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1890s Lizzie Arlington Cabinet Card - First Well-Known Female Baseball Player - Only Known Photo In Uniform!
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $6,518
Presented here is, to the best of our knowledge, the only photograph picturing Lizzie Arlington in uniform. Arlington, of course, holds the distinction of being the first woman to appear in a professional minor-league game, with her debut occurring on July 5, 1898, as a member of the Reading Coal Heavers. The cabinet photo pictures Arlington striking a throwing pose, dressed in a uniform consisting of a long-sleeved jersey, matching skirt, cap, black stockings, and cleats. A ball is in her right hand and she is wearing a webless "workman's" style glove on her left hand. A large "A" appears on the left breast of her jersey. The photographer's credit, "Gilbert & Bacon" of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is printed along the base of the mount.
Arlington, whose real name was Lizzie Stride, was born in 1877 in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. Even at an early age she was recognized as an accomplished athlete, known in her town as the first girl to ride a bicycle. Additionally, she was an accomplished roller skater, a skilled rider on horseback (she competed in polo matches with men), and a crack shot with a rifle. It was in the sport of baseball, however, that her talents reached their zenith. As word of her abilities on the diamond spread, she was signed to a professional contract in early July 1898, by Philadelphia promoter Captain William J. Connor for $100 per week to play with his baseball team, the Philadelphia Reserves. It was at that time that Stride began using the name Arlington, believing that a more English-sounding name would be better for promotional purposes. Connor signed Arlington on the belief that the novelty of a woman playing on a men's team would lead to a dramatic increase in attendance. Unfortunately, Arlington's debut with the club, in an exhibition game against Richmond on July 2, 1898, drew only 500 fans. Disappointed in the turnout, Connor immediately released her from her contract, but she was quickly signed to an Atlantic League contract by League president, and future Hall of Famer Ed Barrow.
Barrow, too, saw Arlington as a novelty draw and she made her official professional debut in a regular-season game on July 5, 1898, as a member of the Reading Coal Barons. Arlington pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Reading's 5-0 victory over the hometown Allentown Peaches, with her appearance documented in the box score from the game published in the July 16, 1898, issue of The Sporting News. (That box score is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.) Her appearance was also reported in the Reading Eagle the following day. Interestingly, the paper described Arlington as "a plump young woman with an attractive face and rosy cheeks. She wore a gray uniform with skirt coming to the knees, black stockings and a jaunty cap. Her hair was not cropped, but done up in the latest fashion." That description of her uniform is basically identical to the one worn by her in the offered cabinet. That she was signed to a contract by the Atlantic League, and was not specifically a member of any particular team, probably explains the "A" (for Atlantic League) on her jersey.
Although Barrow liked the publicity of a woman on the field, other teams did not share his enthusiasm, The Hartford Co-Operatives refused to let her pitch for them the next day because they were concerned that her talents were not equal to that of the player she would be replacing. They felt winning took precedence over attendance. Other teams also followed suit and voiced their opposition. While there are no other surviving official reports or box scores of Arlington appearing in any other Atlantic League games that season, Ed Barrow was later quoted as stating that she did make appearances with Newark, Patterson, and Wilmington. Regardless, her professional career in organized baseball ended in 1898. She did continue to play baseball though, headlining barnstorming tours with the Bloomer Girls as "Miss Lizzie Arlington, The Famous Lady Pitcher, " for a number of years afterwards. Arlington died in 1919 as a result of complications following surgery. Both the photo (4 x 5.5 inches) and mount (4.25 x 6.5 inches) display only modest handling wear and remain in Excellent to Mint condition. Reserve $300. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $6,518
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