Are you like us? Did you wake up wondering what was going on in 1909?
Great news. Here are a few highlights:
Hall of Fame baseball player Ty Cobb got arrested for assault in Cleveland against the African-American night watchman of the hotel Cobb was staying. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery, paid a $100 fine and later settled a civil lawsuit with the man.
Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner got a raise to $10,000. It's the most he ever made as a player. Last month a New Jersey man paid $1.2 million for one of Wagner's baseball cards.
American Robert Peary was the first person to reach the geographic North Pole.
Yale won the college football national title with a 12-1 record.
Oh, yes. Purdue won the Big Ten baseball championship.
Why bring this up? Because last week Purdue won its first Big Ten baseball title since that 1909 moment.
Yes, it was big. Nobody appreciated it more than Tyler Spillner, the former Northrop standout turned Boilermaker senior center fielder.
“It's been way too long since we got a championship,” he says. “Our team has never experienced anything like this. We were so close the last three to four years. It meant a lot to go out with a bang.”
The bang isn't complete. The No. 18 Boilers (41-12 overall, 17-7 in the Big Ten) still have this week's Big Ten tourney in Columbus, Ohio. Then comes the NCAA tourney, an event they've made only once, in 1987. They lost their first two games and were eliminated.
Purdue enters the conference tourney as the No. 1 seed. It has a bye until Thursday. The same goes for No. 2 seed Indiana (30-26, 16-8).
The goal, Spillner says, is to add a conference tourney title to the regular season championship.
“We have to look at it like another three-game Big Ten series. If we sweep the series, we win the championship.
“We don't care who we have to play. We know we can beat anybody. We've already proved that. Winning the Big Ten tourney would give us a lot of momentum going into the NCAA regional.”
The Boilers have contended for a conference championship in recent years. They were second in 2001, 2005 and 2008. Last year they finished one game behind co-champions Michigan State and Illinois.
What's been the difference this season?
“We're a really experienced team,” Spillner says. “We play with a lot of confidence. We don't panic at the end of games. We know we can get it done. Even if we get down a couple of runs, we know we can battle back.”
Purdue's success has come despite Spillner's statistical decline. His .267 batting average is, by far, the worst of his career. Last year he hit .328 with 17 doubles, four home runs and 33 runs batted in to make second team All-Big Ten. As a sophomore he led the conference with seven triples while hitting .319.
Still, as the leadoff hitter, Spillner is the catalyst for an offense hitting .318.
“Even though I haven't have my best season statistically,” Spillner says, “I wouldn't trade this for the world.
“I have to be that spark for the offense at the top of the order. I want to make sure I do everything I can to get on base, and go from there.”
Strong pitching -- the Boilers have a team earned run average of 3.15 -- has helped.
“Our pitchers have stepped up huge,” Spillner says. “Everybody knew we'd be able to hit, but our pitching has kept us in a lot of games. That's been the difference this year.”
Purdue showed that difference right from the start. Its 14-1 opening included wins over Auburn, Notre Dame and Southern Mississippi. It later beat No. 15 (now No. 22) Louisville and No. 14 (now No. 9) UCLA.
“The start wasn't surprising,” Spillner says. “We knew were were going to be pretty good. We had a lot of experience coming back. We knew we could do it.
“We went down to Florida and won. Going to Auburn and beating a couple of good teams got us going. We kept it rolling from there into the conference.”
Now comes the chance to roll through the conference tourney.
“We've already proved we can beat anybody as long as we play the way we know we can, hit and play defense like we know we can,” Spillner says. “There's no reason anybody can beat us. We're one of the top teams in the country.”