Chronology:Base Ball Predecessor

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1836c.12 Game With Plugging of Runners Later Recalled in Jersey City


Base Ball Predecessor

Age of Players:


"While here let me say to the Champion Base Ball Club, for their information, that in eighteen hundred and thirty-six and seven we had a base ball club that could not be beaten.  It was composed of such men as Jerry O'Meara, Peter Bentley, J. C. Morgan, Jos. G. Edge, &c.  I acted as a spare pitcher for the first nine.  In those days the game was played by throwing the ball at the man running the bases, and whoever got hit was out, if he could not jump to the bases from where he was hit.  I would rather get hit by any other member of the club than by Bentley, for he was a south-paw or left-hander, and he used to strike and throw an unmerciful ball.  The ball ground was a portion of the time Nevins and Townsend's block, in front of St. Matthew's Church .  .  .  . "


Jersey Journal, December 13, 1871, page 1, column 3 -- "Recollections of a Jersey City Boy, No. 3."


There is considerable uncertainty as to the dating of this item at c1836..

John Zinn further researched the players named in the 1871 account, and wrote on 7/28/2015:  "It feels to me that the author [whom John identifies as John W. Pangborn] is conflating a number of different things (his role, for example) into a club that played in the late 1830's. However even if he is off by 10 years, a club of some kind in the late 1840's would be something new and, as John [Thorn] suggests, important." John Zinn also reported 7/28/2015 that Bentley was 31 years old in 1836, and that Edge was 22; John W. Pangborn, the suspected 1871 author, was born in 1825 so was only 12 in 1837.

Further commenting on the credibility of this 1871 account, Richard Hershberger [19cbb posting, 7/28/2015] adds: "Going from general trends of the day, the [1871 author's] use of the word "club" is very likely anachronistic.  Organized clubs playing baseball were extremely rare before the 1840s in New York and the 1850s everywhere else.  On the other hand, informal play was common, and local competition between loosely organized groups is well attested.  My guess is that this was some variant or other. As for plugging, its mention increases the credibility of the account.  Even as early as 1871, plugging was being forgotten in the haze of the past.  Old-timers describing the game of their youth therefore routinely mentioned plugging as a distinctive feature. So putting this together, this looks to me like a guy reminiscing about quasi-organized (at most) play of his youth, using the anachronistic vocabulary of a "club." 



If dated correctly, this find would seems to be a very early use of "south-paw" to denote a left-hander, although it is not explicitly claimed that the term had been used in 1836.  One source (Dickson. Baseball Dictionary, 3rd ed., page 791) indicates that the first use of "south-paw" in a base ball context was in 1858, although a 2015 web search reveals that the term itself dates back to 1813.



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