This article was written by Tom Simon
Most sources state that Erasmus Arlington Pond was born in Rutland on January 19, 1872. Alumni surveys filled out in Pond’s own hand, however, indicate that he was born on that date in 1873 in East Saugus, Massachusetts, which was also the birthplace of his mother, Ellen Stocker Pond. The Ponds and their four children moved to Rutland by the time Arlie was in grammar school. In later years sportswriters wrote that his father, Abbott Sequard Pond, was a farmer, and that young Arlie learned to pitch by throwing at a spot on a barn door for hours at a time.
While those common clichés about Vermont players were true in the case of Bert Abbey, in Arlie Pond’s case they were utterly false. Abbott Pond worked for his brother, Dr. Erasmus Arlington Pond, at the Pond Sphygmograph Company, selling surgical instruments out of offices in the Morse Block in downtown Rutland. Arlie grew up at the corner of Main and Center streets, next door to 114 Main Street, the home of the uncle for whom he was named and in whose career path he followed. Later Abbott Pond moved his family to 22 South Main Street.
Arlie graduated from Rutland High School in 1888 and spent two years at Norwich University where he distinguished himself as a musician and as pitcher of the baseball team. In 1890 he transferred to the University of Vermont. As an “academic” at UVM Pond was a member of the glee and banjo club, and he also played one season of varsity football during his senior year of 1893. But he earned his greatest fame as a baseball player.
That was the era of Bert Abbey, Pond’s Lambda Iota fraternity brother, and Pond patrolled center field on the 1891 team, Vermont’s best ever with a 19-6 record. In 1892 Pond alternated on the mound with Abbey to form a devastating pair of hurlers, and Vermont’s “Wonder Team” finished its season at 21-9. Perhaps the highlight of that season was Arlie Pond’s no-hitter against Yale.
Abbey jumped to the majors in 1893, but enough players returned for UVM to win nine, lose two and tie one against the best teams in the east during a 13-day, 2,000-mile southern trip. That record attracted the attention of the University of Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg, better known for his contributions to football. Stagg invited UVM to compete against seven of the finest college baseball teams in the country in a double-elimination tournament at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Little Vermont won the hearts of the press and fans at the Columbia Exhibition, finishing second and earning the distinction of being the only team to defeat Stagg’s alma mater, Yale, the tournament’s eventual champion.
Pond graduated from UVM in 1893 but remained in Burlington and enrolled in the Medical School. Those were the days when “medics” were eligible to compete in varsity athletics, and Pond was a member of the 1894 team that finished 7-10, Vermont’s first losing season ever. Over the next ten years UVM fielded a winning team only twice.
Following graduation from medical school in 1895, Pond enrolled in a post-graduate surgical course at the University of Maryland’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. But his reputation as an outstanding collegiate pitcher preceded him to Baltimore and became known to Ned Hanlon, manager of the National League’s Orioles. Although Pond continued to take advantage of his situation in one of the world’s leading medical communities (taking post-graduate courses at Johns Hopkins and performing his residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital and his internship at Baltimore City Hospital), Hanlon convinced him to spend his summers with the Orioles. On June 23, 1895, Pond signed a contract with one of baseball’s all-time greatest teams.
On the Fourth of July, 1895, the day Arlie Pond made his major-league debut, Baltimore was a bustling, brawling, blue-collar city of 500,000. In the downtown port district, five- month-old George Herman Ruth was living up to his future nickname. And in nearby Aberdeen, a young German immigrant named Frederick Peter Ripken was just starting a family whose descendents became nearly as prominent in baseball.
Pond’s new teammates in orange and black included five Hall-of-Famers: third baseman John McGraw, shortstop Hughie Jennings, catcher Wilbert Robinson, left fielder Joe Kelley, and right fielder Wee Willie Keeler. The contingent was led, of course, by Hanlon, whose plaque at Cooperstown joined those of his five players in 1996.
