Capablanca and Baseball – Columbia Spectator (1931-02-19)

While researching, or trying to research, the composition of the Yale Chess Club team in the 1931 simul with Capablanca I came across the following article in the 1931-02-19 issue of the Columbian Spectator:

Here’s the article in plain text, for convenience:

Capablanca in Favor of Exams

Once Played on Frosh Diamond Nine

Strolling lazily around his living room, occasionally puffing on a cigarette, Jose Raoul Capablanca ’10 S., chess champion of the world for seven years and captain of Columbia’s Varsity team during his Sophomore year, discussed colleges, architecture, cities, baseball, the drama—anything but chess with a SPECTATOR reporter.

While he was an undergraduate in the School of Engineering, baseball had a greater attraction for Capablanca than did the game at which he was so proficient. He was a capable diamond athlete, too, for he played second base on his Freshman team in 1907 and helped them win all but two of their games. When he moved up to the Varsity squad, he was switched to shortstop where he held a regular berth until he left College.

When questioned about his recollections of undergraduate life, Capablanca chuckled. “I remember the same things you will when you are my age,” he said, with just the slightest trace of a Cuban accent. had some good times, we were annoyed by examinations and we played at politics. Because I enjoyed baseball so greatly, I associate my days at Columbia with that and, of course, with chess.”

A suggestion that perhaps examinations should be abolished in colleges today brought an emphatic dissenting answer from the chess master. “How else can you find out what a student knows? ” he exclaimed. “Eliminate your mid-year and final examinations, yes, but you must have some form of quizzing during a term. The average class is too large for the professor to know each man personally. He must have some way to judge his students.”

He took a turn around the room and then broke out again. “What colleges should abolish are entrance conditions.  Either take a boy without any strings or do not admit him at all. No one can study his best with a condition hanging over his head.”

Capablanca entered Columbia the year after President Nicholas Murray Butler banished football from the sports calendar, but he could remember little rancour among the student body against the move while he was in College.  “Columbia developed a strong basketball team and no one seemed to care whether or not football was played,” he said. “I see you’re still developing strong basketball

Here’s the images of the article:

1931-02-19 -- Columbian Spectator (1a) - corrected1931-02-19 -- Columbian Spectator (1b) - corrected

1931-02-19 -- Columbian Spectator (3)Of course, some of this territory has been covered by Edward Winter, but I didn’t see the above article cited, with Capablanca’s personal recollections and thoughts on baseball (Winter has other quotes from Capablanca, however):

There are some nice photos that I could reproduce here, but the interested read can just follow the above link (or do a google image search).



2 thoughts on “Capablanca and Baseball – Columbia Spectator (1931-02-19)

  1. Capablanca’s 1931 recollections of the 1907 frosh baseball team are incorrect – the team’s record was closer to two wins seven losses and one result in dispute between the frosh team and Adelphi Academy (Brooklyn). And although he tried out for the varsity in 1908, there is no record of his making the team nor does he appear in any account of the team’s results that year.

    • Thanks for the comment Ed. Is it possible for you to supply a reference for your information? (Sorry, it’s the biographer in me. That, and the detailed level of your comment.)

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