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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  • 1786 - "Baste Ball" Played at Princeton


    "Baste Ball" is played by students on the campus of Princeton University in NJ. From a student's diary:

    "A fine day, play baste ball in the campus but am beaten for I miss both catching and striking the ball."

    Smith, John Rhea, March 22 1786, in "Journal at Nassau Hall," Princeton Library MSS, AM 12800. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 44. Also found in Gerald S. Couzens, A Baseball Album [Lippincott and Crowell, NY, 1980], page 15. Per Guschov, page 153.

    An article has appeared about Smith's journal. See Woodward, Ruth, "Journal at Nassau Hall," PULC 46 (1985), pp. 269-291, and PULC 47 (1986), pp 48-70. Note: Does this article materially supplement our appreciation of Smith's brief comment?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1791 - "Bafeball" Among Games Banned in Pittsfield MA - also Cricket, Wicket


    In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 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 Mayor James Ruberto.

    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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1805 - NY Gentlemen Play Game of "Bace:" 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. Note: So, folks . . . was this a ball game, some version of prisoner's base 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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1818 - "Baseball" at West Point NY?


    "Although playing ball games near the barracks was prohibited, cadets could play 'at football' near Fort Clinton or north of the large boulder neat the site of the present Library. [Benjamin] Latrobe makes curious mention of a game call 'baseball' played in this area. Unfortunately, he did not describe the game. Could it be that cadets in the 1818-1822 period played the game that Abner Doubleday may have modified later to become the present sport?"

    Pappas, George S., To The Point: The United States Military Academy 1802 - 1902 [Praeger, Westport Connecticut, 1993], page 145. Note: Pappas evidently does not give a source for the Latrobe statement. I assume that the 1818-1822 dates correspond to Latrobe's time at West Point.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1820 - New England Lad Recalls Assorted Games, Illicit Fast Day Ballplaying


    Alfred Holbrook was born in 1816. His autobiography, Reminiscences of the Happy Life of a Teacher (Elm Street, Cincinnati, 1885), includes youthful memories that would have occurred in the 1820s.

    "The [school-day] plays of those times, more than sixty years ago, were very similar to the plays of the present time. Some of these were "base-ball," in which we chose sides, "one hole cat," "two hole cat," "knock up and catch," Blackman," "snap the whip," skating, sliding down hill, rolling the hoop, marbles, "prisoner's base," "football," mumble the peg," etc. Ibid. page 35. Note: was "knock up and catch" a fungo game, possibly?

    "Now, it was both unlawful and wicked to play ball on fast-day, and none of my associates in town were ever known to engage in such unholy enterprises and sinful amusements on fast-days; [p 52/53] but other wicked boys, with whom I had nothing to do, made it their special delight and boast to get together in some quiet, concealed place, and enjoy themselves, more especially because it was a violation of law. Not infrequently, however, they found the constable after them. . . ." "Soon after, this blue law, perhaps the only one in the Connecticut Code, was repealed. Then the boys thought no more of playing on fast-days than on any other." Ibid, pp 52-53.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1820 - Syracuse NY Ball Field Remembered as Base Ball Site


    David Block reports: "In the lengthy 'Editor's Table' section of this [The Knickerbocker] classic monthly magazine, the editor described a nostalgic visit that he and two old school chums had taken to the academy that they had attended near Syracuse. 'We went out upon the once-familiar green, as if it were again 'play time', and called by name upon our old companions to come over once more and play 'base-ball.' But they answered not; they came not! The old forms and faces were gone; the once familiar voices were silent.'" Source: "Editor's Table," The Knickerbocker (S. Hueston, New York, 1850), page 298. Contributed by David Block 2/27/2008. The Editor, Lewis Gaylord Clark, was born in 1810, and attended the Onondaga Academy. He was thus apparently recalling ball-playing from sometime in the 1820s. Query: Can we get better data on Clark's age while at the Academy?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1820 - MA Boy Played One Old Cat, Base Ball in Early Childhood


    "In my early boyhood I was permitted to run at large in the [Williamstown MA] street and over broad acres, playing 'one old cat,' and base ball (no scientific games or balls as hard as a white oak boulder in those days) excepted when pressed into service to ride the horse to plough out the corn and potatoes."

    Keyes Danforth, Boyhood Reminiscences: Pictures of New England in the Olden Times in Williamstown (Gazlay Brothers, New York, 1895), page 12. 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 38. The book was accessed 11/16/2008 via Google Books search "'pictures of new.'" Danforth, born in 1822, became a judge. Williamstown MA is in the NW corner of the commonwealth, and lies about 35 miles E of Albany NY.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1821 - NY Mansion Converted to Venue Suitable for Cricket, Base, 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 Hose 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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1823 - 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 Retreat in Broadway (Jones') [on the west side of Broadway between what nowadays 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. As discussed by its modern discoverer George Thompson, in George A. Thompson, Jr., "New York Baseball, 1823," The National Pastime 2001], pp 6 - 8.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1824 - Great Jurist Recalls Schoolboy Baseball and Phillips Academy in MA


    "[At Phillips] Bodily exercise was not, however, entirely superseded by spiritual exercises, and a rudimentary form of base-ball and the heroic sport of foot-ball were followed with some spirit." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "Cinders from the Ashes," The Works of Oliver Wendel Holmes Volume 8 (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1892), page 251. He went on to recollect visiting the school in 1867, when he "sauntered until we came to a broken field where there was quarrying and digging going on, our old base-ball ground." Ibid, page 255.

    This essay originally appeared in The Atlantic Monthly Volume 23 (January 1869). page 120. Note: see item #1829c.3 below for Holmes' Harvard ballplaying.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1825 - Bass-Ball Challenge Issued in Delhi [NY] Gazette


    The following notice appears in the July 13, 1825 edition of the Delhi Gazette: "The undersigned, all residents of the new town of Hamden, with the exception of Asa Howland, who has recently removed into Delhi, challenge an equal number of persons of any town in the County of Delaware, to meet them at any time at the house of Edward B. Chace, in said town, to play the game of Bass-Ball, for the sum of one dollar each per game . . . ."

    Delhi NY Gazette, July 12, 1825, reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825 - 1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 1 - 2. Note: George Thompson has conducted research on the backgrounds of the listed players: personal communications, 11/3/2003. He found a range of players' ages from 19 to the mid-30's. It is held in PBall file #1825.2.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1826 - Ballplaying Said Documented in Troy Michigan on Nation's 50th


    "Troy, a small hamlet in Southwestern Michigan, has documentary proof that a game was played there thirteen years before 1839 . . . . [T]he lineups of the two teams contesting in the game at Troy in 1826 are contained n a history of Oakland County."

    The Sporting News, November 14, 1940. Posted by Tim Wiles on the 19CBB listserve on November 18, 2009. Tim enlisted Peter Morris in an effort to find confirmatory details. The result:

    Under the heading "A fourth of July in 1826 [the Nation's 50th birthday, and the day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died] is an account of the festivities, including a fusillade, patriotic readings, a dinner of pork and beans and bread and pumpkin pies, and "[f]ollowing this was the burning of more powder [cannon volleys?], and a game of base-ball, in which [19 names listed] and other participated." Peter determined that two of the players had sons who played for the Franklin Club in later years.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1828 - Boy's Own Book [London] Describes "Rounders," Stoolball, Feeder


    The Boy's Own Book is published in London and contains a set of rules for "stool-ball," [p. 26], "trap, bat, and ball," [p. 27], "northern-spell," [p. 28], "rounders," [p.28], and "feeder" [p. 29]. The rounders entry states: "this is a favorite game with bat and ball, especially in the west of England." The entry for feeder, in its entirety: "This game is played with three bases only, and a player takes the place of feeder, who remains so until he puts one of the other players out, by catching his ball or striking him while running from base to base, as at Rounders; the one who is put out taking the place of feeder to the others, and thus the game goes on. There are no sides at this game." The entry for northern spell describes a game without running or fielding, in which the object is to hit the ball farthest - "this pastime possesses but little variety, and is by no means so amusing to the bystanders as Trapball."

    Clarke, W., Boy's Own Book [London, Vizetelly Branston], second edition. This book is reportedly still available [Appleton Books, 1996], according to Tim Wiles at the Giamatti Research Library. Note: Altherr uses a reference to an 1829 US version: The Boy's Own Book [Munroe and Francis, Boston, 1829], pp. 18-19, per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 65. David Block, page 192-193, describes the wide popularity of this text in England and the US, running through many editions through the 1880s, and also identifies this book as Henderson's key evidence in his refutation of the Doubleday theory of baseball's origin 11 years later. [XXX Keyboard full text here.]

    For Text:David Block carries more than a page of text, and the field diagram, in Appendix 7, pages 279-238, of Baseball Before We Knew It.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1829 - Small Cambridge MA Schoolground Crimps Base and Cricket Play


    14 year old Charles Henry Dana, later the author of Two Years Before the Mast and a leading abolitionist, found the playing grounds at his new Cambridge school too small. "[N]one of the favorite games of foot-ball, hand-ball, base or cricket could be played in the grounds with any satisfaction, for the ball would be constantly flying over the fence, beyond which he boys could not go without asking special leave. This was a damper on the more ranging & athletic exercises."

    Robert Metdorf, ed., An Autobiographical Sketch (1815-1842) (Shoe String Press, Hamden CT, 1953), pages 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 38. The text of the autobiography is unavailable via Google Books as of 11/16/2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1830 - Thoreau Associates "Fast Day" with Base-Ball Played in Russet Fields


    "April 10 [1856]. Fast-Day. . . . . I associate this day, when I can remember it, with games of baseball played over beyond the hills in the russet fields toward Sleepy Hollow, where the snow was just melted and dried up.

    Submitted by David Nevard. On 8/2/2005, George Thompson submitted the following reference: Torrey, Bradford, Journal of Henry David Thoreau vol. 8, page 270. He notes that Princeton University Press is publishing a new edition, but isn't up to 1856 yet.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1830 - In GA, Men Played Fives, Schoolboys Played Base and Town Ball


    "Men as well as boys played the competitive games of 'Long Bullets' and 'Fives,' the latter played against a battery built by nailing planks to twenty-foot poles set to make the [p31/32] 'battery' at least fifty feet wide. The school boys played 'base,' 'bull-pen,' 'town ball' and 'shinny' too." Jessie Pearl Rice, J. L. M. Curry: Southerner, Statesman, and Educator (King's Crown Press, New York, 1949), pages 6-7.

    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 31-32. The full text of the Rice biography is unavailable via Google Books as of 11/15/2008. Long-bullets involved distance throwing. Fives is a team game resembling one-wall hand-ball. Curry's school was in Lincoln County GA, about 30 miles NE of Augusta.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1831 - "Base" and Cricket Listed in Book of US Pastimes


    Horatio Smith, Festivals, Games and Amusements, Ancient and Modern [New York, Harper], p 330. Per Henderson ref 146. David Block notes that its comment, "The games and amusements of New England are similar to other sections of the United States. The young men are expert in a variety of games at ball - such as cricket, base, cat, football, trap ball . . . ," is the first known book reference to the play of "base" ball in the US. [David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 193-194.]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1832 - Two NYC Clubs Play Base Ball


    "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."

    John Thorn added: The club from lower Manhattan evolves into the New York Club (see entry #1843.1) 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. He 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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1833 - Book on Flowers [Yes, Flowers] Shows Overhand Pitch


    Breck, Joseph, The Young Florist: or, Conversations on the Culture of Flowers and on Natural History [Boston, Russell and Odiorne], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 196. Inexplicably, notes Block, this book "contains a lovely engraving of boys playing baseball. The image depicts a pitcher throwing overhand to a batter, who holds a slightly crooked bat, with a catcher standing behind."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1833 - Letter to Student Refers to "That Beautiful game - Base Ball"


    "I suppose nowadays you play ball considerably. If I can judge by our condition up here, it is the time of year [March] to play ball. I think it was a great pity that we couldn't teach these lazy rascals to play that beautiful game - Base Ball."

    Letter from Charles C. Cain to William Butler at Nathaniel Hall, Nathanial [sic] County PA, as reported in a syndicated column by Grantland Rice on July 7, 1949. Posted to 19CBB by John Thorn on 11/5/2007.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1834 - Carver's The Book of Sports [Boston] describes "Base, or Goal Ball"


    Rules for "'Base' or 'Goal Ball'" are published in Boston, in The Book of Sports by Robin Carver. Carver's book copies the rules for rounders published in England's "The Boy's Own Book" (see #1828.1 entry, above). A line drawing of boys "Playing Ball" on Boston Common is included. David Block in Baseball Before We Knew It, page 196-197, reports that this is the "first time that the name "base ball" was associated with a diamond-shaped infield configuration." As for the name of the game, Carver explains: "This game is known under a variety of names. It is sometimes called 'round ball.' But I believe that 'base' or 'goal ball' are the names generally adopted in our country." The bases are "stones or stakes." According to Carver, runners ran clockwise around the bases. Note: Do we have other accounts of clockwise baserunning?

    Carver's Chapter 3 is called "Games with Balls." In an introductory paragraph, he explains that "The games with the bat and ball are numerous, but somewhat similar. I will mention some of them, which I believe to be the most popular with boys." [Page 37.] Other games describes are Fives, Nine-Holes, or Hat-Ball [a game with running/plugging but no batting], Catch-Ball [also a running/plugging game], Rackets, and Cricket.

    Carver, Robin, The Book of Sports [Boston, Lilly Wait Colman and Holden, 1834], pp 37-40. Per Henderson ref 31. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825 - 1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], p.3ff

    For Text:David Block carries a full page of text, and the accompanying field diagram, in Appendix 7, page 281, of Baseball Before We Knew It.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1835 - Boy's Book of Sports Describes "Base Ball" [Town Ball?].


    Boy's Book of Sports: A Description of The Exercises and Pastimes of Youth [New Haven, S. Babcock, 1839], pp. 11-12, per Henderson, ref 21. David Block, in Baseball Before We Knew It, page 197-198, points out that the first edition appeared 4 years before the edition that Henderson cited.

    In its section on "base ball," this book depicts bases in the form of a diamond, with a three-strike rule, plugging, and teams that take the field only after all its players are put out. The terms "innings" and "diamond" appear [Block thinks for the first time] and base running is switched to counter-clockwise.

    For Text: David Block carries a page of text, and the field diagram, in Appendix 7, pages 282-283, of Baseball Before We Knew It.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1835 - Van Cott Source Recalls Diamond-Shaped Field in 1835


    W. H. Van Cott was one of the organizers of the Gothams in 1852 and was later President of the NABBP. He reported on a conversation with a somewhat forgetful senior citizen in 1905. This man was John Oliver, age 90, who recalled playing baseball in Baltimore in 1825 and seeing it in New York sometime after moving there in 1835.

    "I and II. He played the first game of Ball when he was 14 years old, 70 years ago. Called Base Ball because of running from base to base, and the field was in the shape of a diamond; 4 bases in all, counting the place of starting as the last one. He believes that the name originated with the game. III. He played Two Old Cat game, but no other . . . . IV and V. He does not remember ever to have played Rounders, but VI. He has an indistinct recollection of the game. VII. He cannot remember any rules."

    These reported recollections are somewhat at odds with those of Oliver’s friend and interviewer C. H. McDonald: “He remembers very distinctly having played the game of Base Ball when a boy, both before and after becoming an apprentice. He states that his earliest recollection of the playing of the game was when he was about ten years of age, and at that time the game was played in this manner: The batter held the ball in one hand and a flat stick in the other, tossed the ball into the air and hit on the return, and then ran to either one, two, or three bases depending on the number of boys playing the game. If the ball was caught on the fly or the batter hit with the ball while running the bases, he was out. These bases, so called, at that time, were either stones or pieces of sod was removed [sic], or bare places where grass was scraped off. He remembers seeing the game played frequently while an apprentice boy, but always in this manner, never with a pitcher or a catcher, but sometimes with sides. . . . [Then Oliver is quoted thus:] “I never saw the game played with stakes or poles used for bases instead of stones or sods. Never heard of a game of Rounders. One Old Cat, Two Old Cat, Three Old Cat have seen played, but never have taken part in it myself.” To my question as to what name this base game that he played was called, he said he remembered distinctly that it was known only as BASE BALL . He further stated that he never saw men play ball until he had been in New York a few years . . . [He moved to New York from Baltimore in 1835.]

    W. H. Van Cott, Mount Vernon NY, Communication to the Mills Commission, September 22, 1905. Facsimile obtained from the Giamatti Research Center at the Hall of Fame, June 2009. Also, Mills Commission Papers under date of September 26, 1905. Jack M. Doyle, Albert Spalding Scrapbooks, BA SCR 42.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1835 - US Book Describes "Barn Ball," "Base, or Goal Ball."


    Boy's and Girl's Book of Sports [Providence, Cory and Daniels], pp 17-19, per Harold Seymour - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809. The base ball material is taken from Carver (1835 entry, above). Also cited by David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 199.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1835 - Base Ball Recalled as Very Popular at Exeter


    "The games of bat-and-ball in former years were various, but most popular were "four old cat" and base ball. The latter alone survives to this day [1883], and in a very changed condition. . . . A very large proportion of the students participated in the sport; and the old residents will readily recall with what regularity. Fast day used to be devoted to the base ball of the period."

    Charles H. Bell, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire: A Historical Sketch (News Letter Press, Exeter NH, 1883), page 83. Caveat: The section in which this excerpt resides evidently games played half a century earlier, but other interpretations are possible.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1836 - The Ballgames "Old Cat" and "Base" Played in Concord MA


    [Continuing a list of games that boys played:] " . . . various games of ball. These games of ball were much less scientific and difficult than the modern games. Chief were four old-cat, three old-cat, two old-cat, and base."

    Hoar, George F., Autobiography of Seventy Years Volume 1 (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1905), page 52. Hoar was ten years old in 1836. Per Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1837 - A Founder of the Gothams Remembers "First Ball Organization in the US"


    William R. Wheaton, who would several years later help found the Knickerbockers, 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."

    Brown, Randall, "How Baseball Began, National Pastime, 24 [2004], 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. 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….’”

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1837 - Ball Game Described in Fictional Account of Western Indians


    Captured by Native Americans, a youth see them playing a game of ball. The "ball" was part of a sturgeon's head covered with deerskin strips, the club was of hickory, some number of safe-haven bases were formed by small piles of stones, and there was plugging. "Their principal object seemed to be, to send the ball as far as possible, in order for the striker of it, to run around the great space of ground, which was comprised within the area formed by the piles of stones." There is no mention of a pitcher, and if a batter-runner was put out, he would replace the fielder who made the putout. Some games would last for days.

    Female Robinson Crusoe, A Tale of the American Wilderness [J. W. Bell, New York, 1837], pp 176-178. Per RH ref 58. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825 - 1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 4-5.

    For Text: David Block carries three paragraphs of text from this story in Appendix 7, page 283, of Baseball Before We Knew It.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1837 - Erasmus Hall School Alum Recalls Three-Base Game with Plugging


    On July 3, 2009, David Dyte posted the following account on the 19CBB listserve:

    "In 1894, the Brooklyn Eagle published an article recounting the various games played by Colonel John Oakey, a former A.D.A., when he was a child growing up in Brooklyn and Flatbush [NY]. From 1837 he attended the Erasmus Hall Academy, and told this story:

    'Erasmus Hall academy had a fine play ground surrounding it. Here John Oakey and his school fellows played many a game of three base ball. The boys who played were called binders, pitchers, catchers, and outers, and in order to put a boy out it was necessary to strike him with the ball. On one occasion John Oakey threw the ball from second base and put another boy out. The boy said he did not feel the ball and therefore he had not been put out. John made up his mind that the next time he caught that chap between the bases he would not say afterward that he did not feel the ball. It was only a few days after that an opportunity occurred. John let the ball go for all he was worth and caught the boy in the back. He went down in a heap, but instantly sprang to his feet and cries out, "It didn't hit me; it didn't hit me." But John Oakey and all the boys knew better. For a week after that boy had a lame back, but he would never acknowledge that the ball did it.'"

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1838 - First Recorded Base Ball game in Canada [as reported in 1886]?


    Residents of Oxford County gather near Beachville, Ontario, to play the first recorded game of baseball in Canada (reported only in 1886). The Canadian version uses five bases, a three strikes rule and three outs to a side. Foul lines are described.

    Ford, Dr. Adam E., Sporting Life, May 5, 1886. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 9-11. For more historical data on this event, see Nancy B. Bouchier and Robert Knight Brown, "A Critical Examination of a Source on Early Ontario Baseball: The Reminiscences of Adam E. Ford," Journal of Sport History, volume 15 [Spring 1988], pp. 75-87. This paper concludes that the New York game reached Ontario no earlier than 1849. Caveat: Richard Hershberger, email of 1/14/2008, expresses the possibility that aspects of the Ford account are the result of a "confused recollection, with genuine old features and modern features misremembered and attributed to the old game." One problem is that the foul territory as described in 1886 is hard to fathom; Richard also notes that use of the 3-out-all-out rule would make this game the only non-NYC game with three-out innings. Ford also implies that games were then finished at the end of an agreed number of innings, not by reaching an agreed number of tallies. He also states that older players in the 1838 game had played a like game in their youth. Adam Ford was seven years old in 1838.

    For full text of Dr. Ford's 1886 letter, go here.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1839 - Doc Adams Enters the Field


    "Adams, known to all as 'Doc,' began to play baseball in 1839. "I was always interested in athletics while in college and afterward, and soon after going to New York I began to play base ball just for exercise, with a number of other young medical men. Before that there had been a club called the New York Base Ball Club, but it had no very definite organization and did not last long. Some of the younger members of that club got together and formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club . . . . The players included merchants, lawyers, Union Bank clerks, insurance clerks, and others who were at liberty after 3 o'clock in the afternoon."

    From John Thorn, "Doc Adams" in the SABR Biography Project. See http://bioproj.sabr.org/bioproj.cfm?a=v&v=l&bid=639&pid=16943, accessed 12/5/2008. The source for the quoted material, offered when Adams was 81years old, is "Dr. D. L. ADAMS; Memoirs of the Father of Base Ball; He Resides in New Haven and Retains an Interest in the Game," The Sporting News, February 29, 1896. Caveat: the year that Adams began playing is not clear. We know that he finished medical school in Boston in 1838, and he recalls that he next began to practice and that "soon after going" to NYC he began to play. [Email from John Thorn, 2/9/2008.]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - Unusual Georgia Townball Described in Unusual Detail


    Richard Hershberger located [and posted to 19CBB on 8/29/2007] a long recollection of "Old Field Games in 1840" including townball. The account, a reprint of an earlier document, appears in James S. Lamar, "Pioneer Days in Georgia," Columbus [GA] Enquirer, March 18, 1917, [page?].

    "Townball" used a circular area whose size and number of [equidistant] bases varied with available space and with number of players [no standard team size is given, but none of the forty boys in school need be left out]. Instead of a diamond, a circle of up to 50 yards in diameter marked the basepaths; thus, a batter would cover on the order of 450 feet in scoring a run. There was a three-strike rule, and a batter could decide not to run on a weak hit unless he had used up two strikes. A member of the batting side pitched, and not aggressively. The ball was small [the core had a 2-inch diameter and was consisted of tightly-would rubber strips, often wound around a lead bullet]. The core was buckskin and the ball was very bouncy. Bats might be round, flat, or paddle-shaped. A ball caught on the fly or first bound was an out. There was plugging. Stealing was disallowed, and leading may have been. Innings were all-out-side-out. There is no mention of backward hitting or foul ground. "If young people want to play ball, Townball is the game. If they simply want to see somebody else play ball, then Baseball may be better"

    Full text was accessed at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/georgiabooks/id:gb0361 on 10/22/2008, and is available here. Note: Lamar's text dates the game at 1840, when he was 10 to 11 years old. One can not tell when the text was written; the last date cited in the text is 1854, but the townball section seems to compare it with baseball from a much later time. The Digital Library of Georgia uses a date of "19—." See: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/meta/html/dlg/zlgb/meta_dlg_zlgb_gb0361.html. Lamar died in 1908; other sources say 1905.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - New NY Club Forms - Later to Reconstitute as Eagle Base Ball Club


    The Eagle Ball Club of New York is organized to play an unknown game of Ball; in 1852 the club reconstitutes itself as the Eagle Base Ball Club and begins to play the New York Game.

    Per John Thorn, 6/15/04: Source is Eagle Base Ball Club Constitution of 1852.

    William Wood wrote that the Eagle Club "originally played in the 'old-fashioned way' of throwing the ball to the batter and at the runner in order to put him out." See Thorn weblog of 7/16/2005. William Wood, Manual of Physical Exercises. [Harper Bros., 1867], pp. 189-90

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - Base Ball Reported in Erie PA Area, with Plugging


    "I am now in my eighty-third year, and I know that seventy years ago (i.e., in 1840) as a boy at school in a country school district in Erie County, PA, I played Base Ball with my schoolmates; and I know it was a common game long before my time. It had just the same form as the Base Ball of today, and the rules of the game were nearly the same as they are now. One bad feature of the old game, I am glad to say, is not now permitted. The catchers, both the one behind the batter and those on the field, could throw the ball and hit the runner between the bases with all the swiftness he could put into it - "burn him," it was said.