Hanlon’s teams were notorious for doing whatever it took to win. “We went to ‘school’ together in the clubhouse — I was teacher — but anyone could air new ideas,” Hanlon said. “By pulling the unexpected all the time, we had the opposition always off balance, wondering what was coming next.” “When there was a hole in the rules, we were quick to take advantage of it,” said left-fielder Kelley. Opponents were less generous: one called it “trick stuff by kids,” while another said, “That isn’t baseball the Orioles are playing, it’s a completely new game.”
If the Orioles had a weakness it was pitching. Still, Baltimore’s staff was hardly pathetic: rookie Bill “Wizard” Hoffer was on his way to 31 wins, George Hemming was racking up 20, and Arthur “Dad” Clarkson, Charlie “Duke” Esper, and John “Sadie” McMahon each were en route to double-digit victories. Hanlon hardly needed Pond. Pitching in only six games, the 23-year-old rookie found other ways to make himself useful. One was by serving as team doctor: after one game, the Baltimore Sun reported that “Dr. Pond is suffering from a small abscess in his left hand, which he lanced himself.”
The Orioles had recovered from a rocky start and moved into first place just before Pond’s arrival, a position they held for the remainder of the season. Despite winning their second consecutive N.L. pennant in 1895, the Orioles again lost the Temple Cup, a predecessor of the modern World Series pitting the National League’s top two teams in a best-of-seven championship.
Baltimore won its third-straight pennant in 1896, reaching its zenith with an incredible record of 90-39 (.698). Replacing Dad Clarkson (the younger brother of Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Clarkson) in the rotation, Pond contributed heavily to his team’s success, starting 26 games and compiling a 16-8 record with a 3.49 ERA. At one point he pitched two five-hitters in less than a week.
On another occasion he was even better. In a scene that calls into question Connie Mack‘s reputation as a distinguished gentleman, the 34-year-old player-manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates danced up and down in the third base coaching box, trying to rattle Pond by yelling, “He can’t get ’em over! He can’t get ’em over!” Mack’s efforts were in vain. Pond pitched a four-hitter.
In the 1896 Temple Cup playoffs, Baltimore again faced their hated rivals, the Cleveland Spiders, and their ace pitcher, Cy Young. The Spiders had taken eight of 11 from the Orioles during the regular season, but this time Baltimore swept the series. Although he did not pitch (the Orioles went with Hoffer and Joe Corbett, a 20-year-old rookie whose brother “Gentleman Jim” Corbett was heavyweight champion of the world), Pond was part of the celebration when both teams met in a Cleveland saloon, filled the Temple Cup with 17 quarts of champagne and hoisted it around.
In 1897 Hanlon became the first manager ever to employ a four-man pitching rotation with success: Pond, Hoffer, Corbett and rookie Jerry Nops each won between 18 and 24 games while working between 221 and 313 innings. Even though Pond had his best season, completing 23 of his 28 starts and going 18-9 with a 3.52 ERA, the Orioles finished second behind Boston during the regular season. In what turned out the be the last Temple Cup series ever, Baltimore dropped the opener to the Beaneaters, 13-12, but bounced back to sweep the next four games.
The 1898 baseball season had barely begun when the United States declared war on Spain. At the time Pond was pitching sparingly; he did not make his first appearance until May 11, when he pitched mop-up in an 8-4 loss to Boston. Nine days later, Arlie started and lost a 3-1 decision to Pittsburgh despite giving up no earned runs. Although the Orioles were playing well, poor attendance in Baltimore necessitated that Hanlon cut salaries. Pond was released.
Then on July 5, 1898, Pond received an appointment as acting assistant surgeon of the U.S. Army with orders to report to Fort Myer near Washington the following Saturday. Ironically, he had just re-signed with the Orioles and was scheduled to pitch the next day. At Union Park on July 6, Arlie started the second game of a doubleheader and pitched a five-hit shutout against a Philadelphia Phillies lineup that included Hall-of-Famers Ed Delahanty, Nap Lajoie, and Elmer Flick.
Although Pond expressed a desire to return to baseball when he was in San Francisco in February 1900 — even going so far as to write to his old teammate John McGraw, who had taken over as manager of the Orioles — that shutout against the Phillies proved to be his last game in organized baseball.
The Spanish-American War was decided quicker than the 1898 pennant race. Commodore George Dewey, a Vermonter who played an early form of baseball on the Statehouse lawn across the street from his boyhood home in Montpelier, won an impressive naval victory at Manila Bay; meanwhile the navy destroyed the rest of the Spanish fleet outside Santiago harbor on Cuba’s northern coast. The war itself was over by mid-August, only a month after Pond was called to duty.
Though only 379 Americans died in combat, more than 5,000 eventually succumbed to disease, so there was plenty to keep Dr. Pond busy when he arrived in the Philippines with the Tenth Pennsylvania Regiment. Then the Senate’s decision to keep the Philippines as an American colony set off an ugly guerilla war with the islands’ nationalists, who had been fighting the Spaniards. When the Pennsylvanians returned Stateside, Dr. Pond was ordered to remain in the Philippines with a Colorado regiment, and from there he joined the Fourth Infantry.
Even way out there in the Pacific, Pond did not give up baseball altogether, as is evident from this excerpt from the history of the baseball team of the all-black 25th Infantry Regiment:
In the early part of 1902, Major Arlington Pond, Medical Corps, U.S. Volunteers (pitcher for the famous Baltimore National League Team), became manager and coach, and his instructions aided the team greatly, especially the pitchers. The regiment was on the eve of its departure for the United States, being transferred to Malabong, Luzon, P.I., where it was stationed until its departure for the homeland. During its stay at the above station, the team participated in several games in which it was victorious. The main scalp taken was that of the famous Land Transportation Team, the Champions of the Manila League at that time (Major Archie Butt’s Quartermaster Team).
But even if Pond had time to coach a baseball team, his tour of duty wasn’t all fun and games.
The following letter, reprinted in its entirety in the August 26, 1899, issue of Sporting Life, was written by Arlington Pond to his future brother-in-law, C.E. Gambrill of Baltimore (Pond married Elizabeth Gambrill in Rutland on July 2, 1900). In the letter, Pond uses the term “niggers” to refer to his dark-skinned enemies — hardly unusual for his era, but nonetheless reflective of his disdain for the native islanders.
My Dear Gambrill:
We reached this town last Sunday and camped here last night, the whole regiment assembling on a big open plane for camp. The next morning our battalion, which is the First, was ordered out to look the ground over. We started at 8.30 o’clock, and had 291 men, six officers and one big gun, drawn by four mules. We also had an ambulance, and were supposed to go as far as we could without getting into trouble, and to find out where the “niggers” were.
We marched down the road with a line of skirmishers out on each side for caution. Everything went well for nearly three hours, and we had covered about six miles. We knew we were close to a small town called Las Warinus, when, all of a sudden, from all sides, came a fearful shower of Mauser bullets. We were taken by surprise for keeps, and for about five minutes there was a good bit of confusion, as some of our men were green, but old Major Bubb got them into shape. Our big gun opened upon the enemy, and they were quiet for a few minutes. Then they opened up with renewed vigor, this time wounding three men. It was easy to see that we were outnumbered five to one, as I could see “niggers” all over the field. Things looked pretty desperate, I can tell you.
It took only a few minutes for the Major to see that we had to retreat, so our men were formed into a sort of hollow square and the retreat began. The big gun was on the road, and our company was deployed on the right, about one hundred yards from the road, and another on the left. Another company brought up the rear, and the fourth was in the advance. It was awfully slow work, as the big gun was slow in moving — made doubly so by two of the mules being killed. Then the ambulance was soon filled with killed and wounded, so that for quite a long time men had to be carried on stretchers until the men carrying them were exhausted by the heat and strain. It got so that every time a man was wounded the whole column had to stop until I could get him fixed.
