Dr. Arlington Pond, Public Health Official

This article was written by L. Robert Davids

This article was published in 1980 Baseball Research Journal

    More than a dozen players launched careers in medicine during or after their active diamond days. The most renowned of these was probably Bobby Brown, who went from several World Series champions with the New York Yankees to military duty as a medical officer in Korea to a large civilian practice in Texas. However, there was an early doctor who won particularly high marks for public health service. This was Erasmus Arlington “Arlie” Pond, born in Rutland, Vermont in 1873.

    Pond was educated at Norwich University and the University of Vermont where he won M.A. and M.D. degrees, the latter in 1895. He then went to Baltimore for postgraduate work at the University of Maryland Medical School.

    His ability as a college pitcher in Vermont became known to the Orioles and Manager Ned Hanlon signed him up late in 1895. Pond won 16 games for the pennant-winning Orioles in 1897, and 18 in 1897. However, when the Spanish-American War started in the spring of 1898, he left the Orioles to enter the Army. He joined a medical detachment and went first to Cuba and then to the Philippines.

    Pond was appalled at the unsanitary conditions in the Philippines and, with the insurrection essentially over in 1901, he left active military duty as a major and took up residence as a member of the board of health on Cebu Island. He had an almost unending task in curbing the spread of leprosy, yellow fever, malaria, cholera, and other diseases. He set up the largest hospital in the Southern Islands and personally vaccinated more than a million people for cholera.

    When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Pond returned to the States and became an assistant surgeon general of the Army with rank of Colonel. He later went with U.S. forces to Siberia, following the Russian Revolution near the end of the war. In 1919 he again gave up his active commission and returned to Cebu where he took over operation of the main hospital.

    Although Cebu was somewhat isolated from Manila, Pond became well known and highly regarded in the Philippines. He worked closely on health problems with the various U.S. Governors General since 1901, including William Howard Taft, General Leonard Wood, and Dwight Davis. The association with Davis was interesting because the former Secretary of War in the Coolidge Administration was a former U.S. tennis champion and donor of the Davis Cup. Pond had become an outstanding tennis player in his earlier days in the Philippines and still was sharp at doubles.

    Pond also had invested in business in Cebu and was owner of the Pond and Deen Navigation Company. This helped him financially and the Manila Times reported that “Many Filipinos prominent in business and public life owe their start to him; not a few of whom he sent through school.”

    Pond returned to the U.S. for a visit every 3-4 years. He was back in Vermont for the last time in July 1929 when he visited his brother, also a medical doctor. On September 10, 1930, he underwent surgery for appendicitis at his hospital in Cebu. Complications set in and he became very ill. His wife was away on a trip to Shanghai and could not get back to be with him; efforts were made to send an Army surgeon out from Manila but an amphibian plane was not available. Dr. Pond died on September 19 in the same hospital where he had saved so many lives. He was 57. It was a great loss for the Philippines as he had given much of his adult life to improving the health standards of a developing nation.