Of dogs and baseballs
By Jim Gates
Sometimes when searching for the answer to a question, we come across something else that just can’t be left alone. I was recently conducting some research on the history of Ladies’ Day at ballparks, an innovative event often attributed to Abner Powell.
Powell was a part-owner and manager of the New Orleans Pelicans during the late 1880s, and he initiated such baseball institutions as Ladies’ Day, rain checks and the infield tarpaulin. These are concepts which are still a regular part of baseball.
However, in the process of reading about his impact on baseball history, I came across a little story which simply must be shared, one that you can really sink your teeth into.
It was during the dog days of summer in 1886, Aug. 22 to be exact, that Powell was playing outfield for the Cincinnati Red Stockings when William Van Winkle “Chicken” Wolf of the Louisville Colonels came to bat. Wolf lofted a fly ball in Powell’s direction, but before he could collect the ball to return to the infield, he was attacked by a dog that heretofore had been snoozing in the outfield grass.
The dog, perhaps vaguely aware of some canine kinship to a player named Wolf, took hold of Powell’s leg and would not let go, making it possible for Wolf to round the bases. Wolf was credited with a home run, but it is not known whether the dog recorded an RBI assist.
Talk about your dog day afternoon! As immediately noted by a colleague of mine, this would make Powell part of another baseball first, the “inside-the-bark” home run! For Powell, it was clearly a case of ribbies versus rabies.
Now that is something to chew on.
Jim Gates is librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.