Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Today In Princeton Athletics History

It's not the toughest question on the American History test to name the two father/son combinations that have been President of the United States.

John Adams and John Quincy Adams. George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

You probably also know that Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were related, though it's unlikely that you know that 1) they were fifth cousins and 2) Eleanor Roosevelt was actually Theodore's niece. Also, the Roosevelts were marginally related to two other Presidents, Martin Van Buren and Zachary Taylor.

There's also one other piece of Presidential family trivia. Can you name the only grandfather/grandson combination to both serve as President?

TB never knew they were related. He would have gotten that wrong.

The answer is William Henry Harrison (who was President for 31 days before dying of pneumonia) and Benjamin Harrison.

The younger Harrison was a rather fascinating guy, one who was a Union General during the Civil War before winning the Presidential election of 1888. He defeated Grover Cleveland, who 1) would then win it back four years later and 2) is buried in Princeton.

Harrison won the 1888 election despite not winning the popular vote, making him one of five Presidents so elected. The first two were, by the way, John Quincy Adams (he gets two mentions in today's blog) and Rutherford B. Hayes.

Not to get way too far off track here, but the election of John Quincy Adams in 1824 came after none of the fourth candidates received more than 50 percent of the electoral votes, which meant that the election was thrown into the House of Representatives and each state got one vote. It was there that Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson 13-11, with help from former candidate and House Speaker Henry Clay, who convinced state that had supported him to vote for Quincy Adams, who then made Clay his Secretary of State. This little piece of history is known as "the Corrupt Bargain."

Why bring any of this up now? Well, it's just interesting.

Also, TB was brought back to the year 1888 by something he read about Princeton's baseball team. In fact, it was from a baseball game played on this date, June 9, 1888.

Why were they still playing games in June? Not sure. Was school still in session? Maybe just the weather was good?

In fact, back then, there were games played throughout June. TB wishes he had an academic calendar from those years to see when class started and ended, or even when Commencement was.

Princeton had a long tradition that had just started of playing a baseball game against Yale on Commencement Day, but it's hard to tell which day that used to be, since the teams played several times each season.

Anyway, that game on this day in 1888 was actually against Columbia. Princeton won 10-6. According to the box score, the game was played in exactly two hours.

The winning pitcher was Ulysses Mercur, who had the rather impressive line of nine innings pitched, six runs, 10 hits and eight strikeouts. Mercur also homered in the game.

When was the last time a pitcher in the Major Leagues had a line like that?

Mercur was a senior in 1888 (did they call them that back then?), and he was a four-year starting pitcher for the baseball team. That game against Columbia was his last win; he would start one more game, one week later, and give up six first-inning runs in a 15-5 loss to Yale in the fifth game the teams would play that season.

Ulysses would go from Princeton to a career in law and later in insurance. He would live to be 81 before passing away in 1948.

His father was a four-term U.S. Congressman who also would serve as the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Anyway, that's a little history for today. It all started when TB dropped his "Athletics at Princeton" book and had it fall open to page 179. It was there that he saw that Princeton had played a baseball game on this day 132 years ago today.

TB is into that kind of historical thing.

If nothing else, it makes you wonder what that game must have looked like.

1 comment:

D '82 said...

In June 1971, Phillies pitcher Rick Wise threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, a game in which he hit two home runs. That's a good line.