From the Wikipedia: Pangolins


Nap time came early for my kid today. This isn’t a typical Wednesday, but nap time typically comes early on Wednesdays, because on typical Wednesdays he has school on the Upper West Side in the afternoons. So on typical Wednesdays, we go to the Museum of Natural History in the morning, where he tires himself out sprinting big circles around the diorama rooms full of gorgeous and exotic animals that Teddy Roosevelt and his friends shot in the name of science. I’m desperately awaiting a typical Wednesday.

From the Wikipedia: Pangolins.

Pangolin_borneoI’ve written before about the internet’s weird, dumb tendency to shame people for knowledge they want but don’t yet have, but I will admit without hesitation that I never in my life heard of a pangolin before they became newsworthy as a potential disease vector for COVID-19. From all the time at the museum, I know about gemsboks and gaurs and kudus and sables, but as far as I know there is no pangolin there. This creature’s existence entirely dodged my awareness until roughly two weeks ago.

As it turns out, the study that initially connected pangolins to the coronavirus was a bit of a stretch — I don’t really understand the science detailed on the Wikipedia page, but you’re welcome to check it out and report back. Either way, it’s clearly not the pangolins’ fault, and it turns out pangolins are fascinating.

Did you know that pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world? I would’ve guessed it was monkeys or something. There are eight extant species of pangolin, and together they comprise some 20% of the world’s illegal wildlife trade. Types of pangolin live in Sub-Saharan Africa, on the Indian subcontinent, and in China and Southeast Asia.

They’re hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some areas, and especially for their most unusual characteristic: Protective scales made of keratin that cover their entire body. The Wikipedia says they’re the only known mammal with this feature, and that the scales are coveted in part for their value in Chinese traditional medicine.

The scales are also undeniably dope. The name pangolin derives from a Malay word that means “one who rolls up,” because pangolins can basically turn themselves into spiky rocks by going fetal when threatened. Check out this pangolin in its defensive position:


Here’s a different type of pangolin, confusing the heck out of some hungry lions:


“Oh, where’d I go, sucker lion?” – That pangolin there.

Pangolins eat ants and termites with a sticky tongue that can extend up to 16 inches. Three of the eight species of pangolin are critically endangered and three more are considered vulnerable, but they tend to struggle in captivity, flummoxing conservation efforts.

The pangolin’s champions include David Attenborough, who rescued one from hunters in Bali in 1951, and Jackie Chan, who put out a PSA in 2017 to support a ban on international pangolin trade. In 2017, a YouTube channel called Animalogic declared it “The cutest animal you’ve never heard of.” They don’t really seem cute in photos, but once you see them walk, it makes sense:

In conclusion, don’t blame this cool animal for the ‘rona. Pangolins aren’t trying to get people sick, they just want to eat ants and roll themselves up into balls and have sex once a year.

From the Wikipedia: Sentinelese people

The Wikipedia journey started at French Guiana, because French Guiana is one of the very few places in the Americas where no one has ever visited TedQuarters. It finished with one of the most fascinating Wikipedia pages I’ve ever stumbled upon.

Here's what the Sentinelese look like. From the Wikipedia: Sentinelese people

The Sentinelese are an isolated tribe of roughly a couple hundred people who love coconuts and hate everybody. They reside on North Sentinel Island, one of the most remote islands in the Andaman chain, separated from its nearest neighbor by some 20 miles’ worth of the Bay of Bengal.

The Sentinelese are believed to have arrived in the Andamans as part of the first migration of human beings out of Africa about 60,000 years ago, via a land bridge during a glacial period. Based on what little we know of them today, they appear to largely maintain the same lifestyle they did during the Paleolithic Era, spearfishing, gathering fruit, and hunting local pigs for food. Stone-age stuff.

The Sentinelese were one of a group of five tribes found on the Andamans by European explorers in the 18th century. The other four, all native to larger Andaman Islands, were largely wiped out or dispersed by colonial aggression and disease. The Sentinelese still control the same territory they did over 300 years ago. Officially, the Indian government claims North Sentinel Island as part of its Andaman and Nicobar Islands Union Territory, but since no treaty has ever been made with the Sentinelese people, the island is a de facto autonomous region. As of 2005, local Indian administrators stated that they have no intention to interfere with the Sentinelese and will make no further efforts to contact them.