    Letter from Andrew H. Caughey to New YorkTribune, 1910. From Henderson, p. 150-151, no reference given.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - Old-Fashioned Ballgame Noted in Antebellum GA


    "A number of gentlemen are about to form another base ball club, the game to be played after the fashion in the South twenty years ago, when old field schools were the scenes of trial of activity, and rosy cheeked girls were the umpires"

    Macon Daily Telegraph, March 2, 1860. Posted to 19CBB by John Thorn, 9/11/2007.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - Schoolboy Game of "Three Base Ball" Recalled in Brooklyn


    "Erasmus Hall academy [Brooklyn NY] had a fine play ground surrounding it. Here John Oakey and his school fellows played many a game of three base ball. The boys who played were called hinders, pitchers, catchers, and outers, and in order to put a boy out it was necessary to strike him with the ball. On one occasion John Oakey threw the ball from second base and put another boy out. The boy said he did not feel the ball and therefore he had not been put out. John made up his mind that the next time he caught that chap between the bases he would not say afterward that he did not feel the ball. It was only a few days after that an opportunity occurred. John let the ball go for all he was worth and caught the boy in the back. He went down in a heap, but instantly sprang to his feet and cried out, 'It didn't hit me; it didn't hit me.' But John Oakey and all the boys knew better. For a week after that boy had a lame back, but he would never acknowledge that the ball did it."

    "Sports in Old Brooklyn: Colonel John Oakey Tells of the Games of His Boyhood: How Some Well Known Men Amused Themselves in Bygone Days - Duck-on-the-Rock, Three Base Ball and Two Old Cat Good Enough for Them," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 54, number 292 (October 21, 1894), page 21, columns 4 and 5. Submitted 5/1/2007 by Craig Waff. Craig reports that Oakey, 65 years old in 1894, had attended Erasmus Hall from 1838 to 1845. David Dyte added details in a July 3, 2009 19CBB posting. Note: does the full article say more about two old cat and other safe-haven games?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - Influx of English Immigrants Brings "Rough Form" of Cricket to NE and Philadelphia PA?


    Per Rader, p. 90; [no citation given.] Caveat: recent research does not support this assertion. Caution: the evidence for this needs to be obtained.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - The Boyhood of Fallen Ohio Union Officer Had Included "Touch the Base"


    Major-General James McPherson was the highest-ranking Ohioan to die in the Civil War. His family has mover from Western New York State to Ohio, where he was born and grew up in Sandusky OH. A family member recalls:

    "He was fond of all out-door sports and manly games . . . . 'Touch the base' was the favorite game, and of all who engaged in the romp, none were more eager or happy than 'Jimmy.'" Whitelaw Reid, Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers Volume 1 (Moore Wilstach and Baldwin, Cincinnati, 1868), page 561. Query: Do we know what "touch the base" was? A base-oriented ball game? A species of tag? Akin to prisoner's base?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1841 - Compendium Describes [Pentagonal] 5-Base Rounders, Feeder


    Williams, J. L., The Every Boy's Book, a Compendium of All the Sports and Recreations of Youth [London, Dean and Munday], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 205. This big book covered hundreds of children's pastimes, including feeder, the German game "ball-stock" (ball-stick), and a version of rounders that, unlike the 1828 Boy's Own Book (see 1828 entry above) is played with five bases laid out in a pentagon instead of four in a diamond, and counter-clockwise running.

    For Text: David Block carries two long paragraphs and a field diagram of feeder, and a two-paragraph description of rounders, in Appendix 7, pages 284-286, of Baseball Before We Knew It.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1841 - Fond OH Editor on Youthful Ball-playing: "We Like It"


    "PLAYING BALL, is among the very first of the 'sports' of our early years. Who had not teased his grandmother for a ball, until the 'old stockings' have been transformed one that would bound well? Who has not played 'barn ball' in his boyhood, 'base' in his youth, and 'wicket' in his manhood? There is fun, and sport, and healthy exercise, in a game of 'ball.' We like it; for with it is associated recollections of our earlier days. And we trust we will never be too old to feel and' take delight' in the amusements which interested us in our boyhood."

    Cleveland Daily Herald, April 15, 1841, provided by John Thorn [find date] 2007. Note: Wicket was the main manhood sport in Ohio?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1842 - Harvard Man George Hoar Writes of Playing "Simple Game Called Base"


    George F. Hoar, a student at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, writes: "The only game which was much in vogue was foot-ball. There was a little attempt to start the English game of cricket and occasionally, in the spring, an old-fashioned simple game which we called base was played."

    Hoar, George F. Autobiography of Seventy Years [Pubr?, 1903], page 120. Per Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1843 - NY's Washington Club:" Playing Base Ball Before the Knickerbockers Did?


    "The honors for the place of birth of baseball are divided. Philadelphia claims that her 'town ball' was practically baseball and that it was played by the Olympic Club from 1833 to 1859. It is also claimed that the Washington Club in 1843 was the first to play the game. Certainly the New York Knickerbocker Club, founded in 1845, was the first to establish a code of rules."

    Reeve, Arthur B., Beginnings of Our Great Games, Outing Magazine, April 1910, page 49, per John Thorn, 19CBB posting, 6/17/05. Reeve evidently does not provide a source for the Washington Club claim . . . nor his assertion that it had no "code of rules." John notes that Outing appeared from 1906 to 1911. Note: It would be good to have evidence on whether this club played the New York game or another variation of early base ball.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1844 - "Round Ball" Played in Bangor ME: Cony's Side 50, Hunt's Side 49


    "The playing of round ball, as the game was formerly called, but since changed to 'base ball,' was, in 1844, much in vogue, and was an exhilarating and agreeable amusement . . . ."

    "Baseball in '44," Wheeling WV Register, September 20, 1885, reprinted from the Bangor Whig, presumably from 1844.

    The article continues to detail a match of round ball played on Wadleigh field, near Bangor ME, between neighborhood teams representing Samuel Cony [later Governor] and Samuel Hunt. There are few on-field details: the match was to play played to "fifty scores," the sides tossed "for inning," and when suppertime intruded on the hungry players with the score Hunt 45, Cony 40, "the expedient was adopted of finishing the game by pitching coppers," so Cony and Hunt went inside and got their last "scores" that way. Cony flipped more heads than Hunt, and c'est la guerre. Thanks to John Thorn for locating the text of the article [email of 2/10/2008.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1844 - Fast Day Game in NH on the Common - Unless Arborism Goes Too Far


    "In Keene, New Hampshire, residents used the town common for the Fast Day ball game in 1844." Harold Seymour, Baseball; the People's Game (Oxford University Press, 1990), page 201. The book does not provide a source for this report.

    Seymour's source may be David R. Proper, "A Narrative of Keene, New Hampshire, 1732-1967" in "Upper Ashuelot:" A History of Keene, New Hampshire (Keene History Committee, Keene NH, 1968), page 88. as accessed on 11/13/2008 at:

    http://www.ci.keene.nh.us/library/upperashuelot/part8.pdf. This account describes the arguments against planting 141 trees along Keene streets, one being that trees "would impair use of the Common as a parade ground for military and civic reviews, as a market place for farmers and their teams, as a field for village baseball games on Fast Day, as an open space for wood sleds in winter, and as a free area for all the activity of Court Week." Note: Is it fair to infer that [a] Fast Day games were a well-established tradition by 1844, and that [b] ballplaying on the Common was much less often seen on other days of the year? What was Court Week?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1844 - Novel Cites "the Game of Bass in the Fields"


    "And you boys let out racin', yelpin,' hollerin,' and whoopin' like mad with pleasure, and the playground, and the game of bass in the fields, or hurly on the long pond on the ice, . . . "

    Thomas C. Haliburton, The Attache: or Sam Slick in England [Bentley, London, 1844] no page cited, per William Humber, "Baseball and Canadian Identity," College Quarterly volume 8 Number 3 [Spring 2005] no page cited. Humber notes that this reference has been used to refute Nova Scotia's claim to be the birthplace of modern ice hockey ["hurly"]. Submitted by John Thorn, 3/30/2006. Caveat: "bass in the fields" may denote prisoner's base, not a ball game. Note: Understanding the author's intent here is complicated by the fact that he was Canadian, Sam Slick was an American character, and the novel is set in Britain. Is "bass" a ballgame, or was prisoner's base sometimes thought of as a "field game?"

