In Brooklyn, honoring baseball pioneer James Creighton

From Nate Schweber at The New York Times on October 18, 2012, with mention of SABR members Mickey “The Lip” Tangel, Thomas Gilbert, John Thorn, Eric Miklich, Bob Johnson and Craig Nordquist:

As the hitter gripped his bat and the pitcher began his windup, the catcher’s voice rang out across the blades of Kelly green grass on Thursday morning under a baseball-perfect sky in Brooklyn.

“Strike ’em out, Creighton!” hollered silver-haired Mickey Tangel, 64, crouching behind the plate in a baggy cotton shirt with a 19th-century baseball logo. 

But the man to whom Mr. Tangel referred, James Creighton, was not standing 60 feet 6 inches away. Instead, Mr. Creighton’s remains were buried 6 feet below ground, beneath a marble monument at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Mr. Tangel and a half dozen other 19th-century-baseball enthusiasts had gathered at the cemetery to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Mr. Creighton, a man who scholars of baseball’s nascent days say revolutionized the game.

“There’s a good argument that Creighton changed the game more than Babe Ruth,” Thomas W. Gilbert, an author and historian, said.

Mr. Creighton rose to fame in 1860 as a member of the Brooklyn Excelsiors, an amateur team, and was the first pitcher to throw something he called a “speedball,” a term so antiquated it sounded quaint in the first verse of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 song “Glory Days.” Today’s hurlers call Mr. Creighton’s innovation a “fastball.”

“He was a pioneer,” said John Thorn, the official historian for Major League Baseball. “There are people without whom the story of baseball cannot be told, and I think James Creighton is one of those players.”


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Originally published: October 18, 2012. Last Updated: October 18, 2012.