Chronology: 1851 - 1855
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The chronology from 1851 to 1855 (103 entries)
1851.1 Sport of Cricket Gets its First Comprehensive History Book
Pycroft, James, The Cricket Field; or, The History and Science of Cricket [London? Pub'r?], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 220.
A Boston edition appeared in 1859 [Mayhew and Baker, publisher].
This book's first chapter, "The Origins of the Game of Cricket," is seen by Block as "if not the earliest, one of the finest early studies of cricket history. The author exhumes a great number of references to cricket and its antecedents dating back to the year 1300."
1851.2 Early Ballplaying on the SF Plaza (Horses Beware!)
From February 1851 through January 1852, there are six reports of ballplaying in San Francisco:
 February 4, 1851. "Sport -- A game of base ball was played upon the Plaza yesterday afternoon by a number of the sorting gentlemen about town."
 February 4, 1851. Sports on the Plaza. "The plaza has at last been turned to some account by our citizens. Yesterday quite a crowd collected upon it, to take part in and witness a game of ball, many taking a hand. We were much better pleased at it, than to witness the crowds in the gambling saloons which surround the square."
 February 6, 1851. "Base-Ball --This is becoming quite popular among our sporting gentry, who have an exercise upon the plaza nearly every day. This is certainly better amusement than 'bucking' . . . ."
 March 1, 1851. "Our plaza . . . has gone through a variety of stages -- store-house, cattle market, auction stand, depository of rubbish, and lately, playground. Numbers of boys and young men daily amuse themselves by playing ball upon it -- this is certainly an innocent recreation, but occasionally the ball strikes a horse passing, to the great annoyance of he driver."
 March 25, 1851. "There [at the Plaza] the boys play at ball, some of them using expressions towards their companions, expressions neither flattering, innocent nor commendable. Men, too, children of a larger growth, do the same things."
 January 14, 1852. "Public Play Ground -- For the last two or three evenings the Plaza has been filled with full grown persons engaged very industrially in the game known as 'town ball.' The amusement is very innocent and healthful, and the place peculiarly adapted for that purpose."
 Alta California, Feb, 4, 1851
 "Sports on the Plaza," Daily California Courier, February 4, 1851.
 "Base-Ball," Alta California, February 6, 1851.
 "The Plaza," San Francisco Herald, March 1, 1851.
 "The Corral," Alta California, March 25, 1851.
 "Public Playground," Alta California, January 14, 1852.
See Angus Macfarlane, The [SF] Knickerbockers -- San Francisco's First Baseball Team?," Base Ball, volume 1, number 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 7-20.
Angus Macfarlane's research shows that many New Yorkers were in San Francisco in early 1851, and in fact several formed a "Knickerbocker Association." Furthermore he discovered that several key members of the eastern Knickerbocker Base Ball Club -- including de Witt, Turk, Cartwright, Wheaton, Ebbetts, and Tucker -- were in town. "[I]n various manners and at various times they crossed each other's paths." Angus suggests that they may have been involved in the 1851 games, so it is possible that they were played by Knickerbocker rules . . . at a time when in New York most games were still intramural affairs within the one or two base ball clubs playing here.
What do we know about "the Plaza" in those days, and its habitués and reputation?
1851.3 Wicket Players in MA Found Liable
"In a recent case which occurred at Great Barrington, an action was brought against some 12 or 15 young men, by an old man, to recover damages for a spinal injury received by him and occasioned by a wicket ball, which frightened his horse and threw him from his wagon. The boys were playing in the street. . . . . If this were fully understood, there would be less of the dangerous and annoying practice so common in our streets."
"Caution to Ball Players n the Street," The Pittsfield Sun, volume 51, issue 2647 (June 12, 1851), page 2.
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.
1851.7 Christmas Bash Includes "Good Old Fashioned Game of Baseball"
"On Christmas day, the drivers, agents, and other employees of the various Express Companies in the City, had a turnout entirely in character. . . . There were between seventy-five and eighty men in the company . . . . They then went to the residence of A. M. C. Smith, in Franklin st., and thence to the Red House in Harlem, where the whole party has a good old fashioned game of base ball, and then a capital dinner at which A. M. C. Smith presided."
New York Daily Tribune, December 29, 1851.
Richard added: "Finally this is a very rare contemporary cite of baseball for this period. Between the baseball fad of the mid-1840s and its revival in the mid-1850s, baseball is rarely seen outside the pages of the Knickerbocker club books." John Thorn contributed a facsimile of the Tribune article.
Can we surmise that by using the term "old fashioned game," the newspaper is distinguishing it from the Knickerbocker game?
1851.8 Games of Ball Seen in Sacramento CA in 1851, 1854
"Morning Sports - A fight took place on Saturday morning on the levee, and a game of ball on 2d street just above the Columbia Hotel. Quite a number of gentlemen witnessed these amusements, and seemed highly entertained by them."
Sacramento Transcript, March 18, 1851 (as reprinted in the Spirit of the Times on May 17, 1851).
Another game in Sacramento was covered in April of 1854. John Thorn suggests that "the above 'game of ball' may be inferred to be baseball (I think)."
1851.9 The Beginning of Match Play Between Organized Clubs
"Some baseball games are historic even thought few details of the contest survive. A case in point is the June 3, 1851 Knickerbocker-Washington game. Although the only surviving information is the line score, the match is remembered because it marked the beginning of ongoing match play."
John Zinn, "Match Play: Knickerbockers of New York vs. Washington of New York," in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pages 8-9.
This is game #4 of the SABR 19th Century Committee's top 100 games of the 1800s.The Knickerbockers won the June 3 game, 21-11, in 8 innings.
Two weeks later, the two clubs met again and the Knickerbockers prevailed again, 22-20, in 10 innings.
The era of repetitive match play among organized base ball clubs had begun.
