Whirty: First Jewish baseball superstar had distinctive mark in Reds’ history

From SABR member Ryan Whirty at Cincinnati CityBeat on May 28, 2014:

Despite a vagabond baseball career that saw him careening from team to team across the Northeast and Midwest for a decade, Lipman “Lip” Pike arrived in Cincinnati in early 1877 to play for the Red Stockings — the early name of today’s Reds — amid a fair amount of hype.

During that time, when the ball was made differently and therefore less lively than today, Pike was perhaps the game’s first great power hitter, a masher who led various leagues in home runs and accrued enough hardball acumen to be named the Reds’ captain at the start of 1877.

Thus began a brief but hugely influential stay in Cincinnati by the sport’s first home run master. Pike stuck with the Reds only for about a season and a half, but he endeared himself so much to the local fans and his teammates that the Cincinnati papers followed his career even after he left the city in mid-1878. 

“While Lip Pike only spent parts of two seasons of his colorful career in Cincinnati, he left a distinctive mark on Reds baseball history,” says Chris Eckes, Reds team historian and museum curator.

Upon Pike’s unexpected death in his hometown of Brooklyn in late 1893, the national magazine Sporting Life published a report from its Cincinnati correspondent burnishing the player’s legacy in the city. “Among the old-timers who followed the fortunes of the Reds … memories of the days long ago have been stirred up by the announcement of the death of Lipman Pike at his old home — Brooklyn. It was in that city as one of the Atlantics that Lip Pike won his spurs before he was secured to play centre (sic) field for Cincinnati.”

The dispatch asserted that Pike, making the feat look routine, was the first Reds player to crush a home-field, out-of-the-park home run and that, even in his advancing years, he showed his speed by winning a bet that he could out-sprint a younger teammate.

Read the full article here: http://citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-30314-the_first_jewish_baseball_superstar%E2%80%99s_distinctive_mark_on_reds_history.html

Originally published: June 4, 2014. Last Updated: June 4, 2014.