Michael Ian Black recently tweeted that he hates the dead time every year between Downton Abbey finishing and the baseball season starting.
Many baseball fans have lost their wife, brothers, friends, co-workers to the Downton Abbey kick. Scores of baseball fans don't understand what the craze is about. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes shares an Aug 17th birthday with Boog Powell, Dustin Pedroia and Jorge Posada, so there is no doubt he loves American baseball and created characters out of that love. Think I'm crazy? Here's me with my Usual Suspects Keyser Söze moment ...
The main character in Downton Abbey is Robert Crawley, the Lord of Grantham. George Grantham was a first basemen for world champ 1925 Pirates. Season 2 of DA ends in the 1920s. George Grantham led the league in caught stealing, strikeouts, putouts and errors - all metaphors plaguing the House of Grantham.
His mother is Violet, the worldly matriarch of the family. Fellowes no doubt researched Frank Violet's place in baseball and knew he played every position but pitcher in late 1800's. Violet played for the Roanoke Magicians, Stubs, Lima Farmers, Twins, Statesmen, Citys, Nailers, Colts, Senators, Cabinet Makers and Puddlers. No pitcher has played for a more worldly cavalcade of worldly team names than Violet.
Crawley's wife is Cora, an American from huge money. Have any friends that went to Vanderbilt? Me too. Joey Cora went to Vandy. Boom. There's your rich American character.
Cora has three daughters: Mary, Edith, and Sybil Branson. Your wives will say Sybil is the all-star, pretty, winner wanting free agency for her countrymen and women. Well, Cy Blanton was born in 1908, an all-star, led league in ERA, GS, SO, WHIP, got MVP votes and was granted free agency in 1940. No mystery here; Fellowes fashioned Sybil after Cy.
The head of Crawley's staff is Carson. Fellowes wanted to create a character that was bold and trustworthy. But as a member of the staff, can't be too much of an all-star or he'd be a dignitary. He must do little things that no one notices but well enough to rise to head of the staff. Fellowes needed a quiet hero who came off the bench. He looked no further than the 1925 World Series. The left fielder for the Pirates, Carson Bigbee, quietly led the NL in fielding, assists, singles, and putouts various seasons in the 1920s. He assisted his team but in non-spectacular ways. In the '25 World Series the Pirates faced Walter Johnson in Game 7, down in the bottom of the eighth with two outs. Carson pinch hit and doubled home the tying run off one of the best pitchers in baseball history. Three batters later, Carson and a teammate score the go-ahead runs. Senators went down 1-2-3 in the ninth and the Pirates won it all.
The staff at Downton Abbey all came with their baggage. Check baseball-reference.com for info on John Bates. We know he played in 1889. Know he died during Season 2 of DA (1919). Played for Kansas City Cowboys, pitched one complete game and surrendered 14 runs. What else do we know? Nothing. He's so mysterious we don't even know if he pitched that lone complete game righty or lefty. So John Bates will be the most mysterious.
Fellowes filled out the cast with Ms Patmore, clearly after 1884 Springfield's Pat Morrley with bad eyesight and culinary talents. Her sidekick would obviously be mirrored after Daisy Davis, the 1885 Boston Beaneater who had a losing record and has the cemetery listed (Pine Grove) for visits the character would make to grave.
Thomas Burrows played for 1903 Reliance. His counterpart is O'Brien. Cinders O'Brien pitched in 1890s was a mean SOB erratically leading league in hit batsmen and cleaning up his messes (fielding %) for Spiders, Blues and Infants. O'Brien would wreak havoc on the House of Grantham in ways befitting those three team names. William Mason had career cut short, peaking his final year (.301 in Phils farm system). Fellowes wanted Carson's counterpart to be reliable, rarely on screen Elsie Hughes. He knew Elsworth Hughes pitched for 1924 Reading Aces finishing with winning record. Good when called on. Reliable.
Julian Fellowes' favorite player as a young adult was Downtown Ollie Brown. Downtown Ollie played for Giants, Padres, Phillies and more, amassing serviceable numbers. His brother Oscar played for the Braves. When Fellowes won the Oscar for his Gosford Park screenplay, he had his Oscar; now he needed his Downtown Ollie. Out of respect for his favorite player's privacy, he penned his most beloved and personal ode to baseball, Downton Abbey. Baseball has given us a great series.