1851.10 Rounders on the Ice
The crew of a British ship investigating a northwest passage was trapped in the ice alongside Princess Royal Island in Feb. 1851, and while there the men played Rounders on the ice.
"The Discovery of the Northwest Passage by HMS Investigator" (1856), p. 160
British sailors played rounders on the ice in Melville Bay, Greenland, Aug. 20, 1857. See Lloyd, "The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas"
1852.1 Claim: Cartwright Laid First Base Ball Field in Hawaii, Taught Baseball Widely
[After he moved to Hawaii] "Cartwright never forgot baseball . . . As early as 1852 [he] measured out by foot the dimensions of Hawaii's first baseball field. . . . [He] organized teams and taught the game all over the island."
Harold Peterson, The Man Who Invented Baseball (Scribner's, 1969), page 172.
This story is also carried in Frederick Ivor-Campbell, "Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr. (Alick)", in Frederick Ivor-Campbell, et. al, eds., Baseball's First Stars [SABR, Cleveland, 1996], page 24, and in Jay Martin, Live All You Can: Alexander Joy Cartwright and the Invention of Modern Baseball (Columbia U Press, 2009), pp. 62-63. None of these authors provides a source, but Peterson seems to imply that Cartwright's son may have written of the incident in 1909.
This story has been seriously questioned by recent scholarship, which has found nothing in Cartwright's own papers, or his family's, that confirm it. The two claims -- that Cartwright laid out a ballfield and that he taught base ball widely -- are thus not found in Monica Nucciarone's thorough Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend (U of Nebraska Press, 2009).
1852.2 Lit Magazine Cites "Roaring" Game of "Bat and Base-ball"
The fifth stanza of the poem "Morning Musings on an Old School-Stile" reads: "How they poured the soul of gay and joyous boyhood/ Into roaring games of marbles, bat and base-ball!/ Thinking that the world was only made to play in, -/ Made for jolly boys, tossing, throwing balls!
Southern Literary Messenger, volume 18, number 2, February 1852, page 96, per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
John Thorn interprets this phrase to denote two games, bat-ball and base-ball. Others just see it as a local variant of the term base-ball. Is the truth findable here? Note that Brian Turner, in "The Bat and Ball": A Distinct Game or a Generic Term?, Base Ball, volume 5, number 1, p. 37 ff, suggests that 'bat and ball" may have been a distinct game played in easternmost New England.
1852.3 Eagle Ball Club Rulebook Appears
By-laws and Rules of the Eagle Ball Club [New York, Douglas and Colt], 1852
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 223.
The cover of this rulebook states that the club had formed in 1840 (See item #1840.6 above).
1852.6 Exciting [Adult] Rounders in the Arctic
Osborn, Lieut. Sherard, Stray Leaves from an Arctic journal; or, Eighteen Months in the Polar Regions (London, Longman + Co), page 77, "Shouts of laughter! Roars of 'Not fair, not fair! Run again!' 'Well done, well done!' from individuals leaping and clapping their hands with excitement, arose from many a ring, in which 'rounders' with a cruelly hard ball, was being played."
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
It seems unusual that a rounders ball would be characterized as hard; perhaps softer versions were used when younger players played the game, and one might guess that even in adult play, the ball would be seen as softer than the cricket ball.
1852.7 San Francisco Plaza Again Active, This Time with "Town Ball;"
"For the last two or three evenings the Plaza has been filled with full grown persons engaged very industriously in the game known as 'town ball.' The amusement is very innocent and healthful . . . . The scenes are extremely interesting and amusing, and the place is peculiarly adapted for that purpose."
"Public Play Ground," Alta California, January 14, 1852
On June 11, 2007, John Thorn reported a similar CA find: "A game of "town ball" which was had on the Plaza during the week, reminded us of other days and other scenes. California Dispatch, January 2, 1852.
In the prior year (see item #1851.2) the game at the Plaza had been called base ball in two news accounts, and town ball in none that we now have. Note the account of prior base ball in SF at 1851.2 above. Angus explains that six former members of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in Manhattan were then in SF, and thus the reported games may have been played by modern rules.
Angus adds - email of 1/16/2008 - that this appears to be the last SF-area mention of base ball or town ball until 1859.
1852.8 Adult Town Ball Seen in on a Sunday in IL
"[N]ot a great while ago, [I] saw a number of grown men, on a Sabbath morning, playing town-ball."
"I grieve to say the stores all do business on the Sabbath. We hope, by constantly showing the people their transgression, to break up this [commerce] , the source of so much other sin."
Rev. E. B. Olmsted, The Home Missionary [Office of the American Home Missionary Society] Volume 24, Number 1 [May 1852], page 188.
The location of the game was Cairo, Illinois.
1852.9 Five Fined in Brooklyn NY for Sunday Ballplaying Near a Church
"Yesterday, quite a number of boys were arrested by the police for ball playing and other similar practices in the public streets . . . . [Three were nabbed] for playing ball in front of the church, corner of Butler and Court streets, during divine service. They were fined $2.50 each this morning by Justice King." Two others were fined for the same offense.
"Breaking the Sabbath," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 11 number 99 (April 26, 1852), page 3, column 1.
1852c.11 Hartford Lads Play Early Morning Wicket on Main Street
"Wicket was played in various locations of the city [of Hartford CT] . . . . But the best games of all in many respects were the early morning games, played by clerks . . . for four or five months [a year] on Main street . . . .
"It was customary for the first [clerk] who was first awake at 5 o'clock to dress, and make rounds of the [State House] square, knocking on the doors and shouting 'Wicket.' By 5:30 enough would be out to begin playing, and soon with 15 to 20 on a side the game was in full swing.
"There was very little passing of teams and but little danger of beaking store windows, although cellar windows would be broken, and paid for. Most stores had outside shutters to the windows, and were thus protected. These games would end about 6:45, in time to open the stores at 7 o'clock. It was good exercise, and very enjoyable, and I have no doubt that many of our older merchants and bankers will recall with pleasure the good old wicket games in State House Square in 1852-3-4."
