Lipman Pike was not only the first Jewish American sports star and professional baseball player, he was the first pro baseball player altogether. Oh, and there was that time he outran a horse.
Born in New York in 1845 to Dutch Jewish parents, Pike began playing baseball soon after his bar mitzvah, and at the age of 21 agreed to play for the Philadelphia Athletics for $20 a week. That year he belted 6 home runs in one game, establishing his reputation as America’s first great baseball player.
But Pike’s most memorable feat had little to do with playing ball. On a hot summer day in 1873, the star won a strange Baltimore sporting contest: he outran a horse named Clarence in a 100-yard dash contest, and took home $250 – about $5,000 in today’s dollars.
Upon his retirement in 1887, Pike took over his father’s Brooklyn haberdashery shop and ran it until dying of heart disease at the age of 48.
Since Pike, over 160 Jews have played professional American baseball. But no others have made it past Clarence.