Transcript of Episode 5, Oct. 23, 2017
ANNOUNCER: Have we ever seen a visiting player getting the crowd loud …
KING KAUFMAN: Things are not going great for the Los Angeles Chargers.
ANNOUNCER: … against the home team offense.
KAUFMAN: A three-game inning streak has them at 3-4, but they’re having trouble filling the Stub Hub center. That’s their temporary home in L.A., and it’s tiny. It only seats 27,000 people. And so far, when the crowd has gotten electric, it’s been for the visiting team, not the Bolts.
This can’t be what owner Dean Spanos had in mind when he moved his team 100 miles up the freeway from San Diego, where the Chargers played for more than a half century. In a few years, the Chargers will move into a palatial new stadium being built by their new cross-town rivals, the Rams, who moved from St. Louis last year. The race is on to capture the hearts of Angelenos.
There’s already been whispering — it’s been denied by the Chargers and the NFL — that the team could retreat to their old home in San Diego. Even if that were on the table, there’d be two problems. Their old stadium is still old. And their old fans? They may not want ’em back.
MUSIC: Opening theme, “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix.
KAUFMAN: I’m King Kaufman and this is Can’t Win 4 Losing, a podcast about losing. On this episode: Maya Kroth reports from San Diego on a city that lost its team — and a team that lost its city. Plus: Another city that lost another team: The St. Louis Browns. They became the Baltimore Orioles 63 years ago, but a few people remember them in Missouri. And we’ll talk to one of the 14 living ex-Brownies. Pack up the moving van, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. This is Can’t Win 4 Losing.
Sportswriter Joe Posnanski once wrote that there’s no such thing as a long-suffering San Diego sports fan, because no matter how bad your teams are you still get to be in San Diego. But what happens when the teams leave. Maya Kroth went there to find out.
SONG: San Diego Super Chargers, San Diego Super Chargers
MAYA KROTH: For John Abundez, Chargers game day was a ritual that began as early as 6 am. That’s when he and his Chargers fan club would head down to the stadium parking lot to set up for the tailgates. And Bolt Pride tailgates? They were epic.
JOHNNY BOLT PRIDE (JBP): We had it down where we would go in there before the parking lot opened. We would have some people already start setting up our tents. You would have breakfast and lunch. And two DJs. We were that big. It was more like a block party.
KROTH: Abundez is better known to Chargers fans by his nickname: Johnny Bolt Pride. In a town where people are more devoted to their burritos than their sports teams, he’s about as hardcore as it gets. Apparently, there’s an NFL Fan Hall of Fame, and he’s in it. In fact, he was inducted just one day after his hero, Junior Seau, was enshrined in the real one.
JBP: When Junior Seau came on board from USC and he got drafted and said “Yeah, Day-go, baby!” that’s when a lot of people took a lot more pride on both being the home team, San Diego, and having a star from San Diego, born and raised.
KROTH: Bolt Pride started up 26 years ago, and its ranks swelled with fans as Seau led the team to its first and only Super Bowl appearance after the ’94 season.
ANNOUNCER: Incomplete! And the San Diego Chargers flood the field! Led by Seau and O’Neill on defense, the Chargers will go to the Super Bowl for the first time.
KROTH: Even in losing seasons, Bolt Pride tailgates would attract hundreds of fans to the parking lots outside Qualcomm Stadium 10 Sundays a year. But those days are over. And it’s all because of that stadium.
A brutalist behemoth opened in 1967, Qualcomm — The Q, for short — was a bomb that everyone in San Diego knew was going to go off eventually. We just didn’t know when. When San Diego hosted the Super Bowl in 2003, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was so unimpressed by the conditions at The Q that he threatened never to bring the Super Bowl back to town until the city had a new stadium. And the Super Bowl never did come back to San Diego. And it’s true: The Q was badly in need of an update.
JBP: Something as simple as starting off with the televisions. You have televisions are the box, old-school tubes that the buttons are falling off, you know, some of them weren’t even clear. Forget being HD, just be clear!
KROTH: Most observers, though, thought Tagliabue’s comment was motivated by one thing: money. A new stadium would mean pricier luxury boxes — these are the NFL’s real moneymakers — and that would mean more dough for the league and the Spanos family, which owns the team.