J. G. Rathbun, unidentified article circa 1907, Chadwick Scrapbooks, as cited in Peter Morris, But Didn't We Have Fun? (Ivan R. Dee, 2008), pages 14-15.
It is interesting that the game could be played in the limited area of a broad city street.
1852.12 Ball-playing Prohibited Near UNC Buildings
"There shall be no ball playing in or among the College buildings or against the walls. All athletic exercises must be kept at a distance, so as to prevent damage to the buildings and interruption to study."
Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Trustees for the Organization and Government of the University of North Carolina (Raleigh, NC; North Carolina Institution for the Dumb and the Blind, 1852), page 21. Per Originals, volume 5, number 5 (May 2012), page 2b
Tom Altherr suggests that "The ordinance certainly prohibited handball games, such as fives, but it could have as easily targeted base ball-type games."
This same rule appears in the printed 1829 rules for UNC. [ba]
1852.13 Gotham Club Forms; Knicks Have First Rival Team
"The Gotham Base Ball Club, of New York, was organized early in 1852, with Mr. Tuche as its first President. Among its veteran players were Messrs. Winslow, Vail, Murphy, and Davis. At the time of the organization of the Gotham, their only competitor was the famous Knickerbockers, and the years between 1852 and 1853 will be remembered for their interesting contests between them."
John Freyer and Mark Rucker, Peverelly's National Game (Arcadia, 2005), page 21; A reprint of Charles Peverelly, American Pastimes, 1866.
1852.14 A Pleasant Beech Grove, Where the Boys Played Bass Ball
"A little way from the school-house . . . was a pleasant beech grove, where the boys played bass ball, and where the girls carried disused benches and see-sawed over fallen logs."
Alice Carey, Clovernook: or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (Redfield, Clinton Hall NY, 1852), page 280. G-Book search: <"beech grove" "alice carey">.
The state or locality of this scene is not obvious.
Is this a recollection or a work of fiction?
1852.15 Cricket Club Formed in San Francisco
"A number of gentlemen in this city have organized a Cricket Club and have selected their sporting ground immediately of Rincon Point. [That's in the vicinity of Beal Street and Bryant Street, Angus notes.
The Alta, April 15, 1852.
However, Angus finds no evidence of actual matches until June of 1857; Email of 1/16/2008.
1853c.1 "Rounders" Said to be Played at Phillips Andover School
[A] "The game of "rounders," as it was played in the days before the Civil War, had only a faint resemblance to our modern baseball. For a description of a typical contest, which took place in 1853, we are indebted to Dr. William A. Mowry:"
[Nine students had posted a challenge to play "a game of ball," and that challenge was accepted by eleven other students.] "The game was a long one. No account was made of 'innings;' the record was merely of runs. When one had knocked the ball, had run the bases, and had reached the 'home goal,' that counted one 'tally.' The game was for fifty tallies. The custom was to have no umpire, and the pitcher stood midway between the second and third bases, but nearer the center of the square. The batter stood midway between the first and fourth base, and the catcher just behind the batter, as near or as far as he pleased.
'Well, we beat the eleven [50-37].' [Mowry then tells of his success in letting the ball hit the bat and glance away over the wall "behind the catchers," which allowed him to put his side ahead in a later rubber game after the two sides had each won a game.]
[B] "We had baseball and football on Andover Hill forty years ago, but not after the present style. Baseball was called round ball, and the batter that was most adept at fouls, made the most tallies. The Theologues were not too dignified in those days to play matches with the academy. There was some sport in those match games."
[A] Claude M. Fuess, An Old New England School: A History of Phillips Academy, Andover [Houghton Mifflin, 1917], pp. 449-450.
Researched by George Thompson, based on partial information from reading notes by Harold Seymour. Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search ("history of phillips").
A note-card in the Harold Seymour archive at Cornell describes the Mowry recollection.
[B] William Hardy, Class of 1853, as cited in Fred H. Harrison, Chapter 2, The Hard-Ball Game, Athletics for All: Physical Education and Athletics at Phillips Academy, Andover, 1778-1978 (Phillips Academy, 1983), accessed 2/21/2013 at http://www.pa59ers.com/library/Harrison/Athletics02.html. Publication information for the Hardy quote is not seen on this source.
It appears that Fuess, the 1917 author, viewed this game as rounders, but neither the Mowry description nor the Hardy reference uses that name. It is possible that Fuess was an after-the-fact devotee of he rounders theory of base ball. The game as described is indistinguishable from round ball as played in New England, and lacks features [small bat, configuration of bases] used in English rounders during this period. The placement of the batter, the use of "tallies" for runs, and the 50-inning game length suggests that the game played may have been a version of what was to be encoded as the Massachusetts Game in 1858.
Wikipedia has an entry for prolific historian William A Mowry (1829-1917). A Rhode Islander, his schooling is not specified, but he entered Brown University in 1854, and thus may have been a Phillips Andover senior in 1853.
Hardy's 1853 reference to the "Theologues" is, seemingly, a local theological seminary -- presumably the nearby Andover Theological Seminary -- whose teams played many times from the 1850s to the 1870s against Phillips Andover. Hardy's note may thus mark the first known interscholastic match of a safe haven ballgame in the United States.
A prestigious preparatory school, Phillips Academy is in Andover MA and about 20 miles N of Boston.
Can we identify the seminary with the rival club, and determine whether it has any record of early ballplaying?
1853.2 Dutch Handbook for Boys Covers "Engelsch Balspel," Trap-ball, Tip-cat
Dongens! Wat zal er gespeld worden? (Boys! What Shall We Play?) (Leeuwarden, G. T. N. Suringar, 1853), A 163-page book of games and exercises for young boys, described by David Block as "loaded with hand-colored engravings." The book's section on ball games includes a translation of the 1828 rounders rules from The Boy's Own Book (see 1828.1 entry, above) but is diagrammed with a diamond-shaped infield, under the heading Engelsch balspel (English ball). A second game is De wip (the whip), a kind of trap ball. Also [[De kat]], which Block identifies as English tip-cat.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 215.