Part of that is because the Sentinelese kill or try to kill nearly everyone that comes close. The photograph above is typical of several of those we have of the tribesmen, showing them raising bows toward a possible intruder. It is the product of an incident in 2006 during which the Sentinelese killed two fishermen who got drunk, passed out, and drifted into their waters. When a helicopter hovered over the island to try to recover the bodies, the Sentinelese  showered it with arrows. They are considered expert marksman, and are known to have at least three different types of arrows — one for hunting, one for fishing, and one for firing warning shots at intruders.

Most outside interactions with the Sentinelese have started and ended with violence. In 1867, a merchant ship wrecked on the island and the 106 survivors had to fend off Sentinelese attacks until the Royal Navy could rescue them. In 1981, a ship wrecked on the coral reef near the island and its captain radioed for an urgent airdrop of firearms, reporting tribesmen with spears building boats on the beach until the ship’s crew was finally rescued by helicopter. In 2004, an Indian government helicopter sent to survey the island for damage after the Tsunami that ravaged most of the area determined that the Sentinelese were still apparently healthy enough to greet the aircraft with rocks and arrows.

You could read all that and conclude that the Sentinelese are total a-holes, but their instincts might actually be reasonable. The Jarawa people of a neighboring Andaman island have recently started making contact with outsiders, only to be riddled with diseases for which they have no natural immunity and, to boot, gawked at and exploited by tourists.

Almost everything we know about the Sentinelese comes from Indian anthropologist Trilokinath Pandit, the only outsider known to have made friendly contact with the Sentinelese — and only after some 25 years spent buttering them up.

Starting in 1967, Pandit began visiting the island every few years, often bearing gifts — coconuts, fish, toys, pots and pans, and pigs tethered on the beach. In 1974, Pandit brought a documentarian with him to attempt to film the Sentinelese, but the Sentinelese shot the filmmaker in the thigh with an arrow. Until 1991, Pandit continued attempting contact and being rebuffed — sometimes violently, sometimes insultingly. He reported: “Sometimes they would turn their backs to us and sit on their haunches as if to defecate. This was meant to insult us and to say we were not welcome.”

Finally, on Jan. 4, 1991, after years and years of free coconuts — and the Sentinelese love coconuts, which do not grow on their island but sometimes wash up on shore — Pandit arrived on the shore of North Sentinel Island to be met by a group of 28 unarmed Sentinelese.

Welcome on the island, Pandit began learning their habits and customs, but not before he got naked first. The Sentinelese preferred he and his team take off their clothes, watches and glasses before making contact. Once stripped, Pandit learned that the Sentinelese live without a chief or government in huts or large communal dwellings, can fashion weapons and tools from scrap metal they’ve found or pilfered from area shipwrecks, and are very protective of fire, which they can control from embers in lightning-struck trees but can not make on their own.

Also, the anthropologists learned to practice the traditional Sentinelese greeting, “which is to sit in a friend’s lap and slap your right buttock vigorously.” I very much hope that’s not the traditional greeting, and the Sentinelese were just messing with Pandit’s team. “Hey guys — let’s convince these idiots to smack their own asses. And DO NOT tell them about the KFC franchise we’re operating on the other side of the island.”

That’s about all I’ve learned about the Sentinelese over the past two days of vigorous Wikipedia research. You can try to go there and find out more, but they’ll probably kill you.

Also, in Googling Pandit I learned that our man Dan Lewis covered the Sentinelese in his Now I Know newsletter last year. I missed that one until now, but it’s worth checking out.

From the Wikipedia: Pop Goes the Weasel

I have no idea why.

Here's what a weasel looks like. I was really tempted to use a picture of Pauly Shore but I thought that might be too obscure. From the Wikipedia: Pop Goes the Weasel.

“Pop Goes the Weasel” is a common children’s song, numbered 5249 in the Roud Folk Song Index. The lyrics of the version I grew up with are as follows:

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought it was all in fun
Pop! goes the weasel.