DALLAS McLAUGHLIN: The commissioner at the time came out and talked so much crap about Qualcomm, saying how it was a crappy stadium, it was not up to standards.
KROTH: That’s writer and San Diego sports commentator Dallas McLaughlin.
McLAUGHLIN: But he said that so that the city would go, “Oh shit, we need to help the Spanoses out, get a new stadium, otherwise we’re not gonna get another Super Bowl!”
KROTH: McLaughlin has lived in San Diego almost all his life.
McLAUGHLIN: I’ve been here since I was 3 years old. And I’m 4 now. So one year.
KROTH: While McLaughlin grew up a Charger fan, these days, there are few things he hates more than Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who he says tried to bully the city into building him a new stadium, like it was their civic duty.
McLAUGHLIN: For as much as he wants to say that he loves San Diego, he’s very anti San Diego. Like Spanos and his family has always lacked tact and compassion and understanding. And it’s hard when you’re billionaires: Why would you ever understand anything?
KROTH: You might’ve heard of the NFL’s blackout rule, which said games that weren’t sold out couldn’t be shown on TV in the home team’s market. The Chargers were one of the only teams to keep enforcing the rule even after the league made it easier to drop it. To make things worse, the Chargers had a deal with the city that required taxpayers to pick up the tab for any unsold tickets.
McLAUGHLIN: You don’t need a good stadium to play good football. What you need is a good football team to inspire a town to build you a new stadium.
KROTH: Now, this isn’t the whole story. the Chargers went to the playoffs five times in the six years after Tagliabue made his Super Bowl threat. If it were just about enthusiasm for the team, the stadium deal might’ve gotten done then. But San Diego — an anti-tax stronghold that was broke after a city pension scandal — was in no position to pony up the cash.
SONG: Man, I woke up this morning, turned on the news and found out our Chargers are leaving. It’s gotta be a bad dream. I’m going back to sleep.
KROTH: But the team was unwilling to finance its new stadium privately, so negotiations with the city dragged on for more than a decade and never really went anywhere. In 2016, the Chargers came up with one final plan to stay in San Diego, a Frankenstein’s monster of a project that mashed together a football stadium and a convention center. They called it: “The Convadium.” And they wanted to pay for it using more than a billion dollars in public funds. Here’s McLaughlin again.
McLAUGHLIN: It like didn’t make any sense. Their big selling point, I shit you not: “We can finally house boat shows.” You’re like “Who wants a boat show?” Like, who in San Diego is like, “God I wish we had more boat shows?” It was CLEAR that no one wanted this, they kept adding in more things, like there was gonna be this new San Diego blood bank that was gonna be in the stadium. There was going to be like a hospital in the stadium. All this crazy stuff was just now going to be in the stadium, the Convadium. And people were like, “What are you doing?”
MATT HALL: It just was a pretty terrible plan that they cooked up on their own without a lot of buy-in from others.
KROTH: That’s Matt Hall, the editorial and opinion director at the San Diego Union-Tribune. The paper urged readers not to vote for the Convadium when it was put on the ballot in last November’s election. It needed to win two-thirds of the vote in order to pass.
HALL: You can’t get 67 percent of San Diegans to agree on much. There’s not an appetite for taxpayer funded stadiums as there used to be, so it was always going to be an uphill battle.
KROTH: It didn’t help the Chargers’ case that John Oliver did a whole segment on his HBO show about what a bad deal stadiums are for cities. Even skater Tony Hawk came out against it.
TONY HAWK: I love the Chargers, but if they go, we still have the beach, the Zoo, Blink-182, Mexico, the sunshine, Nick Cannon, Comic Con, and me, Tony Hawk. So on November 8th, vote no on the Convadium. It’s not a real thing.
KROTH: But Johnny Bolt Pride was devastated at the idea of losing the team he’d grown up with, and he did all he could to mobilize fans to vote yes on the Convadium. That rap you heard earlier?
SONG: San Diego, the 2nd-largest city …
KROTH: That was his idea.
SONG: They deserve a brand new stadium.
San Diego yell Save Our Bolts
Charger fans yell Save Our Bolts
Everybody yell Save Our Bolts
You know how we ride, this is Charger pride
KROTH: They even filmed a video of rapper C-Siccness riding around San Diego in a low-rider painted Charger blue and gold. Obviously, it didn’t work. Matt Hall explains.
