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Arlie Pond, Baltimore Pitcher, Philippines Humanitarian

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  • Arlie Pond, Baltimore Pitcher, Philippines Humanitarian

    Erasmus Arlington Pond

    The ballplayer we know as Arlie Pond was born Erasmus Arlington Pond on January 19, 1873 in Saugus, Massachusetts (a small community about 13 miles north of Boston). Erasmus was a family name, donned by his grandfather, uncle and probably other descendants. No other major leaguer has a given name close to it.


    Pond’s parents were Abbott Sequard Pond (born in MA), about 20 years old in 1873, and Ellen Stocker (also from MA), about 21 in 1873, and younger siblings Mary S., William R and Abbott.

    Pond’s grandfather, also named Erasmus Arlington Pond, became quite famous in his time. Born on July 7, 1828 in Franklin, Massachusetts, he graduated with a medical degree from Harvard University in 1849. Three years later, he moved to Rutland, Vermont to start up a private practice. Pond eventually became president of the Vermont State Medical Society, but more importantly invented, circa 1879, a devise that improved on the existing sphygmograph, an instrument for graphically recording the form, strength and variations of the pulse. The instrument, small enough to fit in a pocket, was placed over the heart, allowing the doctor to trace the cardiac pulse.

    He then started the Pond Sphygmograph Company. The company also invented a means to convert the instrument’s readings to paper. The devices became extremely popular in the States and abroad, especially Europe and Canada.

    Abbott Pond brought his family to Rutland before Arlie was about a year old (Arlie’s sister Mary, a year younger, was born in Vermont) to work for his father. The 1880 U.S. Census lists Abbott as a salesman – for the Pond Sphygmograph Company. Two of Abbott’s brothers were doctors like their father.


    Arlie attended schools in Rutland, graduating from Rutland High School in 1888. He entered Norwich University (Vermont) on September 13, 1888. Norwich is the nation’s oldest private military college – the birthplace of ROTC. At the school Pond pitched for the baseball team and was a musician in the corps of cadets.

    In 1891 Pond transferred to the University of Vermont. There, he joined the glee and banjo club and captained the baseball team. He had reached his full height of 5’10” and would weigh about 160 pounds.

    In 1891 Pond played centerfield for the university team. The following year, Pond switched to pitcher and alternated starts with future major leaguer Bert Abbey. Pond no-hit Yale that season. Eighteen Ninety-One and ’92 proved to be the schools all-time best seasons. Just after the latter season, Abbey joined Washington in the National League.

    In 1893 the club took a whirlwind 2-week southern barnstorming tour. They were then invited to participate in a double-elimination tournament at the famous World’s Fair in Chicago. They placed second but won fans as the only club to defeat Yale. The experience brought Pond, a senior, national attention and his first taste at the limelight.

    He graduated with an A.B. in 1893 and then enrolled in the university’s medical school. Pond was permitted to participate on the baseball squad during his first year in medical school, 1894. He graduated with a Ph.B. and M.D. in 1895.

    Pond then enrolled in a surgical course at the University of Maryland’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.


    It didn’t take long before Ned Hanlon took notice that Pond was in town; the pitcher inked his first major league contract (without any professional experience) on June 23, 1895 and made his debut on July 4. Some sources state that Pond was the first college graduate to pitch in the majors (though that seems unlikely especially if Bert Abbey, 3+ years older, graduated UVM).

    Pond pitched summers for the championship Orioles and completed his medical training during the off-season. From 1895-98, in Baltimore he took classes at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. Pond also interned at City Hospital and was a resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital (currently located next to Towson University, my alma mater).

    A cursory look shows that Pond, a righthander, appeared in six games in 1895, winning one. Over the following two summers, he posted 34 victories. Noting how the game was changing by the 1890s - if Pond had won two more games in 1897, the club would have been the first to boast four 20-game winners. The Orioles won two pennants while Pond was there and copped the Temple Cup the year, 1897, they didn’t.

    There seems to be some sort of contract issue after the 1897 season. Some sources claim that Hanlon dropped Pond in a cost-cutting effort, but that really doesn’t come through in a reading of the attendance figures. The Orioles attendance in 1897 was 273,000 and actually took a drastic slip to 123,000 for 1898; however, that couldn’t be predicted at the start of 1898. And, the Orioles were just as competitive in 1898 as the preceding three seasons.

    Surely, Hanlon had no overt plans to drop a guy that had just won 34 games for him. More likely, Pond’s interests were diverging and he was moving on. He was actively pursuing a commission in the Army during the Spanish-American War. Pond was using his connections in Vermont to get the appointment. In June 1898 he met with Surgeon General Sternberg in this effort. It paid off. On July 5 he was named an acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army. They next day Pond tossed a shutout to complete his major league career. It is interesting to note that he was replaced by the team with another one of the rare major league physicians, Doc McJames. (Which begs to ask why isn’t Pond known in baseball circles as Doc Pond?)

