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1829.9 Pupil in Class Seen to "Scamper like a Boy at Bass-ball"
Under the heading "School-boy Anecdote," this item tells of a "pupil in one of the common schools in New-York" who responded in an oral spelling quiz with an indistinct answer. The teacher pressed him on his answer: "Did you say 'a' or 'e'?"
"Why, you take ary [sic] one on 'em!" said the boy, and he scampered [to the front of the classroom] "like a boy at bass-ball, and placed himself at the head of the class."
Carried in the New-Hampshire Statesman and Concord Register, [Concord, NH], June 6, 1829, page 4, column 3: Attributed to the Berkshire American (no date given).
One source identifies the Berkshire American as being published in Pittsfield MA 1825-28.
Pittsfield is in westernmost MA and within 10 miles of the New York border. It is about 35 miles SE of Albany NY.
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?
1839.7 MA :Paper Sees Desecration in Older "Bat and Ball" Players
. . . we must be permitted to say, when we see boys six feet high and thirty years old, desecrating the very hours of public worship to ‘bat and ball,’ or some other idle game, we feel pained that principle has fallen so low that even decorum is not preserved.
For fuller text, see Supplemental Text, below
Newburyport Herald, Thursday, March 28, 1839
The text does not mention Fast Day explicitly.
Newburyport MA (1840 population about 7000) is near the northeastern corner of the state, and 35 miles NE of Boston. As of 2020, this is the 6th pre-1840 reference to Newburyport in Protoball.
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/
1845.27 Early Town-Ball Mention
""Instead of the former amusements, which gave so much activity and health to those who partook of them, and gave so much offense to those who pretend to be the engineer of our morals, we have Billiards, Cricket matches, Town-Ball, Bowling-alleys, &c., for those who can spare the time to partake of the amusement ."
Spirit of the Times, May 3, 1845, p.106, letter from a Philadelphia correspondent. Posted on 19cbb by David Ball, Aug. 27, 2007
This isn't the first attestation of the term "town ball" but it's very early.
1845.31 News Writer (Whitman, Perhaps?) Extols "Base," Cricket
The Atlas (New York), June 15, 1845.
Note: Whitman's text is at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/opening-day-e5f9021c5dda. Whitman's appreciation of base ball is also shown at 1846.6, 1855.9, and 1858.25.
Extra credit for sleuthing the authorship of this item!
1846.25 Knicks Prepare for 1846 Season: Early Match Game in Brooklyn Rained out.
[A] "FIELD SPORTS--The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club commence playing for the season, on Tuesday next, at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken."
[B] "The weather was most unfavorable for the sport promised a base ball game between the members of the Knickerbocker Club . . ."
John Thorn's comments, 12/18/2021: "This [exceedingly brief April 6 notice] is not the first appearance of baseball in the daily press, nor even of the Knicks, who came in for mention in the Herald's November 11, 1845 report of an intramural game of the New York Base Ball Club." See entry 1845.33.
"Interestingly, the Knicks visited the Stars in Brooklyn on April 13, 1846 to play what would have been their first match game, but were rained out. This was reported in the Herald of the following day.
"The April 6, 1846 notice is something that may have been overlooked."
Were there many known modern games played in Brooklyn prior to this rainout?
Is the expected opponent in the April 13 game known, or was it not really to be a match game?
If it was to be a match game, do we know that it would have employed the new Knick rules?
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.
1853.10 The First Base Ball Reporters - Cauldwell, Bray, Chadwick
Henry Chadwick may be the Father of Baseball and a HOF member, but it is William Cauldwell in 1853 who is usually credited as the first baseball scribe.
John Thorn sees the primacy claims this way: As for Chadwick, "He was not baseball's first reporter — that distinction goes to the little known William H. Bray, like Chadwick an Englishman who covered baseball and cricket for the Clipper from early 1854 to May 1858 (Chadwick succeeded him on both beats and never threw him a nod afterward).
Isolated game accounts had been penned in 1853 by William Cauldwell of the Mercury and Frank Queen of the Clipper, who with William Trotter Porter of Spirit of the Times may be said to have been baseball's pioneer promoters.
John Thorn, "Pots and Pans and Bats and Balls," posted January 23, 2008 at
See also Turkin and Thompson, The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball (Doubleday, 1979), page 585.
1853.14 Base Ball Hits the Sports Pages? Sunday Mercury, Spirit of the Times Among First to Cover Game Regularly
[A] "The Sunday Mercury reportedly began coverage on May 1,of 1853]"
[B] "On July 9, 1853, The Spirit of the Times mentioned baseball for the first time, printing a letter reporting a game between the Gotham and Knickerbocker Clubs."
[C] Spirit of the Times began to cover cricket in 1837 . . . . Not until July 9, 1853, however, did it give notice to a baseball match . . . the same one noted in the fledgling [New York] Clipper one week later."
[A] Email from Bob Tholkes, 2/12/2010 and 2/18/2012.
[B]William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163.
[C] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Shuster, 2011), page 104.
Has someone already analyzed the relative role of assorted papers in the first baseball boom?
1853.17 Initial Regular Newspaper Coverage Pairs Base Ball with Cricket
In its initial items upon beginning coverage of Knickerbocker Rules Base Ball in May, 1853 (the first such coverage known since the game reports of 1845), the New York Sunday Mercury mentioned that both the cricket and base ball clubs were opening play, perhaps because both were practicing at the Red House grounds.
New York Sunday Mercury, May 1, 1853, and May 29, 1853
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.
1854.9 Van Cott Letter Summarizes Year in Base Ball in NYC; Foresees "Higher Position" for 1855 Base Ball
"There are now in this city three regularly organized Clubs [the Knickerbockers, Gothams, and Eagles], who meet semi-weekly during the playing season, about eight months in each year, for exercise in the old fashioned game of Base Ball . . . . There have been a large number of friendly, but spirited trials of skill, between the Clubs, during the last season, which have showed that the game has been thoroughly systematized. . . The season for play closed about the middle of November, and on Friday evening, December 15th, the three Clubs partook of their annual dinner at Fijux's . . . . The indications are that this noble game will, the coming season, assume a higher position than ever, and we intend to keep you fully advised . . . as we deem your journal the only medium in this country through which the public receive correct information." . . . December 19th, 1854."
William Van Cott, "The New York Base Ball Clubs," Spirit of the Times, Volume 24, number 10, Saturday, December 23, 1854, page 534, column 1. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008. The full letter is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pages 19-20.
The New York Daily Times, vol. 4 number 1015 (December 19, 1854), page 3, column 1, carried a similar but shorter notice. Text and image provided by Craig Waff, 4/30/2007. Richard Hershberger reported on 1/15/2010 that it also appeared in the New York Daily Tribune on December 19, and sent text and image along too.
For the context of the Van Cott letter, see Bill Ryczek, "William Van Cott Writes a Letter to the Sporting Press," Base Ball, Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 111-113.
Bill ponders (page 112) what might have moved Van Cott to distribute his letter to the three newspapers: "Possibly it was to recruit more members for the three clubs, though that was unlikely, since membership was rather exclusive and decidedly homogeneous [ethnically] . . . . Was he trying to encourage the formation of additional clubs, or was he attempting to generate publicity for the existing clubs and members? The Knickerbockers, baseball's pioneer club, had made virtually no attempt to expand the game they had formalized."
