Monday, November 25, 2019

From Joe Quest to "Old Hoss" Radbourne - a Strained History and Etymology of "Charley Horse"

     Old Man Charley Horse, don’t you touch a muscle!
They’ve been rusting all the winter; kind o’ tender grown.

            Those now knitted
Must be fitted

     For the season’s tussle.
Old Man Charley Horse, just you lemme ‘lone![i]

A “Charley Horse” (or “Charlie Horse,” or on occasion in the early days, “Cholly Horse”) is a “muscular pain, cramping, or stiffness especially of the quadriceps that results from a strain or bruise.”[ii]  The definition is hasn’t changed since the earliest known description of the condition in 1886, in a letter from the manager of the Louisville Eclipse (a major league baseball team in the American Association) about his players’ condition during a spring training trip to Savannah, Georgia.

Ely is still suffering what is known by ball players as ‘Charley Horse,’ which is a lameness in the thigh, caused by straining the cord.  Both will probably be able to work the soreness out if the weather continues warm.

Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 21, 1886, page 10.

But the mystery behind the name is a still a puzzle.  All of the dozen-or-so competing explanations agree that it came from professional baseball, but disagree on all of the other relevant details.

“Charley Horse” is the Rashomon of etymology topics.

In Akira Kurosawa’s film masterpiece, Rashomon, a priest hears testimony from several witnesses to determine the cause and appropriate punishment for the death of a Samurai – was it rape and murder or seduction and suicide? – a jealous duel or a woman goading two men into a reluctant fight for her honor? 

The film explores the limitations of objective fact-finding, retelling a violent incident from the perspective of each participant or witness – a samurai, his wife, a bandit and a woodcutter, each witness’ account colored by personal bias and subjective observation.  Repulsed by the murder, greed and immorality at the heart of the various stories, the priest nearly loses his faith in humanity.  But in the end, his faith is restored by a final, plausible explanation casting the event in a more heroic light.

Or perhaps Hasbro’s board game Clue (or Cluedo)is a better analogy.  Was it Joe Quest with a black horse named Charley in New Castle, Pennsylvania?  Ned Williamson with a white horse named Charley in Chicago?  Jack Glasscock’s old horse named Charley?  A racehorse named Charley that pulled up lame in a race the day before George Gore pulled up lame stealing second base in a game against the New York Giants in Chicago?  Or Sandy Nava’s excited, Italian accent-tinged comments when Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne pulled up lame trotting around the bases after his walk-off, eighteenth-inning homerun in a game against Detroit ended what was then the longest game ever in professional baseball? 

The simplest explanation is that Joe Quest coined the expression in about 1882 while playing second base for the Chicago White Stockings, when he compared the gait of an afflicted player with that of a lame old horse called Charley.  “Charley” was then a generic name for an old horse beyond its useful working life, so it didn’t have to be a specific horse, although it may have been a white horse at the Chicago White Stocking’s baseball stadium or one at Joe Quest’s family machine shop in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

But without definitive evidence, we are left, Rashomon-like, to divine the truth from among the incompatible theories, even if (as some “Charley Horse” sufferers believe) its true origin is something less than divine.

     Old Man Charley Horse, I can guess who bred you.
Sire was Mr. Lucifer and dam a witch was she!

So you’re yearning
To be burning

     Like an iron red, you!
Old Man Charley Horse, get away from me![iii]

Hutchinson Gazette (Hutchinson, Kansas), July 23, 1915, page 7.[iv]

Joe Quest

Every explanation of the origin of “Charley Horse” agrees on one point, it was coined by a baseball player.  After that, the details diverge; which player, when, where and why?  When the earliest example of “Charley Horse” in print appeared in March 1886, Joe Quest and most of the other characters whose name come up in association with the expression were still playing professional baseball, so it should have been easy to go directly to the source for the truth.  But even so, the two earliest explanations, appearing within weeks of one another just months after the earliest appearance of “Charley Horse” in print, credit two different players.

