|Misc BB Firsts|
|Add a Misc BB First|
|About the Chronology|
|Tom Altherr Dedication|
|Add a Chronology Entry|
- 1 1847.7 Occupation Army Takes Ballgame to Natives In . . . Santa Barbara?
- 2 1851.2 Early Ballplaying on the SF Plaza (Horses Beware!)
- 3 1851.8 Games of Ball Seen in Sacramento CA in 1851, 1854
- 4 1852.7 San Francisco Plaza Again Active, This Time with "Town Ball;"
- 5 1854.15 Sacramento "Hombres" Play Ball Before Several Hundred, Break Stuff
- 6 1856.26 Youths Are "Playing Ball" in San Francisco
- 7 1858.39 San Francisco Organizes for Base Ball . . . Again
- 8 1858.56 Mr. Babcock Shows Base Ball to San Franciscans
- 9 1859.5 First [or Second?] Pacific Coast Club, the Eagles, Forms
- 10 1860.5 NY Game is Called Dominant in CA
- 11 1860.41 Two Base Ball Tourneys in California
- 12 1860.55 Ballplaying Near Stockton CA
- 13 1860.59 Game Set for CA Mining Town
- 14 1863.96 Union soldiers play ball in California
1847.7 Occupation Army Takes Ballgame to Natives In . . . Santa Barbara?
The New York Volunteer Regiment reached California in April 1847 after the end of the Mexican War, and helped to occupy the province. They laid out a diamond [where State and Cota Streets now meet], made a ball from gutta percha, and used a mesquite stick as a bat. Partly because batted balls found their way into the windowless nearby adobes, there were some problems. "Largely because of the baseball games, the Spanish-speaking people of Santa Barbara came to look upon the New Yorkers as loudmouthed, uncouth hoodlums. . . . the hostilities between Californians and Americanos continued to fester for generations."
Walter A. Tompkins, "Baseball Began Here in 1847," It Happened in Old Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara National Bank, undated), pages 77-78.
Caveat: Angus McFarland has not been able to verify this account as of November 2008.
Note -- Actually, an earlier account of California ballplaying was recorded a month before this, in San Diego. See 1847.15.
Is there any indication of what Tompkins' source might have been?
1851.2 Early Ballplaying on the SF Plaza (Horses Beware!)
From February 1851 through January 1852, there are six reports of ballplaying in San Francisco:
 February 4, 1851. "Sport -- A game of base ball was played upon the Plaza yesterday afternoon by a number of the sorting gentlemen about town."
 February 4, 1851. Sports on the Plaza. "The plaza has at last been turned to some account by our citizens. Yesterday quite a crowd collected upon it, to take part in and witness a game of ball, many taking a hand. We were much better pleased at it, than to witness the crowds in the gambling saloons which surround the square."
 February 6, 1851. "Base-Ball --This is becoming quite popular among our sporting gentry, who have an exercise upon the plaza nearly every day. This is certainly better amusement than 'bucking' . . . ."
 March 1, 1851. "Our plaza . . . has gone through a variety of stages -- store-house, cattle market, auction stand, depository of rubbish, and lately, playground. Numbers of boys and young men daily amuse themselves by playing ball upon it -- this is certainly an innocent recreation, but occasionally the ball strikes a horse passing, to the great annoyance of he driver."
 March 25, 1851. "There [at the Plaza] the boys play at ball, some of them using expressions towards their companions, expressions neither flattering, innocent nor commendable. Men, too, children of a larger growth, do the same things."
 January 14, 1852. "Public Play Ground -- For the last two or three evenings the Plaza has been filled with full grown persons engaged very industrially in the game known as 'town ball.' The amusement is very innocent and healthful, and the place peculiarly adapted for that purpose."
 Alta California, Feb, 4, 1851
 "Sports on the Plaza," Daily California Courier, February 4, 1851.
 "Base-Ball," Alta California, February 6, 1851.
 "The Plaza," San Francisco Herald, March 1, 1851.
 "The Corral," Alta California, March 25, 1851.
 "Public Playground," Alta California, January 14, 1852.