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1844 - English Gent in NYC Goes Off to a Ball Game


    "As I went down to the office I was met by Henry Sedgwick at the corner of a street. He was hunting up some of a party who were going off in a sailing boat down the East river to play at Base ball in some of the meadows. He persuaded me to be of the party. I sld not have gone however I had not expected to see a great display of miseries and grievances. . . . [on board the boat] it 'came on rainy' and we brewed some whisky punch to whet our spirits inwardly . . . . At last we came to old Ferry point where we landed, and went in the mizzle to play at ball in the meadow, leaving our captain to cook Chowder for us."

    Cayley, George J.," Diary, 1844," manuscript at the New-York Historical Society, entry for April 9, 1844, pages 138-141. Posted to 19CBB by George Thompson, 11/18/2007. George adds that the writer was an 18-year-old Englishman working in a city office, and that the game probably took place in what is now Brooklyn.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1845 - Knicks Adopt Club and Playing Rules on September 23


    Led by Alexander Cartwright, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City organizes and adopts twenty rules for baseball (six organizational, fourteen playing). This rule book is later seen as the basis for the game we now call baseball. The Knickerbockers are credited with establishing foul lines; abolishing the plug (throwing the ball at the runner to make an out); and instituting the tag and force-out. However, the Knickerbocker rules do not specify a pitching distance or a baseline distance. 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 "Cartwright base paths" would have been 74.25 feet. The "pace" of 1845 could not have been interpreted as the equivalent of three feet. [Explain why?] 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 the Massachusetts Game favored in and around the Boston area.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1845 - Brooklyn 22, New York 1: The First-Ever "Modern" Match?


    "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."

    New York Morning News, Oct. 13, 1845, p.2. Text provided 11/3/2008 by Richard Hershberger via email. 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. Richard 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 #1845.4 and #1845.5 above.

    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." The True Sun (New York City), Monday, October 13, 1845, page 2, column 5.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1845 - On "Second Anniversary," The NY Club Plays Intramural Game


    "NEW YORK BASE BALL CLUB: The second Anniversary of the Club came off yesterday, on the ground in the Elysian fields." The game matched two nine-player squads, and ended with a 24-23 score. "The Club were honored by the presence of representatives from the Union Star Cricket Club, the Knickerbocker Clubs, senior and junior, and other gentlemen of note." NY Club players on the box score included Case, Clair, Cone, Gilmore, Granger, Harold, Johnson, Lalor, Lyon, Murphy, Seaman, Sweet [on both sides!], Tucker, Venn, Wheaton, Wilson, and Winslow. Posted to 19CBB by John Thorn, 3/31/2008. Source: The New York Herald, November 11, 1845.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1845 - NY and Brooklyn Teams Play Two-Game Series of "Time-Honored Game of Base"


    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.

    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. This game had been announced in The New York Herald on October 21. Per Sullivan, p. 11. Craig Waff [4/30/2007] located an announcement of the first game the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 4, number 253 (October 21, 1845), page 2, column 3: it 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 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.

    For a long-lost account of an earlier New York - Brooklyn game, see #1845.16 below.

    Go here for the detailed accounts of these games

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1845 - 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." New YorkSun, November 10, 1845, page 2, column. 6. Submitted by George Thompson, June 2005.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1845 - Magazine Article Likens Ladies' Gait to Ballplayers' Screw Ball


    Author[?], "The New Philosophy," The Knickerbocker, volume 26, November 1845 [New York], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 207 - 208. The author, unimpressed at a new tightly-laced clothing fashion that affects how women walk, says their walking "motion very much resembles that of one who, in playing 'base,' screws his ball, and the expression is among boys; or of a man rolling what is known among the players of ten pins as a 'screw ball.'" Note: presumably the baseball reference is to a pitcher's attempt to make the ball curve.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1845 - NY Man: "We Used to Say Come Let Us Play Ball or Base Ball"


    Andrew Peck writes: "We used to say them come let us play Ball or Base Ball . . . . I used to play it at school from 1845-1850 [Peck was about 9 in 1845]. We used more of a flat bat and solid rubber ball. The balls we made ourselves [from strips of rubber overshoes - ed.] . . . . I forget now as to many points of the game, but I do remember that we used to run bases, and the opposite side to ours would try to get the ball, and you would have to be hit with it before out while running your base to get home."

    Letter from Andrew Peck, Canada Lake, NY, to the Mills Commission, September 1, 1907. John Thorn, email of 2/10/2008, reports that Peck attened school in "upper NY State.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - Knicks Play NYBBC in First Recorded Match Game, in Hoboken


    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. Historians regard this game as the first instance of inter-club or match play under modern [Knickerbocker] rules.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1846 - Brooklyn's Base Ballists and Cricketers Are Among the Thankful


    Reporting on Thanksgiving traditions:

    "The religiously inclined went to church; several companies went out of town upon target excursions; cricket and base ball clubs had public dinners; people ate the best they could get . . . and everybody, of course, was very thankful for everything, except the intense cold weather."

    The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, vol. 5, number 285 (Friday, November 27, 846), page 3, column 4. Citation and image provided by Craig Waff, 4/30/2007.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - Base Ball as Therapy in MA?


    According to the State Lunatic Hospital at Worcester, when "useful labor" wasn't possible for inmates, the remedies list: "chess, cards, backgammon, rolling balls, jumping the rope, etc., are in-door games; and base-ball, pitching quoits, walking and riding, are out-door amusements."

    Annual Report of the Trustees of the State Lunatic Hospital at Worcester, December 1846. Posted to 19CBB on 11/1/2007 by Richard Hershberger. Note: was "base-ball" a common term in MA then?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - Brooklyn BBC Established, May Become "Crack Club of County?"


    "A number of our most respectable young men have recently organized themselves into a club for the purpose of participating in the healthy and athletic sport of base ball. From the character of the members this will be the crack club of the County. A meeting of this club will be held to-morrow evening at the National House for the adoption of by-laws and the completion of its organization."

    "Brooklyn City Base Ball Club," Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, vol. 5, number 162 (July 6, 1846), page 2, column 2. Citation and image supplied by Craig Waff, 4/30/2007.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - 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. . Full citation and image provided by Craig Waff, 4/30/2007.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1848 - Ballgame Marks Anniversary in MA


    "In Barre, Massachusetts [about 20 miles northwest of Worcester], the anniversary of the organization of government was celebrated by a game of ball - round or base ball, we suppose - twelve on a side. It took four hours to play three heats, and the defeated party paid for a dinner at the Barre Hotel."

    North American and United States Gazette, June 7, 1848. Provided by John Thorn, 10/12/2007. A team size of 12 and three-game match are consistent with some Mass game contests. Note: This seems to have been a Philadelphia paper; why would it carry - or reprint - this central-MA story?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1848 - Game of Baseball Attains Official Perch in Lexicon!


    "BASE. A game of hand-ball." John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States (first edition; Bartlett and Welford, New York, 1848), page 24.) Provided by David Block, email of 2/27/2008. David indicates that this is "the earliest known listing of baseball in an American dictionary." Bartlett offers a more elaborate definition in 1859 - see below.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1849 - Character in Fictional Autobiography Played Cricket, Base-Ball


    "On fourths of July, training days and other occasions, young men from the country around, at a distance of fifteen or twenty miles, would come for the purpose of competing for the championship of these contests, in which, in which, as the leader of the school, I soon became conspicuous. Was there a game at cricket or base-ball to be played, my name headed the list of the athletae." W.S. Mayo, Kaloolah, or Journeying to the Djebel Kumri. An Autobiography (George P. Putnam, New York, 1849), page 20. The following page has an isolated reference to the ball grounds at the school. Mayo was from upstate NY. Posting to 19CBB by Richard Hershberger, 1/24/2008. Richard considers this the first appearance of base-ball in American fiction, as the games in #1837.2 and #1838.4 above are not cited as base ball and could be another type of game. The fifth edition [1850] of Kaloolah is available via Google Books, and was accessed on 10/24/2008; the ballplaying references in this edition are on pages 20 and 21.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1849 - Did Cartwright Play Ball on His Way to California?


    "April 23, 1849 [evidently the day before Cartwright left Independence MO for California] During the past week we have passed the time in fixing the wagon covers, stowing away property etc., varied by hunting , fishing, swimming and playing base-ball. I have the ball and book of Rules with me that we used in forming the Knickerbocker Base-ball Club back home."

