A Collection of Baseball Firsts

Who hit the first grand slam? Who was the first pinch hitter? Presenting the nine players of Smithsonian’s “They Did It First” All-Star Team


First Grand Slam: Roger Connor

Roger Connor
(Library of Congress)

On September 9, 1881, Connor hit the first grand slam home run in major-league history. He was playing with the Troy Trojans—a small franchise that was shut down one year later to form the New York Gothams (which then became the Giants). Connor was known as the 19th century’s home run king, and held the lifetime home run record of 138 before he was surpassed by Babe Ruth in 1921. Ruth would build on his total, holding the record of 714 career home runs for another 53 years. In 1885, Connor was one of the founders of the first sports trade union, the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, which established the short-lived Players League to compete with the National League. Connor earned the nickname the “Oak”, for being unbendable, when, in 1890, he turned down a lucrative offer to rejoin the National League. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.


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