We, the undersigned, believe it is long past time for Lipman Pike to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame (along with the two current Jewish ballplayers, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax).
Every time a Jewish kid picks up a bat, he is following in Pike’s footsteps. As baseball’s first Jewish star, his legacy deserves to be rescued from obscurity and given its due.
Lipman "Lip" Pike (May 25, 1845 – October 10, 1893) the "Iron Batter", was one of the stars of 19th century baseball in the United States. He was the first player to be revealed as a professional (meaning he was paid money to play), as well as the first Jewish player.
1. In July of 1866 Lipman hit six home runs in a single game and set baseball’s first Major League home run record. Less than a handful of players have ever hit more than 4 home runs in a game.
2. In 1872 Lip hit 17.2% of all homers in the league, a number not bested until 1920 when Babe Ruth set the record of 20.07% (the last double digit was in 1938 when Hank Greenberg hit 10.28% of all the HRs). So next to the Babe, Lip has the 2nd highest batter-to league home run percentage. A record that lasted 48 years.
3. For three years in a row, from 1871 to 1873, Lipman Pike led the National Association (the precursor of today’s National League) in home runs.
4. In 1871, the National Association began operations. Pike played for, and for a short time captained, the Troy (New York) Haymakers. In those days, the captain was the field manager, so Pike was also the first Jewish manager in baseball history.
5. Pike finished in the top ten in slugging percentage and doubles in seven consecutive seasons, and in triples and total bases six times. He accomplished all this in only eight full seasons.
6. Pike is widely acknowledged as the first openly professional player in the history of baseball setting the stage for the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA) in 1871 and the evolution of baseball as a professional sport.
7. Pike’s speed was legendary. In August of 1873, in one of baseball’s earliest publicity stunts, Pike earned $250 winning a 100-yard race against a trotting horse named Clarence. Even if the details are exaggerated, it illustrates Pike’s reputation as one of the fastest athletes of his time.
8. Pike again led the league in home runs in 1877. That year he hit a homer 360 feet long and 40 feet high. Reports claimed it stopped only when it hit a metal bar, with enough force to bend it.
Based on career statistics alone, Pike deserves to be in the Hall. He was baseball’s first great home run hitter. But since the Hall of Fame considers the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (NL), formed in 1876 to be the first “Major League,” Pikes’ accomplishments in the previous decade do not appear in the official record books.
But even more than mere numbers, as the first professional player, and as the first Jewish player, manager and umpire, Pike was a pioneer, and baseball’s Hall of Fame has a place for pioneers. Pike was the first American Jew to gain national fame as a sports icon setting the stage for later generations of Jews to make their mark. His accomplishments are even more impressive once we factor in the anti-Semitism he often faced from the general public and his own teammates.
And while Pike’s behavior should not be a Hall of Fame determinant, we cannot help but mention that, as the Sporting News reported, Pike was “always gentlemanly on and off the field.” His funeral was a major public event attended by Brooklyn’s “Hebrews,” politicians, and Base Ball lovers.
The Committee that decides on the inclusion of pre-integration players meets next in 2015. Please join us in petitioning the Hall to recognize the achievements of the first Jewish sports superstar.
This petition is supported by:
Martin Abramowitz - President of JewishMajorLeagures.org
Robert Bloomberg - historian "Lipman Pike: A Truly Historic Figure for the Game of Baseball"
John Bowman - SABR member, Diamonds in the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball
Benita Boxerman, Burton Boxerman - Jews and Baseball, Volume 1, Entering the American Mainstream, 1871-1948
Marty Dobrow - Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Six Minor Leaguers in Search of the Baseball Dream
Michael Freund - chairman, Shavei Israel; Time to honor America’s first Jewish home-run king
Jay Goldberg - owner, Bergino Baseball Clubhouse
Peter Horvitz - The Big Book of Jewish Baseball
Jim Kaplan - The Greatest Game Ever Pitched
Ron Kaplan - 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die
Harry Katz - Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress
Jane Leavy - Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy
Richard Michelson - Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King
Robert Pinsky - US Poet Laureate (1997-2000); Audio reader of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy
Larry Ruttman - American Jews and America’s Game
Robert H Schaefer - SABR member – V.P. of Florida Chapter
Joey Seymour - historian, "Why Isn't Lipman Pike in the Baseball Hall of Fame?"
John Shiffert - Base Ball in Philadelphia: A History of the Early Game
Find out more about Lipman Pike:
Robert Schaefer’s SABR Biography
Michael Freund’s article Time to honor America’s first Jewish home-run king
Joey Seymour’s article "Why Isn't Lipman Pike in the Baseball Hall of Fame?"
Robert Bloomberg’s article Lipman Pike: A truly historic figure for the game of baseball