    Source: Cartwright family typed copy of lost handwritten diary by Alexander Cartwright, as cited in Monica Nucciarone, Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend (UNebraska Press, 2009), page 31. Nucciarone adds that this version differs from the transcription in a Hawaii museum, in that the baseball references only appear in the family's version.

    Caution: The legend is that Cartwright played his way west. Nucciarone, page 30: "[W]hile it's easy to imagine Cartwright playing baseball when he could and spreading the new game across the country as he went, it's much more difficult to prove he did this. The evidence is scant and inconsistent."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1849 - Inmates Play Base Ball at Worcester MA "Lunatic Hospital"


    "[O]utdoor amusements consist in the game of quoits, base ball, walking in parties . . . "

    "State Lunatic Hospital at Worcester," The Christian Register, Volume 28, Issue 6 [February 10, 1849], page 6. Submitted by Bill Wagner 6/4/2006 and David Ball, 6/4/2006. Bill notes that the same article appears in Massachusetts Ploughman and New England Journal of Agriculture, Volume 8 Issue 20 [February 17, 1849], page 4. Cf. item #146.16 above.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1849 - A. G. Mills, Friend Recall "Base Ball" Play at School


    Mills to Cogswell: "Among the vivid recollections of my early life at Union Hall Academy [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: "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.

    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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1850 - Article in The Knickerbocker Mentions Bass-ball, N-Hole-cat, Barn-ball


    The Knickerbocker, volume 35, January 1850 [New York, Peabody], page 84. per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 213. A piece on gambling in post-1849 San Francisco has, in its introductory section, "As we don't know one card from another, and never indulged in a game of chance of any sort in the world, save the "bass-ball," "one" and "two-hole cat," and "barn-ball" of our boyhood . . . " Block observes: "While this is a rather late appearance for the colloquial spelling "bass-ball," it is one of the earliest references to the old-cat games." Note: Is the author hinting that boys commonly bet on their ball-games? Isn't this a rare mention of barn-ball?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1850 - University of Michigan Alum Recalls Baseball, Wicket, Old Cat


    A member of the class of 1849 recalls college life: "Athletics were not regularly organized, nor had we any gymnasium. We played base-ball, wicket ball, two-old-cat, etc., but there was not foot-ball."

    The college history later explains: "The game of wicket, which was a modification of cricket, was played with a soft ball five to seven inches in diameter, and with two wickets (mere laths or light boards) laid upon posts about four inches high and some forty feet apart. The 'outs' tried to bowl thee down, and the 'ins' to defend them with curved broad-ended bats. It was necessary to run between the wickets at each strike."

    Wilfred Shaw, The University of Michigan (Harcourt Brace, New York, 1920), pp 234-235. Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search ("wilfred shaw" michigan).

    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

  • 1850 - Gunnery School in CT Imports Base Ball from NY


    "The Gunnery [School] in Washington CT imported baseball from NY when Judge William Van Cott's sons came to the school in the late 1850s (we don't have exact dates). They had been playing different versions of the game with neighboring town teams and pick up teams for quite some time. The Litchfield Enquirer carried the box scores. The teams were not exclusively students, some adults played."

    Paula Krimsky, 19CBB posting, 10/26/2006.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1850 - New Orleans LA: Clubs Formed by German and Irish immigrants to play Baseball


    "Beginning in the 1850's, the Germans and the Irish took up the sport [baseball] with alacrity. In New Orleans, for example, the Germans founded the Schneiders, Laners, and Landwehrs, and the Irish formed the Fenian Baseball Club. . . . Baseball invariably accompanied the ethnic picnics of the Germans, Irish, French, and, later, Italians.

    Per Benjamin G. Rader, American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Spectators [Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1883], page 93. No source provided.]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1851 - San Francisco CA Weighs Plusses and Minuses of Base Ball


    "San Francisco newspapers reported the appearance of base-ball in early 1851 in the town square - The Plaza - or today's Portsmouth Square. The final report of San Francisco's inaugural base ball season included the following: 'There the boys play at ball, some of them using expressions towards their companions, expressions neither flattering, innocent nor commendable. Men, too, children of a larger growth, do the same things.'" "The Corral," Alta California, March 25, 1851.

    A few weeks earlier, coverage had been more favorable: "The plaza has at last been turned to some account by our citizens. Yesterday quite a crowd collected upon it, to take part in and witness a game of ball, many taking a hand. We were much better pleased at it, than to witness the crowds in the gambling saloons which surround the square." "Sports on the Plaza," Daily California Courier, February 4, 1851. A third article said of the base ball activity: "[T]his is certainly an innocent recreation, but occasionally the ball strikes a horse passing." "The Plaza," San Francisco Herald, March 1, 1851. Query: Can we assume that this game not played according to the Knickerbocker rules?

    Submitted by Angus Macfarlane, January 2007.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1851 - Christmas Bash Includes "Good Old Fashioned Game of Baseball"


    "On Christmas day, the drivers, agents, and other employees of the various Express Companies in the City, had a turnout entirely in character. . . . There were between seventy-five and eighty men in the company . . . . They then went to the residence of A. M. C. Smith, in Franklin st., and thence to the Red House in Harlem, where the whole party has a good old fashioned game of base ball, and then a capital dinner at which A. M. C. Smith presided."

    New YorkDaily Tribune, December 29, 1851. Posted to 19CBB on 11/11/2008 by Richard Hershberger. Richard added: "Finally this is a very rare contemporary cite of baseball for this period. Between the baseball fad of the mid-1840s and its revival in the mid-1850s, baseball is virtually seen outside the pages of the Knickerbocker club books." John Thorn contributed a facsimile of the Tribune article. Query: Can we surmise that by using the term "old fashioned game," the newspaper is distinguishing it from the Knickerbocker game?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1852 - Lit Magazine Cites "Roaring" Game of "Bat and Base-ball"


    Southern Literary Messenger, volume 18, number 2, February 1852, page 96, per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214. The fifth stanza of the poem "Morning Musings on an Old School-Stile" reads: "How they poured the soul of gay and joyous boyhood/ Into roaring games of marbles, bat and base-bal!/ Thinking that the world was only made to play in, -/ Made for jolly boys, tossing, throwing balls! Also submitted by David Ball, 6/4/2006. Note: John Thorn interprets this phrase to denote two games, bat-ball and base-ball. Others just see it as a local variant for base-ball. Is the truth findable here?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1853 - Our Game Hits the Sports Pages?


    "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."

    William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163. Query: do we know comparable dates for other like papers - the Clipper, the Sunday Mercury, etc? Has someone already analyzed the role of assorted papers in the baseball boom?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1853 - Knicks, Gothams Play Season Opener on July 1 and July 5


    "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," in the right-hand column. Paul Wendt estimates that this is the first certain Knick-rules box score known, and the first since the October 1845 games [see #1845.4 and #1845.16 above.]

    Letter, 7/6/1853, to The Spirit of the Times, Volume 23, number 21, Saturday July 9, 1853, page 246, column 1. Posted to 19CBB by David Block, 9/6/2006. SOT facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1853 - Were Bats and Balls Coinage, They Were Millionaires


    Several boys are having trouble raising money needed to finance a project. "If base-balls and trap-bats would have passed current, we could have gone forth as millionaires; but as it was, the total amount of floating capital [we had] was the sum of seven dollars and thirty-seven and a half cents." "School-House Sketches, in The United States Review, (Lloyd and Campbell, New York, July 1853), page 35. Provided by David Block, email of 2/27/2008. Note: Would it be helpful to learn what time period the author chose for the setting for this piece?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1853 - Strolling Past a Ballgame in Elysian Fields


    George Thompson has uncovered a long account of a leisurely visit to Elysian Fields, one that encounters a ball game in progress. Posting to 19CBB, March 13. 2008. Source: George G. Foster, Fifteen Minutes Around New York (1854). The piece was written in 1853.

    A few excerpts "We have passed so quickly from the city and its hubbub, that the charm of this delicious contrast is absolutely magical. [para] What a motley crowd! Old and young, men women and children . . . . Well-dressed and badly dressed, and scarcely dressed at all - Germans, French, Italians, Americans, with here and there a mincing Londoner, his cockney gait and trim whiskers. This walk in Hoboken is one of the most absolutely democratic places in the world. . . . . Now we are on the smoothly graveled walk. . . . Now let us go round this sharp curve . . . then along the widened terrace path, until it loses itself in a green and spacious lawn . . . [t]his is the entrance to the far-famed Elysian Fields.