HALL: So they weren’t even close to passing it, and they didn’t wait around very long after they lost that campaign. I think they were outta town two months later.
KROTH: When the news broke that the Chargers really were leaving, fans were furious. A lifelong fan named Dan Wellington egged the team’s headquarters in the middle of the night.
DAN WELLINGTON: This just fuckin’ sucks. Yeah, there’s no way that being a Chargers fan that I can root for an L.A. team.
KROTH: The next day an angry mob showed up at the stadium and burned their Chargers gear. Johnny Bolt Pride was there too, and he didn’t like what he saw.
JBP: What I was trying to do is have fans be strong, and keep it classy. Because, you know, you hear the Ron Burgundy, “Keep it classy, San Diego.”
KROTH: Dallas McLaughlin saw it differently.
McLAUGHLIN: I mean, what a fun thing to do! There was kids like stomping on jerseys and stuff, it was beautiful! It was great! But that’s what you get. You’re doing that. Dean Spanos did that. He made that decision, and I think it’s funny when people come out like “Oh this is disgraceful, we shouldn’t be seeing—” Why? What’s disgraceful is this billionaire taking away this kid’s favorite thing in the world ’cause he wants more money.
KROTH: Just by moving the team 100 miles up the freeway to L.A., the Spanos family increased the value of their franchise dramatically. One sports economist predicted it could be worth twice as much in lL.A. as it was in San Diego, a difference of more than a billion dollars.
McLAUGHLIN: From a business standpoint, I can’t blame them. But at the same time, they’re assholes, and they should be treated as such. And in L.A. they are being treated as such.
ANNOUNCER: Obviously the big news today involves Los Angeles. The Chargers are coming to L.A. Why is it the Chargers are coming? Like, how do you feel about …
KROTH: One Angeleno in particular was really outspoken about the move: rapper and Raider fan Ice Cube. Here’s Cube on the ESPN-LA morning show.
ICE CUBE: I don’t know what’s going on, man. This is definitely heartbreaking news, man. I don’t want the Chargers, I’m not gonna lie. Matter of fact, I offered San Diego the Clippers if they’d just keep the Chargers and nobody called me back. [Laughter]
KROTH: Here he is again on the Rich Eisen show, saying what a lot of other people were thinking.
ICE CUBE: It’s totally unfair. It’s unfair to San Diego. The NFL gotta get ahold of this. They make too much money. Build them stadiums for they teams.
KROTH: As ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez pointed out, a whole generation of L.A. football fans grew up rooting for the Raiders, or some other team. What incentive do they have to support a mediocre team like the Chargers? Top sportswriters like the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke basically told the Chargers to go home. Watching this all go down was pretty cathartic for jilted charger fans. Matt Hall explains.
HALL: San Diego and Los Angeles have this big rivalry, so to lose a team is one thing, to lose it to Los Angeles was an insult to injury.
KROTH: But even San Diegans like McLaughlin, who were happy to say good riddance to the Chargers, felt sorry for the fans.
McLAUGHLIN: And it is a big thing. It’s this thing that was a part of your life forever, just gone, It’s this big piece of someone’s life that they watched with their brothers and their fathers and their grandfathers. For some people, it’s the only thing they could probably talk about with the other men in their family. And I felt awful for those people, because it’s not fair to them.
KROTH: Johnny Bolt Pride says the move to L.A. has sparked a civil war among fans. On one side: the Chargers-forever camp. On the other: the jersey-burners who don’t want anything to do with the team anymore.
JBP: You see somewhere between 40-something percent on one side and you see 40-something percent on the other side, and then the other 20 that like, just in shock.
KROTH: The Bolt Pride Facebook page has lost about a third of its followers since the news broke. As for Johnny:
JBP: Yes, I am a Charger fan. And I will continue to be a Chargers fan. I have never worn an owner’s name on the back of any jersey.
KROTH: Does the Chargers saga signal a shift in the relationship between Americans and the NFL? Though pro football is still America’s favorite sport, being a football fan today means grappling with the sport’s dark side, from abusive players to corporate greed to concussions. That last one hit San Diego in a particularly painful way when beloved Chargers linebacker Junior Seau — that homegrown hero San Diegans got so excited about when he was drafted — committed suicide after suffering for years from the effects of CTE, a condition related to brain injury that’s been posthumously diagnosed in more than 100 football players.
