“Erie can justly lay claim to being the incubator of the national sport.” This is according to John G. Carney’s 1957 book “The Saga of Erie Sports”. That is quite a statement! He writes that when the French arrived in the area in the mid-1700s, they found the native people playing the game of lacrosse. When the British later arrived, they played cricket. The combination of the two sports eventually turned into the game of baseball.
Baseball was an easy and inexpensive game to play. Baseballs were initially made by tightly binding cloth rags. Then, string from packages was saved and wound into the proper sized ball. Eventually, a rubber interior was added with string wound around that. A bat was produced by cutting a straight limb from a tree. One end was cut and shaped for a handle. Flat stones were used for bases and an old flat pan was used for home base.
The game further developed in Erie with the designation of one player dedicated to pitching, the other as the catcher. Tony Mullane, the “Count of Macaroni” who was part of that development became known as the greatest ambidextrous pitcher of all time. He is credited with winning 302 games in thirteen seasons of playing in the Big Leagues. No one ever knew which hand he was going to throw with.
In addition to Tony, there have been thirteen other Erie County men who have made it to the Big Leagues. They are listed below in alphabetical order, and I found information on them on the website www.baseball-almanac. I did not realize there is a young man right now from Harborcreek who is playing for the Baltimore Orioles and he is in the Erie line-up below.
Lou Bierbauer Born Sept. 28, 1865 Played 1886 - 1898
Bill Carrick Born Sept. 5, 1873 Played 1898 – 1902
Dell Darling Born Dec. 21, 1861 Played 1883 – 1891
Mark Esser Born April 1, 1956 Played 1979
Tim Federowicz Born August 5, 1987 Played 2011 – 2019
Gussie Gannon Born Nov. 26, 1873 Played 1895
Eric Helfand Born March 25, 1969 Played 1993 – 1995
Tom Lawless Born Dec. 19, 1956 Played 1982 – 1990
Isaac Mattson Born July 14, 1995 Played 2021 – Now
Mike Morrison Born Feb. 6, 1867 Played 1887 – 1890
Bob Raudman Born March 14, 1942 Played 1966 – 1967
Charlie Strick Born Sept. 15, 1858 Played 1882
Dave Wickersham Born Sept. 27, 1935 Played 1960 – 1969
For a more in-depth look at Erie baseball, go to our website www.eriehistory.org. Hagen History Center volunteer Barry J. Gray wrote an excellent 9-part series about the sport beginning in April of 2021. Thank you, Barry, and now go out there to cheer on your favorite team whether that is in the stands or in front of the television!