CHARLOTTE, NC, July 14, 2016 – With the Major League All-Star game behind us and the second half pennant races cranking up, we look at a couple of interesting baseball bits of information.
1 – Non-World Series winners: Major league baseball has three divisions of five teams each for a total of 30 teams.
After more than a century of organized professional baseball, nearly one-third of those teams have never won the World Series.
We often think of the Chicago Cubs long draught without a championship, and more recently, until 2004 the 86-year winless streak of the Boston Red Sox, but if you are a fan of the Astros, Brewers, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Rangers, Rays or Rockies baseball’s biggest trophy is still the as yet unattainable grand prize.
Only two of the eight teams have never competed in a Series; the Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, and the Seattle Mariners. The other six have been there but came up empty.
Given the Cubs pitching and their strong start this season, 2016 just could be the year “the Goat” finally takes home another trophy, but then again, that’s why they play the games.
2 – A little information about hot dogs: In an effort to win back some of the fans baseball has lost to the game of football over the years, state-of-the-art ballparks have become a way of returning to the nostalgic days when games were played in parks instead of cathedrals.
At the same time, individual cities have gained a reputation for certain food items which would have never been a consideration at an old time ball game.
Back in the day it was a cold drink, popcorn, cotton candy, Cracker Jacks and an unassuming little sausage in a bun known as a hot dog. So how and why have hot dogs lasted so long as the perfect marriage between baseball and snack food?
It actually goes back to the turn of the 20th century when Europeans were selling sausages as inexpensive street food. Today more than 28-million hot dogs are consumed during a regular baseball season in the United States.
A German immigrant named Chris Von de Ahe is one person who gets credit for peddling his tube steaks in a bun in the 1890s in St. Louis.
Another is Harry M. Stevens who was known for selling ice cream until he switched to “dachshund sausages” during an especially chilly day at the park. “Dachshund” being too cumbersome to pronounce on a regular basis eventually was shortened to “hot dog” and the name stuck.
The key factor however, seems to be that hot dogs are the ideal fare for a baseball game. They are cheap, easily customized with relish, mustard, slaw, chili etc. and, most of all, easy to handle in a large crowd where vendors need to pass them across several other patrons.
And no disrespect to the new Fourth of July hot dog eating champion, but Babe Ruth is said to have once downed a dozen dogs himself between games of a doubleheader.
3 – Michelangelo and the Swiss Guard: In baseball a non-fastball that is thrown with the same motion is known as a “change-up” or “change of pace.” It is designed to disrupt a batter’s rhythm. So here is today’s trivia “change-up” without any hidden intent.
According the an urban legend, the Papal Swiss Guard, founded in 1506, to function as security for the Pope was a mercenary unit whose uniforms were supposedly designed by Michelangelo.
It sounds romantic but, sadly, it is not true. Though the Guard is largely ceremonial today, they are the only mercenary unit permitted under Swiss law since 1859 and they continue to wear the colorful 16th century uniform.
They are a fully operational modern military force consisting of 5 officers, 25 NCOs and 70 halberdiers.
The uniforms maintain identical first and fourth quarters and consist of the Pope’s coat of arms on a red field. The second and third quarters are also identical with five horizontal stripes; blue-yellow-red-yellow-blue. Those colors are the Guards’ Renaissance-style uniform which only dates to 1915, which was several hundred years after Michelangelo died.
The Swiss Guards’ flag is reported to change with each new Pope.
Swiss soldiers have served Papal armies from the late 1300s but it was not until the reign of Julius II (1503-13) that action was taken to establish an organized unit directly under the Pope.
Only unmarried Catholic Swiss males qualify, and they are primarily taken from the four original Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. They must be between 19 and 30 years old, meet height requirements and have fulfilled basic military training in the Swiss Army.
Contracts last at least two years.
And though Michelangelo had nothing to do with the uniforms, apparently his contemporary rival, Raphael, had a strong influence because of his paintings during the Renaissance.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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