Author Archives: dsheridan

Baseball’s First “All-Star” Game

Baseball’s First “All-Star” Game – By Daniel Sheridan

It’s our game . . . it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws . . .” – Walt Whitman

The game of baseball started taking shape in the 1840s when a volunteer firefighter and bank clerk named Alexander Joy Cartwright together with some of his buddies formed the New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club. Cartwright invented the rules which made the game what we know it to be today; the diamond shape field, foul lines, and other features.

On June 19th, 1846, the Knickerbockers played a group of Cricket Players for what is considered by many to be the first Baseball game in history. The Knickerbockers were clobbered 23-1. The game took off after this. Men from all sorts of trades formed teams.

The game became so popular that a December 1858 issue of The New York Mercury declared Baseball to be, “The National Past-Time.”

There were over 50 clubs in the New York area alone by 1858. Special trains took people to and from the games. A rivalry developed between the Brooklyn and New York teams. Leaders of Brooklyn teams challenged the New Yorkers to a game. Then each city chose their best players to play in what would become the first all-star game.

It took place on this day, July 20th, 1858. Over four thousand people attended. It was also the first game with a cover charge, 50-cents! New York won 22-18.

After the All-Star Game, Baseball only got bigger. Not even the Civil War could slow its progress as soldiers played it on battle fields between enemy engagements. After the war, peaceful parks throughout the country were scenes of great games.

The history of baseball mirrors the history and spirit of the United States in many ways:

“Baseball has the qualities and narratives America has: Competition, spirit, joking, intellectualism, labor unions, management, gimmicks, promotion, fools, heroes, segregation, de-segregation, crooks, pride, unity of town and country, etc… It’s America!”

“One of the most appealing things about Baseball is that it highlights the individual like no other game does. Each individual has his specific place on the field; each individual has his turn at bat. In other sports you can go continually to your best guy. Babe Ruth still only batted once every nine times. So it’s the individual within the context of the group. And the individual is highlighted, but in the end his performance means nothing outside the group, outside the community.” — Both quotes from the Documentary, Baseball, by Ken Burns.

Baseball is America!



Champollion and the Rosetta Stone

Champollion and the Rosetta Stone – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, July 19, 1899, a discovery is made which helps a non-establishment scholar push the frontier of human knowledge further back in time thus opening to the human race a new field of study documenting the advancement of civilization.

The ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphics, a script of pictures and symbols. They used two methods of writing. In one they carved their writings on stone monuments. The other method of writing was the common way, on papyrus, a paper from the papyrus plant. Egyptians used this paper to record business transactions and affairs of state as well as for personal writings. Papyrus is the origin of our word “paper.” Isn’t exciting to realize how connected we are with ancient history?

The common people were doing so much writing they simplified their hieroglyphics into a cursive or hieratic writing, similar to how we write today. Later, they developed an even simpler writing similar to our short-hand, called demotic. The Egyptians went from hieroglyphics, to hieratic, to demotic writing styles.

For many years the only thing scholars knew about Egypt was what they read in the Bible. Nobody could figure out how to read Egyptian inscriptions to find out more. The mystery was finally unlocked in the nineteenth century by an unlikely source. Here’s the story:

Napoleon came to Egypt in the 1790’s. The Great Pyramid in Giza, which was built thousands of years earlier, was the tallest building in the world. Then, on this day, July 19th 1799, Napoleon’s soldiers discovered what we know as the Rosetta Stone, in Rosetta, Egypt. This slab of rock contained parallel writings in Egyptian hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek.

Scholars began working to uncover the meaning of the ancient hieroglyphics, however, they were frustrated in their task. While they were spinning their wheels, a young man was growing up in France who would give these proud establishment scholars a run for their money.

Let’s take an excursion here and give a little background on our hero which will help us better appreciate his accomplishments. Champollion was from a poor family who couldn’t afford providing him with a classy education. But Champollion had an exceptional mind; we might even call him a child prodigy. His brother, recognizing Champollion’s potential, encouraged him to develop his talents, which he did. By age thirteen he spoke six ancient languages! Thanks big bro! Now back to the story.

Champollion was fascinated with ancient Egypt and was obsessed with learning the meaning of the hieroglyphics. He worked tirelessly on the project. One day Champollion was granted access to a text that was carved on a recently discovered obelisk. The inscription was written in hieroglyphic style. At the base of the slab there was Greek writing saying the inscription was about Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Champollion logically concluded that those two names must therefore be found somewhere in the Egyptian text on the obelisk. So by carefully comparing the two languages he was able to decipher twelve letters in the Egyptian alphabet. But this text by itself couldn’t unlock the mystery of the ancient hieroglyphics. More comparison must be done.

