Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

The House That Edison Built

In Faculty on March 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

blog_Edison

By Stan Rothman, Professor of Mathematics

Spring recess at Quinnipiac University means my wife Tara and I make another trip to Naples, Florida to visit our granddaughters. On Friday, March 7 we decided to visit the Edison-Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. I never anticipated what I discovered. Of course I knew about many of the inventions of Thomas Edison including the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera as well as improving the telegraph and telephone. In fact his 1,093 patents is the most by any person.

One of his inventions I never heard was cement. Yes, cement! Edison developed an ore-milling process that would extract various metals from ore. In 1881, he formed the Edison Ore-Milling Co., but the venture proved fruitless as there was no market for it. Even though the ore-milling business failed there was a positive outcome anyway. The waste sand produced from the process allowed for the manufacture of harder and more durable cement. In 1899, Edison founded the Portland Cement Company and developed a new cement-processing technology. The closing of Yankee Stadium at the end of the 2008 baseball season also brought to a close a chapter in Edison history. The Edison Portland Cement Co. provided the concrete for the original 1923 Yankee Stadium, a concrete so “hard and durable,” says sportswriter Tom Verducci that New York City decided “not to touch it” during the 1973-74 renovation. According to a 1923 news report, more than 30,000 cubic yards of concrete, made from 45,000 barrels of cement, 30,000 cubic yards of gravel, and 15,000 cubic yards of sand went into the stadium’s construction. Maybe Yankee Stadium should have been called “The House that Edison Built.”

Was Thomas Edison a great baseball fan? Absolutely! It has been reported in 1927 he told the St, Petersburg Times that, “Baseball is the greatest of American games. I don’t believe you can find a more ardent follower of baseball than me, as a day seldom passes when I do not read the sporting pages of the newspaper.” His connection to baseball begins with the purchase of his 13-acre estate in Fort Myers Florida in 1885. He would spend weeks in Fort Myers during the winters. In 1923, Fort Myers built a stadium called “Terry Park” for the purpose of attracting a major league team to come for spring training. . In 1925 Fort Myers became the spring training site of the Philadelphia Athletics, owned by Connie Mack. On February 24, 1926, Edison made one of his frequent spring training stops at Terry Park. Athletics’ coach Kid Gleason asked Edison, “Think you could hit one?” When Edison nodded that he thought he could, Gleason excitedly exclaimed, “Let’s go!” The 79 year-old Edison with Connie Mack acting as the catcher stepped to the plate and promptly stroked a single to right. He then swung at a few more pitches before retiring to the sidelines. The next day The Fort Myers Tropical Newspaper reported, “A recruit by the name of Tom Edison broke into big league company yesterday and finished his first try-out with a batting average of .500, a mark which Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and the best sluggers of the land have never been able to reach after a whole season of endeavor.”

On March 7, 1927, Ty Cobb, now a member of the Athletics, offered to pitch to Edison. Edison promptly lined a ball off of Cobb’s shoulder. As the fans shouted “Sign him” Cobb walked over and shook hands with the smiling Edison. The Thomas A. Edison film company captured what is the first known baseball game footage on May, 20 1898. Photographed from one camera position behind home plate, the film shows 27 seconds of a game in progress. Edison’s first invention was a universal stock ticker which a young Ronald Reagan used to reconstruct baseball games to broadcast on the radio.

In the picture you see Thomas Edison with the bat in his hands and Connie Mack behind him.

Yes, baseball seems to follow me wherever I go!

Editor’s Note: Originally published on Stan’s Sandlot Stats blog (http://apps.sandlotstats.com/blog/)

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