Those lyrics defy explanation. For one thing, there are not many areas of the world where monkeys, weasels and mulberry bushes coexist, and in none of them do people traditionally speak English. Mulberry trees grow all over the place: Europe, southern Asia, Central and South America, eastern North America and southern Africa, but there are no monkeys in eastern North America, unfortunately, and no weasels in southern Africa. The only non-human primates native to Europe are the Barbary apes.

Furthermore, the lone South America type of mulberry tree — morus insignis — mostly appears to exist near the Pacific coast, whereas South American weasels typically live inland.

Basically, the only places where a monkey could feasibly chase a weasel around a mulberry bush without human intervention are Mexico, parts of Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru in the Western Hemisphere and China, Laos and Vietnam in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Moreover, though weasels do communicate vocally, they either gurgle or squeal or screech or purr, depending on the type of weasel and the situation, but never pop. And though a playful monkey might chase a weasel “in good fun,” it’s unlikely that monkeys ever eat weasels. In fact, tayras — a cousin to the weasel sometimes included in the larger weasel umbrella — are known to attack monkeys, so it may be more common for weasels to chase monkeys than the other way around. I know: I’m blowing your mind right now.

So the song makes no sense. But as it turns out, and somewhat predictably, the lyrics to “Pop Goes the Weasel” commonly sung in the United States are not the original ones. Our version is the remix.

The song dates back to at least the 1850s in England, but none of the known versions from that era contain references to mulberry bushes and only one verse mentions a monkey. The first time it included a monkey chasing anything, at least by the Wikipedia’s research, came in a version printed in Boston in 1858, when the monkey was chasing the people around the cobbler’s house.

It’s worth noting that the Wikipedia deems the song’s popularity on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1850s as a “dance craze.” No joke. Some 160 years ago, “Pop Goes the Weasel” was the hottest new jam at all the clubs. Newspapers called it “the latest English dance” and (inaccurately) credited it to Queen Victoria herself, and apparently started using the phrase “pop goes the weasel” as an expression outside the context of the song, like how people once claimed to be too legit to quit or, presumably, said, “c’mon, baby, do the loco-motion” to compel their friends into action at various times in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

It makes “Gangnam Style” seem palatable, really.

As it turns out, there are a variety of theories as to what “Pop Goes the Weasel” actually means, but it seems most likely it comes from Cockney rhyming slang — itself the subject of a reasonably fascinating Wikipedia page. For whatever reason, people in the East End of London have habit of “replacing a common word with a rhyming phrase of two or three words and then, in almost all cases, omitting the secondary rhyming word (which is thereafter implied), in a process called hemiteleia.” For example, the phrase “to blow a raspberry” to mean making a flatulent sound with your mouth and lips actually comes from the cockney rhyming slang for fart, “raspberry tart,” shortened to raspberry.

The Wikipedia suggests that “popping” is a cockney slang term for pawning, and weasel — from “weasel and stoat,” whatever that means — is cockney rhyming slang for “coat.” So it seems possible that “Pop Goes the Weasel” actually means to pawn your coat, which makes a lot a sense in the context of this verse, noted as early as 1856:

Up and down the City Road
In and out the Eagle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop! goes the weasel.

The Eagle was the name of a pub on City Road. So it seems eminently likely that the song we all sung as children is based on one about pawning your coat for booze. Better that than the black plague, I suppose.

Ty Cobb’s Wikipedia page is the most fascinating thing you’ll read today

I got unexpectedly busy this afternoon. I was going to write up something to recap Ty Cobb’s Wikipedia page, but really, you should just read the whole thing. Turns out Ty Cobb was crazy, in many of the ways you’ve already heard about but also several other ways as well.

The excerpt that led me there, via a former student turned Facebook friend:

After enduring several years of seeing his fame and notoriety usurped by Ruth, Cobb decided that he was going to show that swinging for the fences was no challenge for a top hitter. On May 5, 1925, he began a two-game hitting spree better than any even Ruth had unleashed. Sitting in the Tiger dugout, he told a reporter that, for the first time in his career, he was going to swing for the fences. That day, he went 6 for 6, with two singles, a double and three home runs.[73] The 16 total bases set a new AL record, which stood until May 8, 2012 when Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers hit four home runs and a double for a total of 18 bases.[74] The next day he had three more hits, two of which were home runs. The single his first time up gave him nine consecutive hits over three games. His five homers in two games tied the record set by Cap Anson of the old Chicago NL team in 1884.[73] Cobb wanted to show that he could hit home runs when he wanted, but simply chose not to do so. At the end of the series, the 38-year-old veteran superstar had gone 12 for 19 with 29 total bases and then went happily back to his usual bunting and hitting-and-running.

