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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  • 1704 - Traveler Observes Ball-Playing in CT


    Madame Knight, "in her inimitable journal of her ride from Boston to New York in 1704, speaks of ball-playing in Connecticut."

    "The Game of Wicket and Some Old-Time Wicket Players," in George Dudley Seymour, Papers and Addresses of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut, Volume II of the Proceedings of the Society, [n. p., 1909.] page 284. Submitted by John Thorn, 7/11/04. John notes 9/3/2005 that Seymour observes that Madame Knight does not specifically name the sport as wicket, but he excludes cricket as a possibility because cricket was not then known to have been played in America before 1725; however, John adds, we now have a cricket reference in Virginia from 1709. [See #1709.1, below.]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1725 - Wicket Played on Boston Common


    "March, 15. Sam. Hirst [Sewall's grandson, reportedly, and a Harvard '23 man] LMc] got up betime in the morning, and took Ben Swett with him and went into the (Boston MA) Common to play at Wicket. Went before any body was up, left the door open; Sam came not to prayer; at which I was most displeased.

    "March 17th. Did the like again, but took not Ben with him. I told him he could not lodge here practicing thus. So he lodg'd elsewhere. He grievously offended me in persuading his Sister Hannam not to have Mr. Turall, without enquiring of me about it. And play'd fast and loose in a vexing matter about himself in a matter relating to himself, procuring me great Vexation."

    Diary of Samuel Sewall, in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Published by the Society, Boston, 1882) Volume VII - Fifth Series, page 372.

    Note:Further comment on this entry is welcome, especially from wicket devotees; after all, this may be the initial wicket citation in existence (assuming that $1700c.2 is cannot be documented and that #1704.1 above is not ever confirmed as wicket).

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1760 - Harvard Man Recalls Cricket, "Various Games of Bat and Ball" on Campus


    Writing of the Buttery on the Harvard campus in Cambridge MA, Sidney Willard later recalled that "[b]esides eatable, everything necessary for a student was there sold, and articles used in the play-grounds, as bats, balls, &c. . . . [w]e wrestled and ran, played at quoits, at cricket, and various games of bat and ball, whose names perhaps are obsolete."

    Sidney Willard, Memories of Youth and Manhood [John Bartlett, Cambridge, 1855], volume 1, pp 31 and 316. Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 44.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1766 - Cricket [or Wicket?] Challenge in CT


    "A Challenge is hereby given by the Subscribers, to Ashbel Steel, and John Barnard, with 18 young Gentlemen . . . to play a Game of BOWL for a Dinner and Trimmings . . . on Friday next." Connecticut Courant , May 5, 1766, as cited in John A. Lester, A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 6. Note: is "game of bowl" a common term for cricket? Could this not have been a wicket challenge, given the size of the teams?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1778 - Ewing Reports Playing "At Base" and Wicket at Valley Forge - with the Father of his Country


    George Ewing, a Revolutionary War soldier, tells of playing a game of "Base" at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: "Exercisd in the afternoon in the intervals playd at base. Caveat: It is unknown whether this was a ball game, rather than prisoner's base, a form of tag.

    Ewing also wrote: "[May 2d] in the afternoon playd a game at Wicket with a number of Gent of the Arty . . . ." And "This day [May 4, 1778] His Excellency dined with G Nox and after dinner did us the honor to play at Wicket with us."

    Ewing, G., The Military Journal of George Ewing (1754-1824), A Soldier of Valley Forge [Private Printing, Yonkers, 1928], pp 35 ["base"] and 47 [wicket]. Also found at John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Volume: 11. [U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1931]. page 348. Submitted by John Thorn, 10/12/2004. The text of Ewing's diary is unavailable at Google Books as of 11/17/2008.

    Also note:

    "Q. What did soldiers do for recreation?

    "A: During the winter months the soldiers were mostly concerned with their survival, so recreation was probably not on their minds. As spring came, activities other than drills and marches took place. "Games" would have included a game of bowls played with cannon balls and called "Long Bullets." "Base" was also a game - the ancestor of baseball, so you can imagine how it might be played; and cricket/wicket. George Washington himself was said to have took up the bat in a game of wicket in early May after a dinner with General Knox! . . . Other games included cards and dice . . . gambling in general, although that was frowned upon."

    From the website of Historic Valley Forge; see

    http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/youasked/067.htm, accessed 10/25/02. Note: it is possible that the source of this material is the Ewing entry above, but we're hoping for more details from the Rangers at Valley Forge. In 2010, we're still hoping.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1778 - NH Loyalist Plays Ball in NY; Mentions "Wickett"


    The journal of Enos Stevens, a NH man serving in British forces, mentions playing ball seven times from 1778 to 1781. Only one specifies the game played in terms we know: "in the after noon played Wickett" in March of 1781. C. K. Boulton, ed., "A Fragment of the Diary of Lieutenant Enos Stevens, Tory, 1777-1778," New England Quarterly v. 11, number 2 (June 1938), pages 384-385, per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, reference #33. Tom notes that the original journal is at the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier VT.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1779 - Lieutenant Reports Playing Ball, and Playing Bandy Wicket