Some even see the loss of the Chargers as a win for San Diego. Dallas McLaughlin.
McLAUGHLIN: Oh, I think it’s a huge win. Not having the NFL be in your city is a win. There’s no way it’s not. I mean, how is this a loss? What did we lose? We lost a half empty stadium, we lost a team losing on television, if you could watch it on television. We didn’t lose anything. We lost a huge embarrassment of a franchise, in what I consider to be a sport that’s on the decline. And I’m proud of San Diego for standing up to the NFL.
KROTH: As the Union-Tribune’s Matt Hall explains.
HALL: You’re not gonna see many taxpayer subsidized stadiums in any sport, in any major sport, going forward. It’s just fans and taxpayers have wised up. Now you see the last few stadiums that have been built have been financed privately.
KROTH: Will San Diego ever get another NFL team? It’s hard to say. It happened for L.A. and Baltimore and Houston and Cleveland — all cities that lost their NFL team and then got a new one years later. But Hall, for one, hopes that San Diego football is gone for good.
HALL: I don’t know if San Diego wants that or will get that or should have it. It just seems like, you know what? We had a team, it’s gone now. Let’s move on. Let’s do something else.
KROTH: For now, the old Qualcomm Stadium sits silent on autumn Sundays, a concrete husk with an unknown future. In the parking lot, if you listen close enough, you can almost hear the echo of a Bolt Pride tailgate.
SONG: San Diego Super Chargers, San Diego Super Chargers!
KAUFMAN: Maya Kroth is a freelance print and audio reporter based in Mexico City. You can find her work at MayaKroth.com.
Cheer up, San Diego, this too shall pass. Look at St. Louis. They didn’t just lose the Rams. The Arizona Cardinals used to play there, and so did the Atlanta Hawks and Baltimore Orioles. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954. You think anybody in the Lou still thinks about them?
The St. Louis Browns fan club, circa 2017 – next, on Can’t Win 4 Losing.
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KAUFMAN: St. Louis baseball! Clydesdales.
ANNOUNCER: A swing and a miss, and that’s a winner!
ANNOUNCER: St. Louis has a World Series winner.
ANNOUNCER: The Cardinals are champs in 2007.
ANNOUNCER: Which sports teams have
KAUFMAN AND ANNOUNCER: the best fans in baseball?
ANNOUNCER: According to the Deadspin blog, the St. Louis Cardinals do.
EMMETT McAULIFFE: First in booze. First in shoes. Last in the American League. St. Louis.
KAUFMAN: Whoa, wait a minute. Last? In the American League?
ED MICKELSON: I drove in the last run ever for the St. Louis Browns.
KAUFMAN: The St. Louis Browns. They check off two boxes for Can’t Win 4 Losing, a podcast about losing. They spent 52 years in St. Louis, and in 40 of those, they had a losing record. They lost 1,000 more games than they won. And then? They were gone. St. Louis lost its team. They moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.
BURTON BOXERMAN: I felt very, very despondent because here was a team that I rooted for since I knew baseball until ’53. I was very depressed.
KAUFMAN: Burton Boxerman is an author and baseball historian who started rooting for the Browns in 1944. He was 11, and they were in their first and only World Series. The other team? The St. Louis Cardinals.
BOXERMAN: I don’t know why or how, whether I flipped a coin or just decided, I figured I’ll root for the Browns in the World Series. Well, they lost the World Series. That didn’t bother me. I became intrigued with them. And from then on until ’53, I was a Brownie fan.
KAUFMAN: He wasn’t the only one, but … kinda almost. The Browns played in St. Louis for 52 years, and for most of that time, they shared a ballpark with the Cardinals. And the Cardinals outdrew them by 10 million people.
BOXERMAN: I ushered at the Cardinal games. I was a temporary usher. I was called when they knew they were gonna have large crowds. I was never called to a Brownie game. They didn’t need an usher.
KAUFMAN: And yet, here we are, 63 years after they skipped town, and there still exists something called …
McAULIFFE: The St. Louis Browns fan club.
KAUFMAN: This is Emmett McAuliffe. He’s a lawyer and a fan club board member. His office is filled with Browns merchandise, which is pretty cool stuff. That’s one of the reasons McAuliffe, who’s in his late 50s, became a fan of a team that left town before he was born.
