Chronology:Baseball Professionalism

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1848.19 Organization Men at the KBBC in 1848

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"Early references to the Knickerbockers' 1845 rules credit both William H. Tucker and William R. Wheaton, with (Hall of Famer Alexander) Cartwright seldom if ever getting a mention until (Duncan) Curry made an offhand remark to reporter Will Rankin during an 1877 stroll in the park (and even this remark was initially reported as a reference to "Wadsworth" as the diagram-giver; only in 1908 was Rankin's recall of Curry's attribution morphed into Cartwright).

Curry and Cartwright perhaps deserve more credit for the organization of the
club (i.e., its by-laws) than the rules. In the 1848 Club Constitution, p.
14:

Committee to Revise Constitution and By-Laws:
D.L. Adams, Pres.
A.J. Cartwright, Jr., Vice Pres
Eugene Plunkett, Sec'y
J.P. Mumford
Duncan F. Curry

Sources:

19cbb post by John Thorn, June 9, 2003, referencing the 1848 revision of the Knick's constitution and bylaws (see 1848.1)

Warning:

As of 2016, recent scholarship has shown little evidence that Alexander Cartwright played a central role in forging or adapting the Knickerbocker rules.  See Richard Hershberger, The Creation of the Alexander Cartwright Myth (Baseball Research Journal, 2014), and John Thorn, "The Making of a New York Hero" dated November 2015, at http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/11/30/abner-cartwright/.

John's concluding paragraph is: "Recent scholarship has revealed the history of baseball's "creation" to be a lie agreed upon. Why, then, does the legend continue to outstrip the fact?  "Creation myths, wrote Stephen Jay Gould, in explaining the appeal of Cooperstown, "identify heroes and sacred places, while evolutionary stories provide no palpable, particular thing as a symbol for reverence, worship, or patriotism."

Year
1848
Item
1848.19
Edit

1854.4 Was Lewis Wadsworth the First Paid Player?

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"For years, [Al] Reach had been the player identified as the first to receive a salary and/or other inducements, as his move from the Eckfords of Brooklyn to the Athletics could not otherwise be explained. Over the last twenty years, though, the "mantle" has more generally been accorded to Creighton and his teammate Flanley, who were simultaneously "persuaded" to leave the Star Club and join the Excelsiors. Your mention of Pearce - especially at this very early date of 1856 - is the first I have heard.

"In the very early days of match play, before the advent of widely observed anti-revolver provisions (with a requirement that a man belong to a club for thirty days before playing a game on their behalf) it is possible that a team may have paid a player, or provided other "emoluments" (such as a deadhead job), for purposes of muscling up for a single game. The earliest player movement that wrinkles my nose in the regard are that of Lewis Wadsworth 1854 (Gothams to Knickerbockers) and third basemen Pinckney in 1856 (Union to Gothams). The Knicks responded to the Pinckney move by offering membership to Harry Wright, already a professional player in another sport -- cricket."

 

Sources:

John Thorn posting to 19CBB listserve group, July 5, 2004, 1:39 PM.

Year
1854
Item
1854.4
Edit

1858.62 Baseball Player Compensation

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"It is very unwise for any individual to give his services to a club, as a player at matches, in the shape of a 'quid pro quo' for his liabilities as a member, unless he has in his possession, a resolution, duly verified by the officers of the club, to support him in the matter. Otherwise the very first time he happens to be unfortunate in his play at a match, he can, under the by-laws of his club, be either suspended or expelled for the non-payment of dues..."

Sources:

New York Sunday Mercury Aug. 29, 1858

Comment:

The Mercury was commenting on the situation of Lem Bergen, a prominent player for the Atlantic of Brooklyn, expelled by the club near the end of the 1857 season. Apparently an informal dues waiver was an early form of player compensation.

Year
1858
Item
1858.62
Edit

1859.29 Annual Meeting of NABBP Decides: Bound Rule, No Pros

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

The fly rule lost by a 32-30 vote. Compensation for playing any game was outlawed. The official ball shrunk slightly in weight and size. Matches would be decided by single games. 

