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"But physical education as a consciously organized activity in the college program was almost completely lacking before the late nineteenth century. Viewed in many instances as a contributor to indecorous behavior, Minutes of Trustees, Educational Views of Benjamin Franklin, Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin
"A sound mind in a sound body is a maxim to which our collegiate forbears of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would probably have subscribed, I, March 10, Professors or Tutors, Wrestle, and as a possible source of distraction from the pursuit of serious study, and swimming, and to strengthen and render active their bodies, but about which they did little. Benjamin Franklin, etc." (Source: Benjamin Franklin, for example, in 1761, leaping, make any indecent Noise, or behave in any way rudely in the College Yard or Streets adjacent.'" (Source: College Academy and Charitable School, or come in or out thro the Windows, or play Ball or use any Kind of Diversion within the Walls of the Building; nor shall they in the Presence of the Trustees, play Ball, pp. 131 ff)., tended to place a damper upon the exuberant spirit of youth: 'None shall climb over the Fences of the College Yard, the early tendency was to discourage rather than to foster participation in it. Thus, the rules for student deportment formulated by the trustees of the College, they be frequently exercised in running, urged that in order to keep the scholars of his proposed academy "in health, wrestling, 1885-1902, National League President, Nicholas Young, 1897-1904, Mark Hanna, Repubican Senator from Ohio, Aaron Champion, Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Rush, Bruegel the Elder, Charles Dickens, Christopher Columbus, Duchess of Kent, Edward III, Francis Dana Gage, Frederick Douglass, Galen, Galileo, General Abe Buford, General Joseph Hooker, Union Army, George Wright, Harry Wright, Governor Willliam Bradford, Henry Chadwick, Henry Ward Beecher, Jane Austen, Oliver Cromwell, Judge Samuel Sewell, King Ferdinand II, Lady Mary Dudley, Sir Philip Sydney, Lord Middlesex, Prince of Wales, Lord Robert Dudley; Queen Elizabeth I, Nausicaa, Nicholas Young, Noah Webster, Prince of Wales, Robert E. Lee, Robert E. Lee, Rutherford B. Hayes, Saint Augustine, Saint Cuthbert, Union General George McClellan, United States Government, Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman
- 1 BC750.1 Ballplay in Ancient Greece
- 2 370c.1 Saint Augustine Recalls Punishment for Youthful Ball Games
- 3 640s.1 Medieval Writer: Saint Cuthbert [born 634c] "Pleyde atte balle"
- 4 1299.1 Prince of Wales Plays "Creag," Seen By Some as a Cricket Precursor
- 5 1365.1 Edward III Prohibits Playing of Club-Ball.
- 6 1400c.1 Savior Son Wants "To Go Play at Ball"
- 7 1494c.1 Christopher Columbus and the Coefficient of Restitution
- 8 1500s.2 Queen Elizabeth's Dudley Plays Stoolball at Wotton Hill?
- 9 1565.1 Bruegel's "Corn Harvest" Painting Shows Meadow Ballgame
- 10 1586c.1 Sydney Cites Stoolball
- 11 1600c.2 Shakespeare Mentions Rounders? Pretty Doubtful
- 12 1612c.1 Play Attributed to Shakespeare Cites Stool-ball
- 13 1621.1 Some Pilgrims "Openly" Play "Stoole Ball" on Christmas Morning: Governor Clamps Down
- 14 1648.1 Short Herrick Poem Proposes a Wager on Stool-ball Game
- 15 1659.1 Stuyvesant: No Tennis, Ball-Playing, Dice on Fast Day
- 16 1660c.2 Ben Franklin's Uncle Recalls Ballplaying On an English Barn
- 17 1661.1 Galileo Galilei Discovers . . . Backspin!
- 18 1666.1 John Bunyan is Very Seriously Interrupted at Tip-Cat, one of his Four "Chief Sins"
- 19 1680.3 John Bunyan's Son Yields to "Drunkenness, Card-playing, Stoolball," Maypole Dancing
- 20 1688.1 New Royals Reportedly Watch Stoolball
- 21 1713.1 Boston Magistrate Finds Trap Ball Clogging a Gutter
- 22 1725c.1 Wicket Played on Boston Common at Daybreak
- 23 1740.3 Lord Chesterfield Nods Approvingly at Cricket - and Trap Ball!
- 24 1741c.1 Does Alexander Pope "Sneer" at Cricket in Epic Poem?
- 25 1744.3 Earliest Full Cricket Scorecard for the "Greatest Match Ever Known"
- 26 1744.4 Poet: "Hail Cricket! Glorious Manly, British Game!
- 27 1745c.1 John Adams Recalls Youthful Bat and Ball Play
- 28 1747.1 Poet Thomas Gray: "Urge the Flying Ball."
- 29 1748.1 Lady Hervey Reports Royals' "Base-ball" in a Letter
- 30 1749.2 Aging Prince Spends "Several Hours" Playing Bass-Ball in Surrey
- 31 1751.2 Cricket Lore: Ball Kills the Prince of Wales, Pretty Slowly
- 32 1755.1 Johnson Dictionary Defines Stoolball and Trap
- 33 1755c.7 Prominent Patriot Regrets Wasting Time Playing Cat (and Fives)
- 34 1761.3 School Trustees Prohibit Playing Ball and Other Diversions, Ignoring Advice of Ben Franklin
- 35 1778.4 Ewing Reports Playing "At Base" and Wicket at Valley Forge - with the Father of his Country
- 36 1779.4 French Official Sees George Washington Playing Catch "For Hours"
- 37 1785.1 Thomas Jefferson: Hunting is Better for Character-building Than Ballplaying
- 38 1788.2 Noah Webster, CT Ballplayer?
- 39 1790s.4 Southern Pols Calhoun and Crawford: Ballplaying Schoolmates?
- 40 1790.5 John Adams Refers to Cricket in Argument about Washington's New Title
- 41 1795.6 Future Tennessee Governor, at age 50, "Played at Ball"
- 42 1797.1 Daniel Webster Writes of "Playing Ball" While at Dartmouth
- 43 1800c.7 William Cullen Bryant Remembers Base-Ball
- 44 1802.2 Wordsworth Seems to Laud "Englishness" of Cricket
- 45 1810c.8 Future Lord Prefers Studies to Rounders, Cricket
- 46 1812c.1 Young Andrew Johnson Plays Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy in Raleigh NC
- 47 1816c.11 Jane Austen Writes of "Baseball" in Northanger Abbey.
- 48 1819.2 Scott's Ivanhoe Mentions Stool-ball
- 49 1819.5 Irving Surveys Pastimes at Fictional British School; Includes Tip-cat
- 50 1820s.20 Horace Greeley Lacks the Knack, Fears Getting Whacked
- 51 1823c.9 Kentucky Abolitionist Recalls Playing Base-ball
- 52 1824.1 Longfellow on Life at Bowdoin College: "Ball, Ball, Ball"
- 53 1824c.3 English Writing Cites Base-ball as Girls'; Pastime, Limns Cricket Match
- 54 1824.4 Fondly Remembering the First Ballplaying Richie Allen
- 55 1824.6 Oliver Wendell Holmes Recalls Schoolboy Baseball and Phillips Academy in MA
- 56 1825c.1 Thurlow Weed Recalls Baseball in Rochester NY
- 57 1825c.14 Future Ohio Governor is "Best Ball Player at the College"
- 58 1827.2 Story Places Baseball in Rochester NY
- 59 1828c.3 Upstate Author Carried Now-Lost 1828 Clipping on Base Ball in Rochester
- 60 1825.16 Mitford Story Centers on Cricket, Touches on Juvenile Baseball
- 61 1829c.1 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Plays Ball as a Harvard student.
- 62 1829.3 Small Cambridge MA Schoolground Crimps Base and Cricket Play
- 63 1830c.2 Thoreau Associates "Fast Day" with Base-Ball Played in Russet Fields
- 64 1830.3 Union General Joseph Hooker Plays Baseball as a Boy
- 65 1830s.13 "Baseball" Found in Several Works by Mary Russell Mitford
- 66 1830s.16 Future President Lincoln Plays Town Ball, Joins Hopping Contests
- 67 1830s.22 Ballplaying Recurs in Abolitionist's Life -- From Age 10 to Harvard
- 68 1838.3 Cooper Novel Home as Found Mentions Ballplaying in Cooperstown
- 69 1839.3 Rutherford Hayes Plays Ball as Student at Kenyon College, OH
- 70 1840.20 Base and Cricket are Experimental Astronomy?
- 71 1842.4 Duke of Wellington Requires Cricket Ground for Every Military Barrack.
- 72 1845.31 News Writer (Whitman, Perhaps?) Extols "Base," Cricket
- 73 1846.6 Walt Whitman Sees Boys Playing "Base" in Brooklyn: "Glorious"
- 74 1848c.9 Young Benjamin Harrison Plays Town Ball, Baste in OH
- 75 1848.19 Organization Men at the KBBC in 1848
- 76 1849c.4 A. G. Mills and Boyhood Friend Recall "Base Ball" at a Brooklyn School
- 77 1851.5 Robert E. Lee Promotes Cricket at West Point?
- 78 1851.6 Word-man Noah Webster Acknowledges Only Wicket
- 79 1852.17 Dickens Names Cricket, but not Stoolball or Rounders, Among "Merriest" Games
- 80 1855.9 Whitman Puts "Good Game of Base-Ball" Among Favorite Americana
- 81 1855.39 Pastime of Despots
- 82 1856.35 Future Star Dickey Pearce Discovers the Decade-old No-Plugging Rule
- 83 1857c.34 Wicket Played at Eastern OH College; Future President Excels
- 84 1857.38 President's Peace Medal Depicts Baseball Game in Background
- 85 1858.25 Your Base Ball Stringer, Mr. W. Whitman
- 86 1858.34 Amusements at Duchess' Birthday Party Includes Base Ball
- 87 1858.68 Thoreau Ponders Manliness in the Church and Base Ball
- 88 1860.20 Lincoln Awaits Nomination, Plays Town Ball . . . or Handball?
- 89 1860.37 Late Surge Lifts Douglas' over Abe Lincoln's Side in Chicago IL
- 90 1861.1 Chadwick Wants to Start Richmond VA Team, but the Civil War Intervenes
- 91 1861c.3 Lincoln and Baseball: The Presidential Years
- 92 1861.77 White House Secretaries watch Zouaves play ball
- 93 1862.12 Reverend Beecher: Base-Ball is Best Form of Exercise
- 94 1862.57 Games Between NY and MA Regiments Punctuated by Artillery
- 95 1863.19 Eventual National League Prexy Sticks with Cricket in War Camp
- 96 1863.42 Union Army Captain Sees Base Ball Good for Morale, and Health Too
- 97 1863.136 Gen. Grant enjoys watching ball game
- 98 1865.30 Henry Chadwick, Shortstop
- 100 1867.2 Colored Clubs Play in Philly: Frederick Douglass Attends a Game
- 101 1867.23 Celebrity Spectators
- 102 1868.4 Henry Chadwick's Cholera Scare May Have Doomed American Chronicle of Sports and Pastimes
- 104 1869.13 George Wright Joins the All-Professional Cincinnati Club
- 105 1870c.17 Rutherford Hayes Sees Harm to Hearing in Ballplaying
- 106 1872.1 Prince Bismarck Takes in a Ball Game in Berlin
- 107 When Bismarck Went to the Ball Game
BC750.1 Ballplay in Ancient Greece
The Greeks, famous for their athletics, played several ball games. In fact the Greek gymnasium ["palaistra"] was often known to include a special room ["sphairiteria"] for ballplaying . . . a "sphaira" being a ball. Pollux [ca 180 AD] lists a number of children's ball games, including games that loosely resemble very physical forms of keepaway and rugby, and the playing of a complicated form of catch, one that involved feints to deceive other players.
The great physician Galen wrote [ca. 180 AD] especially fondly of ballplaying and its merits, and seems to have seen it as an adult activity. He advised that "the most strenuous form of ball playing is in no way inferior to other exercises." Turning to milder forms of ball play, he said "I believe that in this form ball playing is also superior to all the other exercises." His partiality to ballplaying stemmed in part from its benefit for the whole body, not just the legs or arms, as was the case for running and wrestling.
As far as we are aware, Greek ball games did not include any that involved running among bases or safe havens, or any that involved propelling a ball with a club or stick (or hands).
Stephen G. Miller, Arete: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources [University of California Press, 2004]: See especially Chapter 9, "Ball Playing." The Pollox quote is from pp. 124-125, and the Galen quote is from pp. 121-124. Special thanks to Dr. Miller for his assistance.
Did any of the Greek games share attributes with modern baseball?
370c.1 Saint Augustine Recalls Punishment for Youthful Ball Games
In his Confessions, Augustine of Hippo - later St. Augustine - recalls his youth in Northern Africa, where his father served as a Roman official. "I was disobedient, not because I chose something better than [my parents and elders] chose for me, but simply from the love of games. For I liked to score a fine win at sport or to have my ears tickled by the make-believe of the stage." [Book One, chapter 10] In Book One, chapter 9, Augustine had explained that "we enjoyed playing games and were punished for them by men who played games themselves. However, grown up games are known as 'business. . . . Was the master who beat me himself very different from me? If he were worsted by a colleague in some petty argument, he would be convulsed in anger and envy, much more so than I was when a playmate beat me at a game of ball."
Saint Augustine's Confessions, Book One, text supplied by Dick McBane, February 2008.
Can historians identify the "game of ball" that Augustine might have played in the fourth Century? Are the translations to "game of ball," "games," and "sport" still deemed accurate?
640s.1 Medieval Writer: Saint Cuthbert [born 634c] "Pleyde atte balle"
Mulling on whether the ball came to England in Anglo-Saxon days, Joseph Strutt reports "the author of a manuscript in Trinity College, Oxford, written in the fourteenth century and containing the life of Saint Cuthbert, says of him, that when young, 'he pleyde atte balle with the children that his felawes [fellows] were.' On what authority this information is established I cannot tell."
Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (Chatto and Windus, London, 1898 edition), p. 158.
The claim of this unidentified manuscript seems weak. As Strutt notes, the venerable Bede wrote poetic and prose accounts of the life of Cuthbert around 715-720 A.D., and made no mention of ballplaying. That a scholar would find fresh evidence seven centuries later would be surprising. Warton later cites the poem as from Oxford MSS number Ivii, and he also places its unidentified author in the fourteenth century, but he doesn't support the veracity of the story line. The poem describes an angel sent from heaven to dissuade Cuthbert from playing such an "ydell" [idle] pastime. Warton, Thomas, The History of English Poetry from the Close of the Eleventh Century to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century (Thomas Tegg, London, 1840, from the 1824 edition), volume 1, page 14.
1299.1 Prince of Wales Plays "Creag," Seen By Some as a Cricket Precursor
Prince of Wales
Cashman, Richard, "Cricket," in David Levinson and Karen Christopher, Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present [Oxford University Press, 1996], page 87.
1365.1 Edward III Prohibits Playing of Club-Ball.
"The recreations prohibited by proclamation in the reign of Edward III, exclusive of the games of chance, are thus specified; the throwing of stones, wood, or iron; playing at hand-ball, foot-ball, club-ball, and camucam, which I take to have been a species of goff . . . ." Edward III reigned from 1327 to 1377. The actual term for "club-ball" in the proclamation was, evidently, "bacculoream."
This appears to be one of only two direct references to "club-ball" in the literature. See #1794.2, below.
Caveat: David Block argues that, contrary to Strutt's contention [see #1801.1, below], club ball may not be the common ancestor of cricket and other ballgames. See David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, pages 105-107 and 183-184. Block says that "pilam bacculoream" translates as "ball play with a stick or staff." Note: We seem not to really know what "camucam" was. Nor, of course, how club ball was played, since the term could have denoted a form of tennis or field hockey or and early form of stoolball or cricket. Edward II had issued a ban of his own in 1314, regarding football.
1400c.1 Savior Son Wants "To Go Play at Ball"
A well-known and still-sung medieval English carol (in this case, not a Christmas carol), is The Bitter Withy (withy is the willow tree). The carol is dated to around 1400.
As it fell out on a holy day.
The drops of rain did fall, did fall,
Our Saviour asked leave of his mother Mary
If he might go play at ball.
"To play at ball, my own dear son,
It's time you was going or gone,
But be sure let me hear no complain of you
At night when you do come home."
. . .
John Bowman reports that "The poem then tells how the boy Jesus tricks some boys into drowning and is spanked by his mother with a willow branch. Although I do not know what scholars have to say about the ball game, it is clear that the upper-class boys regard it as lower-class!"
The full selection, and John's email, are shown below.
Norton Anthology of Poetry (third edition, 1983) page 99.
What, if anything, have scholars said about the nature of the game that Jesus played? A baserunning and/or batting game? More like soccer or field hockey? Other?
1494c.1 Christopher Columbus and the Coefficient of Restitution
"When Christopher Columbus revisited Haiti on his second voyage, he observed some natives playing with a ball. The men who came with Columbus to conquer the Indies had brought their Castilian wind-balls [wound from yarn] to play with in idle hours. But at once they found that the balls of Haiti were incomparably superior; they bounced better. These high-bouncing balls were made, they learned, from a milky fluid of the consistency of honey which the natives procured by tapping certain trees and then cured over the smoke of palm nuts. A discovery which improved the delights of ball games was noteworthy." 350 years later, after Goodyear discovered vulcanization , "India rubber" balls were to be identified with the New York game of baseball.
Holland Thompson, "Charles Goodyear and the History of Rubber," at http://inventors.about.come/cs/inventorsalphabet/a/rubber_2.htm, accessed 1/24/2007.
Note: We need better sources for the Columbus story.
1500s.2 Queen Elizabeth's Dudley Plays Stoolball at Wotton Hill?
Lord Robert Dudley; Queen Elizabeth I
According to a manuscript written in the 1600s, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester and his "Trayne" "came to Wotton, and thence to Michaelwood Lodge . . . and thence went to Wotton Hill, where hee paid a match at stobball."
Internal evidence places ths event in the fifteenth year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, which would be 1547-48. Elizabeth I named her close associate [once rumored to be her choice as husband] Dudley to became Earl of Leicester in the 1564, and he died in 1588.
Caveat: "Stobbal" is usually used to denote a field game resembling field hockey or golf; thus, this account may not relate to stoolball per se.
The Wotton account was written by John Smyth of Nibley (1567-1640) in his Berkeley Manuscripts [Sir John McLean, ed., Gloucester, Printed by John Bellows, 1883]. Smyth's association with Berkeley Castle began in 1589, and the Manuscripts were written in about 1618, so it is not a first-hand report.
Note: Is it possible to determine the approximate date of this event?
1565.1 Bruegel's "Corn Harvest" Painting Shows Meadow Ballgame
Bruegel the Elder
"We had paused right in front of [the Flemish artist] Bruegel the Elder's "Corn Harvest" (1565), one of the world's great paintings of everyday life . . . .[M]y eye fell upon a tiny tableau at the left-center of the painting in which young men appeared to be playing a game of bat and ball in a meadow distant from the scything and stacking and dining and drinking that made up the foreground. . . . There appeared to be a man with a bat, a fielder at a base, a runner, and spectators as well as participants in waiting. The strange device opposite the batsman's position might have been a catapult. As I was later to learn with hurried research, this detain is unnoted in the art-history studies."
From John Thorn, "Play's the Thing," Woodstock Times, December 28, 2006. See thornpricks.blogspot.com/2006/12/bruegel-and-me_27.html, accessed 1/30/07.
1586c.1 Sydney Cites Stoolball
Lady Mary Dudley, Sir Philip Sydney
"A time there is for all, my mother often sayes
When she with skirts tuckt very hie, with gyrles at stoolball playes"
Sir Philip Sydney, Arcadia: Sonnets , page 493. Note: citation needs confirmation.
Sir Philip Sydney (1554-1586) died at age 31 in 1586.
As of October 2012, this early stoolball ref. is the only one I see that can be interpreted as describing baserunning in stoolball - but it still may merely describe running by a fielder, not a batter. (LMc, Oct/2012)
Sydney's mother was the sister of Robert Dudley, noted in item #1500s.2 above as a possible stoolball player in the time of Eliizabeth I.
Further interpretations are welcome as to Sydney's meaning.
1600c.2 Shakespeare Mentions Rounders? Pretty Doubtful
"Shakespeare mentions games of "base" and "rounders. Lovett, Old Boston Boys, page 126."
Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809. Caveat: We have not yet confirmed that Lovett or Shakespeare used the term "rounders." Gomme [page 80], among others, identifies the Bard's use of "base" in Cymbeline as a reference to prisoner's base, which is not a ball game. John Bowman, email of 5/21/2008, reports that his concordance of all of Shakespeare's words shows has no listing for "rounders" . . . nor for "stoolball," for that matter [see #1612c.1, below], 'tho that may because Shakespeare's authorship of Two Noble Kinsmen is not universally accepted by scholars..
1612c.1 Play Attributed to Shakespeare Cites Stool-ball
A young maid asks her wooer to go with her. "What shall we do there, wench?" She replies, "Why, play at stool-ball; what else is there to do?"
Fletcher and Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen [London], Act V, Scene 2, per W. W. Grantham, Stoolball Illustrated and How to Play It [W. Speaight, London, 1904], page 29. David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 170, gives 1634 as the publication date of this play, which was reportedly performed in 1612, and mentions that doubts have been expressed as to authorship, so Shakespeare [1564-1616] may not have contributed. Others surmise that The Bard wrote Acts One and Five, which would make him the author of the stoolball reference. See also item #1600c.2 above. Note: can we find further specifics? Russell-Goggs, in "Stoolball in Sussex," The Sussex County Magazine, volume 2, no. 7 (July 1928), page 320, notes that the speaker is the "daughter of the Jailer."
1621.1 Some Pilgrims "Openly" Play "Stoole Ball" on Christmas Morning: Governor Clamps Down
Governor Willliam Bradford
Governor Bradford describes Christmas Day 1621 at Plymouth Plantation, MA; "most of this new-company excused them selves and said it wente against their consciences to work on ye day. So ye Govr tould them that if they made it mater of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed. So he led away ye rest and left them; but when they came home at noone from their worke, he found them in ye street at play, openly; some at pitching ye barr, and some at stoole-ball and shuch like sport. . . . Since which time nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly."
Bradford, William, Of Plymouth Plantation, [Harvey Wish, ed., Capricorn Books, 1962], pp 82 - 83. Henderson cites Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856. See his ref 23. Full text supplied by John Thorn, 6/25/2005. Also cited and discussed by Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 190
Bradford explained that the issue was not that ball-playing was sinful, but that playing openly while others worked was not good for morale.
Note: From scrutinizing early reports of stoolball, Protoball does not find convincing evidence that it was a base-running game by the 1600s.
1648.1 Short Herrick Poem Proposes a Wager on Stool-ball Game
"At Stool-ball, Lucia, let us play," offers the poet, then proposing that if he wins, he would "have for all a kisse."
[Full text is in Supplemental Text, below.]
Herrick, Robert, Hesperdes: or, the Works Both Human and Divine of Robert Herrick, Esq. [London], page 280, per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 171.
1659.1 Stuyvesant: No Tennis, Ball-Playing, Dice on Fast Day
"We shall interdict and forbid, during divine service on the [fasting] day aforesaid, all exercise and games of tennis, ball-playing, hunting, plowing and sowing, and moreover all unlawful practice such as dice, drunkenness . . ." proclaimed Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant was Director-General of New Netherlands.
Manchester, Herbert, Four Centuries of Sport in America (Publisher?, 1931). Email from John Thorn, 1/24/097. Query: Can we determine what area was affected by this proclamation? How does this proclamation relate to #1656.1 above?
1660c.2 Ben Franklin's Uncle Recalls Ballplaying On an English Barn
"That is the street which I could ne'er abide,/And these the grounds I play'd side and hide;/ This the pond whereon I caught a fall,/ And that the barn whereon I play'd at ball."
The uncle of U.S. patriot Benjamin Franklin, also named Benjamin Franklin, wrote these lines in a 1704 recollection of his native English town of Ecton. The uncle lived from 1650/1 to 1727. Ecton is a village in Northamptonshire.
Loring, J. S., The Franklin Manuscripts. The Historical Magazine, and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History, and Biography of America (1857-1875), Volume 3, issue 1, January 1859, 4 pages. Submitted by John Thorn, 4/24/06.
1661.1 Galileo Galilei Discovers . . . Backspin!
The great scientist wrote, in a treatise discussing how the ball behaves in different ball games, including tennis: "Stool-ball, when they play in a stony way, . . . they do not trundle the ball upon the ground, but throw it, as if to pitch a quait. . . . . To make the ball stay, they hold it artificially with their hand uppermost, and it undermost, which in its delivery hath a contrary twirl or rolling conferred upon it by the fingers, by means whereof in its coming to the ground neer the mark it stays there, or runs very little forwards."
(see Supplemental Text, below, for a longer excerpt, which also includes the effect of "cutting" balls in tennis as a helpful tactic.)
Galileo Galilei, Mathematical Collections and Translations. "Inglished from his original Italian copy by Thomas Salusbury" (London, 1661), page 142.
Provided by David Block, emails of 2/27/2008 and 9/13/2015.
David further asks: "could it be that this is the source of the term putting "English" on a ball?"
Can we really assume that Galileo was familiar with 1600s stoolball and tennis? Is it possible that this excerpt reflects commentary by Salusbury, rather that strict translation from the Italian source?
1666.1 John Bunyan is Very Seriously Interrupted at Tip-Cat, one of his Four "Chief Sins"
"I was in the midst of a game of cat, and having struck it one blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike the second time a voice did suddenly dart from Heaven into my soul which said, 'Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven or have thy sins and go to hell?'"
Bunyan, John, Grace abounding to the chief of sinners [London], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 173. Autobiographical account by Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim's Progress. David notes on 5/29/2005 that this reference was originally reported by Harold Peterson, but that Peterson had attributed it to Pilgrim's Progress itself.
Writing of Bunyan in 1885, Washington Gladden revealed that as a youth, "[t]he four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tip-cat, and reading the history of Sir Bevis of Southampton." Letter to the Editor, The Century Magazine, Volume 30 (May-October 1885), page 334.
Bunyan was born in 1628. Are we sure that this event can be dated 1666, when he was nearly forty years old?
1680.3 John Bunyan's Son Yields to "Drunkenness, Card-playing, Stoolball," Maypole Dancing
"Bunyan repeatedly emphasized that children should be taught about hell, and that they are accursed. 'Upon the Disobedient Child is written strictly from the parents' point of view. 'The rod of correction....is appointed by God for parents to use' Bunyan had written in Mr Badman, 'that thereby they might keep their children from hell.' But flogging in this case was not successful. 'Since this young Badman would not be ruled at home', his father put him out as an apprentice to a good man of his acquaintance.This familiar seventeenth-century practice did not work either. Bunyan's own eldest son, John, though apparently properly flogged in childhood, was by 1680 mixing with bad company (including another son of a member of Bunyan's church) and later took to 'drunkenness, card-playing, stoolball', and dancing round the maypole."
Christopher Hill, John Bunyan; A Turbulent, Seditious, and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church (1989), page 270.
Another source attributes Hill's source as Particia Bell, "John Bunyan in Bedfordshire," in The John Bunyan Lectures (Bedfordshire Educational Service, 1978), pp. 35-36.
