Lizzie Arlington

Lizzie Arlington was a woman baseball player during the late-nineteenth century.  She has been regarded by historians to be the first-ever professional female baseball player, though some evidence does exist that contradicts this assertion.  Nevertheless, Arlington did manage to make quite a name for herself during her time.

Lizzie Arlington was actually the stage name for Elizabeth Stroud (or Stride, according to some sources), who came from Pennsylvania and grew up playing baseball with her brothers.  William J. Connor discovered her pitching talent and offered her $100 per week with the intention of using her as a gate attraction at games.  Arlington made her debut in 1898 with the Philadelphia Nationals reserve team.  She made appearances as a pitcher and infielder with a number of teams throughout the year.

Lizzie Arrlington

Lizzie Arlington (The National Pastime Museum)

As William Connor hoped, Arlington’s involvement in professional baseball attracted larger crowds, who wanted a glimpse of this woman ballplayer, not only to see how well she played, but also to see what she wore and how she carried herself.  As part of the ploy to use her as a gate attraction, on July 5, 1898 with the minor league Reading Coal Heavers, Arlington entered the field in a horse-drawn carriage with her hair done and wearing black stockings and a gray uniform with knee-length skirt.

Her abilities on the field, meanwhile, were evidently impressive, according to writers of the time.  During that July 5th game, Arlington was brought in to pitch in the ninth inning with a 5-0 lead.  Although she loaded the bases, she still managed to retire the side without giving up any runs and sealed the win.

Attitudes towards women playing baseball, especially professional baseball, during this time period were not particularly positive, and Arlington would find herself on the receiving end of these judgments.  The Reading Eagle, for example, reported that “for a woman, she is a success.”  The Hartford Courant commented, “It is said that she plays ball like a man and talks ball like a man and if it was not for her bloomers she would be taken for a man on the diamond, having none of the peculiarities of women ball players.”

Arlington’s career was short-lived, however, and her name soon disappeared from the papers.  After being released from the Coal Heavers, she joined the Boston Bloomers, a women’s professional team that traveled extensively.  What became of her after the Bloomers, however, seems to be a mystery.

 


16 random facts about baseball

This is an interesting infographic.  A lot of these bits of trivia I already knew, though some were new to me.  I do question the bit about Forbes Field — there seems to be a lot of debate over what actually qualifies for the title of “first field” in America.  First stadium might have been more accurate phrasing, though that’s probably debatable, too.

baseball-trivia


Baseball on ice

Icepocalypse 2017 is underway in the Midwest, and what better time to talk about the game of baseball being played on ice skates?  Believe it or not, for a brief period of time, baseball on ice was actually a thing.

The first known instance of baseball being played on ice took place on January 1, 1861 in Rochester, New York, when two local teams took up a game on skates before a crowd of about two thousand spectators.  Later that year, the Brooklyn Atlantics defeated the Charter Oaks, 36-27, in their own slippery competition.  I have to tip my hat to these guys — I can barely handle ice skating sans bat and ball.  Can you imagine trying to pitch effectively without falling down?

ice-baseball

Sadly, the ice baseball fad didn’t last long.  Four years later, in 1865, the Brooklyn Eagle wrote, “We shall have no more ball games on ice. … If any of the ball clubs want to make fools of themselves, let them go down to Coney Island and play a game on stilts.”  (By the way, if anyone is aware of an actual instance of a baseball game on stilts, please let me know!)  There doesn’t seem to be any definitive explanation as to why the game on ice lost popularity.  There is speculation that it was due to a poor quality of play, or perhaps the owners of the various skating rinks didn’t appreciate their ice getting so torn up.

There was an attempt at a comeback about twenty years later.  Baseball, still being a new game with a lot of eager fans and players, was practically a year-round form of recreation.  In January 1884, when the winter weather prevented a conventional game from being played, the diamond at Washington Park was converted into an ice rink so that games could continue and fans’ demand for some baseball entertainment could be met.

On January 12th of that year, Henry Chadwick assembled a team of amateurs to take on Brooklyn, managing to out-skate the pro team on their way to a 41-12 victory.  A few days later, the two teams faced off again, and this time Brooklyn managed to save face with a 16-8 win.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be record (that I can find) of an ice baseball game being played after this time.

The concept of baseball on ice isn’t completely forgotten today, as an NHL ice crew demonstrated a couple years ago.  In December 2014, in order to test the ice prior to the NHL Winter Classic, tossed around a baseball while skating on the rink.  If I was any good on skates, I would love to try this myself.


This day in baseball: Early Cuban baseball

The first documented baseball game in Cuba took place on December 27, 1874 at Palmar de Junco.  In the contest, a team from Havana squared off against one from Mantanzas.  The game was called after seven innings, due to darkness, with Havana leading 51-9.

palmar-de-junco

Palmar de Junco in 1901 (baseballdigest.com)


Infographic: MLB Perfect games

Here’s a chart that depicts perfect games throughout baseball history, beginning in 1874.  The fact that there have only been 23 perfect games thrown in the hundreds-of-thousands of games that have been played in Major League Baseball goes to show just how difficult a feat it really is.  Three perfect games in 2012 is an especially astonishing number, with this in mind.

mlb-perfect-games


Oracle of Baseball

Here’s a fun little tool available from Baseball-Reference.com.  The Oracle of Baseball is very much like the idea of Six Degrees of Separation (or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, if you will), except it focuses on baseball players!  You can type in the names of two baseball players, and the site will spit back a chain of teammates that connect them to one another.  For example, one pair of players I tried out was Dizzy Dean and Sammy Sosa, and result came back as follows:

Dizzy Dean played with Phil Cavarretta for the 1938 Chicago Cubs
Phil Cavarretta played with Minnie Minoso for the 1954 Chicago White Sox
Minnie Minoso played with Richard Dotson for the 1980 Chicago White Sox
Richard Dotson played with Sammy Sosa for the 1989 Chicago White Sox

I’ve tried several pairs, and so far, the longest chain I’ve found was a mere two links longer than the one above (Fred Merkle and Alex Gordon).  It’s really quite stunning how interconnected the baseball world really is.

Here’s the link, if you wanna try it out yourself: http://www.baseball-reference.com/oracle/.  Have fun!


This day in baseball: Galvin’s 300th win

James Francis “Pud” Galvin of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys became the first pitcher to reach 300 victories on October 5, 1888 when Pittsburgh defeated the Washington Senators, 5-1.  Pitching in an era when two-man pitching rotations were the norm, Galvin accumulated 6,003 innings pitched and 646 complete games over his career, numbers second only to those of Cy Young.  He reached the 300-victory landmark at the age of 31, and would finish his career with a 365-310 record.

pudgalvin

Library of Congress