Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mr. Robinson, Are You Trying to Juice Me?

As spring training and the WBC are in full swing, it seems appropriate we commemorate the 104th anniversary of one of baseball's great off-field stories, for Friday is the day A-Rod's great-grandfather first took steroids. Only kidding. It's the day Wilbert "Uncle Robbie" Robinson tried to catch a baseball dropped from an airplane. Robinson tried this stunt 12 years prior, but that was when airplanes where still aeroplanes, and worse, not yet invented. He could never figure out the right balance of paper heavy enough to hold a baseball yet light enough to fly. Plus even Wee Willie Keeler was too big to be the pilot (although Keeler made a great jockey at the annual trout derby). Meanwhile in 1915 (and reality) the plane got to 525 feet and the pilot let loose--a grapefruit. Either he forgot the baseball (and, of course, had a spare grapefruit in his pocket--no, he wasn't just really happy to see you) or wiseacre Casey Stengel decided it would be funnier, plus a good promo for the Grapefruit League. Poor Robinson got hit, the fruit exploded, and between the wet and red, he was convinced he was bleeding all over (turns out his blood, like that of many early baseball pioneers, actually did have seeds). Everyone had a good laugh, and Robinson traded Stengel. When Robinson retired he ended up president of the minor league team the Atlanta Crackers, long-time rivals of the Birmingham Hicks, Tallahassee Ofays, and Carolina Ricketeers.



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