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Arlie Latham was one of the most colorful and biggest stars on Charley Comiskey’s rowdy St. Louis Brown squads of the 1880′s. There were no coaches back in baseball’s infancy; each player used to take turns coaching 1st and 3rd base. Arlie had a particular knack for the job; he used to run up and down the third base line screaming like a lunatic at the pitcher in the middle of his wind-up. At that time there was no rule preventing a coach from engaging in such behavior. Because of his antics, the league had to establish the coaching box to prevent him from doing this. Because of his obvious proficiency at the job, after his career was finished, Latham would become baseball’s first full time third base coach. The characteristic chatter that goes on in the field, with constant encouragement to the pitcher and derogatory remarks to the batter that is part of the fabric of the game is also attributed to Latham. It was this kind of mischievous behavior on the diamond that earned him his moniker as the “Freshest Man on the Earth”, which was a popular song during that period.

Latham always was intent on injecting humor into baseball. Playing one game in front of a sparse crowd, which he described as “eight fans and a stray dog”, Arlie stopped the game, tipped his hat, and said “Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t go yet. Do you see that church steeple over there? As soon as this game is over, I am personally am going to dive off that steeple into a quart of milk.” On another occasion, Arlie became enraged over a decision made by umpire Tim Hurst. He slammed his glove to the ground, and kicked it toward Hurst, who then kicked it back to Arlie. Arlie kicked it back to Hurst, Hurst back again. The two continued to engage in this match until the glove finally came to rest in the depths of center field.

On one occasion, the Brownies were playing the Brooklyn club in the final game of the season. The winner of the game would win the pennant. St. Louis had the lead in the seventh inning, 4-2, when storm clouds gathered on the horizon, and the field grew dark. Comiskey asked the umpire to call the game, but he refused. Arlie then ordered 12 large candles brought to the bench, lighting them as a hint to the umpire that the game should be called. The umpire strolled over and blew out the candles, whereupon Arlie lit them again. This went on several times, until the umpire, now in a rage, forfeited the game to Brooklyn. Luckily for the Browns, their protest was upheld, and that decision was overturned.

The instigator of the candle episode was said to be the owner of the Browns, Chris von der Ahe, a bulbous-nosed German immigrant who was quite a character in his own right. Von der Ahe used to sit in his own special box, and summon players, police and his lackeys with a whistle to attend to his needs when necessary. He would be especially irate after a loss, storming the clubhouse, goatee sticking out several inches, and say things like “Chris vil do all da drinking for dis club, see?” After awhile, the players tired of this, and one day they locked him out. After the game, he pounded on the door, shouting, “Dis is Chris, dis is Chris!” Latham proceeded to fill a bucket of ice, and poured it over his owner’s head. An irate Von der Ahe called a meeting after the game. He stated that he intended to fine the perpetrator $50. He offered $200 for any player who told him the name of the responsible player. Latham immediately confessed to the offense. Von der Ahe bellowed “That vil cost you $50!” but Latham collected the $200 reward.

Besides being a cut-up, Arlie was a heck of a ballplayer. His greatest season was in 1887. That year Latham batted .316, with 198 hits, 45 walks, 129 stolen bases, and an unbelievable 163 runs scored. If you add up his hits and walks, he was on base 243 times, scoring 163 times, an incredible percentage. It is entirely possible that Arlie was the greatest SAGNOF in the history of Roundball. Arlie once challenged the famous evangelist, Billy Sunday, to a footrace. Sunday was once a baseball player before he hit the sawdust trail – in fact; he was described by some pundits to be the equal of the immortal Ty Cobb. The Parson won the race by quite a few strides.

Latham lived a long life, during which time he coached for John McGraw, became the oldest man to ever steal a base, taught King George V how to throw and catch a baseball, served seventeen years as the Administrator of Baseball in England, operated a delicatessen in Manhattan, and was the press box custodian for the Yankees and Giants. Arlie died in 1952 at the ripe old age of 92. He was an endearing man who enjoyed life immensely. He was a great ambassador for baseball.

