A Few Dozen Most Prominent Baseball Milestones
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A collection of the most prominent entries in the chronology. (This list is currently being curated, with 88 entries selected so far.)
- 1 -2000000c.2 Humans Evolve as Runners
- 2 1609.1 Polish Origins of Baseball Perceived in Jamestown VA Settlement
- 3 1621.1 Some Pilgrims "Openly" Play "Stoole Ball" on Christmas Morning: Governor Clamps Down
- 4 1672c.2 Francis Willughby's "Book of Games" Surveys Folkways: First Stoolball Rules Appear
- 5 1725c.1 Wicket Played on Boston Common at Daybreak
- 6 1744.1 First Laws of Cricket are Written in England
- 7 1744.2 Newbery's Little Pretty Pocket-Book Refers to "Base-Ball," "Stooleball, "Trap-Ball," Cricket
- 8 1749.2 Aging Prince Spends "Several Hours" Playing Bass-Ball in Surrey
- 9 1755.6 NYS Traveler Notes Dutch Boys Playing "Bat and Ball"
- 10 1781.2 "Antient" Harvard Custom: Freshmen Furnish the Bats, Balls
- 11 1791.1 "Bafeball" Among Games Banned in Pittsfield MA - also Cricket, Wicket
- 12 1796.1 Gutsmuths describes [in German, yet] "Englische Base-Ball"
- 13 1800c.1 Sports at Exeter Academy include "Old-Fashioned Bat and Ball". . . and Football
- 14 1805.4 Enigmatic Report: NY Gentlemen Play Game of "Bace," and Score is Gymnastics 41, Sons of Diagoras 34.
- 15 1809.1 Americans in London Play "A Game Called Ball," Seen as a "Novelty" By Locals
- 16 1815c.2 US Prisoners of War in England Play Ball - at Great Peril, It Turned Out
- 17 1815.8 Eyewitness On the Massacre of Seven U.S Soldiers at Dartmoor Prison in England
- 18 1821.5 NY Mansion Converted to Venue Suitable for Base, Cricket, Trap-Ball
- 19 1823.1 National Advocate Reports "Base Ball" Game in NYC
- 20 1829.2 Round Ball Played in MA
- 21 1830c.30 "Old Boys" Play Throwback Game to 100 Tallies in Ohio
- 22 1831.1 A Ball Club Forms in Philadelphia; It Later Adopts Base Ball, and Lasts to 1887
- 23 1832c.2 Two NYC Clubs Known to Play Pre-modern Base Ball -- Use the Plugging of Runners
- 24 1833c.12 America's First Interclub Ballgame, in Philadelphia
- 25 1835c.20 Report: "Groups of Full Grown Players At Base and Cricket" Recalled in New York
- 26 1837.1 A Founder of the Gothams Remembers "First Ball Organization in the US"
- 27 1839.1 Graves Letters of 1905 Say that Doubleday Invented Base Ball
- 28 1840s.46 The Balk -- From the Knicks, Prior US Games, or Abroad?
- 29 1843.6 Magnolia Ball Club Summoned to Elysian Fields Game
- 30 1845.1 Knicks Adopt Playing Rules on September 23
- 31 1845.4 NY and Brooklyn Sides Play Two-Game Series of "Time-Honored Game of Base:" Box Score Appears
- 32 1845.5 Brooklyn and New York to Go Again in Hoboken
- 33 1845.16 Brooklyn 22, New York 1: The First-Ever "Modern" Interclub Match?
- 34 1845.32 NY Atlas Advises: THE OLD GAME OF BASE REVIVED
- 35 1846.1 Knicks Play NYBBC in First Recorded Match Game
- 36 1846.6 Walt Whitman Sees Boys Playing "Base" in Brooklyn: "Glorious"
- 37 1849c.4 A. G. Mills and Boyhood Friend Recall "Base Ball" at a Brooklyn School
- 38 1850s.55 Round Ball, Played Near Boston, As Recalled in 1870s Celebrations
- 39 1850s.58 In Paterson NJ, Old Fashioned Game Played After Civil War
- 40 1851.9 The Beginning of Match Play Between Organized Clubs
- 41 1852.13 Gotham Club Forms; Knicks Have First Rival Team
- 42 1853.5 Knicks, Gothams Play Season Opener on July 1 and Again on October 18
- 43 1853.18 "the national out-door game"
- 44 1854.1 Three NY Clubs Meet: Agreed Rules Now Specify Pitching Distance "Not Less Than 15 Paces""
- 45 1855.31 Competitive Base Ball Suddenly Fills NY Metropolitan Area
- 46 1855.34 Sporting Press Notices Base Ball, Regularizes Reporting
- 47 1855.36 African American Clubs Play in NJ
- 48 1855.38 First Printing of Rules
- 49 1856.4 Seventy Games Played, All in New York City Area.
- 50 1856.28 Knicks Call for Convention of Clubs
- 51 1857.1 Rules Modified to Specify Nine Innings, 90-Foot Base Paths, Nine-Player Teams, but not the Fly Rule
- 52 1857.2 Interclub Meeting Reshapes the Game
- 53 1857.5 The Tide Starts Turning in New England - Trimountain Club Adopts NY Game
- 54 1857.22 Atlantic Club Becomes Base Ball Champ?
- 55 1857.29 Six-Player Town-ball Teams Play for Gold in Philly
- 56 1857.31 Rounders "Now Almost Entirely Displaced by Cricket:" English Scholar
- 57 1857.42 The "X" Letters
- 58 1858.2 New York All-Stars Beat Brooklyn All-Stars, 2 games to 1; First Admission Fee [A Dime] Charged
- 59 1858.3 At Dedham MA, Team Representatives Formulate Mass Game Rules
- 60 1858.21 Times Editorial: "We Hail the New Fashion With Delight"
- 61 1858.40 Cricket Plays Catch-up; Plans a National Convention
- 62 1858.4 National Association of Base Ball Players Forms
- 63 1859.6 African-American Game is Played by "Henson Club" July 4 and/or November 15
- 64 1859.32 Morning Express Opposes Bound Rule, Tag-up Rule: Wants More Runs!
- 65 1859.35 Base Ball Community Eyes Use of Central Park
- 66 1859.55 First Fly Baseball Game
- 67 1860.6 Chadwick's Beadle's Appears, and the Baseball Literature is Launched
- 68 1860.7 Excelsiors Conduct Undefeated Western NY Road Trip. . ."First Tour Ever? First $500 Player Ever?
- 69 1860.46 First International Game Played by New York Rules
- 70 1860.60 Atlantics vs. Excelsiors: The Thorny Idea of Onfield Supremacy
- 71 1861.37 Modern Base Ball Played Widely At Outset of War
- 72 1861.39 WAR!
- 73 1862.2 The Death of Jim Creighton at 21
- 74 1862.3 US Cricket Enters Steeper Decline
- 75 1862.17 Ballplaying Frequently Played at Salisbury Prison in North Carolina
- 76 1863.1 Ballplaying Peaks in the Civil War Camps
- 77 1865.31 Union soldiers play baseball with Confederates
- 78 1867.3 Upset Gives Western Clubs First win vs. the East
- 79 1867.18 First Inter-Racial Baseball Game?
- 80 1867.25 The End for the Massachusetts Game?
- 81 1869.7 Cincinnati Club Forms as First All-Professional Nine
- 82 1870.1 The Streak Ends -- Reds Fall to Atlantic, 8-7, in 11 Innings
- 83 1870.14 Boston, Other Towns Eye "First-Class Professional Nines" Like the Red Stockings
- 84 1870.16 Red Stocking Leader Explains Background for Club Decision to Exit Pro Base Ball Scene
- 85 1871.3 Coup d'grace for the Amateur Era
- 86 1871.12 Pro Clubs to Meet in March, National Association Starts Its Fade
- 87 1871.16 Professionals Edge Away from NABBP; Modern Standings Begin to Take Shape
- 88 1871.18 First Pro League Game Doesn't Feature Offense
1609.1 Polish Origins of Baseball Perceived in Jamestown VA Settlement
"Soon after the new year , [we] initiated a ball game played with a bat . . . . Most often we played this game on Sundays. We rolled up rags to make balls . . . Our game attracted the savages who sat around the field, delighted with this Polish sport."
A 1975 letter from Matthew Baranski letter to the HOF said:
"For your information and records, I am pleased to inform you that after much research I have discovered that baseball was introduced to America by the Poles who arrived in Jamestown in 1609. . . . Records of the University of Krakow, the oldest school of higher learning in Poland show that baseball or batball was played by the students in the 14th century and was part of the official physical culture program."
The 1609 source is Zbigniew Stefanski, Memorial Commercatoris [A Merchant's Memoirs], (Amsterdam, 1625), as cited in David Block's Baseball Before We Knew It, page 101. Stefanski was a skilled Polish workingman who wrote a memoir of his time in the Jamestown colony: an entry for 1609 related the Polish game of pilka palantowa(bat ball). Another account by a scholar reported adds that "the playfield consisted of eight bases not four, as in our present day game of baseball." If true, this would imply that the game involved running as well as batting.
1975 Letter: from Matthew Baranski to the Baseball Hall ofFame, March 23, 1975. [Found in the Origins file at the Giamatti Center.] Matthew Baranski himself cites First Poles in America1608-1958, published by the Polish Falcons of America, Pittsburgh, but unavailable online as of 7/28/09. We have not confirmed that sighting.
See also David Block, "Polish Workers Play Ball at Jamestown Virginia: An Early Hint of Continental Europe's Influence on Baseball," Base Ball (Origins Issue), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pp.5-9.
Per Maigaard's 1941 survey of "battingball games" includes a Polish variant of long ball, but does not mention pilka palantowa by name. However, pilka palantowa may merely be a longer/older term for palant, the Polish form of long ball still played today.
The likelihood that pilka palantowa left any legacy in America is fairly low, since the Polish glassblowers returned home after a year and there is no subsequent mention of any similar game in colonial Virginia
1621.1 Some Pilgrims "Openly" Play "Stoole Ball" on Christmas Morning: Governor Clamps Down
Governor Willliam Bradford
Governor Bradford describes Christmas Day 1621 at Plymouth Plantation, MA; "most of this new-company excused them selves and said it wente against their consciences to work on ye day. So ye Govr tould them that if they made it mater of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed. So he led away ye rest and left them; but when they came home at noone from their worke, he found them in ye street at play, openly; some at pitching ye barr, and some at stoole-ball and shuch like sport. . . . Since which time nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly."
Bradford, William, Of Plymouth Plantation, [Harvey Wish, ed., Capricorn Books, 1962], pp 82 - 83. Henderson cites Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856. See his ref 23. Full text supplied by John Thorn, 6/25/2005. Also cited and discussed by Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 190
Bradford explained that the issue was not that ball-playing was sinful, but that playing openly while others worked was not good for morale.
Note: From scrutinizing early reports of stoolball, Protoball does not find convincing evidence that it was a base-running game by the 1600s.
1672c.2 Francis Willughby's "Book of Games" Surveys Folkways: First Stoolball Rules Appear
Warwickshire scientist Francis Willughby (1635-1672) compiled, in manuscript form, descriptions of over 130 games, including, stoolball, hornebillets, kit-cat, stowball, and tutball [but not cricket, trapball or rounders]. He died at 36 and the incomplete manuscript, long held privately, became known to researchers in the 1990s and was published in 2003.
Willughby described stoolball as a game in which a team of players defended an overturned stool with their hands. Hornebillets, unlike stoolball and early cat games, involved using a bat, and also base-running [between holes placed 7 or 8 yards apart], but it used no ball - a cat was used as the batted object. A runner [running was compulsory, even for short hits] had to place his staff in a hole before the other team could put the cat in that hole. The number of holes depended on the number of players available. Stowball appears as a golf-like game. Kit Cat is described as a sort of fungo game in which the cats can be propelled 60 yards or more.
David Cram, Jeffrey L. Forgeng, and Dorothy Johnston, Francis Willughby's Book of Games: A Seventeenth Century Treatise on Sports, Games, and Pastimes [Ashgate Publishing, 2003].
See also L. McCray, "The Amazing Francis Willughby, and the Role of Stoolball in the Evolution of Baseball and Cricket," in Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 17-20.
1725c.1 Wicket Played on Boston Common at Daybreak
Judge Samuel Sewell
"March, 15. Sam. Hirst [Sewall's grandson, reportedly, and a Harvard '23 man -- (LMc)] got up betime in the morning, and took Ben Swett with him and went into the [Boston MA] Common to play at Wicket. Went before any body was up, left the door open; Sam came not to prayer; at which I was most displeased.
"March 17th. Did the like again, but took not Ben with him. I told him he could not lodge here practicing thus. So he lodg'd elsewhere. He grievously offended me in persuading his Sister Hannam not to have Mr. Turall, without enquiring of me about it. And play'd fast and loose in a vexing matter about himself in a matter relating to himself, procuring me great Vexation."
Diary of Samuel Sewall, in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Published by the Society, Boston, 1882) Volume VII - Fifth Series, page 372. As cited by Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 190.
While this is the first known reference to ballplaying on Boston Common, there are several later ones. See Brian Turner, "Ballplaying and Boston Common; A Town Playground for Boys . . . and Men," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 21-24.
A letter in "The Nation," July 7, 1910, dates this play in 1726. Cites George Dudley Seymour's address to the CT Society of Colonial Wars. [ba]
1744.1 First Laws of Cricket are Written in England
[A] Ford's crisp summary of the rules: "Toss for pitching wickets and choice of innings; pitch 22 yards; single bail; wickets 22 inches high; 4-ball overs; ball between 5 and 6 ounces; 'no ball' defined; modes of dismissal - bowled, caught, stumped, run out, obstructing the field."
The 5-ounce ball is, likely, heavier than balls used in very early US ballplaying.
[B] Includes the 4-ball over, later changed to 6 balls. [And to 8 balls in Philadelphia in 1790 -LMc]. The 22 yard pitching distance is one-tenth of the length of a furlong, which is one-eighth of a mile.
[A] John Ford, Cricket: A Social History 1700-1835 [David and Charles, 1972], page 17.
[B] Cashman, Richard, "Cricket," in David Levinson and Karen Christopher, Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present [Oxford University Press, 1996], page 87.
The rules are listed briefly at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1744_English_cricket_season [as accessed 1/31/07]. The rules were written by a Committee under the patronage of "the cricket-mad Prince of Wales" -- Frederick, the son of George II.
For a recent review of the 1744 cricket rules and their relevance to base ball, see Beth Hise, "How is it, Umpire? The 1744 Laws of Cricket and Their Influence on the Development of Baseball in America," Base Ball (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 25-31.
