It’s Homecoming weekend at The Catholic University of America, and it got me thinking about a previous homecoming, back when I was a student. I was a freshman in the prehistoric days of 1967, when fraternities and the Greek system were not as strong as they once had been. I and many of my friends were not much interested in joining a frat, but we did want to join in some of the traditional Homecoming activities, like building a float for the parade in the stadium. A small group of us managed to finagle permission to participate as Independents, so then we needed to build a float.
We decided that if we could get a big barrel, we could mount wheels on it, decorate it, and use that in the parade. So a couple of us went to the Heckman’s pickle factory, which nestled right against the railroad tracks at 811 Monroe Street (behind what is now the Byte Back house on 9th St.).
Jacob Heckman immigrated from Russia and started the Heckman Products Corporation in 1919. At first located on Rhode Island Avenue, Heckman’s moved to Brookland in 1941, and was the only pickle factory in DC. They supplied Giant, Safeway, and all the other local food stores with good, fresh pickles: Tiny-Tot Sweet Gherkins, Kosher Kukumbers, Cheese and Cracker pickles, Cocktail Onions and dozens of other types.
Even though the Nats didn’t make it to the World Series this season, we’re still in baseball mode and I thought it might be a good time to mention one of Brookland’s own. Wally Pipp. Ever hear of him? If you’re a fan of baseball arcana, you should have.
Walter Clement Pipp was born in Chicago in 1893, but came to Brookland in 1909 to study architecture at Catholic University. CUA started their baseball program in 1910, and Pipp signed right up. Here’s a photo from 1913, taken on CUA’s first sports field, which was the flat piece of land where Curley Hall now stands. You can see Holy Cross College (now O‘Boyle Hall) in the background.
Pipp played first base and was good, so good that no one doubted he would be a major leaguer soon after graduation. It didn’t take him too long. In 1913 he joined the Detroit Tigers, but did not play well and was sent to the minors. In 1915 the Tigers sold him to the New York Yankees, who at the time were not known as the powerhouse they would soon become.
Pipp was the starting first baseman for the Yankees in 1915, and he had a decent year. 1916 was better, when he and John “Home Run” Baker emerged as the Yanks power hitters. Pipp led the American League in home runs with twelve (it was the dead ball era), and led it again in 1917 with nine. (Wally Pipp, New York Yankee, circa 1920)