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  • Writer's picture John Bacchia


This blog post is NOT about this date in baseball history, but a conversation with my old radio colleague Bob Smiley. We recounted a phone interview we conducted in the 1980s with an old-time major league pitcher, Smokey Joe Wood for a nationally syndicated radio show called This Date in Baseball History narrated by Mel Allen. Smokey told a tale about a big game in which he had struck out the legendary Babe Ruth. There's a good chance you never heard of Wood. He's not in the Hall of Fame despite once compiling a single season record of 34 and 5. As legend goes, the right handed pitcher got his start in baseball posing as a female on a women's barnstorming team. The Bloomer Girls competed against men's teams. Wood was a good looking youngster with youthful features that allowed him to play in disguise. The Red Sox were so smitten by his talents that they signed him to a contract. The rest is baseball history. During our conversation with the baseball legend years ago, Wood brought up the fact that he was sidelined in 1918 due to a pandemic that struck the globe. It was a respiratory ailment that became known as the Spanish Flu that killed upwards of 50 million. That was 101 years ago and for some strange reason I was comforted by the fact that Smoky Joe survived the pandemic and lived to the ripe-old age of 97. By the way, when I asked Joe about striking out Babe Ruth, he didn't seem to think it was such a big deal. For Joe, surviving the pandemic of 1918 was the Ruthian accomplishment.

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