1744.2 Newbery's Little Pretty Pocket-Book Refers to "Base-Ball," "Stooleball, "Trap-Ball," Cricket
John Newbery's A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, published in England, contains a wood-cut illustration showing boys playing "base-ball" and a rhymed description of the game:
"The ball once struck off,/Away flies the boy/To the next destined post/And then home with joy."
This is held to be the first appearance of the term "base-ball" in print. Other pages are devoted to stool-ball, trap-ball, and tip-cat [per David Block, page 179], as well as cricket. Block finds that this book has the first use of the word "base-ball."
Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly [London, John Newbery, 1744]. Per Henderson ref 107, adding Newbery's name as publisher from text at p. 132. The earliest extant version of this book is from 1760 [per David Block].
Note: we may want reassurance that the "Base-ball" poem appeared in the 1744 version. According to Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, the 1767 London edition also has poems titled "Stoolball" [p. 88] and Trap-Ball.[p. 91]. According Zoernik in the Encyclopedia of World Sports [p.329], rounders is also referred to [we need to confirm this, as Rounders does not appear in the 1760 edition or the one from 1790.]. There was an American pirated edition in 1760, as per Henderson [ref #107]; David Block dates the American edition in 1762. He also notes that a 1767 revision features engravings for the four games.
1749.2 Aging Prince Spends "Several Hours" Playing Bass-Ball in Surrey
Lord Middlesex, Prince of Wales
"On Tuesday last, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Lord Middlesex, played at Bass-Ball (sic), at Walton in Surry (sic); notwithstanding the Weather was extreme bad, they continued playing several Hours."
Whitehall Evening Post, September 19. 1749.
David Block's 2013 find was reported at the SABR.org website on 6/19/2103, and it includes interview videos and links to related documentation. Confirmed 6/19/2013 as yielding to a web search of <block royal baseball sabr>.
Block points out that this very early reference to base-ball indicates that the game was played by adults -- the Prince was 38 years old in 1749, further weakening the view that English base-ball was played mainly by juveniles in its early history.
The location of the game was Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.
Comparing the 1749 game with modern baseball, Block estimates that the bass-ball was likely played on a smaller scale, with a much softer ball, with batted ball propelled the players' hands, not with a bat, and that runners could be put out by being "plugged" (hit with a thrown ball) between bases.
Only two players were named for this account. Was that because the Prince and Lord Middlesex both led clubs not worthy of mentioning by name, or was there a two-player version of the game then (in the 1800s competitive games of cricket were similarly reported with only two named players)?
1755.6 NYS Traveler Notes Dutch Boys Playing "Bat and Ball"
Gideon Hawley (1727-1807), traveling through the area where Binghamton now is, wrote: "even at the celebration of the Lord's supper [the Dutch boys] have been playing bat and ball the whole term around the house of God."
Hawley, Gideon, Rev. Gideon Hawley's Journal [Broome County, NY 1753], page 1041. Collection of Tom Heitz. Per Patricia Millen, From Pastime to Passion , page 2.
Writing in 2011, Brian Turner discerns that "bat and ball" maybe the name of a defined game, and not just a generic term. See Brian Turner, "Bat and Ball: A Distinct Game or a Generic Term?", Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 37-40. He finds several uses of the phrase in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, most of them north and east of Boston.
1781.2 "Antient" Harvard Custom: Freshmen Furnish the Bats, Balls
"The Freshmen shall furnish Batts, Balls, and Foot-balls, for the use of the students, to be kept at the Buttery."
Rule 16, "President, Professors, and Tutor's Book," volume IV. The list of rules is headed "The antient Customs of Harvard College, established by the Government of it."
Conveyed to David Block, April 18, 2005, by Professor Harry R. Lewis, Harvard University, Cambridge MA. Dr. Lewis adds, "The buttery was a sort of supply room, not just for butter. Who is to say what the "Batts" and "Balls" were to be used for, but it is interesting that any bat and ball game could already have been regarded as ancient at Harvard in 1781."
Dr. Lewis has written a essay on early ballplaying at Harvard College; see Harry Lewis, "Protoball at Harvard: from Pastime to Contest," Base Ball Journal (Special Origins Issue), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 41-45.
1791.1 "Bafeball" Among Games Banned in Pittsfield MA - also Cricket, Wicket
In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in order to promote the safety of the exterior of the newly built meeting house, particularly the windows, a by-law is enacted to bar "any game of wicket, cricket, baseball, batball, football, cats, fives, or any other game played with ball," within eighty yards of the structure. However, the letter of the law did not exclude the city's lovers of muscular sport from the tempting lawn of "Meeting-House Common." This is the first indigenous instance of the game of baseball being referred to by that name on the North American continent. It is spelled herein as bafeball. "Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.
An account of this find (a re-find, technically) is at John Thorn, "1791 and All That: Baseball and the Berkshires," Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Volume 1, Number 1 (Spring 2007) pp. 119-126.
Per John Thorn: The History of Pittsfield (Berkshire County),Massachusetts, From the Year 1734 to the Year 1800. Compiled and Written, Under the General Direction of a Committee, by J. E. A. Smith. By Authority of the Town. [Lea and Shepard, 149 Washington Street, Boston, 1869], 446-447. The actual documents themselves repose in the Berkshire Athenaeum.
While this apppears to be the first American use of the term "base ball," see item 1786.1 above, in which a Princeton student notes having played "baste ball" five years earlier. See item 1786.1.
The town of Northampton MA issued a similar order in 1791, but omitted base ball and wicket from the list of special games of ball. See item 1791.2. Northampton is about 40 miles SE of Pittsfield.
John Thorn's essay on the Pittsfield regulation is found at John Thorn, "The Pittsfield "Baseball" By-law: What it Means," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, Number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 46-49.
1796.1 Gutsmuths describes [in German, yet] "Englische Base-Ball"
Johann Gutsmuths, an early German advocate of physical education, devotes a chapter of his survey of games to "Ball mit Freystaten (oder das Englische Base-ball)" that is, Ball with free station, or English base-ball. He describes the game in terms that seem similar to later accounts of rounders and base-ball in English texts. The game is described as one-out, side-out, having a three-strike rule, and placing the pitcher a few steps from the batsman.
Block advises [11/6/2005 communication] that Gutsmuths provides "the first hard, unambiguous evidence associating a bat with baseball . . . . We can only speculate as to when a bat was first employed in baseball, but my intuition is that it happened fairly early, probably by the mid-18th century."
Gutsmuths Johann C. F., Spiele zur Uebung und Erholung des Korpers und Geistes fur die Jugend, ihre Erzieher und alle Freunde Unschuldiger Jugendfreuden [Schnepfenthal, Germany] per David Block, page 181.. This roughly translates as: Games for the Exercise and Recreation of Body and Spirit for the Youth and His Educator and All Friends of Innocent Joys of Youth.
For Translated Text: David Block carries a four-page translation of this text in Appendix 7, pages 275-278, of Baseball Before We Knew It.
In 2011, David Block added to his assessment of Gutsmuth in "German Book Describes das Englische Base Ball; But Was it Baseball or Rounders?," in Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 50-54. He notes the absence of the use of bats in base-ball in England, except in this single source, while rounders play commonly involved a bat.
1800c.1 Sports at Exeter Academy include "Old-Fashioned Bat and Ball". . . and Football
"At the turn of the century ball-playing at Exeter was commonplace, according to a historian of that school. 'The only games seem to have been old-fashioned 'bat and ball', which, in the spring, was played on the grounds of the Academy building, and football. The former differed widely from the modern game of base ball, which was introduced later. The old game had fewer rules, and was played with a soft leather ball.'" -- Tom Altherr
Cunningham, Frank H., Familiar Sketches of the Phillips Exeter Academy and Surroundings (James R. Osgood and Company, Boston, 1883), p. 281. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It; see page 245 and ref # 79.
Is there a way to check the approximate year that the historian is depicting in this passage?
1805.4 Enigmatic Report: NY Gentlemen Play Game of "Bace," and Score is Gymnastics 41, Sons of Diagoras 34.
"Yesterday afternoon a contest at the game of Bace took place on "the Gymnasium," near Tylers' between the gentlemen of two different clubs for a supper and trimmings . . . . Great skill and activity it is said was displayed on both sides, but after a severe and well maintained contest, Victory, which had at times fluttered a little form one to the other, settled down on the heads of the Gymnastics, who beat the Sons of Diagoras 41 to 34."
New York Evening Post, April 13, 1805, page 3 column 1. Submitted by George Thompson, 8/2/2005.
George Thompson has elaborated on this singular find at George Thompson, "An Enigmatic 1805 "Game of Bace" in New York," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 55-57.
Note: So, folks . . . was this a baserunning ball game, some version of prisoner's base (a team tag game resembling our childhood game Capture the Flag) with scoring, or what?
John Thorn [email of 2/27/2008] has supplied a facsimile of the Post report, and also found meeting announcements for the Diagoras in the Daily Advertiser for 4/11 and 4/12/1805.
David Block (see full text in Supplemental Text, below) offers his 2017 thoughts on this entry:
"My opinion on whether that game was baseball or prisoner's base has gone back and forth over the years. As of now I tend to lean 60-40 to baseball. Other than the example from Chapman that John cited, I've never come across a use of the term bace to signify either game. Even if I had it wouldn't mean much as the word "base" has been used freely over the years for both of them. The mention of a score in the 1805 article is significant. Rarely are scores indicated in any of the reports of prisoner's base (prison base, prison bars, etc.) that I've come across. Usually they just indicate one side or the other as winner."
Special credit for anyone who can add to our understanding of this item!
1809.1 Americans in London Play "A Game Called Ball," Seen as a "Novelty" By Locals
"On Wednesday a match for 80 guineas, at a game called Ball. was played by Eight American Gentlemen, in a field on the side of the Commercial-road. The novelty of the game attracted the attention of the passing multitude, who departed highly gratified."
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser (London), June 23, 1809, page 2. See David Block, Pastime Lost: The Humble, Original, and Now Completely Forgotten Game of English Baseball (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), page 237.
Block adds: "Other games besides baseball, of course, could haave borne the label Ball on that occasion, but none seem obvious. Cricket, football, trsp-ball, stool-ball, golf, and various games in the hockey family ,including bandy, hurling, and shinty,all had a presence in the British Isles in that era, but there is no reason the passing multitude in London that day would have considered any of them a "novelty."
Does the sum of 80 guineas as the game's stakes imply anything about the players?
1815c.2 US Prisoners of War in England Play Ball - at Great Peril, It Turned Out
A ball game reportedly led to the killing and wounding of many US prisoners in England's Dartmoor prison in April 1815:
"On the 6th of April, 1815, as a small party were amusing themselves at a game of ball, some one of the number striking it with too much violence, it flew over the wall fronting the prison and the sentinels on the other side of the same were requested to heave the ball back, but refused; on which the party threatened to break through to regain their ball, and immediately put their threats into execution; a hole was made in the wall sufficiently large for a man to pass thro' - but no one attempted it."
500 British soldiers appeared, and the prisoners were fired upon en masse.
"Massacre of the 6th of April," American Watchman, June 24, 1815. Accessed via subscription search, 2/14/2009.
- "The Judicial Report of the Massacre at Dartmoor Prison," in John Melish, "Description of Dartmor Prison, with an Account of the Massacre of the Prisoners" (Philadelphia, J.Bioren, 1816) Per Altherr, ref #97.
- [Waterhouse, Benjamin], A Journal of a Young Man of Massachusetts, Late a Surgeon on Board an American Privateer, Who Was Captured at Sea by the British in May, Eighteen Hundred and Thirteen, and Was Confined First, at Melville Island, Halifax, then at Chatham, on England, and Last, at Dartmoor Prison (Rowe and Hooper, Boston, 1816), p. 186. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, pages 247-249 and ref #92.
- "Journal of Nathaniel Pierce of Newburyport [MA], Kept at Dartmoor Prison, 1814 - 1815," Historical Collections of Essex Institute, volume 73, number 1 [January 1937], p. 40. Per Altherr's refs #91 - #98.
- [Andrews, Charles] The Prisoner's Memoirs, or Dartmoor Prison (private printing, NYC, 1852), p.110. Per Altherr's refs #93 and 95.
- [Valpey, Joseph], Journal of Joseph Valpey, Jr. of Salem, November 1813- April 1815 (Michigan Society of Colonial Wars, Detroit, 1922), p. 60. Per Altherr's ref #96.
- Herbert A. Kenny, Cape Ann: Cape America (J. B. Lippincott, 1971), pp. 83-4. (From The Centennial Address of Dr. Lemuel) See excerpt at Supplemental Text, below.
Some observers assume that ballplaying was mainly a juvenile pastime in this time period. Clearly the players in this case, and in other instances of military play, were of age.
Can we be certain that this was a base-running game? Can we rule out that the game was a vigorous 1800's form of handball?
1815.8 Eyewitness On the Massacre of Seven U.S Soldiers at Dartmoor Prison in England
"Two days before this [the argument over bread shortages after which the prisoners helped themselves to the bread supplies], viz., April 6, 1815. Governor S [Shortland] returned to his station. On learning what had transpired on the evening of the 4th, he declared (as we were told) that he would be revenged on us. On this 6th day, P.M., some of the prisoners were playing ball in No. 7 yard. Several times the ball was knocked over the wall, and was as often thrown back by the soldiers when kindly asked to do so. Presently one of he prisoners cried out in quite an authoritative manner, 'Soldier, throw back the ball.' And because it failed to come, some of the ball-players said, 'We will make a hole in the wall and get it.' Two or three of them began pecking out the mortar with small stones. A sentinel on the wall ordered them to desist. This they did not do until spoken to again. I was walking back and forth by he place during the time, with others, but did not suppose they could make a hole with the stones they were using, or that anything touching that matter was of much or any importance. Aside from that trifling affair, the prisoners were as orderly and as obedient as at any time in the past."
[Bates then described the killing of the ball-playing prisoners and concluded that seven were killed and sixty wounded.] .
Joseph Bates, The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates (Battle Creek, 1868), pp. 51-52, per Thomas L. Altherr, "Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games," Base Ball, Volume 2, number 1 (Spring 2008), page 39.
OK, was the game played a batting/baserunning game or a form of handball? Does the term "knocked" over the wall give any clue?
1821.5 NY Mansion Converted to Venue Suitable for Base, Cricket, Trap-Ball
In May and June 1821, an ad ran in some NY papers announcing that the Mount Vernon mansion was now open as Kensington House. It could accommodate dinners and tea parties and clubs. What's more, later versions of the ad said: "The grounds of Kensington House are spacious and well adapted to the playing of the noble game of cricket, base, trap-ball, quoits and other amusements; and all the apparatus necessary for the above games will be furnished to clubs and parties."
