History of trash talk through technology

History of trash talk through technology
August 1, 2013, 2:15 pm
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On Monday night, the Red Sox and Rays battled it out at Fenway for possession of first place in the AL East. And later that night, after Tampa’s 2-1 victory, the teams took that rivalry into the Twittersphere.

“Dear @RedSox scoreboard operator,” the Rays tweeted from their official account,  “your standings are wrong. Yours truly, @RaysBaseball.”

Oooh . . .

“Don't worry @raysbaseball,” the Sox tweeted back, “we look forward to seeing you in Tampa in September for our home games at the Trop.”

Oh, snap . . .

Anyway, as you know, this virtual altercation took Twitter by storm, and by Tuesday morning, it had been picked up and blogged about in every corner of the Internet. But what you might not know is that baseball has a long, fictional history of incorporating new technology into its trash talk.

Here’s a brief timeline:

1889: After an emotional match between the National League’s Indianapolis Hoosiers and Cleveland Blues, Indianapolis player/manager Pebbly Jack Glasscock sends a telegram to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, reading: “A valiant bygone effort by your ragtag group of maggot pies! I suspect that when we meet again, your chances will run thinner than those pathetic excuses for a mustache.”

Enraged Blues skipper Tom Loftus fires back a telegram of his own: “You fancy yourself a gang of a Jack Braggers, but it is WE who will do the jack bragging!”

Tragically, by the time the message reaches Indianapolis, the entire Hoosiers roster has been wiped out by dysentery.

1912: The United States and Sweden square off in baseball’s first international exhibition at the games of the V Olympiad in Stockholm. Following the American’s 13-3 win, President William H. Taft transmits a photoelectric fax to Swedish Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf — it features an image of Taft flexing in front of the mirror and wearing nothing but a pair of waist-high trousers, above the caption: “Nice try, Gus.”

The Crown Prince goes ballistic, forcing Taft’s Chief of Staff to release an emergency global statement: “The President’s fax machine has been hacked!”

But the damage was done, and the scandal played a major role in Taft falling to Woodrow Wilson in that November’s election.

1927: On September 5, the Red Sox and Yankees meet for a double header at Fenway Park, and Game 1 is an instant classic, as Boston rallies back from three runs down in the 17th inning and walks off in the 18th on an RBI double by centerfielder Ira Flagstead.

Between games, Flagstead’s moxie gets the best of him, and he uses Fenway’s new spirit duplicator (the first ink copier) to print out 500 fliers for fans as they arrive for the finale. The fliers read:


Seeing how the first bread slicer had been conceived only a few weeks earlier, Flagstead’s sarcastic, rather insulting message enrages the Bombers.

They win the second game, 5-0, the next day’s game, 14-2 and increase their lead on Boston in the American League standings to a healthy 50 games.

1935: On May 24, the Cincinnati Reds host the Philadelphia Phillies in Major League Baseball’s first ever night game, and after Cincinnati’s 2-1 victory, Reds manager Chuck Dressen sprints to the Crosley Field circuit breaker, and flips off all the lights, except for one intricate pattern that reads: “These Phils Are A Pill!”

With “pill” being a wildly derogatory term at the time, Dressen’s brought before MLB’s disciplinary committee, but let off the hook after offering a genuine apology: “I’m sorry,” he says. “It was supposed to be a Direct Message.”

1956: On August 29, Milwaukee Braves slugger Joe Adcock takes a ninth inning fastball from Pirates hurler Roy Face and loses it in the stands for a three-run walk-off.

Later that night, Adcock grabs a roll of the footage from the Braves new in-house video tape recorder and has a clubhouse attendant deliver it to the Pirates team hotel with an attached message:

“For Face, From ‘cock”

1967: Once again on August 29, the Yankees’ Steve Whitaker hits a walk-off home run in the 20th inning to power New York to a dramatic 4-3 win over the Red Sox.

When asked how he’s feeling after Whitaker’s heroics, Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski walks over to the team’s new electronic calculator (the original model was released by Texas Instruments earlier that year): “How am I feeling? Well, let’s see. I went 0-6 today . . . Whitaker went 4-7 . . . and . . . oh look, what do you know . . . my average is still 49 POINTS HIGHER. So, yeah. I guess you can say I’m doing all right.”

Reporters rush over to the visitors’ clubhouse, where Whitaker responds: “Oh, so Yaz thinks he’s pretty good on the calculator, huh? Well, check this out . . . BOOBLESS!”

1975: At the height of the Pirates/Phillies rivalry, and with the video game “Pong” (released in 1972) sweeping the nation, Pirates owner John Galbreath commissions Atari to create a custom version of the game that features the face of Phillies All-Star Mike Schmidt in place of the ball, and two “Pirates” Louisville Sluggers in place of the paddles.

Atari responds: “Are you serious? Have you seen our graphics?”

1997: On September 23, Jim Edmonds homers twice in the same game off Mariners ace Randy Johnson (who shoots the Angels outfielder a nasty look after the second).

Later that night, Edmonds hops on Amazon.com and leaves the following review:

“I definitely recommend Little Big League on VHS. It’s a great story, with likable characters, a heartwarming ending and BITE ME, UNIT. HOW’D THAT FEEL TODAY?! Overall: I give it three and half stars.”

2002: After mid-summer dugout brawl, Barry Bonds opens a Friendster account under the username “I Hate Jeff Kent.”

Kent attempts to retaliate, only to find that every variation of “Hate” and “Barry Bonds” has already been take.

2013: @redsox vs. @raysbaseball

21??: Stay tuned.*

*Still holding out for time travel.

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine