Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Great Names in Baseball: Cupid Childs

Baseball fans loves fat guys. Maybe fans identify better with them because heavier players look more like common American slobs than the sculpted superstars whose strength is not shrouded by extra heft. Clarence "Cupid" Childs was one such player. But unlike modern heavyweights such as pitcher Ray King or first baseman Prince Fielder, Childs played a more physically demanding position: second base.

He was agile enough to stay at the position for his entire career and round enough as a kid to be called "Cupid." He played mostly in the 1890s and made an appearance in the first couple years of the new century. At 5'8" and 185 lbs., Childs was among the heavier players of the era. While this is about average for a modern ballplayer, the turn of the century saw players who were typically toothpick-thin. That Childs was fleet enough to steal 269 bases in his career is a testament to his athleticism.

Childs' never hit with the power of the biggest big man of all, Babe Ruth. Rather, at his peak with the Cleveland Spiders1 in the 1890s, Childs was a patient hitter who averaged nearly a walk per game while batting in the low-to-mid .300s. His career .416 on-base percentage ranks 24th all-time, but Childs' decline in his final four years brought that number down. In his prime seasons of 1892-1894, he drew 344 walks while striking out only 43 times.

Childs was moved to the St. Louis Perfectos in 1899, as both St. Louis and the Spiders were owned by the Robison Brothers, who saw ownership of both clubs as a way to slide good players to one team to be competitive. And while the Perfectos went 84-67 that season, they finished a disappointing fifth in a competitive league2. And Childs missed part of the season with malaria. Yes, Cupid got malaria3.

Childs found himself with the Chicago Orphans in 1900, but he was never the same player again. After a disappointing season-and-a-half, the Orphans orphaned Cupid. Cupid played for a bevy of minor-league clubs until 1904. He went to work as a coal driver in Baltimore after that, but Cupid died bankrupt in 1912 of Bright's Disease. He was only 45.

His career was overlooked by the Hall of Fame. They only like fatties who were media darlings, apparently.

1 Cleveland Spiders is probably a better mascot than their current one, which is probably the most offensive mascot in all of sports. They've only gotten away with it because they play in Cleveland, which no one cares about.
2 It may be noted that the 1899 Cleveland Spiders were terrible, winning only 20 games all year. The Spiders folded at season's end.
3 Someone please make a Photoshop of this sentence. If you don't, I may have to make an MS Paint mashup3A.
3A By the way, a Google image search of "cupid malaria" brings up photos of Cupid Childs. So I guess he's famous for something, even if it isn't Hall of Fame worthy.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever thought of writing a book about this subject?