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1777.4 British POWs Linger in Colonies -- Did They Help Sew Base Ball's Seeds?
Nearly 5000 of British General Burgoyne's troops, surrendered in their 1777 loss at Saratoga, remained in American camps for several years. They were known to play the game of "bat and ball" as they were interned variously in Cambridge MA, Virginia, and central Pennsylvania, and to have maintained a store of hickory sticks, ostensibly for the purpose of such play. Nearly a third of them deserted over the years, some settling in America. Could they not have helped acquaint the new nation with their English game?
Brian Turner, "Sticks or Clubs: Ball Play Along the Route of Burgoyne's "Convention Army", Base Ball, volume 11 (2019), pp. 1 -16.
In 1778, a court-martial reviewed a claim that interned soldiers outside Boston possessed some dangerous weapons, and in defense "Burgoyne introduced into evidence a set of 'hickory sticks designed to play at bat and ball'."
1830s.12 Watching Wicket Ball in Buffalo NY
"[The Indians] would lounge on the steps of the 'Old First Church,' where they could look at our young men playing wicket ball in front of the church (no fences there then):, and this was a favorite ball ground."
" . . . the boys, who must always have their fun, did not always 'Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,' but would make a holiday of it by a vigorous game of ball, in some secluded spot in the suburbs of he town . . . "
Samuel M. Welch, Home History: Recollections of Buffalo During the Decade from 1830 to 1840, or Fifty Years Since [P. Paul and bro., Buffalo, 1890], pages 112 and 220. Submitted by John Thorn 9/13/2006. Also see Thomas L. Altherr, "Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games," Base Ball, Volume 2, number 1 (Spring 2008), page 38.
Are these Welch's own recollections?
1837.2 Ball Game Described in Fictional Account of Western Indians
For Text: David Block carries three paragraphs of text from this story in Appendix 7, page 283, of Baseball Before We Knew It.
Captured by Native Americans, a youth sees them playing a game of ball. The "ball" was part of a sturgeon's head covered with deerskin strips, the club was of hickory, some number of safe-haven bases were formed by small piles of stones, and there was plugging.
"Their principal object seemed to be to send the ball as far as possible, in order for the striker of it, to run around the great space of ground, which was comprised within the area formed by the piles of stones."
There is no mention of a pitcher, and if a batter-runner was put out, he would replace the fielder who made the putout. Some games would last for days.
Female Robinson Crusoe, A Tale of the American Wilderness [J. W. Bell, New York, 1837], pp 176-178. Per RH ref 58.
Reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825 - 1908, University of Nebraska Press, 1995, pp. 4-5.
1837.14 The First Uniforms in US Baserunning Games?
“In 1833, a group of Philadelphia players formed a team, the Olympics. By 1837, the team had a clubhouse at Broad and Wallace Streets, a constitution, records of their games, and uniforms - dark blue pants, a scarlet-trimmed white shirt, and a white cap trimmed in blue.”
Murray Dubin, "The Old, Really Old, Ball Game Both Philadelphia and New York Can Claim As the Nation's First Team," The Inquirer, October 28, 2009.
See http://articles.philly.com/2009-10-28/sports/25272492_1_modern-baseball-baseball-rivalry-cities, accessed 8/16/2014. (Login required as of 2/20/2018.)
The article does not give a source for the 1837 description of the Olympic Club uniform.
Richard Hershberger adds, in email of 2/20/2018:
"The entry lacks a source for the Olympic uniform. I don't have a description, but the club's 1838 constitution mentions the uniform several times: the Recorder, who is to have the pattern uniform, and duty of the members to provide themselves with said uniform, with a fine of 25 cents a month for failure to do so, with the Recorder noting these on the month Club Day."
What is the original documentation of this uniform specification?
Do we know if earlier cricket clubs in the US used club uniforms? In Britain? Are prior uniforms known for other sports?