See Angus Macfarlane, The [SF] Knickerbockers -- San Francisco's First Baseball Team?," Base Ball, volume 1, number 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 7-20.
Angus Macfarlane's research shows that many New Yorkers were in San Francisco in early 1851, and in fact several formed a "Knickerbocker Association." Furthermore he discovered that several key members of the eastern Knickerbocker Base Ball Club -- including de Witt, Turk, Cartwright, Wheaton, Ebbetts, and Tucker -- were in town. "[I]n various manners and at various times they crossed each other's paths." Angus suggests that they may have been involved in the 1851 games, so it is possible that they were played by Knickerbocker rules . . . at a time when in New York most games were still intramural affairs within the one or two base ball clubs playing here.
What do we know about "the Plaza" in those days, and its habitués and reputation?
1851.8 Games of Ball Seen in Sacramento CA in 1851, 1854
"Morning Sports - A fight took place on Saturday morning on the levee, and a game of ball on 2d street just above the Columbia Hotel. Quite a number of gentlemen witnessed these amusements, and seemed highly entertained by them."
Sacramento Transcript, March 18, 1851 (as reprinted in the Spirit of the Times on May 17, 1851).
Another game in Sacramento was covered in April of 1854. John Thorn suggests that "the above 'game of ball' may be inferred to be baseball (I think)."
1852.7 San Francisco Plaza Again Active, This Time with "Town Ball;"
"For the last two or three evenings the Plaza has been filled with full grown persons engaged very industriously in the game known as 'town ball.' The amusement is very innocent and healthful . . . . The scenes are extremely interesting and amusing, and the place is peculiarly adapted for that purpose."
"Public Play Ground," Alta California, January 14, 1852
On June 11, 2007, John Thorn reported a similar CA find: "A game of "town ball" which was had on the Plaza during the week, reminded us of other days and other scenes. California Dispatch, January 2, 1852.
In the prior year (see item #1851.2) the game at the Plaza had been called base ball in two news accounts, and town ball in none that we now have. Note the account of prior base ball in SF at 1851.2 above. Angus explains that six former members of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in Manhattan were then in SF, and thus the reported games may have been played by modern rules.
Angus adds - email of 1/16/2008 - that this appears to be the last SF-area mention of base ball or town ball until 1859.
1854.15 Sacramento "Hombres" Play Ball Before Several Hundred, Break Stuff
"A Game of Ball - People will have recreation occasionally, whether it be considered exactly dignified or not. Yesterday afternoon there was a game of ball played on J street which created no little amusement for several hundred persons. The sport lasted a full hour, until finally some unlucky hombre sent the ball through the window of a drug store, penetrating and fracturing a large glass jar, much to the chagrin of the gentlemanly apothecary, who had not anticipated such unceremonious a carronade."
Daily Democratic State Journal (Sacramento CA), March 24, 1854.
Richard adds: "Of course this raises the usual questions of what "a game of ball" means. Clearly it is a bat-and-ball game, and given the documented earlier games of baseball (in some form or other) in California and the absence of documented references of the other usual suspects such as wicket in California, it is a reasonable guess that this was [a form of] baseball. I am less willing to make the leap to its being the New York game."
1856.26 Youths Are "Playing Ball" in San Francisco
"The only reference to any ballplaying activity reported in the SF papers between 1852 and 1860 was a complaint to the editor of the Bulletin by a good Christian on February 13, 1856 who complained about boys and young men plaing ball on the sabbath."
San Francisco Bulletin, 2/13/1856.
1858.39 San Francisco Organizes for Base Ball . . . Again
"BASE BALL CLUB: "a Club entitled the San Francisco Base Ball Club has been formed in San Francisco, California. . . . They meet every other Tuesday at the Club House, Dan's saloon." .
