Look up, Baltimore baseball fans! You’ve come a long way.
The origin of baseball in Baltimore is a ridiculously complicated affair. Scant photographic evidence remains and accounts in newspapers, which used nicknames for teams and players as often as they did proper names, leave behind a murky, hard-to-follow record.
By the 1870s there were already a handful of defunct Maryland base ball* clubs with names like the Excelsiors, the Marylands, the Pastimes, the Monumentals, etc. Keeping track of who they were, where they played, where they packed up and left town to play before coming back under another team name is a chore difficult for the most earnest of sporting historians. Add to this mess a game so loosely organized that it was impossible to even agree on a national champion until 1894. A little research on the subject yields a solid argument for keeping things simple, so here goes…
Meet your Lord Baltimores a.k.a. the Yellow Stockings a.k.a the Baltimore Canaries, so called for their bright yellow uniforms. These dandies wore thick silk shirts—instead of the usual flannel—emblazoned with the Calvert arms, wide white belts, and snazzy yellow and black argyle socks.
The year was 1872. Out of the ashes of Waverly’s Pastime Base Ball Club, which started fielding amateur players as early as 1861, came the Lord Baltimores. When the team played well, fans called them Lords. When they didn’t win, fans were more inclined to call them Canaries. They were the city’s first professional team under the auspices of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, but they were its second professional team overall.
The honor of being Baltimore’s first professional base ball club went to the Marylands who in the late 1860s defected to Fort Wayne, Indiana when wealthy businessmen there flashed some cash and convinced them to stay while the team was in town for a game. After a brief dalliance as the Fort Wayne Kekiongas, half the team returned home to Charm City to form the Lords. Not surprisingly the team was plagued from the start with rumors that they threw games.
In their three seasons of existence (1872-1874), the Lord Baltimores played their home games at Baltimore’s Newington Park, which was located between Baker and Gold Streets. There are no known photographs of the venue, though with the help of G.M. Hopkins’ Atlas and the Sachse Company’s “Bird’s Eye View…” we’re able to get some idea of when and where the park stood. Newington Park was located on Pennsylvania Avenue “extended” in West Baltimore.
The club’s most popular player, Lipman Emanuel “Lip” Pike (1845–1893),** was also the first Jewish major leaguer. Known as the “Iron Batter,” the left-handed batsman was a homerun king at a time when dingers were only an occasional treat. A noted speedster, Pike was no stranger to the inside-the-park homerun and had a reputation for racing any challenger for a cash prize. On August 16, 1873, he reportedly raced a horse named “Clarence” in a 100-yard sprint at Newington Park, and won by four yards with a time of 10 seconds flat, earning him a cash prize that would amount to about $5,000 today).*** While in Baltimore Lip Pike ran a cigar store on Holliday Street near Fayette. His financial prospects outlived his team’s.****
Finishing their first and second seasons in second and third place respectively, the future of the Lords club was looking bright. But the Panic of 1873 caught up with the team’s financiers. Funding dried up and the team they fielded in 1874 was a disgrace. They ended their final season 9-38, 31.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Stockings. (Joe Tropea)
* Prior to 1890, baseball was written “base ball.”
**Baseball Almanac, United Press International. October 9, 1986.
*** Joseph Siegman, Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame, 2005.
**** Lip Pike played and managed teams up and down the East Coast after the Canaries went kaput. When his baseball days were over he ran a haberdashery that became a well-known hangout for baseball enthusiasts. In 1893, he died of a heart attack at age 48 and was buried in his native Brooklyn, N.Y.
James H. Bready, Baseball in Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1998.
Paul Batesel, Players and Teams of the National Association, 1871-1875, McFarland, 2012.
Glimpses Into Baseball History blog, “Early Baltimore Baseball, Part 16,” http://baseballhistoryblog.com/2055/early-baltimore-baseball-part-16/