In 2016, an 1845 edition of this book was discovered, and Protoball began to explore translations of its text. See http://protoball.org/1845.29.
1853.4 School Reader has Description of Bat and Ball
Sanders, Charles W., The School Reader; First Book (Newburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, assorted publishers). This is another Sanders reader (see entries above for 1840, 1841, 1846), this one with an illustration of four boys playing a ball game at recess. A drawing is titled "Boys Playing at Bat and Ball."
Oddly enough, two of the four boys seem to be carrying bats. One appears to have hit the ball toward a boy in the foreground, and a second boy stands near to him, with a bat in hand, watching him prepare to catch the ball. "[H]e will catch the ball when it comes down. Then it will be his turn to take the bat and knock the ball."
No bases or wickets are apparent in the drawing. No pitching or baserunning is mentioned.
per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 215.
In 2013, David Block notes that the 1858 edition of this book includes a different image, where a fifth player appears, and three of them hold bats: see below: "In the newer  edition, all five of the boys are standing around a tree . . . . The bats, especially in the 1858 illustration, appear to be flat-faced, though not as broad as a cricket bat. There are no visible wickets or bases . . . It is impossible to know what sort of game(s) the artists were trying to represent, although my impression is of some sort of fungo game, with one player hitting the ball in the air and the others trying to catch or retrieve. The one who succeeds gets to bat next. Just a guess.
(Email from David Block, 2/7/2013.)
Is it possible that this is a fungo-style game? Is it possible that may other "plaing ball" references denote fungo games?
Do we know of any other fungo games in which more than a single bat is used?
1853.5 Knicks, Gothams Play Season Opener on July 1 and Again on October 18
[A] July Game
"BASE BALL AT HOBOKEN: The first friendly game of the season, between the Gotham and Knickerbocker Base Ball Clubs was played on the grounds of the latter on the 5th inst. The game was commenced on Friday the 1st, but owing to the storm had to be postponed, the Knickerbockers making nine aces to two of the Gothams, the following is the score for both days."
The Knicks won, 21-12, according to an abbreviated box score, which uses "No. of Outs" [and not "Hands Lost"] in the left-hand column, and "Runs," [not "Aces", as in the article] in the right-hand column. Paul Wendt estimates that this is the first certain Knick-rules box score known for an interclub match, and the first since the October 1845 games (see "1845.4 and #1845.16 above). 18 outs are recorded for each club, so six innings were played, "Twenty-one runs constituting the game."
The Knickerbocker lineup was Brotherson, Dick, Adams, Niebuhr, Dupignac, Tryon, Parisen, Tucker, and Waller. The Gotham lineup was W. H. Fancott [Van Cott], Thos. Fancott [Van Cott], J. C. Pinkny, Cudlip, Winslow Jr, Winslow Sr, Lalor, and Wadsworth.
[B] October Game
"Friend P -- The return game of Base Ball between the Gotham and Knickerbockers, was played last Friday, at the Red House, and resulted in favor of he Knickerbockers. The following is the score (21 runs constituting the game.)"
A box score follows, with columns headed "Runs" and "Outs." The score was 21-14, and evidently took nine innings.
"This was the finest, and at one time the closest match, that has ever been played between the two clubs. All that the Gothamites want is a little more practice at the bat; then the Knicks will have to stir themselves to sustain the laurels which they have worn so long."
The Knickerbocker lineup was Adams, De Bost, Tucker, Niebuhr, Tryon, Dick, Brotherson, Davis and Eager. The Gotham lineup was T. Van Cott, Wm. Van Cott, Miller, Cudlipp, Demilt, Pinckney, Wadsworth, Salzman, and Winslow.
[A] Letter from "F.W.T.", 7/6/1853, Base Ball at Hoboken, to The Spirit of the Times, Volume 23, number 21, Saturday July 9, 1853, page 246, column 1.
See also John Thorn, "The Baseball Press Emerges," Base Ball Journal, Volume 5, number 1 (Special Issue on Origins), pages 106-110.
[B] Letter from "F.W.T.", 10/18/1853, "Base Ball Match," Spirit of the Times, volume 23, number 36 (Saturday, October 22, 1853), page 432, column 2; supplied by Craig Waff, September 2008.
Paul Wendt writes that the July game account included the first known box score of a game surely played by Knickerbocker rules.
Note the early appearance of informal usage: "Knicks" for "Knickerbockers" and "Gothamites" for "Gotham Club."
1853.6 When Boys Collect, A Spontaneous Game of Ball is Possible
" . . . when they [the 'little fellows'] asked the men where the town-meeting was, they were told that it was in the church. So it is for the men, but that the boys' town-meeting is out [outdoors?] where you can buy peanuts and gingercake, and see all your cousins from almost everywhere, and stand around and find out what is going on, and play a game of ball with the boy from Oysterponds, and another from Mattitue, on the same side."
New York Times, April 26, 1853.
1853.7 Didactic Novel Pairs "Bass-Ball" and Rounders at Youths' Outing
"The rest of the party strolled about the field, or joined merrily in a game of bass-ball or rounders, or sat in the bower, listening to the song of birds." .
Cricket receives three references (pages 75, 110, and 211)in this book. The first of these, unlike the bass-ball/rounders account, separates English boys from English girls after a May tea party: "Some of the gentlemen offered prizes of bats and balls, and skipping-ropes, for feats of activity or skill in running, leaping, playing cricket, &c. with the boys; and skipping, and battledore and shuttlecock with the girls."
Trap-ball receives one uninformative mention in the book (page 211).
