Early Baseball Milestones

What are your baseball origins? Where did you play your first game? Baseball traces its roots through the annals of history, well before the founding of Major League Baseball. This chronology, from Protoball (an extensive gathering of early materials documenting the origins of baseball), records the order of events related to the development of baseball starting in 2500 B.C. Enjoy, and share with us your own baseball milestones.

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  • 1773 - Ball-Playing by Slaves Is Eyed in SC


    "We present as a growing Evil, the frequent assembling of Negroes in the Town [Beaufort, SC] on Sundays, and playing games of Trap-ball and Fives, which is not taken proper notice of by Magistrates, Constables, and other Parish Officers."

    Tom Altherr, Originals, Volume 2, Number 11 (November 2009), page 1. Tom sees this reference as "possibly the earliest which refers to African Americans, slaves or also possibly a few free blacks, playing a baseball-type game [although it is not clear if it involved any running], and playing frequently. Beaufort SC is about 40 miles NE of Savannah GA, near the coastline.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1797 - Fayetteville NC Bans Sunday Ballplaying by African-Americans


    Gilbert, Tom, Baseball and the Color Line [Franklin Watts, NY, 1995], p.38. Per Millen, note # 15.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1797 - In NC, Negroes Face 15 Lashes for Ballplaying


    A punishment of 15 lashes was specified for "negroes, that shall make a noise or assemble in a riotous manner in any of the streets [of Fayetteville NC] on the Sabbath day; or that may be seen playing ball on that day." North-Carolina Minerva (March 11, 1797), excerpted in G. Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History (Chapel Hill NC, 1937), page 551; as cited in 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 29

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1805 - In SC, Some Slaves Use Sundays for Ballplaying


    "The negroes when not hurried have this day [Sunday] for amusement & great numbers are seen about, some playing ball, some with things for sale & some dressed up going to meeting."

    Edward Hooker, Diaries, 1805-1830: MS 72876 and 72877, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford CT; 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), pages 29-30. Tom [ibid, page 29] describes Hooker as a recent Yale graduate who in 1805 was a newly-arrived tutor in Columbia, SC. Tom says "this may be the first recorded evidence of slaves [p29/30] playing ball.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1810 - Harvard Library Worker Recalls Bi-racial Ball Play in Harvard Yard


    "During my employment at Cambridge [MA] the College yard continued without gates. The Stage passed through it; and though I was very attentive to the hour, I could not always avoid injury from the Stage horn. Blacks and Whites occasionally played together at ball in the College yard."

    William Croswell, letter drafted to the Harvard Corporation, December 1827. Papers of William Croswell, Call number HUG 1306.5, Harvard University Archives. Supplied by Kyle DeCicco-Carey, 8/8/2007. Kyle notes that Croswell was an 1780 Harvard graduate who worked in the college library 1812-1821.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - Ballplaying by Slaves is Part of a Normal Plantation Sunday in GA


    "The slaves had finished the tasks that had been assigned to them in the morning and were now enjoying holiday recreations. Some were trundling the hoop, some were playing ball, some were dancing at the sound of the fiddle . . . In this manner the Sabbath is usually spent on a Southern plantation." Emily Burke, Pleasure and Pain: Reminiscences of Georgia in the 1840s (Beehive Press, Savannah, GA, 1991), pages 40-41. Originally published in Ohio in 1850. Text unavailable 11/08 on Google Books.

    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 30. Tom [ibid] describes Burke as a northern schoolteacher.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1850 - Accounts of Ballplaying by Slaves


    Wiggins, Kenneth, "Sport and Popular Pastimes in the Plantation Community: The Slave Experience," Thesis, University of Maryland, 1979. Per Millen, notes #26-29. Note: the dates and circumstances and locations of these cases are unclear in Millen. One refers to plugging.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1860 - Union Club of Former Slaves Plays in New York Area


    Malloy, Jerry, "Early Black Baseball/Charles Douglass:

    http://mysite.verizon.net/brak2.0/antebell.htm, accessed 6/2/04.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1860 - Two African-American Teams Play in New York


    Dixon, Phil, and Patrick J. Hannigan, The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History [Amereon House, 1992], pp. 31-2) cite a game played on September 28, 1860, between the Unknowns and another black team, the Union Club, of Williamsburg.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012


Note: ID numbers for milestone entries include the (often approximated) year of the observation, followed by serial number reflecting the order it was added. A date is approximated when an ID is denoted with a "C".