    Pond loved athletics, the good times and the camaraderie; he was torn leaving the club. Through much of his time in Baltimore, he had lived at a boardinghouse at 12 West 24th Street with teammates John McGraw and Hughie Jennings.

    At the end of 1896 he spent an enjoyable month and a half abroad with McGraw, Wilbert Robinson, Joe Kelley and Willie Keeler. They visited Liverpool, London, Brussels, Paris, Dublin and the Irish countryside. The trip was originally set up as an international barnstorming tour, but when finances fell though it was cancelled. The bachelors decided to go nonetheless.

    To highlight the fact that he was torn, Pond wrote McGraw in 1900 (after returning from his initial trip to the Philippines) inquiring about the availability of a job pitching again. It was just a sign of missing the game; Pond’s career path was leading elsewhere.


    Pond reported for duty on July 10, 1898. He was assigned to Fort Myer near D.C. In October he was transferred to the Third Virginia Volunteers in Richmond. In January 1899 Ponds was ordered to New York to catch a ship headed for Manila in the Philippines as part of the 10th Pennsylvania Regiment.

    Though the war was over, many American military personnel were sick from the various diseases on the islands stemming, in part, from the unsanitary conditions. Guerilla fighting was also taking place after it became clear that America had designs on remaining and colonizing the archipelago. For the most part, Pond was stationed at the army hospital in manila but he did have active field service and took part in 26 engagements.

    He retuned to the States in early 1900 (at which time he wrote the letter to McGraw). On July 2, Pond married Elizabeth Stitt Gambrill, a Baltimore native, in Rutland, Vermont. Later that month, he was reassigned to Fort Preble in Maine. The Ponds would never have children.

    In March 1901 he was again ordered to San Francisco to be transported back to Manila. At this time the government was reigning in the insurrectionists and beginning to pour aid into the island nation.

    Dr, Pond served on the Board of Health of Manila beginning in August 1902. The biggest challenges were fighting cholera and other prevalent diseases such as typhoid, bubonic plague, smallpox and leprosy.

    Pond also found time for athletic endeavors, managing a baseball team from the all-black 25th Infantry Regiment.

    Pond received his discharge notice in December 1902 – to take effect on February 1, 1903. However, the Ponds remained in Manila. They worked with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation fighting disease and other issues in Manila City. Pond’s main focus was separating and administering the leper community. He also gained renown for his persistent efforts in attempting to clean up the country’s sanitation troubles.


    The Ponds relocated to the island of Cebu located about 400 miles south of Manila. In Cebu he founded a hospital for lepers and eventually vaccinated the entire island, no small feat considering the number of inhabitants exceeded one million. Pond was also the first head of the Southern Islands Hospital, another project.

    He also was instrumental in rebuilding the old military club which served as the social center for the relocated Americans. Pond played numerous ports in his free time: cricket, polo, golf, tennis and billiards. He was the Philippines tennis champion for some time.

    With the Reverend George Dunlap, a former catcher at Princeton University, Pond helped popularize baseball on the islands. The pair would teach the game to audiences and participants far and wide. They managed amateur nines and, specifically, Pond coached the high school team.

    He developed a huge private practice as the only real doctor on Cebu, also having a contract as physician and surgeon for the railroad, insurance and construction companies. In 1908 Pond started to build an extensive pharmaceutical business.

    In a particularly enjoyable time for Pond, he met McGraw, Charles Comiskey and boys in Manila during their international tour following the 1913 season. McGraw and Pond hadn’t seen each other in well over a decade.


    Pond had been commissioned as a first lieutenant by in 1909 by President Taft. When World War I broke out he was appointed as a major in the Army Medical Corps and assigned to train medical personnel at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana.

    He was planning on assignment in France in 1917 when the governor of the Philippines sent a request asking for Pond’s return. He did so in July and was stationed at Camp Stotsenburg, about 100 miles north of Manila. In August 1918 he was named Post Surgeon at Fort Santiago in Manila.

    During a particularly contentious political period between President Wilson and Russia, Pond was assigned to the U.S.S. Warren which set sail for Siberia in October 1918. The ship arrived the very day the armistice was signed, November 11, and the crew turned around. Pond was discharged from the army for the final time on January 15, 1919. He had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.


    Pond returned to his medical practice in Cebu. He also developed some other business interests. He was the president of a company that oversaw a coconut plantation. He also owned a part of a cattle ranch and formed the Pond & Dean Navigation Company. Combining medical and business interest, Pond became a millionaire; however, he remained on the island dedicated to the health and well-being of the native people.

    The Ponds returned to the States every few years to visit friends and family in Baltimore and Rutland. Their last trip occurred in July 1929. On September 10, 1930 Pond underwent an appendectomy at his hospital on Cebu. He developed peritonitis and died at 9 am on the 19th at age 57. His body was cremated.
    Last edited by Brian McKenna; 03-17-2008, 07:18 AM.

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