Nabi Tajima, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Pittsburgh Pirates

The last surviving human from the 19th Century and a couple of seemingly random baseball games

August 4, 1900, Nabi Tajima was born in Kikai, Japan.

August 4, 1900, the Pittsburg Pirates best the Philadelphia Phillies 4–3.

April 22, 2018, Nabi Tajima, the oldest known living person in the world and only remaining human born in the 19th century, dies at age 117.

April 22, 2018, the Philadelphia Phillies defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6–2.

Baseball is timeless.

Tajima was born on the day of a Phillies-Pirates game. Her lifetime saw the invention of the airplane, the radio, and the television; the “Great War”, the Russian Revolution, a global depression, the Second World War, the Nuclear Age, the first moon landing, and Twitter. Tajima died on the day of a Pirates-Phillies game.

So much in our country, and the world has changed since Deacon Phillippe outdueled Chick Frazer in front of 5600 fans in Exposition Park, but baseball has been a constant in America, a “pastime”, if you will.

Accurately described as the “dead ball era”, there were no home runs hit in the 1900 Pennsylvanian matchup. Rhys Hoskins and Sean Rodriguez both went yard in Saturday’s game. To contrast, the 19th century game featured four doubles : one each from Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Ed Delahanty, and Nap Lajoie… and one from Phillies relief pitcher Al Orth (who hit .281 that year!). Phillies relief pitcher Hector Neris did get a chance to show off his bat Saturday, but struck out with the bases loaded before earning the save. There were no doubles in the recent matchup, however.

The 2018 game featured a once-staggering 21 strikeouts, 16 more than there were in the 1900 face off.

The game on the day of Tajima’s birth took a swift 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete; granted, it need 11 innings for a winner to be decided.

The 3 hour, 11 minute game in 2018 isn’t considered long by today’s standards for a nine inning game, yet it’s still a good amount longer than games took 117 years ago.

Who knows if Nabi Tajima cared about American baseball. Does it even matter? All I know is that thousands upon thousands of Major League Baseball games were played in her extended lifetime, millions of innings were pitched and dozens of legends were made. Lou Gehrig was born during her lifetime, and Jose Fernandez died during it.

I had not have heard about Nabi Tajima the day before writing this piece, and I’m now fascinated with the connection her life brings to the sport that we all love. Her life defied time; yet, it opened with a Phillies-Pirates game and ended with one. Whether the pitches are thrown by (Deacon) Phillipe or Felipe (Vazquez)— the product is baseball. Baseball, like Nabi Tajima, is timeless.

Here’s a comparison of the two games. The box score is taken from The Times from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 5, 1900.

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