Paul Hines, Baseball Player: The Unblurrification

It’s the first thing I do every morning. I feed the three cats. They are my top priority and the cats expect no less. I could do it in my sleep and I think, in a way, that’s sort of what I do.

“Feed us.”

Memories get old and, eventually, blurry. Like the minutes when you first wake up, there’s still some nighttime left in your head. Those weird 4 a.m. dreams haven’t quite disappeared. You’re not asleep, but you’re not quite awake. It’s still a little blurry.

Paul Hines, baseball player, is like that. Blurry.

1890

It was a long time ago. There’s no video, no newsreels, no oral histories hidden away in boxes, no people left who saw him play.

And, that makes me wonder about the things that Paul Hines did. Did he really do them? And, if he did, why are people so focused on proving he didn’t?

I make my coffee only after the cats are fed. Often, coffee must wait so I can move the cat plates around so that Zuzu doesn’t push into Mookie’s plate before Mookie is through. I’m the cafeteria monitor. The cat-feteria monitor. Once the plates are reordered, then I make my coffee. That, too, I think I could do in my sleep.

The Unblurrification

Paul Hines was born in Virginia in 1855. Of the nearly 300 big leaguers born in Virginia, he was the first.

Census records consistently say his birthplace is “Virginia.” But, Virginia is a big place. I want to know where.

1880 Census

Hines, Paul. Base Ball Player. Virginia.

I recently suggested to a group from the Orange County, Virginia Historical Society that they should take Paul Hines for their own. If no one knows exactly where in Virginia he is from, why not? Let’s give his memory a home, maybe name a side street after him, have a day in his honor, or put up a plaque, a simple one, on Main Street.

At least a plaque.

While the coffee brews I will check my phone. Mainly to see what stories The Washington Post or New York Times pushed out overnight. If something really, really bad has happened that will disrupt the world – and my day – I want to know as soon as possible, so I can go back to bed. I check the baseball scores, too, if there are any.

It’s not until I find a story in an 1877 Cincinnati Enquirer that I learn that Paul Hines “was born in Virginia, about 15 miles from Washington, DC.”

Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/25/1877

Fifteen miles (and a mustache!). A clue!

Unfortunately, Orange County is 90 miles from Washington, DC, which deep-sixes my “Name A Side Street For Paul Hines” campaign.

This 1879 Atlas I found shows you everything within 15 miles of Washington, DC.

Library of Congress

By this Atlas’s telling, Mount Vernon is the one Virginia place that is – exactly – 15 miles from Washington, DC. So, maybe?

Online “mapsters” insist that Mount Vernon, today, is 18.7 miles from Washington, DC.

Did it move? And, if so, why? Did it think, “I just need to get away from that place.”

I’m sure we all can understand that.

Maybe Paul Hines was from Mount Vernon, when it was still just 15 miles from DC. Before it moved away.

For those who have gone off to look at a map to share with me other nearby places that might be his home, or to show other – shorter routes – between Washington and Mount Vernon, I applaud your thoroughness, but I am just one cup of coffee into my morning. Mount Vernon will have to do.

That first sip of coffee in the morning, by the way, is the best sip of anything I can imagine. Things start to unblurrify. Progress.

While that “15-miles-from-DC” thing annoys me for being both very specific and not specific enough, there are far more important things we must clear up about Paul Hines.

That First Unassisted Triple Play Thing

Hines started his professional baseball career in Washington, DC in 1872. He was an outfielder, mainly, and known both for his bat and his speediness.

He led the league in batting average in 1878 (.358) and ’79 (.357). He led the league in doubles in 1876, ’81, and ’84. He was one of the most consistent batters of his era.

The Sporting News, public domain

1879 Providence Grays. Hines is standing, far right.

He played for 20 years in the majors. But, he’s remembered mostly for this.

The Boston Globe, 5/9/1878

On May 8, 1878, the Providence Grays defeated the Boston Red Stockings, 3-2.

And, Hines made the first unassisted triple play in major league history.

Or, not. Because people still argue about it.

And, I don’t know why, because The Boston Globe called it an unassisted triple play the very next day.

Do we have to argue about everything, people?

While Boston would go on to win the National League pennant and Providence would finish 3rd, there were 22 errors between the two teams that day – 14 for Boston, 8 for Providence. Things could get sloppy back then. And, sloppy games can take awhile. Two hours and 45 minutes to be exact, which would be whiz-bang today, but was long by 19th-century standards.

But, we only care about the 8th inning. And, just one play.

Providence holds a narrow 3-1 lead.

But, Boston is threatening – with no outs, Ezra Sutton is on second and Jack Manning is on third.

Jack Burdock, at bat, hits a high fly – a “twister,” The Globe calls it. Hines runs in from centerfield, catches the ball at the shortstop’s position, and keeps on running.