Sources:

"Base Ball," The New York Clipper (March 26, 1859). 

Comment:

The paper worried that easy fielding would "reduce the 'batting' part of the game to a nonentity

Year
1859
Item
1859.29
Edit

1859.62 Plea for Amateurism

Game:

Cricket

Age of Players:

Adult

CRICKETING. That eleven men who have devoted their youth and manhood to playing cricket, and have made their living thereby, should be able to beat twice that number who have played that game occasionally for exercise and recreation, is not at all surprising...We have steadily and ardently favored the recent efforts made in this country for the creation and diffusion of a popular taste for muscular outdoor amusements. We believe our industrious people have too few holidays, and devote too few hours to health-giving, open-air recreations... and we should be glad to hear of the inclosure of of a public play-ground, and formation of a ball-club in every township in the Union...But play should be strictly a recreation, never a business. As a pursuit, we esteem it a very bad one...Let us have ball-clubs, cricket-clubs, and as many more such as you please, but not professional cricket-players any more than professional card-players. We trust that the Eleven of All England are to have no imitators on this side of the ocean."

Sources:

New York Tribune, Oct. 8, 1859

Comment:

The All England Eleven played in Canada, New York City, Philadelphia, and Rochester in the fall of 1859, playing on occasion against 22 opponents, to provide competition.

Year
1859
Item
1859.62
Edit

1859.65 New For 1859: Rumors of Player Movement

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

[A] "RESIGNATION-- We understand that Brown (formerly catcher for the Eckford Club), and Post (catcher for the Astoria) have resigned, and become members of the Putnam Base Ball Club. Both of these gentlemen have stood A no. 1 in their respective clubs, and their retirement must prove a serious loss thereto, while the Putnams become materially strengthened by the addition to their number."

[B] "BALL PLAY-- ...We notice that several important changes have taken place in the Brooklyn clubs. Amongst others we learn that Pidgeon, of the Eckford, has joined the Atlantic; Brown, also of the Eckford, has gone into the Putnam club; and Grum in the Excelsior. The Stars have divided themselves, and many of them, Creighton and Flanley in particular, having joined the Excelsior. Dickinson goes into the Atlantic. The trial for the championship, next season, will be between the Atlantic, Excelsior, and Putnam's...We have not heard of any particular changes in the leading clubs of New York...The Union of Morrisania will gain one or two strong players next season.

Sources:

[A] New York Sunday Mercury, Nov. 20, 1859

[B] New York Clipper, Nov. 26, 1859

Comment:

After the Eckford Club contradicted the claim that several  players were resigning and moving to other clubs, the Clipper issued a retraction on December 3: "...we are pleased to learn that it is not correct, for we do not approve of these changes at all." 

Year
1859
Item
1859.65
Edit

1860.7 Excelsiors Conduct Undefeated Western NY Road Trip. . ."First Tour Ever? First $500 Player Ever?

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

[A] "The Excelsiors of Brooklyn leave for Albany, starting the first tour ever taken by a baseball club. They will travel 1000 miles in 10 days and play games in Albany, Troy, Buffalo, Rochester, and Newburgh."

[B] In announcing the tour, a Troy paper noted: "The Excelsior Club of Brooklyn, who have pretty well reduced base ball to a science, and who pay their pitcher [Jim Creighton] $500 a year, are making a crusade through the provinces for the purpose of winning laurels."

[C] News of the triumphant return of the Excelsiors appeared in The item started: "The Excelsior , the crack club of Brooklyn, and one of the best in the United States, returned home of Thursday of last week, after a very pleasant tour to the Western part of the State. During their trip, they played games with several [unnamed] clubs, and we believe were successful on every occasion."

Sources:

[A] Baseballlibrary.com - chronology entry for 6/30/1860.

