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Byrd's-Eye View: "Play Ball! Baseball Season Arrives"


Location: Unknown

Baseball season is here. We will be hearing the crack of the bat, the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and the umpire's shout of "strike three, you're out."

Whenever I think about baseball, I like to think about the contributions that West Virginians have made to the history of our national pastime. The people of our State will always proudly remember the Hall of Fame career of George Brett of Glen Dale. I recall Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski of Wheeling hitting that dramatic, ninth-inning home run during the seventh game of the 1960 World Series to make the Pittsburgh Pirates world champions. And Lew Burdett of Nitro who was named the MVP of the 1957 World Series for pitching three complete-game victories that made the Milwaukee Braves world champions.

Then there is John Milton "Jack" Warhop!

Who was Jack Warhop you may ask? I wonder how many of the folks in Hinton, where Warhop was born on July 4, 1884, can tell you who he was.

Warhop was working on the C&O railroad, when he began playing for the company's local baseball team. Eventually, his pitching took him to the major leagues, where, on September 19, 1908, he pitched his first game for the New York Highlanders, later renamed the New York Yankees.

Warhop's date with baseball immortality came on May 6, 1915, while pitching for the Yankees. It was the third inning of a scoreless ball game, Warhop was pitching and the batter was a rookie pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. The 5,000 fans in attendance did not expect much from the batter because of the prevailing notion that pitchers couldn't hit. However, according to the Boston Globe, that rookie pitcher Aimpressed the onlookers as being a hitter of the first rank, because he "swatted a low ball [from Warhop] into the upper tier of the right-field grandstand" for a home run.

It was the very first home run ever hit by the legendary home run hitter Babe Ruth!

The Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the King of Clout, as Ruth would also be called, went on to hit 713 more home runs.

The people of our State can take pride in knowing that it was a West Virginian who started Babe on his glorious, home-run hitting career. Someone had to do it, and it was a West Virginian who did it!

I have often pointed out that no sports event ever changed the course of history, but this one pitch was truly a great moment in baseball history.

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