ANNOUNCER: Well, as you know by now, the St. Louis Browns, managed by Luke Sewell, are in the driver’s seat, leading by two games to one. But the man of Billy Southworth, the Cardinals, are out to even things up this afternoon.
McAULIFFE: There’s so much cool Browns memorabilia because that’s one of the things that, you know, when you’re a losing team, you try other things, you’re more experimental. So they experimented with things like having a Brownie elf, which people would have thought that was too cutesy, too feminite, too cartoonish. So we have all this great sort of commercial art and it’s in various tones of brown, orange, sometimes you get a brown-gold. You get all this great memorabilia to collect.
KAUFMAN: To the extent that anybody but baseball history nerds like me knows anything about the St. Louis Browns, they’re likely to know only a few things. They were owned at the end by the great baseball showman Bill Veeck.
BILL VEECK: Well, I happen to have a very ridiculous theory, according to many ballclub operators, that it should be fun.
KAUFMAN: They only won that one pennant, and that was during World War 2, when everything was thrown off by so many players being in the military, and they briefly had a one-armed outfielder named Pete Gray.
ANNOUNCER: His arm was lost when he was 6, but that didn’t kill his spirit, nor his dreams of making the big leagues. His batting average is good, though most of his hits are singles.
KAUFMAN: But if you only know one thing about the Browns, it’s probably this: Eddie Gaedel.
BOXERMAN: I was at the game when Eddie Gaedel came out of the, he came out of the cake.
KAUFMAN: That’s Boxerman. Eddie Gaedel was a dwarf. An entertainer 3 feet, 7 inches tall. He was Bill Veeck’s greatest stunt. Veeck had promised the media that between games of a doubleheader in 1951, he had a whopper in store. The occasion was, well, the 50th anniversary of the American League maybe, or some kind of tribute to Falstaff Beer, a sponsor. Whatever you wanted. It was just an excuse.
They wheeled a big paper maché cake out onto the field between games and Gaedel popped out in a Browns uniform. The newspaper writers were like, “you’re slippin’ Bill. That was lame.” The Falstaff beer guys were all, seriously?
BOXERMAN: Well, I saw him walk up, it was — Zack Taylor promised a surprise. Nobody expected it.
KAUFMAN: Boxerman was in the stands that day. What he saw was that Veeck wasn’t done. Zack Taylor was the manager. In the bottom of the first, he sent Gaedel up to pinch-hit for the leadoff hitter. The number on the back of his little uniform was a fraction. 1/8th. That uniform belonged to the batboy, Bill DeWitt Junior. Remember that name.
BOXERMAN: I said what’s going on here. And then the umpire stops the game and there’s a question of the contract, and Zack Taylor shows, and Cain was pitching for the Tigers, and Bobby Swift was catching.
KAUFMAN: The Browns had signed Gaedel to a contract and sent it to the league office at the last possible moment Friday afternoon. They knew nobody’d look at it. It’s 1951. You can’t just text the commissioner for a ruling. Taylor knew the Tigers would squawk so he had a copy of the valid document in his pocket to show to the umpire. A contract’s a contract. Play ball!
BOXERMAN: What was interesting was reading the account afterwards. The story goes, and I’m assuming it’s true, that Bill Veeck called Eddie Gaedel into his office and told him that he was going to pinch hit, and he was given instructions that he was not to take the bat off his shoulders.
KAUFMAN: There’s different versions of this next part of the story. Veeck was a former Marine sharpshooter. I like the version where he’s the one on the roof of the stadium.
BOXERMAN: I read that Veeck told Gaedel that he had a marksman, a guy with a rifle that never missed. And he told Gaedel, “You take that bat off your shoulder, and I’m gonna give the signal.” I don’t know whether that’s true, but he took four balls in a row.
KAUFMAN: You’ve probably seen that picture of Gaedel at the plate, bat cocked, the Tigers catcher Bob Swift on his knees, catching a pitch shoulder high — which is over Gaedel’s head. The next day the league office voided Gaedel’s contract. He said “They ruined my career!”
That was some day for the Browns, but mostly, their time in St. Louis was kind of dreary. They lost a lot. The Cardinals did too in the early days of the 20th century, and St. Louis was anyone’s city for the taking. The Cardinals won out. Here’s Emmett McAuliffe.
