Dickey Pearce Turns 45

I love February 29.

Because you can write incredibly wild, yet basically true, things like this:

Happy Birthday to baseball great Dickey Pearce who turns 45 today!

“I ain’t got any education, but nobody can teach me how to play ball.” ~ Dickey Pearce

Born in Brooklyn, he started his professional baseball career there when he was just 5 years old.

(If I tell you now that Dickey Pearce was a “leapling” born on February 29, 1836 and made his baseball debut in 1856 … well, you knew that was coming, but why spoil the fun?)

While I seem to be spending an inordinate part of this month writing about short and stocky players, it is, I think, important to note that Dickey Pearce was 5’3-1/2” (when you’re 5’3” that last half inch is pretty important) and weighed in at 161 pounds.

While 5’3-1/2″ and 161 pounds may sound chubby to you, clearly, those old-time baseball unis were downright slimming. (Pearce is the one in back.)

Pearce, who played in the earliest days of major league baseball – from the 1850s into the 1880s – is credited with turning the roving “short field” position into the more territorial shortstop position that we know today, and, in doing so, may have invented, or developed, or, at very least refined, the double play. Continue reading

The Cupid Of Second Base

In early 1891, second baseman Clarence Childs signed a $2,300 contract with the Baltimore Orioles, about $65,000 in today’s dollars. Upon signing he was immediately paid a $200 advance. He then abandoned the team, saying that the Orioles had deceived him and he could find a better deal elsewhere. The Orioles sued. They lost. And, Childs joined the Cleveland Spiders.

(Months later, the Orioles were still in court trying to get their $200 back. It’s unclear if they ever did.)

Childs jilted the Orioles. Probably wasn’t the first to do it. Definitely not the last. (See: Mark Teixeira, 21st-century Orioles jilter.)

End of story?

But, wait.

What if I told you Clarence Childs wasn’t always called Clarence? What if someone along the way nicknamed him Cupid? Cupid Childs?

Courtesy of Peak99, via Creative Commons

Well, friends, this Valentine’s Day post is practically writing itself. Continue reading

If Pearce Chiles Could Talk …

Allentown PA Leader, 10/4/1900

Pearce Chiles, an infielder/third base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, was born in 1867 in Deepwater, Missouri. I think it’s fair to say he was an all-around no-goodnik – although thieving miscreant is probably more accurate. Phillies’ backup catcher Morgan Murphy, fellow no-goodnik, devised a system where Murphy, using binoculars, would stand beyond centerfield and steal the signs from the other team’s catcher. Murphy would forward the signs via a telegraph wire buried under the field and connected to a buzzer in the third base coaching box where Chiles stood. The buzzer would vibrate under Chiles’ foot, and he would signal to the batter what pitch was coming.  It was 1900.  

Pearce Chiles

Chiles never spoke publically about the scheme … but if he had …

Those idiots think the DTs ‘smaking my leg twitch.

It ain’t booze.

I hold my likker better ‘n any of ‘em.

Buffoons.

I can stand out here all day in this goddam third base box. And, see, we paid a guy to lay down a wire and it’s buried right here where my right foot stands. I have to stand just so. But, if I do, Murph’ out there just beyond that centerfield point, puts his spyglasses on the other guys’ catcher, and from out there he pushes a button and presto – I get a jolt of pure electricity right through the wire, right to my damn foot.

Mansfield OH News-Journal, 9/19/1900

Curve ball? Fast ball? Murph’s a catcher, he knows all the signs. I know from the buzz he sends me exactly what that pitcher’s gonna throw next.

One buzz, fastball. Two buzzes, something else.

Can you beat that? Continue reading

Some Things Should Stay The Same: 1857 Edition

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

We’re taking a holiday sidetrack through 1857 today — from baseball to one of the most ubiquitous Christmas Carols.

On Christmas Day when I was a kid, my dad would take all the wrapped gifts marked for him and line them up in front of his chair. He would then randomly pick one and declare that it was the best of all. And, that was the gift he would open last. And, by last, I mean later in the day. Much later. Sometimes he would save that last gift until well into the evening when mom was already thinking about taking down the tree. (Mom usually had the Christmas tree stripped and down by lunchtime on the 26th.)

Throughout Christmas Day, my dad would ask if I had any more packages to open, and when I would sadly answer “no,” he would pick up his gift and say, “I still have one to open and it’s the best.”

The Baseball Bloggess grabbing for just one more gift.

So, stick with me because the best story I will tell you today will be the one I tell last.

First, baseball.

If you want to snoop through all the stories of baseball – or “base ball” or “base-ball” – in newspapers in 1857, it won’t take long. A couple dozen mentions are all you will find.

When this peculiar, relatively new game appears in Bloomington, Indiana in June 1857, the local paper reports:

“It is a lively and exciting game, with lots of exercise and fun in it. We hope it will speedily become popular here.”

It was, they said, a game for young men. And, with life expectancy hovering around 38 back then, pretty much everything was for young men. (Sorry, ladies, no baseball for you.) Continue reading

Paul Hines:  A Little More To Unspool

I warned you about this yesterday when I wrote:

“his story rolls out … like a 4 a.m. dream that unspools out of sequence.”