Joe Quest played major league baseball, mostly at second base, for eight teams over the course of ten seasons.  He was born and raised in New Castle, Pennsylvania, where his father Jacob Quest operated the Quest & Shaw foundry and machine shop for nearly twenty years, from 1855 until 1872.[v]  Decades later, he was also remembered as having been a member of a local semi-professional team in New Castle team, the Neshannocks.[vi]  The “‘Nocks” were so successful that in 1876, when plans were being made to form a second professional league to compete for fans with the National League, the Neshannocks of little New Castle, Pennsylvania were mentioned in the same breath with teams from much larger cities like Columbus, Allegheny (Pittsburgh), Detroit and St. Louis, all of which would host major league teams a few years later.  New Castle never made the big leagues. 

It is not clear, however, that Quest ever did play for the “‘Nocks.”  When he signed to play for the “Allegheny Club of Pittsburg for $90 a month” before the 1876 season, he was described as a member of the “Mutual Club of Meadville.”[vii]  At least two other members of the team later enjoyed major league success however, Ned Williamson (sometimes “Ed”), Quest’s teammate with Chicago for several seasons, and Charlie Bennett, one of the best catchers of his day, best known today for having lost both his legs in a railroad accident and as the namesake of the Detroit Tiger’s old stadium, Bennett Park.  Both of their names pop up in later origin stories.

The first Joe Quest origin story does not give any details about when or why.

Several years ago Joe Quest gave the name of “Charlie horse” to a peculiar contraction and hardening of the muscles and tendons of the thigh to which base ball players are especially liable from the sudden starting and stopping in chasing balls, as well as the frequent slides in base running.  Pfeffer, Anson and Kelly are so badly troubled with “Charlie horse” there are times they can scarcely walk. 

The Times (Philadelphia), July 11, 1886, page 11.

Jack Glasscock

Two weeks later, an alternate origin story attributed “Charley Horse” to Jack Glasscock, who played shortstop for nine major league teams through seventeen seasons beginning in 1879. 

Charley Horse. 

Base-ballists have invented a brand new disease, called “Charley-horse.” It consists of a peculiar contraction and hardening of the muscles and tendons of the thigh, to which ball players are liable from the sudden starting and stopping in chasing balls.  Pfeffer, Anson, Kelly, Gore, Williamson and others have been suffering from it more or less, some of them so badly that at times they couldn’t’ walk.  Jack Glasscock is said to have originated the name because the way the men limped around reminded him of an old horse he once owned named Charley.  At this rate, some imaginative bat-swinger will soon add “robust sow” and “trembling equine” to the list of diseases, probably because the way some of the players swill beer and booze reminds him of a “sow” he once owned and the delirium after-effects, of a horse with the blind staggers.

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, July 23, 1886, page 2. 

A Rocking-Horse

One of the earliest explanations of Joe Quest’s reasoning behind coining “Charley Horse” suggested that the gait of an afflicted player was similar to the motion of a child’s rocking-horse.

Meaning of “Charley Horse.”

When Mutrie, of the New York team, suddenly began limping after running to first base in one of the games played here last fall, every base ball player at once ejaculated “Charley horse.” To the average attendant at base ball games the phrase is as an Egyptian hieroglyphic.  To professional ball players, however, it is well known, and equally dreaded. . . .

. . . The odd name of “Charley horse” was given to this affection years ago by Joe Quest.  When a man breaks down in this manner he runs very much like a rocking-horse in full motion.

Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), January 3, 1887, page 8.

The article did not address why a rocking horse would be called “Charley.”  Six months later, a similar article filled in the blank.

“Charley horse” is a complaint caused by the straining of the cords in a ball player's legs.  The name is said to owe its origin to the fact that a player afflicted with it, when attempting to run, does so much after the fashion of a boy astride of a wooden horse, sometimes called a “Charley horse.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), July 2, 1887.