McAULIFFE: Sportsman’s Park was owned by the Browns, not the Cardinals. And the Browns owners, Phil Ball, expanded Sportsman’s Park because he had every expectation that the ’20s were going to be their decade. They had Sisler, they had Baby Doll Jacobson, they had Ken Williams, they had Jack Tobin, they had Urban Shocker.
KAUFMAN: They had guys named Baby Doll Jacobson AND Urban Shocker. I’m ready to buy a ticket right now.
McAULIFFE: So the Cardinals, in my imagining of it, sort of hunkered up, or slinkered up to the Browns and said “Hey, why don’t you rent your stadium to us when you’re not using it, because we’re tired of fixing up Robison Field.” And the Browns said yes, so the Cardinals saved all this money on stadium upkeep.
KAUFMAN: The Cardinals took all that money they saved and they invented the farm system, which provided the foundation for their dynasty of the 20s, 30s and 40s. That farm system was Branch Rickey’s idea. He had it when he was the general manager of the St. Louis Browns, but he and the Browns owner, Phil Ball, didn’t go along, so he jumped to the Cardinals, where his idea helped produced nine pennants and six world series in 21 years. The Browns languished. They were always broke. Whenever they got a good player, they had to sell him off.
MICKELSON: There were a lot of good ballplayers that played with the Browns, but they never finished with the Browns because they were sold off.
KAUFMAN: This is Ed Mickelson, a first baseman who played for the Browns in 1953, their last year before they moved to Baltimore. That was him at the beginning of the story saying he drove in the last run in team history. He’s 91 now. He lives in St. Louis County, and he’s one of 14 former Browns still alive. Another one is his pal Don Larsen, the only man to throw a perfect game in the World Series. Not for the Browns, of course.
ANNOUNCER: Strike 3! A no-hitter, a perfect game for Don Larsen! Yogi Berra runs out there, he leaps …
KAUFMAN: Mick, as his friends call him, is the first to admit he was not a star. He had a cup of coffee with the Browns, as he also did with the Cardinals and Cubs. But the Browns did have some good players. They were a major league team. Whenever you talk to someone who knows about the Browns, they start listing the good players the Browns had.
VOICES: People like Roy Sievers, Hank Arft, Don Larsen, Vic Wertz, Johnny Groth, hit .300, hit some home runs, Roy Sievers, Sisler, Bill Jennings, Baby Doll Jacobson, Ken Williams, Matt Batts, Sherman Lollar and Clint Courtney, Don Lenhart, Jack Tobin, Urban Shocker, today Ellis Kinder would be a tremendous closer.
KAUFMAN: Ed Mickelson.
MICKELSON: It wasn’t that bad a team. Yeah, but we still lost 100 games, so something wasn’t right.
BOXERMAN: When I was a kid I would put my radio under the pillow.
KAUFMAN: Burton Boxerman.
BOXERMAN: My father would say “It’s time to go to bed, turn the radio off. What are you doing?” I said “I’m listening to the Browns.” He said, “Well what’s going on?” I said “It’s the top of the ninth and the score is 5-0 in favor of the Browns.” And my dad said “Turn the radio off. They’re gonna win.” I said “No, they’re not.” They could invent more ways to lose a game.
KAUFMAN: When Veeck bought the Browns in 1951 he vowed to outpromote the Cardinals and drive them out of St. Louis. It might have worked too. Attendance almost doubled in 1952, and believe it or not the Cardinals owner, who had to sell because he had legal problems, was fielding offers for the team from people ready to move it to Houston and Milwaukee. But then a local interest stepped up and bought the Cardinals: Anheuser Busch.
McAULIFFE: When he looked at what he’d have to spend to keep up with the brewery, he knew he couldn’t compete with that.
KAUFMAN: Browns attendance cratered. Veeck looked for a way to keep the team in St. Louis, but he had no allies among American League owners, partly because they thought he was a clown, but mostly because he thought they were a bunch of idiots and he wasn’t shy about saying so. After a lame-duck year he had to sell, and the team moved to Baltimore. Burton Boxerman was at the last game.
