Arlie Latham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Arlie Latham
Arlie Latham.jpg
Latham in 1909, serving as a player/coach for the New York Giants.
Third baseman
Born: (1860-03-15)March 15, 1860
West Lebanon, New Hampshire
Died: November 29, 1952(1952-11-29) (aged 92)
Garden City, New York
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 5, 1880, for the Buffalo Bisons
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 1909, for the New York Giants
MLB statistics
Batting average.269
Home runs27
Runs batted in563
Stolen bases742
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
  • 8th all time for stolen bases in a career (739)
  • Led the American Association for most runs scored (1886, with 152)
  • Led the Major Leagues for most stolen bases (1888, with 109)
  • Oldest Player in the Major Leagues (1909, at 49)

Walter Arlington Latham (March 15, 1860 – November 29, 1952) was an American third baseman in Major League Baseball. He played from 1880 through 1909 for the Buffalo Bisons, St. Louis Browns, Chicago Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Senators and New York Giants. He also served as player-manager of the Browns in 1896.

Latham stole 129 bases during the 1887 season. His career total of 742 ranks seventh all-time in the majors. As a player-coach for the 1909 Giants, Latham at age 49 became the oldest MLB player to steal a base.[1]

After his retirement as a player, he became what is acknowledged as the first full-time base coach in baseball history. For years he served as a coach and manager in minor league baseball.

After retiring from baseball, Latham traveled to Great Britain, where he organized baseball matches for soldiers during World War I, and taught baseball to the British. He later worked in baseball as a press box attendant.

Early life[edit]

Latham's father served as a bugler for the Union Army in the American Civil War. Latham became interested in baseball when soldiers returning from the battlefield brought the game of baseball with them.[2] At the age of fourteen, Latham played with a local team from Stoneham, Massachusetts as their catcher. He played in the field barehanded.[3] In 1877, he played for a team in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as the third baseman.[2]

Playing career[edit]

Man in baseball cap
Arlie Latham, 3rd Base, St. Louis Browns, 1886

Latham made his professional debut in minor league baseball with Springfield of the National Association in 1879. Latham debuted in MLB with the Buffalo Bisons of the National League (NL) in 1880, becoming the first man from New Hampshire to play in MLB.[2] He played for the Philadelphia Athletics of the National Association in 1881, and the Philadelphia Phillies of the League Alliance in 1882.

Latham returned to MLB with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association (AA) in 1883. Latham was known as a very good base stealer in his day. He led the AA in runs scored (152) during the 1886 season. He also batted .316 and stole 142 bases, plus another 12 stolen bases in the playoffs.[2] In 1887, as a member of the Browns, he stole 129 bases. This record is not recognized by Major League Baseball, as stolen bases were defined differently prior to 1898. He led the league in stolen bases with 109 during the 1888 season.

In 1890, he jumped to the Chicago Pirates of the Players' League. He returned to the NL with the Cincinnati Reds in July 1890 to serve as a utility player and coach.[4] He played for Cincinnati through 1895, and was traded to the Browns after the 1895 season with Ed McFarland, Morgan Murphy, Tom Parrott and cash for Red Ehret and Heinie Peitz. The Browns released Latham after the 1896 season.

Latham returned to minor league baseball. He played for the Columbus Buckeyes/Senators of the Western League and Scranton Miners of the Eastern League in 1896. He played for the Mansfield Haymakers of the Interstate League in 1897. In 1898, he applied to become a NL umpire;[5] instead, he played for the New Britain Rangers of the Connecticut State League and Hartford Cooperatives of the Atlantic League in 1898. Latham returned to MLB with the Washington Senators in 1899. He played for the Denver Grizzlies of the Western League in 1902.[2][6]

He played for the New York Giants of the NL in 1909, becoming the oldest man in Major League history to steal a base, at the age of 49, a record that still stands today.[1] Latham ended his career with 742 stolen bases.[2] Latham's baserunning expertise was apparently purely instinctive.

