Decades before the ground was broken for the Houston Astrodome, a group of waiters may have played baseball indoors. It was the early 1900s, and after finishing their shifts, the black waiters from the West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden, Ind., put on their uniforms and played under a 100-foot-high dome, claims a granddaughter of a catcher for the 1910 West Baden Sprudells. I stumbled upon her account at negroleaguebaseball.com.
For those of us who treasure the national pastime, the Web delivers major-league memories (table). It may even help settle a few disputes. Rather have Frank Robinson or Roberto Clemente on your team? Totalbaseball.com and Baseball Stats Web (www.baseballstats.com) are among the sites with yearly statistics on every player who donned a big-league jersey. At Sean Lahman's Baseball Archive (www.baseball1.com), you can find all the players who have had their uniform numbers retired. The site also lists players' salaries from 1985 through last season.
It can't hurt to flip through Rob Edelman's Baseball On The Web ($16.95, MIS:Press) to find stellar sites. But my best advice is search on your own for Net destinations devoted to the players and teams of your youth or that delve into a topic you fancy. At the Society for American Baseball Research site (www.sabr.org), I came across the transcript of a radio interview Lou Gehrig gave to a Rochester (Minn.) station in August, 1939, three months after the Yankee first baseman was forced to give up the game because of the disease that would take his life. Announcer: "Would you say ballplayers as a whole play for salary or...for the love of the game?" Gehrig: "I think every ballplayer is so crazy about the game that he'd go out and play in his spare time if he weren't able to earn a living at it. And, of course, we must earn our bread and butter, too."
Speaking of Hall of Famers, The Sporting News site (www.sportingnews.com) includes copies of handwritten letters from Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers to Sporting News publisher Taylor Spink. In one, the Georgia Peach explains why he bought Coca-Cola stock in 1953 ("a most sensational coin-controlled dispenser"). Meanwhile, as befits the player who last batted over .400 in a full season, the address for the official Ted Williams site is www.hitter.com. You'll find photos, stats, and a price list for The Kid's autograph. If you want an overall peek at the players enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y., visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum at www.baseballhalloffame.org.
The Web also lets you pay homage to the fabled teams of yesteryear. Want to keep in touch with the Boys of Summer? You can find the current home addresses of most of the living members of "dem Bums" at brooklyn-dodgers.com. Meanwhile, the Seattle Pilots existed all of one season, 1969, before migrating to Milwaukee as the Brewers. But the last-place club, which played at a stadium aptly named Sick's, lives on at the Seattle Pilots Baseball Team site (www.brandx.net/pilots).
Many of the game's most colorful characters reside on the Web. You can read a humorous transcript of Casey Stengel's testimony before Congress in 1958 on behalf of keeping baseball exempt from the antitrust laws at www.fastball.com/foulpolc/casey/caseyl.html. Or check the Yogisms at yogiberraclassic.org/quotes.htm. As Yogi might say of the site: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."