A Year of Country Life: or, the Chronicle of the Young Naturalists (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1853), page 115.
As a way of teaching nature [each chapter introduces several birds, insects, and "wild plants"] this book follows a group of boys and girls of unspecified age [post-pubescent, we guess] through a calendar year. The bass-ball/rounders reference above is one of the few times we run across both terms in a contemporary writing. So, now: Is the author denoting are there two distinct games with different rules, or just two distinct names for the same game? The syntax here leaves that distinction muddy, as it could be the former answer if the children played bass-ball and rounders separately that [June] day.
Richard's take on the bass-ball/rounders ambiguity: "It is possible that there were two games the party played . . . but the likelier interpretation is that this was one game, with both names given to ensure clarity." David Block [email of 2/27/2008] agrees with Richard. Richard also says "It is possible that as the English dialect moved from "base ball" to "rounders," English society concurrently moved from the game being played primarily played by boys and only sometimes being played by girls. I am not qualified to say."
1853.8 If Balls and Bats Were Coinage, They Were Millionaires
Several boys are having trouble raising money needed to finance a project. "If base-balls and trap-bats would have passed current, we could have gone forth as millionaires; but as it was, the total amount of floating capital [we had] was the sum of seven dollars and thirty-seven and a half cents."
"School-House Sketches, in The United States Review, (Lloyd and Campbell, New York, July 1853), page 35.
Would it be helpful to find what time period the 1853 author chose for the setting for this piece?
1853.9 Strolling Past a Ballgame in Elysian Fields
George Thompson has uncovered a long account of a leisurely visit to Elysian Fields, one that encounters a ball game in progress.
A few excerpts: "We have passed so quickly from the city and its hubbub, that the charm of this delicious contrast is absolutely magical.
"What a motley crowd! Old and young, men women and children . . . . Well-dressed and badly dressed, and scarcely dressed at all - Germans, French, Italians, Americans, with here and there a mincing Londoner, his cockney gait and trim whiskers. This walk in Hoboken is one of the most absolutely democratic places in the world. . . . . Now we are on the smoothly graveled walk. . . . Now let us go round this sharp curve . . . then along the widened terrace path, until it loses itself in a green and spacious lawn . . . [t]his is the entrance to the far-famed Elysian Fields.
"The centre of the lawn has been marked out into a magnificent ball ground, and two parties of rollicking, joyous young men are engaged in that excellent and health-imparting sport, base ball. They are without hats, coats or waistcoats, and their well-knit forms, and elastic movements, as that bound after bounding ball, furnish gratifying evidence that there are still classes of young men among us as calculated to preserve the race from degenerating."
George G. Foster, Fifteen Minutes Around New York (1854). The piece was written in 1853.
1853.10 The First Base Ball Reporters - Cauldwell, Bray, Chadwick
Henry Chadwick may be the Father of Baseball and a HOF member, but it is William Cauldwell in 1853 who is usually credited as the first baseball scribe.
John Thorn sees the primacy claims this way: As for Chadwick, "He was not baseball's first reporter — that distinction goes to the little known William H. Bray, like Chadwick an Englishman who covered baseball and cricket for the Clipper from early 1854 to May 1858 (Chadwick succeeded him on both beats and never threw him a nod afterward).
Isolated game accounts had been penned in 1853 by William Cauldwell of the Mercury and Frank Queen of the Clipper, who with William Trotter Porter of Spirit of the Times may be said to have been baseball's pioneer promoters.
John Thorn, "Pots and Pans and Bats and Balls," posted January 23, 2008 at
See also Turkin and Thompson, The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball (Doubleday, 1979), page 585.
1853.11 Catcher Felled in ME
"Melancholy Accident. - In Pownal, on the 5th inst Oren Cutter, 16 years of age, son of Reuben Cutter, Postmaster of Yarmouth, while 'catching behind' at a game of ball, was struck on the back of his head by a bat. Though suffering much pain, the lad was able to walk home, and after some external application, retired for the night, his friends not thinking or anything serious. In a short time, however, a noise was heard from the room, and on going to him he was found to be dying. The blow was received about sunset, and he died about 10."
PortlandJournal of Literature and Politics, May 21, 1853. Attributed to the Portland Mirror. Accessed 2/17/09 via subscription search.
Pownal ME is about 20 miles north of Portland.
1853.12 English Cleric Promotes Co-ed Rounders
"In school at Westbourne I generally examine boys and girls together, and I find this always produces a greater degree of attention and emulation, each being ashamed to lose credit in the eyes of he other.
"In the playground they [boys and girls] have full permission to play together, if they like . . . but they very seldom do play together, because boys' amusements and girls' amusements are of a different character, and if, as happens at rare intervals, I do see a dozen boys and girls going down a slide together in the winter, or engaged in a game of rounders in the summer, I believe both parties are improved by their temporary coalition."
Rev. Henry Newland, Confirmation and First Communion (Joseph Masters, London, 1853), page 240. Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search ("henry newland" mdcccliii).
Newland was Vicar of Westbourne, near Bournemouth and about 100 miles SW of London.
1853c.13 At Harvard, Most Students Played Baseball and Football, Some Cricket or Four-Old-Cat
Reflecting back nearly sixty years later, the secretary of the class of 1855 wrote: "In those days, substantially all the students played football and baseball [MA round ball, probably], while some played cricket and four-old-cat."
"News from the Classes," Harvard Graduates Magazine Volume 18 (1909-1910). Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search ("e.h.abbot, sec."). From an death notice of Alexander Agassis, b. 1835
1853.14 Base Ball Hits the Sports Pages? Sunday Mercury, Spirit of the Times Among First to Cover Game Regularly
[A] "The Sunday Mercury reportedly began coverage on May 1,of 1853]"
[B] "On July 9, 1853, The Spirit of the Times mentioned baseball for the first time, printing a letter reporting a game between the Gotham and Knickerbocker Clubs."