1854.23 Ah, Spring! Base-ball! Wicket! Gould! (Gould?)
"Go out into the glorious sunlight, little children, into the free warm air. Frolic and play, roll your hoops, and jump your rope, little girl, and throw the ball, and run races and play gould [sic] and base-ball, and over the house, and wicket, little boys. Be happy, and merry, and lively, and jolly, little children. Call back to your cheek the red flush of health and beauty. Be not afraid of the sunlight, though it darken the whiteness of your brow. Let the south wind play upon your cheek, though it brings a freckle upon your bright young face. A little while, and you can go out into the fields, and wander over the meadows and along the pleasant brooks, culling the wild flowers, and hearing the glad songs of the spring birds, as they sport among the branches of the trees above you. The glorious Spring Time is Come. There will be no more bleak storms, no more chill snows, no more cold north winds. The winter is over and gone. The time of glad blossoms and sweet flowers, and green leaves, is at hand."
Daily Commercial Register (Sandusky, Ohio) April 27, 1854, quoting the Albany Register.
From Brian Turner, 11/3/2020, on the nature of "gould":
"As best I can tell based on examples I've put together for an article I'm doing for Base Ball, "gould" (AKA "gool") are regional pronunciations of "goal." The region in which those terms occur includes western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, mostly in rural communities where (I surmise) old-time game names may have survived into the 19th century. Peter Morris has identified two instances associated with Norway, Maine, where "gool" is used as synonymous with "base" as late as the 1860s, but when one of those the incidents was recalled in the 1870s, it's clear that the use struck the lads of Bowdoin attending the game as risible. The use of "goal" for "base" is consistent with Robin Carver's 1834 inclusion of the term in The Book of Sports. One must be cautious about anointing every use of "goal" or "gool" or goold" as synonymous with base and therefore "base ball," since, like base by itself, goal can be used to describe other sorts of games. By itself, "base" can refer to Prisoner's Base, a running game that seems to resemble tag. So too "goal" by itself.
Is it fair to suppose that the Register was published in Albany NY? There was a paper there of that name in the 1850s (per internet search of 11/2/2020).
Is wicket play by little boys known?
1855.4 NY Herald Previews Several June Games for Five Area Clubs
"BASE BALL. Our readers are perfectly aware that the good old fashioned game of base ball is at present receiving much attention among the lovers of sport and manly exercise. Five clubs are organized and in operation in this city and Brooklyn, composed of some thirty or forty members each, and are in continual practice. Three of them play at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, one on every afternoon during the week the Knickerbocker Club on Monday and Thursday, the Eagle Club on Tuesday and Friday, and the Empire Club on Wednesday and Saturday. One other, the Gotham Club, plays at the Red House, Harlem, on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The Excelsior Club of Brooklyn, we understand, have not as yet arranged their days of practice. We would recommend such of our readers who have sufficient leisure, to join one of these clubs. The benefit to be derived, especially to the man of sedentary habits, is incalculable, and the blessing of health and a diminished doctor's bill may reasonably be expected to flow from a punctual attendance. On Friday, the first of June, the Knickerbocker and Gotham Clubs will play a match at the Red House, Harlem, and the Eagle and Empire Clubs will also play a match at the Elysian Fields on Friday, the 15th of June. Matches between the Knickerbocker and Eagle and the Gotham and Eagle Clubs are also expected to come off during the month of June. The play takes place during the afternoon, commencing at about three o'clock"
New York Herald, May 26, 1855, page 1, column. 1. Submitted by George Thompson, June 2005.
1855.13 Spirit Gives Season Plans for 5 Base Ball Clubs
"Base Ball -- The interest in the game if Base Ball appears to be on the increase, and it bids fair to become our most popular game. There are now four clubs in constant practice, vis, Gotham, Knickerbocker, Eagle, and Empire . . . . "
The practice and match schedules for the Knickerbockers, Eagles, Empires, Gothams and [Brooklyn] Excelsior appeared in June.
"Base Ball," Spirit of the Times June 2, 1855.
Full text is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 20-21.
1855.19 Clipper Editor: NYC Now Has Five Clubs "in Good Condition"
In March 1855, the editor of the Clipper listed five teams that were "in good condition" and the locations of their twice-a-week practices - Gothams at Red House, Harlem; Knickerbockers, Eagle, and Empire at Elysian Fields at Hoboken , and the Excelsiors in Brooklyn.
New York Clipper, March 3, 1855; from the Mears Collection.
Articles published later in the New York Clipper, the Spirit of the Times, the New-York Daily Times, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the first appearance in print of 18 new clubs in the Greater NYC region during 1855.
1855.21 Spirit Eyes Three-Year Knicks-Gothams Rivalry
The Spirit of the Times gave more than perfunctory coverage to the September match-up between the Knickerbockers and Gothams at Elysian Fields on Thursday, September 13. The box score remains rudimentary [only runs scored are listed for the two lineups], but the report notes that there were "about 1000 spectators, including many ladies, who manifested the utmost excitement, but kept admirable order [gee, thanks, ladies - LMc]." It must have felt a little like a World Series game: "The Knickerbockers [who lost to the Gothams in June] came upon the ground with a determination to maintain the first rank among the Ball Clubs."
The Knicks won, 21-7, in only five innings. The Spirit tabulated the rivals' history of all seven games played since July 1853, listed below. The Knicks won 4, lost 2 (both losses at Red House), and tied one [12-12 in 12 innings; Peverelly, pages 16 and 21, says that darkness interceded]. The longest contest went 16 innings [a Gothams home victory on 6/30/1854], and the shortest was the current one.
The three-year rivalry:
7/14/53, Elysian Fields; Knicks 21-12, 6 innings
10/14/53, Red House; Knicks 21-14, 9 i
6/30/54, RH; Gothams 21-16, 16 i
9/23/54, EF; Knicks 24-13, 9 i
10/26/54, RH; Tied 12-12, 12 i
6/1/55, RH; Gothams 21-12, 11 i
9/13/55, EF; Knicks 21-7, 5 i
Spirit of the Times, Volume 25, number 32 (Saturday, September 22, 1855), page 373 [first page of 9/22 issue], column 3.
Craig Waff reported that, as far as he could tell, this was the first game in which the size of the assembled crowd was reported.
1855.23 Modern Base Ball Rules Appear in NYC, Syracuse Papers
[A] The current 17 rules of base ball are printed in the Sunday Mercury and in the Spirit of the Times early in the 1855 playing season -- 12 years after the Knickerbocker Club's initial 13 playing rules were formulated.
[B] Without accompanying comment, the 17 rules for playing the New York style of base ball also appear in the Syracuse Standard.
The 1854 rules include the original 13 playing rules in the Knickerbocker game plus four rules added in in New York after 1845. The Knickerbocker, Gotham, and Eagle clubs agreed to the revision in 1854.
[A] Sunday Mercury, April 29, 1855; Spirit, May 12, 1855. Bill Ryczek writes that these news accounts marked the first printing of the rules; see Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163. Earlier, the initial printing had been reported in December of 1856 [Peter Morris, A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006), page 22]. The Sunday Mercury and Spirit accounts were accompanied by a field diagram and a list of practice locations and times for the Eagle, Empire, Excelsior, Gotham, and Knickerbocker clubs.
[B] Syracuse Standard, May 16, 1855.
For a succinct account of the evolution of the 1854 rules, see John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), pages 82-83.
One might speculate that someone in the still-small base ball fraternity decided to publicize the young game's official rules, perhaps to attract more players.
As of mid-2013, we know of 30 clubs playing base ball in 1855, all in downstate New York and New Jersey.
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?
1855.38 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.
1855.41 Swift and Wild
An unusually informative game report on the match of Sep. 19 in Jersey City between the Columbia Club of Brooklyn and the Pioneer Club of Jersey City notes:
New York Clipper Sept. 22, 1855
The unidentified reporter doesn't sound enamored of swift pitching, but evidently it was already a feature of interclub matches in 1855.