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a Baptist preacher and author of The Pilgrim's Progress (1678 and 1684).
So . . . the quote was, perhaps, from a 1680 lecture by John Bunyan himslef?
1688.1 New Royals Reportedly Watch Stoolball
"It is reported that William III watched the game soon after he landed at Torbay, and that subsequently Queen Anne was an interested spectator."
M. S. Russell-Goggs, page 320. Note: we need to locate the full citations for this and all other Russell-Goggs references; short of this, we need to confirm the date of the Torbay landing. A cursory Google search does not reveal confirming evidence of this anecdote.
William of Orange (soon to be William III) landed at Torbay, Devon in November 1688. [ba]
1713.1 Boston Magistrate Finds Trap Ball Clogging a Gutter
"The Rain-water grievously runs into my son Joseph's Chamer . . . . I went on the Roof, and found the Spout next Slater's stopped . . . . Boston went up . . . came down a Spit, and clear'd the Leaden-throat, by thrusting out a Trap-Ball that stuck there."
Diarist Samuel Sewall (1652-1730)is known as a Salem Witch Judge. He later apologized.
Thomas, M. H., ed., The Diary of Samuel Sewell 1674 - 1729, Volume II, 1710 - 1729 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), p. 718. Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 18.
Trap ball is not believed to be a baserunning game.
1725c.1 Wicket Played on Boston Common at Daybreak
Judge Samuel Sewell
"March, 15. Sam. Hirst [Sewall's grandson, reportedly, and a Harvard '23 man -- (LMc)] got up betime in the morning, and took Ben Swett with him and went into the [Boston MA] Common to play at Wicket. Went before any body was up, left the door open; Sam came not to prayer; at which I was most displeased.
"March 17th. Did the like again, but took not Ben with him. I told him he could not lodge here practicing thus. So he lodg'd elsewhere. He grievously offended me in persuading his Sister Hannam not to have Mr. Turall, without enquiring of me about it. And play'd fast and loose in a vexing matter about himself in a matter relating to himself, procuring me great Vexation."
Diary of Samuel Sewall, in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Published by the Society, Boston, 1882) Volume VII - Fifth Series, page 372. As cited by Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 190.
While this is the first known reference to ballplaying on Boston Common, there are several later ones. See Brian Turner, "Ballplaying and Boston Common; A Town Playground for Boys . . . and Men," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 21-24.
1740.3 Lord Chesterfield Nods Approvingly at Cricket - and Trap Ball!
"Dear Boy: . . . Therefor remember to give yourself up entirely to the thing you are doing, be it what it will, whether your book or play: for if you have a right ambition, you will desire to excell all boys of your age at cricket, or trap ball, as well as in learning." P.D.S. Chesterfield, Lord Chesterfield's Letters of His Son (M. W. Dunne, 1901), Volume II, Letter LXXI, to his son. Citation provided by John Thorn, email of 2/1/2008.
Cited by Steel and Lyttelton, Cricket, (Longmans Green, London, 1890), pp 8 - 9.. Steel and Lyttelton introduce this quotation as follows: "When once the eighteenth century is reached cricket begins to find mention in literature. Clearly the game was rising in the world and was being taken up, like the poets of the period, by patrons."
1741c.1 Does Alexander Pope "Sneer" at Cricket in Epic Poem?
"The judge to dance his brother serjeant call,
The senator at cricket urge the ball"
Pope, "The Dunciad," per Steel and Lyttelton, Cricket, (Longmans Green, London, 1890) 4th edition, page 9. Steel and Lyttelton date the writing to 1726-1735. Their remark: "Mr. Alexander Pope had sneered at cricket. At what did Mr. Pope not sneer?"
Alexander Pope, The Dunciad, Complete in Four Books, According to Mr. Pope's Last Improvements (Warburton, London, 1749), Book IV, line 592, page 70. Note; This fragment does not seem severely disparaging. Is it clear from context what offense he gives to cricketers? It is true that this passage demeans assorted everyday practices, particularly as pursued by those of high standing. Book IV, the last, is now believed to have been written in 1741. Other entries that employ the "urge the ball" phrasing are #1747.1, #1805c.7, #1807.3, and #1824.4.
1744.3 Earliest Full Cricket Scorecard for the "Greatest Match Ever Known"
The match it describes: All England vs. Kent, played at the Artillery Ground. The same year, admission at the Ground increased from tuppence to sixpence. Per John Ford, Cricket: A Social History 1700-1835 [David and Charles, 1972], page 17.
John Thorn [email of 2/1/2008] located an account of the match: "Yesterday was play'd in the Artillery-Ground the greatest Cricket-Match even known, the County of Kent again all England, which was won by the former [the score was 97-96 - LM] . . . . There were present the their Royal Highnesses the Princeof Wales and Duke of Cumberland, the Duke of Richmond, Admiral Vernon, and many other Persons of Distinction." The London Evening-Post Number 2592, June 16-19, 1744, page 1 column 3, above the fold. Note: Is the scorecard available somewhere?
1744.4 Poet: "Hail Cricket! Glorious Manly, British Game!
Writing as James Love, the poet and actor James Dance [1722-1774] penned a 316-line verse that extols cricket. The poem, it may surprise you to learn, turns on the muffed catch by an All England player [shades of Casey!] that, I take it, allows Kent County to win a close match. Protoball's virtual interview with Mr. Dance:
Protoball: Are you a serious cricket fan?
Dance:" Hail, cricket! Glorious manly, British Game! / First of all Sports! be first alike in Fame!" [lines 13-14]
PBall: Isn't billiards a good game too?
Dance:"puny Billiards, where, with sluggish Pace / The dull Ball trails before the feeble Mace" [lines 40-41]
PBall: But you do appreciate tennis, right?"
Dance: "Not Tennis [it]self, [cricket's] sister sport can charm, /Or with [cricket's] fierce Delights our Bosoms warm".[lines 55-56] . . . to small Space confined, ev'n [tennis] must yield / To nobler CRICKET, the disputed field." [lines 60-61]
PBall: But doesn't every country have a fine national pastime?
Dance: "Leave the dissolving Song, the baby Dance, / To Sooth[e] the Slaves of Italy and France: / While the firm Limb, and strong brac'd Nerve are thine [cricket's] / Scorn Eunuch Sports; to manlier Games [we] incline" [lines 68-71]
PBall:Manlier? You see the average cricketer as especially manly?
Dance: "He weighs the well-turn'd Bat's experienced Force, / And guides the rapid Ball's impetuous course, / His supple Limbs with Nimble Labour plies, / Nor bends the grass beneath him as he flies." [lines 29 - 32]
James Love, Cricket: an Heroic Poem. illustrated with the Critical Observations of Scriblerus Maximus(W. Bickerton, London, undated)" The poet writes of a famous 1744 match between All England and Kent [#1744.3, above.] Thanks to Beth Hise for a lead to this poem, email, 12/21/2007. John Thorm, per email of 2/1/2008, located and pointed to online copy. Note: Are we sure the versified game account is from the 1744 Kent/England match - not 1746, for example?
1745c.1 John Adams Recalls Youthful Bat and Ball Play
Saying that his first fifteen years "went off like a fairy tale," John Adams [1735-1826] wrote fondly "of making and sailing boats . . swimming, skating, flying kites and shooting marbles, bat and ball, football, . . . wrestling and sometimes boxing."
David McCullough, John Adams [Touchstone Books, 2001], page 31.
1747.1 Poet Thomas Gray: "Urge the Flying Ball."
"What idle progeny succeed
Thomas Gray, "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College," lines 28-30. Accessed 12/29/2007 at http://www.thomasgray.org. "Rolling circle" had been drafted as "hoop," and thus does not connote ballplay. Cricket writers have seen "flying ball" as a cricket reference, but a Gray scholar cites "Bentley's Print" as a basis for concluding that Gray was referring to trap ball in this line. Steel and Lyttelton note that this poem was first published in 1747. Note: is it fair to assume that Gray is evoking student play at Eton in this ode? Do modern scholars agree with the 1747 publication date?
1748.1 Lady Hervey Reports Royals' "Base-ball" in a Letter
Lady Hervey (then Mary Leppel) describes in a letter the activities of the family of Frederick, Prince of Wales:
"[T]he Prince's family is an example of innocent and cheerful amusements All this last summer they played abroad; and now, in the winter, in a large room, they divert themselves at base-ball, a play all who are, or have been, schoolboys, are well acquainted with. The ladies, as well as gentlemen, join in this amusement . . . . This innocence and excellence must needs give great joy, and well as great hope, to all real lovers of their country and posterity."
[The last sentence may well be written in irony, as Lady Hervey was evidently known to be unimpressed with the Prince's conduct.]
Hervey, Lady (Mary Lepel), Letters (London, 1821), p.139 [Letter XLII, of November 14, 1748, from London]. Google Books now has uploaded the letters: search for "Lady Hervey." Letter 52 begins on page 137, and the baseball reference is on page 139. Accessed 12/29/2007. Note: David Block, page 189, spells the name "Lepel," citing documented family usage; the surname often appears as "Leppell." In a 19CBB posting of 2/15/2008, David writes that it is "George III, to whom we can rightly ascribe the honor of being the first known baseball player. The ten-year-old George, as [Prince] Frederick's eldest son, was surely among the prince's family members observed by Lady Hervey in 1748 to be 'divert[ing] themselves at base-ball.'"
1749.2 Aging Prince Spends "Several Hours" Playing Bass-Ball in Surrey
Lord Middlesex, Prince of Wales
"On Tuesday last, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Lord Middlesex, played at Bass-Ball (sic), at Walton in Surry (sic); notwithstanding the Weather was extreme bad, they continued playing several Hours."
Whitehall Evening Post, September 19. 1749.
David Block's 2013 find was reported at the SABR.org website on 6/19/2103, and it includes interview videos and links to related documentation. Confirmed 6/19/2013 as yielding to a web search of <block royal baseball sabr>.
Block points out that this very early reference to base-ball indicates that the game was played by adults -- the Prince was 38 years old in 1749, further weakening the view that English base-ball was played mainly by juveniles in its early history.
The location of the game was Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.
Comparing the 1749 game with modern baseball, Block estimates that the bass-ball was likely played on a smaller scale, with a much softer ball, with batted ball propelled the players' hands, not with a bat, and that runners could be put out by being "plugged" (hit with a thrown ball) between bases.
Only two players were named for this account. Was that because the Prince and Lord Middlesex both led clubs not worthy of mentioning by name, or was there a two-player version of the game then (in the 1800s competitive games of cricket were similarly reported with only two named players)?
1751.2 Cricket Lore: Ball Kills the Prince of Wales, Pretty Slowly
RIP, sweet Prince. [The prince was the father of King George III.]
[A] "Death of Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, as a result of a blow on the head from a cricket ball."
[B] "It's generally said his late Royal Highness the Prince of Wales got a Blow on his Side with a Ball about two Years ago, playing at Cricket, which diversion he was fond of, and 'tis thought was the Occasion of his Death . . . ."
[A] John Ford, Cricket: A Social History 1700-1835 [David and Charles, 1972], page 17. Ford does not give a citation.
[B] London Advertiser, March 26, 1751.
In Pastime Lost (U Nebraska Press, 2019, p 26), David Block writes that "Whether Frederick's death was the consequence of a lingering cricket injury has been the subject of debate ever since, with most modern observers . . . expressing skepticism." Today, some fans of the old game of Royal tennis believe that it was a (stuffed) tennis ball that felled the Prince.
Note: You've seen the Prince before, as a bass ball player. See 1749.2
1755.1 Johnson Dictionary Defines Stoolball and Trap
Stoolball is simply defined as "A play where balls are driven from stool to stool," and trap is defined as "A play at which a ball is driven with a stick."
Johnson, Samuel, A dictionary of the English language [London, 1755], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 179.
1755c.7 Prominent Patriot Regrets Wasting Time Playing Cat (and Fives)
"I have been ashamed, likewise, in recollecting how much time I have wasted when a boy in playing cat and fives and steal-clothes, &etc . . . . that might have been been more profitably employed in getting my lessons or reading instructing books . . . '
(Letter from Philadelphia dated April 21, 1812 from Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, to the young son of a friend.)
"Letter of Dr. Benjamin Rush," The Weekly Register (Baltimore), July 24, 1813. Cited in Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 191.
1761.3 School Trustees Prohibit Playing Ball and Other Diversions, Ignoring Advice of Ben Franklin
" in Woody(ed.), "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsilvania, 1761, pp. 156-57.)
"But physical education as a consciously organized activity in the college program was almost completely lacking before the late nineteenth century. Viewed in many instances as a contributor to indecorous behavior, Minutes of Trustees, Educational Views of Benjamin Franklin, Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin
"A sound mind in a sound body is a maxim to which our collegiate forbears of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would probably have subscribed, I, March 10, Professors or Tutors, Wrestle, and as a possible source of distraction from the pursuit of serious study, and swimming, and to strengthen and render active their bodies, but about which they did little. Benjamin Franklin, etc." (Source: Benjamin Franklin, for example, in 1761, leaping, make any indecent Noise, or behave in any way rudely in the College Yard or Streets adjacent.'" (Source: College Academy and Charitable School, or come in or out thro the Windows, or play Ball or use any Kind of Diversion within the Walls of the Building; nor shall they in the Presence of the Trustees, play Ball, pp. 131 ff)., tended to place a damper upon the exuberant spirit of youth: 'None shall climb over the Fences of the College Yard, the early tendency was to discourage rather than to foster participation in it. Thus, the rules for student deportment formulated by the trustees of the College, they be frequently exercised in running, urged that in order to keep the scholars of his proposed academy "in health, wrestling
"A sound mind in a sound body is a maxim to which our collegiate forbears of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would probably have subscribed, but about which they did little. Benjamin Franklin, for example, urged that in order to keep the scholars of his proposed academy "in health, and to strengthen and render active their bodies, they be frequently exercised in running, leaping, wrestling, and swimming, etc." (Source: Benjamin Franklin, "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsilvania, " in Woody (ed.), Educational Views of Benjamin Franklin, pp. 156-57.)