Also, searching for a photo of Ty Cobb to use for this post led me to this odd NSFW Mickey Mantle autograph.

From the Wikipedia: List of common misconceptions

Straight-up: I Googled “Best Wikipedia page ever” and this came up. And it’s pretty great.

From the Wikipedia: List of common misconceptions

The Wikipedia’s list of common misconceptions will blow your f—ing mind. A lot of it is stuff you might have known or otherwise suspected — like how everyone pretty much knew the earth was round by the late 15th century when Columbus proposed sailing west to get east. But unless you’ve seen the page before, there’s a lot on there that’s going to be brand new to you. The whole thing’s worth a read, and since it’s presented in list form it’s already formatted for easy consumption, but here are some highlights:

– Vikings probably did not wear horns on their helmets. That comes from Wagner’s Ring cycle.

– Iron maidens did not exist as torture devices in the Middle Ages, meaning Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is historically inaccurate. They were reconstructed from various artifacts to “create spectacular objects for commercial exhibition.”

– Pilgrims did not dress like Pilgrims.

– Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” Rousseau did, and it was, “Let them eat brioche” anyway.

– George Washington did not have wooden dentures. They were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and a combination of real human and animal teeth. Turns out George Washington had a baller-ass grill.

– The U.S. Constitution is not written on hemp, Cheech.

– Napoleon Bonaparte was 5’7″, slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time.

– John F. Kennedy’s German quote “Ich ben ein Berliner” does not actually translate to “I am a jelly donut” in Berlin, it means exactly what he meant it to mean: I am a Berliner. The pastry in question is called a Berliner Pfannkuchen elsewhere in Germany, but in Berlin they just call it a Pfannkuchen, naturally.

– Undercover cops do not actually have to tell you if they’re undercover cops. Sorry if I’m blowing up your spot, undercover cops.

– Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet and the word “crap” does not derive from his name. Or perhaps both are true and the Crapper family are now vigilant Wikipedia editors.

– Old and Middle English speaking peoples did not actually pronounce “ye” instead of “the.” It just looks that way in print.

– The Great Wall of China is not visible from the moon, nor is any other specific human-made object.

– Per the Wikipedia, “the notion that goldfish have a memory span of just a few seconds is false.” I always struggled believing that one anyway. How in hell did anyone know?

– Despite what you may have seen on the Flintstones, humans and dinosaurs never co-existed. Only 59% of U.S. adults know that. 59 percent.

– Humans do not use only 10 percent of their brains. Another one of those goldfish ones. Who really purported to know that for sure?

– Lightning strikes the same place all the time. Work someplace where you can see the Empire State Building in a thunderstorm and you learn this real quick.

– Speaking of: A penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building would not pick up enough speed to kill someone. Also, it’d hit a lower level on its way down.

– This is not a common misconception, but apparently Marilu Henner can remember every meal she has ever eaten.

– Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet. He said he “took the initiative in creating the Internet,” which is kind of true.




From the Wikipedia: List of Phobias

Can’t even remember where I started, but this is where I wound up.

From the Wikipedia: List of Phobias.

The suffix -phobia, in psychiatry, is used to construct a word meaning a crippling, irrational fear of something. In common usage, it just means a strong dislike or hatred of something. The Wikipedia separates its list of phobias into five categories: Psychological phobias, non-psychological phobias, biological phobias, prejudices, and fictional phobias. Obviously a lot of the psychological phobias are serious conditions that we’ve all heard of, so I’ll skip most of them.

I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s mental-health condition, but several of the other psychological phobias seem eminently reasonable. For example: Algophobia, the fear of pain; atychiophobia, the fear of failure; hoplophobia, the fear of weapons or firearms; and necrophobia, the fear of death. Probably all of those seem rather tragic in their extreme forms, but certainly we all stand to benefit a bit from fearing pain, firearms, failure and death.