Spirit of the Times, Volume 28, number 7 (Saturday, March 27, 1858), page 78, column 2
Is this the first club established in CA since 1851? [Cf #1851.2, #1852.7, #1859.5]
1858.56 Mr. Babcock Shows Base Ball to San Franciscans
"Allow me to correct an error which appeared in your last issue in relation to the first game of base ball played in California. The game was introduced by Mr. William Babcock of the Atlantic Base Ball Club, of Brooklyn, and was played . . . on the grounds opposite South Park, in the city of San Francisco [CA] on the 10th day of Nov., 1858." A box score is included. It shows W. V. Babcock as batting leadoff, pitching, scoring 3 runs, and also, "[o]wing to the scarcity of parties understanding the game, Mr. Babcock acted as umpire."
"Correspondence. Base Ball in California," Sunday Mercury, January 6, 1861, page 8.
"Not Like They Used to Play: A Veteran of the Diamond Tells of the Early Days," August 8, 1892. (Interview with W. Babcock.) Received from John Thorn, 12/16/12.
SF early baseball specialist Angus Macfarlane points out that this game was not carried in any SF newspaper still extant, despite the fact that many were lauding the game just a few months later (email of 12/15/12). Another report (also lacking a local reference) of the foundation of a club, the San Francisco BBC, appeared in the Spirit of the Times on 3/27/1858. Images exist of a "Boston BBC of San Francisco" organized in 1857, but no further references are known.
Wm Babcock had played with the Gotham Club in the early 1850's, founded and pitched for the Atlantic Club in 1855, and caught "Western Fever" in about 1858 and went to SF.
1859.5 First [or Second?] Pacific Coast Club, the Eagles, Forms
Seymour, Harold, Baseball: the Early Years [Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 26. [No ref given]
John Thorn, on July 11, 2004, advised Protoball that "a challenge to the citation is a photo at the NBL of the Bostons of San Francisco, with a handwritten contemporary identification 'organized 1857'."
1860.5 NY Game is Called Dominant in CA
"Many new clubs are being formed, and it gives me pleasure to state that the "National Association," or New York game, is the only style of ball playing at all encouraged in California."
Wilkes Spirit of the Times, December 1, 1860. Per Millen, Patricia, From Pastime to Passion: Baseball and the Civil War (Heritage Books, 2007), p. 8.
1860.41 Two Base Ball Tourneys in California
In September and October 1860, two tournaments occurred in CA. The first saw SF's Eagle Club beat Sacramento twice, 36-32 and 31-17 It was noted that SF's Gelston, a leadoff batter and catcher, was from the Eagle Club in New York, and "the Sacs" pitcher and leadoff batter Robinson was from Brooklyn's Putnams. In addition to a $100 prize for the winning team, the best player at each position received a special medal. The games took place in Sacramento.
In October, three teams - Sacramento, Stockton, and the Live Oak - played games in Stockton, with Sacramento winning the $50 prize ball, beating Stockton 48-11 and then pasting Live Oak 78-7.
New York Clipper, Oct. 20, 1860
New York Clipper, Nov. 17, 1860
1860.55 Ballplaying Near Stockton CA
"A base ball match was played yesterday at Carson's Ranch, about [illeg.] miles from Stockton, between Stockton and the Live Oak Clubs. A great deal of interest was manifested in the match, a large number of spectators, both from town and country, being present . . . ." Two games were played, the second resulting in a tie that was then played off.
San Joaquin Republican, May 26, 1860. Accessed via subscription search May 20, 2009.
Stockton is about 60 miles east of Oakland CA.
1860.59 Game Set for CA Mining Town
Two base ball clubs were scheduled to play a game in Mariposa, a southern Sierra gold mining town.
California Spirit of the Times, February 11, 1860.
neither the California Spirit nor other accessible papers reported on the actual game, if any: "another 'did they or didn't they' mystery." Mariposa CA is on the edge of Yosemite Park and about 60 miles N of Fresno.
1861-1865 - Note: Protoball has a Separate Compilation of Ballplaying in Civil War Camps
1863.96 Union soldiers play ball in California
The San Francisco Daily Bulletin, April 27, 1863 reports on the 1st California Cavalry camp near Stockton: "We drill four times a day, and in the interim devote our time to reading, playing ball, or fishing in various sloughs."
The San Francisco Daily Bulletin, April 27, 1863