"But physical education as a consciously organized activity in the college program was almost completely lacking before the late nineteenth century. Viewed in many instances as a contributor to indecorous behavior, and as a possible source of distraction from the pursuit of serious study, the early tendency was to discourage rather than to foster participation in it. Thus, the rules for student deportment formulated by the trustees of the College, Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia, in 1761, tended to place a damper upon the exuberant spirit of youth: 'None shall climb over the Fences of the College Yard, or come in or out thro the Windows, or play Ball or use any Kind of Diversion within the Walls of the Building; nor shall they in the Presence of the Trustees, Professors or Tutors, play Ball, Wrestle, make any indecent Noise, or behave in any way rudely in the College Yard or Streets adjacent.'" (Source: College Academy and Charitable School, Minutes of Trustees, I, March 10, 1761, pp. 131 ff).
Saul Sack, History of Higher Education in Pennsylvania Volume: 2. (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg PA, 1963) , p.632.
John Thorn adds (email of 9/25/16):
"Possibly of interest: Franklin had dissociated himself from the Academy of Philadelphia (the "college" in question) in 1756:
1778.4 Ewing Reports Playing "At Base" and Wicket at Valley Forge - with the Father of his Country
[A] George Ewing, a Revolutionary War soldier, tells of playing a game of "Base" at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: "Exercisd in the afternoon in the intervals playd at base."
Ewing also wrote: "[May 2d] in the afternoon playd a game at Wicket with a number of Gent of the Arty . . . ." And later . . . "This day [May 4, 1778] His Excellency dined with G Nox and after dinner did us the honor to play at Wicket with us."
"Q. What did soldiers do for recreation?
"A: During the winter months the soldiers were mostly concerned with their survival, so recreation was probably not on their minds. As spring came, activities other than drills and marches took place. "Games" would have included a game of bowls played with cannon balls and called "Long Bullets." "Base" was also a game - the ancestor of baseball, so you can imagine how it might be played; and cricket/wicket. George Washington himself was said to have took up the bat in a game of wicket in early May after a dinner with General Knox! . . . Other games included cards and dice . . . gambling in general, although that was frowned upon."
Valley Forge is about 20 miles NE of Philadelphia.
[A] Ewing, G., The Military Journal of George Ewing (1754-1824), A Soldier of Valley Forge [Private Printing, Yonkers, 1928], pp 35 ["base"] and 47 [wicket]. Also found at John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Volume: 11. [U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1931]. page 348. The text of Ewing's diary is unavailable at Google Books as of 11/17/2008.
[B] From the website of Historic Valley Forge;
see http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/youasked/067.htm, accessed 10/25/02. Note: it is possible that the source of this material is the Ewing entry above, but we're hoping for more details from the Rangers at Valley Forge. In 2013, we're still hoping, but not as avidly.
See also Thomas L. Altherr, “A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball: Baseball and Baseball-Type Games in the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, and Early American Republic.." Nine, Volume 8, number 2 (2000)\, p. 15-49. Reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It – see page 236.
Caveat: It is unknown whether this was a ball game, rather than prisoner's base, a form of tag played by two teams, and resembling the game "Capture the Flag."
Note: "Long Bullets" evidently involved a competition to throw a ball down a road, seeing who could send the ball furthest along with a given number of throws. Another reference to long bullets is found at http://protoball.org/1830s.20.
Is Ewing's diary available now?
1779.4 French Official Sees George Washington Playing Catch "For Hours"
"To-day he [George Washington] sometimes throws and catches the ball for whole hours with his aides-de-camp."
-- from a letter by Francois Marquis de Barbe-Marbois, September 1779. Observed at a camp at Fishkill NY.
Chase, E. P., ed., Our Revolutionary Forefathers: The Letters of Francois Marquis de Barbe-Marbois during his Residence in the United States as Secretary of the French Legation 1779 - 1785 (Duffield and Company, NY, 1929), p. 114. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," Nine, v. 8, no. 2, (2000); reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It; see pp. 236-237.
Note: An online source has Washington at Fishkill in late September 1778.
1785.1 Thomas Jefferson: Hunting is Better for Character-building Than Ballplaying
"Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind."
Thomas Jefferson [VA]. letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785, in Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson [Princeton University Press, 1953], volume 8, p. 407. Thomas L. Altherr, “A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball: Baseball and Baseball-Type Games in the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, and Early American Republic.." Nine, Volume 8, number 2 (2000), p. 15-49. Reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It – see page 241.
1788.2 Noah Webster, CT Ballplayer?
"Connecticut lexicographer and writer Noah Webster may have been referring to a baseball- type game when he wrote his journal entry for March 24-25, 1788: 'Take a long walk. Play at Nines at Mr Brandons. Very much indisposed.'"
Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It; see page 241. Altherr cites the diary as Webster, Noah, "Diary," reprinted in Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, E. E. F Ford, ed., (privately printed, New York, 1912), page 227 of volume 1.
Note: "Nines seems an unusual name for a ball game; do we find it elsewhere? Could he have been denoting nine-pins or nine-holes? John Thorn, in 2/3/2008, says he inclines to nine-pins as the game alluded to.
1790s.4 Southern Pols Calhoun and Crawford: Ballplaying Schoolmates?
"These two illustrious statesmen [southern leaders John C. Calhoun and William H. Crawford], who had played town ball and marbles and gathered nuts together . . . were never again to view each other except in bonds of bitterness."
J. E. D. Shipp, Giant Days: or the Life and Times of William H. Crawford [Southern Printers, 1909], page 167. Caveat: Crawford was ten years older than Calhoun, so it seems unlikely that they were close in school. Both leaders had attended Waddell's school [in GA] but that school opened in 1804 [see #1804.1] when Crawford was 32 years old, so their common school must have preceded their time at Waddell's.
1790.5 John Adams Refers to Cricket in Argument about Washington's New Title
"Cricket was certainly known in Boston as early as 1790, for John Adams, then Vice-President of the United States, speaking in the debate about the choice of an appropriate name for the chief officer of the United States, declared that 'there were presidents of fire companies and of a cricket club.'" John Lester, A Century of Philadelphia Cricket [UPenn Press, Philadelphia, 1951], page 5.
1795.6 Future Tennessee Governor, at age 50, "Played at Ball"
"Sat. [August] 22 played at ball self and son John vs. Messrs Aitken and Anderson beat them four Games."
The Journal of John Sevier, published in Vols V and VI of the Tennessee Historical Magazine, 1919-1920.
Accessed via <sevier "22 played at ball"> search, 6/30/2014.
Editor's footnote #73 (1919?): "'Played at ball.' Sevier and son beat their antagonists four games. There were not enough (players?) for town-ball, nor for baseball, evolved from town-ball, and not yet evolved. There were not enough for bullpen. The game was probably cat-ball."
Revolutionary War veteran John Sevier was nearly 50 years old in August 1795. He became Tennessee's first governor in the following year. His son John was 29 in 1795.
1797.1 Daniel Webster Writes of "Playing Ball" While at Dartmouth
Daniel Webster, in private correspondence, writes of "playing at ball," while a student at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.
Webster, Daniel, Private Correspondence, Fletcher Webster, ed. [Little Brown, Boston 1857], volume 1, p. 66. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, p. 240 (ref #46).
On 7/31/2005, George Thompson added that "Volume 17, page 66 of the National Edition of his Writings and Speeches is supposed to have a reference by one Hotchkiss to Webster playing ball at Dartmouth."
Altherr [p. 27] puts this date "at the turn of the century." Do we know where the 1797 date originated? Was Webster at Dartmouth then?
1800c.7 William Cullen Bryant Remembers Base-Ball
"I have not mentioned other sports and games of the boys of that day which is to say, of seventy or eighty years since - such as wrestling, running, leaping, base-ball, and the like, for in thee there was nothing to distinguish them from the same pastimes at the present day."
William Cullen Bryant, "The Boys of my Boyhood," St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, December 1876, page 102. Submitted by David Ball 6/4/06
1802.2 Wordsworth Seems to Laud "Englishness" of Cricket
"Here, on our native soil, we breathe once more./The cock that crows, the smoke that curls, that sound/Of bells; those boys that in yonder meadow-ground/In white-sleev'd shirts are playing; and the roar/Of the waves breaking on the chalky shore/ All, all are English . . ."
From Wordsworth's sonnet "Composed in the valley near Dover on the day of Landing," [1802 and 1807] The Complete Poetical Works of Wiliam Wordsworth, Volume IV (Houghton and Mifflin, Boston, 1919), page 98 Accessed via Google Books on 10/20/2008..
According to Bateman, this reference is shown to be cricket because Wordsworth's sister's diary later contains a reference to white-shirted players at a cricket match near Dover. See Anthony Bateman,"'More Mighty than the Bat, the Pen . . . ;' Culture,, Hegemony, and the Literaturisaton of Cricket," Sport in History, v. 23, 1 (Summer 2003), page 33, note 20: Bateman cites the diary entry as The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, vol. 2, E. de Selincourt, ed., (London, 1941), page 8. John Thorn [email of 2/3/2008] discovers that Dorothy Wordsworth's diary entry for July 10, 1820 observes: "When within a mile of Dover, saw crowds of people at a cricket-match, the numerous cambatants dressed in 'whitesleeved shirts,' and it was on the very same field where, when we 'trod the grass of England' once again, twenty years ago we has seen an Assemblage of Youths engaged in the same sport,so very like the present that all might have been the same! [footnote2:See my brother's Sonnet 'Here, on our native soil' etc.]"
1810c.8 Future Lord Prefers Studies to Rounders, Cricket
Young Thomas Babbington Macaulay "did not take kindly, his co-temporaries tell us, to foot-ball, cricket, or a game of rounders, preferred history to hockey, and poetry to prisoner's base."
H. G. J. Clements, Lord Macaulay, His Life and Writings (Whittaker and Co., London, 1860), page 16. Accessed 2/2/10 via Google Books search (macaulay "2 lectures").
1812c.1 Young Andrew Johnson Plays Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy in Raleigh NC
[At age four] "he spent many hours at games with boys of the neighborhood, his favorite being 'Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy,' the last the 'choyst' game of all."
Letter from Neal Brown, July 15, 1867, in Johnson Mss., Vol. 116, No. 16,106.[Publisher?]
Listed Source seems incomplete or garbled. Help?
1816c.11 Jane Austen Writes of "Baseball" in Northanger Abbey.
Jane Austen mentions "baseball" in her novel Northanger Abbey, published in 1818, after her death.
"Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books . . . . But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; so read all such works as heroines must read. . . "
Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, (London, 1818), John Murray, Vol. I, p. 7.
"Northanger Abbey was published posthumously in 1818, and while most scholars agree the first draft was written in the 1798-99 time period, there is no evidence that Austen's early draft included the baseball reference. It was submitted for publication in 1803 under the name “Susan,” but never went to press. The text was revised between 1816 and 1817, but did not get published until after Austen’s death that summer." (from David Block, 9/16/2020).
1819.2 Scott's Ivanhoe Mentions Stool-ball
[The Jester speaks] "I came to save my master, and if he will not consent, basta! I can but go away home again. Kind service can not be checked from hand to hand like a shuttle-cock or stool-ball. I'll hang for no man . . . ."
Scott, Walter, Ivanhoe; A Romance (D. Appleton and Co., New York, 1904), page 257. Reference provided by John Thorn 6/11/2007.
1819.5 Irving Surveys Pastimes at Fictional British School; Includes Tip-cat
"As to sports and pastimes, the boys are faithfully exercised in all that are on record: quoits, races, prison-bars, tip-cat, trap-ball, bandy-ball, wrestling, leaping, and what-not."
Washington Irving [writing as Geoffrey Crayon], Bracebridge Hall: Or, The Humourists (Putnam's, New York, 1888: written in 1819), page 332. Contributed by Bill Wagner, email o f March 25, 2009. Accessed via 2/3/10 Google Books search (bracebridge tip-cat). The setting is Yorkshire. Note: if cricket, base-ball, rounders, or stoolball were played at the fictional school, it was relegated to "what-not" status.
1820s.20 Horace Greeley Lacks the Knack, Fears Getting Whacked
"Ball was a common diversion in Vermont while I lived there; yet I never became proficient at it, probably for want of time and practice. To catch a flying ball, propelled by a muscular arm straight at my nose, and coming so swiftly that I could scarcely see it, was a feat requiring a celerity of action, an electric sympathy of eye and brain and hand . . . . Call it a knack, if you will; it was quite beyond my powers of acquisition. 'Practice makes perfect.' I certainly needed the practice, though I am not sure that any amount of it would have made me a perfect ball-player."
Horace Greeley, Recollections of a Busy Life (J. B. Ford, New York, 1869), page 117. Per 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 30.
This book was accessed 11/15/2008 via Google Books search "greeley recollections owen."
Tom Altherr places the time as the early 1820s. Greeley, born in New Hampshire in 1811, was apprenticed a Poultney VT printer in about 1825.
Poultney VT is on the New York border, about 70 miles NNW of Albany NY. Greeley does not mention the games of wicket or round ball or base ball.
1823c.9 Kentucky Abolitionist Recalls Playing Base-ball
"I had ever been devoted to athletic sports - riding on horseback . . . playing base-ball, bandy, foot-ball and all that - so I had confidence in my prowess."
-- Cassius Marcellus Clay, on his outdoor activities at St. Joseph College in Kentucky in about 1823.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, The Life of Cassius Marcellus Clay; Memoirs, Writings and Speeches, Volume 1 (Brennan and Co., Cincinnati, 1886), page 35. Per 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 31.
