Here’s a story I wrote in the summer of 2014. Little did I understand its significance. Now I know what it meant – it led to “The Dutchman’s curse.” This is directly from my devotional… which is still available on Amazon.
13. Not So Lucid Con Lucid…
Scripture Reading: Acts 2: 1 – 41
Key verse: Acts 2: 7 – And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? (ESV)
Did you ever hear of Con Lucid? Cornelius Cecil Lucid was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1874. After his family moved to the United States, he discovered baseball, pitching for the Louisville Colonels of the National League at the age of 19. He later pitched for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1897, he pitched for the last time for the St. Louis Browns, which, at that time, was a team in the National League. His final career record was a rather unimpressive 23 wins and 23 losses with a horrific career ERA of 6.02. In a year he split between the Bridegrooms and the Phillies, 1895, he had his best year in the Majors, a total of 16 wins and 10 defeats. Another claim to some kind of fame was his walks-strikeout ratio that year: a poor 3 bases on balls for every one strikeout.
So why even talk about this odd 19th Century pitcher who didn’t amount to much? Well, it was what he did off the field that makes him memorable – when he was acting as a scout and not a player. The story goes that Con Lucid was nursing a sore arm early in the 1897 season. His team, the Phillies, asked him to go to Paterson, New Jersey, to watch a Minor League game between teams in the Atlantic League. He was instructed to watch a player on one of the teams, a guy with the first name of John, who was 5’ 11” and 200 pounds (fairly heavy for a typical baseball player at the time).
Lucid’s report was not a positive one – other than the observation that the player was a “good hitter.” “He’s big and clumsy” he wrote, “too awkward to play big league ball.” Most people at that time probably agreed with that assessment – but, unfortunately, it was Con Lucid’s name that went down in history with that report. Because the player he suggested that the Phillies not sign was named John Peter Wagner… better known by his nickname Hans… or Honus. That’s right – Honus Wagner, who went on to be one of the greatest baseball players to ever put on a uniform. Starting later in the 1897 season for the Louisville Colonels of the National League, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1900 season. In 1901, he played, frequently for the first time, the position of shortstop. Despite being “big” and “awkward,” he was a phenomenal fielder at short, considered the best fielder for his time period.
At the plate, Wagner achieved more than even his fielding with an outstanding career as a hitter, winning eight batting titles and an average of .328. He was also, especially for his size and bowed legs, a great baserunner with 723 total steals (leading the NL five times).
There are two other interesting points to this story. One is this: Con Lucid pitched for the Phillies in 1896, with an awful record of 1 and 4 and a downright hideous ERA of 8.36. He possibly could put part of the blame on one of the fielders supporting him – shortstop Billy Hulen, who played in 73 games behind him. Why is that? Actually, with an ERA that high, Lucid had a lot of earned runs scored on him; only four were unearned. Hulen had a terrible total of 51 errors – but, again, they may not have hurt the pitcher very much. It may have been that Hulen couldn’t get to a lot of balls because – believe it or not – he was left-handed. A left-handed shortstop? Yes, for 74 games! There’s a reason lefties don’t typically play short – it’s an awkward turn to get the ball over to first, as well as having their glove on the same side as the right-handed third baseman. They both cover the hole between third and short; Hulen must have let a lot of singles get by him up the middle, considering the fact that he would have to backhand those. Even though he didn’t play short – yet – Wagner would have looked awfully good there. Then again – the Phillies probably wouldn’t have figured all that out. How ironic…
And a second irony: do you know who was the Phillies starting first baseman at the end of 1896? Rookie by the name of Napoleon Lajoie – yes, THAT Napoleon Lajoie, who had a fabulous career as a second baseman starting in 1898, spending most of his career with the Cleveland AL team (where, by the way, he was so popular that the team was officially named the Naps in his honor). But, could you imagine – the Phillies might have had one of the greatest keystone combinations in the history of the game!
We’re at the Day of Pentecost in our passage today, the Day of the First Fruits. And what a Day of First Fruits it was – the birth of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers in the Upper Room, a reality manifested by the believers praising God in the languages of all those who heard them. It was even more amazing to the people in Jerusalem because these were uneducated, unsophisticated Galileans (of all people!) It was so astonishing, some of the hearers foolishly accused them of being drunk!
Then, up steps the big fisherman, one who most would have said was “too awkward” to give any kind of speech – Peter. Peter, of all people, speaks boldly to the crowd, even accusing them of killing the Son of God, their Messiah that “you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23b ESV) This man who had denied the Lord when a little girl questioned him – three times! – a few weeks earlier, now thunders from the pulpit for all to hear. What happened? It’s obvious: he was full of the power of the Holy Spirit!
And what a speech! He was so powerful, bringing in appropriate Old Testament passages all along the way, that the listeners were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2: 37 ESV). And 3000 people got saved that day. For a big awkward Galilean fisherman, he did pretty well! But, again and obviously, it wasn’t the man, it was the Spirit who “gave [him] utterance”. (Acts 2:4 ESV). The point is that God can use any of us for His purposes. As long as we’re willing and obedient, He delights in using us. Just like He used Peter, He wants to use us. And, if we are lead by the Spirit – empowered by the Spirit – there’s no telling what God can do through us. We may look “big and awkward”, but God is our enabler. If He wants to use you, be available.
Con Lucid, apparently, was never able to live his mistake down. Many of the people who demanded that Jesus be crucified were saved by God’s grace that day. What a merciful God He is! But Lucid eventually moved to Texas. He apparently umpired a Major League exhibition game in Fort Worth in the early 1900’s. Things ended tragically for him – he committed suicide in Houston in 1931, at the still young age of 57. But we need not be so dejected – if we know the Savior, we will know His joy. No matter what mistakes we’re made – I’ve made them often – He promises grace to us, and, praise His holy Name, mercy.
Thought: Don’t despair – God’s forgiveness is always near!