[B] "Base Ball," Troy Daily Whig Volume 26, number 8013 (Tuesday, July 3, 1860), page 3, column 5. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

[C] "Base Ball," Spirit of the Times, Volume 30, number 24 (Saturday, July 21, 1860), page 292, column 1. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

Craig Waff, "The Grand Excursion-- The Excelsiors of South Brooklyn vs. Six Upstate New York Teams", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 24-27

Comment:

The New York Sunday Mercury noted on April 29 that the Excelsior were organizing a tour, and announced on June 17 that arrangements had been completed.

Year
1860
Item
1860.7
Edit

1860.82 Famous Baseballists Turn To Cricket

Game:

Cricket

Age of Players:

Adult

CRICKET.-- Long Island vs. Newark.-- The first contest between two American elevens on Long Island took place at East New-York yesterday...considerable interest was created among the base-ball players of Long Island, from the fact that players from each of the first nines of the Excelsior, Atlantic, and Putnam Clubs were to take part in it; and accordingly the largest collection of spectators ever seen on the East New-York grounds collected yesterday...the result was a well contested game of four innings...the time occupied in playing the innings being under five hours, the shortest regular game of cricket on record."

Sources:

New York Tribune, Sep. 6, 1860

Comment:

The players, their names helpfully italicized in the box score, were Edward Pennington and Charles Thomas of the Eureka BBC of Newark, James Creighton and John Whiting of the Excelsior, Dick Pearce and Charley Smith of the Atlantic, and Thomas Dakin of the Putnam. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted in its report on Sep. 6 that "The base ball players showed themselves to as much advantage as at their favorite game."

Creighton was successful in cricket both as a bowler and batsman. At the time of his death in Oct. 1862 he was considered the best American player in the New York area.

Year
1860
Item
1860.82
Edit

1862.2 The Death of Jim Creighton at 21

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

Excelsior star pitcher James Creighton, 21 years old, suffered some sort of injury during the middle innings of a game against the Union of Morrisania on October 14, 1862, and died four days later of a "strangulated intestine" associated with a hernia. (Other accounts cite a ruptured bladder - ouch.) One legend was that Creighton suffered the injury in the process of "hitting out a home run." Excelsior officials attributed the death to a cricket injury incurred in a prior cricket match.

Creighton was perhaps base ball's first superstar.

 

Sources:

R. M. Gorman and D. Weeks, Death at the Ballpark (McFarland, 2009), pages 63-64.

Richard Bogovich, "The Martyrdom of Jim Creighton-- Excelsiors of Brooklyn vs. Unions", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 43-46

See Tom Gilbert's 3/4/2021 blog at https://howbaseballhappened.com/blog/how-baseball-killed-its-first-star-player.  Tom's How Baseball Happened (Godine, 2020) carries  Creighton's base ball career at p. 185ff, and his death is discussed on pp. 212-215.

Warning:

Tom Gilbert, 3/5/2021-- "Creighton’s hernia did not “rupture”— it led to a strangulated intestine which became infected; the infection killed him. We know this because both Brooklyn Health Dept records and Green-Wood Cemetery records state the cause of death as “strangulated intestine.”

Comment:

Tom Shieber, Hall of Fame curator who has studied Creighton extensively, believes the injury was an inguinal hernia which ruptured. In an article published on December 7, 1862, the New York Sunday Mercury recounts a conversation with Creighton before the Union game in which he states that he had injured himself in a recent cricket match. It is assumed that he received the hernia in the cricket match and that it ruptured during the Union game.

 

Year
1862
Item
1862.2
Edit

1862.9 First Admission Fees for Baseball?

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

May 15, 1862: "The Union Baseball Grounds at March Avenue and Rutledge Street in Brooklyn is opened, the first enclosed ball field to charge an admission fee."

Sources:

James Charlton, The Baseball Chronology (Macmillan, 1991), page 15.

Regarding the opening of the Union Grounds, see:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb. 12 and May 16, 1862; New York Clipper, Feb. 22, 1862; New York Sunday Mercury May 11 and May 18, 1862,

Warning:

Caveats: Admission was charged in 1858 for the Brooklyn-New York games at the Fashion Race Course, Queens, which was enclosed but not a 'ball field'. 