    "Samuel Shute, a New Jersey Lieutenant, jotted down his reference to playing ball in central Pennsylvania sometime between July 9 and July 22, 1779; 'until the 22nd, the time was spent playing shinny and ball' Incidentally, Shute distinguished among various sports, referring elsewhere in his journal to 'Bandy Wicket.' He did not confuse baseball with types of field hockey [bandy] and cricket [wicket] that the soldiers also played." Thomas Altherr. Note: Gomme says that "bandy wicket" was a name for cricket in England. [XXX add cite here]

    [Shute, Samuel], "Journal of Lt. Samuel Shute," in Frederick Cook, ed., Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 [Books for Libraries Press, Freeport NY, reprint of the 1885 edition], p. 268. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 28.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1786 - Game Called Wicket Reported in England


    "The late game of Wicket was decided by an extraordinary catch made by Mr. Lenox, to which he ran more than 40 yards, and received the ball between two fingers." Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (London), 6/27/1786. Provided by Richard Hershberger, email of 2/3/2008. Richard adds: "I know of only one other English citation of "wicket" as the name of a game. I absolutely do not assume that it was the same as the game associated with Connecticut."

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1787 - VT Man's Letter Says "Three Times is Out at Wicket"


    Levi Allen to Ira Allen, July 7, 1787, in John J. Duffy, ed., Ethan Allen and His Kin, Correspondence, 1772 - 1819 [University Press of New England, Hanover NH, 1998], volume 1, p. 224. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 75.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1790 - Cricket as Played in Hamburg Resembled the U.S. Game of Wicket?


    "[D]escriptions of the game [cricket] from Hamburg in the 1790s show significant variations often quite similar to outdated provisions of American "Wicket," which may well not be due to error on the part of the author, but rather to acute observation. For example, the ball was bowled alternatively from each end (i.e. not in 'overs'). Moreover, the ball has to be 'rolled' and not 'thrown' (i.e., bowled in the true sense, not the pitched ball). And the striker is out if stops the ball from hitting the wicket with his foot or his body generally. There is no more reason to believe that there was uniformity in the Laws covering cricket in England, the British Isles, or in Europe than there was in weights and measures." Rowland Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Grown and Development Throughout the World (Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1970), page 72. Note: Bowen does not give a source for this observation.

    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

  • 1793 - Engraving Shows Game with Wickets at Dartmouth College


    A copper engraving showing Dartmouth College appeared in Massachusetts Magazine in February 1793. It is the earliest known drawing of the College, and shows a wicket-oriented game being played in the yard separating college buildings. The game appears to be wicket, but College personnel ask whether it is not an early form of cricket. See http://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/Library_Bulletin/Nov1992/LB-N92-KCramer2.html;

    Submitted by Scott Meacham 8/17/06. Dartmouth is in Hanover NH.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1800 - John Knox Owns a "Ball Alley" and Racquets Court in NYC, 1800-1803.


    Item from John Thorn, 6/25/04. Note: It seems possible that a "ball alley" is for bowling, but wicket was also played on what was termed an alley.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1800 - MA Man Recalls Games of Ball in Streets, with Wickets


    "The sports and entertainments were very simple. Running about the village street, hither and thither, without much aim . . . . games of ball, not base-ball, as is now [c1857] the fashion, yet with wickets - this was about all, except that at the end there was always horse-racing [p.19]. ..But as to sports and entertainments in general, there were more of them in those days than now. We had more holidays, more games in the street, of ball-playing, of quoits, of running, leaping, and wrestling. [p.21]"

    Mary E. Dewey, ed., Autobiography and Letters of Orville Dewey, D.D. (Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1883), pages 19 and 21. 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. Accessed 11/16/2008 via Google Books search for "'letters of orville.'" Orville Dewey was born in Sheffield MA in 1794 and grew up there. Sheffield is in the SW corner of MA, about 45 miles NE of Hartford Connecticut. Note: [1] the "game of ball" may have been wicket. [2] More holidays in 1800 than in 1857?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1805 - Yale Grad Compares England's Ballgames with New England's


    "July 9 [1805, we think] . . . . The mode of playing ball differs a little from that practiced in New-England. Instead of tossing up the ball out of one's own hand, and then striking it, as it descends, they lay is into the heel of a kind of wood shoe; and upon the instep a spring is fixed, which extends within the hollow to the hinder part of the shoe; the all is placed where the heel of the foot would commonly be, and a blow applied on the other end of the spring, raises the ball into the air, and, as it descends, it receives a blow from the bat.

    "They were playing also at another game resembling our cricket, but differing from it in this particular, that he perpendicular pieces which support the horizontal one, are about eighteen inches high, and are three in number, whereas with us they are only two in number, and about three or four inches high."

    Benjamin Silliman, Journal of Travels in England, Holland, and Scotland, Volume 1 (Boston, 1812 - 1st edition 1810), page 245.

    Silliman thus implies that an American [or at least Connecticut] analog to trap ball was played, using fungo-style batting [trap ball was not usually a running game, so the American game may have been a simple form of fungo]. His second comparison is consistent with our understanding or how English cricket and American wicket were played in about 1800. However, it seems odd that he would refer to "our cricket" and not "our wicket: possibly a form of cricket - using, presumably, the smaller ball - was played in the US that retained the older long, low wickets known in 1700 English cricket.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1818 - Yale Student Reports Cricket on Campus


    A student at Yale University reports that cricket and football are played on campus [need cite]. Lester, however, says that he doubts the student saw English cricket, and that, given that the site is CT, it was probably wicket. Lester notes that wicket involved sides of 30 to 35 players, and was played in an alley 75 feet long, and with oversized bats.

