New Hampshire’s Latham a baseball pioneer

It would be shortsighted to not acknowledge Walter Arlington “Arlie” Latham as one of the true pioneers of baseball.

Latham, who was born in West Lebanon on March 15, 1860, was the first full-time coach in major-league history, and his propensity to run down the third-base line and generally wreak havoc in an effort to distract opposing pitchers led to the introduction of coaches’ boxes.

Latham was also considered the first “Clown Prince of Baseball.” The possessor of an offbeat sense of humor, Latham not only drove opponents and umpires crazy with his many shenanigans, but also often succeeded in getting uner the skin of St. Louis Browns owner Chris Von der Ahe and manager Charles Comiskey. It was a talent that earned him the nickname “The Freshest Man on Earth.”

Latham’s fun-loving approach to the game certainly didn’t overshadow his prowess on the diamond, though, where he was one of the game’s first true base stealers. He ranks eighth in career steals with 739 and his 129 thefts in 1887 places him third on the list of all-time single-season leaders.

In fact, Latham holds the distinction of being the oldest player in history to steal a base. On August 18, 1909, the-then 49-year-old coach of the New York Giants came out of retirement and was credited with a stolen base in the Giants’ 14-1 victory over the Phillies.

Latham played 1,627 games over a 17-year career, finishing with 1,833 hits and 1,478 runs scored.