             Before the Union Grounds, there were no ball field enclosed for the purpose of charging admission.

Comment:

Admission had occasionally also been charged for "benefit" games for charities or to honor prominent players.

Year
1862
Item
1862.9
Edit

1863.56 Have Fast Ball Will Travel

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

[A] THE ATHLETIC CLUB OF PHILADELPHIA.--...Pratt, the well-known pitcher of the club...has been desirous for some time past of belonging to one of our leading clubs here; and during the visit of the Athletics to New York, Pratt being offered a good situation here, accepted it, and at once had his name proposed as a member of the Atlantic Club...Of course, he will henceforth be their pitcher...His accession to the Atlantic nine will strengthen them in what they have considered their weak point...We presume that the Atlantics will not play their match with the Eckfords until they can get Pratt in their nine..."

[B] "THE ATHLETIC CLUB OF PHILADELPHIA.-- A great change has suddenly occurred in the formation of the first nine of the Athletic club of Philadelphia. Pratt, their able pitcher, resigned from the club the day of his arrival in Philadelphia, the reason he assigned being that he had been offered a good situation in New York, and had joined the Atlantic club of Brooklyn, and henceforth he was to be the pitcher of that noted club, an honor no doubt that he was exceeding ambitious of obtaining."

Sources:

[A] New York Sunday Mercury, July 12, 1863

[B] New York Clipper, July 18, 1863

Comment:

Tom Pratt was age 19.

Year
1863
Item
1863.56
Edit

1864.44 Canadian Baseball Association Forms

Location:

Canada

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"BASE-BALL IN CANADA. A meeting of delegates appointed to form a Base-Ball Association in Canada was held in the town of Woodstock on Monday evening, 15th August, 1864."

Sources:

Wilkes' Spirit of the Times, Sept. 10, 1864

Comment:

Four clubs, all in Ontario, were represented-- the Young Canadian Club (Woodstock); Maple Leaf Club (Hamilton); Barton Club (Barton); and Victoria Club (Ingersoll)

Year
1864
Item
1864.44
Edit

1864.45 Playing for Prizes

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"ECKFORD vs. MUTUAL-- AN INTERESTING GAME. -- These clubs played their return match together on the Union ballgrounds, Brooklyn, on Monday last...considerable interest being taken in the match, from the fact that it was the last of the season in which the Mutual first-nine would be engaged, and also that the Mutuals had offered a series of prizes to their players, amounting to one hundred dollars, as an incentive to extra exertions."

Sources:

New York Sunday Mercury, Oct. 16, 1864

Year
1864
Item
1864.45
Edit

1865.12 "Professional" Players? Yes. Playing For Money? No

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

[A] "THE MUTUAL CLUB AND THEIR GROUNDS. The Mutual Club...have rented the enitre ground (at the Elysian Fields)...their object being to afford equal opportunities for both the 'professional' and amateur players of the club to enjoy practice to their hearts' content."

[B] "PLAYING BASEBALL FOR MONEY.-- ...We trust never to see our national pastime brought down to the level of contests in the prize ring of pugilism. The honor of incasing the ball as the only trophy of victory in a match is sufficient without bringing pecuniary rewards into the game as incentives for extra efforts. When the time arrives for money to be made the object in playing ball, then good-bye to friendly contests and the rule of gentlemanly ball-players..."

Sources:

[A] New York Sunday Mercury, May 7, 1865

[B] New York Sunday Mercury, July 30, 1865

 

Year
1865
Item
1865.12
Edit

1867.9 Your Tax Dollars At Work/Play

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"...a number of the players had clerkships in that department and in
fact a fairly frequently reprinted quotation calls the Second Auditor's
office was "the birthplace of baseball in Washington."

Sources:

19cbb post by David Ball, Dec. 16, 2002, quoting the Washington Star, 8/14/27 and Washington Evening Star, 10/1/33. 

Comment:

Creation of  phantom jobs for ballplayers was a commonplace in baseball's amateur era.

