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Story Places Baseball in Rochester NY

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Famous
Location Western New York
City/State/Country: Rochester, NY, United States
Age of Players Adult

A story, evidently set in 1880 in Rochester, involves three boys who convince their grandfather to attend a Rochester-Buffalo game. The grandfather contrasts the game to that which he had played in 1827.

He describes intramural play among the 50 members of a local club, with teams of 12 to 15 players per side, a three-out-side-out rule, plugging, a bound rule, and strict knuckles-below-knees pitching. He also recalls attributes that we do not see elsewhere in descriptions of early ballplaying: a requirement that each baseman keep a foot on his base until the ball is hit, a seven-run homer when the ball went into a sumac thicket and the runners re-circled the bases, coin-flips to provide "arbitrament" for disputed plays, and the team with the fewest runs in an inning being replaced by a third team for the next inning ["three-old-cat gone crazy," says one of the boys]. The grandfather's reflection does not comment on the use of stakes instead of bases, the name used for the old game, the relative size or weight of the ball, or the lack of foul ground - in fact he says that outs could be made on fouls.



Samuel Hopkins Adams, "Baseball in Mumford's Pasture Lot," Grandfather Stories (Random House, New York, 1947), pp. 143 - 156. Full text is unavailable via Google Books as of 12/4/2008.


Adams' use of a frame-within-a-frame device is interesting to baseball history buffs, but the authenticity of the recollected game is hard to judge in a work of fiction. Mumford's lot was in fact an early Rochester ballplaying venue, and Thurlow Weed (see entry #1825c.1) wrote of club play in that period. Priscilla Astifan has been looking into Adams' expertise on early Rochester baseball. See #1828c.3 for another reference to Adams' interest in baseball about a decade before the modern game evolved in New York City.

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We welcome input on the essential nature of this story. Fiction? Fictionalized memoir? Historical novel?

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Submitted by Priscilla Astifan
Submission Note Email of 4/9/2013


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