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- 1 1850c.44 Twenty or So Cricket Clubs Dot the US
- 2 1855.16 Scholar Deems 1855 the Peak of Cricket-playing in America
- 3 1855.18 Stodgy Novel Makes Brief Mention of Former Ballplaying
- 4 1856.11 New Reader Has Ballplaying Illustration
- 5 1857.38 President's Peace Medal Depicts Baseball Game in Background
- 6 1858.5 Seven More Clubs Publish Their Rules
- 7 1858.13 New Reader: "Now, Charley, Give Me a Good Ball"
- 8 1859.18 Harper's Suggests Plugging Still Used in Base-ball
- 9 1861.86 A Battalion of Base Ballists?
- 10 1863.19 Eventual National League Prexy Sticks with Cricket in War Camp
- 11 1864.35 Government Promotes Base Ball
1850c.44 Twenty or So Cricket Clubs Dot the US
"During the late 1840s there was an increase in the number of cricket clubs in New York and nationally. At least six clubs were formed in the metropolitgan area, [but most] survived for only a few years. . . . George Kirsch maintains that by 1850 at least twenty cricket clubs, enrolling perhaps 500 active payers, existed in more than a dozen American communities."
Melvin Adelson, A Sporting Time (U. of Illinois Press, 1886), page 104. Adelson cites Kirsch, "American Cricket," in Journal of Sport Hstory, volume 11 (Spring 1984), page 28.
Do these estimates jibe with current assessments?
1855.16 Scholar Deems 1855 the Peak of Cricket-playing in America
"By 1855, Cricket was clearly the leading ball game . . . . Clearly, there was no opposition to cricket because it was English . . . . However, the growth of cricket between 1855 and 1861 was minor compared to the advances made in baseball. The Spirit summarized the general attitude of the press in 1859 when it wrote that 'cricket has its admirers, but it is evident that it will never have the universality that baseball will.' [page 107]
"In essence, cricket failed because it was too advanced and too institutionalized for a society that lacked a manly ball-playing tradition. Americans drew from the only heritage they had -- that of a child's game." [page 110]
Melvin Adelman, "Chapter 5 --The Failure of Cricket as an American Sport," A Sporting Time: New York City and the Rise of Modern Athletics, 1820-1870 (U Illinois Press, 1986) 97 - 120.
Adelman cites the Spirit source as December 3, 1859, issue 29, page 505.
Adelman bases his analysis on the premise that base ball's predecessor games were played mainly be juveniles. This premise can be questioned. Even discounting play by university youths up to 1845, adult play in the military and elsewhere was hardly rare before the Gothams and Knickerbockers formed in New York around 1840, as many entries in this chronology indicate.
1855.18 Stodgy Novel Makes Brief Mention of Former Ballplaying
"The academy, the village church, and the parsonage are on this cross-street. The voice of memory asks, where are those whose busy feet have trodden the green sward? Where are those whose voices have echoed in the boisterous mirth or base-ball and shinny?"
S. H. M. (only initials are given), Miranda Elliot: or, The Voice of the Spirit (Lippincott, Grambo & Co., Philadelphia, 1855), page 229.
This passage involves a small party's slow country walk, one that is incessantly interrupted by a sermonizing narrator. There is no indication of who played ball, or how long ago they played. The setting seems to be the U.S; some place where orange trees grow.
1856.11 New Reader Has Ballplaying Illustration
Town, Salem, and Nelson M Holbrook, The Progressive First Reader [Boston], This elementary school book has an illustration of boys playing ball in a schoolyard.
per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, pages 217-218.
What are the "other sources" for playing theque? Is it significant that this book features games for adolescents, not younger children?
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.
1858.5 Seven More Clubs Publish Their Rules
They include base ball clubs in Stamford CT [Mazeppa BB Club], Newburgh NY [Newburgh BB Club], Louisville [KY]? [Louisville BB Club], New York City [Independent BB Club], South Brooklyn [Olympic BB Club], Jersey City [Hamilton BB Club], and, formed to play the Massachusetts Game, the Takewambait BB Club of Natick MA.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 224
1858.13 New Reader: "Now, Charley, Give Me a Good Ball"
The Little One's Ladder, or First Steps in Spelling and Reading [New York, Geo F. Cooledge]. The book shows schoolyard ballplaying, and sports the caption: "Now, Charley, give me a good ball that I may bat it."
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 218
1859.18 Harper's Suggests Plugging Still Used in Base-ball
"Base-ball differs from cricket, especially, in there being no wickets. The bat is held high in the air. When the ball has been struck the 'outs' try to catch it, in which case the striker is 'out;' or, if they can not do this, to strike the striker with it when he is running, which likewise puts him out."
Harper's, October 15, 1859, as quoted by Richard Hershberger, Monday June 13, 2005, on the SABR 19CBB listserve.
It is conceivable that Harper's intended to describe the tagging of runners.
1861.86 A Battalion of Base Ballists?
The New York Sunday Mercury, Aug. 18, 1861 reports: "We are informed by a correspondent that several gentlemen well known in base ball circles, have a project under consideration for the formation of a battalion or regiment, exclusively of base ball players: and it is seriously contemplated to recommend a call fora special meeting of the National Association of Base Ball Players, for the purpose of bringing the matter more immediately before representatives of all the clubs." The Mercury notes that many ball players are already in the army, so the idea may not be practical, but that if only 5 men from each club joined, "better material for soldiers... cannot be found."
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.
1864.35 Government Promotes Base Ball
"GOVERNMENT BALL GROUNDS.-- The game of base ball has lately received such an indorement (sic) at the hands of the U. S. government as will go far toward giving it permanency as the national game of ball in America. Not only have base ball matches been encouraged by the military authorities, at the various army stations, as a means of recreation, as a means of recreation and exercise for the soldiers, in hours of relaxation from active service...but the naval authorities have recently made arrangements by which our sailors can similarly enjoy a pleasurable sport and healthy exercise at the same time. A large space of ground, lately recovered from the swamp lands adjoining the Navy yard, has been prepared as a ball ground, and during the summer the sailors and marines on board the several vessels at the depot are to use it when off duty. ...Ball players are being made by the hundred in our army. The few members of clubs who happen to get into the different regiments that have emanated from the Metropolis have inoculated the whole service with the love of the game, and during last year, for the first time, we believe, that base ball matches took place in every State in the Union-- or out of it, as the case may be--this side of the Mississippi."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 30, 1864