    "The centre of the lawn has been marked out into a magnificent ball ground, and two parties of rollicking, joyous young men are engaged in that excellent and health-imparting sport, base ball. They are without hats, coats or waistcoats, and their well-knit forms, and elastic movements, as that bound after bounding ball, furnish gratifying evidence that there are still classes of young men among us as calculated to preserve the race from degenerating."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1854 - Excelsior Club Forms in Brooklyn


    The Excelsior Club is organized "to improve, foster, and perpetuate the American game of Base Ball, and advance morally, socially and physically the interests of its members." Its written constitution, Seymour notes, is very similar in wording to the Knickerbocker constitution.

    Constitution and By-Laws of the Excelsior Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, 1854. Per Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1854 - Van Cott Letter Summarizes State of Base Ball in NYC; All Three Clubs Hold Joint End-of-Season Party


    "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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Spirit Gives Season Plans for 5 Base Ball Clubs


    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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Stodgy Novel Makes Brief Mention of Former Ballplaying


    "The academy, the village church, and the parsonage are on this cross-street. The voice of memory asks, where are those whose busy feet have trodden the green sward? Where are those whose voices have echoed in the boisterous mirth or base-ball and shinny?" S. H. M. (only initials are given), Miranda Elliot: or, The Voice of the Spirit (Lippincott, Grambo & Co., Philadelphia, 1855), page 229. This passage involves a small party's slow country walk, one that is incessantly interrupted by a sermonizing narrator. There is no indication of who played ball, or how long ago they played. The setting seems to be the U.S; some place where orange trees grow.

    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 YorkClipper, March 3, 1855; provided September 2008 from the Mears Collection by Craig Waff.

    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 the following 18 new clubs in the Greater NYC region in 1855:

    June - Jersey City (Jersey City NJ) || July - Putnam (East Brooklyn), Astoria (Astoria), Newark (Newark NJ) Olympic (Newark NJ), Union (Morrisania), Excelsior (Jersey City NJ), Columbia (Brooklyn, Eastern District) || August - Washington (Brooklyn, Eastern District), Eckford (New York, but practicing in Brooklyn, Eastern District), Pioneer (Jersey City NJ), Atlantic (Bedford) || September - Pavonia (Jersey City NJ), Harmony (East Brooklyn) || October - Young America (Morrisania), Empire (Newark NJ), Newark Jr. (Newark) || November - Continental (East Brooklyn), Baltic (New York). List supplied by Craig Waff, 10/30/2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Base Ball Game Reaches Really Modern Duration; Score is 52 to 38


    Having more energy than what it takes to score 21 runs, the [NJ] Pioneer Club's intramural game in September 1855 took 3 and a quarter hours, and eight innings. Final score: single men, 52, marrieds 38. Note: this seems like an early exception to the 21-run rule; are there earlier ones? Spirit of the Times, Volume 25, number 31 (Saturday, September 15, 1855), page 367, column 3. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    In December, the Putnams undertook to play a game to 62 runs, and started at 9AM to give themselves ample time. But "they found it impossible to get through; they played twelve innings and made 31 and 36." Spirit of the Times, (Saturday, December 8, 1855), page 511, column 3. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - 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 scores are listed for the two lineups], but the reports 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."

    Craig Waff suspects that this is the first time a base ball attendance figure appears in a game report [email of 10/27/2008].

    The Knicks won, 21-7, in only five innings. The Spirit tabulated the rivals' history of all seven games played since July 1853. The Knicks won 4, lost 2, 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. Spirit of the Times, Volume 25, number 32 (Saturday, September 22, 1855), page 373 [first page of 9/22 issue], column 3. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Search for Base Ball Supremacy Begins? It's the Knicks, For Now


    "These two Clubs [Knickerbocker and Gotham] who rank foremost in the beautiful and healthy game of Base Ball, met on Thursday . . . . The Knickerbockers came upon the ground with a determination to maintain the first rank among the Ball Clubs, and they won the match handsomely [score: 22-7]." "Base Ball: Knickerbockers vs. Gotham Club," Spirit of the Times Volume 25, number 32 (September 22, 1855), page 373, column 3. From an email by Craig Waff, 11/4/2008. Craig thinks this may be one of the first attempts to tap a club as the best in the game; thus the long road to naming baseball's "champion" begins. The game had been played at Elysian Fields on September 13.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Association Rules Appear in Syracuse Newspaper


    Without accompanying comment, 17 rules for playing the New York style of base ball appear in the Syracuse Standard (May 16, 1855). The rules include the original 13 playing rules in the Knickerbocker game plus four rules added in in New York in 1854. Porter's Spirit of the Times would carry the New York rules in December of 1856 [Peter Morris, A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006), page 22. The Spirit of the Times had printed the rules four days earlier.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - In Brooklyn, the Washington Club and Eckfords Lift Off


    On July 31, 1855, according to Craig Waff's Protoball Games Tab, the first games were played by new clubs in Brooklyn. But were intramural games, and both appeared to comply with the Knickerbocker 21-run rule for ending a game.

    The Putnams appear to be the first Brooklyn club to see action, with their June 28 context in NYC against the Astoria Club. The Putnams also played the first match game in Brooklyn on August 4, when they defeated the Knickerbockers at their home grounds.

    Here is the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's [8/4/1855] inartful account of the Washington Club's second practice outing on August 3. "The Washington Base Ball Club of this city E.D. [Eastern District], met on the old Cricket ground near Wyckoff's Wood's for Ball practice yesterday afternoon. The following is a list of the plays:" There follows a simple box score showing two 7-member teams and a final score of 31-19. Facsimile contributed December 9, 2009, by Gregory Christiano.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Thanksgiving is for Football? Not in Gotham, Not Yet


    "[Thanksgiving] day was unpleasantly raw and cold; but various out of door amusements were greatly in vogue. Target companies looking blue and miserable were every where. Every vacant field in the out skirts was filled with Base Ball Clubs; a wonderfully popular institution the past season, but vastly inferior to the noble game of Cricket in all respects."

    "Viola," "Men and Things in Gotham," Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, December 10, 1855, page 2. Contributed August 29, 2009 by Dennis Pajot. This traveler's report preceding the advent of Association base ball in Milwaukee by years.

    Responding to Dennis' find, Craig Waff, posting to the 19CBB listserve, cited two accounts that confirm the holiday hubbub. The Clipper wrote, "There seemed to be a general turn-out of the Base Ball Clubs in this city and vicinity, on Thursday, 29th Nov. Among those playing were the Continental, Columbia, Putnam, Empire, Eagle, Knickerbocker, Gotham, Baltic, Pioneer, and Excelsior Clubs." [source: undated clip in the Mears Collection]. The Spirit of the Times (December 8, 1855, page 511) caught the same, er, spirit, noting that the Continentals played from 9am to 5pm, and that the Putnams "commenced at 9 o'clock with the intention of playing 63 aces, but found it impossible to get through; they played twelve innings, and made 31 and 36 . . . ."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Even the Australians Are Bothered by Sunday Baseball


    "Sabbath Desecration. - A correspondent requests us to call attention to the practice of a number of boys and young men, who congregate in Mr. Wilkinson's paddock, near Patrick and Murray Streets, on Sunday afternoons, for playing at cricket, base-ball, &c., making a great noise, and offending the eyes and ears of persons of moral and religious feeling."

    Colonial Times[Hobart], Saturday, September 22, 1855, page 3. Posted to the 19CBB list November 21, 2009, by Eric Miklich. Subsequent comments from Bob Tholkes and Richard Hershberger [11/23/09] led to conjecture that this form of "base-ball" arrived Down Under directly from its English roots, for in 1855 American presence was largely restricted to the gold fields. Note: Hobart is on the northern coast of the island that has been known as Tasmania since 1856.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Early Season Game Goes to Knicks, 27-14; Wadsworth Chided


    In what appears to be only the second game of the 1855 season [see the Protoball Games Tab at http://retrosheet.org/Protoball/GamesTab.htm], "a grand match of this national game" took place at Elysian Fields and pitted the Knicks against the Eagles. A 9-run 4th put the Knicks into the [imaginary] win column after leading only 12-12 after two. Player positions aren't listed, but DeBost [Knicks] and Place [Eagles] are noted as "behind men." The reporter added: "Wadsworth [Knicks] makes too many foul balls; he must alter his play."