[C] Spirit of the Times began to cover cricket in 1837 . . . . Not until July 9, 1853, however, did it give notice to a baseball match . . . the same one noted in the fledgling [New York] Clipper one week later."
[A] Email from Bob Tholkes, 2/12/2010 and 2/18/2012.
[B]William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163.
[C] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Shuster, 2011), page 104.
Has someone already analyzed the relative role of assorted papers in the first baseball boom?
1853c.15 Scholar Ponders: Why Were the Knickerbockers So Publicity-Shy?
"Robert Henderson helps us understand why the Knickerbocker Club made no apparent effort to engage in friendly contests with other teams [from 1845 through 1851]: the club itself was on the verge of collapse in the early years because many of its members failed to show up for scheduled practices.
" . . . There was no mention of baseball in the press until 1853, with the exception of a few references to the New York Club in 1845. . . . The failure of he Knickerbockers to ensure public recognition of their organization probably indicated a defensive posture toward involvement in baseball. Given their social status and the prevailing attitude toward ballplaying, their reaction is not surprising; after all, they were grown men of some stature playing a child's game. They could rationalize their participation by pointing to the health and recreational benefits of baseball, but their social insecurities and their personal doubts concerning the manliness of the game inhibited them from openly announcing the organization."
Melvin Adelman, A Sporting Time: New York City and the Rise of Modern Athletics, 1820-1870 (U of Illinois Press, 1986), page 124.
Adelman's reference [page 325] to the unpublished Henderson piece: Robert Henderson, "Adams of the Knickerbockers," unpublished MS, New York Racquet and Tennis Club.
Adelman does not mention that until 1854 there were few other known clubs for the KBBC to challenge to match games.
[A] Was it common for sporting or other clubs to seek publicity prior to 1853?
[B] What evidence exists that the Club felt ashamed to play "a child's game," or that earlier varieties of base-running games were not played by older youths and adults? This chronology has numerous accounts of adult play before 1853.
1853.15 You've Got to Play Along to Get Along?
Frank Forrester [Daniel Wise], Ralph Rattler: or, The Mischief-Maker (Brown Taggart and Chase, 1853), pp. 12-14: "In one episode, Ralph, a supercilious sort, refused an invitation to play ball with his Belmont Academy fellow students, because he dressed better than they did. . . . this scorn backfired for Ralph as he found making any friends very hard. Ball play, apparently, was a marker of social acceptance"
Tom Altherr, Ball Playing . . . as a Moral Backdrop in Children's Literature, in Originals, volume 5, number 5 (May 2012), pp 1 - 2.
1853.16 Kelly Deserves Credit for Originating Shorthand Scoring System
Credit for the shorthand scoring system belongs not to Chadwick but to Michael J. Kelly of the Herald. The box score — beyond the recording of outs and runs—may be Kelly's invention as well, but cricket had supplied the model."
John Thorn, "Pots and Pans and Bats and Balls," posted January 23, 2008 at
1853.17 Initial Regular Newspaper Coverage Pairs Base Ball with Cricket
In its initial items upon beginning coverage of Knickerbocker Rules Base Ball in May, 1853 (the first such coverage known since the game reports of 1845), the New York Sunday Mercury mentioned that both the cricket and base ball clubs were opening play, perhaps because both were practicing at the Red House grounds.
New York Sunday Mercury, May 1, 1853, and May 29, 1853
1853.18 "the national out-door game"
Approximating the usual later designation of base ball as the "national pastime", the New York Sunday Mercury referred to it as the "national out-door game."
New York Sunday Mercury, Oct. 2, 1853
Since at the time only three clubs, all in New York City, were playing Knickerbocker Rules Base Ball, the Mercury necessarily was referring to the group of safe-haven games under various names played throughout the United States since colonial times.
1853.19 Boston Clubs Play for Ten Boxes of Cigars
"The Aurora Ball Club and Olympic Ball Club will play best 3 in 5 games at Base ball on Tremont street mall on Friday next at half past 5 o'clock for 10 boxes of Havana Cigars. The public are invited to be present. A sufficient force will be in attendance to prevent confusion." [Full Item]
Boston Herald, September 7, 1853;
Boston Herald, September 18, 1854; Boston Daily Bee, July 30 and September 10, 1853.
The rules for this match are not known.
Protoball suggests that this game was played by early Mass Game rules, based on the use of the best-of-five format, but this is mere speculation.
Four years later, the Olympic Club's written rules show similarity to the Dedham rules for the Massachusetts Game that appeared in 1858.
Best-of-three and best-of-five formats are later seen in matches in MA and upstate NY; the "best-of" format may have been common in the game or games that evolved into the Mass Game.
2021 Note: earlier, we had asked, "Do we know any more about the Aurora Club?"
On 10.6/2021, the ever-vigilant Richard Hershberger wrote:
Was a form of unpleasant "confusion" anticipated? Like what? Did the "sufficient force" imply that constables might be present to prevent a rumble?
Was this game given other newspaper coverage?
What do we know about where the "Tremont Street Mall" was? Was it not on Boston Common? [it is the Boston Common--ba]
1853.20 Hartford Courant describes Long Ball
The Connecticut Courant, April 23, 1853, has a description of Long Ball: "Reader, did you ever see a bevy of boys playing what they call 'Long Ball'? One stands and knocks and the others try to catch the ball, and the fortunate one takes the place of the knocker. Did you ever watch their eager faces as the striker was making his efforts to raise the ball -- the eyes all directed to one point -- the fever of expectation on every face -- the jumping round when the ball rises -- and the scrambling and jostling and pulling when the ball is falling -- and then the looks of envy as the winner runs off with his prize?"
The Connecticut Courant, April 23, 1853
The "knocker" was the "striker," i.e., the batter (per Stephen Katz).
