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When They Played Baseball on Ice Skates

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Nothing goes better with the summer sun than a game of baseball. But truly dedicated players and fans won't let a little chill in the air stymie their enthusiasm for the game. Or at least, they didn't for a few select games in the mid-1800s.

The first known example of playing baseball on ice dates to January 1, 1861 when two local teams in frigid Rochester, N.Y. clashed on skates before a crowd at least two thousand strong. Later that same year, the Brooklyn Atlantics hosted their own ice-bound game, beating the Charter Oaks 36-27 in a poorly defended match, after which the Brooklyn Eagle neatly surmised that "the most scientific player upon the play ground finds himself out of his reckoning when he has got the runaway skates to depend on, and the best skater is the best player."

But just four years later, the novelty of baseball on ice seemed to have faded. Perhaps it was the poor quality of play or the complaints by skaters who found their rinks ruined after the ball games, but in 1865 the Brooklyn Eagle despaired, "We hope we shall have no more ball games on ice...If any of the ball clubs want to make fools of themselves, let them go down to Coney Island and play a game on stilts." (Sadly, it doesn't seem that any teams took the paper up on that suggestion.)

But baseball was burgeoning and even the cold couldn't suppress the sport's growing popularity. Nearly 20 years after those complaints about baseball on ice, the game returned in the winter of 1884. The sport was still in its nascent stages—rules were in flux and there were three leagues jostling for Major League status. One of the more popular venues was Washington Park in South Brooklyn, home of the Atlantics, who would join the Major League American Association later that year. But in January, with winter well under way, the conditions at Washington Park were hardly conducive for lush outfield or diving catches. To keep the public entertained, and the baseball fervor alive through the winter freeze, the diamond was turned into a skating rink and a game was played on ice.

There were at least two such exhibition games played at Washington Park that month, both featuring one team of amateurs assembled by early baseball visionary and "father of the game" Henry Chadwick against a pro team, and neither of which featured remotely decent defense. This despite the fact that a 10th man was added to play a sort of auxiliary shortstop between first and second base.

In the first game, played on January 12, Chadwick's assemblage out-skated the Brooklyn team to seal a lop-sided 41-12 victory after scoring 27 runs in the final frame of the five-inning game. Together, the two sides combined for 15 errors.

Later that week, the pro team, captained for the day by Baltimore's Billy Barne, prevailed over Chadwick's team with the slightly more reasonable score of 16-8. And although there were still 12 errors in the game, Barne insisted he and his "steel-shot players" were ready to take on any team in the country.

It's unclear if he ever had a chance to do so before the ill-fated baseball on ice fully died out in the 1890s. But even today, we honor at least one part of the fad's legacy. When the rules for the hybrid sport were codified in 1887, they included a provision that "each base runner makes every base simply by overrunning the line of the base," since skating made it so difficult to stop short. Although you have to pull up at second and third these days, some historians trace our modern practice of overrunning first to those icy days.

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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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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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