More interestingly still, movements towards the left almost always have a bad outcome. The man who moves his finger from right to left to ring Tintin’s doorbell falls unconscious on the doormat as soon as the alert reporter opens the door. When Captain Haddock crosses the frame from right to left in an attempt to escape, he is recaptured in no time. And so on. This is Tintin’s Law, and it is reminiscent of the messenger in the theatre of the ancient world: entering on the right — and therefore moving towards the left — is a sign to the audience that something ominous is happening.

— Rik Smits, The Puzzle of Left-Handedness, 2010

(Wagenaar’s paper is “Als Kuifje naar links beweegt is er iets mis,” NRC Handelsblad, Aug. 5, 1981.)

Little Wars

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HG_Wells_playing_to_Little_Wars.jpg

H.G. Wells played war games. In 1913 he published a set of rules for playing with miniature infantry, cavalry, and artillery, worked out with his friend Jerome K. Jerome while playing with toy soldiers after lunch one day.

He fired that day a shot that still echoes round the world. An affair — let us parallel the Cannonade of Valmy and call it the Cannonade of Sandgate — occurred, a shooting between opposed ranks of soldiers, a shooting not very different in spirit — but how different in results! — from the prehistoric warfare of catapult and garter. ‘But suppose,’ said his antagonists; ‘suppose somehow one could move the men!’ and therewith opened a new world of belligerence.

With another friend and a lot of playtesting, he worked out a set of rules by which two players contend for control of a battlefield, “little brisk fights in which one may suppose that all the ammunition and food needed are carried by the men themselves.”

In two or three moves the guns are flickering into action, a cavalry melee may be in progress, the plans of the attack are more or less apparent, here are men pouring out from the shelter of a wood to secure some point of vantage, and here are troops massing among farm buildings for a vigorous attack. The combat grows hot round some vital point. Move follows move in swift succession. One realises with a sickening sense of error that one is outnumbered and hard pressed here and uselessly cut off there, that one’s guns are ill-placed, that one’s wings are spread too widely, and that help can come only over some deadly zone of fire.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3691/3691-h/3691-h.htm

When Wells published his rules in August 1913, the Spectator raved that “there can be no doubt at all as to the excellence of Little Wars as a game for its own sake” — “Mr. Wells describes his new game and sets out its rules so attractively, and has, moreover, added to his description such alluring photographs, that his readers will find it hard indeed not to hurry out to the toy-shop round the corner, raise the necessary levies, and fall down forthwith upon hands and knees to emulate his achievements in the Battle of Hook’s Farm.”

Happily, since it was published a century ago, the whole thing is in the public domain — it’s available at Project Gutenberg.

Small World

paramount shooting locations 1927

In 1927, Chicago investment bank Halsey, Stuart & Co. published a prospectus inviting its clients to consider investing in the burgeoning motion picture business. Among the illustrations was this Paramount Studios map of international shooting locations in California.

“It was not mere chance that established the motion picture industry in Southern California,” notes the booklet. “The actual localization of production there came through a process of pure competitive selection in which the geographical advantages favorable to producers in that region literally forced competing directors and their companies to come to California — and Hollywood.

“The advantages of dependable sunshine, permitting outdoor production without delays, and of great variety in scenery at close range (the ocean on one side, the deserts, mountains, and forests in other directions), so that the sequence of almost any picture can be suitably filmed with but little cost for travel — all have militated to established Hollywood as the center of the motion picture world.”

(“The Motion Picture Industry as a Basis for Bond Financing,” reprinted in Tino Balio, ed., The American Film Industry, 1985.)