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Happy Total Solar Eclipse Day: A Brief History of the Louisville Eclipse Baseball Team

A total solar eclipse will cross North America today, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. According to NASA, a total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and completely blocks the face of the Sun. The path of totality includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The eclipse will reach totality around 3 p.m. Eastern time, depending on where you are in the country, which will darken the sky for about a minute like it is nighttime. With that in mind, now is a great time to travel back to the late 1870s and early 1880s when the Louisville Eclipse baseball team existed. 

The Louisville baseball team started as a semi-pro team called the Eclipse in the late 1870s and was one of the first teams to begin play in the post-Civil War era. The Eclipse played in the West End of Louisville at Eclipse Park. A fire destroyed the first Eclipse Park in 1892, and a new one was erected soon after.

The legend is that the name Eclipse came from a racehorse which makes sense given that Kentucky is big on horse racing. According to Bailey Mazik, Curator and Exhibits Director of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the original Eclipse athlete was an undefeated racehorse from England in the late 1700s. 

“He was born in the eclipse of 1764 and his lineage is still present in most Thoroughbreds today,” said Mazik. “An American racehorse of the same name took the racing world by storm in the early-to-mid 1800s and was finally retired to Kentucky in 1837.”

There is another theory that the total eclipse of 1869 inspired the name, as it had Louisville in the path of totality. While nothing has ever been confirmed on the origins of their name, it is fun to theorize about. 

The Eclipse joined the American Association league, the original American League, in 1882 and went 42-38 that year. They would only last one more season before becoming the Louisville Colonels in 1884. Louis Rogers “Pete” Browning was also one of the star players on the team and earned the nickname “Louisville Slugger” for his skills with the bat and the fact he was, as the legend goes, the first player to have a bat custom-made for him which was the birth of the Louisville Slugger bat.

Browning won the American Association’s inaugural batting title in the first year of the Eclipse in 1882, posting a .378 batting average. He also led the majors in on-base percentage (.430) and OPS+ (223). Over his 13-year career, 10 of which were with Louisville, Browning hit .341 and posted an .869 OPS. He won two more batting titles in 1885 and 1890. 

Other members of the 1882 Eclipse were outfielder Leech Maskrey, right-handed pitcher Tony Mullane, catchers Charles Strick and Dan Sullivan, shortstop Denny Mack, third baseman Bill Schenck, a right-handed pitcher, and first baseman Guy Hecker, and outfielders John Reccius and Chicken Wolf. 

Members of the 1882 Louisville Eclipse team in this image are: Top row, standing, from left: Leech Maskrey (OF), Pete Browning (2B), Tony Mullane (P) and Charles Strick (C). Middle, seated: Dan Sullivan (C), Denny Mack (SS), Bill Schenck (3B) and Guy Hecker (1B). Front row, on ground: John Reccius (OF) and Chicken Wolf (OF).

This is an Eclipse scorebook page is from April 9, 1882 from the Louisville Slugger Musuem

Louisville will again be at the center of another eclipse today as the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factor celebrates two historical moments. One is centered around the Eclipse team, which they commemorate by producing eclipse bats that glow in the dark, marked with the event date. The other pivotal moment in baseball history they will also celebrate is Hank Aaron “eclipsing” Babe Ruth’s career home record. On April 8, 1974, which happens to be precisely 50 years ago today, Aaron eclipsed the Great Bambino’s mark of 714 home runs by hitting his 715th career bomb as a member of the then Milwaukee Braves. 


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