At this time scholars weren’t too sure what Egyptian hieroglyphs actually were. Most thought they were silent symbols. Since symbols can’t be spoken the scholars concluded we’d never know the meaning of the Ancient Egyptian writings.

Champollion, however, disagreed. He believed the Egyptians developed a system of words and letters. The “smart guys” made fun of his suggestions insinuating that since the “recognized, qualified, scholars” disagreed with the young and inexperienced Champollion he should keep his mouth shut. Remember this very important fact: the scholars of the day mocked Champollion’s claim of an Egyptian alphabet. Sometimes the professionals can become stagnant. Though well meaning, they may be trapped in a status-quo loving system which is detrimental to progress in learning. But Champollion was of the conviction that the job of a Scientist is to question everything. Truth is the goal, not status-quo or tenure. Champollion was convinced the hieroglyphs made words, and if words, they must be spoken.

Operating under this working theory, Champollion studied the last known language spoken around the time the hieroglyphs were being used. This language was still spoken by Coptic Christians in Paris. Champollion reasoned that he might be able to match sounds of the Coptic to the hieroglyphs. He was relentless in the pursuit of the truth.

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone combined with his scientific research helped Champollion solve the mystery. After twenty years of labor he translated the Rosetta Stone and discovered the Egyptian alphabet. Champollion recovered a lost world!


Historian Will Durant sums it up beautifully,

“Never has any century been so interested in history as that which followed the voyage of young Champollion with young Napoleon to Egypt; Napoleon returned empty-handed, but Champollion came back with all Egypt, past and current, in his grasp. Every generation since has discovered new civilizations or cultures, and has pushed farther and farther back the frontier of man’s knowledge of his development. There are not many things finer in our murderous species than this noble curiosity, this restlessness and reckless passion to understand.”

Now Egyptian writings can be read thus opening to mankind a completely new field of historical study. This was made possible by the efforts of a non-establishment student who refused to submit to the arrogant pronouncements of the stagnant establishment.


The Black Edison

The Black Edison: The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, Free Men, and the Unleashing of Inventive Genius – By Daniel Sheridan

The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery in the United States, the Fourteenth guarantees citizenship to those who were denied it because of their skin color, and the Fifteenth grants them the right to vote. African Americans were now free! And where there’s freedom, the inventive genius of the free man is allowed to thrive.

Granville Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910) was an African American inventor. Although his formal schooling ended when he was ten he took his education into his own hands. Granville did such a good job self-educating he became a successful mechanical and electrical engineer with 50 patents to his name.

His achievements were so impressive the magazine, “The Colored American,” in its November 14, 1903 edition, called Granville, “The Black Edison.”

Granville is recognized as the first African American to become a mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. This is confirmed by the “Arizona Sentinel and Yuma Weekly Examiner” in its May 09, 1912, publication. It reads:

“INTERESTING STATISTICS OF THE COLORED RACE…From information just published it is learned that the negro population of the United States is now 10,000,000…The following historical information is interesting…First colored electrical inventor, Granville T. Woods.”

Woods directed much of his inventive genius towards increasing the efficiency as well as the safety of railroad cars. The Black Inventor Online Museum says,

“Woods developed the concept of a third rail which would allow a train to receive more electricity while also encountering less friction. This concept is still used on subway train platforms in major cities in the United States” (See link below).

It was on this day, July 17, 1888, Woods received a patent, US 386,282, for the “Tunnel Construction for Electric Railways.” The patent reads,

“Be it known that I, GRANVILLE T. WOODS, a citizen of the United States, residing at Cincinnati, Ohio, have invented new and useful Improvements in Tunnel Constructions for Electro-Motive Railways, of which the following is a specification…My invention relates to tunnels for carrying the conductor or conductors of electro-motive railways, its object being to produce an economical and efficient construction for carrying said conductors below the surface of the ground, in which position they may be reached and utilized by the traveling contacts upon the car or motor through a slot at the surface of the roadway…”

Notice how Granville calls himself, “A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES.” He could never have said that without the Fourteenth Amendment! Thank God “We the People” revised the error of our ways and Amended the U.S. Constitution. Without this amendment we would never have benefited from the inventive genius of free men like Granville!

The Fourteenth Amendment, concerning the Rights of Citizenship, ratified on July 9, 1868, reads in part:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The U.S. Constitution: Read it. Know it. Share it.