Richard Hershberger posted to 19CBB on Kensington House on 10/7/2007, having seen the ad in the June 9, 1821 New YorkGazette and General Advertiser. Richard suggested that "in this context "base is almost certainly baseball, not prisoner's base." John Thorn [email of 3/1/2008] later found a May 22, 1821 Kensington ad in the Evening Post that did not mention sports, and ads starting on June 2 that did.
Richard points out that the ad's solicitation to "clubs and parties" may indicate that some local groups were forming to play the mentioned games long before the first base ball clubs are known to have played.
June 9, 1821 New York Gazette and General Advertiser
See also Richard Hershberger, "New York Mansion Converted -- An Early Sighting of Base Ball Clubs?," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 58-60.
Have we found any further indications that 1820-era establishments may have served to host regular base ball clubs?
1823.1 National Advocate Reports "Base Ball" Game in NYC
The National Advocate of April 25, 1823, page 2, column 4, states: "I was last Saturday much pleased in witnessing a company of active young men playing the manly and athletic game of 'base ball' at the (Jones') Retreat in Broadway [on the west side of Broadway between what now is Washington Place and Eighth Street]. I am informed they are an organized association, and that a very interesting game will be played on Saturday next at the above place, to commence at half past 3 o'clock, P.M. Any person fond of witnessing this game may avail himself of seeing it played with consummate skill and wonderful dexterity.... It is surprising, and to be regretted that the young men of our city do not engage more in this manual sport; it is innocent amusement, and healthy exercise, attended with but little expense, and has no demoralizing tendency."
National Advocate, April 25, 1823, page 2, column 4. This find is discussed by its modern discoverer George Thompson, in George A. Thompson, Jr., "New York Baseball, 1823," The National Pastime 2001], pp 6 - 8.
See also 1821.5 for possible NYC ballplaying in this era.
1829.2 Round Ball Played in MA
From a letter to the Mills Commission: "Mr. Lawrence considers Round Ball and Four Old Cat one and the same game; the Old Cat game merely being the they could do when there were not more than a dozen players, all told. . . . Mr. Lawrence says, as a boy, he played Round Ball in 1829.
"So far as Mr. Lawrence's argument goes for Round Ball being the father of Base Ball it is all well enough, but there are two things that cannot be accounted for; the conception of the foul ball, and the abolishment of the rules that a player could be put out by being hit by a thrown ball. No one remembers the case of a player being injured by being hit by a thrown ball, so that cannot be the reason for that change. The foul rule made the greatest skill of the Massachusetts game count for nothing - the batting skill - the back handed and slide batting. Mr. Stoddard told me that there were 9 of the 14 Upton batters who never batted ahead."
Henry Sargent Letter to the Mills Commission, June 25, 1905.
1830c.30 "Old Boys" Play Throwback Game to 100 Tallies in Ohio
Ball Playing -- Old Boys at it!
Base-ball was a favorite game of the early settlers at the gatherings which brought men and boys together -- such as raisings, bees, elections, trainings, Fourth of Julys, etc., etc., and we are glad to see that the manly sport is still in vogue, at least in 'benighted Ashtabula.' We learn by the Sentinel that a matched game came off at Jefferson on the 4th, fourteen selected players on each side, chosen by Judge Dann and Squire Warren. The party winning the first hundred scores was to be the victor. Judge Dann's side won the game by eleven scores. The Sentinel says:
There were thirteen innings without a tally. [This suggests that, at least by 1859, this game used one-out-side-out innings.] The highest number of scores was made by James R. Giddings, a young chap of sixty-four, who led the field, having made a tally as often as the club came to his hand. The game excited great interest, and was witnessed by a large number of spectators. The supper was prepared by 'our host' at the Jefferson House.
Note: Protoball's PrePro data base shows another reference to a group, including Giddings, playing this predecessor game in Jefferson; see http://protoball.org/In_Jefferson_OH_in_July_1859.
Cleveland [Ohio] Daily Leader, Saturday July 9, 1859, First Edition.
See clipping at http://www.newspapers.com/clip/2414996/18590709_cleveland/.
We have assigned this to a date of ca. 1830 on the basis that players in their sixties seem to have played this (same) game as young adults. Comments welcome on this assumption. Were the southern shores of Lake Erie settled by Europeans at that date?
Ashtabula (1850 population: 821 souls) is about 55 miles NE of Cleveland OH and a few miles from Lake Erie. The town of Jefferson OH is about 8 miles inland [S] of Ashtabula.
"The Sentinel" is presumably the Ashtabula Sentinel.
Further commentary on the site and date of this remembered game are welcome.
Was the Ashtabula area well-settled by 1830?
1831.1 A Ball Club Forms in Philadelphia; It Later Adopts Base Ball, and Lasts to 1887
The Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia unites with a group of ball players based in Camden, NJ
Orem writes: "An association of Town Ball players began playing at Camden, New Jersey on Market Street in the Spring of 1831."
Orem says, without citing a source, that "On the first day but four players appeared, so the game was "Cat Ball," called in some parts of New England at the time "Two Old Cat." Later accounts report that the club formed in 1833, although J. M. Ward  also dated the formation of the club to 1831.
Orem notes that "so great was the prejudice of the general public against the game at the time that the players were frequently censured by their friends for indulging in such a childish amusement."
* * *
In January 2017, Richard Hershberger reported (19CBB posting) that after more than five decades, the club disbanded in 1887 -- see Supplemental Text, below.
The Olympic Club played Town Ball until it switched to modern base ball in 1860. See Chronology entry 1860.64.
* * *
For a reconstruction of the rules of Philadelphia town ball, see Hershberger, below. Games were played under the term "town ball" in Cincinnati as well as Philadelphia and a number of southern locations (for an unedited map of 23 locations with references to town ball, conduct an Enhanced Search for <town ball>.
* * *
The club is credited with several firsts in American baserunning games:
 1833: first game played between two established clubs -- see Chronology entry 1833c.12.
 1837: first team to play in uniforms -- see Chronology entry 1837.14.
 1969: First interracial game -- See Chronology entry 1869.3.
* * *
[Orem, Preston D., Baseball (1845-1881) From the Newspaper Accounts(self-published, Altadena CA, 1961), page 4.]
Constitution of the Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia [private printing, 1838]. Parts reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 5-8.
Richard Hershberger, "A Reconstruction of Philadelphia Town Ball," Base Ball, Volume 1 number 2 (Fall 2007), pp. 28-43. Online as of 2017 at:
For a little more on the game of town ball, see http://protoball.org/Town_Ball.
The "firsts" tentatively listed above are for the US play of baserunning games other than cricket. Further analysis is needed to confirm or disconfirm its elements.
Protoball would welcome an analysis of the US history of town ball and its variants.
It seems plausible that town ball was being played years earlier in the Philadelphia. Newspaper accounts refer to cricket "and other ball games" being played locally as as early as 1822. See Chronology entry 1822.3.
Is it accurate to call this a "town ball" club? When was it formed? Dean Sullivan dates it to 1837, while J. M. Ward [Ward's Base Ball Book, page 18] sets 1831 as the date of formation. The constitution was revised in 1837, but the Olympic Club merged with the Camden Town ball Club in 1833, and that event is regarded as the formation date of the Olympics. The story of the Olympics is covered in "Sporting Gossip," by "the Critic" in an unidentified photocopy found at the Giamatti Research Center at the HOF. What appears to be a continuation of this article is also at the HOF. It is "Evolution of Baseball from 1833 Up to the Present Time," by Horace S. Fogel, and appeared in The Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph, March 22-23, 1908.
2 Are we certain that the "firsts" listed in this entry predate the initial appearance of the indicated innovations in American cricket?
1832c.2 Two NYC Clubs Known to Play Pre-modern Base Ball -- Use the Plugging of Runners
[A] "The history of the present style of playing Base Ball (which of late years has been much improved) was commenced by the Knickerbocker Club in 1845. There were two other clubs in the city that had an organization that date back as far as 1832, the members of one of which mostly resided in the first ward, the lower part of the city, the other in the upper part of the city (9th and 15th wards). Both of these clubs played in the old-fashioned way of throwing the ball and striking the runner, in order to put him out. To the Knickerbocker Club we are indebted for the present improved style of playing the game, and since their organization they have ever been foremost in altering or modifying the rules when in their judgment it would tend to make the game more scientific."
[B] John Thorn has added: "The club from lower Manhattan evolves into the New York Club (see entry 1840.5) and later splits into the Knickerbockers and Gothams. The club from upper Manhattan evolves into the Washington Club (see entry 1843.2) which in turn gives way to the Gothams."
William Wood, Manual of Physical Exercises. (Harper Bros., 1867), pp. 189-90. Per John Thorn, 6/15/04. Note: Wood provides no source.
Reported in Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), pages 32 and 307.
Wood was only about 13 years old in 1832, according to Fred E. Leonard, Pioneers of Modern Physical Training (Association Pres, New York, 1915), page 121. Text provided by John Thorn, 6/12/2007.
Does the lineage from these two clubs to the Knickerbockers and Gothams (but not Magnolias) stem from common membership rolls?
Can we find additional sources on the two 1832 clubs? Do we have any notion of Wood's possible sources?
1833c.12 America's First Interclub Ballgame, in Philadelphia
[A] In Philadelphia PA, the Olympic Club and an unnamed club merged in 1833, but only after they had, apparently, played some games against one another. "Since . . . there weren't any other ball clubs, either formal or informal, anywhere else until at least 1842, this anonymous context would have to stand as the first ball game between two separate, organized club teams anywhere in the United States." The game was a form of town ball.
[B] Richard Hershberger describes the Olympic's opponent as "a loose of collection of friends who had been playing (town ball) together for two years," and considers it a match game in that "both sides had existence outside of that game." He dates one of the games to July 4, 1833, as the Olympic club had been formed to play a game on the holiday.
[A] John Shiffert, Base Ball in Philadelphia (McFarland, 2006), page 17.
[B] Richard Hershberger, "In the Beginning-- Olympics vs. Camden", Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 1-2.
1835c.20 Report: "Groups of Full Grown Players At Base and Cricket" Recalled in New York
The Plaindealer, New York, April 15, 1837.
David Block, 5/3/2021, on the idea that ballplaying clubs were though to be extinct in 1837: "Not quite extinct."
Tom Gilbert, 5/4/2021: "We knew -- largely indirectly -- that there were adult bb clubs and a thriving bb scene in NYC in the 1830s and probably earlier, but it is great to see confirmation, and by a contemporary source. This also underlines the importance of Stevens's Elysian Fields in helping to preserve the incipient sport from being snuffed out by rapid urban development, in a sort of incubator.
Should our dating at circa 1835 be modified?
1837.1 A Founder of the Gothams Remembers "First Ball Organization in the US"
William R. Wheaton, who would several years later help found the Knickerbockers [and write their playing rules], described how the Gothams were formed and the changes they introduced. "We had to have a good outdoor game, and as the games then in vogue didn't suit us we decided to remodel three-cornered cat and make a new game. We first organized what we called the Gotham Baseball Club. This was the first ball organization in the United States, and it was completed in 1837.
"The first step we took in making baseball was to abolish the rule of throwing the ball at the runner and ordered instead that it should be thrown to the baseman instead, who had to touch the runner before he reached the base. During the [earlier] regime of three-cornered cat there were no regular bases, but only such permanent objects as a bedded boulder or and old stump, and often the diamond looked strangely like an irregular polygon. We laid out the ground at Madison Square in the form of an accurate diamond, with home-plate and sand bags for bases."
" . . . it was found necessary to reduce the new rules to writing. This work fell to my hands, and the code I them formulated is substantially that in use today. We abandoned the old rule of putting out on the first bound and confined it to fly catching."
"The new game quickly became very popular with New Yorkers, and the numbers of clubs soon swelled beyond the fastidious notions of some of us, and we decided to withdraw and found a new organization, which we called the Knickerbocker."
See Full Text Below
Brown, Randall, "How Baseball Began, National Pastime, 24 , pp 51-54. Brown's article is based on the newly-discovered "How Baseball Began - A Member of the Gotham Club of Fifty Years Ago Tells About It, San Francisco Daily Examiner, November 27, 1887, page 14.
See also: Randall Brown, "The Evolution of the New York Game," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 81-84.
Note that while Wheaton calls his group the "first ball organization," in fact the Philadelphia club that played Philadelphia town ball had formed several years earlier.
"Wheaton's 1837 Gotham rules may have resembled the Knickerbocker rules forged 8 years later. He said, in 1887, that "the code I then formulated is substantially that in use today" -- after a span of 5 decades. (In the meantime, however, the Knicks went back to using the bound rule.)"
Note: Brown knows that the unsigned article was written by Wheaton from internal evidence, such as the opening of the article, in the voice of an unnamed reporter: “An old pioneer, formerly a well-known lawyer and politician, now living in Oakland, related the following interesting history of how it originated to an EXAMINER reporter: ‘In the thirties I lived at the corner of Rutgers street and East Broadway in New York. I was admitted to the bar in ’36, and was very fond of physical exercise….’”
Wheaton wrote that the Gotham Club abandoned the bound rule . . . but if so, the Knickerbockers later re-instituted it, and it remained in effect until the 1860s.
Wheaton also recalled that the Knickerbockers at some point changed the base-running rule, which had dictated that whenever a batter "struck out" [made an out, we assume, as strikeouts came later], base-runners left the field. Under a new interpretation, runners only came in after the third out was recorded.
1839.1 Graves Letters of 1905 Say that Doubleday Invented Base Ball
[A] Abner Doubleday, who was to become a Civil War notable, is much later (1905) said to have "invented" baseball at Cooperstown, New York, according to the findings of the Mills Commission (1905-1907), a group of baseball magnates appointed by the American and National League Presidents to investigate the origins of baseball. The Commission bases its findings almost entirely on letters received from Abner Graves, a resident of Cooperstown in his childhood. The Commission's findings are soon discredited by historians who proclaim the "Doubleday Invention" to be entirely a myth.
The Doubleday game, according to Graves' offerings, retained the plugging of runners, eleven players per team, and flat bats that were four inches wide. Graves sees the main improvement of the Doubleday game that it limited the size of teams, while town ball permitted "twenty to fifty boys in the field."
Graves believed that Abner Doubleday was 16 or 17 years old when he saw him lay out his improved game [in fact, Doubleday was 20 in 1839, and at West Point]. Graves himself declined to fix a year to the Doubleday plan, suggesting that it might have occurred in 1839, 1840, or 1841. In choosing 1839, the Commission rested its story on the memory of a boy who was then 5 years old.
