This Day in Baseball History: May 9th, 1888

I wonder where “Icebox” came from.

On May 9, 1988:

Icebox Chamberlain made the Kansas City Cowboys look silly.

Elton “Icebox” Chamberlain was a right-handed pitcher for the Louisville Colonels, part of the American Association, in the late 1900’s. Chamberlain was a decent pitcher for a few years, but from 1888-1890, Chamberlain was actually really good. His 1889 season was actually pretty impressive. Chamberlain went on to win 34 games while pitching an amazing 421 innings as a 21-year old. His main problem seems to have been his control. His K/BB rates never topped 2.02, and for the most part, they stayed around an even one, even dropping below it here and there.

But for a fun day in 1888, Chamberlain was the man. A little known fact is that Paul Venditte is not the first pitcher to throw with both hands, even in one game. On May 9, 1888, the Louisville Colonels were playing the Kansas City Cowboys, and after 7 innings, the Colonels were throttling the Cowboys in what would eventually end up a 18-6 ballgame. Chamberlain decided he would pitch the last two innings left-handed and to great effect as he shut them out in those final innings. This wasn’t the first time he had done something like this. Four years before, he alternated arms for four innings.

As an interesting extra story, ten years after his 1884 ambidextrous appearance, he pitched a complete game. The cool part? He gave up 20 runs in a 20-11 loss. Why? I have no idea, but people did things like this back then. If you suck, there’s no early exit. You have to deal with it. Nice.

Thursday’s Answer –> New York Highlanders and Boston Pilgrims (though Americans is also acceptable as an unofficial nickname for most AL teams at the time, but the Red Sox were not officially the Americans until 1908) played the first Red Sox-Yankees game, but it was not broadcast on ESPN.

Update on Trivia Answer: For the most part, it seems the “official” nickname of the New York team was the Highlanders, but as a result of playing in Hilltop Park and no one really having “official” nicknames, Hilltoppers is also an acceptable answer. Actually, because all American League teams were originally nicknamed the “Americans”, New York and Boston Americans are correct, but the Yankees, even as early as 1904, were called the “Yankees” as a play on the word “Americans”. In 1913, “Yankees” became official. Thank you to Ron, history extraordinaire, for aiding in the discovery of this truth. I saw the Baseball-Reference page and didn’t really look it up otherwise, but we learn and that’s why we’re here.

See: Article referring to the team as both the Hilltoppers and Yankees interchangeably.

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2 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: May 9th, 1888”

  1. Kevin Says:

    His 20-11 game was in 1894, which is also the 1st time a player hit 4 HRs in a game. Bobby Lowe maytagged the Ice Box for 4 long ones that day.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    You are correct. I need to edit that.

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