Year
1867
Item
1867.9
Edit

1867.13 Moneyball 1867

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"Many will be surprised to learn that the Atlantics have vacated the scene of their greatest triumphs, and have located themselves on the Eckford grounds, or rather the Union ball grounds, in Williamsburgh, entirely out of the way of the residence of the majority of their members, and in opposition to the wishes of many of the best men in their club. It would appear from all accounts that the present ruler of the club, failing to make any advantageous arrangement with Weed & Decker for a greater share of the proceeds in match days than the players received last year, and finding Cammeyer of the Union grounds ready to offer good terms to secure the club, they availed themselves of the latter offer of sixty per cent of the receipts and closed with him at once. But this being against the rules of the association, they made out a new form of agreement and hired the grounds after paying forty per cent of the receipts taken in lieu of rent. They change will not benefit the club, and it is the worst precedent Cammeyer could have adopted as all clubs can now fully claim a share of the sale money."

Sources:

New York Daily News, April 21, 1867, per 19cbb post by Richard Hershberger, Sep. 30, 2013

Comment:

1867 would be a watershed year for baseball finances.  At the beginning of the season ten cents was still the standard admission.  Midway through the season some clubs would experiment with twenty-five cent admissions.  It turned out that the public was willing to pay this, and this changed everything.  At ten cents the receipts paid for expenses, but only the top draws like the Atlantics and the Athletics could turn a significant profit.  At twenty-five cents this opened up a revenue stream to many more clubs, and the fraternity found itself awash with cash (at least compared to previously).  A similar thing would happen a century or so later with television money.  The effect in the 1860s was to lock in professionalism.  By 1868 there were openly professional picked nine games being played, and the following year they dropped the pretense entirely.

Year
1867
Item
1867.13
Edit

1869.7 Cincinnati Club Forms as First All-Professional Nine

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

Notables:

Harry Wright, George Wright

"In the fall of 1868, a group of Cincinnati businessmen and lawyers, serving as directors of the Cincinnati Base Ball Club, agreed to a concept so commonplace today that it is difficult to imagine how risky it seemed at the time. The club would recruit the best players it could find, from around the country (and), pay all the players a salary..." 

 

 

Sources:

Rhodes, Greg & Erardi, John, The First Boys of Summer. Road West Publishing Co., 1994, p.4

Year
1869
Item
1869.7
Edit

1871.3 Coup d'grace for the Amateur Era

Game:

Base Ball

"In March 1871, ten members of the National Association met in New York for the purpose of forming a new group...This act essentially killed the National Association."

Sources:

Marshall Wright, The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870, p.328

Year
1871
Item
1871.3
Edit

1871.12 Pro Clubs to Meet in March, National Association Starts Its Fade

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"The appointed meeting of the Secretaries of the professional clubs, announced to take place in New York on the 17th of March, St. Patrick's Day, has been changed into a convention of the professionals, and the meeting will settle not only the dates of all the matches for the season, but also the championship question.  The best thing they can do is to organize an association  of professional clubs at once. . . .

"Mr. Chadwick resigned all connection to the National Association last October. . . .  To the Excelsior club in this city [Brooklyn] is due the credit of inaugurating the movement for an amateur association . . . ."

Sources:

Brooklyn Eagle, February 28, 1871.

Comment:

Richard Hershberger, 2/28/2021:   This column "tacitly acknowledges that the old National Association is dead. Or perhaps it is a nail in the coffin to make sure it stays that way. The National Association met last December just as it had for years. It adopted rules revisions, elected officers, and so on. From a procedural perspective, it is chugging along as always. But it is in fact dead. The corpse will twitch a little bit, but there will never be any discussion of holding the convention next December."

"The discussion of the upcoming meeting of March 17 is portentous. It was originally called by Nick Young, secretary of the Olympics of Washington, so the professional clubs could coordinate their schedules. The idea wasn't to set up a detailed schedule, but so that a club going to, for example, Chicago could be confident that the Chicago Club wasn't in Boston at the time. The secretary of the Chicago Club has suggested upgrading the meeting to also set up a formal championship system for the professionals."