Other phobias seem alarmingly specific, like omphalophobia, the fear of belly buttons, and papaphobia, the fear of the Pope. The big difference between papaphobia and omphalophobia is that you kind of have to go out of your way to see the Pope, so if you fear him you’re pretty much in the clear unless you happen to live in the Vatican — a very awful place to be a papaphobe. But if you’re an omphalophobe and you were born of woman you’re more or less screwed.

Some terrifying-sounding self-perpetuating meta-phobias include chronophobia, the fear of time moving forward, panphobia, the fear of everything, and phobophobia, the fear of having a phobia.

Also of note is nomophobia, the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. C’mon, guy. Do you not remember, like, 1999?

Few of the biological phobias are interesting and all of the prejudices are just, you know, bigotry. Some of the fictional phobias are pretty funny but most aren’t as creative as you’d hope. Keanuphobia is exactly what it sounds like. Luposlipaphobia, coined by Gary Larson — perhaps the first person I ever recognized as funny — refers to the “fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor.”


From the Wikipedia: Gummy bear

I was enjoying some Haribo Gold-Bears last night and thinking, “man, Haribo makes by far the best gummy bears.” I even thought to myself that Haribo’s gummy is so superior to all others that it must be the pioneer in gummy candy. So I went to the source of all knowledge and found that not only were my suspicions correct, but that gummy bears have a surprisingly extensive Wikipedia page.

From the Wikipedia: Gummy bear.

According to the Wikipedia, a gummy bear is a “small, rubbery-textured confectionary” that is “roughly two centimeters long” and “shaped in the form of a bear.” The gummy bear is not to be confused with the actor Jason Davis, whose nickname is Gummi Bear, nor the Korean R&B singer Gummy nor the Australasian gummy shark, which is apparently edible but presumably tastes nothing like its sugary namesake.

The gummy bear has its roots in Bonn, Germany, where candy-man Hans Rieger founded the Haribo company and personally crafted the molds used to form bear-shaped fruit-flavored gum that ultimately begat bear-shaped fruit-flavored candy. The Wikipedia is pretty vague on how it all went down though. We know the Dancing Bear gum came out in 1922, under Rieger’s watch. Per the Wikipedia, “[t]he success of the Dancing Bear’s successor would later become Haribo’s world-famous Gold-Bears candy product in 1967.”

That strongly implies a missing link — and a successful one — between the Dancing Bear and the Gold-Bear, but the Wikipedia says nothing else about it. Was it the slow-dissolving gum product I’ve always dreamed of? Maybe, but I’ll never know. As it turns out, the era between 1922 and 1967 was pretty tumultuous in Germany, and no one thought to keep detailed history of bear-shaped candy lineage.

The gummy bear is still popular in Germany today under the name Gummibärchen, which translates to “little rubber bear.” Another German brand, Trolli, started making gummy candy in the wake of Haribo’s success and in 1981 became the first to market gummy worms. Gummy worms, everyone knows, are for cretins.

According to the Wikipedia, there are also gummy rings, frogs, snakes, hamburgers, cherries, sharks, penguins, hippos, lobsters, octopuses, apples, peaches, oranges and even Ampelmännchen. None are necessary.

It’s bears.

One intriguing gummy innovation are giant gummy bears. The Wikipedia reports that there exist gummy bears that weigh several kilograms, which would sound pretty intriguing if I could figure out the stupid metric system.

Haribo gummy bears — which are undoubtedly the Babe Ruth of gummy bears, in that they’re both the first popular gummy bear and still to date the best gummy bear — come in five standard flavors: red is raspberry, orange is orange, yellow is lemon, pineapple is clear, and, oddly, green is strawberry. Some newer brands offer dumber flavors, like the Apricot Green Tea gummy pandas I bought at the airport gift shop not long ago for like five bucks.

Gummy bears are made from sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, food coloring and gelatin. Because of the gelatin, they’re often not kosher or halal. Who knew? Maybe you did. Sorry. I guess I’m just drawn to pork products. Turns out Haribo does make halal Gold-Bears from bovine gelatin in its factory in Turkey, though.

