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First Intercollegiate Ballgame: Amherst 73, Williams 32
|Location||New EnglandNew England|
|City/State/Country:||Pittsfield, MA, United States|
|Game||Base BallBase Ball|
|Immediacy of Report|
|Age of Players||YouthYouth|
In the first intercollegiate baseball game ever played, Amherst defeats Williams 73-32 in 26 innings, played under the Massachusetts Game rules. The contest is staged in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a neutral site, at the invitation of the Pittsfield Base Ball Club.
The two schools also competed at chess that weekend. A two-page broadsheet tells of Amherst taking on Williams in both base ball and chess. Headline: "Muscle and mind!"
The New York Clipper thought that the game's wimpy ball lessened the fun: "The ball used by Amherst was small, soft, and with so little elasticity that a hard throw upon the floor would cause of rebound of scarcely a foot." Ryczek goes on to say that the ball, while more suitable for plugging than the Association ball, detracted from the excitement of the game because it was not or could not be hit or thrown far.
Pittsfield Sun, July 7, 1859. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 32-34. Also, Durant, John, The Story of Baseball in Words and Pictures [Hastings House, NY, 1947], p .10. Per Millen, note # 35.
Amherst Express, Extra, July 1 - 2, 1859 [Amherst, MA], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 219.
New York Clipper, cited in William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 127 and attributed to the July 16 issue of the Clipper..
Jim Overmyer, "Baseball Goes to College-- Amherst vs. Williams", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 19-20.
A 9/27/2014 New York Times article about the game, by historian Michael Beschloss, appears at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/27/upshot/the-longest-game-williams-vs-amherst.html.
For a stern critique of the student time spent away from studying, see The Congregationalist [Boston], September 2, 1859, cited at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/amherst-and-williams-play-the-first-intercollegiate-game-of-baseball-1859-b1c0255f6338, posted January 15, 2018.
A research note by Jim Overmyer on why the game occurred in Pittsfield appears as Supplemental Text below.
For a stern critique of the student time spent away from studying, see The Congregationalist [Boston], September 2, 1859, cited at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/amherst-and-williams-play-the-first-intercollegiate-game-of-baseball-1859-b1c0255f6338, posted January 15, 2018.Edit with form to add a comment
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Why Pittsfield for Williams-Amherst Game? - from Jim Overmyer
(Thanks to Larry Moore for forwarding it (1/10/2020).
The school teams were looking for a neutral site, and although Pittsfield was only 20 road miles from Williamstown, as opposed to 50 miles from Amherst, it became the chosen venue once the Pittsfield Baseball Club offered to serve as hosts. Plunkett also served as the “arbiter and referee” for the game. This apparently gave him the task of making on-field rulings when the two umpires, one from each college, couldn’t agree on a call, which was often. The baseball club, in addition to securing a playing field, sponsored a post-game banquet at which the college players were guests. The club was aided by the Pittsfield Chess Club, which made its rooms available for a match between chess players from Williams and Amherst. Williams had insisted on this “double header,” perhaps to give it a chance for an even split on the day, but Amherst captured this contest, also.
Plunkett was William R. Plunkett, the president of the Pittsfield Base Ball Club in the late 1850’s and a lawyer who had management and financial interests in many leading local businesses.
I found out at some point after the book was done that the headmaster of the Maplewood Institute for Girls was an Amherst grad. While this probably did not influence the choice of Pittsfield, it may have done so for the selection of the actual game site. It most likely had something to do with the pro-Amherst banner the girls draped from the school's second story.