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How baseball became a national pastime

October 06, 2019

“Baseball is the greatest game God ever saw to let man invent.”

This poignant truth, which the great Babe Ruth’s last thought to his dying day, and which have often been borrowed by sports scribes, including this OUTSIDER, could have aptly described the Philippine scene at the turn of the century when baseball ruled local sports landscape and was dubbed “the game.”

As I have written not a few times in the past, the US’ grand pastime came to this shore with the first contingent of American soldiers, who landed here with Admiral George Dewey, and taught the natives, whom they fondly called “the little brown dolls,” the rudiments of the sport.

The basic ingredients of the game — an open field, an open heart and a willing hands — which the conquests had aplenty, the conquerors taught them how to catch, how to hit and how to throw.

And soon, the American soldiers started organizing teams among themselves, and inter-company and inter-unit baseball tournaments ruled the scene.

I am doing this piece in response to email, text messages and calls I received from people, obviously baseball fans, who read an article that came out in this section a few days ago in relation to baseball to be played in the coming 30th Southeast Asian Games the country is hosting late this year.

The game had its first real start in September 1901, played in any vacant lot constituted as diamond in Camp Wallace, Pasay, Quartermaster, Meisic, Cuartel de España, Fort Santiago, Sta.Mesa and Cavite.

The first enclosed grounds were laid out in Tanduay in 1902, the year the Manila Manila Baseball League was born with four teams in the fold — Customs, Land Transportation Corral, American Club and the Marines.

The Tanduay Park, located at the end of Arlegui Street in Quiapo, had a capacity of 100 spectators that regularly trooped there to see games. One historical feature of the park was that then Emilio General used to watch games peaking through his prison cell.

Land Transportation Corral emerge the first champion. The subsequent years saw some drastic changes in the Philippine baseball makeup. Nearing the end of its first decade of existence, the Reach All Americans under the immortal John McGraw stopped over in Manila on a world trip and played twice here.

Came the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF) which became the ruling body of all amateur sports in the country including baseball. It, likewise, helped the formation of the Far Eastern Games (FEG), forerunner of the now Asian Games.

The First FEG was held in Manila in 1913 as the showcase of the Philippines as future sports power in the region. The Filipino athletes romped off with the overall championship although the local baseballers lost to Japan in the finals.

The Filipino Nine couldn’t be denied, though, crowning themselves the FEG baseball titlists in 1915, defending the crown five more times, four in straight fashion from 1919 to 1925. They lost supremacy in 1927, but recovered the flag in the 10th and last edition of the Games in 1934.

In December 1934, the PAAF induced Connie Mack’s American Major Leaguers to include Manila in their Asian tour They did and in a master stroke of showmanship, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and company, which represented the most brilliant array of baseballdom’s greatest talent ever to appear in the country’s capital city.

Mack’s Big Leaguers of now Hall of Famers Ruth, the late King of Swat; Gehrig, Prince of Clout; Jimmy Fox, slugging first baseman; outfielder Earl Averill et al regaled the some 25,000 fans that went to the Rizal Memorial Ballpark with their masterful and sometimes magical plays.

Several homeruns that held local fans in awe were scored the first day on December 9 with Gehrig lifting one over the right field, Ruth the second. In the afternoon session of the same day, it was Averill who clouted an over the fence fly, then Charlie Gehringer.

These round-trippers have been decorated the ballpark’s wall since then, along with homegrown heroes Filomeno “Boy” Codiñera, Rudy Lugay, Nap Santos and Jake Saberon to mention a few who came later after them, for baseball fans to see. A number of professional teams followed the Ruth-Gehrig All Start to Manila the next 25 years, proof that baseball was, indeed, it.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net


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