You learn something new every day. My fact-of-the-day came as I started to research little tidbits of info to serve as a "hook" for this week's column.
Decades ago, when I was 8 years old, I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. It's located in that tiny little village because that's where Abner Doubleday invented the game in 1839. Or so we were all told.
It turns out it's a myth. Even the Hall of Fame website now acknowledges that baseball's roots extend back to at least the mid-1700s.
Nonetheless, Cooperstown isn't giving up the Hall of Fame, our national pastime remains as American as mom and apple pie, and families are still singing about peanuts and cracker jack during the seventh inning stretch at the old ball game.
If you count yourself among the sport's many local fans, and you've ever attended a game at McKechnie Field, you may have wondered who McKechnie was. Stop by the Manatee Public Library and check out Mitchell Stinson's "Deacon Bill McKechnie," a fascinating look at the ballpark's namesake.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, McKechnie (who lived in Bradenton during his retirement years), started out as a player in 1907 and went on to become one of the most successful team managers in history, bringing four teams to the World Series.
Toward the end of McKechnie's career, professional baseball was feeling the effects of World War II. Hundreds of players were serving in the military, the stadiums were half-empty, even the baseballs were substandard -- the regular materials having been rationed during the war. But the end of the war brought a resurgence of the sport-by the time spring training rolled around the following year, the fans were anxious to return.
Robert Weintraub recounts the story in "The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball's Golden Age."
The recently released film "42" chronicles the story of Jackie Robinson, who became the first black player to don a major-league uniform when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Branch Rickey was the Dodgers' president and general manager who signed Robinson. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jimmy Breslin profiles the trendsetting manager in "Branch Rickey."
Prior to Robinson (and Rickey) breaking the color barrier in the major leagues, the only option for a black player was in the so-called Negro Leagues. Author Tom Dunkel shares the now-forgotten story of a North Dakota car dealer who decided to put together the best team possible irrespective of the individual players' race.
Set in the 1930s, "Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball's Color Line" provides a backdrop to anyone who is interested in the history of the sport.
Jonathan Sabin, is the information specialist for the Manatee County Public Library System.