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Nate Berkenstock

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Nathan Berkenstock

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[edit] Biographical Information

"He was a sturdy man and heavy hitter, who also fielded reasonably well." - from the book Baseball's First Inning, about Nate Berkenstock of the amateur Philadelphia Athletics in the early 1860's
"The Athletics had a number of power hitters, including . . . Nate Berkenstock . . . a wild swinger who offered at anything near the plate." - from the book When Johnny Came Sliding Home about the team in 1865

Nathan Berkenstock was a baseball pioneer who co-founded the amateur Philadelphia Athletics in 1860, served as an officer of the club, and played with them for years. At age 40, he played one game of professional ball in 1871 when the 1871 Athletics were part of the new National Association.

The New York Times of June 16, 1863 gives an early box score of a game between the Athletics and the Excelsiors. Berkenstock played first base, batted third in the order, and scored a run. The game was won 18-17 by the Athletics in 10 innings.

His one professional game occurred on October 30, 1871 against the Chicago White Stockings in the last game of the season, with the teams in the running for the first league championship. The game took place in Brooklyn, and was the closest Chicago got to a home game in recent memory since their stadium burnt down earlier in the season during the Great Chicago Fire.

Berkenstock debuted in professional ball at the tender age of 40, making him the oldest player in major league baseball at the time (assuming the National Association is considered a major league), saving player-manager Harry Wright of the Boston Red Stockings from spending the whole season with the honor. He made three put-outs in right field, including making the final out of the game, but went zero for four at the plate, striking out three times.

The Athletics won the game (and the Championship) 4-1.

Berkenstock played only because Count Sensenderfer had injured his knee. RF George Bechtel moved to CF to replace Sensenderfer and Berkenstock was added to replace Bechtel in right.

Born in 1831, Berkenstock is the owner of the unbreakable record of being first major league baseball player born. He is also one of the first known Jewish players to play Major League baseball (if one is to consider the NA as a major league, a point of controversy).

A SABR report indicates he served in the Civil War for two weeks. He enlisted in 1862 and was mustered out two weeks later.

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