    Lester, ed., A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [U Penn Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 7.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1820 - In Western MA, Election Day Saw Town vs. Town Wicket Matches


    "'Election Day' was, however, the universal holiday, and the prevailed amongst the farmers that corn planting must be finished by that day for its enjoyment. It was a day of general hilarity, with no prescribed forms of observation, though ball playing was ordinarily included in the exercises, and frequently the inhabitants of adjacent towns were pitted against one another in the game of wicket. Wrestling, too, was a common amusement on that day, each town having its champions."

    Charles J. Taylor, History of Great Barrington (Bryan and Co., Great Barrington MA, 1882), page 375. Accessed 2/3/10 via Google Books search (taylor great barrington). Note: this passage is not clearly set in time; "1820s" is a guess, but 1810s or 1830s is also a possibility.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1820 - In Middletown CT, "Wicket" Recalled, but Not Base Ball.


    Delaney, ed., Life in the Connecticut River Valley 1800 - 1840 from the Recollections of John Howard Redfield [Connecticut River Museum, Essex CT, 1988], p. 35. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 82.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1825 - Wicket Bat Reportedly Long [and Still?] Held in Deerfield MA Collection


    The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association reported that, as of 1908, it retained a wicket bat dating from 1825-30. Submitted by John Thorn, 1/13/2007. Note: John is trying to ascertain whether the bat remains in the collection.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1830 - Lenox Academy Students Play Wicket


    Recalling a genial local sheriff, the author writes: "We well remember the urbanity of his manner as he passed the students of Lenox Academy, always bowing to them and greeting them with a pleasant salutation, which tended to increase their self-respect . . . .As he drove by us when we were playing 'wicket' - the game of ball them fashionable - he did not drive his stylish horse and gig over our wickets, as many took a malicious pleasure in doing, but turned aside, with a pleasant smile . . . ."

    J. E. A. Smith, The History of Pittsfield From the Year 1800 to the Year 1876 (C. W. Bryan & Co., Springfield MA, 1876), pp 401-402. Accessed 2/5/10 via Google Books search (history pittsfield 1876). Lenox Academy was in Lenox MA, about 7 miles S of Pittsfield, and about 35 miles SE of Albany NY. Caveat: It is difficult to estimate a date for this anecdote. The gentleman, Major Brown, lived in Pittsfield from 1812 to 1838. As the event seems to be the author's personal recollection, verifying if and when he attended the Lenox Academy may narrow the range of possibilities.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1830 - Wicket Ball in Buffalo NY


    "[The Indians] would lounge on the steps of the 'Old First Church,' where they could look at our young men playing wicket ball in from of the church: (no fences there then), and this was a favorite ball ground."

    Samuel M. Welch, Home History: Recollections of Buffalo During the Decade from 1830 to 1840, or Fifty Years Since [P. Paul and bro., Buffalo, 1890], page 112. Submitted by John Thorn 9/13/2006.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1830 - Wicket Played in The Western Reserve [OH]


    "How far the Connecticut game of wicket has travelled I cannot say, but it is certain that when the Western Reserve region of Ohio was settled from Connecticut, the game was taken along. Our member [of the Connecticut Society of Colonial War], Profesor Thomas Day Seymour of Yale, tells me that wicket was a favorite game of the students at Western Reserve College then located at Hudson Ohio . . . . 'Up to 1861,' he says, 'the standard games at our college were wicket and baseball, with wicket well in the lead. This game was in no sense a revival. A proof of this is the fact that young men coming to college [from?] all over the Reserve were accustomed to the game at home.'" "The Game of Wicket and Some Old-Time Wicket Players," in George Dudley Seymour, Papers and Addresses of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut, Volume II of the Proceedings of the Society, (n. p., 1909.) page 289. Provided by John Thorn, email of 1/29/2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1833 - Untitled Drawing of Ball Game [Wicket?] Appears in US Songbook


    Watts' Divine and Moral Songs - For the Use of Children [New York, Mahlon Day, 374 Pearl Street, 1836], page 15. Obtained from the "Origins of Baseball" file at the Giamatti Center in Cooperstown. David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 196, has found an 1833 edition.

    A drawing shows five children - a tosser, batter, two fielders, and boy waiting to bat. The bats are spoon-shaped. The wicket looks more like a cricket wicket than the long low bar in wicket. Is it wicket? Base-ball? Here's Block's commentary. " . . .an interesting woodcut portraying boys playing a slightly ambiguous bat-and-ball game that is possibly baseball . . . . A goal in the ground near the batter might be a wicket, but it more closely resembles an early baseball goal such as the one pictured in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" (see #1744.2, above).

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1834 - In Wicket, It's Hartford CT 146, Litchfield CT 126


    The contest took three "ins." "Thus, it appears that the 'Bantam Players' 'barked up the wrong tree.' The utmost harmony existed, and every one appeared to enjoy the sport."

    Connecticut Courant, volume 70, Issue 3618, page 3 [probably reprinted from the Hartford Times. Submitted by John Thorn 9/29/2006.

    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 - Cricket [or Maybe Wicket] Played by Harvard Class of 1841


    "Games of ball were played almost always separately by the classes, and in my case cricket prevailed. There were not even matches between classes, so far as I remember, and certainly not between colleges. . . . The game was the same then played by boys on Boston Common, and was very unlike what is now [1879] called cricket. Balls, bats, and wickets were all larger than in the proper English game; the bats especially being much longer, twice as heavy, and three-cornered instead of flat. . . . What game was it? Whence it came? It seemed to bear the same relation to true cricket that the old Massachusetts game of base-ball bore to the present 'New York' game, being less artistic, but more laborious."

    Member of the Class of 1841, "Harvard Athletic Exercises Thirty Years Ago," Harvard Advocate [Cambridge MA], Volume 17, number 9 (June 12, 1879), page 131. Accessed 2/9/10 via Google Books search ("wickets were all larger" "harvard advocate").

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1840 - At Hobart College, "Wicket and Baseball Played in Summer"


    At upstate NY's Hobart College in Geneva, "Social events were among the few recreations available; there were no intercollegiate athletics, and no concerted sports at all. . . . wicket and baseball were played in summer, there was skating in winter, and that was about all." Warren Hunting Smith, Hobart and William Smith; the History of Two College (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva NY, 1972), page 123. Caveat: The author is imprecise about the date of this observation; this passage appears in the chapter "Student Life Before 1860," and our impression is that he refers to the 1840s . . . but the 1830s or 1850s cannot be ruled out. Provided by Priscilla Astifan, email of 2/4/2008. Priscilla notes that this book also details a number of somewhat destructive student pranks and drinking. "When I read about all the pranks and dissipation, carousing, etc., I see why base ball and other sports were considered a welcome diversion when they became popular." [Email of 10/22/2008.]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1841 - Bloomfield CT Wicket Challenge: "One Shamble Shall Be Out"


    "The Ball Players of Bloomfield and vicinity, respectfully invite the Pall Players of the city of Hartford to . . . play at Wicket Ball, the best in nine games for Dinner and Trimmings. The Rules to be as follows: [1] The ball to be rolled and to strike the once or more before it reaches the wicket. [2] The ball to be fairly caught flying or at the first bound. [3] The striker may defend his wicket with his bat as he may choose. [4] One shamble shall be out. [5] Each party may choose one judge or talisman."

    Hartford Daily Courant, June 23, 1841, page 3. Notes: Is the bound rule [2] usual in wicket? What is rule 3 getting at? What is rule 4 getting at?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1841 - Clevelanders Play Ball at Sunset on Water Street


    A Cleveland OH newspaper writer was moved to respond to reader [Edith] who groused about "infantile sports:"

    "Playing Ball is among the very first of the 'sports' of our early years. Who has not teased his grandmother for a ball, until the 'old stockings' have been transformed into 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 shall never be too old to feel and to 'take delight' in the amusements which interested us in our boyhood. If 'Edith' wishes to see 'a great strike' and 'lots of fun,' let her walk down Water Street some pleasant afternoon towards 'set of sun' and see the 'Bachelors' make the ball fly.

    ClevelandDaily Herald (April 15, 1841). Posted to 19CBB on August 21, 2008 by Kyle DeCicco-Carey. Note: Are they playing wicket? Another game? What types of Clevelanders would have congregated on Water Street?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1841 - County-wide Wicket Challenge Issued Near Rochester NY


    "A CHALLENGE. The undersigned, Amateur (Wicket) Ball Players, of the Town of Chili, Monroe County, propose, within 20 players, to meet any other Club, or same number of men in this county, and play a game of three ins a side, any time between the first and fifteenth of July next. The game to be played at Chapman's corner, eight miles west from Rochester. . . . Chili, June 24, 1841." RochesterRepublican, June 18, 1841

    Noted by Priscilla Astifan, 19CBB posting, 1/28/2007. Priscilla adds: "Pioneer baseball players' [in Rochester] memoirs have mentioned Wicket as one of baseball's early predecessors here and that some of the best pioneer baseball players had been skilled wicket players.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1843 - On Yale's Green, Many a "Brisk Game of Wicket"


    "Were it spring or autumn you should see a brave set-to at football on the green, or a brisk game of wicket." Ezekiel P. Belden, Sketches of Yale College (Saxton and Miles, New York, 1843), page 153.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1844 - Wicket Play in New Orleans LA?


    "The members of the New Orleans Wicket Club, are requested to meet at the Field, This Day, Thursday at 5 o'clock, PM, precisely."

    Times Picayune, November 7, 1844. Accessed via subscription search, March 27, 2009. Contributed by Richard Hereshberger, March 8, 2009.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - Suspicious Rochester NY Idler Observed Playing Wicket


    "You speak . . . of Harrington, the express robber as being in prison here. This is incorrect. He isn't, neither has he been in jail since his arrival here, unless you can call the Eagle Hotel a jail. . . . [W]hen the weather has been pleasant, he has occupied his time in playing wicket in the public square; or playing the fiddle in his room . . . to solace and relieve the tedium of his boredom."

    Rochester Police Officer Jacob Wilkinson letter of April 7, 1946, as quoted in "The Express Robbery," The National Police Gazette, Volume 1, Number 32 [April 18, 1846], page 277. Submitted by John Thorn, 9/2/2006. Note: It is possible to construe wicket as a daily Rochester occurrence from this snippet.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - One-Horse Wagon's Driver 1, Wicket Players 0


    A man drives his wagon along a road in Great Barrington MA, passing though was a dozen wicket players think of as their regular playing grounds. A throw hits the man in the pit of his stomach [now remember, wicket balls were darned heavy]. Naturally, he sues the players for trespass.

    The defendants' case: "at the time of the accident, Fayar Hollenbeck, on of the defendants, whose part in the game was to catch the ball after it had been struck, and to throw it back to the person whose business it was to roll it, was stationed in a northeasterly direction from the latter, who was atone of the wickets. The plaintiff had passed the wicket a little, and was west of a direct line from Hollenbeck to the person at the wicket. At this moment, Hollenbeck threw the ball with an intention to throw it to the person at the wicket; but the ball being wet, it slipped in his hand, when he was in the act of throwing it, and was thus turned from the intended direction, and struck the plaintiff."

    In the fall of 1848, the MA Supreme Court found for the traveler, saying, but much less succinctly, that the roads were built for travelers and that wicket was obviously too dangerous to play there.

    Luther S. Cushing, Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Volume 1 (Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1865), pp. 453-457. Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search (cushing "vosburgh vs. john").

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - Amherst Juniors Drop Wicket Game, 77 to 53: says Young Billjamesian


    "Friday, October 16. At prayers as usual. Studied Demosthenes till breakfast time. After breakfast came off the great match between our class and the juniors. We beat them 77 to 53. They had on the ground nineteen men out of twenty-nine, and we thirty out of thirty-five. Had the remainder of both classes been there, at the same rate we should have beaten them 90 to 81. As a class they were completely used up. Their players, however, averaged about 0.23 each more than ours. The whole was played out in about an hour. The victory was completely ours, a result different from what I expected. Got a lesson in Demosthenes and went to recitation." On October 3, the MA diarist had written: "played a game of wicket, with a party of fellows . . . . Had a fine game, though I, knowing little of the rules, was soon bowled out. Then came home and wrote journal till 5PM. Then to prayers and afterward to supper."

    Hammond, William G., Remembrance of Amherst: An Undergraduate's Diary, 1846-1848. [Columbia University Press, New York, 1946], page 26. Per John Thorn 7/04/2003. Note: is it conclusive from this excerpt's context that the MA students were playing wicket on October 16?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1846 - Amherst Alum Recalls How Wicket Was Played


    Dr. Edward Hitchcock gives this account of the game of wicket at is MA college:

    "In my days baseball was neither a science nor an art, but we played 'wicket'. On smooth and level ground about 20 feet apart were placed two 'wickets,' pine sticks 1 inch square and 8 to 10 feet long, supported on a block at each end so as to be easily knocked off. The ball was made of yarn, covered with stout leather, about six inches in diameter and bowled with all the power of the wicket tender at each end. The aim was to roll it as swiftly as possible at the opposite wicket and knock it down if possible. This was defended by the man with a broad bat, 3 feet long, and the oval about 8 inches [across], who must defend his wicket. If the bowler could by [bowling] a fair ball, striking twice between the wickets, knock down the opposite wicket, the striker was out. But if the batter could by a direct or sideways hit send the ball sideways or overhead the outside men, they [ i.e. ., the batter and his teammate at the opposite end] could run till the ball was in the hands of the bowler. But the bowler to get the batter out must with the ball in his hand knock the wicket outwards before the batter could strike his bat outside a line three feet inside the wicket . . . . This game was played on the lowest part of the 'walk' under the trees which now extends from chapel to the church."

    Hitchcock, Edward, "Recollections," in George F. Whicher, ed., Remembrance of Amherst: An Undergraduate's Diary, 1846-1848. [Columbia University Press, 1946], page 188. Per John Thorn 7/04/2003.

    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 - Wicket Play in Rochester NY


    "The immediate predecessor of baseball was wickets. This was a modification of cricket and the boys who excelled at that became crack players of the latter sport of baseball. In wickets there had to be at least eight men, stationed as follows: Two bowlers, two stump keepers or catchers, two outfielders and two infielders or shortstops. . . .

    "The wickets were placed sixty feet apart, and consisted of two 'stumps' about six inches in height above the ground and ten feet apart. . . . The ball was as large as a man's head, and of peculiar manufacture. Its center was a cube of lead weighing about a pound and a half. About this were tightly wound rubber bands . . . and the whole sewed in a thick leather covering. This ball was delivered with a stiff straight-arm underhand cast . . . . Three out was side out, and the ball could be caught on the first bound or on the fly."

    "Baseball Half a Century Ago," Rochester Union and Advertiser, March 21, 1903. Submitted by Priscilla Astifan [date?]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1851 - Wicket Players in MA Found Liable


    "In a recent case which occurred at Great Barrington, an action was brought against some 12 or 15 young men, by an old man, to recover damages for a spinal injury received by him and occasioned by a wicket ball, which frightened his horse and threw him from his wagon. The boys were playing tin the street. . . . . If this were fully understood, there would be less of the dangerous and annoying practice so common in our streets."

    "Caution to Ball Players in the Street," The Pittsfield Sun, Volume 51, Issue 2647 [June 12, 1851], page 2. Submitted by John Thorn, 6/10/2006.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1851 - Word-man Noah Webster Acknowledges Only Wicket


    "Wicket, n. A small gate; a gate by which the chamber of canal locks is emptied; a bar or rod, used in playing wicket."

    Noah Webster, A Dictionary of he English Language, Abridged from the American Dictionary (Huntington and Savage, New York, 1851), page 399. Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search ("used in playing wicket"). No other ballgames are carried in this dictionary. Webster was from Connecticut.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1852 - Fictional "Up-Country" Location Cites Bass-Ball and Wicket


    "Both houses were close by the road, and the road was narrow; but on either side was a strip of grass, and in process of time, I appeared and began ball-playing upon the green strip, on the west side of the road. At these times, on summer mornings, when we were getting well warm at bass-ball or wicket, my grandfather would be seen coming out of his little swing-gate, with a big hat aforesaid, and a cane. He enjoyed the game as much as the youngest of us, but came mainly to see fair play, and decide mooted points."

    L.W. Mansfield, writing under the pseudonym "Z. P.," or Zachary Pundison, Up-country Letters (D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1852), page 277. Provided by David Block, 2/27/2008. David notes: "This is a published collection of letters that includes one dated March 1851, entitled 'Mr. Pundison's Grandfather.' In it the author is reminiscing about events of 20 years earlier." Note: It might be informative to learn whether this novel has a particular setting [wicket is only known in selected areas) and where Mansfield lived. There is a second incidental reference to wicket: "this is why it is pleasant to ride, walk, play at wicket, or mingle in city crowds" . . . [i.e., to escape endless introspection]. Ibid, page 90.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1854 - English Visitor Sees Wicket at Harvard


    "It was in the spring of 1854 . . . that I stepped into the Harvard College yard close to the park. There I saw several stalwart looking fellows playing with a ball about the size of a small bowling ball, which they aimed at a couple of low sticks surmounted by a long stick. They called it wicket. It was the ancient game of cricket and they were playing it as it was played in the reign of Charles the First [1625-1649 - LMc]. The bat was a heavy oak thing and they trundled the ball along the ground, the ball being so large it could not get under the sticks.

    "They politely invited me to take the bat. Any cricketer could have stayed there all day and not been bowled out. After I had played awhile I said, "You must play the modern game cricket." I had a ball and they made six stumps. Then we went to Delta, the field where the Harvard Memorial Hall now stands. We played and they took to cricket like a duck to water. . . .I think that was the first game of cricket at Harvard." "The Boyhood of Rev. Samuel Robert Calthrop." Compiled by His Daughter, Edith Calthrop Bump. No date given. Accessed 10/31/2008 at http://www-distance.syr.edu/SamCalthropBoyhoodStory.html. Actually, Mr. Calthrop may have come along about 95 years too late to make that claim: see #1760s.1 above.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Tolland CT 265, Otis-Sandisfield MA 189 In Wicket Match


    "The ball players of Sandisfield and Otis, thinking themselves equal for almost all things, send a challenge to the Tolland players for a match game in the former town, on Friday the 14th. Tolland accepted, and with twenty-five players on each side the game commenced, resulting in the complete triumph of he challenged or Tolland party, whose tally footed up 265 crosses, to 189 for the other side."

    The [Lowell MA?] Sun, September 27, 1855, attributed to the Springfield Republican. Accessed May 5, 2009 via subscription search. Tolland CT is about 20 miles NE of Hartford CT and 20 miles SE of Springfield MA. The two MA villages are about 30 miles W of Springfield.

    In August, Barre MA arranged a game with players from Petersham MA and Hardwick MA. Barre Patriot, August 17, 1855. Barre MA is about 40 miles NE of Springfield, and the two other towns are about 7 miles from Barre.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - "New Game" of Wicket Played in HI


    [1] "In 1855 the new game of wicket was introduced at Punahou and for a few years was the leading athletic game on the campus. . . . [The] fiercely contested games drew many spectators from among the young ladies and aroused no common interest among the friends of the school."

    J. S. Emerson, "Personal Reminiscences of S. C. Armstrong," The Southern Workman Volume 36, number 6 (June 1907), pages 337-338. Accessed 2/12/10 via Google Books search ("punahou school" workman 1907). Punahou School, formerly Oahu College, is in Honolulu.

    [2] "One game they all enjoyed was wicket, often watched by small Mary Burbank. Aipuni, the Hawaiians called it, or rounders, perhaps because the bat had a large rounder end. It was a forerunner of baseball, but the broad, heavy bat was held close to the ground."

    Damon M. Ethel, Sanford Ballard Dole and His Hawaii [Pacific Books, Palo Alto, 1957], page 41, from John Thorn.

    [3]] Through further digging, John Thorn traces the migration of wicket to Hawaii through the Hawaii-born missionary Henry Obookiah. At age 17, Obookiah traveled to New Haven and was educated in the area. He died there in 1818, but not before helping organize a ministry [Episcopalian?] to Hawaii that began in 1820. John's source is the pamphlet Hawaiian Oddities, by Mike Jay [R. D. Seal, Seattle, ca 1960]. [Personal communication, 7/26/04.]

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1855 - Wicket, Seen as a CT Game, Was Played in Brooklyn


    In 1880 the Brooklyn Eagle carried long articles that include a description of the game of wicket, described as a Connecticut game not seen in Brooklyn for about 25 years:

    "Instead of eleven on a side, as in cricket, there are thirty, and instead of wickets used by cricketers their wickets consist of two pieces of white wood about an inch square and six feet long, placed upon two blocks three inches from the ground. The ball also differs from that used in cricket or base ball, it being almost twice the size, although it only weighs nine ounces. The bat also differs from that used in cricket and base ball, it being more on the order of a lacrosse bat, although of an entirely different shape, and made of hard, white wood. The space between the wickets is called the alley, and is seventy-five feet in length and ten feet in width. Wicket also differs from cricket in the bowling, which can be done from either wicket, at the option of the bowlers, and there is a centre line, on the order of the ace line in racket and hand ball, which is called the bowler's mark, and if a ball is bowled which fails to strike the ground before it reaches this line it is considered a dead ball, or no bowl, and no play can be made from it, even if the ball does not suit the batsman. The alley is something on the order of the space cut out for and occupied by the pitcher and catcher of a base ball club, the turf being removed and the ground rolled very hard for the accommodation of the bowlers."

    Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 41 number 239 (August 28, 1880), page 1, column 8. Posted to 19CBB by David Ball 7/22/2003. Citation provided by Craig Waff, email of 4/24/2007. Note: there are inconsistencies in these accounts to be resolved.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1856 - Boston Paper Reports 192-187 Squeaker in Western MA


    "A great game of ball, says the Berkshire Courier, cam off in that village on Friday last. The parties numbers 17 on a side, composed of lawyers, justices, merchants mechanics, and in fact a fair proportion of the village populations were engages wither as participants or spectators . . . . The excitement was intense . . . best of all the game was a close one, the aggregate count in [illeg: 8?] innings being 192 and 187."

    BostonEvening Transcript, April 18, 1856. Accessed bia subscription search 2/17/2009. Berkshire MA is about 5 miles NE of Pittsfield and about 10 miles E of New York state border. Note: this may have been a wicket match. One wonders why a Friday match would have been held.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1857 - Wicket Described in February Porter's


    Implying that wet weather had left a bit of a news vacuum, Porter's explained it would "give place to the following communications in relation to the game of 'Wicket,' of which we have ourselves no personal knowledge or experience."

    What followed were [1] a request for playing rules a Troy, NY wicket club, and [2] an appeal:

    "I would like to see the old game of Wicket (not Cricket) played. It is a manly game and requires the bowler to be equal to playing a good game of ten pins. The ground is made smooth and level, say six feet wide by sixty to ninety in length. The ball from five to five and a half inches in diameter, hand wound, and well covered. The bat of light wood, say bass. [A rough field diagram is supplied here] The wicket is placed at each end, and on the top of a peg drove in the ground just high enough to let the ball under the wicket, which is a very light piece of wood lying on top of the pegs. The rules are very similar to those of cricket. Can a club be started? Yours, Wicket. [New York]"

    Porter's Spirit of the Times, Saturday, February 14, 1857. Accessed via subscription search, May 15, 2009.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1857 - Game of Wicket Reaches IA


    "BALL GAMES IN THE WEST. - It is with pleasure that we observe the gradual progression of these healthy and athletic games westward. A Wicket Club has recently been organized in Clinton City , Iowa, which is looked on with much favor by the young men of that locality." The Clipper [date omitted from clipping book; sequencing suggests June of 1857]. Facsimile provide by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1857 - Wicket Played at Eastern OH College; Future President Excels


    "In the street, in front of [Hiram College] President Hinsdale's (which was then Mr. Garfield's house), is the ground where we played wicket ball; Mr. Garfield was one of our best players."

    F. M. Green, Hiram College (Hubbell Printing, Cleveland, 1901), page 156. Accessed via Google Books search ("hiram college" green). James A. Garfield was Principal and Professor at Hiram College from 1856-1859. He was about 26 in 1857, and had been born and reared in Eastern Ohio. Hiram Ohio is about 30 miles SE of Cleveland.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1858 - New York All-Stars Beat Brooklyn All-Stars, 2 games to 1; First Admission Fees Are Charged


    "The Great Base Ball Match of 1858, which was a best 2 out of 3 games series, embodies four landmark events that are pivotal to the game's history"

    1. It was organized base ball's very first all-star game.

    2. It was the first base ball game in the New York metropolitan area to be played ion an enclosed ground.

    3. It marked the first time that spectators paid for the privilege of attending a base ball game.

    4. The game played on September 10, 1858 is at present [2005] the earliest known instance of an umpire calling strike on a batter."

    Schaefer, Robert H., "The Great Base Ball Match of 1858: Base Ball's First All-Star Game," Nine, Volume 14, no 1, (2005), pp 47-66. Coverage of the game in Porter's Spirit of the Times, July 24, 1858, is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 27-29. The SOT article itself is "The Great Base Ball Match," Spirit fo the Times, Volume 28, number 24 (Saturday, July 24, 1858), page 288, column 2. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

    Last Updated: March 18, 2012

  • 1858 - Wicket, as Well as Cricket and Base Ball, Reported in Baltimore MD


    "Exercise clubs and gymnasia are spring up everywhere. The papers have daily records of games at cricket, wicket, base ball, etc."

    Editorial, "Physical Education," Graham's American Monthly of Literature, art, and Fashion, Volume 53, Number 6 [December 1858], page 495. Submitted by John Thorn 9/2/2006.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1858 - Grand Wicket Match in Waterbury CT


    Local interest in wicket is seen has having crested in 1858 in western Connecticut. "Games were played annually with clubs from other towns in the state, and the day on which these meetings took place was frequently made a general holiday."

