This week in sports history, March 12, 2019

March 12

Andrew Watson Becomes the First Black International Football Player

On March 12, 1881, Andrew Watson made his Scotland debut as the world’s first black international football player and captain. He signed with the Queen’s Park F.C., Britain’s  largest football team, at the time. He led the team to several Scottish Cup victories, becoming the first person of color to win a major football championship. His career as a player included many other firsts including becoming the first black player to play in the FA Cup in 1882 and becoming the first foreign player to be invited to join Corinthians F.C., an elite football team, which he joined in 1883.

March 13

L. Johnstone Invents Horserace Starting Gate

On March 13, 1894, J. L. Johnstone of England invented the starting gate used in horse racing, a contraption intended to ensure a fair start for horse races. The gate which functions as a separate stall for each racehorse has rear gates which open for the horse to enter and close behind them. When the signal is given, the front gates open at the same time, confirming that no horse has an unfair advantage of an early start. Previous to Johnstone’s invention, horse racers struggled with methods to facilitate a fair start. The first examples of Johnstone’s idea were ropes and wooden boards which would bar horses from beginning the race at different times.

Wilbert Robinson Tries to Catch a Baseball Dropped From an Airplane

In 1915, Wilbert Robinson, the Dodgers manager, attempted to catch a baseball dropped from an airplane. The idea was inspired by a famed aviator, Ruth Law, who had been dropping golf balls out of her plane to advertise for a local golf course. Law realized that she had forgotten the baseball on the ground and decided to substitute the ball with a grapefruit. Robinson caught the ball in his mitt but the impact caused the grapefruit to explode, showering him in juice.

Baseball Approves Official Ball

On March 13, 1943, the official baseball was adopted. It is the same version used today and is described by the official MLB handbook as “a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two strips of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together.” Regulations on the ball also designate a specific weight range that the ball must meet as well as dimensions it must comply with.

March 16

Saunders and Harland Fight First Female Boxing Match in the US

On March 16, 1876, Nelly Saunders & Rose Harland became the first females to fight a boxing match in the U.S. The fight was held at the New York Hills theater, and despite having significant historical value and featured an unusual prize. The winner won a silver butter dish, making history as one of the strangest prizes to be awarded in boxing history.

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