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100 Years Ago: Baseball's First Night Games

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American

JULY 1959
WOLFGANG PAULI— “It is well known that theoretical physicists are quite inept in handling experimental apparatus; in fact, the standing of a theoretical physicist is said to be measurable in terms of his ability to break delicate devices merely by touching them. By this standard Wolfgang Pauli was a very good theoretical physicist; apparatus would fall, break, shatter or burn when he merely walked into a laboratory. Pauli’s exclusion principle, on the other hand, acquired its importance because it helped to clarify the internal structure of the atom, according to Niels Bohr’s model of the atom. —George Gamow”

PLANT ALKALOIDS— “Since earliest times alkaloids (such as morphine and caffeine) have served man as medicines, poisons and the stuff that dreams are made of. Our self-centered view of the world leads us to expect that the alkaloids must play some comparably significant role in the plants that make them. It comes as something of a surprise, therefore, to discover that many of them have no identifiable function whatever. By and large they seem to be incidental or accidental products of the metabolism of plant tissues.”

JULY 1909
DIGESTION— “We have prepared an engraving which shows the relative digestibility of foods of various kinds. It will be seen that the baked apple and the raw egg are near the winning post, the egg being tied by the fish. Then follows venison, all those being digested within an hour. The period of indigestibility is beautifully summed up in pork and veal, which require, under the most favorable conditions, five hours to digest. In the sixth hour and ‘beyond’ class, we find jam, crabs, and alcoholic beverages of various descriptions.”

NIGHT GAMES— “The experiment of playing baseball by night was successfully made recently in Cincinnati. Powerful searchlights were employed to illuminate the baseball field. The Cincinnati National League Baseball Park, where the first night game was played [between the Elk Lodge of Cincinnati and the Elk Lodge of Newport, Ky.], was encircled with 100-foot steel towers, each carrying two extremely powerful carbon lamps. Every corner of the field was brightly illuminated by a total of fourteen lamps. The inventor of the lamps is George F. Cahill, who has taken a great interest in what may be termed the mechanical improvement of baseball playing.”

[NOTE: The first night game in Major League Base­ball was played on May 24, 1935, in Cincinnati.]

JULY 1859
FROTHY WATER— “The maelstrom is not a myth—the ancient accounts of the whirlpool on the coast of Norway were imposing for the terrors which were ascribed to it—a large boiling cauldron circling round in one great eddy, into which whales and ships were sometimes drawn and carried down forever beneath its horrid waters. That such a whirlpool does exist would appear to be true, but it is not such a terrific affair after all. M. Hagerup, the Minister of Norwegian Marine, states that the great whirl is caused by the setting in and out of the tides between Lofoden and Mosken, and is most violent half-way between ebb and flood tide.”

DESCENT INTO CHESS— “A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises—not this sort of mental gladiatorship.”

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