    J. Anderson, ed., The Town and City of Waterbury, Volume 3 (Price and Lee, New Haven, 1896), pp. 1102-1103. Accessed 2/16/10 via Google Books search ("mattatuck ball club"). In August 1858, the local Mattatuck club hosted "the great contest" between New Britain and Winsted. The mills were shut down and brass bands escorted the clubs from the railway station to the playing field. New Britain won, and 150 were seated at a celebratory dinner. Local wicket was to die out by about 1860. The Waterbury Base Ball Club began in 1864. Waterbury is about 30 miles SW of Hartford CT. Winsted is about 30 miles north of Waterbury, and New Britain is about 20 miles to the east.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1858 - Wolverines and Wicket


    "Wicket was then about our only outdoor sport - and it was a good one, too - and I remembered that we challenged the whole University to a match game."

    Lyster Miller O'Brien, "The Class of 1858," University of Michigan, 1858-1913 (Holden, 1913), page 52. Accessed in snippet view via Google Books search ("match game" wicket).

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1859 - CT State Championship in Wicket Attracts 4000


    "When Bristol played New Britain at wicket for the championship of the state before four thousand spectators in 1859, the Hartford Press reported that there prevailed 'the most remarkable order throughout, and the contestants treated each other with faultless courtesy.'"

    A special four-car train carried spectators to the match, leaving Hartford at 7:30 AM.

    John Lester, A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [UPenn Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 8. This game is also covered in Norton, Frederick C., "That Strange Yankee Game, Wicket," Bristol Connecticut (City Printing Co., Hartford, 1907), pages 295-296. Available via Google Books: try search: "Monday, July 18, 1859" Bristol.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1859 - Wicket Club and Base Ball Club Play Demo Matches for Novelty's Sake


    "Novel Ball Match - The Buffalo Dock Wicket Club have invited [the Buffalo Niagaras] to play a game of wicket, and a return game of base ball. It is intended, not as a trial of skill, (for neither club knows anything of the other's game, and it was expressly stipulated that neither should practice the other's) but merely for he novelty and sport of the thing; each club expecting to appear supremely ridiculous at the other's game." Buffalo Daily Courier, September 10, 1859. The Buffalo Morning Express later reported that the Niagaras lost the wicket game, and that attendance was good; the result of the base ball game is not now known. Provided by Priscilla Astifan, email of 12/7/2008.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1859 - Sixty Play for Their Supper


    "On Saturday last New Marlborough and Tolland played a game of ball for a supper - Tolland beat. There were 30 players on a side."

    PittsfieldSun, June 23, 1859. Accessed via subscription search February 17, 2009. Tolland CT is about 20 miles NE of Hartford, and New Marlborough MA is in the SW corner of MA, about 25 miles S of Pittsfield. Looks like this was a game of wicket.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1860 - CT Wicketers Trounce CT Cricketers at Wicket


    Was wicket an inferior game? "the game [of wicket] certainly reached a level of technical sophistication equal to these two sports [base ball and cricket]. This was clearly demonstrated during a wicket match at Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1860 when a team of local wicket players easily defeated a team of experience local cricket players." Tom Melville, The Tented Field: the History of Cricket in America (Bowling Green State U Popular Press, Bowling Green OK, 1998), page 10. Melville cites the source of the match as the Waterbury American (August 31, 1860), page 21. Note: Can we locate and examine this 1860 article?

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1860 - Man Played Base Ball in CT Before the War


    "I am a native of Hartford, Conn., and have, from early boyhood, taken a great interest in all Out Door Sports that are clean and manly. As a boy I played One, Two, Three, and Four Old Cat; also the old game of "Wicket." I remember that before the Civil War, I don't remember how long, we played base ball at my old home, Manchester, Harford County, CT."

    Letter from Philip W. Hudson, Houston Texas, to the Mills Commission, July 23, 1905.

    Last Updated: March 12, 2012

  • 1862 - Wisconsin Man's Diary Included a Dozen References to Ballplaying


    Private Jenkin Jones sprinkled 12 references to ballplaying in his Civil War Diary. They range from December 1862 to February 1865. Most are very brief notes, like the "played ball in the afternoon" he recorded in Memphis in February 1863 [page 34]. The more revealing entries:

    · Oxford, 12/62: "The delightful weather succeeded in enticing most of the boys form their well-worn decks and cribbage boards, bringing them out in ball playing, pitching quoits,etc. Tallied for an interesting game of base ball" [pp 19/20]

    · Huntsville, 3/64: "Games daily in camp, ball, etc." [p. 184]

    · Huntsville, 3/64: "Played ball all of the afternoon" [p.193]

    · Fort Hall, 4/64: "[Col. Raum] examined our quarters and fortifications, after which he and the other officers turned in that had a game of wicket ball." [p.203]

    · Etowah Bridge, 9/64: "a championship game of base-ball was played on the flat between the non-veterans and the veterans. The non-veterans came off victorious by 11 points in 61." [p. 251]

    · Chattanooga, 2/65: "The 6th Badger boys have been playing ball with our neighbors, Buckeyes, this afternoon. We beat them three games of four.

    Jenkin Lloyd Jones, An Artilleryman's Diary (Wisconsin History Commission, 1914). Accessed on Google Books 6/3/09 via "'wisconsin history commission' 'No. 8'" search. Jones was from Spring Green, WI, which is about 30 miles west of Madison and 110 miles west of Milwaukee WI. Jones later became a leading Unitarian minister and a pacifist. Leads provided by Jeff Kittel, 5/12/09. PBall file: CW-28.

    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".