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- 1 1850c.35 U. of Michigan Alum Recalls Baseball, Wicket, Old-Cat Games
- 2 1850c.44 Twenty or So Cricket Clubs Dot the US
- 3 1850s.45 Future NL President Plays ball in Mohawk Valley of New York
- 4 1854.13 English Visitor Sees Wicket at Harvard
- 5 1855.16 Scholar Deems 1855 the Peak of Cricket-playing in America
- 6 1857.15 US Editor Promotes Cricket as the "National Game"
- 7 1857.36 English Residents of Richmond, VA Try Unsuccessfully to Form A Cricket Club, Then Try Base Ball
- 8 1859.56 Ten to One
- 9 1859.70 Central Park a Boon to National Prowess in Base Ball, Cricket, Etc.
- 10 1860.73 Batting Cage Debuts
- 11 1863.62 The Times Calls a Spade a Spade-- Base Ball is Obliterating Cricket
1850c.35 U. of Michigan Alum Recalls Baseball, Wicket, Old-Cat Games
A member of the class of 1849 recalls college life: "Athletics were not regularly organized, nor had we any gymnasium. We played base-ball, wicket ball, two-old-cat, etc., but there was not foot-ball."
"Cricket was undoubtedly the first sport to be organized in the University, as the Palladium for 1860-61 gives the names of eight officers and twenty-five members of the "Pioneer Cricket Club," while the Regents' Report for June, 1865, shows an appropriation of $50 for a cricket ground on the campus."
The college history later explains: "The game of wicket, which was a modification of cricket, was played with a soft ball five to seven inches in diameter, and with two wickets (mere laths or light boards) laid upon posts about four inches high and some forty feet apart. The 'outs' tried to bowl them down, and the 'ins' to defend them with curved broad-ended bats. It was necessary to run between the wickets at each strike."
Wilfred Shaw, The University of Michigan (Harcourt Brace, New York, 1920), pp 234-235. Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search ("wilfred shaw" michigan).
The dates of wicket play are not given.
1850c.44 Twenty or So Cricket Clubs Dot the US
"During the late 1840s there was an increase in the number of cricket clubs in New York and nationally. At least six clubs were formed in the metropolitgan area, [but most] survived for only a few years. . . . George Kirsch maintains that by 1850 at least twenty cricket clubs, enrolling perhaps 500 active payers, existed in more than a dozen American communities."
Melvin Adelson, A Sporting Time (U. of Illinois Press, 1886), page 104. Adelson cites Kirsch, "American Cricket," in Journal of Sport Hstory, volume 11 (Spring 1984), page 28.
Do these estimates jibe with current assessments?
1850s.45 Future NL President Plays ball in Mohawk Valley of New York
Nicholas Young, National League President, 1885-1902
"I was born [in 1840] in Amsterdam in the beautiful Mohawk Valley, and while I played barn ball, one old cat, and two old cat in my early boyhood days, cricket was my favorite game, and until I enlisted in the army I never played a regular game of base ball, or the New York game as it was then called."
Letter, Nicholas Young to A. G. Mills, December 2, 1902, in the Mills Commission file at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was resonding to the Mills Commission's call for knowledge on the origins of base ball.
Young first played base ball in 1863 his cricket friends in the Army could not find opponents to play the game. See entry 1863.19.
1854.13 English Visitor Sees Wicket at Harvard
"It was in the spring of 1854 . . . that I stepped into the Harvard College yard close to the park. There I saw several stalwart looking fellows playing with a ball about the size of a small bowling ball, which they aimed at a couple of low sticks surmounted by a long stick. They called it wicket. It was the ancient game of cricket and they were playing it as it was played in the reign of Charles the First [1625-1649 - LMc]. The bat was a heavy oak thing and they trundled the ball along the ground, the ball being so large it could not get under the sticks.
"They politely invited me to take the bat. Any cricketer could have stayed there all day and not been bowled out. After I had played awhile I said, "You must play the modern game cricket." I had a ball and they made six stumps. Then we went to Delta, the field where the Harvard Memorial Hall now stands. We played and they took to cricket like a duck to water. . . .I think that was the first game of cricket at Harvard."
"The Boyhood of Rev. Samuel Robert Calthrop." Compiled by His daughter, Edith Calthrop Bump. No date given. Accessed 10/31/2008 at http://www-distance.syr.edu/SamCalthropBoyhoodStory.html.