New Castle, Pennsylvania

A story out of Joe Quest’s hometown claimed that he first used the name while playing for the Chicago White Stockings, where he played from 1878 through 1882.  He is said to have borrowed the name from an old, white horse from his father’s machine shop in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Origin of Charley-Horse
Joe Quest Sprung It on the World While Playing with Chicago.

An admirer of The Globe in the town of Newcastle, Penn., writes to explain the origin of the phrase “charley horse.”  He says: “Years ago when Joe Quest was employed as an apprentice in the machine shop of Quest & Shaw, in Newcastle, his father, who was one of the proprietors of the firm, had an old white horse by the name of Charley.  Long usage in pulling heavy loads had stiffened the animal’s legs so that he walked as if troubled with strained tendons.  Afterwards, when Quest became a member of the Chicago club, he was troubled, with others, with a peculiar stiffness of the legs, which brought to his mind the ailment of the old white horse Charley.  Joe said that the ball players troubled with the ailment hobbled exactly as did the old horse, and as no one seemed to know what the trouble was, Quest dubbed it “Charley horse.”  The name has spread until today it has become part of the language of the national game.”

The Boston Globe, June 23, 1889, page 5.

Ten years later, a similar explanation from Newcastle appeared in Sporting Life magazine, but this time naming a specific source, George W. Shaw, a newspaper editor from Newcastle, perhaps the same person who had sent the similar notice to the Boston Globe a decade earlier.

Original With the Once Noted Player, Joe Quest.

Newspapers from time to time have published what they claim was the origination of “charleyhorse,” the lame condition which has been superinduced in base ball players.  Various newspapers have given various derivations of the phrase, but not any of them have been absolutely correct.  Editor George W. Shaw, of the New Castle (Pa.) “Daily News,” has the right solution, which he gives us as follows:

“The name for the sprained condition of the muscles and tendons of the legs of the players was coined by Joe Quest, a former resident of New Castle, and a son of the late Jacob Quest, of the Westside.  Joe Quest began his ball playing in this city, and was a member of various teams until he finally became second baseman for the Chicagos. . . .

. . . What suggested such a term for ball players’ lameness to Quest is as follows: Joe was employed in the establishment of Quest & Shaw, this city, learning the machinst’s trade, the senior member of the firm being his father.  An old white horse named Charley was used by the firm in a wagon utilized for hauling material around the works.  Charley had drawn so many heavy loads and was so advanced in years that he had a peculiarly wobbly gait, occasioned by his strained tendons.  When Joe noticed the ball players limping around Charley’s walk was recalled in his mind and he named the condition of the players after the old horse at his father’s works.

Sporting Life, November 5, 1898, page 4.

An alternate origin story out of New Castle claimed that Joe Quest, Ned Williamson and Charlie Bennett, local boys who later played in the major leagues, rode a horse named “Charley” when they were injured playing baseball in a local pasture.  The horse was black and it didn’t belong to Joe Quest’s father, it belonged to the newspaper editor responsible for a completely different version of the story, George W. Shaw.

The “Charlie Horse” expression was born long before they became famous when they were mere boys, but it did not gain general circulation until they started out as base ball stars.  Quest and Ed [(presumably “Ned”)] Williamson, another New Castle man, went to Chicago with old Captain Anson and Bennett became a fixture at Detroit as long as that city remained in the National league.  Then he went to Boston where he played until he was run over by a train [(losing both legs)].

During the days when they were boys they played upon Shaw’s Hill now completely covered with handsome dwellings.  That land was owned by the later Colonel George W. Shaw, an early newspaper man of this city.  He allowed the boys to play ball there the only use he had for the pasture land being to pasture old “Charlie,” a great black horse that had carried him through the Civil war . . . .

“Charlie” had earned a lifelong rest and Colonel Shaw intended him to have it, but sometimes the boys thought differently.  All played ball when they were feeling well, but occasionally, when one met with an accident or had sore muscles, he was forced out of the game.  With nothing better at hand the luckless player usually captured old “Charlie” and rode him about the field.

