The Year of the Monkey in the lunar calendar began on Monday. Since the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) is one of my favorite holidays (though not nearly as favorite as Opening Day), I thought I’d try to make a connection with baseball. We’ve already talked about goats this week, though last year was the Year of the Goat. But baseball’s connection to the Year of the Monkey is tenuous at best. As far as I can tell, there haven’t been any teams with monkey in their name, but there have been two players nicknamed Monkey: Frank Foreman and Pete Hotaling. Naturally, I had to find out more.
According to the Society of American Baseball Research, Frank Forman was born in 1863 in Baltimore, Maryland, and played for 8 teams over 11 seasons (1884 to 1902), including the Kansas City Cowboys (1884), the American Association Baltimore Orioles (1885, 1889), the National League Baltimore Orioles (1892, 1901-1902), and the Washington Statesmen (1891). He also apparently was quite the comedian. According to SABR, Foreman “was something of a flake and was always good for a joke or a laugh.” One of his favorite impersonations was of a monkey. Hence, the nickname.
Pete Hotaling was born in 1856 in Mohawk, New York. His first minor league season was with the Syracuse Star in 1877. That year, he was hit by a foul tip and injured his eye and spent a month recovering. While he was out, he contacted the Remington Arms Company to manufacture a mask to protect his face, becoming the first professional ballplayer to wear a catcher’s mask. Because of the “cage” on his face, he became known as the “Monkey.” The Monkey would go on to play for the Cincinnati Reds (1879), the Cleveland Blues (1880, 1883-1884, 1887-1888), the Worcester Ruby Legs (1881), the Boston Red Stockings (1882), and the Brooklyn Grays (1885). Obviously, it was much simpler times…
Of course, the other link between baseball and monkeys is the movie, “Ed.” Remember that 1996 movie starring Matt LeBlanc and a chimpanzee? Yeah. Me neither. For some reason I was never inspired to watch it. The IMDB plot summary simply states: “A trained chimpanzee plays third base for a minor-league baseball team.” Enough said. (Ok, yes, monkeys and chimpanzees are not the same, but I’m trying to give them some credit here.)
Happy New Year!