You can read more about Granville Woods here: 


A “Voice” From The Chicago Sewers Propels FDR To His Unprecedented Third Term

On this day, July 18, 1940, a “Voice” from the Chicago Sewers propels FDR to his unprecedented third term. By Daniel Sheridan

FDR came into office in 1932 amidst a depression. His first 100 days in office saw the implementation of his New Deal. FDR was re-elected in 1936. The economy was still struggling in 1939, however, despite New Deal policies. The mid-terms of 1938 were a disaster for the Democrats and the new Congress wasn’t interested in FDR’s reforms any longer.

Should FDR run for a third term? There were many things to consider.

A storm was brewing in Europe. Hitler was exercising full power in Germany. He was persecuting Jews and supporting a fascist uprising in Spain. In 1936 Hitler reclaimed the Rhineland from France then annexed Austria in 1938. Elsewhere Mussolini was attacking Ethiopia and Japan was on the warpath in China.

Americans believed foreign affairs were none of their business. They had no stomach for war having recently lost over 100,000 men in the Great War. But FDR realized we lived in a new world where isolationism wasn’t an option.

The Founders counseled that Americans shouldn’t become involved in entangling alliances with foreign nations. However, it can be argued that when they wrote that the only way America could be attacked was by row boat over a vast ocean. That was no longer the case. The world became a much smaller place because of modern war ships and planes. Another argument for involvement is the good neighbor argument. Do you help your neighbor when he’s in trouble? Now apply that on a national level. America’s neighbors were in trouble and they needed our help. FDR believed, as his hero Teddy Roosevelt did, that the U.S. needs to be involved on the International Stage.

FDR spoke out against fascism and the anti-war law-makers accused him of war-mongering. The American people didn’t seem to care because those problems were on the other side of the ocean.

Then in November of 1938 Jews throughout Germany were assaulted by Hitler’s soldiers. Homes and synagogues were burnt and many died. To add insult to injury the German Jews were required to pay an “atonement fine” (mockery) for the damages caused by the soldiers! Jewish persecution wasn’t limited to Germany.

FDR was horrified. He ordered that German and Austrian visas be extended so that people wouldn’t be forced to return to Nazi rule. This move was extremely unpopular with Americans. A Gallup poll in 1939 said that about 85-percent of both Catholics and Protestants opposed offering sanctuary to European refugees. What’s shocking is that 25-percent of American Jews were against offering asylum!

Eleanor Roosevelt was horrified at the indifference of the common American at the time. She said,

“What has happened to us in this country? If we study our own history we find that we have always been ready to receive the unfortunate from other countries. And though this may seem a generous gesture on our part, we have profited a-thousand-fold by what they have brought us.”

FDR debated about running for an unprecedented third term. Even though the Constitution says nothing about term limits, Presidents traditionally followed George Washington’s example of stepping down after two terms. There was no term-limit law in place; it was a practice in keeping with the American tradition of limited government. The world only knew about bloody monarchs who would kill to stay in power. But Americans had been showing the world something new; their Presidents weren’t monarchs. The mantle of power in America is peacefully and willingly relinquished.

So what should FDR do? The state of things at home and abroad convinced him to run. The world needed a leader in such perilous times. Then, on this day, July 18, 1940, FDR was nominated for a third term at the Democratic Party National Convention in Chicago.

The circumstances surrounding the nomination were surrounded with some exciting theatrics. FDR hadn’t publicly declared he was interested in re-nomination; he threw his hat into the ring subtly. FDR dictated a message by phone to a Senator which was read at the Convention. The message said FDR wasn’t really interested in running for a third term and delegates should vote for any candidate they wished. It was as if FDR was saying, tongue in cheek, “Maybe I’ll run. I’m not sure. I really don’t want to run. Well, it’s up to you guys, do what you want.”

To help pull off this subtle approach FDR’s supporters had a plan. After FDR’s message was read on the floor people sat in shocked silence. That silence was broken when a booming voice was heard over the sound system chanting, “We want Roosevelt!”

That voice came from Thomas Garry the Superintendent of Chicago’s Department of Sanitation who was acting under the orders of Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly. Other city workers were strategically placed around the hall to join in the chant. Soon everyone joined in. Thomas Garry’s chant came to be known as “The Voice from the Sewers” since he was the guy in charge of Chicago’s sewers.

Roosevelt was overwhelmingly nominated and eventually won a third, and then a fourth term.

As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”