[B] Mark Pestana provides a scenario of this game, which he considers more likely to have taken place in 1840.
[C] As Pestana does, Hugh MacDougall wonders if Graves was confusing (General) Abner Doubleday with his younger cousin, Abner D. Doubleday, who was closer to Graves' age and was in Cooperstown at the time.
[A] Three Letters from Abner Graves -- two letters to the Mills Commission, April 3, 1905 and November 17, 1905 and one of unknown details. To read them, go here.
[B] Mark Pestana, "The Legendary Doubleday Game", Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 3-5
[C] Hugh MacDougall, Abner Graves: The Man who Brought Baseball to Cooperstown, 2011.
1840s.46 The Balk -- From the Knicks, Prior US Games, or Abroad?
[A] " 'A Balk is a Base' --Any one having a remembrance of the ball games of his youth, must recollect that in the game of base if the tosser made a balk to entice the individual make the round from his post, the latter had the right to walk to the next base unscathed. Pity it is that the Hudson folks engages in the late political movement n Columbia County did not remember that 'a balk is a base' in the children of a larger growth. When the frequent and flagrant outrages of the Taghkanic Anti Renters had apparently aroused the people of Columbia County to a true sense of their position and duty every friend of good order rejoiced."
[B] The ball is “dead,” to the extent of putting a player out, when either a “ball” or a “baulk” is called. The rule is the same as in cricket. For instance, a “no ball” in cricket can be hit by the batsman, and he can score a run on it, but if the ball be caught it is not considered an out. So in base ball when a baulk is called, and the striker chances to hit the ball and it be caught, he is not out, and he can take his base on it on the grounds of his being “a player running the bases,” which he is when he hits a ball that is not foul. The ball, though “dead” as regards putting a player out, is not “dead” so as to prevent the striker counting what he is entitled to count under the rule
[A]"A Balk is a Base," Roundout Freeman, June 5, 1847 (volume II, issue 46), page 2. [Brad Shaw, email to Protoball 1/26/2017]
[B] New York Clipper, Saturday, September 8, 1866. See https://protoball.org/Clipping:Interpreting_the_dead_ball_on_a_ball_or_a_balk;_the_rule_the_same_as_in_cricket
Dating this item as "1840s" is speculative, and turns on the ages of the Freeman Arguments for an alternative dating are welcome.
Is it obvious why a balk is in some way considered comparable to a "flagrant outrage?"
Was the balk known in earlier baserunning games in England, or elsewhere?
Do histories of cricket shed further light on the origin, nature, or rationale for, automatic batter-runner advances despite catches of balls hit when a "no ball" has been called?
Do we often see early rule variants for players of different ages?
1843.6 Magnolia Ball Club Summoned to Elysian Fields Game
"NEW YORK MAGNOLIA BALL CLUB - Vive la Knickerbocker. - A meeting of the members of the above club will take place this (Thursday) afternoon, 2nd instant, at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken [NJ]. It is earnestly requested that every member will be present, willing and eager to do his duty. Play will commence precisely as one o'clock. Chowder at 4 o'clock"
Associated with this ball club is an engraved invitation to its first annual ball, which has the first depiction of men playing baseball, and shows underhand pitching and stakes for bases.
New York Herald[classified ads section], November 2, 1843. Posted to 19CBB by John Thorn, 11/11/2007.
For much more from John on the find, and its implications, go to http://thornpricks.blogspot.com/2007/11/really-good-find-more-magnolia-blossoms.html.
See also John Thorn, "Magnolia Ball Club Predates Knickerbocker," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 89-92.
1845.1 Knicks Adopt Playing Rules on September 23
As apparently scribed by William Wheaton, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City organizes and adopts twenty rules for baseball (six organizational rules, fourteen playing rules). These rules are later seen as the basis for the game we now call baseball.
The Knickerbockers are credited with establishing foul lines; abolishing plugging (throwing the ball at the runner to make an out); instituting the tag-out and force-out; and introducing that balk rule. However, the Knickerbocker rules do not specify a pitching distance or the nature of the ball.
The distance from home to second base and from first to third base is set at forty-two paces. In 1845 the "pace" was understood either as a variable measure or as precisely two-and-a-half feet, in which case the distance from home to second would have been 105 feet and the "Knickerbocker base paths" would have been 74-plus feet. It is not obvious that the "pace" of 1845 would have been interpreted as the equivalent of three feet, as more recently defined.
The Knickerbocker rules provide that a winner will be declared when twenty-one aces are scored but each team must have an equal number of turns at bat; the style of delivery is underhand in contrast to the overhand delivery typical in town ball; balls hit beyond the field limits in fair territory (home run in modern baseball) are limited to one base.
The Knickerbocker rules become known as the New York Game in contrast to game later known as the Massachusetts Game that was favored in and around the Boston area.
A detailed recent annotation of the 20 rules appears in John Thorn,Baseball in the Garden of Eden, pages 69-77.
See Also "Larry McCray, "The Knickerbocker Rules -- and The Long History of the One-Bounce Fielding Rule, Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 93-97.
About 30 years later, reporter William Rankin wrote that Alexander Cartwright introduced familiar modern rules to the Knickerbocker Club, including 90-foot baselines.
As of 2016, recent scholarship has shown little evidence that Alexander Cartwright played a central role in forging or adapting the Knickerbocker rules. See Richard Hershberger, The Creation of the Alexander Cartwright Myth (Baseball Research Journal, 2014), and John Thorn, "The Making of a New York Hero" dated November 2015, at cartwright/.">http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/11/30/abner-cartwright/.
John's concluding paragraph is: "Recent scholarship has revealed the history of baseball's "creation" to be a lie agreed upon. Why, then, does the legend continue to outstrip the fact? "Creation myths, wrote Stephen Jay Gould, in explaining the appeal of Cooperstown, "identify heroes and sacred places, while evolutionary stories provide no palpable, particular thing as a symbol for reverence, worship, or patriotism."
1845.4 NY and Brooklyn Sides Play Two-Game Series of "Time-Honored Game of Base:" Box Score Appears
[A] The New York Base Ball Club and the Brooklyn Base Ball Club compete at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, by uncertain rules and with eight players to the side. On October 21, New York prevailed, 24-4 in four innings (21 runs being necessary to record the victory). The two teams also played a rematch in Brooklyn, at the grounds of the Star Cricket Club on Myrtle Avenue, on October 25, and the Brooklyn club again succumbed, this time by the score of 37-19, once more in four innings. For these two contests box scores were printed in New York newspapers. There are some indications that these games may have been played by the brand new Knickerbocker rules.
[B] The first game had been announced in The New York Herald and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on October 21. The BDE announcement refers to "the New York Bass Ball Club," and predicts that the match will "attract large numbers from this and the neighboring city."
For a long-lost account of an earlier New York - Brooklyn game, see #1845.16 below.
Detailed accounts of these games are shown in supplement text, below.
[A] New York Morning News, October 22 and 25, 1845. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 11-13.
[B] Sullivan, p. 11; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 4, number 253 (October 21, 1845), page 2, column 3
For a detailed discussion of the significance of this game, see Melvin Adelman, "The First Baseball Game, the First Newspaper References to Baseball," Journal of Sport History Volume 7, number 3 (Winter 1980), pp 132 ff.
The games are summarized in John Thorn, "The First Recorded Games-- Brooklyn vs. New York", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 6-7
Hoboken leans on the early use of Elysian Fields to call the town the "Birthplace of Baseball." It wasn't, but in June 2015 John Zinn wrote a thoughtful appreciation of Hoboken's role in the establishment of the game. See http://amanlypastime.blogspot.com/, essay of June 15, 2015, "Proving What Is So."
For a short history of batting measures, see Colin Dew-Becker, “Foundations of Batting Analysis,” p 1 – 9: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0btLf16riTacFVEUV9CUi1UQ3c/
1845.5 Brooklyn and New York to Go Again in Hoboken
"Brooklyn vs. New York. - An interesting game of Base Ball will come off at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, to-day, commencing at 10 A. M., between the New York and Brooklyn Clubs."
This game appears to have been the first game between what were called "picked nine" -- in our usage, "all-star clubs" from base ball players in two major local regions.
New York Sun, November 10, 1845, page 2, column. 6. Submitted by George Thompson, June 2005.
See also David Dyte, "Baseball in Brooklyn, 1845-1870: The Best There Was," Base Ball Journal Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins). pages 98-102.
1845.16 Brooklyn 22, New York 1: The First-Ever "Modern" Interclub Match?
[A]"The Base Ball match between eight Brooklyn players, and eight players of New York, came off on Friday on the grounds of the Union Star Cricket Club. The Yorkers were singularly unfortunate in scoring but one run in their three innings. Brooklyn scored 22 and of course came off winners."
On 11/11/2008, Lee Oxford discovered identical text in a second NY newspaper, which included this detail: "After this game had been decided, a match at single wicket cricket came off between two members of the Union Star Club - Foster and Boyd. Foster scored 11 the first and 1 the second innings. Boyd came off victor by scoring 16 the first innings."
[A] New York Morning News, Oct. 13, 1845, p.2.
[B]The True Sun (New York City), Monday, October 13, 1845, page 2, column 5.
Earlier cited in Tom Melville, The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America (Bowling Green State University Press, 1998), page 168, note 38: "Though the matches played between the Brooklyn and New York clubs on 21 and 25 October 1845 are generally recognized as being the earliest games in the "modern" era, they were, in fact, preceded by an even earlier game between those two clubs on October 12." [In fact this game was played on October 11.] Thanks to Tim Johnson [email, 12/29/2008] for triggering our search for the missing game. See #1845.4 and #1845.5 above.
Richard Hershberger adds that one can not be sure that these were the same sides that played on October 21/25, noting that the Morning Post refers here just to New York "players", and not to the New York Club.
See also 1845.4 for the October 21/25 games.
What is the evidence that this game was played by the Knickerbocker rules?
1845.32 NY Atlas Advises: THE OLD GAME OF BASE REVIVED
NY Atlas, October 5, 1845
Richard Hershberger, 2/3/2021
"I don't believe I have seen this before: An advertisement in the NY Atlas October 5, 1845, for the upcoming baseball game between New York and Brooklyn players. It is of particular interest as it lists both the first and last names of the Brooklyn players."
"I take the two games as being, on the one side, a function of the New York BBC, and on the other side an unofficial function of some members of the Union Star CC. One of the accounts carefully distinguishes between the New York Club and Brooklyn players."
Tom Gilbert, 2/3/2021:
"Some known cricketers in there."
John Thorn, 2/3/20211:
NY Atlas, October 5, 1845
Richard Hershberger, 2/3/2021
"I don't believe I have seen this before: An advertisement in the NY Atlas October 5, 1845, for the upcoming baseball game between New York and Brooklyn players. It is of particular interest as it lists both the first and last names of the Brooklyn players."
"I take the two games as being, on the one side, a function of the New York BBC, and on the other side an unofficial function of some members of the Union Star CC. One of the accounts carefully distinguishes between the New York Club and Brooklyn players."
Tom Gilbert, 2/3/2021:
"Some known cricketers in there."
John Thorn, 2/3/2021:
"Location of the match:
19CBB Posting, 2/3/2021
1846.1 Knicks Play NYBBC in First Recorded Match Game
The Knickerbockers meet the New York Base Ball Club at the Elysian Fields of Hoboken, New Jersey, in the first match game played under the 1845 rules. The Knickerbockers lose the contest 23-1. Some historians regard this game as the first instance of inter-club or match play under modern [Knickerbocker] rules.
1846.6 Walt Whitman Sees Boys Playing "Base" in Brooklyn: "Glorious"
In July of 1846 a Brooklyn Eagle piece by Walt Whitman read:
"In our sun-down perambulations of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing "base," a certain game of ball. We wish such sights were more common among us. In the practice of athletic and manly sports, the young men of nearly all our American cities are very deficient. Clerks are shut up from early morning till nine or ten o'clock at night . . . . Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms . . . the game of ball is glorious."
"City Intelligence," Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, vol. 5 number 177 (July 23, 1846), page 2, column 3. Reprinted in Herbert Bergman, ed., Walt Whitman. The Journalism. Vol. 1: 1834 - 1846. (Collected Works of Walt Whitman) [Peter Lang, New York, 1998], volume 1, page 477. Full Eagle citation submitted by George Thompson, 8/2/2004. .
Note: Whitman's text also presented at John Thorn's Our Game at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/opening-day-e5f9021c5dda.
1849c.4 A. G. Mills and Boyhood Friend Recall "Base Ball" at a Brooklyn School
A. G. Mills and schoolmate W. S. Cogswell exchanged letters, 55 years later, on the plugging game they called "base ball" as youths.
Mills to Cogswell 1/10/1905: "Among the vivid recollections of my early life at Union Hall Academy [of Jamaica, Long Island, NY] is a game of ball in which I played, where the boys of the side at bat were put out by being hit with the ball. My recollection is that we had first base near the batsman's position; the second base was a tree at some distance, and the third base was the home base, also near the batsman's position."
Cogswell to Mills 1/19/1905: "My recollection of the game of Base Ball, as we played it for years at Union Hall, say from 1849 to 1856, is quite clear. "
"You are quite right about the three bases, their location and the third base being home.
"The batsman in making a hit went to the first base, unless the ball was caught either on a fly or on first bound. In running the bases he was out by being touched or hit with the ball while further from any base than he could jump. The bases were not manned, the ball being thrown at a runner while trying for a base. The striker was not obliged to strike till he thought he had a good ball, but was out the first time he missed the ball when striking, and it was caught by the catcher either on the fly or on the first bound. There was no limit to the number of players and a side was not out till all the players had been disposed of. If the last player could make three home runs that put the side back in again. When there were but few players there was a rule against 'Screwing,' i.e., making strikes that would be called 'foul.' We used flat bats, and it was considered quite an art to be able to "screw" well, as that sent the ball away from the bases."
More details, from John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden (2011; pp 27-28), are seen below in the supplemental text below.
A. G. Mills letter to Colonel Wm S. Cogswell, January 10, 1905, and Wm. S. Cogswell letter to A. G. Mills, January 19, 1905. From the Mills Collection, Giamatti Center, HOF. Thanks to Jeremy LeBlanc for information on Union Hall Academy (email, 9/23/2007).
Note: This exchange and its significance are treated in John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Shuster, 2011), page 27.
John Thorn notes that in 1905 Mills was beginning to gather evidence for use in his famous "Mills Commission" report on base ball's beginnings. (Email of 1/4/2016).