1855.45 Unitarians' Christian Register Defends Base Ball on Fast Day
The Boston-based Christian Register, "Devoted to Unitarian Christianity," appeared to respond to critics of Fast Day ballplaying in an unsigned article titled "Why Give It Up?"
"A game of ball out-doors on Fast Day will not do those who play so much harm as the game of poker that they will play in-doors tomorrow . . . ."
"Fast Day -- by some collusion of the Governor with the prophets of the weather, is almost always pleasant. It is apt to be the first day that savors of Spring. And so, -- even serious men stray into their gardens before sunset, -- look at the peach buds, and show children where the corn is to be, and where the peas. . . . And those who are not serious, -- are hoping to murder one or two robins, or using the dried grass for the first game, so often the last, of base ball or foot ball."last,
Christian Register, Boston, March 31, 1855
We do not know the circulation of this 1855 paper beyond Boston. (We do know that it covered a Worcester MA story at entry 1849.6)
The reference to players playing poker suggests that they were adults.
Was the writer saying, in "so often the last" game, that base ball and/or foot ball was not played much after Fast Day?
Do we know what Boston-area foot ball like in 1855?
1856.5 New York Sunday Mercury and Porter's Spirit of the Times Term Base Ball the "National Pastime"
The New York Sunday Mercury refers to base ball as "The National Pastime." Letter to the editor from "a baseball lover," December 5, 1856. Date contributed by John Thorn. Craig Waff adds that the letter was reprinted as a part of the long article, "Base Ball, Cricket, and Skating," Porter's Spirit of the Times, Volume 1, number 16 (December 20, 1856), pp. 260 - 261.
Is there a claim that this is the earliest appearance of the term "national pastime" to denote base ball?
1856.14 Manly Virtues of Base Ball Extolled; 25 Clubs Now Playing in NYC Area
"The game of Base Ball is one, when well played, that requires strong bones, tough muscle, and sound mind; and no athletic game is better calculated to strengthen the frame and develop a full, broad chest, testing a man's powers of endurance most severely . . ." I have no doubt that some twenty-five Clubs . . . could be reckoned up within a mile or two of New-York, that stronghold of 'enervated' young men."
"Base Ball [letter to the editor], New York Times, September 27, 1856.
Full text is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 21-22.
1856.22 Young Brooklyn Clubs Play, But Reporter is Unimpressed
The Harmony Club beat the Continentals, 21-15, in the "intense heat" of Brooklyn, but the scathing of the players didn't end there. "The play was miserably poor, neither party being entitled to be called good players. Bad, however, as was the play of the Harmony Club, that of the Continentals was infinitely worse. - Mr. Brown, the catcher, being the only good player amongst the whole. They all require a good deal of practice before again attempting to play a match."
"Base Ball. - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 16, 1856, page 2
1857.13 The First Game Pic?
"On Saturday, September 12, 1857, 'Porter's Spirit of the Times,' a weekly newspaper devoted to sports and theater, featured a woodcut that, as best can be determined, was the first published image of a baseball game.?
Vintage Base Ball Association site, http://vbba.org/ed-interp/ 1857elysian fieldsgame.html
1857.16 Early Use of the Term "Town Ball" in NY Clipper
The article reported a "Game of Town Ball" in Germantown PA.
New YorkClipper, September 19, 1857.
Information posted by David Block to 19CBB 11/1/2002. David writes that this is the earliest "town ball" game account he knows of.
1857.47 On Boston Common, "Several Parties Engaged in Matches of Base Ball" on Fast Day
"The Common was thronged with citizens many of whom engaged in ball-playing. The Bay State Cricket Club were out in full force and had fine sport. Several parties engaged in matches at base ball, enjoying the exercise exceedingly, and furnishing a large amount of amusement to the spectators."
"Fast Day", Boston Herald, April 17, 1857, page 4.
It seems plausible that by 1857 the rules used had some resemblance to those codified as the Dedham (Massachusetts Game) rules in 1858.
1857.48 First Known Appearance of Term "New York Game"
"The Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club has been organized... This Club has decided to play the "New York Game," which consists in pitching instead of throwing the ball."
See also item 1857.5
Boston Herald, June 15, 1857
Richard Hershberger notes: "The earliest citation in Dickson's Baseball Dictionary is from 1859. It is interesting that the first use seems to come from the Boston side of things, and predates the Dedham convention (which laid out the rules of the Massachusetts Game). The point is the same as it would be over the next few years, to conveniently distinguish versions of baseball."
So this find antedates a baseball first.
John Thorn notes:
"The phrase "New York Game" may have owed something to the fact that the
principal Tri-Mountain organizer had been a player with the Gotham Base
Ball Club of New York, whose roots predated the formation of the
Bob Tholkes notes:
"'New York' instead of 'national:' in what turned out to be a shrewd marketing move, was referring to a "national" pastime, implicitly sweeping aside regional variations, and in March 1858 called their organization the National Association, which the New York Clipper (April 3, 1858)considered a howl."
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?
1858.7 Newly Reformed Game of Town Ball Played in Cincinnati OH
Clippings from Cincinnati in 1858 report on the Gymnasts' Town Ball Club match of July 22, 1858: "They played for the first time under their new code of bye laws, which are more stringent than the old rules." The game has five corners [plus a batter's position, making the basepaths a rhombus in general shape], sixty feet apart, meaning 360 feet to score. The fly rule was in effect, and plugging was disallowed, and the rules carefully require that a batsman run every time he hits the ball.
The New York Clipper carried at least four reports of Cincinnati town ball play between June and October of 1858. The earliest is in the edition of June 26, 1858 - Volume 6, number 10, page 76. Coverage suggests that teams of eight players were not uncommon, although teams of 13 and 11 were also reported.
An oddity: in a July intramural contest, batter Bickham claimed 58 runs of his team's 190 total, while the second most productive batsman mate scored 30, and 5 of his 10 teammates scored fewer than 6 runs each. One wonders what rule, or what typo, would lead to that result.
1858.9 Brooklyn Daily Eagle Contrasts Base Ball and Cricket
"Base ball is the favorite game, as it is more simple in its rules, and a knowledge of them is easily acquired. Cricket is the most scientific of the two and requires more skill and judgment in the use of the bat, especially, than base."
"Cricket and Base Ball," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 22, 1858.
1858.17 Atlantic Monthly Piece by Higginson Lauds Base-ball
"The Pastor of the Worcester Free Church, the Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, wrote an influential argument for sports and exercise which appeared in the March 1858 issue of a new magazine called The Atlantic Monthly.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Saints, and Their Bodies," The Atlantic Monthly Volume 1, number 5 (March 1858), pp. 582-595. It is online at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/sgml/moa-idx?notisid=ABK2934-0001-122.
See also item#1830s.22.
Some commentary: His [Higginson's] comments on our national game are of great interest, for he welcomed the growth of 'our indigenous American game of base-ball,' and followed [author James Fenimore] Cooper's lead by connecting the game with our national character." A. Fletcher and J. Shimer, Worcester: A City on the Rise (Worcester Publishing, Worcester, 2005), page 11.
what did Cooper say about the link between base ball and national character?
1858.19 First KY Box Score Appears in Louisville Newspaper
"The beginnings of [Louisville] baseball on an organized basis are also lost in the mists of the 19th century. There were probably neighborhood teams competing within the city in the 1850s. But the first recorded box score in local papers appeared in the July 15, 1858 Daily Democrat. Two teams made up of members of the Louisville Base Ball Club faced one another in a contest where the final score was 52-41, a score not unusual for the period. The paper also notes that there were several other ball clubs organized in the city.
"Not much is known about the Louisville Base Ball Club. It was probably not more than a year or two old by the time of the 1858 box score."
Possible describing the same July game, but reporting different dates, The New York Clipper said: "BASE BALL IN LOUISVILLE - The game of Base Ball is making its way westward. In Louisville they have a well-organized club, called the 'Louisville Base Ball Club.' They played a game on the 18th, with the following result [box score for 52-42 intramural game shown]"
"Chapter 1 - Beginnings: From Amateur Teams to Disgrace in the National League," mimeo, Bob Bailey, 1999, page 2.
New York Clipper, July 31, 1858
Louisville Daily Democrat, July 15, 1858
Porter's Spirit of the Times reported on July 17, 1858 that the Louisville BBC had been organized on June 10, 1858.
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."
1858.24 Editorial Rips Base Ball "Mania" as a "Public Nuisance"
"Ball Clubs," The Happy Home and Parlor Magazine, Volume 8, December 1, 1858 [Boston MA], page 405.
The author thinks base ball "has become a sort of mania, and on this account we speak of it. In itself a game at ball is an innocent and excellent recreation but when the sport is carried so far as it is at the present time, it becomes a pubic nuisance." His case:  gambling imbues it,  the crowd is unruly and intemperate,  profanity abounds,  its players waste a lot of time,  it leads to injury, and it distracts people from their work. "For these reasons we class ball-clubs, as now existing, with circus exhibitions, military musters, pugilistic feats, cock-fighting &c; all of which are nuisances in no small degree."
Posted to 19CBB August 14, 2005 by Richard Hershberger.
1858.25 Your Base Ball Stringer, Mr. W. Whitman
Reporter Whitman wrote a workmanlike [all-prose] account of a game [Atlantic 17, Putnam 13] for the Brooklyn Daily Times in June 1858.
Walt Whitman, "On Baseball, 1858," in John Thorn, ed., The Complete Armchair Book of Baseball [Galahad Books, New York, 1997; originally published 1985 and 1987] pp 815-816.
1858.26 Wicket, as Well as Cricket and Base Ball, Reported in Baltimore MD
"Exercise clubs and gymnasia are spring up everywhere. The papers have daily records of games at cricket, wicket, base ball, etc."
Editorial, "Physical Education," Graham's American Monthly of Literature, art, and Fashion, Volume 53, Number 6 [December 1858], page 495.
1858.69 Challenge Match Played Among Manchester Printers on Fast Day
"The Printers of this city, agreeably to the above [challenge receipt], came to the scratch (sic) at 8 1/2 o'clock [AM], Fast morning, and engaged in the healthy exercises of the ball for about an hour and a half. . . .
"The results of the playing was as follows: [Mirror members won two of three 25-run games, 25-3 "points", 17-25, and 25- 3.]
"The beaten party did the 'fair' thing n the evening, in the way of a supper. A flow of wit and humor closed the day to the satisfaction of the craft."
The formal challenge and its response appear in Supplemental Text, below.
Dollar Weekly Mirror, Manchester NH, April 10, 1858.
This match was also reported in Porter's Spirit of the Times: see https://protoball.org/Manchester_Mirror_printers_v_Other_Manchester_printers_on_6_April_1858.
Bruce Allardice notes that the game was also reported in the Manchester Daily Mirror of April 9, 1858.
Were the challenger's "subs" seen as non-employee ringers or as subordinate Mirror employees?
Is the 20 pace "limit of goals" the distance between bases? Was this variable commonly negotiated in 1858 matches?
This "best-of-3-games-to-25 format was commonly found in matches reported in Syracuse NY. Was it common around New England?
1859.14 New York Tribune Compares the NY "Baby" Game and NE Game
[A] "That [NY Tribune] article was a discussion, I believe, of the two games, the New York game and the Massachusetts round ball game, with a view to decide which was the standard game. So far as we know, this newspaper indicates that [text obscured] became a sport of national interest. The fact that the club of a little country town up in Massachusetts should be weighed in the balance against a New York club, in the columns of the first paper of the country marks a beginning of national attention to the game."
George Thompson located this article and posted it to 19CBB on 3/1/2007. The editorial says, in part:
"The so-called 'Base Ball' played by the New York clubs - what is falsely called the 'National' game - is no more like the genuine game of base ball than single wicket is like a full field of cricket. The Clubs who have formed what they choose to call the 'National Association,' play a bastard game, worthy only of boys ten years of age. The only genuine game is known as the 'Massachusetts Game . . . .' If they [the visiting cricketers] want to find foes worthy of their steel, let them challenge the 'Excelsior' Club of Upton, Massachusetts, now the Champion club of New England, and which club could probably beat, with the greatest ease, the best New-York nine, and give them three to one. The Englishmen may be assured that to whip any nine playing the New-York baby game will never be recognized as a national triumph."
[B] This suggestion was met with derision by a writer for the New York Atlas on October 30: that northern game is known for it "ball stuffed with mush; bat in the shape of a paddle twelve inches wide; bases about ten feet apart; run on all kinds of balls, fair or foul, and throw the ball at the player running the bases." [Facsimile contributed by Bill Ryczek 12/29/2009.]
[C] A gentleman from Albany NY wrote to the Excelsiors, saying he was "desirous of organizing a genuine base ball club in our city."
[A] New York Tribune, October 18, 1859, as described in Henry Sargent letter to the Mills Commission, [date obscured; a response went to Sargent on July 21, 1905, suggesting that the Tribune article had arrived "after we had gone to press with the other matter and consequently it did not get in.]. The correspondence is in the Mills Commission files, item 65-29.
[B] New York Atlas on October 30, 1859.
[C] Letter from F. W. Holbrook to George H. Stoddard, October 22, 1859; listed as document 67-30 in the Spalding Collection, accessed at the Giamatti Center of the HOF.
1859.18 Harper's Suggests Plugging Still Used in Base-ball
"Base-ball differs from cricket, especially, in there being no wickets. The bat is held high in the air. When the ball has been struck the 'outs' try to catch it, in which case the striker is 'out;' or, if they can not do this, to strike the striker with it when he is running, which likewise puts him out."
Harper's, October 15, 1859, as quoted by Richard Hershberger, Monday June 13, 2005, on the SABR 19CBB listserve.
It is conceivable that Harper's intended to describe the tagging of runners.
1859.25 Buffalo Editor on NY Game - "Child's Play"
"Do our [Buffalo] Base Ball Clubs play the game of the "National Association" - the New York and Brooklyn club game? If so they are respectfully informed by the New York Tribune [see item #1859.14] that the style of Base Ball - what is falsely called the "National" game - is no more like the genuine game of base ball than single wicket is like a full field of cricket. It says, the clubs who have formed what they choose to call the "National Association," play a bastard game, worthy only of boys of ten years of age.
We have not the least idea whether it is the "National Association" game or the "Massachusetts" game that our Clubs play, but we suppose it must be the latter, as we are certain their sport is no "child's play."
Editorial, "Base Ball - Who Plays the Genuine Game?," Buffalo Morning Express, October 20, 1859. From Priscilla Astifan's posting on 19CBB, 2/19/2006. [Cf #1859.14, above.]
1859.26 NY Herald Weighs Base Ball against Cricket
A detailed comparison of base ball and cricket appeared in the
"[C]ricket could never become a national sport in America - it is too slow, intricate and plodding a game for our go-ahead people."
"The home base [in base ball] is marked by a flat circular iron plate, painted white. The pitcher's point . . . is likewise designated by a circular iron plate painted white . . . ."
"The art of pitching consists in throwing it with such force that the batsman has not time to wind his bat to hit it hard, or so close to his person that he can only hit it with a feeble blow."
"[The baseball is] not so heavy in proportion to its size as a cricket ball."
"Sometimes the whole four bases are made in one run."