He holds the career record for errors at third base, with 822, more than 200 more than the next player on the list.[2] Latham's arm had been injured in a throwing contest with a teammate,[7] which led to Latham making weak or half-hearted attempts to field ground balls.

Return to minor league baseball[edit]

Latham became an umpire in 1903 in the International League.[8] In 1906, Latham managed the Jacksonville Jays of the Southern League. He also served as an umpire for the league and the South Atlantic League.[2][9]

Coaching career[edit]

Latham was major league baseball's first full-time coach. When he was a player, as at that time there were no coaches, he would stand on the third base line and yell insults at the other team's pitcher, attempting to distract him and give the Browns an advantage. One of his techniques was to scream while running up and down the third base line during the pitcher's delivery. The coach's box was introduced to prevent him from doing this.[1]

While Cy Seymour coached third base during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Seymour tackled Moose McCormick as he rounded third base and headed for home plate. When Giants' manager John McGraw asked why, Seymour made an excuse about having the sun in his eyes.[10] This led McGraw, now realizing the need for a full-time coach, to hire Latham for the role, the first full-time coach in MLB.[11] Latham tried to do the same things in New York as he had done years earlier in St. Louis, but times had changed and screaming obscenities was not looked well upon, as baseball was being changed into more of a family-friendly game by then. In the opinion of Fred Snodgrass he was "probably the worst third base coach that ever lived".[1] After the 1910 season, Latham was let go by the Giants.[12]

In 1914, Latham coached Lynn of the New England League;[13] in July 1914, he resigned from the team.[14] Latham announced his retirement from professional baseball in 1915.[15] He wrote for The Pittsburgh Press in 1915.[16] Latham lived in England during World War I, where he organized baseball for the soldiers, and taught King George V about baseball.[2][17][18] He returned to the United States in 1923, and opened a delicatessen on Saint Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan. He also served as a press box attendant for the Giants at the Polo Grounds and New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.[2][19]


Latham was considered one of the funniest players in baseball.[20] Nicknamed "The Freshest Man on Earth", Latham was a colorful player known for playing practical jokes, including on Browns owner Chris von der Ahe and manager Charles Comiskey.[2] In one famous stunt, he lit a firecracker under third base in an effort to "wake himself up", after Comiskey had been complaining about him falling asleep on the job. Also he would occasionally put on a clown's nose while walking behind von der Ahe.

A practical joke Latham pulled on Seymour in March 1909 caused a fight between the two at the team's hotel, prompting McGraw to discharge Seymour from the team and seek a buyer.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Coaching is on the rise in the major leagues". Victoria Advocate. 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Arlie Latham". SABR. 1952-11-29. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  3. ^ "Arlie Latham Scans Past To Pick Greatest Team". The Hartford Courant. January 29, 1951.
  4. ^ The Deseret News via Google News Archive Search
  5. ^ Mansfield Daily Shield via Google News Archive Search
  6. ^ [Displaying Abstract] (2012-06-03). ""Arlie" Latham Signed by Denver. – Article –". Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  7. ^ Dickson, Paul (1989). The Dickson Baseball Dictionary. United States: Facts on File. p. 13. ISBN 0816017417.
  8. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  9. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  10. ^ Mathewson, Christy (1912). Pitching in a Pinch: Baseball From the Inside. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska. p. 120.
  11. ^ Mathewson, p. 121
  12. ^ The Milwaukee Sentinel via Google News Archive Search
  13. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  14. ^ "Arlie Latham Released". 1914-07-01. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  15. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  16. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  17. ^ The Pittsburgh Press via Google News Archive Search
  18. ^ "SIMS ON BALL FIELD.; Admiral Practices at London Game --Arlie Latham Is Umpire". The New York Times. June 1, 1918.
  19. ^ Edmonton Journal via Google News Archive Search
  20. ^ Youngstown Vindicator via Google News Archive Search
  21. ^ "Seymour is Discharged". Chicago Daily Tribune. March 13, 1909. p. 10. Retrieved March 23, 2012. (subscription required)
  22. ^ The Deseret News via Google News Archive Search

External links[edit]