    "Base Ball. Knickerbocker vs. Eagle Club," New York Herald, June 6, 1855. Facsimile contributed by Gregory Christiano, 11/24/2009.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - 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 YorkHerald, May 26, 1855, page 1, column. 1. Submitted by George Thompson, June 2005.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Jersey City Club is Set Up


    Constitution and By-Laws of the Pioneer Base Ball Club of Jersey City [New York, W. and C. T. Barton], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 223.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Whitman Puts "Good Game of Base-Ball" Among Favorite Americana


    Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [Brooklyn, Rome Bros], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 216. In a review of good American experiences, including "approaching Manhattan" and "under Niagara", Whitman puts this line: "Upon the race-course, or enjoying pic-nics or jigs or a good game of base-ball . . . "

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - The Wrights Both Are at St. George CC; Manhattan CC Forms


    Baseball Hall of Fame member Harry Wright is on the first eleven of the St. George Cricket Club and his younger brother, George Wright, age 9, also to become a baseball Hall of Famer, is the Dragons' mascot.

    The Manhattan Cricket Club is formed and includes New York City baseball players Frank Sebring and Joseph Russell of the Empire Base Ball Club.

    Per John Thorn, 6/15/04: The source is Chadwick Scrapbooks, Vol. 20.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1856 - Gothams 21, Knicks 7; Fans Show Greatest Interest Ever


    "Yesterday the cars of the Second and Third avenue Railroads were crowded for hours with the lovers of ball playing, going out to witness the long-talked of match between the "Gotham" and "Knickerbocker" Clubs. We think the interest to see this game was greater than any other match ever played."

    "Base Ball Match," New York Daily Times, September 6, 1856, page 8.

    The Times account includes a box score detailing "hands out" and "runs" for each player. The text uses "aces" as well as "runs," and employs the term "inning," not "innings." It notes players who "made some splendid and difficult catches in the long field."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - General Base Ball Rules Are Published in NY


    Rules and By-laws of Base Ball (New York, Hosford), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 224. David reports that these rules are generic not restricted to one club. Note: This may be the first publication specifically devoted to base ball.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - 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.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - Excelsior Base Ball Club Forms in Albany NY


    "Albany Excelsior Base Ball Club This Club was organized May 12, 1856."

    Porter's Spirit of the Times, May 23, 1857. It appears that the Empire Club of Albany had already existed at that time.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - The Mass Game Explained


    "I have thought, perhaps, a statement of my experience as to the Yankee method of playing 'Base,' or 'Round' ball, as we used to call it, may not prove uninteresting.

    "The ball we used was, I should think, of the size and weight described by the Putnam rules, made of yarn, tightly wound round a lump of cork or India rubber, and covered with smooth calf-skin in quarters (as we quarter an orange), the seams closed snugly, and not raised, lest they should blister the hands of the thrower and catcher: the bat round, varying from 3 to 3.5 feet in length; a portion of a stout rake or pitchfork handle was much in demand, and wielded generally in one hand by the muscular young players at the country schools, who rivaled each other in the hearty cracks they gave the ball.

    "There were six to eight players upon each side, the latter number being the full complement. The two best layers upon each side first and second mates, as they were called by common consent were catcher and thrower. These retained their positions in the game, unless they chose to call some other player, upon their own side, to change places with them." Dated Boston, December 20, 1856. A field diagram followed. It shows either 6 or 10 defensive positions, depending on whether each base was itself a defensive station.

    "Base Ball; How They Play the Game in New England, by An Old Correspondent" Spirit of the Times [date?] Submitted by John Thorn. Note: The Dedham rules of 1858 specified at least ten players on a team. The writer does not call the game the MA game, and does not mention plugging, the use of stakes as bases, the one-out-all-out rule conceivably because he thinks the NY shares their attributes?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - First Reported Canadian Base Ball Game Occurs, in Ontario


    "September 12, 1856 -"The first reported game of Canadian baseball is played in London, ONT, with the London Club defeating the Delaware club 34-33." Charlton, James, ed., The Baseball Chronology (Macmillan, 1991), page 13. No reference is given.

    Craig Waff has identified the source for this item: "Base Ball in Canada," The Clipper Volume 4, number 23 (September 27, 1856), page 183. "London [ON], Sept. 15, 1856. Editor Clipper: Within the past few months several Base Ball clubs have been organized in this vicinity, and the first match game was played between the London and Delaware clubs, on Friday, the 12th inst." The box score reveals that the 34-33 score eventuated when the clubs stood at 26-23 after the first inning, and then London outscored Delaware 11-7 in the second inning. Note: is it likely that the New York rules would have produced this much scoring per inning . . . or was it set up as a two-inning contest? Can we confirm/disconfirm that this was the first Canadian game in some sense [keeping in mind that Beachville game report at #1838.4 above]?

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1856 - Five-Player Base Ball Reported in NY, WI


    We've noticed two games of five-on-five baseball in the Spirit, starting in 1856. The '56 game matched the East Brooklyn junior teams for the Nationals and the Continentals. The Nationals won 37-10. Spirit of the Times, Volume 26, number 39 (Saturday, November 8, 1856), page 463, column 3. In 1857, an item taken from the Waukesha (WI) Republican of June 6, pitted Carroll College freshmen and "an equal number of residents of this village. They played two games to eleven tallies, and one to 21 tallies. The collegians won all three games. Spirit of the Times Volume 27, number 20 (June 27, 1857), page 234, column 2. Neither account remarks on the team sizes. Other five-on-five matches appeared I 1858. Facsimiles provided by Craig Waff, September 2008. Note: Was 5-player base ball common then? Did it follow special rules? How do 4 fielders cover the whole field?

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1856 - Excelsiors Organized


    Constitution and By-laws of the Excelsior Base Ball Club (Brooklyn, G. C. Roe), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 223.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1856 - 100 to 98 Round Ball Game Played, After Sticky Rule Negotiations


    "EXCITING GAME OF BASE BALL. - The second trial game of Base Ball took place on the Boston Common, Wednesday morning, May 14th, between the Olympics and the Green Mountain Boys. The game was one hundred ins, and after three hours of exciting and hard playing, it was won by the Olympics, merely by two, the Green Mountain Boys counting 98 tallies. . . . The above match was witnessed by a very large assemblage, who seemed to take a great interest in it." Albert S. Flye, "Exciting Game of Base Ball," New York Clipper Volume 4, number 5 (May 25, 1856), page 35. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    The article also prints a letter protesting the rules for a prior game between the same teams. The Olympics explained that were compelled to play a game in which their thrower stood 40 feet from the "knocker" while their opponent's thrower stood at 20 feet. In addition, the Green Mountain catcher [sic] moved around laterally, and a special six-strike rule was imposed that confounded the Olympics. It appears that this game followed an all-out-side-out rule. The reporter said the Olympics found these conditions "unfair, and not according to the proper rules of playing Round or Base Ball." Note: does this article imply that previously, base ball on the Common was relatively rare?

    The Daily Atlas on May 15 briefly mentioned the game, noting "There was a large crowd of spectators, although the flowers and birds of springs, and a wheelbarrow race at the same time . . . tended to draw off attention." A week later, the Boston Post reported that the Green Mountain Boys took the next contest, "the Olympics making 84 rounds to the G.M. Boys 119."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - Trenton Club Forms for "Invigorating Amusement"


    "BASE BALL CLUB. - A number of gentlemen of this city have formed themselves into a club for the practice of the invigorating amusement of Base Ball. Their practicing ground is on the common east of the canal. We hope that this will be succeeded by a Cricket Club."

    "Base Ball Club," Trenton (NJ) State Gazette (May 26, 1856) no page provided. Contributed by John Maurath, Missouri Civil War Museum at Historic Jefferson Barracks, 1/18/2008. Note: Is this the first known NJ club well outside the NY metropolitan area?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - 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. Image contributed by Gregory Christiano, December 15, 2009.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - Putnams Rules Arrive on the Scene


    Rules and By-laws of Base Ball Putnam Base Ball Club [Brooklyn, Baker and Godwin], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 224. Chip Atkison posted the rules to 19CBB 8/27/2003.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - New YorkMercury,NY Clipper Term Base Ball the "National Pastime"


    The New York 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, email of 8/13/09. Craig Waff, email of 8/13/09, adds that the letter was reprinted as a part of the long article, "Base Ball, Cricket, and Skating," Spirit of the Times, Volume 1, number 16 (December 20, 1856), pp. 260 - 261. Query: is there a claim that this is the earliest appearance of the term "national pastime" to denote base ball?

    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".