"The only points in which a the base ball men would have any advantage over the cricketers, in a game of base ball, are two - first, in the batting, which is overhand, and done with a narrower bat, and secondly, in the fact that the bell being more lively, hopping higher, and requiring a different mode of catching. But the superior activity and practice of the [cricket] Eleven in fielding would amply make up for this."
It occupies about two hours to play a game of base ball - two days to play a game of cricket." "[B]ase ball is better adapted for popular use than cricket. It is more lively and animated, gives more exercise, and is more rapidly concluded. Cricket seems very tame and dull after looking at a game of base ball.
"It is suited to the aristocracy, who have leisure and love ease; base ball is suited to the people . . . . "
In the American game the ins and outs alternate by quick rotation, like our officials, and no man can be out of play longer than a few minutes."
New York Herald, October 16, 1859, page 1, columns 3-5.
1859.36 Why Cover Sports?
"OUT-DOOR SPORTS are gaining in favor and popularity among our people,-- and hence a 'Sporting' department is come to be as much a necessity in the New York Express as it is in any of the London journals. This is not to be regretted. It tends to muscular development; and as there is nothing we Americans so much need as 'muscle', the turf, yachting, cricket, base ball, etc., are things which, combining healthful exercise and innocent amusement, are to be encouraged."
New York Evening Express, June 25, 1859
1859.60 Please Do Not Kill the Umpire
After the Jersey City Courier had excoriated the umpire, Mr. Morrow of the Knickerbocker, for his efforts in a game between the Empire and Excelsior Clubs, Joe Leggett, captain of the Excelsior, wrote to the New York Sunday Mercury defending him, and the Mercury editorialized as follows:
"Every gentleman who officiates as umpire is selected by the captains, but the position, in consequence of the grumbling, and not unfrequently insulting remarks of outsiders, has become so unenviable, that it is difficult to get any one to assume the place...we do think that common decency, and gentlemanly courtesy, should, under the circumstances of the case, restrain all comment upon the proceedings, on the part of the spectators of a match."
Jersey City Courier, Sep. 15, 1859
New York Sunday Mercury, Sep. 18, 1859
In the New York City area, umpires were players from other clubs who umpired upon request.
1859.61 Base Ball Lampooned
"OUR SPORTSMAN. Sporting matters are beginning to lost their summer time piquancy, and the racing season will soon be gone, at least in this country. The cricketers and base ball heroes still keep up an excitement among themselves.
Apropos of base ball. Conversing with a member of one of the Ball Clubs, we noticed a deformity in his hand.
'What is the matter with your finger?"
'Struck by a ball and drove up--' was the reply 'but it is a noble game.'
'Precisely--and your thumb, it is useless, is it not?'
'Yes, struck with a ball and broken.'
'That finger joint?'
'A ball struck it. No better game to improve a man's physical condition, strengthen one's sinews."
'You walk lame; that foot, isn't it?'
'No; it's the--the--the--well, a bat flew out of a player's had and hit my knee pan. He had the innings."
'One of your front teeth is gone?'
'Knocked loose by a ball--an accident though.'
'Your right hand and your nose have been peeled--how's that?'
'Slipped down, at second base--mere scratch.'
'And you like all this fun?'
'Glory in it, sir. It is a healthy game, sir.'
We can't say we coincided with the enthusiastic member. Perhaps we are rather timid concerning the welfare and safety of our limbs--and this timidity has an undue influence on our mind. Be that as it may, we have no inclination to try our hand at the game...we will drop the subject with the same celerity which would mark our process of dropping one of those leather covered balls, were it to come in violent contact with our delicate fingers."
New York Atlas, Sep. 18, 1859
1859.62 Plea for Amateurism
CRICKETING. That eleven men who have devoted their youth and manhood to playing cricket, and have made their living thereby, should be able to beat twice that number who have played that game occasionally for exercise and recreation, is not at all surprising...We have steadily and ardently favored the recent efforts made in this country for the creation and diffusion of a popular taste for muscular outdoor amusements. We believe our industrious people have too few holidays, and devote too few hours to health-giving, open-air recreations... and we should be glad to hear of the inclosure of of a public play-ground, and formation of a ball-club in every township in the Union...But play should be strictly a recreation, never a business. As a pursuit, we esteem it a very bad one...Let us have ball-clubs, cricket-clubs, and as many more such as you please, but not professional cricket-players any more than professional card-players. We trust that the Eleven of All England are to have no imitators on this side of the ocean."
New York Tribune, Oct. 8, 1859
The All England Eleven played in Canada, New York City, Philadelphia, and Rochester in the fall of 1859, playing on occasion against 22 opponents, to provide competition.
1859.63 What Must I Do to Be Physically Saved?
"For a great many years, a great many people, particularly in this great country, have been asking what they should do to be physically saved?...We are pretty sure that the mania for cricket, which has followed the base ball madness, will not be without its blessings...we cannot imagine a dyspeptic cricketer-- no! not after he has received many balls in the pit of his stomach."
In a two-part series under the title "Muscle Looking Up" The New York Tribune explored the past and present of the physical culture movement in the United States, noting approvingly the trend to emphasize sportive exercise, and hoping that it will be extended to approval of exercise for both men and women.
New York Herald Tribune, Oct. 7 and Oct. 15, 1859
1859.65 New For 1859: Rumors of Player Movement
[A] "RESIGNATION-- We understand that Brown (formerly catcher for the Eckford Club), and Post (catcher for the Astoria) have resigned, and become members of the Putnam Base Ball Club. Both of these gentlemen have stood A no. 1 in their respective clubs, and their retirement must prove a serious loss thereto, while the Putnams become materially strengthened by the addition to their number."
[B] "BALL PLAY-- ...We notice that several important changes have taken place in the Brooklyn clubs. Amongst others we learn that Pidgeon, of the Eckford, has joined the Atlantic; Brown, also of the Eckford, has gone into the Putnam club; and Grum in the Excelsior. The Stars have divided themselves, and many of them, Creighton and Flanley in particular, having joined the Excelsior. Dickinson goes into the Atlantic. The trial for the championship, next season, will be between the Atlantic, Excelsior, and Putnam's...We have not heard of any particular changes in the leading clubs of New York...The Union of Morrisania will gain one or two strong players next season.
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, Nov. 20, 1859
[B] New York Clipper, Nov. 26, 1859
After the Eckford Club contradicted the claim that several players were resigning and moving to other clubs, the Clipper issued a retraction on December 3: "...we are pleased to learn that it is not correct, for we do not approve of these changes at all."
1859.67 Debunking DeBost
"We think the Knickerbockers were defeated (in their first fly game with the Excelsior of Brooklyn), through the foolishness, fancy airs, and smart capers of De Bost. Like a clown in the circus, he evidently plays for the applause of the audience at his 'monkey shines," instead of trying to win the game...But so long as the spectators applaud his tom-foolery, just so long will he enact the part of a clown."
New York Atlas, July 3, 1859
Knickerbocker catcher Charles DeBost, whether a clown or not, was acknowledged as the best catcher in the game in the 1850s. He had been selected to catch for the New York team in the Fashion Race Course games with Brooklyn in 1858. He was so incensed by the Atlas's criticism that he announced his retirement from the sport. Criticized for its criticism, the Atlas responded on its issue of July 31, 1859:
"The gentleman must recollect that a great deal is expected of a player of his reputation...We still fail to discover the extreme grace and refinement displayed, when a player in a match attempts to catch a ball with that portion of his body that is usually covered by his coat-tail...We shall not allow ourselves to be disturbed by any insinuations from those who are but the mouthpieces of two or three old fogy clubs."
Did DeBost actually stay retired at this point?
1859.70 Central Park a Boon to National Prowess in Base Ball, Cricket, Etc.
"Though we have not yet attained such proficiency in the game of cricket as to be a match for the Englishmen or Canadians, we expect to be ahead of them not very long hence. In the meantime we have nationalized the more active game of base ball.
