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Lip Pike

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Lipman Emanuel Pike

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[edit] Biographical Information

"Lip Pike was perhaps the hardest hitter the game ever produced . . . " - Tim Murnane, writing in 1904

Lip Pike was a famous early slugger. He was the first person to be acknowledged as a professional baseball player (meaning he was paid money to play, though Al Reach and Jim Creighton may also lay claim to this), as well as the first Jewish ballplayer. He appeared in his first recorded baseball game less than a week after his bar mitzvah.

His family was of Dutch background, and his father was a haberdasher. Lip was lucky that he was born in New York City, as New York and New Jersey were where Alexander Cartwright started the game of baseball one year after Lip was born.

Pike played baseball as early as 1866 when he was 21, with the Philadelphia Athletics. He was a star who in one game hit six home runs - the final score was 67-25. He was also apparently one of the first players to be paid money to play for a supposedly amateur baseball club. In spite of being a star, he was dropped from the club after the season because of local dissatisfaction with players brought from New York. He played for the Irvingtons and the Mutuals in 1867, and then the Mutuals again in 1868. In 1869, Pike played for the Brooklyn Atlantics, hitting .610. The next year, he was back with the Atlantics.

1871 was the year of the first league, the National Association. Pike was on the Troy, NY team, the Troy Haymakers, and at first was the "captain", which meant he managed the team. He only lasted 4 games as the captain, but as a hitter was one of the best in the league.

In 1872 and 1873, he played for Baltimore, leading the league in home runs both times. He raced against a horse in 1873, and in a race of apparently 100 yards beat the horse, with a time of ten seconds flat. Baltimore went bankrupt, so Lip joined the Hartford Blue Stockings in 1874, and had another good year. In 1875, he joined the St. Louis team, upsetting fans and former teammates with his newfound loyalty to St. Louis.

The National League played its first season in 1876, and Pike stayed in St. Louis, having another good year. In 1877, Pike was with Cincinnati, where he again led the league in home runs and again was dumped as captain in the middle of the season. 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. By 1877, he was one of the oldest players in the league at the age of 32. Pike played for, and was released by, two teams in 1878. In 1879, he was in the minors, playing in Springfield, Holyoke and Albany. Of course, the minors in those days were not necessarily worse than major league teams, and any particular one might be better. The Holyoke team that year, for example, also featured Roger Connor and Mickey Welch.

In 1881, Pike was working for a living and playing part-time with the Atlantics, when the National League Worcester team added him. He had a poor performance, and thereafter went into haberdashery (it was a natural for him, since he was known as handsome and natty during his playing days). He was added to the "blacklist" at an 1881 National League meeting, barring him from playing for or against any NL team. He was reinstated in 1883.

However, in 1887 he came back for one game with the New York Metropolitans of the American Association, a major league of the time.

He died at the age of 48. Many years later, Francis Richter of Sporting Life magazine chose Pike as one of the top three outfielders of the 1870s.

One could argue that Lip Pike should be in the Hall of Fame. He didn't get many votes in the early days of the Hall, because he died more than 40 years earlier, and even the older voters hadn't ever seen him play. However, his career lasted from at least 1866 to the late 1870s (not counting the two brief appearances in 1881 and 1887), he was a frequent home run champ, and in his prime he was clearly an awesome talent even though the statistics we can look at are very crude. He was 31 years old when the National League played its first game, but he still played well.

A left-hander, Pike played 79 National League games at second base. As the game got more sophisticated, however, it became clear to observers that lefties were not well-suited to play second base, even though Pike was very adept at handling the ball.

His brother Israel Pike played one game in the majors and his son Harry achieved fame as a comedian.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • NA Slugging Percentage Leader (1874)
  • NA Doubles Leader (1874)
  • 4-time League Home Runs Leader (1871-1873/NA & 1877/NL)
  • NA RBI Leader (1872)

[edit] Related Sites

BR Manager page

BR minors page

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