John suggests that the Union Hall game may be the game that William R. Wheaton, another Union Hall student, called "three cornered cat" in his 1887 recollections of base ball's origin (email, 1/4/2016). The game of Corner Ball is known from the 1830s to about 1860, but is usually seen as a form of dodge ball played mostly by youths, and lacking batting and baserunning. Is it possible that Corner Ball morphed, retaining its essential plugging but adding batting and base advancement, by the time it was played in the Brooklyn school? Was this a transitional form in base ball's lineage? See also http://protoball.org/Three-Cornered_Cat and http://protoball.org/Corner_Ball.
As of January 2016, no other usages of "three-cornered cat" are known.
1850s.55 Round Ball, Played Near Boston, As Recalled in 1870s Celebrations
[A] "I was very much pleased to witness that old-fashioned game of ball played on the Fair grounds at Milford last week Tuesday afternoon. . . . It was certainly a lively game, interspersed with wit, humor, and a general good feeling."
Full text, including a 36-line poem, is in Supplementary Text, below.
[B] 1878 – "Round Ball Game. This game came off as advertised on the Town Park last Thursday afternoon. Below is the score for the respective sides:" [Box score shows Milford 25, Independents 12.]
[A] J. H. Cunnabel, Milford (MA) Journal, September 22, 1875.
[B] Milford Journal ,August 14, 1878
We have dated this entry as reflecting 1850s play of round ball. This dating is highly uncertain. One of the named participants (John Puffer), is identified by Joanne Hulbert as a participant in Holliston MA ballplaying in the 1850s.
1850s.58 In Paterson NJ, Old Fashioned Game Played After Civil War
"An interesting game of old fashioned base ball was played on Saturday, at the Red Woods, between the Finishing and Blacksmith Shops of Grant's Locomotive Works, which resulted in a victory for the Finishing Shop. The following is the score" [Box Score reflects 49-40 score in 9 innings, teams of 11 players, and a game time of 2h30m.]
Paterson Daily Press, August 20, 1867. This and three other 1867 finds are reported in John Zinn's A Manly Pastime baseball blog of 10/2/2014.
The dates that these games were originally seen are not reported. We have assigned them to "the 1850s," but they may have been played before that.
"The Summer of Old-Fashioned Base Ball
1851.9 The Beginning of Match Play Between Organized Clubs
"Some baseball games are historic even thought few details of the contest survive. A case in point is the June 3, 1851 Knickerbocker-Washington game. Although the only surviving information is the line score, the match is remembered because it marked the beginning of ongoing match play."
John Zinn, "Match Play: Knickerbockers of New York vs. Washington of New York," in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pages 8-9.
This is game #4 of the SABR 19th Century Committee's top 100 games of the 1800s.The Knickerbockers won the June 3 game, 21-11, in 8 innings.
Two weeks later, the two clubs met again and the Knickerbockers prevailed again, 22-20, in 10 innings.
The era of repetitive match play among organized base ball clubs had begun.
1852.13 Gotham Club Forms; Knicks Have First Rival Team
"The Gotham Base Ball Club, of New York, was organized early in 1852, with Mr. Tuche as its first President. Among its veteran players were Messrs. Winslow, Vail, Murphy, and Davis. At the time of the organization of the Gotham, their only competitor was the famous Knickerbockers, and the years between 1852 and 1853 will be remembered for their interesting contests between them."
John Freyer and Mark Rucker, Peverelly's National Game (Arcadia, 2005), page 21; A reprint of Charles Peverelly, American Pastimes, 1866.
1853.5 Knicks, Gothams Play Season Opener on July 1 and Again on October 18
[A] July Game
"BASE BALL AT HOBOKEN: The first friendly game of the season, between the Gotham and Knickerbocker Base Ball Clubs was played on the grounds of the latter on the 5th inst. The game was commenced on Friday the 1st, but owing to the storm had to be postponed, the Knickerbockers making nine aces to two of the Gothams, the following is the score for both days."
The Knicks won, 21-12, according to an abbreviated box score, which uses "No. of Outs" [and not "Hands Lost"] in the left-hand column, and "Runs," [not "Aces", as in the article] in the right-hand column. Paul Wendt estimates that this is the first certain Knick-rules box score known for an interclub match, and the first since the October 1845 games (see "1845.4 and #1845.16 above). 18 outs are recorded for each club, so six innings were played, "Twenty-one runs constituting the game."
The Knickerbocker lineup was Brotherson, Dick, Adams, Niebuhr, Dupignac, Tryon, Parisen, Tucker, and Waller. The Gotham lineup was W. H. Fancott [Van Cott], Thos. Fancott [Van Cott], J. C. Pinkny, Cudlip, Winslow Jr, Winslow Sr, Lalor, and Wadsworth.
[B] October Game
"Friend P -- The return game of Base Ball between the Gotham and Knickerbockers, was played last Friday, at the Red House, and resulted in favor of he Knickerbockers. The following is the score (21 runs constituting the game.)"
A box score follows, with columns headed "Runs" and "Outs." The score was 21-14, and evidently took nine innings.
"This was the finest, and at one time the closest match, that has ever been played between the two clubs. All that the Gothamites want is a little more practice at the bat; then the Knicks will have to stir themselves to sustain the laurels which they have worn so long."
The Knickerbocker lineup was Adams, De Bost, Tucker, Niebuhr, Tryon, Dick, Brotherson, Davis and Eager. The Gotham lineup was T. Van Cott, Wm. Van Cott, Miller, Cudlipp, Demilt, Pinckney, Wadsworth, Salzman, and Winslow.
[A] Letter from "F.W.T.", 7/6/1853, Base Ball at Hoboken, to The Spirit of the Times, Volume 23, number 21, Saturday July 9, 1853, page 246, column 1.
See also John Thorn, "The Baseball Press Emerges," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 106-110.
[B] Letter from "F.W.T.", 10/18/1853, "Base Ball Match," Spirit of the Times, volume 23, number 36 (Saturday, October 22, 1853), page 432, column 2; supplied by Craig Waff, September 2008.
Paul Wendt writes that the July game account included the first known box score of a game surely played by Knickerbocker rules.
Note the early appearance of informal usage: "Knicks" for "Knickerbockers" and "Gothamites" for "Gotham Club."
1853.18 "the national out-door game"
Approximating the usual later designation of base ball as the "national pastime", the New York Sunday Mercury referred to it as the "national out-door game."
New York Sunday Mercury, Oct. 2, 1853
Since at the time only three clubs, all in New York City, were playing Knickerbocker Rules Base Ball, the Mercury necessarily was referring to the group of safe-haven games under various names played throughout the United States since colonial times.
1854.1 Three NY Clubs Meet: Agreed Rules Now Specify Pitching Distance "Not Less Than 15 Paces""
[A] Concordance: The Knickerbocker, Eagle, and Gotham Club agree to somewhat expanded rules. Sullivan writes: "In 1854 a revised version of the original Knickerbocker rules was approved by a small committee of NY baseball officials, including Dr. (Doc) Adams. This document describes the first known meeting of baseball club representatives. Three years later, a much larger convention would result in the NABBP."
[B] Pitching: The New York Game rules now specify the distance from the pitcher's point to home base as "not less than fifteen paces."
[C] The Ball: "The joint rules committee, convening at Smith's Tavern, New York, increased the weight of the ball to 5½ to 6 ounces and the diameter to 2¾ to 3½ inches, (corresponding to a circumference varying from 8 5/8 to 11 inches)."
[A] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), page 83.The rules standardization was announced in the New York Sunday Mercury, April 2, 1854.
[B] The 17 playing rules [the 1845 rules listed 14 rules] are reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995}, pp. 18-19.
[C] Peverelly, 1866, Book of American Pastimes, pp. 346 - 348. Submitted by Rob Loeffler, 3/1/07. See "The Evolution of the Baseball Up to 1872," March 2007.
Do we know what pitching distances were used in games played before 1854?
Is it seen as merely coincidental that the specifications of a base ball were so close to those of a cricket ball?
1855.31 Competitive Base Ball Suddenly Fills NY Metropolitan Area
At the end of the 1854 season, there were evidently only three organized Manhattan clubs, and they had only played seven match games all year. Most games were intrmural contests.
In the first two months of the 1855 season, ten other clubs were at play, including four in Brooklyn and four in New Jersey. By the end of 1855, 22 clubs were on the field, and 82 games had been reported.
Things would never be the same again.
See Larry McCray, "Recent Ideas about the Spread of Base Ball after 1854" (draft), October 2012.
Data on reported 1855 games and clubs is taken from the Protoball Games Tabulation, version 1.0, compiled by Craig Waff.
It remains possible that the increase was, in part, a reporting effect, as game reports were more frequently seen as a service to newspaper readers in these years.
1855.34 Sporting Press Notices Base Ball, Regularizes Reporting
"There was little baseball reported in Spirit [of the Times] until 1855, and what did appear was limited to terse accounts of games (with box scores) submitted by members of the competing clubs. The primary [sports-page] emphasis was on four-legged sport and cricket, which often received multiple columns of coverage. Apparently, editor William Porter felt that baseball was less interesting than articles such as "The World's Ugliest Man." As interest in baseball grew, The Spirit's coverage of the sport expanded. On May 12, 1855, the journal printed the rules of baseball for the first time and soon began to report more frequently on games that took place in New York and its vicinity."
William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163.
In its issue of November 11, 1854, Spirit of the Times complained that base ball game reports were not being received.
[A] Was this turn to base ball more conspicuous in other papers earlier?
[B] Has anyone tried to measure the relative coverage of base ball and cricket over time in these crossover years?
1855.36 African American Clubs Play in NJ
"BASE BALL -- A match game of Base Ball was played between the St. John's and Union Clubs (colored) yesterday afternoon. Two innings were played when it commenced to rain. The St. John's Club made ten runs and the Union Club only two. The game is to be played again on Friday at 2 o'clock, on the grounds of the St. John's Club, foot of Chestnut Street."
Newark Daily Mercury, October 24, 1855.
Is this the first known report of African American club play of the New York game?
See Supplemental Text, below, for John Zinn's view on this question.
1855.38 First Printing of Rules
The New York Sunday Mercury of April 29, 1855 contained an article with a field diagram, playing rules, names, practice days, and grounds of several clubs, and comments on the upcoming season. Much of this material was reprinted on May 12 in The Spirit of the Times.
1856.4 Seventy Games Played, All in New York City Area.
"In the summer of 1856 . . . there were 53 games in New York and the metropolitan area."
We know of only 7 match games, played among three base ball clubs, in 1853; the game had not grown significantly in the 8 years since the Knickerbocker rules had been agreed to.
Two summers later, however the game was clearly taking off. While Harold Seymour knew of 53 games, we now have a record of 70 games played by 26 clubs (see the Protoball Games Tabulation compiled by Craig Waff).
The games were still played to 21 runs in 1856, with an average score of 24 to 12, aand they lasted about six innings. 1856 was the last year that the game would be confined to the New York area, as in 1857 it was beginning to spread to distant cities. As had been forecast in a note in the Knickerbocker minuted for 1855, base ball was getting ready to become the national pastime.
Seymour, Harold, Baseball: the Early Years [Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 24. [No ref given.]
Craig Waff and Larry McCray, "The New York Game in 1856," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 114-117.
1856.28 Knicks Call for Convention of Clubs
The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club at its meeting of Dec. 6, 1856, issued a call for a convention of the base ball clubs and appointed a special committee chaired by D. L. (Doc) Adams to supervise same. The clubs were requested to "select three representatives to meet at No 462 Broome street, in the city of New York, on Thursday, the 22d day of January, 1857." The Knick's resolution did not specify a purpose for the convention.
New York Herald, December 22, 1856; Spirit of the Times, January 3, 1857
1857.1 Rules Modified to Specify Nine Innings, 90-Foot Base Paths, Nine-Player Teams, but not the Fly Rule
"The New York Game rules are modified by a group of 16 clubs who send representatives to meetings to discuss the conduct of the New York Game. The Knickerbocker Club recommends that a winner be declared after seven innings but nine innings are adopted instead upon the motion of Lewis F. Wadsworth. The base paths are fixed by D.L. Adams at 30 yards - the old rule had specified 30 paces and the pitching distance at 15 yards. Team size is set at nine players." The convention decided not to eliminate bound outs, but did give fly outs more weight by requiring runners to return to their bases after fly outs.
Roger Adams writes that the terms "runs" and "innings" first appear in the 1857 rules, as well as the first specifications of the size and weight of the base ball.
Follow-up meetings were held on January 28 and February 3 to finalize the rule changes.
New York Evening Express, January 23, 1857; New York Herald, January 23, 1857; Porter's Spirit of the Times, January 31, February 28, March 7, 1857; Spirit of the Times, January 31, 1857 (Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 122-24).
The text of the March 7 Porter's Spirit article is found at http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2016/04/04/the-baseball-convention-of-1857-a-summary-report/. In addition to the complete text of the 35 rules, this article includes commentary on 8 or 10 of the Convention's decisions (chiefly the consideration of the fly rule). The coverage leaves the impression that the Knickerbockers supported a rules convention mainly to engineer the adoption of a fly rule and thus to swing the game into the cricket practice for retiring runners.
For other full accounts of the convention, see Frederick Ivor-Campbell, "Knickerbocker Base Ball: The Birth and Infancy of the Modern Game," Base Ball, Volume 1, Number 2 (Fall 2007), pages 55-65, and John Freyer & Mark Rucker, Peverelly's National Game (2005), p. 17.
See also Eric Miklich, "Nine Innings, Nine Players, Ninety Feet, and Other Changes: The Recodification of Baseball Rules in 1857," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1, Fall 2011 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 118-121; and R. Adams, "Nestor of Ball Players," found in typescript in the Chadwick Scrapbooks. (Facsimile contributed by Bill Ryczek, December 29, 2009.)
In a systematic review of Games Tabulation data from the New York Clipper, the only exception to the use of a 9-player team for match games among senior clubs was a single 11-on-11 contest in Jersey City in 1855.
The rules were also amended to forbid "jerked" pitches. Jerking was not defined. See Peter Morris's A Game of Inches (2006), p. 72.
1857.5 The Tide Starts Turning in New England - Trimountain Club Adopts NY Game
"BASE BALL IN BOSTON. - Another club has recently organized in Boston, under the title of the Mountain [Tri-Mountain, actually - Boston had three prominent city hills then - LMc] Base Ball Club. They have decided upon playing the game the same as played in New York, viz.: to pitch instead of throwing the ball, also to place the men on the bases, and not throw the ball at a man while running, but to touch him with it when he arrives at the base. If a ball is struck [next word, perhaps "beyond," is blacked out: "outside" is written in margin] the first and third base, it is to be considered foul, and the batsman is to strike again. This mode of playing, it is considered, will become more popular than the one now in vogue, in a short time. Mr. F. Guild, the treasurer of the above named club, is now in New York, and has put himself under the instructions of the gentlemen of the Knickerbocker. . . . "
A letter from "G.", of Boston, corrected this note in the following issue, on June 20: Edward Saltzman, an Empire Club member who had moved to that city, had founded the club and provided instruction.
