A compilation of 1,680 ballgames from 1845 through 1860 from 3,360 news sources by Craig B. Waff
|Region||Resource||# of Games||# of Sources|
|Greater New York City||Html, Pdf||1,293||2,712|
|New Hampshire||Html, Pdf||4||5|
|New Orleans||Html, Pdf||17||25|
|New York State, Capital Area||Html, Pdf||107||195|
|New York State, Western||Html, Pdf||80||134|
|Portland, ME||Html, Pdf||3||3|
A Note About Dr. Craig B. Waff, 1946-2012
In Summer 2012, we lost professional historian Craig B. Waff. A gentle and amiable man, and a thoroughly exacting researcher, Craig had in 2007 set about to find all findable press accounts of early base ball games. In his first sweep, he tabulated about five times as many games as were then available in published books, and those 1680 games (three-fourths of them occurring in the vicinity of metropolitan New York), are listed and summarized here. Craig's family estimates that he had found another 800 or more game accounts in what would have been version 2.0 of the Protoball Games Tabulation. He's gone, but his unique vision remains in the high quality of his work. Maybe others will continue along the path he broke, collecting and tabulating early game accounts that define the evolution of base ball in the 1850s and 1860s.
-- Larry McCray, September 2012
An Introduction to the “Games Tabulation” Project
Craig B. Waff, 24 December 2008
Project Origins and Design
I began contemplating the idea of a chronological compilation of early baseball-related games in the spring of 2007, after discovering the existence of online historical newspaper databases. Coming across numerous accounts of “base ball” (as it was then spelled) games published in mid-19th-century issues of the New York Times and Brooklyn Daily Eagle, almost immediately I began wondering if anyone had ever compiled a tabulation of games played prior to the formation in 1871 of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, considered by many the first “major league.”
At the Seymour Conference at Cleveland in April 2007 John Thorn informed me of two such compilations: the baseball (actually, “The National Game”) section of Charles A. Peverelly’s Book of American Pastimes (New York: self-published, 1866) and Marshall D. Wright’s The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870 (Jefferson, N.C., and London: MacFarland and Company, 2000). Peverelly’s compilation has been reprinted as Peverelly’s National Game, ed. by John Freyer and Mark Rucker (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2005), whose page numbers are cited in the tables mounted on this Web site. The Protoball Project in 2007 offered to bring the Games Tabulation to web users on its website.
Limits of Existing Publications
But as I began comparing the newspaper accounts that I was finding to the games listed or tabulated in these volumes, I realized that a significant number of “base ball”-related games were not included in these books. The reasons why became immediately apparent. Peverelly’s game listings were derived from historical accounts that he solicited from senior clubs that were members of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) in 1866, the year his book was published. Games played by clubs no longer existing at that time (for example, the Pastimes and Putnams of Brooklyn) are mentioned only (if at all) indirectly in their opponents’ game listings. Wright’s volume, as its title implies, is also similarly concerned with clubs that joined the NABBP; games played by other clubs are included (if at all) only if they were against NABBP opponents. Wright acknowledged that he relied heavily on Peverelly for the period prior to 1867. Although he did consult game accounts in issues of the New York Clipper and such newspapers as the New York Times and the Boston Herald, he did so primarily only in order to compile player statistics, not to discover the existence of hitherto unknown games. In fact, for the period prior to 1861, I eventually determined that he tabulated only a very small number of games not listed in Peverelly.
Because of their emphasis on NABBP ball playing, the compilations of Peverelly and Wright thus essentially ignored the games played by senior clubs that chose not to join the NABBP and junior clubs composed of players entirely under the age of 21. Also, because the clubs that had joined the NABBP prior to the Civil War were almost exclusively from the Greater New York City region, one finds little information in the Peverelly and Wright books concerning “base ball” games played outside this region prior to 1861. This situation in turn renders these books of little use in efforts to document the recorded occurrence of related types of games, such as town ball and the so-called “Massachusetts” game of “base ball,” and the specific circumstances regarding the geographical spread of the so-called “New York” game of “base ball.”
Besides these limitations, I found the compilations of Peverelly and Wright dissatisfying in other respects. They grouped game scores by teams (which in effect nearly doubled the size of their compilations by having the scores mentioned twice in most cases), while I was seeking a comprehensive (i.e., all-team), chronological listing that would allow me to perceive how a season developed, day by day and week by week, much as we do in present time. I also wanted to know where games were being played (which are mentioned only occasionally by Peverelly and not at all by Wright). Finally, Peverelly and Wright provided no information at all about where one could find contemporary (i.e., newspaper) accounts of specific games.
Scope of the Games Tabulation
So what is the scope of my compilation, and how have I organized it? I chose to limit the scope temporally to the period from 1845 (the year when Knickerbocker intra-club games began, and also when the first known newspaper articles reporting game results appeared) to 1860 (the end date, at the time, of Protoball’s chronologies, and also the last year of play prior to the beginning of the American Civil War). Before contemplating any longer coverage period (such as one ending with the late 1860s, when the number of games increased dramatically), it seemed prudent to limit the games tabulation initially to a shorter period in order to gain some understanding of the challenges involved in compiling such a tabulation.
In contrast, I placed no geographical limitation on the tabulation. There is of course one very large table concerning games played in the Greater NYC region (which I defined as the area encompassing the current five NYC boroughs, Westchester County, and New Jersey as far south as approximately Trenton and Lawrenceville). Nearly a score of much smaller tables each focus on ball playing in a separate region (a very small “non-NYC” table includes a few miscellaneous games that I could not easily associate with games played in the selected regions).
I also placed no limitations on the level of play. I have included games regardless of whether they were played by senior or junior teams; or by first, second, or muffin nines. In this initial version of the tables, I added a “Jr.” designation to a team only if that characterization appeared in at least one newspaper account of the game. At a later point I hope, in a careful fashion, to add that label where appropriate to many other teams whose junior status is known from other sources. Also, the newspaper accounts in certain cases collectively failed to provide the specific locations of certain teams. At a later point, through lineup comparison, I hope to be able to distinguish among two or more teams with identical names but playing in different areas (e.g., “Young America,” “Star,” or “Excelsior”).
I began compiling the tables by tabulating the approximately 300 pre-1861 games listed or tabulated in Wright and Peverelly. As the tables will indicate, these two compilations for the pre-1861 period are highly similar. I then began to survey systematically the online historical newspapers of the New York Times (through ProQuest) and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (at the Brooklyn Public Library Web site). I next consulted the Mears Collection of baseball clippings at the Cleveland Public Library, which for the pre-1861 period are mostly from the New York Clipper. At the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County I systematically surveyed issues of the Spirit of the Times and Porter’s Spirit of the Times (information from the latter has so far been tabulated only up to mid-1859). Finally, during a research trip to upstate New York and New England in September 2008, I examined various local newspapers over short periods of time in the public libraries of Buffalo, Rochester, and Boston, and Albany and Troy newspapers in the New York State Library in Albany. I hope soon to survey the New York Clipper more systematically directly through the holdings at Miami University and to consult systematically such publications as the New York Sunday Mercury (only briefly viewed so far at the American Antiquarian Society library in Worcester, Massachusetts), the New York Herald, and the New York Tribune.
The tables describe each game in four columns:
- Date of game and (in parentheses) the day of the week it was played
- It’s already quite evident that virtually no games were played on Sunday and that the games were spread fairly evenly across the days of the week.
- City/town and playing field
- Tabulated information has been derived from contemporary newspaper accounts of the games. Some standardization of the playing-field information may be carefully carried out at a later time. As is well known, most playing fields of this period did not have specific names.
- Outcome of game
- In addition to the score, I have noted the number of innings played (after the 9-inning rule was established, I state the number of innings only if they were recorded to be shorter or longer than that), and, where known, whether the game was a return match or a deciding game of a home-and-home series. To enliven the tables, I have often included in this column quotations from one or more of the newspaper accounts of the game that reflect something of the perceived contemporary significance of the game (e.g., estimates of attendance, general assessments of the level of play or the quality of the teams, etc.). I have generally avoided quoting discussions of the individual accomplishments of specific players; if I had, the table would have expanded enormously. In the tables of certain non-NYC regions (particularly, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati), I have noted where the game accounts have stated whether the game was “town ball” or played by Massachusetts-game rules (rather than NY-game rules). For certain very significant games (such as the 1858 all-star games at the Fashion Course race track), I have had to postpone inclusion of quotations to a later upload due to limitations on the time I could devote to compiling the tables.
