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Early Ballplaying on the SF Plaza (Horses Beware!)

Salience Noteworthy
Location California
City/State/Country: San Francisco, CA, United States
Game Base Ball, or Old Fashioned Base Ball
Immediacy of Report Contemporary
Age of Players Juvenile, Youth, Adult

From February 1851 through January 1852, there are six reports of ballplaying in San Francisco:  

[1] February 4, 1851.  "Sport -- A game of base ball was played upon the Plaza yesterday afternoon by a number of the sorting gentlemen about town." 

[2] February 4, 1851. Sports on the Plaza.  "The plaza has at last been turned to some account by our citizens. Yesterday quite a crowd collected upon it, to take part in and witness a game of ball, many taking a hand. We were much better pleased at it, than to witness the crowds in the gambling saloons which surround the square." 

[3] February 6, 1851. "Base-Ball --This is becoming quite popular among our sporting gentry, who have an exercise upon the plaza nearly every day. This is certainly better amusement than 'bucking' . . .  ."

[4] March 1, 1851. "Our plaza . . . has gone through a variety of stages -- store-house, cattle market, auction stand, depository of rubbish, and lately, playground.  Numbers of boys and young men daily amuse themselves by playing ball upon it -- this is certainly an innocent recreation, but occasionally the ball strikes a horse passing, to the great annoyance of he driver."

[5] March 25, 1851. "There [at the Plaza] the boys play at ball, some of them using expressions towards their companions, expressions neither flattering, innocent nor commendable. Men, too, children of a larger growth, do the same things."

[6] January 14, 1852.  "Public Play Ground -- For the last two or three evenings the Plaza has been filled with full grown persons engaged very industrially in the game known as 'town ball.'  The amusement is very innocent and healthful, and the place peculiarly adapted for that purpose."




[1] Alta California, Feb, 4, 1851

[2] "Sports on the Plaza," Daily California Courier, February 4, 1851.

[3] "Base-Ball," Alta California, February 6, 1851.

[4] "The Plaza," San Francisco Herald, March 1, 1851.

[5]  "The Corral," Alta California, March 25, 1851.

[6] "Public Playground," Alta California, January 14, 1852.

See Angus Macfarlane, The [SF] Knickerbockers -- San Francisco's First Baseball Team?," Base Ball, volume 1, number 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 7-20.



Angus Macfarlane's research shows that many New Yorkers were in San Francisco in early 1851, and in fact several formed a "Knickerbocker Association."  Furthermore he discovered that several key members of the eastern Knickerbocker Base Ball Club -- including de Witt, Turk, Cartwright,  Wheaton, Ebbetts, and Tucker -- were in town.  "[I]n various manners and at various times they crossed each other's paths."  Angus suggests that they may have been involved in the 1851 games, so it is possible that they were played by Knickerbocker rules . . .  at a time when in New York most games were still intramural affairs within the one or two base ball clubs playing here.

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What do we know about "the Plaza" in those days, and its habitués and reputation? 

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Submitted by Angus Macfarlane
Submission Note Jan 2007


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