1853.21 Advertisement for sale of "Three Old Cat" and "Bass" balls
The Hartford Courant, April 9, 1853, ran an ad for Elihu Geer's store, advertising sale of balls for boys to play "Three Old Cat" and "Bass."
Elihu Geer (1817-87) owned a print shop and stationary store in Hartford, and was associated with the local newspaper. His business account book are at Yale University.
The Hartford Courant, April 9, 1853
1854.1 Three NY Clubs Meet: Agreed Rules Now Specify Pitching Distance "Not Less Than 15 Paces""
[A] Concordance: The Knickerbocker, Eagle, and Gotham Club agree to somewhat expanded rules. Sullivan writes: "In 1854 a revised version of the original Knickerbocker rules was approved by a small committee of NY baseball officials, including Dr. (Doc) Adams. This document describes the first known meeting of baseball club representatives. Three years later, a much larger convention would result in the NABBP."
[B] Pitching: The New York Game rules now specify the distance from the pitcher's point to home base as "not less than fifteen paces."
[C] The Ball: "The joint rules committee, convening at Smith's Tavern, New York, increased the weight of the ball to 5½ to 6 ounces and the diameter to 2¾ to 3½ inches, (corresponding to a circumference varying from 8 5/8 to 11 inches)."
[A] John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), page 83.The rules standardization was announced in the New York Sunday Mercury, April 2, 1854.
[B] The 17 playing rules [the 1845 rules listed 14 rules] are reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995}, pp. 18-19.
[C] Peverelly, 1866, Book of American Pastimes, pp. 346 - 348. Submitted by Rob Loeffler, 3/1/07. See "The Evolution of the Baseball Up to 1872," March 2007.
Do we know what pitching distances were used in games played before 1854?
Is it seen as merely coincidental that the specifications of a base ball were so close to those of a cricket ball?
1854.2 First New England Team, the Olympics, Forms to Play Round Ball
"The first regularly organized team in New England was the Boston Olympics of 1854. The Elm Trees followed in 1855 and the Green Mountains two years later."
Seymour, Harold, Baseball: the Early Years [Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 27. [No ref given.]
It seems plausible, given similarity of phrasing, that this finding comes from George Wright's November 1904 review of baseball history. See#1854.3 below.
There is also similar treatment in Lovett, Old Boston Boys, (Riverside Press, 1907), page 129.
Is there any detailed indication, or educated guess, as to what rules the Olympics uses in 1854?
1854.3 Organized Round Ball in New England Morphs Toward the "MA Game"
"'Base Ball in New England.' The game of ball for years a favorite sport with the youth of the country, and long before the present style of playing was in vogue, round ball was indulged in to a great extent all over the land. The first regularly organized Ball Club in this section was doubtless the Olympic Club, of Boston, which was formed in 1854, and for a year or more this club had the field entirely to themselves.
"In 1855 the Elm Trees organized, existing but a short time, however. In 1856 a new club arose, the 'Green Mountains,' and some exciting games were played between this Club and the Olympics. Up to this point the game as played by these clubs was known as the Massachusetts game; but it was governed by no regular code or rules and regulations . . . ."
Wright, George, Account of November 15, 1904, for the Mills Commission: catalogued by the Mills Commission as Exhibit 36-19; accessed at the Giamatti Center in Cooperstown.
Note: We have other no evidence that the term "Massachusetts Game" was actually in use as early as 1854. The earliest it is found is 1858.
There is a newspaper account of the Olympic Club from 1853, when it played the "Aurora Ball Club." See item 1853.17 As of 10/2014, this is the only known reference to the Aurora Club.
1854.4 Was Lewis Wadsworth the First Paid Player?
"For years, [Al] Reach had been the player identified as the first to receive a salary and/or other inducements, as his move from the Eckfords of Brooklyn to the Athletics could not otherwise be explained. Over the last twenty years, though, the "mantle" has more generally been accorded to Creighton and his teammate Flanley, who were simultaneously "persuaded" to leave the Star Club and join the Excelsiors. Your mention of Pearce - especially at this very early date of 1856 - is the first I have heard.
"In the very early days of match play, before the advent of widely observed anti-revolver provisions (with a requirement that a man belong to a club for thirty days before playing a game on their behalf) it is possible that a team may have paid a player, or provided other "emoluments" (such as a deadhead job), for purposes of muscling up for a single game. The earliest player movement that wrinkles my nose in the regard are that of Lewis Wadsworth 1854 (Gothams to Knickerbockers) and third basemen Pinckney in 1856 (Union to Gothams). The Knicks responded to the Pinckney move by offering membership to Harry Wright, already a professional player in another sport -- cricket."
John Thorn posting to 19CBB listserve group, July 5, 2004, 1:39 PM.
1854.5 Excelsior Club Forms in Brooklyn
Constitution and By-Laws of the Excelsior Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, 1854. The Excelsior Club is organized "to improve, foster, and perpetuate the American game of Base Ball, and advance morally, socially and physically the interests of its members." Its written constitution, Seymour notes, is very similar in wording to the Knickerbocker constitution.
Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809.
Is this the first base ball club organized in Brooklyn?
1854.7 Empire Club Constitution Appears
Constitution, by-laws and rules of the Empire Ball Club; organized October 23rd, 1854 [New York, The Empire Club]
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 223.
We have no record of the Empire Club playing match games in 1854, but the following April, they took the field.
1854.8 Historian Describes Facet of 1850s "School Boys' Game of Rounders"
A cricket historian describes an early attribute of cricket"
" . . . the reason we hear sometimes of he Block-hole was . . . because between these [two] two-feet-asunder stumps [the third stump in the wicket had not yet been introduced] there was cut a hole big enough to contain a ball, and (as now with the school boy's game of rounders) the hitter was made out in running a notch by the ball being popped into [a] hole (whence 'popping crease') before the point of the bat could reach it."
James Pycroft, The Cricket Field , page 68.