"The opening of the Central Park comes on most opportunely to aid in this new phase of our social development. . . [T]he Park will be the place."
The full Herald editorial is below.
New York Herald, July 20, 1859, p. 5, cols. 1-2
Other items referring to the use of Central Park for baserunning games are at 1859.35 (base ball asks for access, 1859.56 (cricket community wary of 10-to-1 edge in local support for base ball), 1860.69 (Knickerbocker eyes way to use the Park), and 1864.36 (further hopes for base ball access.)
1860c.4 Four Teams of African-Americans, All in the NYC Area, Are Reported
[A] “The earliest known account of a ball game involving African Americans appeared in the New York Anglo-African on July 30, 1859. In this Fourth of July contest, ‘the venerable Joshua R. Giddings made the highest score, never missing the ball when it came to him.’ Giddings was a sixty-four-year-old white Republican Congressman known for his passionate opposition to slavery.”
[B] "We, the members of the Colored Union Base Ball Club, return our sincere thanks to you for publishing the score of the game we played with the Unknown, of Weeksville on the 28th ult. [September 28, 1860]). We go under the name the "Colored Union," for, if we mistake not, there is a white club called the Union in Williamsburg at the present time." The letter goes on to report a game against the Unknown Club on October 5, 1860. The Colored Union club eventually won with 6 runs in the ninth.
[A] Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 34-35
[B] New York Sunday Mercury, October 14, 1860, col. 5-6. Cited in Dixon, Phil, and Patrick J. Hannigan, The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History [Amereon House, 1992], pp. 31-2
The four were the Unknown (Weeksville), Monitor (Brooklyn), Henson (Jamaica), and Union (Brooklyn). Weeksville was a town founded by freedmen. Its population in the 1850s was about 500.
For a sample of a contemporary humorous treatment, see the account of the 1862 game between the Unknown and Monitor Clubs in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 17, 1862.
1860.21 Clipper Backs Off Fly Game Support
"We have hitherto warmly advocated the adoption of the "fly game"...but our experience this season has led us to modify our views somewhat...base ball is a superior school for fielding to cricket...(because of) the greater degree of activity required to field well...owing principally to the additional effort necessary...to catch the ball on the bound...any alteration of the rules in relation to the catch on the bound will not have that tendency to improve the character of the fielding ...that many suppose it will."
New York Clipper, Nov. 10, 1860
The "Fly game" again failed of passage at the NABBP convention in December 1860.
1860.22 Educatin' the Readers
[A] "BALL PLAY. A CORRECT SCORE OF A BASE BALL MATCH.-- We give the following score of the contest between the Atlantic and Star Club, as a sample of how the scores of all first-class matches should be kept, in order that a complete analysis of the player's play may be obtained at the close of the year...We trust that the National Association will present to the next convention some plan of scoring that can be generally adopted, like that of the cricket clubs, which is a complete system...Next season we shall give more space to base ball...In the meantime, we shall present to our readers many interesting articles in reference to the game..."
[B] Between February and April, 1860, the Clipper followed uo with a series of six articles on various aspects of the game, from starting a club to playing the positions.
[C] Later in the year: "NEW SCORE BOOK.-- We have recently been shown an improved score book for the game of base ball, just published by Messrs. Richardson and McLeod, 106 Maiden-lane. It is a vast improvement on the old score book, and must commend itself to general adoption by base ball clubs, as it contains the rules and regulations of the game as adopted by the National Association of Base Ball Clubs (sic), with admirably arranged columns . The score book is sufficient for one hundred games, at the low price of two dollars."
[A] New York Clipper, Jan. 14, 1860
[B] New York Clipper, Feb. 18, 1860 - April 7, 1860
[C] Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, June 9, 1860.
The Clipper's effort was part of Henry Chadwick's push to encourage the formation of clubs and make base ball a more "scientific" game, by publishing instructions and collecting statistics.
Richardson and McLeod ran a restaurant at 106 Maiden Lane that catered to base ballists. See 1859.66
The instructional material mirrored the "X" Letters published in Porter's Spirit of the Times in 1857-1858. See 1857.42
1860.49 Troy NY Writer: "Every Newspaper" Covers Base Ball Games, Some Showing Regrettable "Petty Meanness"
"The present season bids fair to out-rival all previous ones in respect to ball-playing every newspaper which we take up is sure to contain the particulars related to matches played or about to be played. We are glad to see that our young men, particularly those engaged in sedentary persuits [sic], are taking a lively interest in this noble game. In our opinion, nothing can serve better to invigorate both mind and body, than out door exercise. In ball-playing, every muscle is brought into play, and the intellectual capacities, very often are taxed to the utmost. But, in order that the parties may partake of the game with a lively zest, it is necessary that every branch of the game should be played in a friendly spirit. Many are the games which have been played, the beauty of which have been spoiled by the spirit of petty meanness and jealously [sic] creeping into the heart of the players. We were much pained and mortified upon a recent occasion, to see an incident of the kind alluded to, and we are confident that we speak the sentiments of many others, when we declare, that it destroyed what interest we had in the match. But this evil is not alone confined to this vicinity. It is noticeable in New York, Brooklyn, Rochester and other places and if the remonstrances of the press can have any influence towards checking the evil, we promise to perform our part in the good work."
"Local Matters: Base Ball," The Troy Daily Whig, Volume 26, number. 8009 (28 June 1860), page 3, column 4:
1860.77 Treat Us Special
"BASE BALL. ACCOMMODATIONS FOR REPORTING.-- We would suggest to clubs, uponn whose grounds matches are played during the season, the propriety of providing a small table and a few chairs for the accommodation of the press. We have frequently found all the best places for seeing a match monopolized by members of the playing club, while we have been compelled to do our reporting on the back of some kindly-disposed gentleman on the outside circle. The Eckford, Excelsior, and a few other clubs we might name, manage this business better; and all ought to follow their example."
New York Sunday Mercury, May 20, 1860
1860.80 Muffin Matches--Low Skills, High Comedy
[A] "THE MUFFIN MATCH.-- The match between the muffs of the Putnam and Excelsior Clubs, of Brooklyn...was, as we anticipated, an extraordinary affair, and productive of much amusement...People who can hold a ball (except by accident) when it is thrown to them, reflect upon their associate muffs, and don't deserve to have a place...we may mention one striking tableau...(Clark), having struck the ball, set out with all his might and main for the first base, which was carefully guarded by the ever-vigilant Andriese. Clark overran the base, and the ball overran Andriese; each, however, ran for the object of his pursuit, and Clark picked up the base...and held it aloft as a trophy of victory; while Andriese, quickly grabbing up the ball from the ground, turned a double somerset, and landing on one leg, projected the hand which held the ball gracefully toward the base, high in air, and called for judgment. Inasmuch as Clark, though under the base, had two fingers and a thumb over it, the umpire decided that he 'had the base', and wasn't out."
[B] "Muffin" was evidently new slang:
"'MUFFIN.'-- Base Ball...bids fair to enrich the copious vocabulary of the English language by a new term-- the word 'muffin'. A 'muff' (is)...a ball-player noted for catching anything but the ball...'Muffin" is an elongation of the word, and 'the muffins' is understood to be a collection of individuals, whose fingers are pretty much all thumbs-- in other words a collection of muffs...The word will find its way into more general acceptance and may hereafter puzzle some future philologist."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, July 1, 1860
[B] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 22, 1860
Interclub muffin matches were an occasional feature, mostly before the Civil War, between the larger clubs.