1845c.15 Doc Adams, Ballmaker: The Hardball Becomes Hard
[A]The Knickerbockers developed and adopted the New York Game style of baseball in September 1845 in part to play a more dignified game that would attract adults. The removal of the "soaking" rule allowed the Knickerbockers to develop a harder baseball that was more like a cricket ball.
[B]Dr. D.L. Adams of the Knickerbocker team stated that he produced baseballs for the various teams in New York in the 1840s and until 1858, when he located a saddler who could do the job. He would produce the balls using 3 to 4 oz of rubber as a core, then winding with yarn and covering with leather.
[A]Gilbert, "The Birth of Baseball", Elysian Fields, 1995, pp. 16- 17.
[B]Dr. D.L. Adams, "Memoirs of the Father of Baseball," Sporting News, February 29, 1896. Sullivan reprints this article in Early Innings, A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908, pages 13-18.
Rob Loeffler, "The Evolution of the Baseball Up to 1872," March 2007.
1850c.51 A Form of Cricket
"Until the advent of 'hard' baseball in the late 1850s, boys in Kalamazoo 'played a form of cricket with a big soft ball as large as a modern football, but round and made at home of twine and leather and owled over a level field to knock down wickets less than its own height from the ground.'"
Peter Morris, But Didn't We Have Fun?i (Ivan R Dee, 2008), p.16, quoting the Kalamazoo Telegraph, Dec. 10, 1901.
1855c.24 Manufacture of Base Balls Begins in NYC
[A] "Prior to the mass manufacturing of baseballs, each one was hand-made and consisted of strips of rubber twisted around a round shape (or, earlier, any solid substance, such as a rock or bullet), covered [wound?] with yarn and then with leather or cloth. Needless to say, the quality and consistency of the early balls varied considerable. In the mid-1850s, two men, Harvey Ross, a sail maker who was a member of the Atlantics, and John Van Horn, a shoemaker who was a member of the Union Club or Morrisania, began to manufacture baseballs on a regular basis. Van Horn took rubber strips from the old shoes in his shop and cut them up to provide the centers for his baseballs."
[B] Peter Morris notes that Henry Chadwick recalled that "even with only two ball makers, the demand [for balls] in the 1850s was so limited" that ballmaking remained a sidelight for both ballmakers.
William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 35. For more details, Bill recommends Chapter 9 of Peter Morris' A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006).
Peter Morris, A Game of Inches, page 397. He cites the March 13, 1909 Sporting Life and the 1890 Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide as sources.
1856.17 Letter to "Spirit" Describes Roundball in New England
"I have thought, perhaps, a statement of my experience as to the Yankee method of playing 'Base,' or 'Round' ball, as we used to call it, may not prove uninteresting."
"There were six to eight players upon each side, the latter number being the full complement. The two best players upon each side -- first and second mates, as they were called by common consent -- were catcher and thrower. These retained their positions in the game, unless they chose to call some other player, upon their own side, to change places with them. A field diagram follows." [It shows either 6 or 10 defensive positions, depending on whether each base was itself a defensive station.]
"The ball was thrown, not pitched or tossed, as the gentleman who has seen "Base" played in New York tells me it is; it was thrown, an with vigor too . . . . "
"Base used to be a favorite game with the students of the English High and Latin Schools pf Boston , a few years ago . . . Boston Common affords ample facilities for enjoying the sport, and Wednesday and Saturday afternoons in the spring and fall, players from different classes in these schools, young men from fifteen to nineteen years of age used to enjoy it.
"Base is also a favorite game upon the green in front of village school-houses in the country throughout New England; and in this city [Boston] , on Fast Day, which is generally appointed in early April, Boston Common is covered with amateur parties of men and boys playing Base. The most attractive of these parties are generally composed of truckmen. . . the skill they display, generally attracts numerous spectators."
Other comments on 1850s Base/Roundball in New England.are found in Supplemental Text, below.
"Base Ball, How They Play the Game in New England: by An Old Correspondent" Porter's Spirit of the Times, Dec. 27, 1856, p.276. This article prints a letter written in Boston on December 20, 1856. It is signed by Bob Lively.