  1. Chris says:
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    Not quite the character that Rube was, but he still makes for a great story in his own right.

    Wish I could have experienced some late 1800s-early 1900s baseball… Sounds like it was one heck of a show!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Chris, Thanks! Nobody compares with the Rube; perhaps Pete Browning (another future article) comes close, but the Rube was the Rube. Arlie also spent one drunken night swinging from the trees with Jim Thorpe, playing Tarzan.

  2. Turk Wendell says:
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    Nice work

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @Turk Wendell, Thanks!!

  3. MattTruss223 says:
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    Hey Paulie, any idea how I can search for all your articles? I tried searching your name to no avail. Maybe you have the links saved somewhere? I feel like I saw one this past weekend that I said I was going to go back and read, but now I can’t find it. Maybe I imagined it…Anyway, keep ‘em coming, they are quite enjoyable reads.

    • VinWins

      VinWins says:
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      @MattTruss223, Well, I’m sure no one accidentally posted one for a few minutes and then removed it!

      • Paulie Allnuts

        Paulie Allnuts says:
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        @VinWins, Perhaps it landed in the Razzball Bermuda Triangle:)

        • VinWins

          VinWins says:
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          @Paulie Allnuts, Ha! Just another unexplainable phenomenon.

      • MattTruss223 says:
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        @VinWins, Ha! Fair enough, maybe it was all the sun this weekend.

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
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          @MattTruss223, An Internet rumor has it that some of my lost articles can be found at AAF Hanger 84 in Roswell, along with some discarded Forsters and Balbonis. I checked Snopes out, but they were silent on this issue. When I e-mailed them for some type of verification, I received back a terse reply: “No comment!”

          • VinWins

            VinWins says:
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            @Paulie Allnuts, I think that is all the verification we need!

    • VinWins

      VinWins says:
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      @MattTruss223, An easy way to find more of Paulie’s stories: Click on the category at the top – Y to Z. Other posts will appear as well, but you’ll find several of Paulie’s.

      • MattTruss223 says:
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        @VinWins, Sweet, actually found a few I hadn’t read that way, thanks for the tip!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @MattTruss223, Actually, that is a very good question! Just last week I wanted to find all my past links, and somehow figured out that I needed to do what VinWins described above. But just in case you have some trouble finding the articles, he are the links:

      http://razzball.com/baseball-flakes-anecdotes-and-other-oddities/

      http://razzball.com/the-king-of-baseball/

      http://razzball.com/an-audacious-account-of-the-evolution-of-the-rules-of-baseball/

      http://razzball.com/bill-lee-spaceman/

      http://razzball.com/you-can-look-it-up/

      http://razzball.com/category/misc/ (Today’s article)

      http://razzball.com/before-the-babe-there-was-the-rube/

      http://razzball.com/the-curse-of-the-billy-goat/

      I think that is complete. Looked up your squad, Rube Waddell’s shiny objects, and it looks like they are having a great year!

      • MattTruss223 says:
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        @Paulie Allnuts, Thanks! That’s great.

        Thanks for the kind words, yea, the spirit of the Rube has treated them well. I posted an LM message today comparing our league to the ECFBL. You guys are nuts! I’m hoping it inspires my leaguemates and we can boost our CI a smidgen. Impressive stuff!

        I read one of your earlier postings and you mentioned reading a book about baseball hall of famers. Just curious if you had suggestions for some good baseball history reads. Maybe a favorite or two.

        Also, since it obviously seems right up your alley and I’ve been watching them recently when a game isn’t on. Have you watched the Ken Burn’s: Baseball documentary at all? It’s very good, I’ve learned a ton from it and it has lots of little stories like the ones you’ve posted.