Gummy bears have been linked to health problems like tooth decay and mad cow disease, but now they make gummy bears with multivitamins and cavity-fighting xylitol. The Wikipedia says gummy bears are one of the only candies to inspire a television show, and to the Wikipedia’s credit, I can’t think of any others. Gummy bears have also inspired a virtual novelty band and song and album and associated meme.

From the Wikipedia: Tool use by animals

This comes from the new-to-me but now defunct Tumblr Best of Wikipedia.

From the Wikipedia: Tool use by animals.

The Wikipedia provides a few definitions of tools, but presumably you know what tools are. Basically, they’re anything you use to do something that you can’t do with your own body. For a long time, people assumed we were the only species of animal that used tools because we always think we’re so fancy with our glue guns and our Segways. But it turns out a bunch of animals use tools too.

Most tool use by animals is by primates, which shouldn’t surprise anyone because monkeys are awesome. Most primate tools are just sticks, but they’re really making those sticks work for them. Gorillas use sticks to extract termites from nests and to gauge depth in water. Orangutans use sticks to dig delicious seeds out of fruit. Chimps use sticks a bit more violently; they use them to break open bee hives for honey and have even been seen sharpening sticks to use as spears for hunting. That’s pretty ominous, actually.

Also kind of terrifying: Bottlenose dolphins use conch shells as a kind of utensil, catching small fish in them and then lifting them out of the water to let the fish slide down into their mouths. That on its own isn’t scary, what’s scary is that the behavior appears to be spreading, implying that dolphins are still getting better at stuff. Dolphins were the even-money favorite for next dominant species on earth to begin with; learning that they’re learning only improves their odds.

Bears apparently use rocks to exfoliate, which explains why bears have such radiant skin. Also, dingos have been witnessed moving a table to help them reach food. One time I put a biscuit down on the ground and showed it to my dog. He got all excited, because he loved biscuits. Then I put a red plastic Solo cup face down on top of the biscuit to cover it. He approached the cup, sniffed it a little bit, then walked away looking dejected. I gave him the biscuit anyway, out of pity. Stupid dog.

A certain species of ant picks up small stones and other objects and drops them down rival anthills to trap the enemy ants inside and allow its compatriots to forage without competition. More like inhumantity, amirite?

Perhaps the most interesting use of tools come from birds, previously assumed to be really dumb by this site and others. It turns out crows and seagulls have been known to drop hard-shelled nuts and clams onto roads, wait for cars to run them over, then come back to eat the meaty insides.

Nothing tops this, though: Crows like this one have been seen (as you will see) breaking up bread into little pieces and dropping them into water to bait fish. This is so awesome:

From the Wikipedia: Pud Galvin

I’ll never not be entertained by old-timey baseball stuff.

From the Wikipedia: Pud Galvin

James Francis Galvin was born on Christmas day of 1856 in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in an Irish neighborhood called Kerry Patch and trained as a steamfitter, but by the age of 18 he was pitching for the St. Louis Brown Stockings in the National Association, playing something similar to modern baseball but featuring almost no offense. No one on the 1875 Brown Stockings sported an OPS over .550 besides Lip Pike, who was utterly awesome for his time.

According to this Wikipedia-endorsed bio (from which I’m getting most of this information), Galvin was “uneducated and unrefined,” and as a teenager he exclusively wore flannel shirts and ate with his hands. That sounds a lot like me as a teenager, but I thought I was pretty refined.

Galvin played independent ball in 1876, then played one year for Buffalo of the International Association in 1877, then surfaced in the Majors for good as a 22-year-old when the Buffalo Bisons joined the National League in 1879. Galvin purportedly earned the nickname “Pud” because he made hitters look like pudding. Known as a gentleman, he was also called “Gentle Jeems.” And for his durability (detailed in the next paragraph), the 5-8, 190-pound Galvin was called “The Little Steam Engine.”

