Atlanta Braves: How Hoss Radbourn helped teach the world how to flip the Bird

Hoss Radbourn Old Judge Photo1887
Hoss Radbourn Old Judge Photo1887 / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

The Beaneaters

The Atlanta Braves organization has been located in three different cities over its 150 year history, Boston, Milwaukee, and of course, Atlanta. The Braves have been known by several names as well, such as the Red stockings, Beaneaters, Red Caps, Bees, Rustlers, Doves, and, as we know them today, Braves. Each one of these teams has a unique history of their own, with many players renowned as legends. The Boston Beaneaters can lay claim to one of these legends, a pitcher known for more than his other worldly stats. That legend is Hoss Radbourn.

Radbourn the pitcher

Radbourn was your stereotypical late 1800s macho man who drank, fought, and lived a rowdy life. Radbourn took the term “innings eater” to a whole new level in his career, compiling over 4527.2 innings overall. He posted a lifetime 2.68 ERA, won the most games in a season with 60, had a WAR of 75.4, and pitched 678.1 innings in 1884 alone. Second on the all the all time single season innings list. Throw in a no hitter and triple crown for good measure too. However, Radbourn is known for another piece of history unrelated to baseball, with a gesture familiar to us all.

Radbourn's sneaky message

On Opening Day in April 1886, the Beaneaters were playing the New York Giants. Before the game, both teams posed together for a photograph to commemorate the new season. Radbourn, always a tad sour, decided to show his disdain for the Giants, albeit in a “non-verbal” way. Radbourn can be seen “flipping the bird” in the photo, clearly directed toward the Giants. What makes this event so interesting is the fact the “Bird” was rarely, if ever, used in the 1880s. First uses of the gesture in the United States date back to the 1890s.

Radbourn is credited with being the first person to ever be photographed using the insult. The Giants would get the last laugh in the end, as they stole the pennant from the Beaneaters by one game that year. Radbourn continued his colorful career until 1891, after which he became, fittingly, a saloon owner. He passed away in 1897, aged 42. He was elected to the baseball hall of fame in 1939. Radbourn is remembered today as more than just a pitcher, but as a pitcher with a personality fitting for his time.

Jim O'Rourke, John Ward, Buck Ewing, Mickey Welch, Tim Keefe, Roger Connor, Hoss Radbourn
Radborn (Left) giving the finger. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages