One of baseball’s most famous early players, Pearce broke in with the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1856. He and James Creighton were probably the two earliest players to be paid. A brilliant fielder, Pearce is generally given credit for molding the shortstop’s play into its present form. A good hitter, and fast, he was legendary for introducing and mastering his “tricky hit,” known today as the bunt. For much of his career, the rules permitted it to roll foul and still be a hit.
Pearce played professionally for 22 years, spanning the generation from the game’s beginnings to the National League. The St. Louis Times, June 30, 1868, applauded Pearce, summarizing his contributions: “Pearce has been noted as a superior shortstop for ten years and to-day has no equal in the base ball field. He bats with great judgment and safety…” Following his playing days, he umpired into the mid-1880s.