Ryczek: The legend of Jim Creighton

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on September 16, 2013:

Jim Creighton was baseball’s first hero, regarded as the paragon of pitching perfection during the 1860s and 1870s, and never forgotten by his contemporaries thereafter. Many a promising young pitcher was referred to as “another Creighton.”  

Yet his iconic status is a puzzle for many. Creighton had a very brief career and there were others of his era who were seemingly as talented. How did the legend of Jim Creighton arise and why has it endured among baseball historians for a century and a half? What was so special about someone who pitched just 32 games during his career?  

Baseball began as recreation for working men, and little public notice was taken of individual skill levels. Some players were better than others, but the names that survive from the early days of baseball are those like Alexander Cartwright, Daniel “Doc” Adams and William Wheaton. Although the first two were regarded as above-average players, the three are remembered not for their performance on the field but for their roles in the development of the game.

As baseball progressed and participants and spectators took it more seriously, individual standouts emerged. The three games of the Fashion Race Course series of 1858 were the first “all-star” games, pitting the best players from Brooklyn against the cream of New York. Newspaper coverage of games, initially limited to terse reports of the result and a rudimentary box score, began to include more detailed descriptions of the action and some comment on the skill of individual players.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/legend-jim-creighton

Originally published: September 16, 2013. Last Updated: September 16, 2013.