Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The First Great Jewish Ballplayer: Lipman Pike, Part 2

Above is the Pike family census from 1850. Lipman was 5 years old. It's somewhere in the fourth ward but no address is given. The mystery will soon be solved.
More on Pike from his wiki page
Lipman Emanuel "Lip" Pike (May 25, 1845 – October 10, 1893) was one of the stars of 19th century baseball in the United States. He was the first player to be revealed as a professional (meaning he was paid money to play), as well as the first Jewish ballplayer. His brother, Jay Pike, played briefly for the Hartford Dark Blues during the 1877 season.
His family was of Dutch background, and his father was a haberdasher. Pike was one of the premier players of his day. He was a great slugger and one of the best home run hitters of his day, so much so that stories about balls he hit were told for quite some time after he stopped playing.
Pike first rose to prominence playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, whom he joined in 1866. He brought an impressive blend of power and speed to the team, hitting many home runs as well as being one of the fastest players around. He was a star who in one game hit 6 home runs; the final score was 67-25.
However, it was soon brought to light that he and two other Philadelphia players were being given $20 a week to play. Since all baseball players were ostensibly amateurs (though many were, like Pike, accepting money under the table), a hearing was set up by the sport's governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players. In the end, no one showed up to the hearing, and the matter was dropped. By 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first openly professional team, and Pike's hearing, farcical as it seems to have been, paved the way for Harry Wright's professionalization of baseball. The Athletics were very successful, but Pike was dropped from the team in 1867, because he was from New York, and thus a 'foreigner,' calling his loyalty into question.
He moved on to the Irvington, New Jersey club and later in 1867 to the New York Mutuals, always a leading team, where he returned for 1868, having caught the eye of Boss Tweed. In 1869 he moved to the Brooklyn Atlantics, another perennial leader, where he hit .610. In 1870, the Atlantics, with Pike manning second base, finally ended Cincinnati's 93-game winning streak.
In 1871, the National Association was formed as the first professional baseball league, and Pike joined the Troy Haymakers for its inaugural season. He was their star and for 4 games was the "captain" (which meant that he managed the team), batting .377 (6th best in the league) and hitting a league-leading 4 home runs. He also led the league in extra base hits (21), and was 2nd in slugging percentage (.654) and doubles (10), 4th in RBIs (39), 5th in triples (7), 6th in on base percentage (.400), 9th in hits (49), and 10th in runs (43). The Haymakers only finished 6th, though, and the team's captaincy switched to Bill Craver.
The Haymakers revamped their roster for the 1872 season, and Pike headed for Baltimore, where he played for the Baltimore Canaries. Pike had another excellent season, leading the league in home runs again (with 6), RBIs (60), and games (56), and coming in 2nd in total bases (127) and extra base hits (26), 3rd in at bats (288), 5th in doubles (15) and triples (5), 9th in slugging percentage (.441) and stolen bases (8), and 10th in hits (84).
In 1873 Pike led the league in home runs for the 3rd consecutive season, hitting 4, and was 2nd in triples (8), 4th in total bases (132), stolen bases (8), and extra base hits (26), 7th in slugging percentage (.462), 8th in doubles (14), RBIs (50), and at bats (286), 9th in hits (90), and 10th in games (56).
Baltimore went bankrupt after the season, so Pike headed off to captain the Hartford Dark Blues for the 1874 season. The Dark Blues were a poor team, but Pike had another fine season, slugging .574 to lead the league, and coming in 2nd with an on base percentage of .368.
Pike abandoned the weak Hartford team after a single season, switching to the St. Louis Brown Stockings. For the first time in his professional career, Pike failed to hit a home run, although he stole 25 bases. He also hit 12 triples and 22 doubles (leading the league) in what was probably his finest offensive season.
In all Lip Pike has the NA career home run (15), and extra base hits (135) records
In 1876, when the National League replaced the National Association, Pike stuck with St. Louis. The Brown Stockings turned in a very good season, finishing a solid 2nd to the Chicago White Stockings. Pike continued to produce offensively, notching totals of 133 total bases (5th in the league) and 34 extra-base hits (2nd).
Seemingly never content to stay with a team very long, Pike headed to the Cincinnati Reds for the 1877 season. The Reds finished last. He hit a powerful and famous home run that year, which apparently went 360 far and 40 feet high, and hit a metal bar at that point which it still had enough force to bend. Pike was still a top-quality player, leading the league in home runs for the 4th time in the 1870s. However, age was starting to catch up with the 32-year-old Pike. He began the season as the 8th-oldest player in the league, and was the 4th oldest player of the 1878 season. The 1878 Reds played very well, though. They finished 2nd, but Pike was replaced by Buttercup Dickerson halfway through the season and forced to look elsewhere for a team. He ended up playing a few games for the Providence Grays, and spent the next 2 years playing for minor league teams.
Pike got a brief call-up in 1881 to play for the Worcester Ruby Legs, but the 36-year-old Pike could no longer play effectively, hitting .111 and not managing a single extra base hit in 18 at-bats over 5 games. His play was so poor as to arouse suspicions, and Pike found himself banned from the National League that September. He was added to the "blacklist" at a 1881 National League meeting, barring him from playing for or against any NL team. He turned to haberdashery, the vocation of his father, and spent another 6 years playing only amateur baseball. He was reinstated in 1883.
In 1887, the New York Metropolitans of the American Association gave Pike another chance. At 42, he was the oldest player in baseball. The only game he played was more of a sending off than a new start, though, and Pike headed back to his haberdashery once more.
In 1936, decades after he died, he received a vote in the elections for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Pike was also one of the fastest players in the league. He would occasionally race any challenger for a cash prize, routinely coming out the winner. On August 16, 1873, he raced a fast trotting horse named "Clarence" in a 100-yard sprint at Baltimore's Newington Park, and won by four yards with a time of 10 seconds flat, earning $250 ($4,570 in current dollar terms).
Pike died suddenly of heart disease at the age of 48 in 1893. The Brooklyn Eagle reported that "Many wealthy Hebrews and men high in political and old time baseball circles attended the funeral service". He was interred in the Salem Fields Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.
He was the first famous Jewish baseball player, and was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

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