The 1858 Dedham rules (two years after this letter) for the Massachusetts Game specified at least ten players on a team. The writer does not call the game the "MA game," and does not mention the use of stakes as bases, or the one-out-all-out rule.
1857.42 The "X" Letters
"DEAR SPIRIT:- As the season for playing Ball, and other out-door sports has nearly passed away, and as you have fairly become the chronicle for Cricket and Base Ball, I take the liberty of writing to you, and to the Ball players through you, a few letters, which I hope will prove of some interest to your readers."
Between October 1857 and January 1858, New York- based Porter’s Spirit of the Times, which covered Knickerbocker Rules base ball on a regular basis, published a series of 14 anonymous letters concerning the game. Identifying himself only as “X”, the author’s stated purpose was to “induce some prominent player to write or publish a book on the game.” The letters described the origins of the game, profiled prominent clubs in New York and Brooklyn, offered advice on starting and operating a club, on equipment, and on position play, and, finally, commented on the issues of the day in the base ball community. As the earliest such effort, the letters are of interest as a window into a base ball community poised for the explosive growth which followed the Fashion Race Course games of 1858.
Porter's Spirit of the Times, Oct. 24, 1857 - Jan. 23, 1858
The identity of "X" has not been discovered.
1858.28 The MA Ball: Smaller, Lighter, "Double 8" Cover Design
Dedham Rules of the Massachusetts Game specifies that "The ball must weigh not less than two, nor more than two and three-quarter ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than six and a half, nor more than eight and a half inches in circumference, and must be covered with leather."
William Cutler of Natick, MA reportedly designs the Figure 8 cover. The design was sold to Harrison Harwood. Harwood develops the first baseball factory (H. Harwood and Sons) in Natick, Massachusetts. Baseballs that are manufactured at this facility include the Figure 8 design as well as the lemon peel design.
"The Evolution of the Baseball Up to 1872," March 2007, at http://protoball.org/The_Evolution_of_the_Baseball_Up_To_1872.
1858.60 Natick MA Company Introduces the "Figure 8" Base Ball Stitching
"In 1858, H.P. Harwood and Sons of Natick, MA (c/o North Avenue and Main Street) became the first factory to produce baseballs. They also were the first in the production of the two-piece figure-eight stitch cover baseball, the same that is used today. The figure-eight stitching was devised by Col. William A Cutler and a new wound core was developed by John W. Walcott, horsehide and then cowhide were used for the cover."
From Eric Miklich, “Evolution of Baseball Equipment (Continued)”
By Eric Miklich at http://www.19cbaseball.com/equipment-3.html,
Peter Morris' A Game of Inches finds other claims to the invention of the current figure 8 stitching pattern. See section 9.1.4 at page 275 of the single-volume, indexed edition of 2010.
1859.45 In Milwaukee, Base Ball is [Cold-] Brewing
[A]The first report of baseball being played in Milwaukee is found in the Thursday, December 1, 1859, Milwaukee Daily Sentinel. The paper wrote:
"BASE BALL—This game, now so popular at the East, is about to be introduced in our own city. A very spirited impromptu match was played on the Fair Ground, Spring Street Avenue, yesterday afternoon six on a side..."
[B] In April 1860, the Sentinel reported another "lively" game, and added, "The game is now fairly inaugurated in Milwaukee, and the first Base Ball Club in our City was organized last evening. Should the weather be fair, the return match will be played on the same ground, At 2 o'clock this (Thursday) afternoon."
[C] Formation of the Milwaukee Club was announced in the New York Sunday Mercury on May 6, 1860; officers listed,
[D] "Mr. J. W. Ledyard, of 161 E Water Street, who is now in New York...has kindly forwarded for the use of our Milwaukee Base Ball Club, six bats and twelve balls, made in New York, according to the regulations of the "National Association of Base Ball Clubs."
[A] Milwaukee Sentinel, December 1, 1859.