From 150 Years Ago in baseball FB posting 

Query:

Did the March 17 date hold up?  Was it held in NYC?

Was St. Patrick's Day an extra special day in the 1870s?

Was Chadwick's departure a matter of controversy?  Why?

Year
1871
Item
1871.12
Edit

1871.14 Rival Assn of Amateur Players Forms: Includes Clubs from NY, Philly, Baltimore, Boston.

Location:

NYC

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"THE CONVENTION OF AMATEUR CLUBS IN BROOKLYN

A NATIONAL SSSOCIATION OF AMATEUR BASE BALL PLAYERS IS ESTABLISHED

CLUBS FROM NEW YORK, PHILADELPHIA, BALTIMORE AND BOSTON REPRESENTED

"Thursday, March 18, 1871 was an eventful day in the brief annals of the National game . . . there was a re-union of the amateur class of the fraternity . . ."

Participating clubs included Knickerbocker, Eagle, Gotham. Excelsior, Star, Olympic, Equity, Pastime and Harvard clubs."

 

Sources:

New York Clipper, March 25, 1871

Comment:

from Richard Hershberger, "150 Years Ago Today", 3/18/2021:

"[T]he formation of the National Association of Amateur Base Ball Players. This is the long-talked-about splinter organization, spinning off from the old National Association, which is deemed to be thoroughly infested with professionalism cooties.

Spoiler alert: We won't be talking about the new NAABBP very much down the road. It will stumble along for several years, but will be essentially irrelevant the whole while. Why not? It isn't as if amateur baseball will ever go away. Professional baseball has never accounted for more than a tiny fraction of all baseball played. It just attracts nearly all the attention."

Note: for Richard's full commentary, see Supplemental Text, below.

Query:

Was this new NAABP destined to tinker with the rules of play?

Year
1871
Item
1871.14
Edit

1871.16 Professionals Edge Away from NABBP; Modern Standings Begin to Take Shape

Game:

Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"BASE BALL BOTHER.  National Professional Association. The Championship Question Settled.

"A convention of delegates from the professional base ball clubs of the country was held at #840 Broadway last evening.  At the time that the call for the convention was sent out its objects were stated to be the settlement of the manner of achieving the title of champion club of the country, and the arrangement of the routes of the club tours during the season.  But the action of the amateur clubs in withdrawing from the National Association see 1871.14 . . . caused the scope of the Convention's duties to be enlarged, and . . . made necessary the reorganization of the National Association on a professional basis."

 

Sources:

New York Herald,  March 18, 1871

Comment:

Richard Hershberger, FP posting of March 17, 2021:

"150 years ago today in baseball: The big day! Yesterday the amateurs met in Brooklyn and formed a new association. See 1871.14.  Today we move across the East River, where the professionals form theirs. It wasn't originally supposed to be this way. The meeting was initially called simply to coordinate travel schedules. From there it expanded to arranging a championship system. With yesterday's event the meeting expanded yet further. The status of the old National Association of Base Ball Players is up in the air. Simpler for the professionals just to start fresh. . . . .

"Their championship system is quietly revolutionary. The old unofficial system followed the model of champion and challenger, like in boxing. The new system is not laid out explicitly here, but it is close to the modern system of every club playing a series against every other club.

This 'championship season' (which is what the official rules still call what the rest of us refer to as the 'regular season') is the great invention of the NAPBBP. This often is overlooked, as NAPBBP tends to carry the stench of failure today. So let us pause a moment and contemplate the glory that is the regular season.
...

Done? Excellent! This is not quite the regular season as we understand it today. It is a series of best-of-five series. If a club won the first three games of the series, there was no need to play the last two. This is why the win-loss records for 1871 are so scattered. Teams did not play the same number of games, but they weren't expected to. This will result in some wackiness in determining the championship. No spoilers! We will get to that in the Fall. Suffice it to say that for 1872 they will switch to every team playing the same number of games, at least in theory." 

Year
1871
Item
1871.16
Edit