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Pre-modern Base Ball in Michigan

Salience Noteworthy
Location Michigan
City/State/Country: Birmingham, MI, United States
Immediacy of Report Retrospective
Age of Players Adult

"A single tantalizing glimpse survives of a baseball club in  Michigan before 1857.  In 1897, the Detroit Free Press observed:

'It may be of interest to lovers of the sport to know where the first club was organized in the state of Michigan.  Birmingham claims that distinction.  Forty-three years ago, nine young men, ages ranging from 20 to 30 years, decided that it would be a good thing to have a baseball club and by practice to become able to play that fascinating game, not for gate receipts and grand stand money, but for fun, pure and simple.  Accordingly, they practiced and, representing the town of Bloomfield, challenged the adjoining township of Troy to a trial of skill.  The two teams lined up in front of the National hotel . . . one bright spring day at shortly after 12 o'clock, and the first game began.  It was  played for a supper of ham and eggs, the losing side to pay for same.  Bloomfield won by a score of 100 to 60.  The game was not finished until after 5 o'clock in the evening.  The ball played with was a soft one, weighing  four ounces.  Old time rules of course governed the game, one of them being that a base runner could be put out if hit by a thrown ball anywhere between the bases.  Many men were put out this way.

'Elated by their victory, the young men of Bloomfield decided to organize a baseball team, the constitution and by-laws were drafted and adopted and every Saturday a certain number of hours were devoted to practice.  That summer the team won many games. . . .

 'In those days the team that first scored a hundred tallies (generally marked on a stick with a jack-knife, opposite edges used for the two clubs) carried off the honors of the day.'"





Detroit Free Press, April 19, 1897, per Peter Morris. Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan (U of Michigan Press, ), pp 15-16. 


The use of "tallies" for runs was common for the form of base ball played in Massachusetts, and winning by scoring 100 runs was to be encoded in in the Massachusetts Game rules of 1858. 

Birmingham is in Bloomfield Township MI, about 15 miles NW of Detroit.  Troy MI is about 7 miles E of Bloomfield Township.

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Submitted by Peter Morris


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