[B] "Base Ball," Milwaukee Sentinel, April 3, 1860
[D] "Base Ball," Milwaukee Sentinel, June 13, 1860
There is no record of this Thursday match, but we have scores for matches on December 10 (33 to 23 in favor of Hathaway's club in 5 innings, with 9 on a side) and December 17 (54 to 33, again in favor of Hathaway's club with 5 innings played; with 10 men on each side listed in the box score). The last match was played in weather that "was blustering and patches of snow on the ground made it slippery and rather too damp for sharp play."
These games took place at the State Fair Grounds, then located at North 13th and West Wisconsin Avenue. This is now part of the Marquette University Campus. The R. King in the box score is Rufus King, editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel. His grandfather, also Rufus King, was a signer of the American Constitution. Milwaukee's Rufus King was a brigadier general in the Civil War, and he would be Milwaukee's first superintendent of schools.
1860.36 In Thick Gloves All Encased
"Then "Bispham" comes next, you'd expect from his looks,
He was given to study, addicted to books,
And you'd little suspect there was much in the man,
Till you saw him at play -- then beat him who can.
His favorite position is on the first base,
And he stands like a statue, always right about face,
With his hands in a pair of thick gloves all encased,
Which never miss holding the ball once embraced.
And I pity the 'batter' who when the ball's fair,
If its short, tries to make the 'first base' when he's there.
The 'batter' itself may be good enough -- though
He's sure to be put out, and his cake is all 'dough.'
a poem written (recited?) on Christmas Day, 1860. It is entitled "Owe'd 2
Base Ball: In Three Cant-Oh's!"
Primary source of poem not known. From a 19CBB post by Tom Shieber, Oct. 28, 2003
written for and recited at a Christmas Ball thrown by the Mercantile BBC of
Philadelphia. In "Cant-Oh! III" the various players are mentioned. Earliest known rference to a player using a glove.
1860.75 Chichester Redesigns the Base
[A] "BALL PLAY. KNICKERBOCKER CLUB.-- ...The Knickerbockers, we noticed, introduced on their grounds the new bases...An iron circle is fastened to one side of the base, and a screw with a nut head is inserted in the base-post, and the base is placed on it, and the head of the screw enters the iron circle on the base, similarly to a key into a lock. The base revolves on this centre, but never moves away from it, and is easily taken up at the close of the game by turning it round once...They are to be had at Mr. Chic[h]ester's, we believe, in Wall street."
[B] A second article adds that the Putnam and Eagle clubs were using the base, too, and that Chichester was a member of Brooklyn's Putnam Club.
[A] New York Clipper, April 21, 1860
[B] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 30, 1860
1861.22 Ad Biz
"(advertisement) JOHN C. WHITING, 87 FULTON STREET, N. Y., manufacturer of BASE BALLS and Wholesale and Retail Dealer in everything appertaining to BASE BALL and CRICKET. Agent for Chicester's Improved SELF-FASTENING BASES, and the PATENT CONCAVE PLATES for Ball Shoes, which are free from all the danger, and answer all the purposes, of spikes."
New York Sunday Mercury, Dec. 8, 1861
With thousands in the Greater New York City area playing the game, providers of playing grounds, playing manuals, and equipment sprang up.
1861.89 Early-Days Monster in Left Field?
New-York Atlas, 10/21/1861
1862.7 "Massachusetts Balls" on Sale in Rochester NY
An advertisement in a Rochester paper offered "New York Regulation Size Ball, Massachusetts Balls, Children's Rubber and Fancy Balls, Wholesale and Retail."
Rochester[NY] Union and Advertiser, April 28, 1862. Posted to the 19CBB listserve by Priscilla Astifan on May 14, 2005.
We know that an "old-fashioned base ball" was being played in Central New York prior to the Civil War: see #1858.48 and #1860.45 above.
1867.10 Mitts in Michigan
"We have noticed in all the matches played thus far
that the use of gloves by the players was to some
degree a customary practice, which we think, cannot be
too highly condemned, and are of the opinion that the
Custers would have shown a better score if there had
been less buckskin on their hands."
