12 Things You Should Know About Matt Kilroy, The “Little Whirlwind”

On May 5, 2021, Baltimore Orioles twirler John Means tossed the first Orioles one-pitcher, no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969.

Embed from Getty Images

But, you have to go all the way back to 1886 to get to the very first Baltimore Orioles no-hitter.

Matt Kilroy

Before I tell you 12 things you should know about Matt Kilroy, the 1886 pitcher who did that, let’s get any dreamy-eyed 1886 nonsense out of the way.

Forever ago.

There are no “good old days.” You might think you missed out on something special, but you didn’t.

1886 was lousy. It was unsafe. It was unsanitary. And, the average lifespan in the United States was 39.

Albert Pujols, 41. Nelson Cruz, 40. Yadier Molina, 38. You get my point.

It was tuberculosis that probably got you. Or, rabid mad dogs in New York City. Or, a horse fell on you or a carriage ran over you. Or a bridge or building collapsed on you. Or your entire town burned down with you in it.

Or, you were a child, which was extremely dangerous. As John Graunt, the 17th-century founder of demography sweetly put it: “Being a child was to forever be on the brink of death.”

You think wearing a mask for a year was a bother?

Stop your whimpering.

Try living through the recurring epidemics of cholera, typhoid, typhus, scarlet fever, smallpox, and yellow fever that mowed down Baltimore, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, over and over and over between 1865 and 1873.

And, if you did live through the latest epidemic – and you probably didn’t, but if you did –  chances are, unless you were awfully rich, you lived in a house with no hot water, no shower, and – this is important – no toilet.

If you think the most important room in your house is your man cave, you are wrong. It is your bathroom. And, you should go in there right now, get down on your knees, and thank the modern gods for installing one in your house.

Good Things That Happened in 1886 Continue reading

12 Things You Should Know About “Highball” Wilson

You would think that someone who cares deeply for baseball’s rich history would thoughtfully choose which players she highlights and celebrates.

You would think that she wouldn’t just see a player named “Highball” and think, “Oh my God, a pitcher named Highball. I’m gonna have to write about him.”

You would think.

Here Are 12 Things You Should Know About Highball Wilson.

1.

Public Domain

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Highball Wilson was not named Highball by his parents. Highball Wilson, a righty pitcher, was born Howard Paul Wilson in Philadelphia on August 9, 1878. (I realize that this would be a far more interesting post if his parents had named him Highball, and I’m sorry if you feel duped.)

(Highball Wilson was one of five future big leaguers born in Philadelphia in 1878. Only Highball played more than one season.)

2.

So, who named him Highball? Continue reading

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Emmet Heidrick

If you follow baseball history blogs, maybe you’ve bumped into Verdun2’s Blog, a collection of baseball history, player tributes, and poignant remembrances of the author’s time in Vietnam during the war, which always find a baseball spin. Last fall, “v”, the blog’s mysterious author, decided to take a break. He pops back in from time to time, but not with the regularity fans would like.

One of his semi-regular columns was “A Dozen Things You Should Know About” which covered ballplayers … from forgotten greats to Hall of Famers.

I asked v if he would be ok if I took on the “Dozen Things” franchise while he’s on break.

And, he said, “yes.” Even though he knew, deep down, I would take an irreverent and less numbers’y, tone. But, he said “yes” anyway, because he’s awesome.

So, until v’s return … here we go:

12 Things You Should Know About Emmet Heidrick

1)

circa 1900. Public Domain

Emmet Heidrick, one of the greatest outfielders at the turn of the 20th century, was born in Queenstown, Pennsylvania – about 50 miles NE of Pittsburgh – in 1876.

Heidrick’s father Levi, a successful lumberman, followed the trees … and their investment potential. Soon after Emmet’s birth, he bought a sawmill and moved his family to DuBois, Pennsylvania. In 1894, he bought another mill in nearby Brookville and moved his family there, which is where Emmet got his baseball start.

2)

Business acumen must be hereditary, because, no matter his baseball talents, family business not only distracted Emmet Heidrick from the game, but also influenced it.

In baseball’s earliest days, ballplayers generally came from poor, often immigrant, stock. They played ball because there wasn’t much else available. Other jobs open to them were poorly paid, backbreaking, dangerous, and, often, could kill you.

Heidrick, a college boy, came from a wealthy family with a prosperous business. Baseball was well beneath the Heidrick family’s place in society, as the family would remind him.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself … Continue reading