So, may I trouble you with just one more story about Paul Hines, the Virginia-born ballplayer who, in 1878, made baseball’s first unassisted triple play?

Providence Grays, 1882

Paul Hines

The story goes that President William McKinley became friends with Hines in the 1870s and later gave Hines his post-baseball job as the Department of Agriculture postmaster.

President William McKinley

But, aside from one mention in Hines’ 1935 obituary, I couldn’t confirm a connection between McKinley and Hines. That Associated Press obituary said they became pals when Hines first played for the Washington Nationals and McKinley was in Congress. But, Hines was long gone from DC and playing in Chicago when McKinley first came to Congress in 1877, so those years don’t jibe. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

100

Dear Baltimore Orioles,

Sure, we knew it was going to happen. You lost your 100th game last night, to the Detroit Tigers, the team with the worst record in baseball … even worse than yours.

But, look! You can lose a game (a game you coulda, shoulda won) by giving up a grand slam in the 12th and you’re still not the worst team in baseball.

So, there is that.

You were going to lose 100 games this season, we knew that all along. But, you stretched it out a bit this year. With two weeks left, you’ve already won more games then you did last season. Yay.

I guess.

Someone on Twitter noticed that today’s game – Baltimore Orioles at the Detroit Tigers – will mark the first time in American League history that two teams with 100 or more losses each will play each other.

So, see. You’re making history, too! Continue reading

“The Lost Ballplayers of Orange”: Sept. 30 at the Orange County Historical Society

This happened:

Not long ago, I was seated at dinner across from a college-aged pitcher. Making small talk’s not my thing, but I gave it a go. I asked him what he was studying. “History,” he said, between bites of food. “Interesting! What era of history is your specialty?” Maybe I was the first to ever ask him that. When you’re a pitcher, people are probably more interested in your fastball than in your class schedule. He thought for a moment and finally he said, “I like studying war.”

Welp.

I told him that I liked history, too, and that I often wrote about baseball history.

His eyes briefly grew big. And then he said, “Wow. I didn’t know you could do that.”

Then he went back to his dinner and that was the end of that.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize baseball even had a history worth knowing.

But it is worth knowing. Baseball’s long history provides a unique reflection of who we are as a nation, as a culture, as a society.

And, there’s plenty of baseball history right here in Virginia.

Join me, The Baseball Bloggess, on Monday, September 30 at the Orange County Historical Society in downtown Orange, Virginia. I’ll be talking about – what else? – baseball history …

160 Games: The Lost Ballplayers of Orange Continue reading

Seven Years And A Birth’a’Versary

On July 24, 1919, the Chicago White – not yet “Black” – Sox led the American League. Their 54-29 record put them a full six games up on Cleveland. The New York – not yet San Francisco – Giants led the National League. Their 50-23 record would soon be overtaken by the still-in-Cincinnati Reds.

July 24, 1919 wasn’t particularly special. The Red Sox beat the Yankees that day, 4-3, thanks to a home run from still-Red Sox Babe Ruth. The New York – not yet San Francisco – Giants beat the Boston – not yet Milwaukee, not yet Atlanta – Braves, 7-6. Walter Johnson and the Washington – not yet Minnesota Twins – Senators beat the Philadelphia – not yet Kansas City, not yet Oakland – A’s 1-0.

Rock Island (IL) Argus 7/25/1919

And, the Chicago White Sox beat the St. Louis Browns 1-0 in 10 innings. The White Sox, in cahoots with some gamblers, would throw the World Series in October. The Browns would become the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.

Some things change. But, really, when you think about it. Not so much.

On July 24, 1919, Washington, DC was reeling from a violent four-day race riot. The rioting, fanned by the media, killed some 40 people. Congress was squabbling over the League of Nations. Henry Ford was taking heat for revealing that he intentionally sought to keep his son Edsel out of World War I, and that then-President Wilson may have been involved in approving Edsel’s deferment, thereby protecting the son of one of the nation’s most powerful businessmen. A fire in a poor Polish neighborhood in South Chicago, started by some kids who had built a bonfire, destroyed 16 homes, displaced 40 families, injured several, and led to the death of the city’s fire chief.

See? We haven’t cornered the market on bad news.

There’s always been bad news.

So, why waste time with baseball? Continue reading

What A Difference A Day Makes

Nashville Tennessean, 12/13/1933

“It was almost definite that the all-star baseball game, inaugurated last July, would not be repeated in 1934 as considerable opposition had sprung up.” ~ Associated Press, December 13, 1933.

Cedar Rapids Gazette, 12/14/1933

“It was also agreed by the magnates today to make the all-star major league game, inaugurated in Chicago last July, a permanent event.” ~ Associated Press, December 14, 1933.

What a difference a day makes. The 1933 All-Star game was this-close to being a one-and-done.

The opposition to the game appeared to dove-tail with a general fear about interleague play by team owners.

Clearly, a lot of owners wanted no part in a game that would affect their schedule — and profits — and interleague play, which might also affect their own team’s bottom line.

(Keeping the leagues segregated, of course, wasn’t the worst segregation going on in baseball back then … ) Continue reading