From 1879-1884, Galvin averaged 504 innings a season, starting nearly 70 percent of Buffalo’s games in that stretch and throwing 317 complete games, culminating in back-to-back years of more than 600 innings and 70 complete games in 1883 and 1884. He was pretty good, too, notching a 114 ERA+ and a 4.62 strikeout to walk ratio over his first six seasons as a full-time Major Leaguer. At one point he started 22 straight games and completed all of them. Galvin’s 1884 campaign, in which he went 46-29 with a 1.99 ERA over 636 1/3 innings, produced the highest single-season pitcher WAR in baseball history, though Galvin was so atrocious with the bat that his offense cost his team about 1.9 wins.

In Buffalo, Galvin became lifelong friends with fellow mustache man and future president Grover Cleveland.

A lot of this isn’t from the Wikipedia, by the way. Feel free to add it.

Another thing that’s not on the Wikipedia is that Galvin and most of his teammates probably sucked, at least by contemporary standards. The game was obviously massively different then — there was no pitcher’s mound yet, for one thing, plus the distance from the mound to home plate changed multiple times during Galvin’s career, Galvin never saw the need for a curveball, and he threw underhand. But take a look at the work Patrick Flood put together here. If fielding percentage is a decent indicator of the level of play, the way it increased over 100 points from 1871 to 1901 suggests the game was rapidly (and not surprisingly) developing and improving, presumably due to increased exposure and a broader talent pool, plus more time to figure out what the hell to do on a baseball field.

Which brings me to an important question, and something I think about pretty frequently: At what level could Galvin and his teammates from 1884 reasonably compete today if they could time-travel here and have modern equipment (but not modern training, since that throws everything off)? The league’s .899 fielding percentage, if we’re using that method, suggests the level wasn’t any better than a typical high school league today. Obviously the fielding stats are subject to the whims of subjective scoring and shoddy groundskeeping, but then so is high-school ball.

In other words, if I crewed up with some bros to form a competent but by no means good amateur team of adults in 2012, how far back in time would we have to travel to be able to compete with Major Leaguers? I bet it’s sometime around the 1880s, or maybe a little later if my friend Bill comes. Bill can throw really hard.

Back to Galvin: He was traded to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1885 and ate innings for them until 1889. That season, incidentally, Galvin openly used the Brown-Séquard elixir, a supposed performance-enhancer made by draining monkey testicles. At the time, the Washington Post reported:

If there still be doubting Thomases who concede no virtue of the elixir, they are respectfully referred to Galvin’s record in yesterday’s Boston-Pittsburgh game. It is the best proof yet furnished of the value of the discovery.

In 1890, Galvin left the National League for the uncreatively but somewhat deliciously named Pittsburgh Burghers. The Burghers played in the newly formed Players’ League, which was presumably named after the football pool Lenny Dykstra keeps asking you to join. The Players’ League was formed by the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players over a spat with the National League owners, but it folded after one season and ultimately hurt the players’ standing, as it led to the demise of the American Association and more leverage for National League owners.

Galvin returned to the NL’s Pittsburgh franchise in 1891, the first year in which it was called the Pirates. He was traded to the Browns midway through the 1892 , but suffered a leg injury in a collision with Cap Anson and retired later that year. He attempted to hang on as an umpire in 1893, but did not take criticism well.

Galvin died broke and fat in Pittsburgh in 1902 after several failed business ventures. To date and for the foreseeable future, he ranks second in innings pitched and complete games in Major League history. He was the first pitcher to win 300 games, the first to throw a no-hitter on the road, and presumably the first to advocate monkey testosterone.

From the Wikipedia: Roosevelt Island

I brought my bike to the city a few weeks ago and I’ve been riding around a good deal. It’s awesome. I really can’t say enough for bicycling as an inexpensive means of transportation and exercise. You can cover so much ground relatively quickly, and in New York City especially you can speed over massive suspension bridges, take in awesome views and escape to odd parts of the five boroughs with different landscapes and distinct cultures and all sorts of new things to see.

From the Wikipedia: Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island is a small place with a huge Wikipedia page. It doesn’t say this on the page, but Roosevelt Island is the weirdest. It’s two miles long and 800 feet wide and sits in the shadow of Manhattan in the East River. While riding there a few days ago, I saw a pizza delivery guy and wondered if he was the only pizza delivery guy working on Roosevelt Island at that time. It turns out only 9,500 people live on the island, so it seems a reasonably safe bet that there’s only one active pizza-delivery guy at any given time. What happens if 10 people happen to order pizza delivery at the same time? You’ll have to be patient, I guess. The only dude is busy right now. Or — or! — you can just go pick it up, because how far can you possibly be from the pizzeria if you live on Roosevelt Island?