Actually, Mr. Calthrop may have come along about 95 years too late to make that claim: see #1760s.1 above.
1855.16 Scholar Deems 1855 the Peak of Cricket-playing in America
"By 1855, Cricket was clearly the leading ball game . . . . Clearly, there was no opposition to cricket because it was English . . . . However, the growth of cricket between 1855 and 1861 was minor compared to the advances made in baseball. The Spirit summarized the general attitude of the press in 1859 when it wrote that 'cricket has its admirers, but it is evident that it will never have the universality that baseball will.' [page 107]
"In essence, cricket failed because it was too advanced and too institutionalized for a society that lacked a manly ball-playing tradition. Americans drew from the only heritage they had -- that of a child's game." [page 110]
Melvin Adelman, "Chapter 5 --The Failure of Cricket as an American Sport," A Sporting Time: New York City and the Rise of Modern Athletics, 1820-1870 (U Illinois Press, 1986) 97 - 120.
Adelman cites the Spirit source as December 3, 1859, issue 29, page 505.
Adelman bases his analysis on the premise that base ball's predecessor games were played mainly be juveniles. This premise can be questioned. Even discounting play by university youths up to 1845, adult play in the military and elsewhere was hardly rare before the Gothams and Knickerbockers formed in New York around 1840, as many entries in this chronology indicate.
1857.15 US Editor Promotes Cricket as the "National Game"
"Hitherto, one great obstacle to the progress of the game [cricket] in this country has been the assertion made by certain ignorant and prejudiced parties, the Cricket is only played by Englishmen. . . . But it is not so.
"Cricket," New York Clipper, May 16, 1857. Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], page 25.
1857.36 English Residents of Richmond, VA Try Unsuccessfully to Form A Cricket Club, Then Try Base Ball
[A] The Richmond Whig, April 10, 1857, prints a letter to the editor saying: "Cricket... efforts are being made, by several admirers of the game, to organized a club in this city..." The letter is signed by "English readers" of the newspaper.
[B] "Base Ball at Richmond, Va.-- The failure of the Cricket Club last summer has in no wise disheartened some of the members, who, feeling the necessity of out-door exercise, are now busily at work endeavoring to get up a base ball club for the present season."
[A] The Richmond Whig, April 10, 1857
[B] The Spirit of the Times, June 12, 1858
1859.56 Ten to One
At the American Cricket Convention in April 1859:
"Mr. Wallace, of the St. George's club, stated that there would be a cricket ground in the Central Park, but it would not be finished this year, and when finished, the base ball players would claim it. As there were ten base ball players for one cricket player, it was very doubtful as to who would get the ground, though the Commissioners were willing to favor the cricketers."
New York Sun, May 3, 1859
1859.70 Central Park a Boon to National Prowess in Base Ball, Cricket, Etc.
"Though we have not yet attained such proficiency in the game of cricket as to be a match for the Englishmen or Canadians, we expect to be ahead of them not very long hence. In the meantime we have nationalized the more active game of base ball.
"The opening of the Central Park comes on most opportunely to aid in this new phase of our social development. . . [T]he Park will be the place."
The full Herald editorial is below.
New York Herald, July 20, 1859, p. 5, cols. 1-2
Other items referring to the use of Central Park for baserunning games are at 1859.35 (base ball asks for access, 1859.56 (cricket community wary of 10-to-1 edge in local support for base ball), 1860.69 (Knickerbocker eyes way to use the Park), and 1864.36 (further hopes for base ball access.)
1860.73 Batting Cage Debuts
[A] (ad) "CRICKET COURT, 654 BROADWAY.-- CRICKET AND Base Ball Practice.-- The spacious saloon, 654 Broadway, is now open. Gentlemen wishing to perfect themselves in the above game will do well to call, as they will always find wickets pitched and a professional bowler to give instructions to those who require it."
[A] New York Herald, April 4, 1860
New York Sunday Mercury, April 8, 1860
Spirit of the Times, June 2, 1860
1863.62 The Times Calls a Spade a Spade-- Base Ball is Obliterating Cricket
...cricket has been almost obliterated by base ball, which, but ten years since, was in its infancy...The main cause of this is, that a few cricketers...play pretty much all the matches for the few Clubs that exist only in name; while Bass Ball Clubs play their matches with their bona fide members, and consequently their medium players always have a prospect before them of being chosen to play..."
New York Times, Sep. 25, 1863