BOXERMAN: In the eighth inning, they made an announcement that’s got to be the saddest thing I ever heard. He implored, he asked the fans at the ballpark, about 3,000, he said “Please do us a favor: If you caught a foul ball, would you please throw it back.” They ran out of baseballs. It was pathetic!
MICKELSON: We played the last game was on September 27th, 1953. We played the White Sox. And Duane Pillette pitched 12 innings, and the White Sox pitcher, Billy Pierce, pitched 12 innings and the Browns lost 2-1.
KAUFMAN: It was 11 innings. Ed Mickelson was batting second for the Browns that day and playing first base.
MICKELSON: So we went out in Brownie style. We lost our 100th game. We won 54, we lost 100, and I drove in the last run ever for the St. Louis Browns. That was in about the fourth or fifth inning. I thought we had it won until Jungle Jim Rivera hit one on top of the right field pavilion and we went 11 innings and lost.
KAUFMAN: Burton Boxerman says that St. Louis wasn’t like Chicago or New York — you didn’t have to choose between the Cardinals and the Browns. You could root for both. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, most fans just focused on the Cardinals, who were a little down at the time but they started winning again in the ’60s. Boxerman, though, was a man without a team.
BOXERMAN: 10 years later I decided I have to find another team to root for. And this might seem funny but it’s the truth. I decided to find a team that played almost as bad as the Browns, and that was the Cubs. They lost games exactly the way of the Browns. I could tell you stories about how the Browns — horrible. Horrible.
KAUFMAN: Horrible. So why? Why root for such a bad team. Why does anyone even remember them now?
BOXERMAN: There was just something that drew me to the Browns. I don’t know, maybe people, you associate the Browns with just the way life is. It’s not always happy. It’s not always successful. So the Browns were a reality. Don’t ask me why.
KAUFMAN: Burton Boxerman and his wife Benita Boxerman have written several books about baseball and other subjects, including the two-volume “Jews and Baseball.” They’re working on a biography of Bill DeWitt Sr., who owned the Browns in the ’40s.
Walking around St. Louis, you occasionally see someone in a Browns cap. The Baltimore Orioles want nothing to do with that part of their history so the Cardinals do keep the flame a little bit. Remember Bill DeWitt Jr., the batboy whose uniform Eddie Gaedel borrowed in 1951? He’s the owner of the St. Louis Cardinals.
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Can’t Win 4 Losing is written, edited and produced by me, King Kaufman, with mastering and production help from Geoffrey Redick. Artwork by Chris Morris. Visit him at ChrisMorrisIllustration.com. To go behind the scenes on Can’t Win for Losing, see photos and get more information on the stories and music in the podcast, go to our website, CantWinPodcast.com
Our opening theme is Big Swing Band by Audionautix at Audionautix.com. The closing theme is “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny at JohnnyRawlsBlues.com. Buy his music there and find out when he’s going to be playing near you.
Other music in this episode included “Hot Swing” and “Gaslamp Funworks” by Kevin McLeod. Find more of his music at Incompetech.com. We also used “St. Louis Tickle” by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra and “Movie Piano Theme” by EK Velika. All that music is used through a Creative Commons License at FreeMusicArchive.org.
Thanks to Clare Palmer, the Dershmukes, Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, Mary Mickelson, Carmaig de Forest, Bill Penrose, Daniel Choi, Barry St. Vitus and Scott McCaughey and the Young Fresh Fellows.
Subscribe to the show and write a review wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow us on Facebook at Can’t Win 4 Losing—that’s the number 4, or on Twitter and Instagram at @CantWinPodcast. If you’ve got a story about losing in your own life, call us up and let us have it. We’ll give you 50 bucks if we use it. The number is 510-646-1082.
This episode of Can’t Win 4 Losing is dedicated to the city of Seattle.
SONG: Seattle’s got a big-league team! Go, you Pilots go! Why did you go so fast?
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KAUFMAN: Next time, on Can’t Win 4 Losing.
MAN’S VOICE: Sometimes I think about in families where you got different kids some kids are good at something.
KAUFMAN: He ran a hundred races.
MAN’S VOICE: Well, Zippy was a racehorse, and, you know, he had a number on his back and odds, but that wasn’t his thing.
KAUFMAN: And he lost a hundred races. But now that he’s retired, million-dollar champions owe their lives to him. The legend of Zippy Chippy. Next time, on Can’t Win 4 Losing.
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