The island was purchased in 1637 by Dutch governor Wouter Van Twiller from the Canarsie Indians. At that point, it was known as “Hog Island,” which is crazy intriguing. Were there lots of wild hogs there? The Wikipedia doesn’t say. But if Roosevelt Island is conducive to hog breeding we should probably get on that. Or at least open up a destination barbecue joint there called “Hog Island.”

When the English ousted the Dutch from the area, the island was seized by Captain John Manning and renamed Manning’s Island for about 20 years until Manning gave it to his son-in-law Robert Blackwell, who called it Blackwell’s Island. In 1921, it was renamed Welfare Island. Then in 1973, a few years after it had been leased by a development corporation, it was renamed Roosevelt Island, presumably because it was hard to convince people to rent apartments on Welfare Island.

In the 19th century, the island was primarily used to isolate all the distasteful elements of urban life, kind of the Danny DeVito in Twins to Manhattan’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. The city built a penitentiary on the island in 1832, then a lunatic asylum in 1839, then a smallpox hospital in 1856. These attractions drew some of the island’s most famous visitors. Anarchist Emma Goldman, corrupt mayor Boss Tweed, jazz legend Billie Holliday and actress Mae West all spent time in jail there. Nellie Bly and Charles Dickens both visited and wrote about the lunatic asylum.

Before 1909, you could only travel to the island by ship or by swimming. When the Queensboro Bridge opened, so too did a trolley that took passengers from Manhattan and Queens to the center of the bridge, where they could take an elevator down to the island. The trolley and elevator were closed in 1955 with the opening of the Welfare Island Bridge to Queens.

In 1976, Roosevelt Island got one of its most recognizable features: The tramway that lets residents take an amusement-park to work in Manhattan. The tramway was supposed to be temporary, but everyone must have realized how awesome it was and decided to leave it there. You may recognize the tramway from the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman movie, or the 1983 Sylvester Stallone film Nighthawks, or City Slickers, or The Professional, or a 2005 episode of CSI: New York or a 2010 episode of America’s Next Top Model or a 2012 episode of White Collar, or from the King Kong Tramway ride at Universal Studios, Florida. Like I said, Roosevelt Island has a very extensive Wikipedia page.

You can also get to Roorsevelt Island by the F train, but c’mon. Lame.

The first residential development on Roosevelt Island, on the north part of the island, is called Northtown. The most recent development, on the south part of the island, is called Southtown. In 2007, Southtown got a Starbucks and a Duane Reade. You can read all about the latest happenings in Roosevelt Island in the Main Street WIRE, a bi-weekly newspaper dedicated to Roosevelt Island matters that is delivered to every residence on the island and that receives a suspicious amount of coverage on the Roosevelt Island Wikipedia page.

I’m already 750 words deep and nowhere near done recapping the page, so here are some other facts about Roosevelt Island worth knowing:

  • A remnant of the lunatic asylum — the Octagon — and the ruins of the smallpox hospital are still standing and worth checking out if you’re riding your bike around Roosevelt Island. But good luck figuring out how to get there.
  • The island’s waste is collected and compacted by an automated vacuum collection system, the only such system serving a residential complex in the United States.
  • The Wikipedia claims that Sarah Jessica Parker lived there, but it lacks a citation. But former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan and “Grandpa” Al Lewis of The Munsters definitely lived there.
  • In 1939, the New York Cubans of the Negro National League played their home games on the island. There are a bunch of athletic fields still there now and they make for some pretty epic settings, what with the river and the skyline and all.
  • Outside shots of the smallpox hospital in ruins are used to depict the Foot Clan’s secret hideout in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
  • Development of the island was based on the “new communities” proposed in Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. Though the island is technically part of the borough of Manhattan, its government and infrastructure are operated by state-created public-benefit corporation. Police on the island are, as far as I can tell, state officers and not members of the NYPD proper.