        • Paulie Allnuts

          Paulie Allnuts says:
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          @MattTruss223, Several years ago, my wife Sandra (who also plays in our league; she is the Baltimore Orioles, and is presently beating me) bought me the Ken Burns Series for Christmas. I had seen it a number of times before, and several times since. It never gets old. Two years ago he came out with the 10th Inning, and we had the pleasure of seeing him in person in Washington DC, through a presentation of SABR , which I am a member of. He sat with a panel who were all connected with making the documentarys. We could have stayed all night! We also have that Master-Card Dream of visiting every MLB baseball stadium; alas, I am not even half-way finished. This summer we are going to Chicago for a family reunion, and we hope to visit either Wrigley or White Sox stadium. Chris H, one of our league managers, lives in Chicago, and we hope to get together. Our league is pretty tight; some of us have been playing fantasy together for five years or so in one venue or another.

          As for some good books – I never get tired of reading the Bill James Baseball Abstracts – the guy is not only the Father of Sabermetrics, but an outstanding baseball historian, about three light years beyond me. The book on the Hall of Fame I might of referred to was also by James: “Whatever happened to the hall of Fame.” A terrific recent book is “Fifty Nine in ’84″, the story of Ole hoss Radbourne, one of my fav pitchers of all time, by Ed Achorn. That should start you off.

          • MattTruss223 says:
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            @Paulie Allnuts, Great story, thanks for sharing. I figured there was no way you hadn’t seen the documentary, I’ve only recently discovered it on NetFlix and have been watching it a little at a time. It’s really great stuff and I’ve already looked into buying it.

            Very cool, I’ve only barely heard of SABR, I think they were involved in the analytics conference at MIT. Just checked out their website a bit though, looks like a baseball nerd’s dream, I’ll be looking more into them for sure.

            I’ve got the baseball park dream as well, I think any self-respecting baseball fan would love to make the rounds. I’m way behind though, only making it to four so far, one of which being the old Yankee Stadium which doesn’t really count anymore. I had to get there before it closed up though, that was fun. Then, Turner Field (I’m a Braves fan), Camden Yards (My wife is from Maryland originally and casually rooted for the Os), and Fenway Park (I lived in Boston for 5 years while in college so I attended Fenway countless times including a game in each the ’04 and ’07 World Series. They became my adopted AL team.). I’m still youngish though and have two young boys (3 & 1.5) that I’m hoping take to baseball like I did (They already have the Little Tykes Tee-Ball set and they’ve been to a minor league game so far) so I can shoehorn some baseball parks into some family vacations.

            Thanks for the book recommendations also, much appreciated. The Razzball community really kicks ass!

        • Max Patkin says:
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          @MattTruss223, “The Glory of Thier Times” by Lawrence Ritter is considered a superb rendering of the 1900-’30 era. He is considered one of the best bb writers. Roger Angell’s “Boys of Summer” is classic, takes in the ’50s–he too has written many excellent bb books. For a fun read, Bill Veeck’s autobiography. “Veeck as in Wreck” gives you the low down on his life as an owner and lover of the game. Some of these may be in paper back at a bookstore, maybe in libraries, or search amazon as all were written over 30 yrs ago.

          • MattTruss223 says:
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            @Max Patkin, Nice, I’ll check those out too. I have read “Boys of Summer”. Picked it up for a $1 at a used book sale in paperback, it is a very good read. Also, I’ve read “They Also Served” about ball players during the World Wars that served. “My Turn at Bat” the Ted Williams autobiography is a page turner as well. There’s a few others I’ve read but those two come to mind quick. Thanks for the recommendations, I’ve got a good list of summer reads to track down!

  4. the bat rastard says:
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    Gezzz…what a shameless self promoter….lol……if you werent my brother Id ban you. But alas another gem…..keep up the good work!

    • Paulie Allnuts

      Paulie Allnuts says:
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      @the bat rastard, Hey, better be nice if you want to be one of my lackey’s once I become famous and rich:) But thanks for the support.

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