The Rivalry of Brooklyn Neighborhoods: Pigtown and Spotless Town

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Brooklyn had a small neighborhood not-so-affectionately known as “Pigtown.” The area straddled what is now Prospect Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush. It earned its moniker from its high density of pig farms, which filled the air with sounds and smells. The poor town was something of a wasteland, with ash dumps, piles of garbage, and farm animals roaming free. Starved stray dogs were known to attack pedestrians walking through. People would go there to unload their trash and old junk.

On top of being a complete mess, Pigtown also had a bit of a crime problem. In 1891, Judge Sweeney won the Pigtown pig in a raffle—and it was promptly stolen as a prank by the town constable and an assistant keeper of the hall of records. In 1896, Thomas McCormick, the “terror of Pigtown,” barged into a barbershop and swallowed two pet canaries. This was a mild offense for the notorious McCormick, who was later shot five times by a man who claimed McCormick hit on his married sister.  

Down the street from this anarchic area was a completely different neighborhood. Starting on the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Union Street in Crow Hill (now Crown Heights), this shiny new community was so fancy and immaculate that it was called “Spotless Town.” 

Local bigwig Frederick W. Rowe awarded this town the name, inspired by a recent Broadway play with the same title. The Pratt estate built the 38 houses that made up the small colony. The homes had steam heat that came from a central plant. A back alleyway that ran down the line of buildings allowed for deliveries to be made discreetly, so no unsightly wagons ever had to obstruct the view of the houses. The buildings shared a single emissions-controlled generator that kept the soot and pollution out of the air. You could almost see the buildings gleam in the sunlight.

Compared to stinking, crime-ridden Pigtown, Spotless Town was a pristine utopia. It comes as no surprise that the neighborhoods had an Eagleton/Pawnee-level rivalry. 

In 1919, tension between the towns hit a fever pitch. Thirty rogue goats escaped from Pigtown, heading for greener pastures. The invading animals dined on the flourishing shrubbery in Spotless Town, much to the chagrin of its inhabitants. One man—whose lawn was being treated as an all-you-can-eat buffet—called the cops. The men then shooed 29 of the goats back to their sooty home. The last remaining goat, too stubborn to leave, was lassoed and arrested. When the owner came to claim the criminal animal, he was also arrested. The other owners of the goats were asked to admonish their unruly livestock and pay a $2 fine.

This altercation led to an uproar in Pigtown; its residents declared Spotless Town “entirely too stuck up.” But with a name like that, who can blame them?

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A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

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