Finally from speaking “riding the Charlie horse,” the boys began to say they were troubled with “Charlie horse” when unable to play.  As the boys grew to be men and their base ball careers widened they carried the expression with them, until now it is a very small and unobservant boy who does not know the meaning of “Charlie horse,” and just what ails a ball player who is suffering from it.

New Castle Herald, July 2, 1907, page 2.

A fourth New Castle, Pennsylvania origin story suggests Joe Quest did not coin the expression, but learned it from other blacksmiths while working as one himself, and later introduced it into major league baseball.  The story was told by George Gore, who played centerfield for Chicago from 1879 through 1886, overlapping with Quest for four seasons.

“When George Gore, the New York fielder, was here with his nine, last week, I asked him the meaning of the base-ball term ‘charly horse,’” put in the Actor; “and he told me that little Joe Quest, the old Chicago player and umpire, had introduced the phrase into the League.  By trade, he said Quest was a blacksmith; and when he was at work in a foundry, some years ago, it was quite a common occurrence for a man who swung a heavy hammer continually to be affected with a sprain of the muscles and tendons of the fore-arm.  The workmen called this ailment a ‘charly hoorse;’ and when Quest introduced it into base-ball, it was at once adopted and given a broader meaning, and made to include sprains of all tendons and muscles.  This is said by Gore to be the real derivation of the curious term.”

William T. “Biff” Hall, The Turnover Club, tales told at the meetings of the Turnover club, about actors and actresses, Chicago, Rand, McNally & Company, 1890, page 94.

Ned Williamson

In 1895, Connie Mack, then managing the Pittsburgh Pirates, gave Ned Williamson, Quest’s teammate in New Castle and Chicago, credit for coining the expression.  Connie Mack first joined the National League with Washington in 1886, so he would only have heard the story second-hand.  The story involved Quest, but this time as the person suffering from the “Charley Horse,” not the one who coined it.

It started in Chicago.  There was kept on the ball grounds an old white horse named Charley.  He had a sprain in one of his fore legs, which caused him to limp.  One day ‘Joe’ Quest suddenly went lame, and ‘Ned’ Williamson, who observed Quest’s gait closely, discovered that it was identical with the limp of the old horse.  He immediately began calling Quest ‘Charley,’ and said ‘he walks just like our old Charley horse.’  After that Quest was known as ‘charley horse’ Quest, and when one of the players was afflicted in the same way he was said to have a Charley horse.”

Buffalo Enquirer (Buffalo, New York), August 1, 1895, page 8.

A similar story appeared a decade later with a few more details.


A white horse kept on the ball grounds in Chicago had been injured in one of his forelegs which gave him a peculiar limp.  Quest, Anson, Williamson and other members of the Chicago team were practicing in the early spring, when Quest started after a grounder.  The ground was soft and the sudden spurt made by Quest caused a cord in his leg to snap and he limped to the clubhouse.  Williamson yelled at him to “Wha, Charley! Say, fellows! D’you see Joe walking just the same as our old ‘Charley Horse?’”

Natchez Democrat (Natchez, Mississippi), May 14, 1904, page 2.

Generic “Charley-horse”

A similar explanation appeared a few years later, but this time it was Joe Quest who coined the expression to describe someone else’s condition.  This story also involves a generic “old Charley horse,” instead of a specific horse named “Charley,” an indication of the widespread practice at the time of calling old horses “Charley.”

The veteran second baseman, Joe Quest, gave it the name of “Charley-horse.”  One of the Chicago players had just pulled up with a bad strain.  Joe remarked that the player in question “hobbles like an old Charley horse.”  This remark christened the ailment.  It has been known by that name ever since.

Chicago Inter-Ocean, April 24, 1898, page 11.

A similar story appearing at about the same time explained the generic use of “Charley Horse” for any old horse.

Many who lived in the country will remember that when an old horse is turned out to die he is dubbed a “charley horse.” 

North Adams Transcript, April 25, 1898, page 7.

