Nothing is more American than Whiskey, Baseball, and Apple Pie. Only, it turns out apple pie isn’t originally American at all…Apples aren’t even native to the Americas. So I’m just going to deal with whiskey and baseball!
So much of American history is reflected in the history of its creations. It just so happens that baseball and American whiskey were created around the same time and their own histories reflect that of our country. I’ve created a timeline from 1820-1964…ending in the 1960’s because it’s when baseball becomes modern and when bourbon becomes a distinctive product of the United States.
*First mentions of bourbon began in 1820’s
*Alexander Cartwright (developer of baseball) was born in 1820
1830s- James Crow was experimenting with the sour mash technique/working on a consistent product
1839- baseball was said to be invented by Abner Doubleday
1856- Local journals in the New York metropolitan area were referring to baseball as the “national pastime” or “national game”
-The cornerstone was laid for John Gibson, Son & Co. Distillery, which would become the largest distillery in the world. Later, it was known as Moore & Sinnott Distillery.
1861- Civil War begins
– baseball becomes more nationally recognized
-Civil War causes more whiskey to be produced for troops
-Gen. Grant loves Old Crow (…supposedly.)
1869- The original Ripy distillery is founded which would later become the location for Wild Turkey, est.1940)
1870’s- Whiskey is sold in bottles with more regularity (Old Forester is often recognized for being the first, but that is inaccurate. Rectifiers were America’s bottlers and were investing in the use of bottles for retail sales directly to customers.)
1883- “the Summer of Beer and Whiskey”
-American Association was established to allow games that served alcohol and made room for rejected players
1886- George T Stagg installed steam heating in their bonded warehouses. This claim that this was “the first climate controlled warehouse for aging whiskey in the nation” is nonsense as Pennsylvania and Maryland, also states “in the nation.” had been already doing this for many decades.
1890’s- Louisville Slugger trademark- Western League renamed American League
1892- Frank Marvin Sinclaire, Thomas Robertson Sinclaire (Frank’s uncle), and their partner, Henry Bischoff, establish a distillery in Schenley, PA along the Allegheny River.
-PA and NY liquor wholesalers pool their assets to build large distilleries that could compete with the monopolistic behaviors of the Whiskey Trust.
1895- The Whiskey Trust is dissolved after the Anti-Trust Laws are established. Its parts are immediately consolidated into a corporation called the American Spirits Manufacturing Company and its subsidiaries.
1897- Bottled in Bond Act guided quality control of whiskey
1901-American League (evolved from Western League and AA) and National League split up cities
1902- Brown-Forman Company established (Jack-Daniels)- created from smaller companies
1903- First World Series
1906- Food and Drug Act – prohibits interstate commerce in misbranded and adulterated foods, drinks and drugs. Falls short of regulating what defines “whiskey”, though.
1909- Taft decision decides that whiskey can be blended and rectified, but must be labeled as such.
– Soldiers given whiskey rations
– Babe Ruth’s 1st professional game
1916-Star Spangled Banner Sung for the first time at a game
1917-Hank Gowdy- 1st baseball player to enter military service
-Distilleries are forced to shut down all production of any spirits made from grain by the “Food and Fuel Act.”
1919- Black Sox Scandal. The World Series is fixed!
1920-1933- American Prohibition
-medicinal whiskey is sold
-most of America’s distilleries go out of business while a handful of companies consolidate the American whiskey industry for themselves
1918- Sunday baseball becomes legal in Washington D.C.
1920- 1st game of National Negro Baseball League was played in Indianapolis.
-National Prohibition goes into effect at midnight on January 17.
1921- the trial of the Chicago Black Sox- accused of throwing the 1919 World Series.
1922-The US Supreme Court ruled that organized baseball is a sport, not subject to antitrust laws.
-The Concentration Act is passed requiring the nation’s bonded warehouses to consolidate all their barrels into a few dozen hand picked locations, half of which were in Kentucky.
1933- James Beauregard Beam (Jim Beam) built the family’s Clermont distillery near Bardstown.
– Lewis Rosentiel and his associates form Schenley Distillers
– Seagrams purchases the plant what would become the Joseph E. Seagram Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. This is the distillery we know today as LDI/MGP.
1935-The Federal Alcohol Administration Act establishes federal regulations for the liquor industry and finally creates legal standards of identity for American liquors. Straight whiskey is finally defined, but is not legally defined as being a 2 year product until 1937.
-Heaven Hill Distillery founded by the Shapira brothers
1936- Jan 29, The first members of baseball’s Hall of Fame: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson & Walter Johnson were named in Cooperstown, N.Y.
1938- Only brand new charred oak barrels may be used to make bourbon whiskey.
1939- June 6th, In Pennsylvania, the first Little League baseball game was played.
-distilleries were made to produce ethanol for the war effort
1940s-1950s – The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) lasted from the late 40s to the early 50s.
1942- New York ended night baseball games for the rest of World War II.
– US government orders bottles to be made with thinner glass and without unnecessary designs to save glass.
1944- First commercial shipment of penicillin made from the Seagram’s Lawrenceburg, Ind. plant
1945 – The United States government has restricted the distilling industry to just 95 days of commercial production and restricts the types, grades and quantities of grains used.
1946- Jackie Robinson debuted as 2nd baseman for the Montreal Royals.
1961-1962- 1st major league expansion in 60 years -each league now had 10 teams
1964- Bourbon becomes a distinctly American made product