2017-07-06 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

America’s Pastime celebrates July Fourth
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“The Fourth Of July isn’t all about barbecues and fireworks. It is also about freedom, liberty, and the birthday of our country. Teach your kids about the true history of Independence Day.” – Unknown

Baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie will add to the festivities, celebrations, and memorials being expressed in our great land during the Fourth of July week. We all are grateful for the sacrifices of so many that have enabled us to be free and live in a country that grants us many forms of freedom.

Major League Baseball over the years has gone all out during the July Fourth games to honor our country, its history, and heroes. Fireworks, the national anthem, and the wonderful song “God Bless America” will be enjoyed by thousands at ballparks all across America.

Back on July 4, 1939, the legendary Lou Gehrig gave his farewell speech to his loyal fans at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees retired his number 4 after Gehrig exclaimed, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Gehrig died not too long after that, suffering what is known as ALS or Lou Gerhig’s disease.

At Atlanta stadium on July 4, 1967, the Niekro brothers, Joe and Phil faced each other for the first time. Phil came out the victor as the Braves defeated the Cubs 8-3. It was only the second time that two brothers were the starting pitchers in a big league game. Phil and Joe still hold the record for the most wins by two brothers with 539. It is noteworthy that 121 of Phil’s 318 wins came after he was 40 years old. It is very unlikely that this record will ever be broken as pitchers do not pitch complete games today and do not pitch enough innings to win the game.

In another game that started on July 4,1985, the Braves lost to the New York Mets in a 19-inning game that ended at 4 a.m. the next day. The 16-13 marathon was witnessed by only about 1,000 fans as most of the original 44,947 brave souls had packed it in and gone home. The faithful few were treated to a pre-dawn fireworks show on July 5 instead of July 4. The game saw 14 pitchers and 86 hits between the two teams. Tom Gorman was the winning pitcher for New York and Rick Camp was the loser.

The Fourth of July is also the perfect time to remember the 5,000 minor league and 500 major league ballplayers who participated in WWII and the many since then who have served the U.S. in all wars from the 1950s to the present. We owe them a debt of gratitude and thanks, and must endeavor always to celebrate as a nation this meaningful holiday that marks our nation’s birthday. Without the Revolutionary War soldiers and their families’ sacrifices for us, there would not be any baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie.

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