Detroit Free Press, 8/4/1867, reference in 19cbb post #2124, Aug. 4, 2003
1868c.5 The Manufactured "Figure 8" Base Ball Appears?
"I inclose a clipping relating to base ball. I am the inventor of the base ball cover referred to. Fifty-five years ago, when a boy of ten years, my mother gave me yarn enough, of her own spinning, for a ball. Next thing was leather for a cover. I was a poor boy and couldn't buy. An old shoemaker gave me two small pieces, and said perhaps I could piece them up. My efforts resulted in the exact shape now in universal use. About twenty years ago I showed to a nephew of mine the cover of my boyhood. He was working for Harwood, the great ball maker, of Natick, Mass. Harwood adopted this cover at once, as it takes much leather and has but one seams [seam?], instead of five or six. Well, I didn't reap the fortunate [fortune?], as I didn't get it patented, but no matter, I've “got there all the same.” (The Sporting Life November 14, 1888)
Letter to The Sporting Life from C.H. Jackson, West Brookfield, MA, November 4, 1888 -- printed November 14, 1888.
Richard Hershberger notes, 9/12/2017:
"My opinion has been that this is unsubstantiated, but plausible. I want to focus here on the bit about the writer's nephew working for Harwood. I just made the connection with this description of baseball manufacture, from four years earlier:
'On the upper floor of the establishment sat several men with baskets of dampened chamois and buckskin clippings at their sides. Before each workman stood a stout piece of joist, in the end of which was inserted a mold, hemispherical in shape, in which the balls are formed. Taking a handful of cuttings from the basket, the workman pressed them together in his hands and then worked about the mass a few yards of strong woollen yarn. Placing the embryo ball in the mold, he pounded it into shape with a heavy flat mallet, and then wound on more yarn and gave the ball another pounding. After testing its weight on a pair of scales and its diameter with a tape measure he threw the ball into a basket and began another. When the newly-made balls are thoroughly dried they are carried to the sewing-room on the floor below, where they are to receive their covers. Forty young women sat at tables sewing on the covers of horse-hide. Grasping a ball firmly in her left hand, with her right hand one of the young women thrust a three-cornered needle through the thick pieces of the cover and drew them firmly together. A smart girl can cover two or three dozen of the best and eight dozen of the cheaper grades of balls in a day. The wages earned weekly range from $7 to $9. The balls are afterward taken to the packing-room, where the seams are smoothed down and the proper stamps are put on. The best balls are made entirely of yarn and India-rubber. “My brother was one of the pioneers in this business,” said the manufacturer. “He was the inventor of the two-piece cover now in general use throughout the country. If my brother had only patented his invention the members of our family would not be wearing diamonds instead of bits of white glass in our shirt fronts. Ball-covers are made, almost without exception, of horse-hide, which costs $3 a side. We used to obtain our supply from John Cart, a leather dealer in the Swamp for nearly thirty-five years. We are obliged to go to Philadelphia now, there being no merchant here who keeps horse-hide leather. The capacity of our factory when we get our new molding machines in working order will be about 15,000 daily, each machine being expected to turn out 1,200 balls daily.' (St. Louis Post-Dispatch June 14, 1884, quoting the New York Tribune)
"It is the second paragraph that jumped out at me. Was C. H. Jackson's nephew working for Harwood because that was his father's business? It seems plausible. The Post-Dispatch piece doesn't identify the manufacturer, or even the city. I have been unable to find the Tribune original. If anyone else can, this might shed some light on the question. Or confuse it further."
1869.15 Teams Hassle Over Choice of Game Ball -- The Redstockings Liked the Less-elastic Variety
"Over a quarter of an hour’s time was wasted in a dispute as to what ball should be played with, the Athletics insisting that a lively elastic Ross ball should be used, whilst the Cincinnatis claimed that as they were the challenging party, they had the right o furnish the ball, and therefore proposed to use a ball made expressly for them, of a non-elastic nature, by which they hoped to equalize any advantage that the Athletics might possess over them in batting. The dispute was finally decided by the Cincinnatis agreeing to play with the ball furnished by the Athletics, as it always has been the custom for the club on whose ground a match is played to furnish the ball."
