As people always say on this hallowed national holiday, "Huh? Oh, is it Columbus Day?"
Yes, it is. And truthfully, America as a nation can be defined in one often overlooked image: Christopher Columbus introducing baseball to the Native Americans, which back then was a game that featured far more crimes against humanity.
But ever since his arrival to wherever he believed he was, baseball and Columbus have been eternally entwined.
Not even close. #ColumbusDay #why http://t.co/4M3nYKebkm @HISTORY @drunkhistory @HistoryInPics @DispatchAlerts pic.twitter.com/DGzjxPAeJA— BaseballCardVandals (@bsblcardvandals) October 13, 2014
It was 1901 the last time Columbus, Ohio wasn't inhabited by a minor league baseball team. It's exactly what the explorer envisioned for America when he was cutting the hands of Native Americans who refused to do his bidding.
The teams playing there have held a variety of monikers, such as Senators, Red Birds, Jets, and today's Clippers; their alumni include plenty of recognizable figures like Willie Stargell, Dock Ellis, Branch Rickey, Harry "The Hat" Walker, Enos Slaughter, and even Phillies interim team president and 2008 World Series champion architect Pat Gillick.
"I hope a town named after me one day houses a baseball team on which plays the future GM of the Philadelphia Phillies."
--direct quote, Christopher Columbus
The name "Columbus" spans further than the Triple A baseball played out of Ohio's capital. Plenty of players have sported the name, presumably in honor of the explorer, or because it was their birth name, or whatever.
Carl Columbus "Sundown" Yowell
Yowell threw a pair of unimpressive years for the 1924-25 Cleveland Indians, compiling a career ERA of 5.40. He was very much a terrible player, walking 29 batters and only striking out 21 in his two precious years in Cleveland. Like most players on this list, Yowell's team was never a contender, finishing with deeply sub-.500 records and never higher than sixth place in the AL.
But this was a different age; pitchers didn't just get to "leave the game" when things were going terribly or it was too dark or there was a death in his family. Relief pitchers were called for in only the most dire of circumstances, like a typhoid outbreak in the stadium or the starting pitcher being drafted into a war, mid-game.
That was why Yowell got to pitch 12 straight innings on September 19, 1924 against the Red Sox. The Indians had trailed 3-0 all day before tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, so manager Tris Speaker sent Yowell back out there to finish the job, even though he wasn't having a particularly good day - he'd given up 13 hits, thrown a wild pitch, and only struck out two. In the end, he gave up two runs in the 12th and the Indians lost.
Two weeks prior, Yowell had thrown a complete game, despite giving up seven earned runs, three walks, and four strikeouts, bouncing his ERA up to 10.29. Cleveland was 17 games out of first place at the time. But a combination of Tris Speaker's determination to keep his starter in the game and not enough typhoid outbreaks made sure Yowell would never come out. Some say the dust of his ground-down arm bones still hanging in the toxic Cleveland air.
"Count" Charles Columbus Campau
"For the last time guys I am not a vampire."
--Count Campau, calling to the peasants from the window of the haunted spire in which he lived
Campau played plenty of basball, mostly in the minors, with appearances at the pro level for 70 games in 1888, 75 more in 1890, and then two additional games in 1894, all for teams that no longer exist (Detroit Wolverines, St. Louis Browns, and Washington Senators). But all in all, he would give the game 19 solid years.
Campau could sock dingers (he led the league in 1890 with 9 HR), and he could steal bases. Unfortunately, he played an early enough rendition of baseball that records weren't even kept for SB. Experts have settled on "660" as his career total. He was said to be able to run the bases in 14 seconds, a world record at the time, and used to win money by beating other players in foot races.
After being fired as manager of the Browns in 1890, Campau hit an inside-the-park grand slam. Later that season, a fan requested he hit a home run from the stands and he did, so everybody through cigars at him. Then he left to work for the Michigan Railroad. He would come back for several more go-arounds in the minors, and even became an umpire until 1906, when he was set upon by some angry fans.
Lawrence Columbus "Crash" Davis
If "Crash Davis" sounds familiar to you, it's because Davis was the inspiration for
famed video game character Crash Bandicoot Kevin Costner's character in Bull Durham.
It was an early age of nicknames, as "Crash" received his for the fairly straight forward reason of colliding with a teammate while chasing a fly ball. After captaining the team at Duke University, Davis joined the Philadelphia Athletics, a move that would be something of a recurring theme among guys named "Columbus" in baseball. He hit an unremarkable .230/.289/.279, with a skillset that would for some reason inspire filmmaker Ron Shelton to make an entire movie about him.
Davis redeemed his American-ness after failing at baseball by being drafted into the military in WWII, after which he was stationed at Harvard and trained ROTC recruits while also coaching the baseball and squash teams. After Hitler failed to reach Massachusetts, Davis returned to play minor league ball in Durham, North Carolina, where he fell in love with actress Susan Sarandon.
"I love you, Susan Sarandon. Forget about Tim Robbins and be with me instead."
--Crash Davis, the only quote I recall from Bull Durham
Apparently a less whimsical player than the other Columbuses, Driscoll seems to have refused a nickname. It remains likely that he also refused life's other precious gifts, like surprise parties, hot cocoa with marshmallows, and a child's love.
Or maybe he just didn't have time to establish himself enough for a nickname. He pitched one season for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1916, when the team went 36-117 under manager Connie Mack.
"Holy shit, we're terrible."
--quote attributed to various members of 1916 Philadelphia Athletics
Driscoll appeared in a single game, threw five innings, gave up six hits, five runs (three earned) and two walks. He struck out none. He would never play professional baseball again.