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The Team That Boycotted the World Series

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On August 12, 1994, the MLB Players Association officially went on strike, cutting short a promising season that seemed destined for greatness just a few weeks earlier. Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn was on pace to become the game’s first .400 hitter since 1941, and many believed that Montreal had laid the groundwork for an exciting new dynasty up north.  

Unfortunately, squabbles between athletes and owners over revenue pulled the plug on these developing stories. Over 900 games were canceled, including the World Series.

Whether you hold the owners, players, commissioner, or any combination thereof responsible for denying fans a championship showdown in ‘94, it's safe to say that the blame could be spread around. Ninety years earlier, however, calling off the World Series was a two-man job.

1903’s series—the first Fall Classic ever played—had been an enormous upset. In eight games, the National League’s heavily-favored Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the Boston Americans (later renamed the Red Sox), their American League opponents. National League baseball had been wowing spectators since 1876 (and the Pirates arrived six seasons later). In contrast, the up-and-coming American League was only three years old. Nevertheless, Bean Town’s superior pitching ensured a meaningful series victory on behalf of the younger coalition.

That impressive performance still couldn’t silence those who wanted to dismiss the new league as an inferior product, and no critic was louder than New York Giants manager John McGraw.

McGraw’s grievances ran deep. A.L. clubs could steal away key players from National League squads (like his) with the siren’s lure of fatter paychecks—an arrangement made possible by their elevated salary ceiling. Furthermore, in 1903, the organization hit McGraw’s bottom line even harder by giving Big Apple fans another team to watch: the fledgling New York Highlanders, whom we now call the Yankees.

Before debuting in New York City, those Highlanders had already ticked McGraw off during their 1901 and 1902 campaigns, when fans knew them as the Baltimore Orioles (not to be confused with today's version of the O’s). McGraw was brought in to manage the Baltimore franchise by none other than A.L. president Ban Johnson, who quickly regretted the appointment. Umpires grew fearful of McGraw’s explosive tirades and Johnson retaliated by slapping him with suspension after suspension. Finally, McGraw gave up. Upon bidding Baltimore adieu, he switched leagues to oversee the lowly Giants.

By 1904, McGraw’s new gang had become the most dominant team in baseball. Led by future hall of famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity, they’d go on to amass a 106-47 record. That the Giants would win the coveted National League pennant soon became a foregone conclusion. Meanwhile, the A.L. race ran right down to the wire, as Boston found itself in a tight, season-long duel with the big-spending Highlanders. For the very first time, there was talk of a New York vs. New York series.

Giants owner John T. Brush made sure that never happened. As early as July 5, while the Boston Americans and Highlanders were still trading blows, sources close to him told reporters that, regardless of who won the American League, his team would most likely sit out the ensuing World Series. On October 6, he confirmed these rumors.

To the surprise of no one, McGraw backed his boss one hundred percent. As he’d smugly reminded everybody a few months prior, the manager felt nothing but contempt for either club. “Why should we play [Boston],” McGraw wondered aloud, “or any other American League team, for any postseason championship? When we clinch the National League pennant, we’ll be champions of the only real Major League.”

Their egos bruised, both rosters now desperately wanted to take a crack at his Giants. On October 9, the last day of the season, Boston nabbed its second consecutive A.L. pennant. With the taste of victory fresh on his tongue, John I. Tyler, the Americans’ president, dared McGraw to step up to the plate. “Dear Sir,” he wrote, “As the Boston club today won the championship of the American League, I challenge your club to play for the championship of the world. Of course, if you refuse to play, we get the title by default, but I shall prefer to win it on the diamond in a series of five games or more.”

Alas, his taunts fell on deaf ears, and McGraw never responded. Meanwhile, when the second-place Highlanders invited the Giants to compete in an unofficial playoff series, Brush gave them an answer—and a pretty brutal one at that. Patronizingly, he asked “Who are these people? We do not know them at all. The Giants do not care to play minor leaguers, so this absurd challenge from a lot of nobodies will be ignored.”

Because World Series attendance wasn’t yet mandatory for pennant-winners, McGraw and Brush comfortably sat on their laurels. That year, a disappointed baseball-crazed nation was denied the pleasure of watching New York’s N.L. club try and back up its trash talk.  

History wouldn't repeat itself in 1905. Following 1904's debacle, both leagues formally agreed to make championship participation non-negotiable. The Giants again won the pennant and, this time, took home a World Series title by beating the Philadelphia Athletics four games to one.

However, as if by karmic retribution, McGraw’s team lost their next four appearances, including a date with the then recently-renamed Red Sox in 1912. Today, over 110 years after the Giants refused to face Tyler’s men, Boston fans are greeted by a red, white, and blue “1904” banner near the entrance of Fenway Park—a tribute to the greatest matchup that never was.   

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Pop Culture
The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
Fox Sports, YouTube
Fox Sports, YouTube

Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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Great Big Story, Youtube
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video
Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
Great Big Story, Youtube
Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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