For many ball players, Philadelphia becomes merely a second home. What we aim to do with the "Philadelphia Baseball Ghosts" series is take a look at those who are born within Philadelphia city limits before they set off on their grand baseball adventure somewhere else in the vast, horrible world.
John Francis "Phenomenal" Smith
DOB: March 4, 1861
What was happening in Philadelphia at the time: Almost two weeks prior to Wolstenholme's birth, Philadelphia stopped exploding long enough for some people to catch a whale in the Delaware River, where it was treated with the hospitality that guests to our fine city so often receive.
After being netted and crashing into a bridge, it was shot in the head at Delanco and harpooned by seamen at Philadelphia.
Not stopping with one single atrocity, the people of Philadelphia scooped out the whale's bones and displayed their victory over nature in the Academy of Natural Sciences until the exhibit was moved to the Smithsonian.
Meanwhile, on some other river somewhere, the USS Philadelphia was called into service for the Civil War. After a couple of years of mulling about the Potomac River near D.C., the ship named after our fine, whale-murdering city was auctioned off to some people who stranded and abandoned it on Hog Island, Virginia.
MLB career: 1883 Philadelphia Quakers
1 H, 1 2B, .091/.091/.182, -0.2 WAR in three games
Bio: The holy trinity of Wolstenholme's life took place in Philadelphia, a city in which the streets are flooded with whale viscera. In March 1861, he was born here. Then, exactly 55 years later, on his birthday, he died here. In between, for three glorious days, he played professional baseball in the summer of 1883. It was once suggested that he, as a catcher, and Philadelphia Quakers pitcher Alonzo Breitenstein combined for the longest-named battery in baseball history, but this was quickly refuted by the fact that they never actually played in a game together.
Led by catcher Emil Gross and outfielder Jack Manning, the '83 Philadelphia Quakers were a force to be reckoned with. And then, after a team had reckoned them quite easily, they would often beat them at baseball. The Quakers would lose 81 of the 98 games they played that year, beginning a tradition of humiliation and despair in a city that came to know it quite well, even if you just trace the history of its sports teams. There was also a man named "Piggy Ward" on the team.
Anyway, Wolstenholme saw his wildest dreams come true when he logged his only big league hit, a double, at some point between June 4 and June 11, and then did not succeed at baseball on the professional level ever again.
At 22 years old, poor Abe had no idea that he was playing on the inaugural roster for a team that would go on to drive an entire city into rampant, inexplicable madness, like some sort of wayward sea creature. But over the course of the next 133 years, they would do just that as the Quakers would eventually become the Phillies, and Wolstenholme went to his grave knowing he had been a part of something special. Or, he was thinking about more important things to him, personally.
He now lives on as a part of annually compiled lists on Presidents Day blog posts about player names that are also president's names. What a legacy.
What hitting a double for the 1883 Philadelphia Quakers must have been like:
Okay, Abe, this is your shot, you've been waiting your whole life for this.
Everyone's looking at you; you're the guy now. They always said you'd never be anything but the stool your father sat on while he milked the cows, but now look at you! No one will ever force you to be furniture again!
This could really be the start of something, you know? Who knows how far Philadelphia will take his "baseball" thing. These people seem pretty ravenous for it, for some reason. The country's about to split in two and all these people are at the park today, cheering me on. Or, having death threats sent to the dugout for me via the bat boy. What a crazy town! I don't want to end up like that whale, though, so I hope I get my first hit soon. Also, it would probably be for the bay boy's benefit as well; he seems pretty shaken from of the things the fans have written to me.
[Records are unclear as to the context of Wolstenholme's hit, so we'll just skip ahead to him being on second base]
I did it! I based the ball! What a thrill!
I must save the burst of flowery prose which the experience has inspired me to compose for my journaling later tonight, presuming I can retrieve my journal out of the latrine! What a funny prank that was, when Piggy and the boys and wrenched the book out of my hand, brutalized me for several minutes, and then shat upon my innermost thoughts and feelings with no regard!
But there's no time to dwell on that now - a game is afoot! Surely I won't be the sole Quaker to inhabit these base paths this inning! One of my fellow teammates will certainly join me out here! Shall I compose a cheer for the current batsman? No, no; I have been warned about shouting my affections.
You know, this is a very wonderful place, Philadelphia. The cobbelstoned roads at time do seem like they were designed to intentionally break the ankles of pedestrians, yes; and the people are loudly insecure, and many of them at this game today seem to be taking things more seriously than most of the players; and there was that mob that tore the bones out of a lost whale the other day. And perhaps it is the sheer ecstasy of my success in the sporting world talking, but I have never felt more alive than I do right n--
Oh dear. The coach is shouting at me again and everyone is leaving the field. I knew I should have paid closer attention to the reading of the rules. What happens now? Do I take the base with me off the field? Should I try to score? Or are we all retiring for a snack? Quickly now; it's going to be evident I have no idea what's going on all too soon.
Ah, I see - the inning has concluded. Well, nevertheless, I am sure that won't be my last hit. No, sir - baseball has not seen the last of Abraham Lincoln Wolstenholme - Father's Cow-Milking Stool No More!
I shall submit this phrase as my fun baseball nickname.