Springtime, diamond stars and works of art
Ladies and gentlemen, as I type this offering, the wind chill outside is 11 degrees. But when the latest edition of The Highland County Press rolls off the presses later in the week, the winter of our discontent will finally be over and spring will be here at long last.
When I think of spring, I think of green grass, daffodils, budding leaves, singing birds – and I think of baseball.
I’ve always loved baseball, but when I think about big league baseball these days, I don’t immediately think of the Joey Vottos, Homer Baileys and A-Rods of the world.
I often think of “old-school” baseball. I think of the players who took the field when I was a little boy, and I think of the players who took the field when my Dad and Granddads were little boys.
When I was a young lad, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Reggie Jackson were stars on the diamond.
When my Dad was growing up on West Pleasant Street in Hillsboro, Johnny Vander Meer, Ted Kluszewski, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle were still in their prime.
And when my Granddads were young, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Edd Roush were living legends.
For years, I’ve researched the life and Hall of Fame career of Edd Roush, probably because he’s a distant relative of mine, played for my favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds, and we share the same last name.
I wrote a column last year about the player that fans voted “Greatest Red Who Ever Lived” back in 1969 and Joe Morgan once called “The best of us all.”
Following that trip down memory lane, HCP Publisher Rory Ryan told me he had heard a story about how Edd Roush was once ejected from a game for sleeping in the outfield.
It’s 100 percent true.
In the eighth inning of a game between the Reds and New York Giants at the old Polo Grounds on June 8, 1920, according to several accounts, New York hitter George Burns (not the longtime actor) hit a grounder over third base down the left field line.
Umpire Barry McCormick called the ball fair, which caused Reds catcher Ivy Wingo to go ballistic. Wingo tossed his glove and chest protector into the air in disgust, and McCormick reportedly tossed his mask and thumb into the air to eject the Reds catcher.
It was written that the entire Reds infield swooped in on the ump and a heated argument ensued around home plate for approximately 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, Edd Roush became bored with the squabble, so he sprawled out in center field, used his glove and cap as a makeshift pillow and decided to sneak a quick snooze. He quickly fell into a deep sleep.
When the ruckus ended, but not before Wingo chucked his catching gear all over the field as he headed to the dugout and clubhouse, McCormick reportedly was about to shout, “Play ball!” when he noticed that “Rip Van” Roush was using center field as a sofa.
Reds teammates began yelling at Roush to wake up, and Heinie Groh raced into the outfield and finally got the outfielder to rise and shine.
However, McCormick was not a bit amused and ejected Roush, who became enraged and charged the ump, which caused another lengthy delay until his teammates and Reds manager Pat Moran were able to usher Roush back to the dugout.
After the game, Roush told Baseball Magazine, “I didn’t get up quite soon enough to please the umpire so he put me out of the game and I drew an indefinite suspension on the grounds that I was trying to burlesque the game. It is my opinion that some of these umpires burlesque the game a good bit more than the players do.”
If I had a flying Delorean time machine, I’d go back to June 8, 1920, buy a ticket to the Reds vs. Giants game at the Polo Grounds and take a little video recorder.
After that, I’d fly the Delorean back to Oct. 1, 1919 to watch the Reds vs. Chicago in the World Series that led to the infamous Black Sox Scandal.
And I had enough plutonium, I’d then travel ahead to July 23, 1962 and watch Edd Roush, Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller and Bill McKechnie as they were enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
When Edd Roush took the stage at his induction, he thanked commissioner Ford Frick and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m glad to have been put in baseball’s Hall of Fame. And I want to thank the committee that voted me in this year. This is quite a place. I spent most of the day yesterday looking things over in the Hall, here. It’s quite a place, but I’m glad I’m in along with the rest of fellows and I want to say thank you to all of you.”
And that’s all he said, 72 words. (And I think the fact that he started off by saying “Ladies and gentlemen” leaves no doubt that we’re related!)
When Reds great Barry Larkin was inducted in 2012, his speech was a whopping 19 pages long.
Early in the year, I got a message on LinkedIn from one of my connections, Chris Felix, who told me he was working on a painting of Edd Roush and asked if Edd and I are related.
We conversed a few times over the past couple of months, and a week or so ago, a package showed up at my doorstep.
It was a print of Mr. Felix’s painting of Edd Roush. It is simply stunning.
He has painted several Reds greats, including Roush, Larkin, Bench and Ernie Lombardi for a new book, “Cincinnati Reds Legends.”
You can check out some of his work, which will be showcased on March 29 the Christian Moerlein Tap Room in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, at http://www.chrisfelixfineart.com/.
I’m looking forward to picking up a copy of the new book, and thanks, Chris, for turning my favorite Red into a fine work of art.
Steve Roush is a publisher and editor and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.