Although there is little other direct evidence unambiguously establishing such usage, numerous references to old “Charley Horses” (as opposed to “horses named Charley”) seems to corroborate the suggestion that “Charley Horse” was a common, generic designator for old, worn out horses.

[I]t was decided that we were to have a little black pony, strangely contrasting with the noble bearing of our “Charley” horse.

Christiana Holmes Tillson, Reminiscences of early life in Illinois, by Out Mother (typewritten transcription of handwritten notes prepared in the early 1870s).

The excellent old Charlie horse that G. J. Gunter rode in the cavalry service during our late war, died on the 12th . . . .

West Alabamian (Carrollton, Alabama), November 27, 1878, page 2.

A. A. Case’s old Charlie horse is dead and some of the gossip-mongers believe that he committed suicide, but we have known this honest old horse lo these many years, and never knew him to be guilty of such a rash act before.

Labette County Democrat (Oswego, Kansas), October 14, 1881, page 1.

Ed. Dirst’s old Charley horse died last Thursday, and we had a terrible time getting him out of the stable.  Coroner’s verdict: leanness of the ribs.

Richwood Gazette (Richwood, Ohio), February 1, 1883, page 2.

Poor Charlie horse, in the midst of his new and shining trappings, tossed his head and walked with a proud and happy step.

Biblical Recorder (Raleigh, North Carolina), April 20, 1884, page 3.

The Washington Fire Company have made application for a new horse to take the place of their Charlie horse.

Vicksburg Evening Post (Vicksburg, Mississippi), February 19, 1885, page 4.

Injured “Colt”

A pleasing explanation published in 1898 ties several disparate threads into one neat little package.  It involves Joe Quest, spring training, the generic use of “Charley Horse,” the Chicago White Stockings, their alternate nickname, “Anson’s Colts,”  and the origin of the term “Charley Horse” for the condition.  The person telling the story, Tom Burns, played for Chicago from 1880 through 1891.

Origin of Name “Colts.”

How many people know how the name of “Colts” came to be applied to the Chicago baseball team?  Tom Burns explained this in the course of reminiscences on spring practice seasons.  It was years ago at Hot Springs.  When it came time to line up the players, new and old, in two lines, the regular team took one side, first base alone being covered by a new player.  Anson played with the youngsters.  The teams were styled the “Old Horses” and “Anson’s Colts.”  After a time the Chicagos became known as “Anson’s Colts” and finally as the Colts.

To the same practice season at Hot Springs the origin of the term “charley horse” as applied to baseball can be traced.  Many who lived in the country will remember that when an old horse is turned out to die he is dubbed a “charley horse.” 

Joe Quest had this in mind when he strained his leg in practice on the chippy, gravelly diamond at Hot Springs, abhorred by all ball players.  Some one asked him his general symptoms, and, thinking of his name of Colt, he said he felt like an old “charley horse.”  The word soon had a place in baseball lingo as describing the ordinary strain.

North Adams Transcript, April 25, 1898, page 7.

One problem with the story is that Chicago was not regularly known as the “Colts” until 1887, a year after “Charley Horse” first appeared in print and several years after it is believed to have been coined.  The word “colt,” however, had been used to refer to young, inexperienced players in baseball and other sports for years.[viii]  So although the person relating the story may have conflated the general practice of referring to the younger players as “colts” with the later nickname, it is still plausible, even if it took place years before the well-known nickname took hold in 1887.

St Louis Post-Dispatch, October 30, 1900, page 6.


A very detailed explanation published in 1906 places the coining of the expression at a game Joe Quest played in Chicago against New York in 1882.  The story is very specific about several details, the location (the old lakefront stadium in Chicago), the opponent (New York Giants), and the players involved (Gore came up lame, Quest referred to him as “Charley Horse”).  Several of those details are demonstrably false. 

The New York Giants did not play with Chicago in the National League until 1883.  Chicago did play several exhibition series against the non-aligned New York Metropolitans in 1881 and 1882, but all of those games were played in New York City.  If Joe Quest was involved, it had to have happened in 1882 or earlier because he left the team after the 1882 season.  If the game took place in Chicago, it had to have happened without Quest in 1883 or later, as New York did not play a game in Chicago until 1883.  Either way, it casts the story into doubt.

