Today in 1919, one of the strangest moments in the history of professional baseball, when major leaguer Ping Bodie took on an ostrich in an eating contest… and won.

You can probably tell already that Bodie was a character.

His given name was Francesco Stephano Pezzolo; he was the son of Italian immigrants.

His career inspired other Italian-Americans to play baseball, including Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto.

But he went by “Ping” because that’s the sound that the bat and ball made when he got a hit.

Bodie was a town where he’d once lived.

He used to room with Babe Ruth, though the Babe was so rarely in the room that Ping said that his real roommate was the Bambino’s suitcase.

He was a practical joker, who once took a reporter out to a movie so that his friends could smuggle ducks into the reporter’s hotel bathtub.

And he was a chatterbox: while playing for the Philadelphia A’s, he claimed he was the only attraction in town worth seeing, other than the Liberty Bell!

Bodie could also pack it away at the dinner table, which led to his strangest adventure of all.

His team was in Florida for spring training when one of the owners saw a sign for Percy the ostrich, billed as the world’s greatest eater.

This owner came up with the idea of having Ping Bodie face off with the bird in an eating contest.

Now I don’t know whether this is the kind of thing an ostrich should be doing, but there it was, a baseball player and a large bird in a boxing ring with plate after plate of pasta.

Percy the ostrich started off strong, reportedly eating his handler’s watch along with the food.

But with each successive plate, the bird started getting slower and slower, while Bodie got stronger.

After eleven plates of pasta, Bodie was ready for more and Percy was not.

The referee called for the bell.

Ping Bodie had defeated the “world’s greatest eater” in an eating contest.

Not even the Liberty Bell could match the baseball player in that department.

In Chicago, foodies will swear up and down that ketchup cannot, does not and must not go on a hot dog.

Ketchup giant Heinz has something to say about that: the company is installing ketchup dispensers on the sidewalks outside some of Chicago’s best-loved hot dog places.

If you can’t get your ketchup inside, you can get it outside.

A Yankee, an ostrich and 22 plates of pasta (

Ping Bodie (Society for American Baseball Research)

Heinz Is Putting Up Ketchup Dispensers To Tempt Chicagoans With Forbidden Condiment (Block Club Chicago)

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Image: Library of Congress, via Wikicommons