The Closet Moderate: OTBNW -- Cupid Childs

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

OTBNW -- Cupid Childs

A little late, here's this week's Old-Time Baseball name of the Week: Cupid Childs.

Clarence Lemuel "Cupid" Childs was a second-baseman who played with a variety of teams, but mostly with the Cleveland Spiders, a team most noted for once posting the major leagues' worst record: 20 wins and 134 losses in 1899.

Childs was born in Calvert County, Maryland just after the Civil War and later moved to Baltimore. He was 5'8'' tall and weighed between 185 and 195 pounds, making him even more out of shape than your humble bloggard. According to the Baseball Biography Project, "[i]t's safe to assume that his resemblance to the fictional matchmaker was the reason for his cherubic nickname. He is also referred to in various newspaper accounts as 'Fats,' 'Fatty,' 'Paca,' and even 'The Dumpling.'" That's a lot of nicknames for one pudgy second baseman!

Whatever you called him, Fatty could hit, and he made his major-league debut with the Philadelphia Quakers (now the Phillies) in 1888. He had a rough start there, dropping back to the minors in 1889, but returning to the major leagues as a member of the Syracuse Stars of the American Association in 1890. The American Association ceased to be a major league after that year but Cupid, who had led the league in batting, signed with the National League's Cleveland Spiders. He had apparently also signed a contract with a Baltimore team in the American Association a month earlier, but after fighting it out in court, Childs became a Spider.

The Dumpling hit .281 his first year in Cleveland, and hit above .300 in five of the six years that followed. Childs was one of many good players for Cleveland, and the Spiders were routinely in the top half of the league, playing in the post-season Championship Series three times. Things for the Spiders took an odd turn after the 1898 season, however, when the Spiders' owners bought the St. Louis franchise, too. Realizing that they could sell more tickets with a good team in St. Louis, they transferred all of the best Spiders players to their new team, which they renamed the St. Louis Perfectos (now the Cardinals). The plan backfired, as the Spiders had their aforementioned last place finish, but the Perfectos only finished fifth. After the season, the National League contracted and the Spiders were dissolved.

The St. Louis trade harmed Fatty Childs personally, as well, as he contracted malaria while playing there. The illness affected Cupid's play, and he hit a mediocre .265 -- not bad for someone with malaria, but not up to his usual standards. He was sold to the Chicago Orphans (now the Cubs) before the 1900 season. The effects of malaria, combined with injuries suffered in a fistfight with Pittsburgh's Fred Clarke, made the season a disappointing one for Childs. The following season, 1901, was his last in the majors.

Childs spent the next three seasons bouncing around the minor leagues, but never regained his earlier form. He worked as a driver for a coal company in Baltimore until his death at the age of 45.

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