Sunday, April 3, 2016

OTR Baseball Episode 5: The Red Stockings from Cavalcade of America

I am going to keep going with my Old Time Radio and baseball series by looking at one of the many historical works that were created.  With baseball really being the National Pastime in the 40s and 50s, it was a natural topic for the numerous historical series that were heard over the airwaves.  One of the most prominent was Cavalcade of America, sponsored by DuPont.  This is where we go for the 5th episode of my Old Time Radio series of baseball - all the way to Rockford, Illinois.

Rockford Cubbies vs. West Michigan Whitecaps (Rockford, Illinois - July 16, 1995)

Rockford Cubbies vs. West Michigan Whitecaps - Midwest League Baseball

(Rockford, Illinois - July 16, 1995)

The Cavalcade of America is a great series sponsored by DuPont.  The purpose of the program has been one of great study and I am definitely glad that I have a few episodes to talk about it.  The long-running show ran from 1935 to 1953 and then had a second life on television.  Starting first on the CBS Network, it moved to NBC in 1939.  This 30 minute program provided a great platform to showcase some of the lesser known incidents and people who made the country great.  Not only was this series a great source of historical dramas, there were numerous fictional stories brought in as well.  From the Internet Archive page (see link below),  "The company's motto, 'Maker of better things for better living through chemistry,' was read at the beginning of each program, and the dramas emphasized humanitarian progress, particularly improvements in the lives of women, often through technological innovation."  The series also sought out to bring attention to the contributions of businesses in the growth of America.  And today's baseball.

On August 25, 1947,  the Cavalcade presented the story of Albert Spalding in a historical drama called "The Red Stockings."  This is one of a few baseball themed episodes that were heard on the Cavalcade program over its many year run.  The story starred actor John Hodiak as Spalding with a great supporting cast including Jane Morgan, Gale Gordon (who we heard as the Mayor in Fibber McGee and Molly) and one of my favorites, Gerald Mohr.  The story was written by Lucy Kennedy and directed by Jack Zoller.

The story starts in Rockford, Illinois in 1867.  The well known Washington Nationals were slated to tour the Midwestern States and they were challenged by the Rockford club (also called the Forest City Baseball Club).  There was a great deal of confidence in Rockford, because they had a secret weapon - pitcher Al Spalding.  Rockford was baseball crazy and that was all they seemed to be able to talk about.   In the story (and in reality), the Rockford club scored a big win (made even better because Chicago lost to the same team during the trip.  (Check out this great history and account of the game from SABR).

The thing about these games was that everyone playing was an amateur.  Spalding would leave Rockford for Chicago, but get a job as a warehouse worker in Chicago to generate an income while he played for the Chicago White Stockings.  But Spalding would notice something odd....players not giving their all.  Turns out that what he was witnessing was the 'evil' influence of gamblers and the amateurs who were easy marks.  As the game turned from one where the gamblers could influence to one where they were paid like professionals, the specter of shady games would disappear.   While we know this is not how it really played out, it is a really nice dramatization of one of the leading figures in the early years of baseball.

August 25, 1947 "The Red Stockings"

Old Time Radio Baseball Series and Other Links

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