This day in baseball: First Sunday game in D.C.

The first Sunday baseball game ever played in the nation’s capital took place on May 19, 1918, five days after Congress voted in favor of lifting the ban in Washington, D.C. The Washington Senators defeated the Cleveland Indians, 1-0, in twelve innings in front of 15,352 fans at Griffith Stadium.

Griffith Stadium between 1909 and 1932 (Library of Congress)


This day in baseball: The first American League shutout

On May 15, 1901, Washington Senators pitcher Watty Lee threw the first shutout in American League history, blanking the Boston Americans, 4-0. Lee, a 21-year-old southpaw, would finish the season with a 16-16 record and would be responsible for two of the eight shutouts to occur in the AL’s opening season.

The game’s complete box score can be found here.

Watty Lee with Newark Indians in 1911

Watty Lee with Newark Indians, 1911 (Library of Congress)


This day in baseball: Sam Rice signs with the Indians

On February 14, 1934, Edgar Charles “Sam” Rice signed with the Cleveland Indians. Rice had played 19 seasons with the Washington Senators prior to this year, and would go on to retire at the conclusion of the 1934 season. Rice batted .293 in 335 at-bats for the Indians in his final season, but fell 13 hits shy of the 3,000 career hit mark before calling it quits. Rice would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963.

Sam_Rice - loc

Sam Rice in 1924 (Library of Congress)


This day in baseball: Buddy Lewis awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

Senators third baseman Buddy Lewis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on December 28, 1944 for his service in the China Burma India Theater. During World War II, Lewis flew more than 500 missions for the U.S. Army Air Forces as a transport pilot. Lewis was released by the Army on July 20, 1945 and would return to baseball a week later.

Buddy_Lewis_1939 - Wikipedia

Buddy Lewis, 1939 (Wikipedia)


Quote of the day

You can’t hit what you can’t see.

~Walter Johnson

walter johnson


This day in baseball: Philadelphia A’s debut in the AL

On April 26, 1901 at Philadelphia’s Columbia Park, 10,547 fans witnessed Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics making their American League debut, losing to the Senators, 5-1. The Western League had been renamed the American League in 1900 by league president Ban Johnson and declared itself the second major league in 1901. Philadelphia’s new franchise, led by Mack, had been created to compete with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies.

connie mack

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library/Major League Baseball/Getty Images


This day in baseball: Harding’s first pitch

President Warren G. Harding threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Washington Senators game held on April 13, 1921, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Washington ended up losing to the Red Sox, 6-3, making this the first time in six Opening Days contests the Senators have lost with the President of the United States throwing out the first pitch.

Warren Harding first pitch - LoC

Library of Congress


This day in baseball: Quesada becomes owner of the Senators

On November 17, 1960, ownership of the American League’s new expansion team was awarded to Elvin Quesada, a Washington native and head of the Federal Aviation Administration. The new expansion Senators replaced the old team, which had moved to Minnesota to become the Twins.

See the source image

This day in baseball: Nolan Ryan joins the Rangers

Free agent Nolan Ryan signed with the Texas Rangers on December 7, 1988, making him the first major leaguer to play for all four original expansion teams.  (The Rangers organization had played their first 11 seasons as the Senators in Washington, D.C.)  Ryan first broke into the big leagues with the Mets in 1966, then went to the Angels in a trade in 1972 before signing with the Astros, who were originally known as the Colt .45s.

Nolan Ryan

Brittanica.com


Arlie Latham

Arlie_Latham

Wikipedia

Nicknamed “The Freshest Man On Earth,” Walter Arlington Latham was born March 15, 1860 in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. Latham’s father served as a bugler for the Union Army in the American Civil War, and at the conclusion of the war, young Arlie became interested in baseball when soldiers returning from the battlefield brought the game home with them.

By the time he was fourteen, Latham had become good enough to play with the General Worth nine, a local team in Stoneham, Massachusetts, where the family had moved. Latham started out as a catcher, but later took up playing third base to avoid getting beat up behind the plate.  In 1877, Latham played with the Pittsfield, Massachusetts club as their third baseman, and then in 1879, he made his professional debut in minor league baseball with Springfield in the National Association.

Twenty-year-old Latham made his Major League debut on July 5, 1880 with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League, becoming the first man from New Hampshire to play in the majors. He then played for the Philadelphia Athletics of the National Association in 1881, then the Philadelphia Phillies of the League Alliance in 1882.

Latham then joined the St. Louis Browns of the American Association in 1883. He stayed in St. Louis through the 1889 season, during which time the Browns won four consecutive pennants (1885-1888) in the American Association. Latham led the AA in runs scored with 152 during the 1886 season. He also batted .316 and stole 142 bases, then tacked on another 12 stolen bases in the playoffs. Adding to a reputation as an excellent base stealer, in 1887, Latham stole 129 bases, and he also led the league in stolen bases with 109 during the 1888 season.

In 1890, Latham jumped to the Chicago Pirates of the Players’ League. Later that year, in July, he returned to the NL with the Cincinnati Reds, where he served as a utility player and coach. Latham played for Cincinnati through 1895, then was traded to the Browns after the 1895 season. The Browns then released Latham after the 1896 season. Latham bounced around the minors for a few years before winding up with the Washington Senators in 1899. He later made four appearances for the New York Giants in 1909 at age 49.

Personality-wise, Arlie Latham was considered one of the funniest players in baseball. I’m not sure exactly how he earned the nickname “The Freshest Man on Earth,” but Latham was well-known for playing practical jokes. According to one account, the existence of the third base coach’s box is thanks to Latham. He would taunt opposing players third base coach, taking advantage of the lack of a coach’s box by running up and down the third base line yelling insults at the pitcher while he was in the middle of his windup.

His tendency to shout and gesticulate, not only as a coach, but also as a player, earned Latham the unofficial title of “the father of ‘chatter’.” The implication, of course, being that the practice of infield chatter that exists to this day had begun with Arlie Latham.

Latham finished his playing career with 742 stolen bases in seventeen professional seasons with a .269 batting average, .334 OBP, and .341 slugging. Latham died on November 29, 1952 at the age of 92 in Garden City, New York. He is buried in Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, New York.