Clay's book, which seems to make no other reference to ball-playing, was accessed 11/15/2008 via a Google Books search for <life of cassius>.
1824.1 Longfellow on Life at Bowdoin College: "Ball, Ball, Ball"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, then a student at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, writes: "This has been a very sickly term in college. However, within the last week, the government seeing that something must be done to induce the students to exercise, recommended a game of ball now and then; which communicated such an impulse to our limbs and joints, that there is nothing now heard of, in our leisure hours, but ball, ball, ball. . . . [S]ince, there has been a thorough-going reformation from inactivity and turpitude."
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, letter to his father Stephen Longfellow, April 11, 1824, in Samuel Longfellow, ed., Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with Extracts from His Journals and Correspondence [Ticknor and Company, Boston 1886],volume 1, p. 51. Per Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809. Also cited in Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 187.
Reprinted in Andrew Hilen, ed., Henry Wadsworth Longefellow, the Letters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, vol. 1 1814 - 1836 [Harvard University Press, 1966], page 87. Submitted by George Thompson, 7/31/2005.
1824c.3 English Writing Cites Base-ball as Girls'; Pastime, Limns Cricket Match
[A] "Better than playing with her doll, better even than base-ball, or sliding or romping, does she like to creep of an evening to her father's knee."
[B]Bateman states that Our Village, a collection of short stories and vignettes, which was initially serialized in The Lady's Magazine in the late 1820's, contains the first comprehensive prose description of a cricket match."
[A] Mitford, Mary Russell, Our Village [London, R. Gilbert], per David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, page 191. Block notes that this was published in New York in 1828, and Tom Altherr [email of April 2, 2009] adds that Philadelphia editions appeared in 1835 and 1841.
[B] Bateman, Anthony,"'More Mighty than the Bat, the Pen . . . ;' Culture,, Hegemony, and the Literaturisaton of Cricket," Sport in History, v. 23, 1 (Summer 2003), page 34.
While this chron entry is dated circa 1824, the installation of sections of Our Village may have begun in 1826.
"Our Village" was published over time in four volumes beginning in 1824. The second volume, published in 1826, includes the short story “The Tenants of Beechgrove” which contains this baseball quote on page 28. A year later, 1827, the story appeared in the Ladies’ Pocket Magazine, Vol. I, page 157. -- David Block, 9/25/2020
1824.4 Fondly Remembering the First Ballplaying Richie Allen
Stanzas to the Memory of Richard Allen; The Atheneum; or, Spirit of the English Magazines (1817-1833), Boston, August 16, 1824, vol. 1, Issue 10, page 379.
"What! School-fellow, art gone? . . .
Thou wert the blithest lad, that ever/ Haunted a wood or fish'd a river,/ Or from the neighbour's wall/ Filch'd the gold apricot, to eat/ In darkness, as a pillow treat, / Or 'urged the flying ball!'"/ Supreme at taw! At prisoner's base/ The gallant greyhound of the chase!/ Matchless at hoop! and quick,/ Quick as a squirrel at a tree . . .
1824.6 Oliver Wendell Holmes Recalls Schoolboy Baseball and Phillips Academy in MA
"[At Phillips] Bodily exercise was not, however, entirely superseded by spiritual exercises, and a rudimentary form of base-ball and the heroic sport of foot-ball were followed with some spirit."
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "Cinders from the Ashes," The Works of Oliver Wendel Holmes Volume 8 (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1892), page 251. He went on to recollect visiting the school in 1867, when he "sauntered until we came to a broken field where there was quarrying and digging going on, our old base-ball ground." Ibid, page 255.
This essay originally appeared in The Atlantic Monthly Volume 23 (January 1869). page 120.
Note: see item #1829c.1 below for Holmes' Harvard ballplaying.
Are we sure we haven't got Holmes pere et fils confused? OWH Sr (1809-1894), the poet and novelist, attended Andover and Harvard in the 1820s. OWH Jr (1841-1935) attended Harvard in the 1850s, served in the Civil War and became a justice of the US Supreme Court.--WCH
1825c.1 Thurlow Weed Recalls Baseball in Rochester NY
"A baseball club, numbering nearly fifty members, met every afternoon during the ball playing season. Though the members of the club embraced persons between eighteen and forty, it attracted the young and old. The ball ground, containing some eight or ten acres, known as Mumford's meadow . . . ." -- Thurlow Weed
[Weed goes on to list prominent local professional people, including doctors and lawyers, among the players.]
The experience is also represented in a 1947 novel, Grandfather Stories. "[The game] was clearly baseball, not town ball, as the old man described the positioning of the fielders and mentioned that it took three outs to retire the batting side." -- Tom Altherr.
Weed, Thurlow, Life of Thurlow Weed [Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1883], volume 1, p. 203. Per Robert Henderson ref #159.
Samuel Hopkins Adams, Grandfather Stories (Random House, 1955 -- orig pub'd 1947), 146-149.
Did Weed advert to 3-out half innings, or did Adams?
1825c.14 Future Ohio Governor is "Best Ball Player at the College"
John Brough was the Governor of Ohio from 1864 to 1865. At the age of 11 his father died and he took on work as a type-setter. In 1825 he "entered the Ohio University, at Athens, where he pursued a scientific course, with the addition of Latin . . . . He was fleet of foot and the best ball player at college."
Whitelaw Reid, Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers Volume 1 (Moore Wilstach and Baldwin, Cincinnati, 1868), page 1022. Accessed 2/5/10 via Google Books search ("ohio in the war"). Athens OH is in Eastern Ohio near the WV border, and about 70 miles SE of Columbus.
1827.2 Story Places Baseball in Rochester NY
A story, evidently set in 1880 in Rochester, involves three boys who convince their grandfather to attend a Rochester-Buffalo game. The grandfather contrasts the game to that which he had played in 1827.
He describes intramural play among the 50 members of a local club, with teams of 12 to 15 players per side, a three-out-side-out rule, plugging, a bound rule, and strict knuckles-below-knees pitching. He also recalls attributes that we do not see elsewhere in descriptions of early ballplaying: a requirement that each baseman keep a foot on his base until the ball is hit, a seven-run homer when the ball went into a sumac thicket and the runners re-circled the bases, coin-flips to provide "arbitrament" for disputed plays, and the team with the fewest runs in an inning being replaced by a third team for the next inning ["three-old-cat gone crazy," says one of the boys]. The grandfather's reflection does not comment on the use of stakes instead of bases, the name used for the old game, the relative size or weight of the ball, or the lack of foul ground - in fact he says that outs could be made on fouls.
Samuel Hopkins Adams, "Baseball in Mumford's Pasture Lot," Grandfather Stories (Random House, New York, 1947), pp. 143 - 156. Full text is unavailable via Google Books as of 12/4/2008.
Adams' use of a frame-within-a-frame device is interesting to baseball history buffs, but the authenticity of the recollected game is hard to judge in a work of fiction. Mumford's lot was in fact an early Rochester ballplaying venue, and Thurlow Weed (see entry #1825c.1) wrote of club play in that period. Priscilla Astifan has been looking into Adams' expertise on early Rochester baseball. See #1828c.3 for another reference to Adams' interest in baseball about a decade before the modern game evolved in New York City.
We welcome input on the essential nature of this story. Fiction? Fictionalized memoir? Historical novel?
1828c.3 Upstate Author Carried Now-Lost 1828 Clipping on Base Ball in Rochester
[A] "Your article on baseball's origins reminded me of an evening spent in Cooperstown with the author Samuel Hopkins Adams more than 30 years ago. Over a drink we discussed briefly the folk tale about the "invention" of baseball in this village in 1839.
"Even then we knew that the attribution to Abner Doubleday was a myth. Sam Adams capped the discussion by pulling from his wallet a clipping culled from a Rochester newspaper dated 1828 that described in some detail the baseball game that had been played that week in Rochester."
[B] Adams' biography also notes the author's doubts about the Doubleday theory: asked in 1955 about his novel Grandfather Stories, which places early baseball in Rochester in 1827 [sic], he retorted "'I am perfectly willing to concede that Cooperstown is the home of the ice cream soda, the movies and the atom bomb, and that General Doubleday wrote Shakespeare. But," and he then read a newspaper account of the [1828? 1830?] Rochester game."
[C] "Will Irwin, a baseball historian, tells us he was informed by Samuel Hopkins of a paragraph in an 1830 newspaper which notes that a dance was to be held by the Rochester Baseball Club."
[A] Letter from Frederick L. Rath, Jr, to the Editor of the New York Times, October 5, 1990.
[B] Oneonta Star, July 9. 1965, citing Samuel V. Kennedy, Samuel Hopkins Adams and the Business of Writing (Syracuse University Press, 1999), page 284.
[C] Bill Beeny, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, March 17, 1965.
Priscilla Astifan has looked hard for such an article, and it resists finding. She suspects the article appeared in a newspaper whose contents were not preserved.
1825.16 Mitford Story Centers on Cricket, Touches on Juvenile Baseball
"Then comes a sun burnt gipsy of six . . . . her longing eyes fixed on a game of baseball at the corner of the green till she reaches the cottage door . . . . So the world wags until ten; then the little damsel gets admission to the charity school, her thoughts now fixed on button-holes and spelling-books those ensigns of promotion; despising dirt and baseball, and all their joys."
From "Jack Hatch," taken from the Village Sketches of Mary Russell Mitford, The Albion: A Journal of News, Politics, and Literature September 9 1828, volume 7, page 65.
This item was originally dated 1828, and adjusted to 1825 in 2020. For some details, see Supplemental Text below.
Submitted by Bill Wagner 6/4/2006 and by David Ball 6/4/2006. David explains further: "The title character is first introduced as a cricketer, 'Jack Hatch the best cricketer in the parish, in the county, in the country!' The narrator hears tell of this wonder, who turns out to be a paragon of all the skills but is never able to meet him in person, finally hearing that he has died. Mitford treats cricket (with tongue admittedly somewhat in cheek) as an epic contest in which the honor of two communities is at stake. In the opening, very loosely connected section, on the other hand, baseball is described as a child's game, to be put away early in life."
1829c.1 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Plays Ball as a Harvard student.
Several sources report that Oliver Wendell Holmes playing ball at Harvard.
[actual Holmes text is still needed]
Krout, John A, Annals of American Sport (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1929), p. 115. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, p. 240, ref 49. Richard Hershberger, posting to 19CBB on 10/8/2007, found an earlier source - Caylor, O. P., "Early Baseball Days," Washington Post, April 11, 1896. John Thorn reports [email of 2/15/2008] that Holmes biographies do not mention his sporting interests. Note: We still need the original source for the famous Harvard story. Holmes graduated in 1829; the date of play is unconfirmed.
See entry #1824.6 above on Holmes' reference to prep school baseball at Phillips Academy.
We still need the original source for the famous Harvard story. Holmes graduated in 1829; the date of play as cited is unconfirmed. The Holmes story reportedly appears in JM Ward's "Base Ball: How to Become a Player," where he says OWH told it "to the reporter of a Boston paper." (Ward page citation?)
Small Puzzle: Harvard's 19th Century playing field was "Holmes Field;" was it named for this Holmes? Harvard is in Cambridge MA.
1829.3 Small Cambridge MA Schoolground Crimps Base and Cricket Play
his new Cambridge school too small. "[N]one of the favorite games of foot-ball, hand-ball, base or cricket could be played in the grounds with any satisfaction, for the ball would be constantly flying over the fence, beyond which he boys could not go without asking special leave. This was a damper on the more ranging & athletic exercises."
-- Charles Henry Dana, on the limitations of school ground play at his new school in Cambridge MA
Robert Metdorf, ed., An Autobiographical Sketch (1815-1842) (Shoe String Press, Hamden CT, 1953), pages 51-52. Per 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. The text of the autobiography is unavailable via Google Books as of 11/16/2008.
Charles Henry Dana, later the author of Two Years Before the Mast and a leading abolitionist, was 14 in 1829.
1830c.2 Thoreau Associates "Fast Day" with Base-Ball Played in Russet Fields
"April 10 . Fast-Day. . . . . I associate this day, when I can remember it, with games of baseball played over beyond the hills in the russet fields toward Sleepy Hollow, where the snow was just melted and dried up.
Submitted by David Nevard. On 8/2/2005, George Thompson submitted the following reference: Torrey, Bradford, Journal of Henry David Thoreau vol. 8, page 270. He notes that Princeton University Press is publishing a new edition, but isn't up to 1856 yet.
1830.3 Union General Joseph Hooker Plays Baseball as a Boy
Hooker is recalled as having been enthusiastic about baseball in about 1830. [Note: Hooker was about 16 then.] "[H]e enjoyed and was active in all boyish sorts. At baseball, then a very different game from now , he was very expert; catching was his forte. He would take a ball from almost in front of the bat, so eager, active, and dexterous were his movements."
Franklin Bonney, "Memoir of Joseph Hooker," Springfield Republican, May 8 1895. From Henderson text at pp. 147-148.
1830s.13 "Baseball" Found in Several Works by Mary Russell Mitford
Submitted by Hugh MacDougall, Cooperstown NY, 12/6/2006:
"Everyone knows of Jane Austen's use of the term baseball in her novel Northanger Abbey (see item #1798.1). I recently came across, online, an 1841 anthology of works by the English essayist Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1865). A search revealed five uses of the work "baseball." What is intriguing is that every reference seems to assume that "baseball" whatever it is is a familiar rough and tumble game played by girls (and apparently girls only) between the ages of 6 and 10 or so.."
The "baseball" usages:
 "The Tenants of Beechgrove:" "But better than playing with her doll, better even than baseball, or sliding and romping, does she like to creep of an evening to her father's knee:
 "Jack Hatch" see item #1828.9 above for two references.
 "Our Village [introduction]": " . . . Master Andrew's four fair-haired girls who are scrambling and squabbling at baseball on the other." (See item #1824.3 above.)
 Belford Regis: "What can be prettier than this, unless it be the fellow-group of girls . . . who are laughing and screaming round the great oak; then darting to and fro, in a game compounded of hide-and-seek and baseball. Now tossing the ball high, high amidst the branches; now flinging it low along the common, bowling as it were, almost within reach of the cricketers; now pursuing, now retreating, jumping shouting, bawling almost shrieking with ecstasy; whilst one sunburnt black-eyed gipsy throws forth her laughing face from behind the trunk of an old oak, and then flings a newer and gayer ball fortunate purchase of some hoarded sixpence among her happy playmates.
David Block's forthcoming 2019 book may address the rules of English Base-Ball in this period.
MacDougall asks: "Mary Mitford seems to have a pretty good idea of what the girls are playing, when they play at 'baseball' but it seems to have little or nothing to do with the sport we now call by that name. Does anyone know what it was?"
1830s.16 Future President Lincoln Plays Town Ball, Joins Hopping Contests
James Gurley (Gourley?) knew Abraham Lincoln from 1834, when Lincoln was 25. In 1866 he gave an informal interview to William Herndon, the late President's biographer and former law partner in Springfield IL. His 1866 recollection:
"We played the old-fashioned game of town ball - jumped - ran - fought and danced. Lincoln played town ball - he hopped well - in 3 hops he would go 40.2 [feet?] on a dead level. . . . He was a good player - could catch a ball."
Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln (U Illinois Press, 1998), page 451.
See also Beveridge, Albert J., Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858 (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1928), Volume I, page 298. The author provides source for this info as: "James Gourley's" statement, later established as 1866. Weik MSS. Per John Thorn, 7/9/04.
There is some ambiguity about the city intended in this recollection. Springfield IL and New Salem IL seem mostly likely locations.
A previous Protoball entry, listed as #1840s.16: "He [Abraham Lincoln in the 1840s] joined with gusto in outdoor sports foot-races, jumping and hopping contests, town ball, wrestling . . . " Source: a limited online version of the 1997 book edited by Douglas L Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, Herndon's Informants (U of Illinois Press, 1997 or 1998). Posted to 19CBB on 12/11/2007 by Richard Hershberger. Richard notes that the index to the book promises several other references to Lincoln's ballplaying but [Jan. 2008] reports that the ones he has found are unspecific.. Note: can we chase this book down and collect those references?
Earlier versions of this find were submitted by Richard Hershberger (2007) and John Thorn (2004).
1830s.22 Ballplaying Recurs in Abolitionist's Life -- From Age 10 to Harvard
You may think of Thomas Wentworth Higginson [b. 1823] as a noted abolitionist, or as the mentor of Emily Dickinson, but he was also a ballplayer and sporting advocate [see also #1858.17]. Higginson's autobiography includes several glimpses of MA ballplaying:
- at ten he knew many Harvard students - "their nicknames, their games, their individual haunts, we watched them at football and cricket [page 40]"
- at his Cambridge school "there was perpetual playing of ball and fascinating running games [page 20]".
- he and his friends "played baseball and football, and a modified cricket, and on Saturdays made our way to the tenpin alleys [page 36]".
- once enrolled at Harvard College [Class of 1841] himself, he used "the heavy three-cornered bats and large balls of the game we called cricket [page 60]." Note: sounds a bit like wicket?
- in his early thirties he was president of a cricket club [and a skating club and a gymnastics club] in Worcester MA. [Pages 194-195]
See also #1858.17.
Source: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1898). Per Thomas L. Altherr, "Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games," Base Ball, Volume 2, number 1 (Spring 2008), pages 33-34 and ref #29. Accessed 11/16/2008 via Google Books search for <cheerful yesterdays>.
1838.3 Cooper Novel Home as Found Mentions Ballplaying in Cooperstown
"'Do you refer to the young men on the lawn, Mr. Effington? . . . Why, sir, I believe they have always played ball in that precise locality.'
He called out in a wheedling tone to their ringleader, a notorious street brawler. 'A fine time for sport, Dickey; don't you think there would be more room in the broad street than on this crowded lawn, where you lose our ball so often in the shrubbery?'
'This place will do, on a pinch,' bawled Dickey, 'though it might be better. If it weren't for the plagued house, we couldn't ask for a better ball-ground. . . '
'Well, Dickey . . . , there is no accounting for tastes, but in my opinion, the street would be a much better place to play ball in than this lawn . . . There are so many fences hereabouts . . . It's true the village trustees say there shall be no ball-playing in the street [see item #1816.1 above - LM], but I conclude you don't much mind what they say or threaten.'"
Thus James Fenimore Cooper, in his novel Home As Found, describes the return of the Effingham family to Templeton and their ancestral home in Cooperstown, NY. The passage is thought to be based on a similar incident in Cooper's life in 1834 or 1835. In an unidentified photocopy held in the HOF's "Origins of Baseball" file, the author of A City on the Rise, at page 11, observes that "Cooper was the first writer to connect the game with the national character, and to recognize its vital place in American life." Another source calls this "the first literary ball game:"
http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/cooperstown/baseball.html. Caveat: In a 1/24/2008 posting to 19BCC, Richard Hershberger writes: I believe the consensus on the Cooper reference is that it likely was something more hockey-like than baseball-like."
James Fenimore Cooper, Home as Found [W.A. Townsend and Co., New York 1860] Chapter 11. The 1838 first edition was published by Lea and Blanchard in Philadelphia - data submitted by John Thorn, 7/11/2004.
1839.3 Rutherford Hayes Plays Ball as Student at Kenyon College, OH
In a May 13 letter to his brother, the future President observed: "Playing ball is all the fashion here now and it is presumed that I can beat you at that if not at chess."
Williams, C. R., ed., Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes: Nineteenth President of the United States volume 1 [Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society, Columbus OH, 1922], page 33.
1840.20 Base and Cricket are Experimental Astronomy?
"Bat and Ball - Toys, no doubt, have their philosophy, and who knows how deep is the origin of a boy's delight in a spinning top? In playing with bat-balls, perhaps he is charmed with some recognition of the movement of the heavenly bodies, and a game of base or cricket is a course of experimental astronomy, and my young master tingles with a faint sense of being a tyrannical Jupiter driving sphere madly from their orbit."
[Journal entry, June 1, 1840]
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1876 [Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1911] Volume 5, page 410. Submitted by Wendy Knickerbocker 11/30/2005 posting to 19CBB; citation submitted 1/7/2007.
1845.31 News Writer (Whitman, Perhaps?) Extols "Base," Cricket
The Atlas (New York), June 15, 1845.
Note: Whitman's text is at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/opening-day-e5f9021c5dda. Whitman's appreciation of base ball is also shown at 1846.6, 1855.9, and 1858.25.
Extra credit for sleuthing the authorship of this item!
1846.6 Walt Whitman Sees Boys Playing "Base" in Brooklyn: "Glorious"
In July of 1846 a Brooklyn Eagle piece by Walt Whitman read:
"In our sun-down perambulations of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing "base," a certain game of ball. We wish such sights were more common among us. In the practice of athletic and manly sports, the young men of nearly all our American cities are very deficient. Clerks are shut up from early morning till nine or ten o'clock at night . . . . Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms . . . the game of ball is glorious."
"City Intelligence," Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, vol. 5 number 177 (July 23, 1846), page 2, column 3. Reprinted in Herbert Bergman, ed., Walt Whitman. The Journalism. Vol. 1: 1834 - 1846. (Collected Works of Walt Whitman) [Peter Lang, New York, 1998], volume 1, page 477. Full Eagle citation submitted by George Thompson, 8/2/2004. .
Note: Whitman's text also presented at John Thorn's Our Game at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/opening-day-e5f9021c5dda.
1848c.9 Young Benjamin Harrison Plays Town Ball, Baste in OH
[As a teenage student at Farmer's College, near Cincinnati OH, Harrison] "[w]hile closely applying himself to study, always standing fair in his classes, respected by instructors and popular with his associates, prompt in recitation and obedient to rules, nevertheless he found time for amusement and sport, such as snow-balling, town-ball, bull-pen, shinny, and baste, all more familiar to lads in that day than this."
Life and Public Services of Hon. Benjamin Harrison [Sedgewood Publishing Company, 1892], page 53.
1848.19 Organization Men at the KBBC in 1848
"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.
Committee to Revise Constitution and By-Laws:
D.L. Adams, Pres.
A.J. Cartwright, Jr., Vice Pres
Eugene Plunkett, Sec'y
Duncan F. Curry
19cbb post by John Thorn, June 9, 2003, referencing the 1848 revision of the Knick's constitution and bylaws (see 1848.1)
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."
1849c.4 A. G. Mills and Boyhood Friend Recall "Base Ball" at a Brooklyn School
A. G. Mills and schoolmate W. S. Cogswell exchanged letters, 55 years later, on the plugging game they called "base ball" as youths.
Mills to Cogswell 1/10/1905: "Among the vivid recollections of my early life at Union Hall Academy [of Jamaica, Long Island, NY] is a game of ball in which I played, where the boys of the side at bat were put out by being hit with the ball. My recollection is that we had first base near the batsman's position; the second base was a tree at some distance, and the third base was the home base, also near the batsman's position."
Cogswell to Mills 1/19/1905: "My recollection of the game of Base Ball, as we played it for years at Union Hall, say from 1849 to 1856, is quite clear. "
"You are quite right about the three bases, their location and the third base being home.
"The batsman in making a hit went to the first base, unless the ball was caught either on a fly or on first bound. In running the bases he was out by being touched or hit with the ball while further from any base than he could jump. The bases were not manned, the ball being thrown at a runner while trying for a base. The striker was not obliged to strike till he thought he had a good ball, but was out the first time he missed the ball when striking, and it was caught by the catcher either on the fly or on the first bound. There was no limit to the number of players and a side was not out till all the players had been disposed of. If the last player could make three home runs that put the side back in again. When there were but few players there was a rule against 'Screwing,' i.e., making strikes that would be called 'foul.' We used flat bats, and it was considered quite an art to be able to "screw" well, as that sent the ball away from the bases."
More details, from John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden (2011; pp 27-28), are seen below in the supplemental text below.
A. G. Mills letter to Colonel Wm S. Cogswell, January 10, 1905, and Wm. S. Cogswell letter to A. G. Mills, January 19, 1905. From the Mills Collection, Giamatti Center, HOF. Thanks to Jeremy LeBlanc for information on Union Hall Academy (email, 9/23/2007).
Note: This exchange and its significance are treated in John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Shuster, 2011), page 27.
John Thorn notes that in 1905 Mills was beginning to gather evidence for use in his famous "Mills Commission" report on base ball's beginnings. (Email of 1/4/2016).
John suggests that the Union Hall game may be the game that William R. Wheaton, another Union Hall student, called "three cornered cat" in his 1887 recollections of base ball's origin (email, 1/4/2016). The game of Corner Ball is known from the 1830s to about 1860, but is usually seen as a form of dodge ball played mostly by youths, and lacking batting and baserunning. Is it possible that Corner Ball morphed, retaining its essential plugging but adding batting and base advancement, by the time it was played in the Brooklyn school? Was this a transitional form in base ball's lineage? See also http://protoball.org/Three-Cornered_Cat and http://protoball.org/Corner_Ball.
As of January 2016, no other usages of "three-cornered cat" are known.
1851.5 Robert E. Lee Promotes Cricket at West Point?
Robert E. Lee
A twenty-one year old cricket enthusiast visited West Point from England, and remarked on "the beautiful green sward they had and just the place to play cricket. . . . The cadets played no games at all. . . . It was the first time that I had a glimpse of Colonel Robert E. Lee [who was to become Superintendent of West Point]. He was a splendid fellow, most gentlemanly and a soldier every inch. . . .
"Colonel Lee said he would be greatly obliged to me if I would teach the officers how to play cricket, so we went to the library. . . .Lieutenant Alexander asked for the cricket things. He said, 'Can you tell me, Sir, where the instruments and apparatus are for playing cricket?' The librarian know nothing about them and so our project came to an end."
"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.
Robert E. Lee is reported to have become Superintendent of West Point in September 1852; and had been stationed in Baltimore until then; can Calthrop's date be reconciled?
1851.6 Word-man Noah Webster Acknowledges Only Wicket
"Wicket, n. A small gate; a gate by which the chamber of canal locks is emptied; a bar or rod, used in playing wicket."
Noah Webster, A Dictionary of the English Language, Abridged from the American Dictionary (Huntington and Savage, New York, 1851), page 399.Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search ("used in playing wicket").
No other ballgames are carried in this dictionary. Webster was from Connecticut.
1852.17 Dickens Names Cricket, but not Stoolball or Rounders, Among "Merriest" Games
[In a Dickens short story, a traveler meets a handsome youth, and they spend time together.]
"They had the merriest games that were ever played . . . They were active afoot, and on horseback; at cricket and all games of ball; the prisoners base, hare and hounds, follow up leader, and more sports than I can think of."
Charles Dickens, "The Child's Story" (1852).
See also Dickens on ballplaying at pp 128, 212, and 271 (note) of David Block, Pastime Lost (U Nebraska Press, 2019).
"David Block's book Pastimes Lost cites Dickens mentioning games of ball in his letters" reported Bruce Allardice, 3/24/2021.
Dickens did mention rounders in an 1849 letter to an acquaintance during a holiday at the Isle of Wight: "I . . . have had a great game of rounders every afternoon." (Block, pp. 212 and 271.)
Block also notes another Dickens reference to people "playing at ball," but the site was apparently known as a racket ground, may not have have involved a baserunning game.
1855.9 Whitman Puts "Good Game of Base-Ball" Among Favorite Americana
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [Brooklyn, Rome Bros], p. 95. In a review of good American experiences, including those "approaching Manhattan" and "under Niagara", Walt Whitman puts this line:
"Upon the race-course, or enjoying pic-nics or jigs or a good game of base-ball . . . "
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 216.
1855.39 Pastime of Despots
King Ferdinand II
"Description of a Modern Tyrant" (Ferdinand II of the Kingdom of Naples) ...his favorite old games, foot-racing and tumbling, base ball and wrestling..." Describes Ferdinand as "the scoundrel king of Naples."
Newark Advertiser, Dec. 21, 1855; by an unidentified correspondent in Rome. Summarized in Originals, Newsletter of the Origins Committee of SABR, Vol. 3 no. 11, Nov. 2010.
1856.35 Future Star Dickey Pearce Discovers the Decade-old No-Plugging Rule
"I was working at my trade in 1856," said Dick, "and old Cale Sniffen, who was the pitcher of the Atlantic Club at that time, asked me to go out with him and see the club practice. I told him I did not know a thing about the game. 'Never mind that,' said Cale, "I'll show you.' So I went out with him one day to the old field where the Atlantics played in 1856, and which adjoined the Long Island Cricket Club's grounds. At that time I used to take a hand in with the boys in practicing old-fashioned base ball, in which we used to plug fellows when they ran bases, by putting out through throwing the ball at them. Well, I went out with Cale and he got me into a game, and the first chance I had to catch a fellow running bases, I sent the ball at him hot, and it hit him in the eye. Then I learned the new rule was to throw the ball to the base player and let him touch the runner."
The Sporting Life, January 4, 1888.
For an overview of Pearce's baseball life, see Briana McKenna's article at http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/db8ea477.
Finder Richard Hershberger adds that this account "has a couple interesting features. The New York game by 1856 was well into its early expansion phase, but we see here where it still wasn't really all that widely known, even in Brooklyn. Pearce also cuts through the nonsense about what baseball's, meaning the New York game, immediate ancestor was, and what it was called.
"There was in the 1880s a widespread collective amnesia about this, opening the way for Just So stories about Old Cat and such. Pearce correctly calls the predecessor game "base ball," just like they had at the time it was played."
Note: Pearce was born in 1836, and thus was nine when the Knickerbocker rule replacing plugging/soaking/burning had appeared. Eleven years later, lads in Brooklyn had evidently made the adjustment.
Do we have any additional information on where in Brooklyn Pearce and his friends were playing the old-fashioned game in the 1850s?
1857c.34 Wicket Played at Eastern OH College; Future President Excels
"In the street, in front of [Hiram College] President Hinsdale's (which was then Mr. Garfield's house), is the ground where we played wicket ball; Mr. Garfield was one of our best players."
F. M. Green, Hiram College (Hubbell Printing, Cleveland, 1901), page 156. Accessed via Google Books search ("Hiram College" green).
James A. Garfield was Principal and Professor at Hiram College from 1856-1859. He was about 26 in 1857, and had been born and reared in Eastern Ohio. Hiram Ohio is about 30 miles SE of Cleveland.
1857.38 President's Peace Medal Depicts Baseball Game in Background
United States Government
"A base ball game is depicted on the 1857 Indian Peace Medal issued by the Buchanan Administration in 1857. The Indian Peace Medal was "presented by a government agent to the chief of a tribe that the government considered to be friendly, or that it desired to become so...the frontier game of baseball, in all its variety, was already perceived as the national game..."
Thorn, John, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (2011), p. 114.
See also https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/our-baseball-presidents-ec1617be6413 (accessed Feb 2018).
"For President Buchanan in 1857, a new reverse to the (latest "Indian Peace") Medal was commissioned from engraver Joseph Wilson . . . . [The medal showed] in the distance, a simple home with a woman standing in the doorway -- and a baseball game being playing in the foreground. . . .
"No matter what some gentlemen were saying in New York at the "national" conventions of area clubs, the frontier game of baseball, in all its variety, was already perceived as the national game."
-- John Thorn, "Our Baseball Presidents," Our Game posting, February 2018.
1858.25 Your Base Ball Stringer, Mr. W. Whitman
Reporter Whitman wrote a workmanlike [all-prose] account of a game [Atlantic 17, Putnam 13] for the Brooklyn Daily Times in June 1858.
Walt Whitman, "On Baseball, 1858," in John Thorn, ed., The Complete Armchair Book of Baseball [Galahad Books, New York, 1997; originally published 1985 and 1987] pp 815-816.
1858.34 Amusements at Duchess' Birthday Party Includes Base Ball
Duchess of Kent
August 17 was the 72nd birthday of the Duchess of Kent, celebrated at Windsor. Church bells rang. Royal tributes were fired. And, "amusements principally consisted of cricket, dancing, archery, football, trap and base ball, swinging, throwing sticks for prizes, etc."
"Birthday of the Duchess of Kent," Times of London, Issue 23073 (August 18, 1858), page 7 column A.
Given the absence of the term "base ball" in this period, one may ask whether "trap and base ball" was a variant of "trap ball." In fact, the phrase appears in an 1862 in a description of a fete held in August 1859, presumably near Windsor, where, after a one-innings cricket contest, "archery, trap and base ball [and boat races] were included in the diversions. Gyll, Gordon W. J., History of the Parish of Wraysbury, (H. G. Bohn, London, 1862), page 55. Available on Google Books [google "trap and base ball"].
1858.68 Thoreau Ponders Manliness in the Church and Base Ball
"The church! It is eminently the timid institution, and the heads and pillars of it are constitutionally and by principle the greatest cowards in the community. The voice that goes up from the monthly concerts is not so brave and so cheering as that which rises from the frog-ponds of the land. The best 'preachers,' so called, are an effeminate class; their bravest thoughts wear petticoats. If they have any manhood they are sure to forsake the ministry, though they were to turn their attention to baseball*."
(*Note: "baseball" is an editor's choice of word-form: John Bowman reports that two Thoreau journal references themselves [see also chronology item #1830c.2] are written "base-ball" and "base ball").
Henry David Thoreau, Journal entry for November 16, 1858, Journals.
The thrust of Thoreau's entry has puzzled us a little.
John Bowman writes: "This is but a small excerpt from a journal entry that is all but rabid about organized religion and its churches, which Thoreau attacks for being afraid to confront the hard truths and realities of our lives.
Exactly what he means by that final phrase -- 'though they were to turn their attention to base ball' -- has been debated, but my interpretation is as follows: He seems to be saying that, in particular, its ministers/preachers are so cowardly as to be 'effeminate,' and if any of them were truly manly they would do better to leave the ministry and engage in some other activity -- even playing base ball, despite its questionable value, would be preferable.
But others may have read this differently."
Feel free to throw more light on what Thoreau is saying here.
1860.20 Lincoln Awaits Nomination, Plays Town Ball . . . or Handball?
 "During the settling on the convention Lincoln had been trying, in one way and another, to keep down the excitement . . . playing billiard a little, town ball a little, and story-telling a little."
A story circulated that he was playing ball when he learning of his nomination: "When the news of Lincoln's nomination reached Springfield, his friends were greatly excited, and hastened to inform 'Old Abe' of it. He could not be found at his office or at home, but after some minutes the messenger discovered him out in a field with a parcel of boys, having a pleasant game of town-ball. All his comrades immediately threw up their hats and commenced to hurrah. Abe grinned considerably, scratched his head and said 'Go on boys; don't let such nonsense spoil a good game.' The boys did go on with their bawling, but not with the game of ball. They got out an old rusty cannon and made it ring, while the [illeg.: Rail Splitter?] went home to think on his chances."
 Interview with Charles S. Zane, 1865-66: "I was present in the Illinois State Journal on the day when Lincoln was nominated: he was present & when he received the news of the 3d Ballot. Lincoln Said I Knew it would Come to this when I Saw the 2d. Ballot. . . . Lincoln played ball pretty much all the day before his nomination – played at what is called fives – Knocking a ball up against a wall that served as an alley – He loved this game – his only physical game – that I Knew of – Lincoln said – This game makes my shoulders feel well."
 Henry C. Whitney, Lincoln the Citizen [Current Literature Publishing, 1907], page 292.
 Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln (U Illinois Press, 1998), page 492.
 "How Lincoln Received the Nomination," [San Francisco CA] Daily Evening Bulletin vol.10 number 60 (Saturday, June 16, 1860), page 2 column 3.
Richard Hershberger and others doubt the veracity of this story. He says [email of 1/30/2008] that one other account of that day says that Abe played hand-ball, and there is mention of this being the only athletic game that Abe was ever seen to indulge in. (But also see 1830s.16 on a younger Abe Lincoln and town ball in the 1830s).
Source  above contains other accounts of the nomination story. They support the idea that Lincoln "played ball" the day before the nomination, but it seems fairly clear that the game played was "fives," presumable a form of handball. For a very helpful submission from Steve Gietschier on the content of Herndon's Informants, see the Supplemental Text, below.
A political cartoon of the day showed Lincoln playing ball with other candidates. It can be viewed at http://www.scvbb.org/images/image7/.
Thanks to Kyle DeCicco-Carey for the link.
Is the cartoon dated? Is a location given?
Is the content from source , from 1860, known?
1860.37 Late Surge Lifts Douglas' over Abe Lincoln's Side in Chicago IL
Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Douglas
"Base Ball and Politics. - We do not approve of their thus being brought into contact, but as a match took place at Chicago on the 24th ult., between nine [Stephen] Douglas me and nine [Abe] Lincoln men of the Excelsior Club, we feel in duty bound to report it."
New York Clipper, July 1860.
Tied after eight innings, the outcome was prophetic for the ensuing election (in the state legislature) for the U. S. Senate: Douglas 16, Lincoln 14.
1861.1 Chadwick Wants to Start Richmond VA Team, but the Civil War Intervenes
Bill Hicklin notes (email of Feb 4, 2016) that "Chadwick visited his wife's family frequently and was disappointed that, as of the verge of the Civil War, there appeared to be no base ball clubs there at all."
Ward, Geoffrey C., and Ken Burns, Baseball: An Illustrated History [Knopf, 1994], p.12, no ref given.
Schiff, Millen, and Kirsch also cite Chadwick's attempt, but do not give a clear date, or a source.
Tom Gilbert, 10/5/2020, notes "Henry Chadwick had close Richmond connections. His wife was from a wealthy and prominent Virginia family and he himself traveled to Richmond and was involved in early attempts to found a NYC- style baseball club there. Antebellum New Yorkers vacationed in Virginia in the 1850s and baseball clubs played there even before the famous Excelsiors tours."
To be more exact, Chadwick's wife was the daughter of Alexander Botts, or a prominent VA family, though Alexander and his family had moved to NYC. Her uncle was Congressman John Minor Botts, her first cousin was Confederate Colonel Lawson Botts, and her mother was a Randolph, one of Virginia's First Families (FFVs). [ba]
For more on Richmond base ball, see 1859.73
Is there a primary source for this claim?
1861c.3 Lincoln and Baseball: The Presidential Years
[A] "We boys, for hours at a time, played "town ball" [at my grandfather's estate in Silver Spring, MD] on the vast lawn, and Mr. [Abe] Lincoln would join ardently in the sport. I remember vividly how he ran with the children; how long were his strides, and how far his coat-tails stuck out behind, and how we tried to hit him with the ball, as he ran the bases."
[B] "Years after the Civil War, Winfield Scott Larner of Washington remembered attending a game played on an old Washington circus lot in 1862...Lincoln, followed by his son Tad...made his way up to where he could see the game...On departing Lincoln and Tad accepted three loud cheers from the crowd."
[A] Recollection [c.1890?] of Frank P. Blair III in Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 2 (Lincoln Memorial Association, New York, 1900), page 88.
[B] The Evening Star (Washington, D. C.), July 12, 1914. Quoted in American Baseball: From Gentleman's Sport to the Commissioner System (university of Oklahoma Press, 1966), p.11.
Blair, whose grandfather was Lincoln's Postmaster General, lived in Silver Spring, MD, just outside Washington. Blair was born in 1858 or 1859.
1861.77 White House Secretaries watch Zouaves play ball
"When John Hay and George Nicolay drove their rented buggy over to Camp Lincoln to say hello to their friend Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, they found him wearing his “blouzy red shirt” and enjoying that New York favorite: Base Ball. Most New York firefighters played the game, and among those involved was Ellsworth’s aide-de-camp, Captain John “Jack” Wildey.
Wildey played ball before he became a Fire Zouave. He played for the New York Mutuals, named for his own Mutual Hook and Ladder Company Number 1. The Mutuals were formed in 1857 and played amateur ball at the Hoboken Grounds, their home field. Many firefighters and city employees played in a variety of New York teams, but the Mutuals were reckoned the best. It was perfectly normal for a handmade ball, a bit larger and softer than today’s baseball, to be found in the knapsack of an 11th New York Fire Zouave."
Hay and Nicolai were Pres. Lincon's Secretaries, and Ellsworth was perhaps Lincoln's closest young friend. Hay later became Secretary of State.
"Home Run Derby Star Captain "Jack" Wildey, The Emerging Civil War blog, July 16, 2018
1862.12 Reverend Beecher: Base-Ball is Best Form of Exercise
Henry Ward Beecher
"It is well, therefore, that so many muscular games are coming into vogue. Base-ball and cricket are comparatively inexpensive, and open to all, and one can hardly conceive of better exercise."
Henry W. Beecher, Eyes and Ears (Sampson Low, London, 1862), age 191. Accessed 2/18/10 via Google Books search ("vogue baseball" beecher).
Beecher is here lauding exercise that is both vigorous and inexpensive.
1862.57 Games Between NY and MA Regiments Punctuated by Artillery
Union General George McClellan
Members of the Massachusetts 22nd Regiment and the NY 14th squared off for two matches on April 15, 1862, in the vicinity of active fire, and "in sight of the enemy’s breastworks mounted with heavy 64’s and 32’s." A discarded boot supplied material for a new cover for the game ball. Union General McClellan passed by while play was in progress.
