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At Mars Site, NASA Scientists Used Obscure Baseball History To Cover Their Bases

mars Home Plate
(Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)
Steven W. Ruff and his colleagues on the Spirit Rover mission found silica-rich deposits in the spots marked A, B, C and D near "Home Plate" in Mars’s Gusev Crater.

What do Mars exploration and baseball history have in common? More than either seamheads or scientists may think.

Steven W. Ruff, associate professor with ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, was part of the Spirit rover team and oversaw use of one of its instruments, including the miniature thermal emission spectrometer (Mini-TES).

When the Spirit team saw the Mars study site from space, they they nicknamed it “Home Plate” because it resembled the baseball plate.

“We arrived at Home Plate and we decided to use a baseball theme for the targets that we were studying,” Ruff said. “It’s a way to actually help remember things more easily than alphanumeric.”

The scientists chose obscure rather than common baseball references. Ruff said naming conventions are often used to honor people and places in the Earth’s history.

For example, the study subjects “Elizabeth Mahon” and “Norma Luker” were named for two Kenosha Comets players and are featured in the findings of Ruff and Jack D. Farmer, published in the Nov. 17 edition of Nature Communications.

Ruff provided a list of player, team and ballpark names from the Negro leagues and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (from “A League Of Their Own” fame) that have been or will be used to identify subjects on Mars. We have linked biographical information for each one.


Names Used

Posey (for Cumberland Posey)

Rogan (for Bullet Joe Rogan)

Barnhill (for Dave Barnhill)

Gibson (for Josh Gibson)

Kimbro (for Henry Kimbro)

Charleston (for Oscar Charleston )

Easter (for Luke Easter)

Radcliffe (for Double Duty Radcliffe)

Suttles (for Mule Suttles)

Dobie (for Dobie Moore)

Hilary (for Hilary Meaddows)

Sol White

James "Cool Papa" Bell

Jimmie Crutchfield

Raleigh "Biz" Mackey

Norman "Turkey" Stearnes

Newt Allen

Larry Brown

Leon Day

Martin Dihigo

Andrew “Rube” Foster

William Foster

Sam Jethroe

Buck Leonard

Rufus Lewis

Pop Lloyd

Hilton Smith

Willie Wells

Wild Bill Wright

Rickwood (for Rickwood Field in Birmingham, AL)

Wilmington (for Wilmington Park in Wilmington, DE)

Barrs (for Barrs Field in Jacksonville, FL)

Names Unused

Ray Dandridge

Lorenzo "Piper" Davis

Judy Johnson

Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Neil Robinson

Smokey Joe Williams

Ed Bolden

Bud Fowler

Larry Doby

Jackie Robinson

Roy Campanella

Hank Thompson

Sam Jones

Joe Black

Luis Tiant, Sr.

Charles “Corporal” Mason

Judy Johnson

Oscar “Heavy” Johnson

Buck Leonard

Sammy T. Hughes

John Preston “Pete” Hill

Jud Wilson

Grant “Home Run” Johnson

John Beckwith

Bill “Daddy” Byrd

Dick “King Richard” Lundy


Names Used

Kathryn Beare

Virginia Bell

Muriel Bevis

Alice Blaski

Kay Blumetta

Ethel Boyce

Margaret Brown

Eileen Burmeister

Eleanor Callow

Dorothy Cameron

Dorothy Chapman

Joan Chiancola

Lucille Colacito

Clara Cook

Donna Cook

Betty Jane Cornett

Patricia Courtney

Pauline Crawley

Shirley Crites

Louella Daetweiler

Mary Dailey

Dorothy Damaschke

Marguerite Davis

Eileen Dean

Alice DeCambra

Mildred Deegan

Mona Denton

June Emerson

Elizabeth Emery

Betty Foss

Ruth Heverly

Thelma Hundeby

Margaret Jones

Josephine Kabick

Edythe Keating

Adeline Kerrar

Dorothy Key

Irene Kotowicz

Jaynie Krick

Mary Kustra

Ruth Lessing

Norma Luker

Elizabeth Mahon

Lenora Mandella

Betty McKenna

Naomi Meier

Darlene Mickelsen

Dolores Moore

Dorothy Mueller

Janice O’Hara

Marilyn Olinger

Nalda Phillips

Mary Reynolds

Barbara Rotvig

Audrey Seitzinger

Fern Shollenberger

Joyce Steele

Helen St. Aubin

Jane Stoll

Audrey Wagner

Betty Wagoner

Nancy Warren

Joanne Weaver

Marie Wegman

Alma Ziegler

Philomena Zale

Kenosha Comets

Names Unused

Pauline Dick

Jean Dowler

Gertrude Dunn

Julie Dusanko

Alva Jo Fischer

Lois Florreich

Rose Gacioch

Anne Georges

Theresa Kobuszewski

Margaret Murray

Terry Rukavina

Helen Sandiford

Doris Satterfield

Jacquelyn Savage

Edna Scheer

Margaret Silvestri

Dorothy Stolze

Shirley Stovroff

Marguerite Tesseine

Shirley Ann Weierman

Norene Witzel

Grand Rapids Chicks

Rockford Peaches

Kalamazoo Lassies

Fort Wayne Daisies

South Bend Blue Sox

Minneapolis Millerettes

Peoria Redwings

Racine Belles

Muskegon Lassies

Battle Creek Belles

Springfield Sallies

Chicago Colleens

Muskegon Belles

Biographical sources: Society for American Baseball Research, National Baseball Hall of Fame, The Jacksonville Historical Society, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association, Major League Baseball, The New York Times, Online Archives of California, Baseball-Reference.com, Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.