1860.84 Jolly Good Fellows
Base Ball. ATLANTIC, OF BROOKLYN vs. LIBERTY, OF NEW BRUNSWICK.--About six o'clock both Clubs partook of a sumptuous repast at the Montauk Restaurant, near Fulton ferry...More than one hundred gentlemen entered heartily into the spirit of the occasion...Mr. Prendergast...sung 'Fondly I'm Dreaming' in capital style...Judge Provost, of N. B., followed in a humorous speech complimenting both Clubs on their excellent play...'The Brunswickers were worsted today, next year they would come out silk-and-cotton'...Mr. Pete O'Brien, of the Atlantics--the very cut of a comic singer--set the table in a roar with with quite a budget of the drollest of Irish songs."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 9, 1860
The game ball-- the "trophy ball"---was also presented to the president of the winning club during the party.
1860.92 "Old Fashioned Game" Reported, and Disparaged, in Milwaukee
In May 1860, The [Milwaukee] Sentinel quoted The News as recently reporting that the Janesville Base Ball Club expected to challenge a Milwaukee club to "a friendly contest" that year. The News added: "Unfortunately however, the Janesville club plays the good old fashioned game of Base Ball, while our clubs play under the new code, (which we must here beg leave to say is, in our estimation, a miserable one, and in no way calculated to develope[sic] skill or excite interest . . .)"
The Sentinel argued back: "We don't think much of the judgement of the News. The game of Base Ball, as now played by all the clubs in the Eastern States, is altogether ahead of 'the old fashioned game,' both in point of skill and interest. Indeed, until the 'new code' was adopted here, it was impossible to excite interest enough to get up a club. Now we have two large clubs in full blast, and more coming. The game is a very lively, attractive and manly, one, and is daily growing in popular favor."
Milwaukee Sentinel, May 16, 1860
Janesville Daily Gazette, September 1, 1860
On September 1, 1860, the Janesville Daily Gazette carried a box score for a game between the Janesville Base Ball Club and the Bower City Base Ball Club of Janesville reporting a 'match game' on August 31.
Bower City won, 50 tallies to 38 tallies. The game, played to "first 50 tallies" listed 10 players per team and likely took 11 3-out innings. The account does not describe the rules in force for this contest.
As of November 2020, Protoball shows 1 ballgame and 6 club entries that cite Bower City Clubs.
1861.41 Base Ball A Silver Lining
[A] "The first base ball match of the season came off yesterday...It was thought that cannon balls would supersede base balls this season-- that our meetings and delightful measures would be exchanged for the pride, pomp, and circumstances of glorious war, but even in their ashes live our wonted fires, and though faint and few, we are fearless still. The event of yesterday is therefore generally regarded as a promising sign of the times."
[B] "THE HOBOKEN BASE BALL CLUBS.-- The ball grounds at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, begin to wear a very lively look...Several important matches are nearly arranged...The return of the Seventh, National Guard, added a reinforcement of some forty members to our prominent base ball clubs."
[A] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 6, 1861
[B] Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, June 16, 1861
1861.44 Optimism Despite War
[A] "BASE BALL. The season which is now drawing to a close-- though its opening was not very propitious, owing to the breaking out of the existing rebellion, and the consequent diversion of the minds of all classes to matters of serious import-- has been characterized by a number of very interesting matches, and has afforded some very pleasant entertainment...Though no marked improvement was evidenced in the general playing of the past season, nearly every club has come up to the standard of the preceding year, while several...have presented stronger nines than they have ever before put into the field."
[B] "...the base ball season of 1861...has really been a very interesting year in the annals of the game, far more so than it was expected it would have been in the early part of it; but the game has too strong a foothold in popularity to be frowned out of favor by the lowering brows of 'grim-visaged war,' and if any proof was needed that our national game is a fixed institution of the country, it would be found in the fact that it has flourished through such a year of adverse circumstances..."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, Nov. 17, 1861
[B] New York Clipper, Jan. 11, 1862
The sporting weeklys' optimism ignores the great decline in the number of clubs and games both in Greater New York City and in the cities to which the game had spread by the end of 1860. In most places interclub play ceased.
1863.62 The Times Calls a Spade a Spade-- Base Ball is Obliterating Cricket
...cricket has been almost obliterated by base ball, which, but ten years since, was in its infancy...The main cause of this is, that a few cricketers...play pretty much all the matches for the few Clubs that exist only in name; while Bass Ball Clubs play their matches with their bona fide members, and consequently their medium players always have a prospect before them of being chosen to play..."
New York Times, Sep. 25, 1863
1863.64 No It Isn't! Yes It Is!
Harper's Weekly: "In New York, it is well known, there are several base-ball clubs which play periodically. the same thing is true of Boston, Philadelphia, and perhaps one or two other cities. But is base-ball so popular that it is a regular and well-understood diversion in most of the counties of most of the States of the Union?...We see no evidence that either base-ball or any other athletic game is so generally practiced by our people as to be called a popular American game."
A reader wrote in to disagree:
"Now, sir, even you are mistaken. For twenty years (as long as I can remember about it) base-ball has been a 'popular game' wherever I have lived; and from careful inquiry, and knowledge obtained by personal observation, I can assure you that the game is a popular one...Who that has attended country 'raisings' does not know this...Though among us we have not regularly organized clubs, yet it is by no means difficult to find enough who are desirous of engaging in so healthful and agreeable an exercise...It is the game at our district schools during intermission hours, and often engaged in by youths of both sexes.
Truly, F. H. GUTWITS
Avoca, Steuben Co., N. Y.
Harper's Weekly, Oct. 15 & Nov. 5, 1859
1864.43 Like It or Lump It, Gents
[A] "ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.-- ...If any club is dissatisfied with our reports of their games, let them personally inform us of the fact; not go to our employers to revenge any fancied injury or trying to injure us. The base ball clubs must either take our reports as we give them, in our endeavor to do impartial justice to all, or they will not have a line of notice emanating from our pen...the next time the club our correspondent refers to see their name written by us in any paper with which we are connected, it will be when they behave to us like other clubs...we do not harbor ill will towards a solitary member of the Atlantic club...but there is a principle involved...it being the right of a reporter of base ball matches to fairly criticise the actions of players..."
[B] "ATLANTIC VS. GOTHAM.-- ...Our reporter will give a full account of the proceedings, as the satisfactory explanations made to him by the Secretary of the Club on Friday, have, as far as he is concerned, entirely restored the friendly relations which had previously been interrupted."
[A] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 29, 1864
[B] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 17, 1864
1864.54 Daily Eagle Sees Base Ball Now Played Throughout US North (East of the Mississippi)
"Ball players are being made by the hundred in our army. The few members of clubs that happen to get into the different regiments that have emanated from the Metropolis have inoculated the whole service with a love of the game, and during last year, for the first time, we believe, base ball matches took place in every State in the Union-- or out of it, as the case may be-- this side of the Mississippi. Materials are now furnished to the various regiments that require them, and this by order of the Government, and this year, unless some very stirring work is done, games of ball will be played throughout the country, not only by civilians in the great cities, but by our soldiers in every camp, North, East, West, and South."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 30, 1864
In submitting this piece, Bob Tholkes writes: "In recent years the role of the Civil War in expanding baseball, once considered crucial, has suffered bombardment by several large-bore researchers. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle made the case for the influence of the war. If the crucial nature of the war's role is a myth, it is a myth reaching back to the beginning."