Hugh Nicols, the source of the story, played with Quest and Williamson in Chicago in 1881 and 1882.

It’s a race horse story and it happened this way. . . .  There was racing down on the south side and some of the boys took great interest in it. . . . .  The tip had gone out the night before that a horse named ‘Charley’ was a sure winner for that afternoon. . . . The tip was touted as a cinch, it simply couldn’t lose, and we all got on.

Those of us who didn’t care so much for the jumpers were persuaded to lay down a few dimes by those who did, and we were all in with the exception of Joe Quest.  No amount of argument could induce him to bet a copper on that horse. . . .  Quest in the meantime had been getting some lively chaffing for his unwillingness to bet on what was a dead sure thing. . . .

In the last turn Charley stumbled, went lame in his right hind leg, and the field closed up.  Quest threw a fit: ‘Look, look!’ he shouted, as the first horse passed Charley.  ‘Look at your old Charley horse now.’  And he kept it up. . . .  Charley finished outside the money, and we didn’t hear the last of ‘our old Charley horse’ the rest of the day.

It was during the progress of the game the next day that the term came to be applied to ball players. . . . Quest was down the left coach line and was doing a famous job. . . . Gore had rapped out a single and Williamson was up.  He was a pretty sure hitter; but Gore was a good sprinter and Quest figured he could do the trip to second and he sent him away.  About half way down Gore stepped into a pocket and sprung a strain, just the way the racing pony had done the day before, and Quest sang out: ‘There’s your old Charley horse – he’d made it all right if it hadn’t been for that old Charley horse.

Gore was nailed, but the term stuck.

Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1906, page 10.

Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne

Arizona Daily Star (Tuscon), August 14, 1943, page 6.

Charley Radbourne is a likely suspect because his name is Charley and his nickname, “Old Hoss,” is a variant of “Old Horse.”  According to an origin story first published in 1907 and told by an “old fan” from Bellefontaine, Ohio named Walker Miller, it happened in an exchange between Radbourne and his catcher, Sandy Nava, “an Italian, who spoke broken English.”  Walker said that it took place in the “late-1880s,” but it must have been earlier since Radbourne and Nava played together on the Providence Grays from 1882 through 1884.

In one game neither side scored for more than nine innings.  Excitement was intense.  Nava was dancing around like a crazy man, shouting in a mixture of Italian and English.  Finally, Radbourne landed one squarely in the nose, sending the ball over the fence for the only run of the game.

Radbourne hit around the bases at a merry clip, but when he reached second the players yelled to stop running, as the ball had scaled the fence.  Radbourne trotted to third, but after touchingthe bag, he suddenly developed a lameness and came limping home. 

Nava, seeing his battery pal in trouble, raced anxiously to Radbourne and patting him tenderly, said:

“What’s a’ malla you, Charley Hoss?”  The Italian used Radbourne’s first name and his nickname in the combination, which, Brown says, resulted in the term “charley horse.”

Tuscaloosa News (Alabama), March 10, 1907, page 2.

For the seasons of 1882 through 1884, the three years in which Radbourne and Nava played together on the same team, lists three 1-0 wins over Boston.  Accounts of those games on reveal that only one of those games ended with a solo homerun in extra innings.  Radbourne pitched in a 1-0 win over Boston on August 9, 1884, but it was Irwin, and not the “Old Hoss,” who ended the game “by lifting the ball over the right-field fence.”[ix]

Providence also beat Detroit by scores of 1-0 score during the same period.  One of those games matches Walker Miller’s description of the “Charley Horse” game almost exactly.  On August 17, 1882, Providence hosted Detroit in the “Greatest Game of Ball Ever Played.” Radbourne did not pitch that day, he was in right field.  But he did hit a game-winning, walk-off homerun in the eighteenth inning.  