The New York Clipper, June 13, 1857 (per handwritten notation in clipping book; Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008) and June 20, 1857
The Tri-Mountain Club's 1857 by-laws simply reprint the original 13 rules of the Knickerbocker Club: facsimile from "Origins of Baseball" file at the Giamatti Center in Cooperstown.
Note: does "place the men on bases" refer to the fielders? Presumably in the MA game such positioning wasn't needed because there was plugging, and there were no force plays at the bases?
1857.22 Atlantic Club Becomes Base Ball Champ?
"The Atlantic Club defeats the Eckford Club, both of Brooklyn [NY], to take the best-of-3-games match and claim the championship for 1857. The baseball custom now is that the championship can only be won by a team beating the current titleholder 2 out of 3 games." A date of October 22, 1857 is given for this accomplishment.
Charlton, James, ed., The Baseball Chronology (Macmillan, 1991), page 14. No reference is given.
Note: Craig Waff asks whether clubs could formally claimed annual championships this early in base ball's evolution; email of 10/28/2008. He suggests that, under the informal conventions of the period, the Gothams [who had wrested the honor from the Knickerbockers in September 1856], held it throughout 1857.
Note that within one year of the rules convention of 1856-7, on-field superiority may have already passed from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Tholkes- Charlton's remark at best refers to Brooklyn clubs only. The Atlantic had defeated the Gotham in September, but lost a return match on October 31 (a match which Peverelly mistakenly places in 1858). They did not play a third game. Neither Peverelly nor the author of the "X" letter in Porter's Spirit in December 1857, claims a championship, informal or formal, for the 1857 Atlantics, nor is it stated that in 1857 they flew at their grounds the whip pennant which later became emblematic of the informal championship.
1857.29 Six-Player Town-ball Teams Play for Gold in Philly
[A] "TOWN BALL. - The young men of Philadelphia are determined to keep the ball rolling . . . On Friday, 20th ult. (10/20/1857 we think) the United States Club met on their grounds, corner of 61st and Hazel streets . . . each individual did his utmost to gain the prize, at handsome gold ring, which was eventually awarded to Mr. T. W. Taylor, his score of 26 being the highest." Each team had six players, and the team Taylor played on won, 117 to 82.
[B] "In 1858, a Philadelphia correspondent with the pen name 'Excelsior' wrote to the New York Clipper . . . about early ball play in New York, , and called town ball, the Philadelphia favorite, 'comparatively unknown in New York.'"
[A] New York Clipper (November 1857--as handwritten in clippings collection; 1857, but no date is given).
[B] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), page 26. The date of this Clipper account is not noted.
Do we now know any more about this event? Was it an intramural game? Was a six-player side common in Philadelphia town ball? Was a gold ring a typical prize for winning?
1857.31 Rounders "Now Almost Entirely Displaced by Cricket:" English Scholar
"Writing in 1857, "Stonehenge" noted that 'it [rounders] was [p. 232/233] formerly a very favourite game in some of our English counties, but is now almost entirely displaced by cricket.' . . . documentary evidence of it is hard to find before the chapter in William Clarke's Boys' Own Book of 1828."
Tony Collins, et al., Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports (Routledge, 2005), pages 232-233.
Rounders made a comeback later, at least as a school yard game played mostly be female players. Is it clear whether the game was played significantly among men and boys before 1857?
1857.42 The "X" Letters
"DEAR SPIRIT:- As the season for playing Ball, and other out-door sports has nearly passed away, and as you have fairly become the chronicle for Cricket and Base Ball, I take the liberty of writing to you, and to the Ball players through you, a few letters, which I hope will prove of some interest to your readers."
Between October 1857 and January 1858, New York- based Porter’s Spirit of the Times, which covered Knickerbocker Rules base ball on a regular basis, published a series of 14 anonymous letters concerning the game. Identifying himself only as “X”, the author’s stated purpose was to “induce some prominent player to write or publish a book on the game.” The letters described the origins of the game, profiled prominent clubs in New York and Brooklyn, offered advice on starting and operating a club, on equipment, and on position play, and, finally, commented on the issues of the day in the base ball community. As the earliest such effort, the letters are of interest as a window into a base ball community poised for the explosive growth which followed the Fashion Race Course games of 1858.
Porter's Spirit of the Times, Oct. 24, 1857 - Jan. 23, 1858
The identity of "X" has not been discovered.
1858.2 New York All-Stars Beat Brooklyn All-Stars, 2 games to 1; First Admission Fee [A Dime] Charged
"The Great Base Ball Match of 1858, which was a best 2 out of 3 games series, embodies four landmark events that are pivotal to the game's history"
1. It was organized base ball's very first all-star game.
2. It was the first base ball game in the New York metropolitan area to be played on an enclosed ground.
3. It marked the first time that spectators paid for the privilege of attending a base ball game -- a fee of 10 cents gave admission to the grounds.
4. The game played on September 10, 1858 is at present  the earliest known instance of an umpire calling strike on a batter." The New York Game had adopted the called strike for the 1858 season. It is first known to have been employed (many umpires refused to do so) at a New York vs. Brooklyn all-star game at Fashion Race Course on Long Island. The umpire was D.L. (Doc) Adams of the Knickerbockers, who also chaired the National Association of Base Ball Players Rules Committee. But see Warning, below.
These games are believed to have been the first the newspapers subjected to complete play-by-play accounts, in the New York Sunday Mercury, July 25, 1858.
The New York side won the series, 2 games to 1. But Brooklyn was poised to become base ball's leading city.
Schaefer, Robert H., "The Great Base Ball Match of 1858: Base Ball's First All-Star Game," Nine, Volume 14, no 1, (2005), pp 47-66. See also Robert Schaefer, "The Changes Wrought by the Great Base Ball Match of 1858," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 122-126.
Coverage of the game in Porter's Spirit of the Times, July 24, 1858, is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908[University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 27-29.
The Spirit article itself is "The Great Base Ball Match," Spirit of the Times, Volume 28, number 24 (Saturday, July 24, 1858), page 288, column 2. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.
John Thorn, "The All-Star Game You Don't Know", Our Game, http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/07/08/the-all-star-game-you-dont-know/
Thomas Gilbert, How Baseball Happened, ( David R. Godine, 2020) pp 163-168.
For more context, including the fate of the facility, see William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning, McFarland, 2009), pp. 77-80.
See also John Zinn, "The Rivalry Begins: Brooklyn vs. New York", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century.(SABR, 2013), pp.10-12.
Richard Hershberger (email of 10/6/2014) points out that the Sunday Mercury account of this game's key at bat "makes it clear that they were swinging strikes'[not called strikes].
These games were reportedly most intensely-covered base ball event to date-- items on the planning and playing of the "Fashion Race Course" games began during the first week in June. Coverage can be found in both the sporting weeklies (New York Clipper, New York Sunday Mercury, Porter's Spirit Of The Times, The Spirit Of The Times) and several dailies (New York Evening Express, New York Evening Post, New York Herald, New York Tribune). Note --Craig Waff turned up 26 news accounts for the fashion games in Games Tab 1.0: see http://protoball.org/Games_Tab:Greater_New_York_City#date1859-9-7.
The Sunday Mercury's path-breaking play-by-play accounts were probably written by Mercury editor William Cauldwell and are enlivened with colorful language and descriptions, such as describing a batting stance as "remindful of Ajax Defying the lamp-lighter", a satire on the classical sculpture, Ajax Defying the Lightning.
This series of games has also been cited as the source of the oldest known base balls: "Doubts about the claims made for the 'oldest' baseball treasured as relics have no existence concerning two balls of authenticated history brought to light by Charles De Bost . . . . De Bost is the son of Charles Schuyler De Bost, Captain and catcher for the Knickerbocker Baseball Club in the infancy of the game." The balls were both inscribed with the scores of the Brooklyn - NY Fashion Course Games of July and September 1858. Both balls have odd one-piece covers the leather having been cut in four semi-ovals still in one piece, the ovals shaped like the petals of a flower." Source: 'Oldest Baseballs Bear Date of 1858,' unidentified newspaper clipping, January 21, 1909, held in the origins of baseball file at the Giamatti Center at the HOF.
Richard Hershberger (email of 10/6/2014) points out that the Sunday Mercury account of this game's key at bat "makes it clear that they were swinging strikes'[not called strikes].
Note: for a 2021 email exchange on claims of base ball "firsts" in this series of games, see below
Tom Shieber; 3;31 PM, 11/11/21:
The New York Atlas of August 13, 1859, ran a story about the August 2, 1859, baseball game between the Excelsior and Knickerbocker clubs that took place at the former club's grounds in South Brooklyn. (It was after this game that the well-known on-field photo of the two clubs was taken.) In the first paragraph of the story I find the following statement: "There was also a large number of carriages around the enclosure."
I believe that there is the general belief that the Union Grounds in Williamsburgh were the first enclosed baseball grounds. Should we rethink that?
Tom Gilbert, 4:29 PM:
I don't think so -- the mere existence of a rail fence surrounding or partially surrounding the Excelsiors' grounds in Red Hook does not make it a ballpark in any sense. the Union Grounds had stands, concessions, bathrooms, dressing rooms - and most important: it regularly charged admission - this was the key reason for the fence. the union grounds was the first enclosed baseball grounds in the only significant sense of the word.
John Thorn, 4:48 PM:
[sends image of 1860 game at South Brooklyn Grounds]
Gilbert, 4:54 PM:
Note the rail fence that might keep a carriage or a horse off the playing field-- but not a spectator.
Shieber, 8:34 PM:
Yes, but.... "Enclosed" was the term of art used at the time. The confusion in the 1859 cite is that this term of art was not yet established. Jump forward a decade and "enclosed ground" means a board fence. This usually implied the charging of admission, but not always. Occasionally it was for privacy. An example is the Knickerbockers, when they moved from the Elysian Fields to the St. George grounds. The St. George CC, for that matter, did not usually admit spectators, except for infrequent grand matches. The Olympics of Philadelphia had their own enclosed ground by 1864. They later started charging admission to match games, but initially this was a privacy fence. So it is complicated.
Bob Tholkes, 7:53 AM, 11/12/21:
A ballpark for us is a place where baseball is played; even major league parks like the Polo Grounds were built originally for other purposes, and used for other purposes after baseball became their most frequent purpose.
If this game did not give us the first called strikes, when did such actually appear?
1858.3 At Dedham MA, Team Representatives Formulate Mass Game Rules
The representatives of ten clubs meet at Dedham, Massachusetts, to form the Massachusetts Association Base Ball Players and to adopt twenty-one rules for their version of base ball. The Massachusetts Game reaffirms many of the older rule practices such as plugging the runner (throwing the ball at the runner to make a put-out). The Massachusetts Game rivals the New York Game for a time but eventually loses support as the popularity of the New York Game expands during the Civil War.
The 36-page Mayhew/Baker manual covers the rules and field layouts for both games. It gamely explains that both game require "equal skill and activity," but leans toward the Mass game, which "deservedly holds the first place in the estimation of all ball players and the public." Still, it admits, the New York game "is fast becoming in this country what cricket is to England, a national game."
The May 15 1858 Boston Traveller reported briefly on the new compact, adding "We congratulate the lovers of this noble and manly pastime." On June 1, the Boston Herald reported on the first game played (before a crowd of 2000-3000 at the Parade Grounds) under the new rules, won in 33 innings by the Winthrops over the Olympics 100-27, and carried a box score.
The Base Ball Player's Pocket Companion [Mayhew and Blake, Boston, 1859], pp. 20-22. Per Sullivan, p. 22. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 26-27. See also David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 219.
Contemporary reports on the convention can be found in the Boston Herald, May 24, 1858; the Spirit of the Times, May 22, 1858; and Porter's Spirit of the Times, May 29, 1858.
For the rules themselves, see below.
1858.21 Times Editorial: "We Hail the New Fashion With Delight"
"We hail the new fashion [base ball fever] with delight. It promises, besides it host of other good works, to kill out the costly target excursions. We predict that it will spread from the City to the country, and revive there, where it was dying out, a love of the noble game; that it will bring pale faces and sallow complexions into contempt; that it will make sad times for the doctors, and insure our well-beloved country a generation of stalwart men, who will save her independence."
From the concluding paragraph of "Athletic Sports," New York Times, August 28, 1858, page 4. John Thorn believes that "costly target excursions refer to hunting fox, grouse and other game."
1858.40 Cricket Plays Catch-up; Plans a National Convention
"CRICKET CONVENTION FOR 1858. - A Convention of delegates from the various Cricket Clubs of the United States will take place, pursuant to adjournment from last year, at the Astor House [on May 3]. Important business will be transacted."
"Cricket and Base Ball," Spirit of the Times (Volume 28, number 4 (Saturday, April 10, 1858), page 102, column 3.
Note: Do we know the outcome? Was cricket attempting to counteract baseball's surge? If so, how? Why didn't it work?
1858.4 National Association of Base Ball Players Forms
"[A] "We should add that the convention have adopted, as the title of the permanent organization, 'The National Association of Base Ball Players,' and the association is delegated with power to act upon, and decide, all questions of dispute, and all departures from the rules of the game, which may be brought before it on appeal."
William H. van Cott is elected NABBP President. The chief amendment to the playing rules was to permit called strikes. The "Fly game" was again rejected, by a vote of 18-15.
[B] "The delegates adopted a constitution and by-laws and began the governance of the game of baseball that would continue [to 1870]."
The NA was not a league in the sense of the modern American and National Leagues, but more of a trade association in which membership as easily obtained. . . . Admission was open to any club that made a written application . . . and paid a five dollar admission fee and five dollars in annual dues (later reduced to two dollars per year). The Association met in convention each year, at which time new clubs were admitted."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, April 11, 1858.
Other coverage: New York Evening Express, March 11, 1858; New York Sunday Mercury, March 14 and 28, 1858; Porter's Spirit of the Times, March 20, 1858; New York Herald, March 14, 1858; New York Clipper, March 20 & April 3, 1858.
[B] William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 49.
Formation of the NABBP, according to the New York Clipper, was really a "misnomer" because there were "no invitations to clubs of other states," and no one under age 21 can join." "National indeed! Truth is a few individuals wormed into the convention and have been trying to mould men and things to suit their views. If real lovers of the game wish it to spread over the country as cricket is doing they might cut loose from parties who wish to act for and dictate to all who participate. These few dictators wish to ape the New York Yacht Club in their feelings of exclusiveness. Let the discontented come out and organize an association that is really national - extend invitations to base ball players every where to compete with them and make the game truly national."