1864.56 Muffin Game Tactics
MUFFINS EXTRAORDINARY—THE GAME OF THE AMATEURS—FOSSILS vs SAPLINGS.—The base ball match on Saturday, between the married and single amateurs, or the Fossils and Saplings, as they called themselves, went off in proper style and made the day, if not the players, famous. It had been agreed to play with elevens instead of nines. All were on the spot at three o’clock, and eager for the contest. Lads of ten never engaged in sport with heartier zest than did these old lads, whose ages probably ranged from twenty to sixty or sixty-five. Two or three hundred ladies and gentlemen officiated as spectators and critics—looked, laughed, cheered, commented, exclaimed, asked and answered questions. The respective clubs, flattered by so large an attendance no less than by pride of party were inspired to do what they did do. And it is no disparagement to the Saplings to say that the crowd of witnesses will testify and the score plainly indicates, that the Fossils carried off the principal honors—accomplished fewer bats, fewer catches and fewer runs, more outs, more fouls, more balks, more wild throws and more miscellaneous blundering; excited more laughter and more commiseration.—Some of their feats should be handed down to posterity. For instance, our neighbor of the Telegraph, Mr. CRANDALL, made a home run on a miss (instead of a hit)—a thing never before known in the annals of the game. Judge BACON succeeded in knocking eight foul balls during a single turn at the bat—believed to be the most brilliant thing of the kind on record. Dr. FOSTER run from base to base after fouls, three or four several times, and then returned again in safety and triumph. Others performed similar feats.—Fielders and shortstops instead of throwing to bases which their adversaries were approaching, considerately threw in another direction and allowed them to make tallies.
The Fossils also accomplished gratifying results by standing out of the way of balls, and letting them pass out into the fields, by forgetting to pick them up when they came near, and by throwing haphazard, when, after due deliberation, they had decided to throw; also by the base men omitting to touch adversaries or bases when the ball was in their hands and by the runners omitting to run when they had opportunities. It is not denied that the Saplings won considerable distinction in similar ways, but they must admit themselves outdone...in the fourth inning, when they scored thirteen, it became pretty clear that they could not successfully compete in the admirable science of blundering which constituted the cream or essence of the game...But it should be noted that the superiority was established in spite of the incapacity or else the determined and continued opposition of two of the members of the Fossil Club...These were the catcher, Mr. McMILLAN, and the pitcher, Mr. WHITE. Why was it that Mr. McMILLAN lost not a single run, and caught and threw out CALLENDER and PORTER, of the Utica Club? Why is it that Mr. WHITE pitched a la THOMPSON of the same club and caught no less than three balls on the fly—the only fly balls caught during the entire game? These things need explaining...The practice of pitchers WHITE and ADAMS had one feature that should be mentioned for the benefit of the old base ball organizations of this and other cities. Getting the ball in hand while an adversary was en route for the bases, instead of throwing it to the base man, (the chances being a hundred to ne that he wouldn’t catch it) a race for the base resulted between pitcher and batter, and it became a question of comparative fleetness and wind whether the batter should make a score or no.
Utica Morning Herald, August 29, 1864
The Morning Herald offers in this excerpt a rare glimpse into how a true muffin game, that phenomenon of the 1860s where unskilled social members of clubs sponsoring baseball teams would have a game of their own. Typically they were played for laughs; occasionally a club would slip a skilled player or two into the lineup, but this was frowned upon.
1865.20 Eagle Eyes Height and Weight
"The following table will give the champion nine, their age and weight...
Name Age Weight
Pearce,c 28 145 pounds
Pratt, p 21 140 "
Start, 1st b 23 160 "
Crane, 2d b 20 180 "
C. J. Smith, 3d b 29 150 "
Galvin, ss 23 160 "
Chapman, l f 22 155 "
P. O'Brien, c f 39 150 "
Sid. Smith, r f 23 135 "
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 24, 1865
First appearance of players' physical information, a staple of newspaper articles for many years.
1867.22 Eureka! A Press Credential
"The plan introduced by the Eureka Club of having tickets for the regular reporters of the press, none other to occupy seats near the scorer, should be adopted by all our clubs and public ground proprietors."
New York Sunday Mercury, June 23, 1867
As of March 2021, this appears to be the earliest reference to a right -- in the form of special tickets -- to exclusive seating being bestowed to reporters.
Peter Morris discusses press coverage arrangements in Morris, A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006), section 14.5.3, pp 403 ff. He cites two Henry Chadwick sources of press areas in June and August 1867 at the Brooklyn Union Grounds and then the Capitoline and Irvington grounds.
Are earlier cases known?
Is it known whether these press accommodations were normally granted by a ball club, like the Eureka, or by the owner of the ballfield?
1868.3 IL Club Supplies Public Bulletin Board for Trip Updates
"The Occidentals have wisely provided a bulletin board, to be established at the corner of Fourth and Hampshire, on which will be posted telegrams announcing the progress of the game. The score at the close of the third, sixth and ninth innings will be telegraphed."
Quincy Whig, July 27, 1868.
This advisory was given in a two-paragraph item saying that on the next day the local Occidental club would travel to Monmouth (IL?) to play the Clippers.
1868.4 Henry Chadwick's Cholera Scare May Have Doomed American Chronicle of Sports and Pastimes
From Richard Hershberger:
In the summer of 1867, Chadwick begins publication of the Ballplayer's Chronicle, later renamed the American Chronicle of Sports and Pastimes. It runs for about one year, the final issue being July 23, 1868, then halts publication without notice or explanation. The obvious explanation is that it was losing money, the baseball community not yet able to support such a publication until 1883 when The Sporting Life is founded. I have always taken this at face value as the explanation, but I just came across this in the Brooklyn Eagle of July 29, 1868, in the "Personal and Sundries" column:
"We regret to learn of the serious illness of Mr. Chadwick, the well-known base ball writer. He is at his place in South Durham, confined to his bed with an acute attack of choler morbus. We trust that he won't be "out" for many a year."
This would explain the abruptness of the affair. Presumably if it were making money some interim editor could have been arranged, so I'm not suggesting that the illness was the sole, or even primary, cause. But it explains some of the timing of events. The New England Base Ballist began publication at the beginning of August. About two months later, Chadwick appears as its New York correspondent, having recovered from the cholera.
-- Richard Hershberger
Brooklyn Eagle, July 29,1868
Protoball would welcome additional details.
1871.11 Pros' Leading Averages Reported In Buffalo Newspaper
" BASE BALL. The Best Averages -- Names of Leading Players -- "
"All the leading professional clubs of the country have published their averages, and below we give the names of the players who occupy first, second, and third positions in the averages of first-base hits . . . ."
[For the Atlantic (Brooklyn), the Athletic (Philadelphia), Chicago, Cincinnati, Haymakers (Troy), Forest City (Cleveland) and other clubs, leading hitters' batting success per game was reflected in this format:]
George Wright 4.27
Buffalo Commercial, February 6, 1871.
Richard Hershberger, 2/8/2021 (FB posting):
"150 years ago in baseball: batting averages. The idea of batting averages was borrowed from cricket, and at this point is not at all new to baseball. The details, however, have not yet taken their modern form.
Have charts like this appeared before? Have writers been referring to such averages in plumbing the relative merits of batsmen?
Did each club send its data to interested news outlets?
1871.13 The Beginning of Base Ball Trivia?
"Sports and Pastimes. Base Ball Matters. . . . The Athletics made twenty-five clean home runs in a game with the Nationals, of Jersey City, New Jersey, on the 30th of September 1865."
Philadelphia Sunday Mercury, March 12, 1871.
Richard Hershberger, FB Posting '150 Years Ago', 3/21/2021:
"[B]aseball history trivia! Baseball had ample history by this time to support the endeavor. For those scoring at home, the final outcome of the game was Athletics 114, Nationals 2. But it wasn't as close as that makes it look."
Asked if such newspaper features were common, Richard replied, 3/12/2021: "This one is pretty typical. The big New York papers in earlier years had often had rules-related questions, but these were drying up by the 1870s."
Was this one of the first known uses of past base ball feats as fun trivia in base ball reportage?