- I here have endeavored to include full bibliographic data (i.e., title of publication, volume and issue numbers, date of publication, and page and column numbers), especially because SABR’s Bibliography Committee has expressed interest in greatly expanding the number of entries in The Baseball Index (TBI) to cover newspaper accounts from the pre-1861 period. The sources (which include Peverelly and Wright for comparison purposes only) are listed in chronological order. When an individual source differs on some point of information (such as playing date or field or game score) from that generally stated elsewhere, I have noted that variation in one of several different ways in the entry. The sources listed include not only actual game accounts and follow-up articles, but also preliminary announcements of the scheduling of the game. That at first may appear to be overkill, but quite often, I have found, the preliminary announcements may be the only sources that provide the specific date and location of the game. I should also note that I have occasionally cited game accounts that were reprinted in various books, such as Preston D. Orem, Baseball, from the Newspaper Accounts (Altadena, Calif.: self-published, 1961) and Dean A. Sullivan, compiler and editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball 1825-1908 (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press (1995).
Research Topics Enabled by the Tabulation
For what purposes can these tables be used? First and foremost, I would anticipate that they could be used to provide more accurate measures than previously possible of the intensity of “base ball” playing in the 1845-1860 period. Larry McCray has estimated that the tables collectively list well more than 1,500 games, which would be a fivefold increase over the number of games listed in the Peverelly and Wright compilations. Second, although much more research needs to be done in regions outside Greater NYC, the tables provide much additional data concerning both the playing of related games (e.g., Massachusetts-rules and town ball) in the late 1850s and the fast- increasing geographical spread of the NY-rules game during the same period. Third, from the tables at this site, one can construct derivative tables listing all games by a particular team (see, for example, the table of Pastime of Brooklyn games [go here] that I constructed for the Pioneer Project, which revealed a dramatically higher number of games played by this team in 1858 and 1859 than was reported in Wright’s book). Then, with the sources listed for each game, one ought to be able write, more easily than before, a more accurate history of that team. Fourth, the same sources may also permit more accurate descriptions of an individual player’s batting, running, fielding, and pitching accomplishments, and the movements of players from team to team. Fifth, the tables provide much information on the establishment, use, and, in some cases, demise of fields where games were played. Sixth, the quoted passages or the original sources listed may yield new information on the etymological history of certain terms or phrases or the development of new rules. Readers will likely conceive other uses.
Next Steps, and What Readers Can Do to Help: My own next goal is to complete tabulating game accounts in Porter’s Spirit of the Times from mid-1859 up to the end of 1860. I would also like to consult such sources as the New York Sunday Mercury, the New York Herald, and the New York Tribune. Needless to say, I would welcome assistance from those who may wish to help expand the coverage of the table. In particular, local diggers are needed to survey systematically local newspapers in regions outside NYC. At present, the game accounts cited in the non-NYC regional tables are mostly from NYC-based sports weeklies. As an example of how such surveys can greatly expand the coverage in a particular region, I would direct your attention to the Capital Area of NY State (Upper Hudson River Valley) table, where my systematic survey of 1859-1860 issues of the Troy Daily Whig led to the discovery of a large number of accounts of games not mentioned in the sports weeklies.
I should here like to acknowledge the contributions of Priscilla Astifan (for news accounts of the Excelsior 1860 tour games in Rochester), Larry McCray (for news clippings from the Syracuse region that have yet to be tabulated), Dennis Pajot (for local news coverage of games in the Milwaukee region), John Thorn (for his notes regarding his 1983 examination of the Knickerbocker game books), and John Zinn (for his systematic survey of 1860 issues of selected New Jersey newspapers).
In addition, I wish to express my indebtedness to Larry McCray of the Protoball Project, for his unswerving support for this project since its conception, and to Dave Smith, for his generous offer to mount this Games Tabulation on the Retrosheet Web site.
In keeping with the policy of Retrosheet and the Protoball Project, the material in the Games Tabulation is intended to be freely used. However, you must acknowledge the Protoball Games Tabulation, compiled by Craig Waff, when information derived from the Tabulation is used in published form or is posted to the web.