The Detroit-Providence game of yesterday is unrivaled in the history of the league. . . .

The Free Press special from Providence states that the game eclipsed anything ever before seen there, and was finally won on Radbourne’s lucky hit over the left field fence, which would have been a sure out at Recreation Park, and was nearly a foul ball.

Detroit Free Press, August 18, 1882, page 6.

The most wonderful league game on record was played in [Providence] today between the Providence and Detroit clubs.

In the last half of the eighteenth Radbourne, for Providence, knocked one clean over the fence, on which there was no dispute[x], and Providence had won the fortieth victory for the season of 1882.

Chicago Tribune, August 18, 1882, page 6.

Amid tremendous excitement to-day Radbourne drove the ball over the left field fence for four bases in the eighteenth inning, and won the longest game on record in the league.

Chicago Inter-Ocean, August 18, 1882, page 2.

The “old fan” Walker Miller had a pretty good memory – nearly every detail of the game happened as he said, except for the year, the opponent (Detroit instead of Boston) and the position Radbourne played that day.  It is very possible that Sandy Nava did excitedly call Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne a “Charley Horse” that day.  But Radbourne pitched nine innings in a 9-8 win over Detroit two days later, so it's not clear how injured he was, if at all.

But even assuming it happened precisely as Walker Miller said, it is not proof that Nava coined the expression.  Radbourne’s walk-off homerun took place in the second half of that season, with Providence just coming off a three game series with Chicago, their third such series of the season.  Nava could have heard the expression in a game against Chicago earlier that season before using it in Detroit.  It’s possible that Walker Miller, or whoever came up with the story, first heard the expression at the Providence game and mistakenly, if not unreasonably, assumed that it was coined on the spot with reference to Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourne.

The same could be said of any number of origin stories.  In each case, the person perpetuating the story may believe that the first time they heard it was the moment it was coined.  But in each case (except for the actual first use), the person telling or retelling the story may have mistakenly believed the first time they heard it for the first time it was ever used.  

What we do know is that the expression, “Charley Horse,” for a muscle pain, originated in baseball in about 1882.  There seems to be some likelihood that it happened in Chicago and that Joe Quest may have played a role.

Day Book (Chicago, Illinois), March 25, 1912, page 13.

[i] Excerpt from poem, “Excorcising a Demon,” John O’Keefe, “High and Low Ones,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 12, 1919, page 13.
[iii] Excerpt from poem, “Excorcising a Demon,” John O’Keefe, “High and Low Ones,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 12, 1919, page 13.
[iv] The artist, Al Demree, a pitcher in the major leagues for eight seasons, including stints with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Braves, wrote a baseball-themed comic strip while playing in the major leagues.
[v] Atlas of the County of Lawrence and the State of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, G. M. Hopkins & Co., Page 49 (reproduction by Unigraphic, Inc., Evansville, Indiana, 1978).
[vi] New Castle Herald, July 2, 1907, page 2 ([Joe Quest] was one of the members of the famous ‘Nocks of ’76, which defeated every baseball team in the United States at the time, which had any claim to prominence.”
[vii] Forest Republican (Tionesta, Pennsylvania), September 15, 1875, page 4.
[viii] Chicago Tribune, March 17, 1878, page 7 (in discussing prospects for the upcoming baseball season, “Milwaukee it considers the colt team, and too light to cope with some of the other teams.”); Detroit Free Press, June 30, 1880, page 1 (“[T]he Peninsulars [cricket club] will have two matches on hand – their first eleven will play the return game with the Windsor Club – on the grounds of the latter – and the second eleven or colts’ team will play the St. Thomas (Ont.) Club at Recreation Park, game commencing with the “colts” at 11 o’clock sharp.”).
[ix] St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 10, 1884, page 7.
[x] There had been a dispute earlier in the game over a ball that left the field of play through a “carriage gate” in left field.  The ball was recovered, thrown home, and the batter thrown out at the plate.  His team argued that it should have counted as a homerun.  The appeal was denied.

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