1859.6 African-American Game is Played by "Henson Club" July 4 and/or November 15
[A] Report of July 4 game between Henson and Unknown Clubs
[B] "November 15, 1859 - The first recorded game between two black teams occurred between the Unknowns of Weeksville and the Henson Club of Jamaica (Queens) in Brooklyn, NY."
[A] New York Anglo-African, July 30, 1859. Per Dean Sullivan, pages 34-36.
[B] Email from Larry Lester; taken from his chronology of African American baseball, 8/17/2007.
Chris Hauser, in an email on 9/26/2007, estimates that this notice appeared in the New York Anglo-African, and was referenced in Leslie Heaphy's Negro League Baseball.
Note: Can we get text from the sourced citation [A] , and a source for the text citation [B] ? Was this one game or two? How can we find out more about the "Henson club" and the Unknowns?
1859.32 Morning Express Opposes Bound Rule, Tag-up Rule: Wants More Runs!
Reporting on the imminent Knicks-Excelsiors game:
[A] "We believe that the rule, which is allowed by the Convention, of putting a man out, if the ball is caught on the first bound, is to be laid aside in this match. The more manly game of taking the ball on the fly, is alone to be retained. . . .. We do not know whether the men are to return to their bases in the event of a ball being caught on the fly; but it appears to us, that it would be as fair to one team as the other if the bases could be retained, if made before the ball had got to there, [and] it would cause more runs to be made, and a much more lively and satisfactory game."
[B] A fortnight later, a return match "in the test game of catching the ball on the fly" was scheduled for August 2, 1859:
[A] New York Morning Express (June 30, 1859), page 3, column 6. Posted to 19CBB by George Thompson, 3/18/2007.
[B] "Knickerbocker vs. Excelsior," New York Morning Post (July 13, 1859), page 3, column 7. A long inning-by-inning game account appears at New York Morning Express (August 3, 1859), page 3, column 7.
The fly rule was not voted in for five more years.
1859.35 Base Ball Community Eyes Use of Central Park
A "committee on behalf of the Base Ball clubs" recently conferred with NY's Central Park Commissioners about opening Park space for baseball. Under discussion is a proviso that "no club shall be permitted to use the grounds unless two-thirds of the members be residents of this city."
"BASE BALL IN THE CENTRAL PARK," The New York Clipper (January 22, 1859), page number omitted from scrapbook clipping.
This issue has been on the minds of baseball at least since the first Rules Convention. The sentiment is that other sports have access that baseball does not. See #1857.2 above.
According to the New York Times of December 11,1858, the Central Park Commission had referred the ballplayers' appeal to a committee. [Facsimile contributed by Bill Ryczek, 12/29/09.]
Is there a good account of this negotiation and its outcome in the literature? How and when was the issue resolved?
1859.55 First Fly Baseball Game
On June 30, 1859, the Knickerbocker Club hosted the Excelsior club of South Brooklyn in the first interclub match played without the bound rule. The 1859 NABBP convention had okayed such games if agreed upon between the clubs.
New York Sunday Mercury, July 3, 1859
Craig Waff, "Caught on the Fly-- Excelsiors of South Brooklyn vs. the Knickerbockers of New York", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), p. 16-17
1860.6 Chadwick's Beadle's Appears, and the Baseball Literature is Launched
The first annual baseball guide appears. It is emblematic, perhaps, of the transformation of base ball into a spectator sport. The 40-page guide includes rules for Knickerbocker ball, the new NABBP ("Association") rules, rules for the Massachusetts game, and for rounders. Chadwick includes a brief history of base ball, saying it is of "English origin" and "derived from rounders."
Block observes: "For twenty-five years his pronouncements remained the accepted definition of the game's origins. Then the controversy erupted. First John Montgomery Ward and then Albert Spalding attacked Chadwick's theory. Ultimately, their jingoistic efforts saddled the nation with the Doubleday Myth."
Chadwick, Henry, Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player: A Compendium of the Game, Comprising Elementary Instructions of the American Game of Base Ball [New York, Irwin P. Beadle].
Per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, (2005), page 221.
See also 1861.47.
Chadwick emigrated from western England, and is reported to have been familiar with rounders there.
His claim that American base ball had evolved from English rounders was long refuted by fans of the American game.
In 1871 Chadwick identified Two-Old-Cat as the parent of American base ball. See 1871.20
Is it possible that English rounders itself had evolved from English base ball as played in the eighteenth century?
1860.7 Excelsiors Conduct Undefeated Western NY Road Trip. . ."First Tour Ever? First $500 Player Ever?
[A] "The Excelsiors of Brooklyn leave for Albany, starting the first tour ever taken by a baseball club. They will travel 1000 miles in 10 days and play games in Albany, Troy, Buffalo, Rochester, and Newburgh."
[B] In announcing the tour, a Troy paper noted: "The Excelsior Club of Brooklyn, who have pretty well reduced base ball to a science, and who pay their pitcher [Jim Creighton] $500 a year, are making a crusade through the provinces for the purpose of winning laurels."
[C] News of the triumphant return of the Excelsiors appeared in The item started: "The Excelsior , the crack club of Brooklyn, and one of the best in the United States, returned home of Thursday of last week, after a very pleasant tour to the Western part of the State. During their trip, they played games with several [unnamed] clubs, and we believe were successful on every occasion."
[A] Baseballlibrary.com - chronology entry for 6/30/1860.
[B] "Base Ball," Troy Daily Whig Volume 26, number 8013 (Tuesday, July 3, 1860), page 3, column 5. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.
[C] "Base Ball," Spirit of the Times, Volume 30, number 24 (Saturday, July 21, 1860), page 292, column 1. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.
Craig Waff, "The Grand Excursion-- The Excelsiors of South Brooklyn vs. Six Upstate New York Teams", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 24-27
The New York Sunday Mercury noted on April 29 that the Excelsior were organizing a tour, and announced on June 17 that arrangements had been completed.
1860.46 First International Game Played by New York Rules
In a game played in what is now Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Queen City Club of Buffalo defeated the Burlington Club of Hamilton, Ontario, 30-25.
[A] This game appears on the Protoball Games Tabulation [WNY Table] compiled by Craig Waff. It was reported as "the first match ever played by Clubs from the United States and Canada." in the Buffalo Morning Express on August 18, 1860.
[B] Joseph Overfield, The 100 Seasons of Buffalo Baseball (Partner's Press, 1985), page 17. Overfield does not cite a primary source for this event.
[C] Hamilton Spectator, August 18, 1860.
The New York Sunday Mercury of June 3, 1860, carries the box score of a "NEW YORK vs. CANADA' game in Schenectady, NY, between the Mohawk Club and the "Union Club of Upper Canada". The box indicates that the game was played by the New York Rules. However, the political unit called Upper Canada went out of existence in 1841. A youthful nineteenth century prank? See also "Supplemental Information," below, for further commentary.
[Source B] Joseph Overfield notes that the Buffalo NY team called the Queen Cities played a team from Hamilton, Ontario in August 1860, and says that it was the first international contest played by the National Association rules.
[Source C] In 2014, Bill Humber located an Ontario source for the game, the Hamilton Spectator of August 18, 1860. Bill notes that the village of Clifton Ontario later became the town of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Bill reports that the crowd attending the game may have been at a tight-rope walking exhibition over the Niagara Gorge that day.
1860.60 Atlantics vs. Excelsiors: The Thorny Idea of Onfield Supremacy
[A] "This match will create unusual interest, as it will decide which Club is entitled to the distinction of being perhaps the 'first nine in America."
[B] "The Atlantics now wear the 'belt,' and this contest will be a regular battle for the championship."
[A] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 13, 1860.
[B] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 16, 1860.
See also Craig B. Waff, "Atlantics and Excelsiors Compete for the 'Championship,'" Base Ball Journal, volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 139-142.
Craig Waff, "No Gentlemen's Game-- Excelsiors vs. Atlantics at the Putnam Grounds, Brooklyn", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 28-31
The naming of a championship base ball club was apparently not much considered when match games were first played frequently in the mid-1850s. But as the 1860 season progressed, press accounts regularly speculated about what nine was the best. The teams split their first two games, setting the stage for a final showdown, and a crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 assembled to see if the Excelsior could gain glory by toppling the storied Atlantic nine again. They led, 8-6 in the sixth inning, but Atlantic partisans in the crown became so rowdy that Excelsior captain Joe Leggett removed his club from the field for their safety, leaving the matter unresolved.
1861.37 Modern Base Ball Played Widely At Outset of War
[A] After having doubled in scope in bother 1857 and 1858, the game was played in all of America's largest 12 cities in 1858. It was played in the top 21 cities exceeding 42,000 population, and in about one-half of the largest 100 US cities (the smallest of which had a population of 9,500) before the Civil War started in April 1861. Twenty-seven of the thirty-four States had seen the game by then.
[B] Expansion slowed considerably during the war years, but have have aboiut 150 accounts of playing in war camps during the fighting..
[A] "BASE BALL. The excitement incident to the new and warlike attitude of our national affairs also monopolized the attention of everybody during the past week; and out-door sports, like everything else, were for the time forgotten."
[B] "BASE BALL'. For the time being, base ball is almost entirely laid aside. Not one of the senior clubs has yet mustered sufficient numbers on the regular play-days to have a game...Several of the clubs have, we understand, resolved to postpone regular field exercise until after the Fourth of July."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, April 21, 1861
[B] New York Sunday Mercury, April 28, 1861
1862.2 The Death of Jim Creighton at 21
Excelsior star pitcher James Creighton, 21 years old, suffered some sort of injury during the middle innings of a game against the Union of Morrisania on October 14, 1862, and died four days later of a "strangulated intestine" associated with a hernia. (Other accounts cite a ruptured bladder - ouch.) One legend was that Creighton suffered the injury in the process of "hitting out a home run." Excelsior officials attributed the death to a cricket injury incurred in a prior cricket match.
Creighton was perhaps base ball's first superstar.
R. M. Gorman and D. Weeks, Death at the Ballpark (McFarland, 2009), pages 63-64.
Richard Bogovich, "The Martyrdom of Jim Creighton-- Excelsiors of Brooklyn vs. Unions", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 43-46
See Tom Gilbert's 3/4/2021 blog at https://howbaseballhappened.com/blog/how-baseball-killed-its-first-star-player. Tom's How Baseball Happened (Godine, 2020) carries Creighton's base ball career at p. 185ff, and his death is discussed on pp. 212-215.
Tom Gilbert, 3/5/2021-- "Creighton’s hernia did not “rupture”— it led to a strangulated intestine which became infected; the infection killed him. We know this because both Brooklyn Health Dept records and Green-Wood Cemetery records state the cause of death as “strangulated intestine.”
Tom Shieber, Hall of Fame curator who has studied Creighton extensively, believes the injury was an inguinal hernia which ruptured. In an article published on December 7, 1862, the New York Sunday Mercury recounts a conversation with Creighton before the Union game in which he states that he had injured himself in a recent cricket match. It is assumed that he received the hernia in the cricket match and that it ruptured during the Union game.
1862.3 US Cricket Enters Steeper Decline
[A] "The cricket season last year was a very dull one, this clubs in this locality [Brooklyn] playing but a few matches, and those of no importance." The recent delline:
[B] "For several years, cricketers had been talking of forming as association similar to that set up by the baseball fraternity. Despite several meetings, they had not done so. At the annual convention of 1862, the Clipper noted the meager attendance and proclaimed the gathering 'a mere farce.' It despaired of cricket ever becoming popular unless it was made more American in nature. The disappointing convention was the last the cricketer would hold."
[A] Brooklyn Eagle, April 25, 1862. Contributed by Bill Ryczek, December 29, 2009.
[B] William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 105. The Clipper quoted is the May 24, 1862 issue.
See also Beth Hise, "American Cricket in the 1860s: Decade of Decline or New Start?," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 143-148.
1862.17 Ballplaying Frequently Played at Salisbury Prison in North Carolina
Beginning in 1862, prisoners' diary accounts refer to a number of base ball games [by New York rules; Millen infers that games occurred "almost daily"] at Salisbury prison in NC. Charles Gray, a Union doctor who arrived at Salisbury in May 1862, reported ball playing "for those who like it and are able." RI soldier William Crossley in a May 21, 1862 diary entry described a "great game of baseball" between prisoners transferred from New Orleans and Tuscaloosa AL, which brought "as much enjoyment to the Rebs as to the Yanks, for they came in hundreds to see the sport..."
[A] In an unattributed and undated passage, Josephus Clarkson, a prisoner from Boston "recalled in his diary that one of the Union solders wandered over and picked up a pine branch that had dropped on the ground. Another soldier wrapped a stone in a couple of woolen socks and tied the bundle with a string. The soldiers started a baseball game of sorts, although there was much argument over whether to use Town Ball rules or play like New Yorkers. 'To put a man out by Town Ball rules you could plug him as he ran,' wrote Clarkson. 'Since many of the men were in a weakened condition, it was agreed to play the faster but less harsh New York rules, which intrigued our guards. The game of baseball had been played much in the South, but many of them [the guards] had never seen the sport devised by Mr. Cartwright. Eventually they found proper bats for us to play with and we fashioned a ball that was soft and a great bounders.'" According to Clarkson, a pitcher from Texas was banished from playing in a guards/captives game after "badly laming" several prisoners. "By and large," he said, "baseball was quite a popular pastime of troops on both sides, as a means of relaxing before and after battles."
[B] Otto Boetticher, a commercial artist before the war, was imprisoned at Salisbury for part of 1862 and drew a picture of a ball game in progress at the prison that was published in color in 1863. A fine reproduction appears in Ward and Burns.
[C] Adolphus Magnum, A visiting Confederate chaplain, noted in 1862 that "a number of the younger and less dignified [Union officers] ran like schoolboys to the playing ground and were soon joining In high glee in a game of ball."
[D] An extended account of ballplaying at Salisbury, along with the Boetticher drawing, are found in From Pastime to Passion. It draws heavily on Jim Sumner, "Baseball at Salisbury Prison Camp," Baseball History (Meckler, Westport CT, 1989). Similar but unattributed coverage is found in Kirsch, Baseball in Blue and Gray (Princeton U, 2003), pp 43-45. PBall file: CW21.
[E] See also Giles W. Shurtleff account of prison life in the history of the Seventh Ohio, p. 324. Shurtleff had played while at Oberlin College. See also The Congregationalist, May 4, 1864.
