google10fa0980c6101c7f.html The Many Faces of Death: Baseball's 'First' Superstar's Swing of DEATH - James Creighton, USA


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Monday, September 12, 2011

0 Baseball's 'First' Superstar's Swing of DEATH - James Creighton, USA

Pioneer Baseball Player. Considered baseball's first star, he swung bat so hard one day he ruptured his bladder and died 4 days later.

James Creighton, Jr. (April 15, 1841 – October 18, 1862) was a pitcher in baseball's earliest era. Among his many accomplishments, he was in all likelihood the first professional ballplayer, threw the first fastball, completed the first recorded triple play, and is considered by baseball historians to be the game's first superstar.

James Creighton
A decade before the formation of organized baseball leagues, a career in the sport was a far different proposition than it is today. Amateur ballclubs spent much of their time practicing and playing intrasquad games, with occasional matches against other clubs.
Baseball prior to the Civil War was centered in New York. In 1857, at the age of sixteen, Creighton helped to form his first club, the Young America Base Ball Club in his Brooklyn neighborhood. It did not survive the year but two of them, Creighton and George Flanley, founded the Niagara Club to play in 1858.

In 1859, Creighton and the Niagaras were losing a match to the well-established Star Club when Creighton, who had to this point been used primarily in the infield, came into the game as a relief pitcher and proceeded to throw the ball unthinkably hard for the time; the Star batsmen claimed that he used a snap of the wrist to deliver the "speedball", as he called it.  (At the time, the rules of baseball stated that a pitcher must deliver the ball underhanded, locked straight at the elbow and the wrist.) Regardless of the legality of his pitch, the Stars immediately snapped Creighton and Flanley up, and the two finished the season with them.

The Stars were unable to keep Creighton, either, and before 1860 he joined one of the highest-profile clubs in the game at the time, Excelsior of Brooklyn, which considered themselves the champions of America. In 1860 and 1861, with Creighton fast becoming a national sensation, they backed up that claim by going on the first national tour, down the eastern coast of the United States. Creighton defeated the hometown teams wherever the Excelsiors went, and gained such popularity that many youth teams in the areas they played named themselves the Creightons in his honor. It was during this 1860 tour that he pitched baseball's first recorded shutout.

Such was his dominance that after he held the famed Brooklyn Atlantics to five runs, an extraordinarily low total for the era, the Brooklyn Eagle dispatched a reporter to determine whether or not his pitch was legal; in the end, it was determined he was throwing a "fair square pitch", rather than a "jerk" or an "underhand throw."

The year 1862 was business as usual for the 21-year-old Creighton, who had become the game's greatest player as a hitter and a pitcher. During that year, it is said that he was not put out a single time at the plate, and only four times overall. (At the time, players out on the basepaths were charged with the out, instead of the batter as today.) His pitching, which had also spawned the first changeup (he called it his 'dew-drop'), continued to be exceptional.
Photo credit - Matthew Fatale
However, in October 1862, in the midst of his greatest season, Creighton died suddenly. Such was his fame at the time of his death, and such was the grief of the baseball community, that a 12-foot marble obelisk, topped with a large baseball, was erected at his gravesite

There are several explanations for his death. The generally accepted explanation, which has existed from the time of his death, is that he fatally injured himself while playing baseball. At the time, players swung massive bats almost entirely with their upper body; it is said that a particularly hard swing from Creighton – some versions of the story have it as a home run swing – caused an internal injury.

Remarking to teammate George Flanley that he had perhaps snapped a belt, he continued playing but was in extreme pain hours later. A few days later, he died at his parents' house.

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