Baseball on Ice

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Game Baseball on Ice
Game Family Baseball Baseball
Regions US
Eras 1800s, Derivative
Invented Yes

[A] The first known game of base ball played on ice skates occurred on in January 1861 near Rochester NY.  Skating was very popular, and the hybrid game was played into the late 1800s.

A few special rules are known, a key one being that runners were not at risk when they overskated a base.  Deliveries were pitches, not throws; a dead ball was used and the bound rule was in effect.  A ten-player team deployed a left shortstop and a right shortstop.


[B] Richard Hershberger posted the following on Facebook on 2/4/22 [See clip, below]:

 "150 years ago in baseball: baseball on ice. This was a thing. Look at the list of the "Capitoline Ten" and you will see some top ball players. This is not true of the Brooklyn Skating Club's players, raising the question, is baseball or skating skill more important here? Good question. I don't know. I also don't know if there is money involved here, or if everyone is doing this for fun.

Adapting sports for ice skates was a thing more broadly. In Britain they sometimes played cricket on ice, which takes real devotion. They also adapted the fine old summer game of hockey to play on ice. This will spread to Canada, where it will be discreetly forgotten that they hadn't come up with the idea themselves.

Baseball on ice required some rules adaptations. Ten players is the most obvious, the extra fielder playing at right short. Chadwick had been advocating this for the regular game for years. Spoiler alert: It won't happen. But it was standard for the ice version. Over-skating the bases also was standard, and this variant did influence regular baseball. The rule allowing the batter-runner to overrun first base was borrowed from the ice game. This was a safety measure, advocating by George Wright who had pulled a hammy. But while safety was the motivation, ice baseball provided the solution to the problem. There will be discussions for another twenty years about extending the right to overrun to the other bases, but nothing will come of it. New York Sunday Mercury February 4, 1872: 


[A] Priscilla Astifan, "Baseball in the Nineteenth Century," Rochester History LII (Summer 1990), page 9.

[B] Richard Hershberger, FB posting of 2/4/22 [clip below].

See also  Peter Morris, A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2010 Single-volume edition), page 500.



Source Image
Ice baseball 1872.jpg

For some sketchy reports of ice-bound base-running games see Chronology entries.  A clippings search for "ice" turns up a few more.

1844.6Novel Cites "the Game of Bass in the Fields"

1847.11, Alabama: "Bass Ball," or "Goal," or "Hook-em-Snivy," on the Ice?


1861.5--  15,000 Watch Ice Base Ball in Brooklyn: Atlantic 37, Charter Oak 26.

1867 -- Clipping: Ice Baseball on the East River



-- More from Richard Hershberger, 2/11/2023:

"The earliest game on ice that I know of:

"The Enterprise Base Ball Club of this city [Rahway, N.J.], played a game on the ice, on Milton Lake, on Tuesday–the first of the kind we ever heard of."  Porter’s Spirit of the Times December 24, 1859

Perhaps worth discussing, there was ample precedent in England for playing cricket, and even hockey!, on ice.  Baseball on ice was an obvious variant."
[TO DO 2/13-- Search Ice Cricket!]




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