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When Honus Wagner looked like Robert De Niro

What do you see? Straight up thugs.

Honus Wagner: “You pitchin’ to me?”
Honus Wagner: “You pitchin’ to me?”

Dear Hipster:

Even if staying outside the mainstream and being countercultural is super important, it sure is exhausting keeping track of what’s hip and not hip, so that one knows where one stands in relation to the in and out crowds (not to be confused with the In-N-Out Crowd, which is much more inclusive and to which we all more or less belong). Wouldn’t life be a lot simpler if we had fewer societal norms to keep track of? Do you ever think that maybe the problem is we have too many rules in the first place? I don’t mean to advocate devolving into some kind of Hobbesian Nightmare, but a maybe the problem is that there’s simply too much structure.

— T.K.

Whenever I ponder this particular subject, I think about it in terms of old-timey baseball and old-timey baseball players. You’ve probably seen plenty of photos of turn-of-the-century baseball players over the years, but next time you’re bored out of your mind for something to do, go read about baseball players from the so-called “dead ball” era and just take a look at some of their portraits.

What do you see? Straight up thugs. Professional baseball in the early 20th century was apparently staffed by people you wouldn’t want to look at the wrong way in a saloon.

Honus Wagner in the later years of his career looked like a real life version of a Robert De Niro character. If you consider basically any picture of Ty Cobb, he might as well be wearing a sign that says “VICIOUS BASTARD” on it. Chick Gandil and Buck Weaver both look like they’d sooner kill you over a sandwich than try to fix the 1919 World Series.

You can probably chalk a lot of that up to it being a very different time. For one, the trope of millionaire professional athletes cruising around in golden Lamborghinis was a long way off at that point, so a lot of early athletes might have turned to sports as a favorable alternative to dying in a coal mine (although a few top contenders earned good salaries, even before WWI).

Another thing you have to consider is that we are looking back into a time when there were practically no rules about anything — baseball or otherwise. The cheating, violence, and substance abuse that characterized professional sports during that period were not as frowned up as such things might be today. And there is still a vocal minority of people who think that’s a much more interesting way to live life. They point to the slew of so-called “unbreakable” baseball records — many of which were accomplished in the older, weirder days of the game — as evidence of a superior time. But these people remain a vocal minority, and it’s not likely that the collective hivemind of sports fans will suddenly wake up and decide the game we know and love today would be a lot better if the pitchers could spit on the ball and the players were less discouraged from sharpening their cleats in an effort to eviscerate infielders. So, what do you call a vocal minority with a yen for the obscure and antiquated? Those guys (because, let’s face it, they’re almost all guys) yearning for the good old days are hipster hardcore in their own way, and it all amounts to just another way to be outside the mainstream with the rest of us hipsters.

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Honus Wagner: “You pitchin’ to me?”
Honus Wagner: “You pitchin’ to me?”

Dear Hipster:

Even if staying outside the mainstream and being countercultural is super important, it sure is exhausting keeping track of what’s hip and not hip, so that one knows where one stands in relation to the in and out crowds (not to be confused with the In-N-Out Crowd, which is much more inclusive and to which we all more or less belong). Wouldn’t life be a lot simpler if we had fewer societal norms to keep track of? Do you ever think that maybe the problem is we have too many rules in the first place? I don’t mean to advocate devolving into some kind of Hobbesian Nightmare, but a maybe the problem is that there’s simply too much structure.

— T.K.

Whenever I ponder this particular subject, I think about it in terms of old-timey baseball and old-timey baseball players. You’ve probably seen plenty of photos of turn-of-the-century baseball players over the years, but next time you’re bored out of your mind for something to do, go read about baseball players from the so-called “dead ball” era and just take a look at some of their portraits.

What do you see? Straight up thugs. Professional baseball in the early 20th century was apparently staffed by people you wouldn’t want to look at the wrong way in a saloon.

Honus Wagner in the later years of his career looked like a real life version of a Robert De Niro character. If you consider basically any picture of Ty Cobb, he might as well be wearing a sign that says “VICIOUS BASTARD” on it. Chick Gandil and Buck Weaver both look like they’d sooner kill you over a sandwich than try to fix the 1919 World Series.

You can probably chalk a lot of that up to it being a very different time. For one, the trope of millionaire professional athletes cruising around in golden Lamborghinis was a long way off at that point, so a lot of early athletes might have turned to sports as a favorable alternative to dying in a coal mine (although a few top contenders earned good salaries, even before WWI).

Another thing you have to consider is that we are looking back into a time when there were practically no rules about anything — baseball or otherwise. The cheating, violence, and substance abuse that characterized professional sports during that period were not as frowned up as such things might be today. And there is still a vocal minority of people who think that’s a much more interesting way to live life. They point to the slew of so-called “unbreakable” baseball records — many of which were accomplished in the older, weirder days of the game — as evidence of a superior time. But these people remain a vocal minority, and it’s not likely that the collective hivemind of sports fans will suddenly wake up and decide the game we know and love today would be a lot better if the pitchers could spit on the ball and the players were less discouraged from sharpening their cleats in an effort to eviscerate infielders. So, what do you call a vocal minority with a yen for the obscure and antiquated? Those guys (because, let’s face it, they’re almost all guys) yearning for the good old days are hipster hardcore in their own way, and it all amounts to just another way to be outside the mainstream with the rest of us hipsters.

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