One time I would have to go out on the right line, then on the left, then to the rear, and so on. Sometimes there would be two wounded at the same time, necessitating a long stop, and when we did stop the “niggers” fired harder than ever. While I was dressing one man who was shot in the knee he was hit again in the other knee. Another time I told a man to get out of the ambulance to let a man get in who was severely hurt. The man I told to get out was hit in the face while I was talking to him. We kept this up until we had so many dead and wounded we could do nothing. It looked as though we were gone geese and would have to make a stand until relief came.
To relieve the strain we had to leave two dead men by the roadside, which gave us some relief for a few minutes. When I came across a bull cart in a yard by the roadside I put some wounded in it and had some soldiers pull it. That was soon full, and I got another, which kept us going for a time longer. Then, to cap the climax our ammunition began to give out, and men began to fall from exhaustion. It looked serious indeed, as we were four miles from Imus. The “niggers” were getting closer and closer, and if they had made a charge would have taken us; but, thank heaven, they didn’t.
After fighting for five hours, our ammunition all gone, our wounded and dead too many to handle, and our men exhausted, we got word that relief was only a mile away. You should have heard the men shout and see their faces lighten. I never can tell the load it took off my shoulders. If I hadn’t been so tired it would have been the happiest moment of my life, but I was nearly exhausted. It seemed to me that it took the other battalion an awful long time to come that mile. With their coming our troubles were about ended, as the “niggers” had evidently had enough.
All we did after this was to advance far enough to get the bodies of the two men we abandoned, which we finally found. Both had their ears cut off, their throats cut; also numerous gashes on their heads, all done by the barbarous “niggers.” When our dead and wounded were counted we had six dead and 21 wounded — a pretty big percentage for less than 300 men. We were all greatly exhausted, of course; but all recovered quickly. Old Major Bubb was so proud of the command that he could hardly contain himself. The other battalions were rather envious of us for what they said was the glory we had won.
The next day the whole brigade advanced to the next town, with only a little shooting, having only three men wounded. The next day we came back, and have been here now for three days awaiting orders. I don’t think we will have much more fighting, but will go into quarters for the rainy season. I forgot to tell you that after the fight we found the bodies of 50 dead Filipinos, which, together with what we didn’t find, shows the good work our men did.
That this letter was considered appropriate for publication in a national sporting periodical shows how much racial sensitivities have changed over the past century.
Despite his great humanitarianism, Dr. Pond clearly believed in the ideology of imperialism — the sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority and the “white man’s burden” — and one senses condescension in descriptions of his later work. For instance, his obituary in the Manila Times stated, “To the Filipinos he was kindly but firm, and much of his medical life was given gratuitously to these people.” It should come as no surprise, then, that as of 1926 Pond believed that Filipinos were not yet ready for the responsibilities of nationhood. He did not live to see President Harry Truman declare Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.
By 1902 the United States had suppressed the Philippine Insurrection and had started pouring aid into the archipelago. The new American government knew that it had to stop the spread of appalling plagues like bubonic, cholera, smallpox and leprosy, which the Spanish regime had allowed to go unchecked. Dr. and Mrs. Arlington Pond remained in the islands as part of that effort. Arlie worked under the administration of the first Governor General, William Howard Taft, who later threw out the first ball of the 1910 season while serving as President of the United States.
On August 11, 1902, Pond was detailed from the Army to the Board of Health for the Philippine Islands for cholera duty, then in July 1903 he accepted a permanent position as medical inspector. Working closely with the Rockefeller Foundation, Pond helped in the cleanup of Manila City and the collection and segregation of lepers. Then in 1906 he was appointed first chief of the Southern Islands Hospital, 400 miles south of Manila on the island of Cebu. Pond founded a hospital for lepers in the historic Spanish capital city and compulsorily vaccinated the island’s entire population.