[A] Wells Twombley, 200 Years of Sport in America (McGraw-Hill, 1976), page 71.
[B] Ward and Burns, Baseball Illustrated, at pages 10-11.
[D] Patricia Millen, From Pastime to Passion: Baseball and the Civil War (Heritage Books, 2001), pp.27-31.
[E] Patricia Millen, "The POW Game-- Captive Union Soldiers Play a Baseball Game at Salisbury, NC", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 36-38
William Crossley, "Extracts from My Diary" p. 43.
It would be desirable to locate and inspect the Josephus Clarkson diary used in Twombley [A, above.]. Clarkson, described as a ship's chandler before the war, does not yield to Google or Genealogy bank as of 6/6/2009 or 4/3/2013. John Thorn's repeated searches have also come up empty. Particularly questionable is Clarkson's very early identification of Cartwright as an originator of the NY game.
1863.1 Ballplaying Peaks in the Civil War Camps
[A] "[In April 1863] the Third Corps and the Sixth Corps baseball teams met near White Oak Church, Virginia, to play for the championship of the Army of the Potomac."
[B] "Ballplaying in the Civil War Camps increased rapidly during the War, reaching a peak of 82 known games in April 1863 -- while the troops still remained in their winter camps. Base ball was by a large margin the game of choice among soldiers, but wicket, cricket, and the Massachusetts game were occasionally played. Play was much more common in the winter camps than near the battle fronts."
[C] Note: In August 2013 Civil War scholar Bruce Allardice added this context to the recollected Army-wide "championship game":
"The pitcher for the winning team was Lt. James Alexander Linen (1840-1918) of the 26th NJ, formerly of the Newark Eureka BBC. Linen later headed the bank, hence the mention in the book. In 1865 Linen organized the Wyoming BBC of Scranton, which changed its name to the Scranton BBC the next year. The 26th NJ was a Newark outfit, and a contemporary Newark newspaper says that many members of the prewar Eurekas and Adriatics of that town had joined the 26th. The 26th was in the Sixth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, stationed at/near White Oak Church near Fredericksburg, VA. April 1863, the army was in camp. The book says Linen played against Charlie Walker a former catcher of the Newark Adriatics who was now catcher for the "Third Corps" club.
"With all that being said, in my opinion the clubs that played this game weren't 'corps' clubs, but rather regimental and/or brigade clubs that by their play against other regiments/brigades claimed the Third and Sixth Corps championships.
"Steinke's "Scranton", page 44, has a line drawing and long article on Linen which mentions this game. See also the "New York Clipper" website, which has a photo of Linen."
[A] History. The First National Bank of Scranton, PA (Scranton, 1906), page 37. This is, at this time (2011), the only known reference to championship games in the warring armies.
As described in Patricia Millen, On the Battlefield, the New York Game Takes Hold, 1861-1865, Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 149-152.
[B] Larry McCray, Ballplaying in Civil War Camps.
[C] Bruce Allardice, email to Protoball of August, 2013.
[D] (((add Steinke ref and Clipper url here?)))
Note Civil War historian Bruce Allardice's caveat, above: "In my opinion the clubs that played weren't 'corps' clubs, but rather regimental or brigade clubs that by their play other regiments/brigades claimed the Third and Sixth Corps championships."
Is it possible that a collection of trophy balls, at the Hall of Fame or elsewhere, would provide more evidence of the prevalence of base ball in the Civil War?
1865.31 Union soldiers play baseball with Confederates
"A letter from the Army of the Potomac dated the 1st inst., says that for five hours after the truce was declared along our lines in front of the 9th Corps, thousands of our boys threw down their arms and engaged in ball playing with the rebel soldiers. The utmost good feeling prevailed..."
This "truce" appears to have been connected with the Hampton Roads Peace Conference, and probably occurred Jan. 29th, 1865.
If true, this would be perhaps the first verified instance of ball playing between the two sides, in a battlefield situation. The story was printed in many newspapers that month. However, no contemporary diary mentions this event.
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb. 6, 1865
1867.3 Upset Gives Western Clubs First win vs. the East
When the Forest City BBC of Rockford, IL, upset the touring National BBC of Washington, D.C., it marked the first win for a "western" club against a team from the east.
John Thorn, "The Most Important Game in Baseball History?-- Rockford vs. Washington", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 55-57
1867.18 First Inter-Racial Baseball Game?
Between a Haole (white) team and a "native" (Polynesian) team, won by the latter 11-9. See
http://protoball.org/Pacific_Club_of_Honolulu_v_Pioneer_Club_of_Honolulu_on_24_August_1867 and sources cited therein.
1867.25 The End for the Massachusetts Game?
"The Massachusetts Base Ball Association, composed of clubs playing what is know [sic] as the Massachusetts game, has been broken up, and most of the clubs are now practicing the National game."
Boston American Traveler, July 20, 1867.
Bob Tholkes, 5/6/2021: "Didn't know there was a funeral announcement."
Richard Hershberger, 5/6/2021: "I don't know of any report of the association meeting or otherwise showing any sign of life after the war."
In a 5/9/2021 search, Protoball doesn't find one after 1866 either.
Note: Protoball has an 1868 clipping of a throwback game (28 innings, score 24-23) played by Mass rules. See https://protoball.org/Clipping:The_Mohawk_Club_reverts_to_amateur.
Might the New England Base Ballist, still alive in 1868, show more about the final passing on the game?
All in all, does the Mass Game differ in major ways from English Base Ball as we now understand it?
1869.7 Cincinnati Club Forms as First All-Professional Nine
George Wright, Harry Wright
"In the fall of 1868, a group of Cincinnati businessmen and lawyers, serving as directors of the Cincinnati Base Ball Club, agreed to a concept so commonplace today that it is difficult to imagine how risky it seemed at the time. The club would recruit the best players it could find, from around the country (and), pay all the players a salary..."
Rhodes, Greg & Erardi, John, The First Boys of Summer. Road West Publishing Co., 1994, p.4
1870.1 The Streak Ends -- Reds Fall to Atlantic, 8-7, in 11 Innings
On June 14, 1870, The Atlantic of Brooklyn broke the Cincinnati Red Stockings' 81-game winning streak, beating them 8-7 in 11 innings.
Greg Rhodes, "The Atlantic Storm-- Cincinnati Red Stockings vs. Atlantics", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 71-73.
See also George Bulkley. "The Day the Reds Lost," at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/the-day-the-reds-lost-eb6bd8dd54a9, reproduced from SABR's National Pastime, 1983.
The Bulkley article reports that the Atlantics had lost three times in 1870, and local oddmakers gave 5-1 pregame odds for the Reds . . . lengthened to 10-1 after the Reds forged a 3-0 lead after three innings.
The Atlantic club tied the game in the eighth, and threatened in the ninth, until shortstop George Wright pulled the still-legal trap play that he turned into a double play. There ensued a dispute over whether the Atlantic could claim a tie by vacating the premises, one that was decided by Henry Chadwick in favor of the Reds playing their first-ever tenth inning.
In the 11th, Atlantic catcher Bob Ferguson decided to bat left-handed to avoid hitting to SS Wright, and got on base, scoring the winning run on a throwing error by Cincinnati 1B Charley Gould.
1870.14 Boston, Other Towns Eye "First-Class Professional Nines" Like the Red Stockings
[Beyond the Cincinnati-Chicago base ball rivalry] "The pecuniary success attendant upon of the Red Stocking Club -- the best managed club in the country -- has tempted other cities to try the professional nine experiment. The Boston Journal says that for some time past, gentlemen interested in the game of base ball have been considering the subject of securing for Boston a professional base ball nine who should do honor to the city. It seems to be one of the few notions in which Boston is lacking. The success of the Union Grounds as a pecuniary investment has shown that the thing is perfectly safe and feasible. . . . It is proposed to petition the next Legislature for a special charter as a base-ball club, with a capital stock of not less than $10,000, in shares of $100 each."
"Indianapolis is raising a first-class professional nine under competent management. Cleveland will again have a professional nine;: Troy, ditto, and an opposition tot he Athletics is organizing in Philadelphia. St. Louis, too is in the market, and also New Orleans.
Brooklyn Eagle, November 17, 1870.
Richard Hershberger, "150 years ago in baseball" [FB posting, 11/17/2020:
"Rumors about new professional clubs for next season. Here we see an intermediate stage, combining the assumption that the Cincinnati Club will keep on doing what it does, along with early rumors of a new club on Boston. The Union Grounds mentioned here is not the one in Cincinnati or the one in Brooklyn, but the one in Boston, so named because it originated as a joint project of several local clubs. Its pecuniary success is in part due to the visits of the Cincinnati Club. The Boston baseball establishment has been paying attention. More developments will soon arise.
"As for the other predictions, they are a mixed bag. Cleveland and Troy will indeed have professional clubs next season, but the other proposals won't pan out, or at least not right away."
Do we know more about the fate of the Union Grounds and Boston sports?
1870.16 Red Stocking Leader Explains Background for Club Decision to Exit Pro Base Ball Scene
Aaron Champion, past club President, in a December 1870 speech touching on the costs of excellence after the club decided not to support a pro club after 1870:
" . . . we have tried it [to fund a nine via outside subscription], and have failed most beautifully. The season 1868 we had a professional nine, and succeeded in getting in debt with it. The season of 1869 we engaged a professional nine. . . . [in November 1868] we found that the Cincinnati Club was $17,000 in debt. . . . 1869 went by. We had the best nine in the country -- the leading club. They had played fifty-seven games, and did not lose a single game. We were out of money, and were still in debt."
"How Cincinnati Supports Base Ball," Cincinnati Gazette, December 8, 1870. From Richard Hershberger, "150 Years ago in Base Ball, FB posting, 12/7/2020.
1871.3 Coup d'grace for the Amateur Era
"In March 1871, ten members of the National Association met in New York for the purpose of forming a new group...This act essentially killed the National Association."
Marshall Wright, The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870, p.328
1871.12 Pro Clubs to Meet in March, National Association Starts Its Fade
"The appointed meeting of the Secretaries of the professional clubs, announced to take place in New York on the 17th of March, St. Patrick's Day, has been changed into a convention of the professionals, and the meeting will settle not only the dates of all the matches for the season, but also the championship question. The best thing they can do is to organize an association of professional clubs at once. . . .
"Mr. Chadwick resigned all connection to the National Association last October. . . . To the Excelsior club in this city [Brooklyn] is due the credit of inaugurating the movement for an amateur association . . . ."
Brooklyn Eagle, February 28, 1871.
Richard Hershberger, 2/28/2021: This column "tacitly acknowledges that the old National Association is dead. Or perhaps it is a nail in the coffin to make sure it stays that way. The National Association met last December just as it had for years. It adopted rules revisions, elected officers, and so on. From a procedural perspective, it is chugging along as always. But it is in fact dead. The corpse will twitch a little bit, but there will never be any discussion of holding the convention next December."
"The discussion of the upcoming meeting of March 17 is portentous. It was originally called by Nick Young, secretary of the Olympics of Washington, so the professional clubs could coordinate their schedules. The idea wasn't to set up a detailed schedule, but so that a club going to, for example, Chicago could be confident that the Chicago Club wasn't in Boston at the time. The secretary of the Chicago Club has suggested upgrading the meeting to also set up a formal championship system for the professionals."
From 150 Years Ago in baseball FB posting
Did the March 17 date hold up? Was it held in NYC?
Was St. Patrick's Day an extra special day in the 1870s?
Was Chadwick's departure a matter of controversy? Why?
1871.16 Professionals Edge Away from NABBP; Modern Standings Begin to Take Shape
"BASE BALL BOTHER. National Professional Association. The Championship Question Settled.
"A convention of delegates from the professional base ball clubs of the country was held at #840 Broadway last evening. At the time that the call for the convention was sent out its objects were stated to be the settlement of the manner of achieving the title of champion club of the country, and the arrangement of the routes of the club tours during the season. But the action of the amateur clubs in withdrawing from the National Association see 1871.14 . . . caused the scope of the Convention's duties to be enlarged, and . . . made necessary the reorganization of the National Association on a professional basis."
New York Herald, March 18, 1871
Richard Hershberger, FP posting of March 17, 2021:
"150 years ago today in baseball: The big day! Yesterday the amateurs met in Brooklyn and formed a new association. See 1871.14. Today we move across the East River, where the professionals form theirs. It wasn't originally supposed to be this way. The meeting was initially called simply to coordinate travel schedules. From there it expanded to arranging a championship system. With yesterday's event the meeting expanded yet further. The status of the old National Association of Base Ball Players is up in the air. Simpler for the professionals just to start fresh. . . . .
"Their championship system is quietly revolutionary. The old unofficial system followed the model of champion and challenger, like in boxing. The new system is not laid out explicitly here, but it is close to the modern system of every club playing a series against every other club.
This 'championship season' (which is what the official rules still call what the rest of us refer to as the 'regular season') is the great invention of the NAPBBP. This often is overlooked, as NAPBBP tends to carry the stench of failure today. So let us pause a moment and contemplate the glory that is the regular season.
Done? Excellent! This is not quite the regular season as we understand it today. It is a series of best-of-five series. If a club won the first three games of the series, there was no need to play the last two. This is why the win-loss records for 1871 are so scattered. Teams did not play the same number of games, but they weren't expected to. This will result in some wackiness in determining the championship. No spoilers! We will get to that in the Fall. Suffice it to say that for 1872 they will switch to every team playing the same number of games, at least in theory."
1871.18 First Pro League Game Doesn't Feature Offense
"THE NATIONAL GAME -- The First Dose of 1871 -- A Whole Nest of Goose Eggs -- 000000000 -- Where Are We Now?"
(Cleveland newspaper headline for the 2-0 loss in Fort Wayne to the Kekionga Club by the visiting Forest City Club of Cleveland)
" . . . The play throughout was nearly perfect as could be imagined . . . the difficult pitching of [Cleveland's] Mathews kept our score down to a continual whitewash"
Cleveland Leader May 5, 1871.
Richard Hershberger, FB posting of 5/5/2021:
"This is remembered today as the first game of the first professional league. So it was, but this account only barely hints at this being a momentous occasion. This was the first game only by accident, earlier scheduled games being rained out. But more to the point, few thought of this game as the beginning. The season has been ramping up for several weeks now. Nowadays we think of those earlier games as mere spring training, preparing for the real season. At the time they thought of a game such as this as yet another game, but one that happened to be for the championship. [Note: "for the championship" then meant "in a regular season game."]
The most modern aspect of this account is that Bobby Mathews, the Kekionga pitcher, is given at least partial credit for the shut out. Earlier on, the fielding would have gotten all the credit."