(Let’s stop here for a moment and appreciate that. Paul Hines runs in from centerfield, catches a fly ball at short, and keeps on running.)

The runners on base think it was surely a hit over the shortstop’s head. Apparently, neither bothers to look back to make sure. Both are past third and heading for home. By the time they realize the ball has been caught, Hines, still running, has reached third and tagged the bag.

The Boston Globe, 5/9/1878

“Without stopping in his run Hines kept on to third, which both Manning and Sutton had passed running home on the fly, and there stopping, Made a Triple Play with no assistance.”

Questions have lingered about whether Sutton had passed third. If not, then Hines had to throw the ball to second to complete the triple play. But, sportswriters who were there that day reported that both Sutton and Manning had passed third and, per the rules of the day, Hines completed the triple play when he stepped on third. Players that day and that day’s umpire later concurred. The triple play was unassisted.

St. Louis Globe & Democrat, 5/9/1878

So, shame on you MLB for not acknowledging it.

(MLB official historian John Thorn has an extremely detailed take on the whole thing here.)

More Unblurring

Paul Hines was fully, or extremely, deaf.

You may wonder why I’m just getting to this important facet of Hines now as I’ve already prattled on for quite awhile. I wonder that myself, but that’s the way his story rolls out … like a 4 a.m. dream that unspools out of sequence.

How deaf was Paul Hines?

Let’s ask a “peanut boy” at one of Hines’ games:

The Boston Globe, 8/2/1889

“’Cause he’s deafer’n a post. … He ain’t even heerd a umpire for 10 years.”

Or, how about the equally insensitive Dayton Herald that wrote that “Hines is so deaf that he cannot hear a cannon cracker go off under his nose.”

Hines popped up in the news quite a bit back then.

In 1884, the Providence Grays played the New York Metropolitans in baseball’s first interleague championship – what we today call the World Series. Leading off for Providence, Hines is hit by a pitch and, after another hit batsman and a couple wild pitches, scores the first run ever in a World Series. In the 3rd inning, his single is the first hit ever in a World Series game. The Grays go on to win the series.

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 12/31/1884

In December 1884, Hines makes news when he attempts to win $100 by catching a baseball dropped from 585 feet up the Washington Monument. He later reports that he missed three chances that day, and that the new white baseballs they used were hard to see against the white of the monument. He got a hand on just one of the balls, which brushed against his bare fingers. It was moving so hard and fast it left a dent when it hit the frozen ground.

In 1890, Ella Black, baseball’s first female baseball reporter, writes that Hines causes a sensation when he takes the field “in a shirt that fit him like a kid glove. … and his appearance in that shirt would have brought a blush to the face of many a fair maid.”

Sorry girls, he’s married.

When, in 1888, he becomes one of the first players to wear sunglasses while fielding – “smoked glasses,” Sporting Life called them – it makes the news.

When he shows off a new ear trumpet that doubles as a walking cane, it makes the news.

When he starts playing cricket for fun, it makes the news.

When his father’s home in Washington, DC is robbed, it makes the news.

Hines even shows up on other player’s trading cards …

That’s him on the right.

Which is to say, Paul Hines was a celebrity.

1922

After baseball he settled in DC, working in the Department of Agriculture mailroom, eventually rising to become its postmaster.

circa 1900

On November 15, 1922, Hines, then 67, was arrested on three charges of pickpocketing.

The Washington Star, 11/15/1922

It was a sting at 9th and New York Avenue, NW in Washington, and Hines nicked the pocketbook of a female police officer.

He had been under surveillance for some time, The Washington Evening Star reported. After his arrest, police searched his home and found “a number of purses and pocketbooks … as well as twenty-five pairs of eyeglasses and spectacles.”

I am not a pickpocket, but I may have about 25 pairs of cheap drugstore reading glasses lying around the house.

The Evening Star continued: “Hines is the last man in Washington the police wanted to arrest on such a charge. His record is known to many of them and he has many firm friends in the department who did not desert him yesterday in his extremity. His reputation has always been of the highest and Inspector Clifford L. Grant, in charge of the detective bureau, said he was inclined to regard the alleged activities of the man as a kleptomania attendant upon advancing years.”

“I have played my last game and lost,” Hines is reported to have told the arresting officers.

Hines was released on $1,000 bond, but I can’t find any report of a trial. If he had been sent to jail, it certainly would have made the news. Maybe Inspector Grant just let it drop.

But, baseball fans didn’t. I think it was this last sad story that becomes the turning point. After that, Hines becomes suspect. His accomplishments are increasingly questioned. He is never seriously considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He becomes just a blurry footnote in a story that always ends with “he was arrested as a pickpocket in 1922.”

And, I feel bad about that. I mean, stealing is stealing, but even the DC police seemed a little sad about the whole thing.