The game was Cincinnati vs. Athletic 6/21/1869.
Philadelphia Sunday Mercury, June 27, 1869
Richard Hershberger explains (email to Protoball, 12/17/2021): "The elasticity of balls varied wildly in this era. Typically clubs that were better hitters than fielders preferred more elastic, i.e. lively, balls, while clubs that were better fielders preferred less elastic, i.e. dead, balls. This was a frequent source of dispute before games. The problem was eventually solved when the National League adopted an official league ball for all championship games."
Colleague and ballmaker Corky Gaskell adds, (email of 12/20/2021): "George Ellard made the base balls for the Cincinnati club. I am not 100% sure when he started doing that, but if my memory serves me right, he was making them during the 1869 season, and it wasn't uncommon for them to want that less lively ball to help their defense do its thing."
On 12/21/21, ballmaker Gaskell replied to a prior Protoball query for #1869.15: "Was the official NABBP ball relatively elastic or relatively inelastic, compared to the range in available base balls? Were cricket balls, which had very similar dimensions and weights, more or less elastic than base balls in the years prior to the pro leagues? Prior to the NL, was the convention that the home club furnished the ball?"
Corky's Answer: "'Official' base balls came later. . . not so much in the late 60s or early 70s.
1870c.8 Base Ball Comes to Massachusetts Youth
"I well remember when baseball made its first appearance in our quiet little community."
 Charles Sinnott writes that in early childhood "the little boys' ball game was either "Three-old-cats" or "Four-Old Cats," and describes both variations.
 He recalls that "The game that bore the closest resemblance to our modern baseball was "roundstakes" or "rounders." In some communities it was know (sic) as "townball." He recalls this game as marked by the plugging of runners, use a soft ball, featuring stakes or stones as bases, compulsory running -- including for missed third strikes, an absence of foul territory, an absence of called strikes or balls, and teams of seven to ten players on a team. "It was originally an old English game much played in the colonies."
 In describing the new game of base ball, he recalls adjustment to the harder ball ("it seemed to us like playing with a croquet ball"), gloves only worn by the catchers, an umpire who was hit in the eye by a foul tip, fingers "knocked out of joint" by the hard ball, a bloody nose from a missed fly ball, and "that we unanimously pronounced [base ball] superior to our fine old game of roundstakes."
SEE FULL CHAPTER TEXT AT "SUPPLEMENTAL TEXT," BELOW --
Chapter 13, "The Coming of Baseball," in When Grandpa Was a Boy: Stories of My Boyhood As Told to My Children and Grandchildren, by Charles Peter Sinnott (four types pages; presumed unpublished; from the Maxwell Library Archives, Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater MA).
Protoball does not know of other use of "roundstakes" as a predecessor game in the US.
Duxbury MA (1870 population about 2300) is about 35 miles south of Boston.
Sinnott died in 1943. On the date of his hundredth birthday, in August 1959, his family distributed 100 copies of his boyhood memoirs.
 Is the date "1870c" reasonable for the item? Sinnott was born in 1859, and writes that he was in his teens when he first saw base ball. His old-cat games would have come in the mid-1860s.
 It is presumed that Sinnott stayed in or near his birthplace, Duxbury MA, for the events he writes of. Is that reasonable?
1870.11 Chicago Switches to the Dead Ball, Starts Winning Again
"Circumstances prevented any improvement in the organization of the [White Sox] nine until some weeks after their return from their disastrous [New York] tour; finally, however, the nine was re-organized . . . the muffin players' rubber ball was re-placed by a dead ball, and from the[n] . . .the Chicago club has been marked by a series of uninterrupted victories, the crowning triumph being the defeat of the strongest nine in the United States in two successive contests."
New York Clipper October 29, 1870