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Roger Connor, Home Run King

Although I can't say I've been following all that closely, Barry Bonds just broke Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. The only story I'm less interested in is whether or not Commissioner Bud Selig would be there to witness number 756 (he wasn't). Before Hank was king, Babe Ruth's 714 homers topped the charts. But from whom did Ruth inherit the crown?

I consider myself a somewhat serious baseball fan. I was at Yankee Stadium for Phil Rizzuto Day in 1985, when Chicago White Sox pitcher Tom Seaver upstaged Scooter by winning his 300th game. (Also, the Yankees gave Rizzuto a cow, which stepped on his foot and knocked him over.) I've done the Tomahawk Chop in Atlanta. And I was in attendance for Roberto Kelly's Major League debut. (OK, I don't have a lot of evidence to support my "somewhat serious fan" claim. But I am anxiously awaiting Mint, the book about the rise and fall of baseball cards by my good friend Dave Jamieson, who previously wrote "Requiem for a Rookie Card" for Slate.)

Anyway, I had never heard of Ruth's record book predecessor. A former member of the Troy Trojans, New York Gothams/Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Browns, Roger Connor's record of 138 home runs stood until Ruth surpassed him in 1921. Connor's career ended in 1897. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. Maybe real baseball fans knew this. Here are three other things I didn't know about Connor:

  • Connor is said to have hit the first-ever grand slam, in 1881.
  • According to George Vecsey of The New York Times, "In 1883, Connor was lured to New York, where he, Buck Ewing and John Montgomery Ward were so good that in 1885, their manager, Jim Mutrie, waxed rhapsodic about "my giants!" And that is how Barry Bonds's current team got its nickname."
  • "In 1883, he hit a magnificent shot in his first game with the Giants that caused jubilant patrons to pass the hat and buy him a $500 gold watch in appreciation." (BaseballLibrary.com)

On Monday, I promised a week's worth of questions, to start discussions that would help get us through the hot summer afternoons. We'd still love to get your nomination for our "_flossiest Places to Live" list. But today, inspired by Connor's overlooked greatness, let me ask about unsung historical figures. Who's been unfairly forgotten?

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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