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1811.7 Cause of Death: "Surfeit of Playing Ball"
"DIED. Last Evening of surfeit, playing ball, M[r] John McKibben, merchant of this city."
New York Spectator, September 11, 1811, page 2.
John Thorn adds: "It is surely a coincidence that John McKibbin, Jr. was president of the Magnolia Ball Club of 1843, about which I have written. The Magnolias' McKibbin and his father were born in Ireland.
1821.5 NY Mansion Converted to Venue Suitable for Base, Cricket, 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.
Richard points out that the ad's solicitation to "clubs and parties" may indicate that some local groups were forming to play the mentioned games long before the first base ball clubs are known to have played.
June 9, 1821 New YorkGazette and General Advertiser
See also Richard Hershberger, "New York Mansion Converted -- An Early Sighting of Base Ball Clubs?,"Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 58-60.
Have we found any further indications that 1820-era establishments may have served to host regular base ball clubs?
1823.1 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 (Jones') Retreat in Broadway [on the west side of Broadway between what now 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."
See also 1821.5 for possible NYC ballplaying in this era.
1837.1 A Founder of the Gothams Remembers "First Ball Organization in the US"
William R. Wheaton, who would several years later help found the Knickerbockers [and write their playing rules], 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."
See Full Text Below
Brown, Randall, "How Baseball Began, National Pastime, 24 , 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.
See also: Randall Brown, "The Evolution of the New York Game," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 81-84.
Note that while Wheaton calls his group the "first ball organization," in fact the Philadelphia club that played Philadelphia town ball had formed several years earlier.
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….’”
Wheaton wrote that the Gotham Club abandoned the bound rule . . . but if so, the Knickerbockers later re-instituted it, and it remained in effect until the 1860s.
Wheaton also recalled that the Knickerbockers at some point changed the base-running rule, which had dictated that whenever a batter "struck out" [made an out, we assume, as strikeouts came later], base-runners left the field. Under a new interpretation, runners only came in after the third out was recorded.
1862.2 The Death of Jim Creighton at 21
Excelsior star pitcher James Creighton, 21 years old, suffered some sort of injury during the middle innings of a game against the Union of Morrisania on October 14, 1862, and died four days later of a "strangulated intestine" associated with a hernia. (Other accounts cite a ruptured bladder - ouch.) One legend was that Creighton suffered the injury in the process of "hitting out a home run." Excelsior officials attributed the death to a cricket injury incurred in a prior cricket match.
Creighton was perhaps base ball's first superstar.
R. M. Gorman and D. Weeks, Death at the Ballpark (McFarland, 2009), pages 63-64.
Richard Bogovich, "The Martyrdom of Jim Creighton-- Excelsiors of Brooklyn vs. Unions", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 43-46
Tom Shieber, Hall of Fame curator who has studied Creighton extensively, believes the injury was an inguinal hernia which ruptured. In an article published on December 7, 1862, the New York Sunday Mercury recounts a conversation with Creighton before the Union game in which he states that he had injured himself in a recent cricket match. It is assumed that he received the hernia in the cricket match and that it ruptured during the Union game.