Reusse: How a sportswriter can waste a July day ‘doing research’

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The age of computer technology — with all the information on the internet instead of in manila folders, encyclopedias and press guides, and the ability to communicate in ways other than conversation or stamped mail — does have its downside.

Major in that in the 2020s would be the ability of Russian hackers and other evil forces to bring wide-ranging needs and wants in the Western World to a halt, waiting to be paid numerous millions to call off their attack — until the next time.

On the other hand, the rapid availability of information has made life much easier, plus more intriguing, for the sports writing business.

As an example from days of yore:

Boston's Dave Henderson struck Mets reliever Rick Aguilera's second pitch of the 10th inning deep down the left-field line at Shea Stadium. It stayed fair and ricocheted off the clock on the facing of the second deck. The clock revealed it was 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 25, 1986.

The home run gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead in Game 6 of the World Series. As Henderson circled the bases with what could be the winning run for Boston's first Series title since 1918, I decided this was New England's most-famous Midnight Ride since Paul Revere.

A frantic call was made to the Pioneer Press library. I semi-shouted: "Quick, I need the details of Paul Revere's Midnight Ride.''

Turned out, Revere's ride warning of the arrival of Redcoats started late on April 18, 1775.

"One if by land, two if by Hendu,'' something like that, became part of the lead dashed back to the sports desk on the "Trash 80" microcomputer from Radio Shack.

"Not bad,'' I thought. Then the Red Sox kicked it away in the bottom of the 10th, losing 6-5, and the only person ever to read it was me.

The point being, a dozen years later, I would've Googled Paul Revere and filed five minutes earlier, before calling back to say, "Never mind.''

A wonder of the Internet Age is the ease with which one can descend into a "rabbit hole'' and feel much wiser, even when the new knowledge is minutiae.

The topic of last Sunday's column was the Fourth of July rivalry that existed between the St. Paul Saints and the Minneapolis Millers in the true American Association.

The ultimate prize then was victory in the Junior World Series (and its predecessor, the Little World Series). It was always the American Association vs. International League — except in 1919, when the Saints lost 5-4 in a best-of-nine series vs. the Vernon (Calif.) Tigers of the Pacific Coast League.

Vernon … never heard of it. And it was in the top level of minor league baseball? Pre-internet, you let it pass. Today, you have to find out.

Turns out, Vernon is an incorporated town five miles from downtown L.A. with a current population of 108. It was five square miles of pastoral land in the late 1800s that John Leonis, part of a Basque power family, was able to secure and get wealthy selling to industry — surrounding that with bars, adult entertainment and, briefly, a ballpark and race track.

The rabbit hole also revealed the corrupt town of "Vinci," run by Vince Vaughn in "True Detective 2" (the unfortunate first sequel to the great original) was an updated version of the Leonis/Vernon story.

I might have to give Season 2 another try now.

The Saints-Millers doubleheader featured here Sunday was played on July 4, 1959, when Millers manager Gene Mauch angrily went into the stands after notorious St. Paul heckler Chuck Van Avery.

George Brophy, then the Millers' general manager, reasoned Mauch was in a bad mood because he didn't get the Red Sox job after Pinky Higgins was fired on July 2.

Billy Jurges, a coach with the Senators, was hired. You have to look up Jurges, of course.

Guess what?

Jurges was a Cubs infielder in 1932, the second season of a 17-year big-league career. On July 6, 1932 (making Tuesday the anniversary), "showgirl'' Violet Popovich visited Jurges in his room at the Hotel Carlos located near Wrigley Field.

Violet expressed her love for Jurges. Billy indicated he wanted to continue to play the field, as well as the infield. Violet pulled a small revolver from her purse and Jurges lunged for it. He wound up shot in the right side and left finger. She was wounded in her left hand and arm.

Jurges asked for charges to be dropped and that happened. The dancer had a brief run in burlesque as "Violet Valli, the girl who shot for love.''

Twenty years later, Bernard Malamud wrote "The Natural,'' and the shootings of Jurges and the Phillies' Eddie Waitkus (in 1949 by an obsessed female fan) are said to have helped inspire the plot.

The rabbit hole wins again.

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