Additional details are provided in the supplemental text, below.
Rochester Union and Advertiser, April 24, 1862.
Undoubtedly, Game played near Yorktown, VA
1863.19 Eventual National League Prexy Sticks with Cricket in War Camp
“[W]hile I played barn ball, one old cat and two old cat in early boyhood days, Cricket was my favorite game, and up to the time I enlisted in the army I never played a regular game of base ball or the New York game as it was then called. In my regiment we had eleven cricketers that had all played together at home and I was the leading spirit in getting up matches. We played a number of good matches but we were too strong for any combination that we could get to play against us, and we finally had to abandon cricket and + take up this so called New York game. I remember well the first game that I played. It was against the 27th NY Inf. at White Oak Church near Fredericksburg Va. In the Spring of 1863. I played occasionally during the remainder of the war, but after my discharge in 1865 I came to Washington and joined the American Cricket Club of this city. But I soon turned my attention to base ball + played with the Olympic Club of this city from 1866 to 1870.”
Nicholas Young was born in Amsterdam NY in 1840, and thus was playing the named games in the 1850s. He was a member of the 32nd NY Infantry, which was at Falmouth VA in spring 1863. He led the NL from 1881 to 1903.
Nicholas E. Young, letter to Spalding, December 2, 1904. Accessed at the Giamatti Center of the Baseball; Hall of Fame, 6/26/09, in the “Origins file.
Summarized in George Kirsch, Baseball in Blue and Gray (Princeton U, 2003), page 37.
Zoss and Bowman’s Diamonds in the Rough says that the 32nd had a cricket team and that Young played on it [p. 81].
From online sources we do learn that Young was born in Amsterdam NY, was picked for an all-upstate NY cricket team to play an all-NYC team in 1858, and that he joined the 32nd NY Regiment. The history of 27th NY Regiment, which sprang from the general area of Binghamton, does not mention ballplaying.
1863.42 Union Army Captain Sees Base Ball Good for Morale, and Health Too
General Joseph Hooker, Union Army
[A] “The Rochester Evening Express published a letter from a soldier dated March 31, 1863, saying the Union Troops near what is now Leeland Station in Stafford were amusing themselves by running races and ‘playing ball, the latter being the favorite amusement or our correspondent. ‘We played nearly all day yesterday, our gallant Colonel looking on with as much pleasure as though he had a hand in . . . . (Quite a number of spectators assembled on our parade ground to witness the expertness of our officers, as they were practicing a match-game with the commissioned officers of the veteran 13th.) I learn that the 108th Regiment and the 14th Brooklyn Regiment were to play a match game of ball to-day for a purse of $25. . . . It may appear that we should be engaged in something else beside playing base ball, but I tell you it is one of the best things in the world to keep up the spirits of the men, , and not only that, but it is of vast importance to their health, and necessary to the development of their muscle . . . . The old veteran Joe (Gen. Joseph Hooker) himself can be seen out on the field encouraging the boys on as earnest as if he were on the battlefield.”
[B] In a 2001 article, Allison Barash cites parts of this communiqué, and adds that the writer was “Captain Patrick H. “True Blue” Sullivan of the 140th New York Volunteers, who had played for Rochester’s Lone Stars Club before the war and was obviously hopelessly addicted to the game, left many written statements of Civil War ballgames.” She does note give a source for this passage or the other writings.
[A]Michael Zitz, “Soldiers Recount Stafford Baseball Games,” carried on the Fredericksburg.com website, accessed 6/14/2009. Google search <of the veteran 13th>.
[B]Allison C. Barash, “Baseball in the Civil War, The National Pastime (January 2001), pp 17-18. Stafford VA is about 10 miles north of Fredericksburg and 65 miles north of Richmond.
1863.136 Gen. Grant enjoys watching ball game
The National Tribune, Aug. 29, 1895, prints a letter from C. W. Colby of the 97th Illinois, who writes that in April of 1863 his unit was detailed to guard Gen. Grant's headquarters at Milliken's Bend. "Every evening we had a game of ball on the lawn in front of headquarters, and the General would sit on the porch, enjoying the sport as much as we did."
The National Tribune, Aug. 29, 1895
1865.30 Henry Chadwick, Shortstop
"I posted a couple of years ago about a match in the late 1860s or so in which Chadwick played, IIRC, right field. The discussion aroused a bit of interest, so I will mention now an earlier such game, played November 11, 1865 and reported in the Brooklyn Eagle of the 13th, between the Brooklyn Eagle and the Brooklyn Union. Chadwick plays shortstop for the Union. This confirms that he left the Eagle at some point that year. I'm not sure, but I think it was before the season, just based on writing style. I suspect that Sutton, who played for the Eagle, was his replacement, but the evidence is thin. If anyone has firm information on this I would be interested."
- Richard Hershberger
Brooklyn Eagle, November 13, 1865. Posted to the 19CBB listserve on November 8, 2017.
This game did not involve experienced players, and is omitted from Protoball's lists of early games and clubs. Richard advises (email to Protoball, 12/6/2017): "It's not the 'Eagle Club' and the 'Union Club.' It is reporters, and possibly other employees, of the newspapers the Brooklyn Eagle and the Brooklyn Union.
1867.2 Colored Clubs Play in Philly: Frederick Douglass Attends a Game
[A] "FRED. DOUGLAS [sic] SEES A COLORED GAME. – The announcement that the Pythian, of Philadelphia, would play the Alert, of Washington, D.C. (both colored organizations) on the 16th inst., attracted quite a concourse of spectators to the grounds of the Athletic, Seventeenth street and Columbus avenue, Philadelphia.
"The game progressed finely until the beginning of the fifth innings, when a heavy shower of rain set in, compelling the umpire, Mr. E. H. Hayhurst, of the Athletic, to call [the] game. The score stood at the end of the fourth innings: Alert 21; Pythian, 18. The batting and fielding of both clubs were very good. Mr. Frederick Douglas was present and viewed the game from the reporters’ stand. His son is a member of the Alert."
Note: From two weeks later:
[B] "COLORED BALL PLAYERS. At Philadelphia, on the 19th inst., the Pythians, of that city, played a match game with the Mutuals of Washington, with the following results: Pythians – 43; Mutuals – 44
Pythian: Cannon, p; Catto, 2b; Graham, lf; Hauley, c; Cavens, 1b; Burr, rf; Adkins, 3b; Morris, cf; Sparrow, ss.
Mutual: H. Smith, p; Brown, c; Harris, 1b; Parks, 2b; Crow, lf; Fisher, cf; Burley, 3b; A. Smith, rf; Whiggs, ss.
[A] New York Clipper, July 13, 1867.
[B] New York Clipper, July 27, 1867.
For more on one early African American club, the Pythian Club, see J. Casway, "Philadelphia's Pythians; The "Colored" Team of 1866-1871," National Pastime, (SABR, 1995), pp. 120-123.
1867.23 Celebrity Spectators
Robert E. Lee
The following is the result of a game of base ball played by the Beechenbrook and Arlington Base Ball clubs, on the Institute ground, at Lexington, Virginia, May 4th. The game was witnessed by General R. E. Lee, Custis Lee, General Smith, and a very large concourse of people. After its termination the winners were presented with a handsome set of flags by the Misses Lee, daughters of the General.
Louisville Daily Courier, Louisville, KY, May 27, 1867.
Custis Lee, General Lee's son, had served on Lee's staff during the war. General Smith was superintendent at VMI. The flags referred to were probably foul-line flags used to mark the foul lines on fields not enclosed.
1868.4 Henry Chadwick's Cholera Scare May Have Doomed American Chronicle of Sports and Pastimes
From Richard Hershberger:
In the summer of 1867, Chadwick begins publication of the Ballplayer's Chronicle, later renamed the American Chronicle of Sports and Pastimes. It runs for about one year, the final issue being July 23, 1868, then halts publication without notice or explanation. The obvious explanation is that it was losing money, the baseball community not yet able to support such a publication until 1883 when The Sporting Life is founded. I have always taken this at face value as the explanation, but I just came across this in the Brooklyn Eagle of July 29, 1868, in the "Personal and Sundries" column:
"We regret to learn of the serious illness of Mr. Chadwick, the well-known base ball writer. He is at his place in South Durham, confined to his bed with an acute attack of choler morbus. We trust that he won't be "out" for many a year."
This would explain the abruptness of the affair. Presumably if it were making money some interim editor could have been arranged, so I'm not suggesting that the illness was the sole, or even primary, cause. But it explains some of the timing of events. The New England Base Ballist began publication at the beginning of August. About two months later, Chadwcik appears as its New York correspondent, having recovered from the cholera.
-- Richard Hershberger
Brooklyn Eagle, July 29,1868
Protoball would welcome additional details.
1869.13 George Wright Joins the All-Professional Cincinnati Club
In late February 1869, the Sunday Mercury reported that prominent player George Wright had joined the Cincinnati base ball club as its highest-paid player.
The 22-year-old, already counted among the most proficient players in the game; playing for New York's Union club in 1868, he had averaged four runs (and over seven hits) per game, and Henry Chadwick cited him as the best "general player" in base ball.
George Wright was only 22 years old in 1869, but had already had a variety of base ball experiences. Born into a prominent family of athletes (his father was a NYC club pro, and his older brother Harry played cricket and base ball, and was the player-manager of the famous Cincinnati championship club).
Wright's business was base ball. "Arranged employment and waived club dues had been considered acceptable evasions of the NABBP rule forbidding compensation since its adoption in 1859," and at age 19 he played on his brother Harry's Gotham Club in 1863 and 1864. His subsequent migrations:
Age 16-17 (1863-4) -- He played in the outfield of the Gotham Club in New York in 1863 and was the club's catcher for most of 1864.
Age 18 (1865) -- He caught for the Olympic Club of Philadelphia, and also subbed for that city's Keystone Club on its NYC visit. Chadwick would later name him the best catcher in the game.
Age 19 (1866) -- He started the year with the Gotham Club, and then decided to move to the first-tier Union Club of Morrisania, which compiled a better record than the year's unofficial champions, the Atlantic Club, and he became its shortstop.
Age 20 (1867) He moved to Washington and the National Base Ball Club, nominally serving with seven teammates as clerks in the Treasury Department. The National Club won 25 of its first 30 games, and undertook a tour to the West, including two games against his brother Harry's Cincinnati club.
Age 21 (1868) He played for the Union Club in NYC. The club won 39 of its 45 games, and undertook a 20-game tour of the west, including Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati club folded after its 1870 season, and George Wright joined his brother's Boston Red Stockings outfit in the new National Association for 1871 through 1875, where it won four of five league championships. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1937.
Robert Tholkes, "The Young and the Restless: George Wright 1865-1868." Baseball Research Journal, Fall 2016, pp. 95-101.
Bob Tholkes' thorough 2016 paper [cited above] throws welcome light on the nature of elite base ball in period immediately following the Civil War, a period also associated with the rise of "Base Ball Fever" during which local clubs, representing individual companies, affinity groups, etc., formed clubs, some of which playing at sunrise [as early as five o'clock AM], prior to the work day.
1870c.17 Rutherford Hayes Sees Harm to Hearing in Ballplaying
MY DEAR BOY -- I see by the Journal you are playing base-ball and that you play well. I am pleased with this. I like to have my boys enjoy and practice all athletic sports and games, especially riding, towing, hunting, and ball playing. But I am a little afraid, from [what] Uncle says, that overexertion and excitement in playing baseball will injure your hearing. Now, you are old enough to judge of this and to regulate your conduct accordingly. If you find there is any injury you ought to resolve to play only for a limited time -- say an hour or an hour and a half on the same day. . . . We had General Sherman at our house Wednesday evening with a pleasant party."
Cited in John Thorn, Our Game posting, February 2018, "Our Baseball Presidents."
This original source is not given here.
What is the source of the Hayes letter?
1872.1 Prince Bismarck Takes in a Ball Game in Berlin
From John Thorn's Our Game, forwarded 11/17/20:
When Bismarck Went to the Ball Game
While poking around in a now forgotten (and not yet digitized) American weekly newspaper published in Paris and London, The American Register, beginning in the 1860s, Kaplan found “another interesting piece about early transatlantic baseball, that as far as I can tell hasn’t appeared in modern scholarship.”
The American Register, April 13, 1872, p. 3:
“Base Ball in Berlin” from our own correspondent. Berlin April 7. “With the return of spring and sunshine has come a revival of the interest so universally manifested by Americans, whether at home or abroad, in their great national game — base ball. An occasional game at the Hippodrome — a large field, situated between Berlin and Charlottenburg, which his Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince of Prussia, has kindly accorded as a ball ground — finally resulted in a match, which was played on Tuesday afternoon last, in the presence of a large throng of spectators. Prince Bismarck and son, Gen. Vogel von Falkenstein, and many officers of the staff attended.”
The piece then goes on to describe one ball hit so well it went 300–400 meters [!] and hit the horse of an officer; the horse is said to have thought it was a French bullet and reared. There is also a lot about organizing other games in Germany. (Josh Chetwynd, in his Baseball in Europe, dates the earliest game in Germany to 1909.) I just love the idea of Bismarck showing up at this game. [Note: Bruce Allardice cites, at Protoball.org, a game played in Dresden on July 14, 1869, between two clubs composed of Americans, mostly students. — jt]
Schlagball, a primordial form of long ball, may date to the middle ages, yet a national schlagball championship was played as recently as 1954. For more, see: http://protoball.org/Schlagball. But the game that Otto von Bismarck viewed was neither schlagball nor das Englische Base-ball; it was good old (really, not so old) American baseball.
Our Game, John Thorn, November 2017.