Arlie Pond quickly established himself as a leader in Cebu. In 1908 he was instrumental in reorganizing and rebuilding the old Army-Navy Club as a social center for the entire American community. Pond remained active in athletics, playing cricket, golf, polo and tennis. In the latter sport he held both the singles and doubles championships of the Philippines for several years (his partner, District Engineer Barney Clark, was famous for taking stiff drinks between sets). He was also a scratch player of pool and billiards. Along with the Reverend George Dunlap, a former Princeton University catcher, Pond helped popularize baseball on the island, and the Cebu Baseball Team won the Interscholastic Championships of 1910, 1912 and 1913.
According to newspaper reports, Dr. Pond more than any other was responsible for the “good feeling” that existed among the various elements in Cebu. The Manila Times stated, “Many prominent men in business and public life owe their start to Pond’s generosity in providing schooling for them and in caring for their health.” Although Cebu was somewhat isolated from Manila, Pond became well-known and highly regarded throughout the Philippines.
When World War I broke out, Dr. Pond was commissioned a major in the Army Medical Corps and assigned to Medical Officers’ Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. He was preparing to go to France in July 1917 when Governor General Harrison of the Philippines asked for his return to the islands. Pond was assigned to Camp Stotsenburg with the 9th U.S. Cavalry and the Philippine Field Artillery, then in August 1918 he was named post surgeon of the Cuartel de Espana and placed in charge of the dispensary at Fort Santiago, Manila.
On October 28, 1918, Major Pond reported for duty aboard the transport U.S.S. Warren en route to Vladivostock, Siberia. It was one year after the October Revolution, and President Woodrow Wilson had grown wary of the Bolsheviks and their vow to mount an anticapitalist world revolution. He pursued several policies to topple or at least contain them, finally resorting to military intervention — hence Pond’s presence on the Warren.
The transport arrived in Vladivostock on November 11, the day the Armistice was signed. It was ordered to return to its former station, and Pond eventually received his discharge on January 15, 1919. By that time he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Returning to civilian life in Cebu, Dr. Pond entered private practice and engaged in several business ventures, including a coconut plantation, a cattle ranch on the island of Mindanao and the Pond & Deen Navigation Company. It was commonly known that he was a millionaire. The Ponds returned to the States every three to four years, visiting relatives in Baltimore and Rutland. Arlie’s last trip to Vermont occurred in July 1929. “It was too cold,” Betty Pond said.
Two months later, Robert Lewis was a guest at a luncheon in Cebu. He mentioned his friendship with Pond to the toastmaster, a Mr. Rosales who was manager of the national government bank. “Dr. Pond is our leading citizen,” said Mr. Rosales. “Someday his bones will lie in Cebu.”
On September 10, 1930, while his wife was in Shanghai recovering from a breakdown following the death of her cousin, Arlington Pond underwent surgery for appendicitis at his own hospital in Cebu. At first the operation appeared successful but then peritonitis set in. A wire was sent to the governor general requesting that an Army surgeon be sent from Manila but an amphibian plane could not be located. After showing marked improvement, Dr. Pond suffered a relapse and died at 9 a.m. on September 19 in the same hospital where he had saved so many lives. He was only 58.
The death of Arlington Pond was mourned as a great loss to the Philippines. Flags flew at half-mast and all business houses and banks were closed on the day his funeral service was held at the Manila Lodge of Elks No. 761. Several prominent people attended the military service, among them Senator Sergio Osmena, a Cebu native and one of the outstanding figures in Filipino politics during the first two decades of American rule. After an honor guard fired three volleys and the bugler played taps, Dr. Pond’s body was taken to the army morgue where it was cremated.
Though the old baseball player’s bones do not lie in Cebu, his memory is still revered there. Pond Parkway, a downtown thoroughfare in Cebu City, bears his name to this day.
A version of this biography originally appeared in Green Mountain Boys of Summer: Vermonters in the Major Leagues 1882-1993, edited by Tom Simon (New England Press, 2000).
In researching this article, the author made use of the subject’s file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, the Tom Shea Collection, the archives at the University of Vermont, and several local newspapers.