Sunday, May 19, 2024

Know Your Pre-Ruthian Sluggers! Pt. I


Responding to Dick Allen's request regarding those home-run hitters who held the single-season record for dingers before the advent of The Ruth, well, we have a lot of rollicking stories of Weird Old-Time Baseball to go around here.

First up was Lip Pike, who bashed 4 home runs in 28 games for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association in 1871, the very first season of (openly) professional ball.  

Even before that, Pike may have been the first admittedly professional ballplayer, making $20 a week for the Philadelphia Athletic. Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Lipman Emanuel Pike was also the first known Jewish ballplayer in the majors, the son of Emanuel Pike, a haberdasher, brother to Boaz, Jacob, and Israel Pike (the last of whom also played briefly in the majors), and father of Harry Pike, who became a comedian. 


Pike—seen dead center in the second row with the St. Louis Brown Stockings of 1875 or 1876, in all their sartorial splendor—surely belongs in the Hall of Fame. He would go on to better his home-run record the next year, in 1872, hitting 7, and would lead the three major leagues he played in a total of 4 times in roundtrippers.

He also led his league once in doubles, once in RBI (60 in 56 games, in 1872), and once in slugging. He stole at least 50 bases in his career, and as many as 25 in a season. Pike played the outfield mostly, but also every infield position but catcher and pitcher, and finished with a line of .322/.339/.468/.808. 

An opponent who later became a prominent sportswriter, Tim Murnane, later claimed he was "perhaps the hardest hitter the game ever produced." Sure, that was in 1904, but still.

If nothing else, Lip Pike deserves to make the Hall for the teams he played with. They didn't win any pennants, but the names alone were priceless. Besides the Haymakers and the Brown Stockings, Pike played for the Providence Grays, the Hartford Dark Blue, Baltimore Canaries, and the Worcester Ruby Red Legs. He even put in one game with the original Met(s) of the 19th century.

Pike would go on to become the very first of (incredibly) only 7 major-league Jewish managers, and would umpire a little. But he was soon back in Brooklyn, hard at work in the family haberdashery. There he died suddenly of a heart attack, in 1893, aged just 48.

This has been a pre-Ruthian moment! More to come.


Doug K. said...

Thanks for that.

I always knew about Lipman Pike but only because of a book I read a long time ago called "Great Jews in Sports" or something like that.

It was oddly stereotypical and almost racist in it's subject matter, with chapters like... "The Tennis Star Who Was Also a Dentist" or "The Track Star Who Refused To Intermarry."

The first one is made up. The second one was real.

"The Track Star Who Refused To Intermarry."

As you and the book both said, Lipman Pike, The First "Professional" Baseball Player. Hmmmmnnn.


Also - Not to nit pick but I wanted to know the other Jewish managers were and it turns out there were eighteen (Chai) not seven.

To be fair they weren't all MLB managers. A couple managed in Israel and one of them managed a Walgreens.

JM said...

There was an old joke that went, what's the shortest book ever written? Great Jewish Athletes.

Not an accurate joke, now or when I was a little kid. But back then, what did we know? Not much.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, Doug—but I gotta differ with you on your research work there. I DID write, "major-league managers." My source, which was also Wiki, lists these gentlemen:

Lou Boudreau
Norm Sherry
Brad Ausmus
Gabe Kapler
Bob Melvin
Jeff Newman

...besides Pike himself. I will allow Lefty Phillips—managed most of 3 years with the Angels—and even Andy Cohen—filled in for 1 game with the Phillies in 1960, before they brought in Gene March. But that's it—no minor-league, Israeli baseball, or other levels. So let's say 9—half a chai.

JM said...

Kapler was great in Welcome Back Kotter, too.

I've been steadily working my way through every episode of What's My Line. Yesterday I saw a 1956 show where a contestant, a nut broker (who knew?), turned out to be a guy who used to be a former major leaguer. C.C. Robertson pitched a perfect game in 1922, the last one until Larson's in the Series. There had been only two before 1922 in the modern era, one thrown by Cy Young.

Wiki sez: Robertson's perfect game was only his fifth appearance, and fourth start, in the big leagues. He finished his career with a 49–80 record, the fewest wins of any perfect-game pitcher until Dallas Braden; Robertson's winning percentage of .380 remains the lowest of anyone who threw a perfect game. The Tigers, led by player-manager Ty Cobb, accused Robertson of illegally doctoring the ball with oil or grease.

Doug K. said...

JM - I know that old joke. :)

The book was "In Sports" so the page count was increased by including people like Abe Saperstein, Marty Glickman, and Al Davis and not just "The Bowler Who Scored 1600... on his SATs".

Oddly, Arnold Rothstien was not included.

As an aside - If you haven't had the chance, check out the HBO documentary "Glickman". The guy had a truly remarkable career and life. Right now it is free on Tubi and can be rented on Amazon Prime.

JM said...

Thanks, Doug.

Hey, what's going on with Suzyn? She's been absent the last few times I dialed into a game.

Doug K. said...

Hoss - I know. That's why I wrote, "to be fair" :)

TheWinWarblist said...

What about Jon Berti? Hrrmm? What about Jon Berti?

AboveAverage said...

Ah…..great newish athletes.

Suppose they’re better than the older ones.

Seven straight?

May need to warch da Knickerbockers…

Hoping they start John Starks

Kevin said...

Bravo! Great post Horace! We need more of these stories from The Archives.

JM said...

Tonkin looks like he can handle the White Sox.

JM said...

Just far enough ahead to use the bullpen dregs. Still two innings to put the lead at risk.

JM said...

There's the Tonkin we know.

TheWinWarblist said...


The-uuhuhuh-UUHUUHUUHUUHH-aaaaaaaAAAAAhhhhhhhhHHHHHHH Uh! Uh! UhUHUH! Yankees WIN!!!

TheWinWarblist said...


TheWinWarblist said...

Fuck Hal and CashBrain.

BTR999 said...

That’s 7.


BTR999 said...

Regarding Hoss’s excellent post it seems that 1872 was Pike’s Peak.

Don’t get up, I’ll let myself out

Rufus T. Firefly said...

What else will we not be changing tomorrow? Our all day underpads?

Pocono Steve said...

Is it feeling like 2022, or is it feeling like 2022?!

HoraceClarke66 said...

Hear ya, Doug. And BTR, I'm afraid i heard you, too.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Nice to see, on what promises to be a tough NYC day in sports.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Or to ask it as a musical question, Pocono Steve:

Is it the beginning
Or is it
The end?

I dunno. Fun to see, though.

Publius said...

3000 years of glorious history, from Moses to Sandy Koufax.