Hines was placed in a Maryland nursing home in 1926 and that’s where he died on July 10, 1935.

As soon as I get home in the evening, I feed the three cats. They are still my top priority.

“Where have you been? It’s late.”

As nighttime comes, things start back to blurriness. Some of the passing day will turn to memory, but most of the day … like most days … will disappear forever.

Paul Hines was born in 1855 in Virginia, 15 miles from Washington, DC.

Those who saw him play* said he was “the most colorful and sensational player in the league.” He ran like a “gazelle,” could “catch more flies than all the others put together,” and “was the most graceful batter who ever stepped to the plate.”

“A cleaner, more upright player never set foot on the bag.”

“There are but few men in ball business who can look back over their record on the diamond with more pride than Paul Hines.”

And, he made the first unassisted triple play in baseball history.

* Sportswriter Guy Smith, The Lancaster News-Journal, Lincoln Journal-Star, The Washington Times, Smith (ibid), Chicago Tribune.

But, wait! There’s one more story about Paul Hines I think you should know. Read Part 2 here.

Read more from the Virginia-Born Baseball Project here.

15 thoughts on “Paul Hines, Baseball Player: The Unblurrification

  1. Even if your writing (and diligent research) about this amazing and under-appreciated early athlete from the Old Dominion was not typically delightful, you had me from the beginning with your daily ritual, nearly identical to my own. 😉 A wonderful post!

    In other news, while, as an O’s fan, I’m respectful but not necessarily celebrating Heaven on Earth because of the Nats commendable achievements, I must mention, as you are well aware, that high schools in what is now often called “the 757” produced both Ryan Zimmerman & Daniel Hudson. VB Strong! 🤗

  2. Apparently, he became deaf in 1886 after getting hit in the head by a pitch. After he retired from baseball, he became friendly with William McKinley who set him up with the Dept of Agriculture job after he became president. It’s sad what happened to him at the end. I wonder if he was stealing out of desperation (I read he was very poor after he retired from the government job) or if he possibly had dementia resulting from the beaning.

    I was also amazed that there were female police officers and a female baseball writer in those days!

    • Hi JJ … Thanks for reading and your comment! I’ve seen those stories, too. While he was, indeed, beaned in 1886 and badly injured … that was actually not the cause of his deafness, as I have several news reports about his deafness going back several years before that happened. I had also read a few online things about him being destitute, but that seems to just be conjecture. I did find a news story of the time that referred to his $40,000 net worth in the 1890s (which would be about $1 million today). But, being placed in a nursing home in 1926 may have been because he was destitute. But, we just don’t know for sure.

      I knew about Ella Black, the baseball writer, but like you, I was surprised by the female police office. Who knew!

    • JJ … Here’s an update, spurred thanks to you! I had never wrapped my head around this connection to President McKinley, it’s mentioned only once, in his Associated Press obituary, and you pushed my hand. The McKinley story spurs from the AP story that said that Hines and McKinley became friendly when Hines was getting his start playing for the Nationals and McKinley was in Congress, but those years don’t jibe — by the time McKinley is in Washington, Hines is playing in Chicago. Although they could have crossed paths in the mid-1880s when Hines is playing a second stint in DC. But, other parts of that connection don’t line up either. BUT … thanks to you … I uncovered another Hines story which is so interesting that Paul Hines is going to get another story.

      I love a good mystery!

  3. Pingback: Paul Hines:  A Little More To Unspool | The Baseball Bloggess

  4. Hey! Lynne & Ann here. I shared this with Ann and we got to wondering — there is a town/village/entity called Four Mile Run in the Alexandria area. There is a Post Office noted in a Virginia Gazette from the 1890s (in “A List of Places Included in 19th Century Virginia Directories.” Virginia State Library, Richmond, VA, 1981, p. 56.) The stream called Four Mile Run still exists, and I suspect there was a village/wide spot in the road called that well before the apparently short-lived post office (which dates, of course, are well after Mr. Hines’ birth). The distance from DC (and who knows from where the distance was measured) is certainly within the ballpark. Ann also suggests consulting various historic maps of the area,
    Thanks so much for the amplification of Hines’ history here and in Part 2 – but alas for Hines Alley in Orange. Cheers!

    • Hi Lynne and Ann … Yes, the Mount Vernon “guess” as Paul Hines’ home was merely a guess and based on nothing more than a throw-away line in the Cincinnati Enquirer … so not a particularly authoritative source. I suspect Paul Hines said he was born “15 miles from DC,” in a casual remark. But, I did have the 1879 Atlas that I used to help determine the 15-mile distance for Mount Vernon. So it was a very exact measurement on a very casual comment. The Hines family moved to Washington, DC while Paul was quite young … so his Virginia life was a very short one.

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