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Scholar Ponders: Why Were the Knickerbockers So Publicity-Shy?

Salience Noteworthy
Location Greater New York City
City/State/Country: NYC, NY, United States
Game Base Ball
Age of Players Adult

"Robert Henderson helps us understand why the Knickerbocker Club made no apparent effort to engage in friendly contests with other teams [from 1845 through 1851]:  the club itself was on the verge of collapse in the early years because many of its members failed to show up for scheduled practices.

" . . . There was no mention of baseball in the press until 1853, with the exception of a few references to the New York Club in 1845. . . .  The failure of he Knickerbockers to ensure public recognition of their organization probably indicated a defensive posture toward involvement in baseball.  Given their social status  and the prevailing attitude toward ballplaying, their reaction is not surprising; after all, they were grown men of some stature playing a child's game.  They could rationalize their participation by pointing to the health and recreational benefits of baseball, but their social insecurities and their personal doubts concerning the manliness of the game inhibited them from openly announcing the organization." 


Melvin Adelman, A Sporting Time: New York City and the Rise of Modern Athletics, 1820-1870 (U of Illinois Press, 1986), page 124.

Adelman's reference [page 325] to the unpublished Henderson piece:  Robert Henderson, "Adams of the Knickerbockers," unpublished MS, New York Racquet and Tennis Club. 


Adelman does not mention that until 1854 there were few other known clubs for the KBBC to challenge to match games.


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[A] Was it common for sporting or other clubs to seek publicity prior to 1853?

[B] What evidence exists that the Club felt ashamed to play "a child's game," or that earlier varieties of base-running games were not played by older youths and adults?  This chronology has numerous accounts of adult play before 1853.

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