Note: Pycroft was first published in 1851. See item #1851.1. Was this material in the first edition?
1854.9 Van Cott Letter Summarizes Year in Base Ball in NYC; Foresees "Higher Position" for 1855 Base Ball
"There are now in this city three regularly organized Clubs [the Knickerbockers, Gothams, and Eagles], who meet semi-weekly during the playing season, about eight months in each year, for exercise in the old fashioned game of Base Ball . . . . There have been a large number of friendly, but spirited trials of skill, between the Clubs, during the last season, which have showed that the game has been thoroughly systematized. . . The season for play closed about the middle of November, and on Friday evening, December 15th, the three Clubs partook of their annual dinner at Fijux's . . . . The indications are that this noble game will, the coming season, assume a higher position than ever, and we intend to keep you fully advised . . . as we deem your journal the only medium in this country through which the public receive correct information." . . . December 19th, 1854."
William Van Cott, "The New York Base Ball Clubs," Spirit of the Times, Volume 24, number 10, Saturday, December 23, 1854, page 534, column 1. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008. The full letter is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pages 19-20.
The New York Daily Times, vol. 4 number 1015 (December 19, 1854), page 3, column 1, carried a similar but shorter notice. Text and image provided by Craig Waff, 4/30/2007. Richard Hershberger reported on 1/15/2010 that it also appeared in the New York Daily Tribune on December 19, and sent text and image along too.
For the context of the Van Cott letter, see Bill Ryczek, "William Van Cott Writes a Letter to the Sporting Press," Base Ball, Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 111-113.
Bill ponders (page 112) what might have moved Van Cott to distribute his letter to the three newspapers: "Possibly it was to recruit more members for the three clubs, though that was unlikely, since membership was rather exclusive and decidedly homogeneous [ethnically] . . . . Was he trying to encourage the formation of additional clubs, or was he attempting to generate publicity for the existing clubs and members? The Knickerbockers, baseball's pioneer club, had made virtually no attempt to expand the game they had formalized."
1854.10 Ball Played at Hobart College, Geneva NY
"Baseball in Geneva began, at least on an organized basis, in 1860. Informal games had taken place at Hobart College as early as 1854, and at the nearby Walnut Hill School . . . . The boys were organized into teams in 1856 or 1857."
Minor Myers, Jr., and Dorothy Ebersole, Baseball in Geneva: Notes to Accompany An Exhibition at the Prout Chew Museum, May 20 to September 17, 1988 [Geneva Historical Society, Geneva, 1988], page 1.
Note: This brochure seems to imply that New York rules governed this game, but does not say so.
Geneva NY is about 45 miles east of Rochester NY and about 55 miles west of Syracuse, at the northern end of Seneca Lake. "The Public Schools of Geneva, NY before 1839", an article in History of Ontario County, New York (G. Conover, ed.), 1893, describes Walnut Hill School as follows:
"The Walnut Hill School, an institution designed for the especial work of educating boys, was established in 1852 and was located at the south end of Main street, on the site now in part occupied by the residence of Wm. J. King. Of the history of this once popular school, but little reliable data is obtainable, though it is known that the course pf study was thorough and the discipline excellent. During most of its career its principal was Rev. Dr. T. C. Reed, who was assisted by three competent teachers. The school was discontinued in 1875."
1854.11 The Game in Ontario Resembled the MA Game, with Variations
"Organized teams first appeared in Hamilton in 1854 and London in 1855. The game they played was described in the August 4 1860 issue of the New York Clipper as having several unique features. 'The game played in Canada,' the Clipper reported, 'differs somewhat from the New York game, the ball being thrown instead of pitched and an inning not concluded until all are out, there are also 11 players on each side.' It differed as well from the Massachusetts Game, in its strict adherence to 11 men on the field as opposed to the Massachusetts rules, which allowed 10 to 14.
"As well all 11 men had to be retired before the other team came to bat. Both games allowed the pitcher to throw the ball in the modern style, rather than underarm as in the New York rules."
William Humber, "Baseball and the Canadian Identity," College Quarterly, Volume 8 Number 3 [Summer 2005]. Submitted by John Thorn 3/30/2006.
It would be interesting to know if this game included outs made by the plugging baserunners.
1854.13 English Visitor Sees Wicket at Harvard
"It was in the spring of 1854 . . . that I stepped into the Harvard College yard close to the park. There I saw several stalwart looking fellows playing with a ball about the size of a small bowling ball, which they aimed at a couple of low sticks surmounted by a long stick. They called it wicket. It was the ancient game of cricket and they were playing it as it was played in the reign of Charles the First [1625-1649 - LMc]. The bat was a heavy oak thing and they trundled the ball along the ground, the ball being so large it could not get under the sticks.
"They politely invited me to take the bat. Any cricketer could have stayed there all day and not been bowled out. After I had played awhile I said, "You must play the modern game cricket." I had a ball and they made six stumps. Then we went to Delta, the field where the Harvard Memorial Hall now stands. We played and they took to cricket like a duck to water. . . .I think that was the first game of cricket at Harvard."
"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.
Actually, Mr. Calthrop may have come along about 95 years too late to make that claim: see #1760s.1 above.
1854.14 Finally, Cricket Played in America Without Mostly English Immigrants!
[A] "The first organization composed mostly of American natives was the Philadelphia Cricket Club, formed in 1854."
[B] It was in 1854 that an all-US match occurred, maybe the first ever. The New York Times on August 11, 1854, covered a match played the previous week between New York and Newark, noting, "this ends the first match played in the United States between Americans. Let us hope it will not be the last." The New York club won this match, and Newark won a return match on August 1.
[A] William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 105. No source given.
[B] Email from Beth Hise. She cites William Rotch Wister, Some Reminiscences of Cricket in Philadelphia before 1861 (Allen, Lane, and Scott, 1904).
Note: This assumes that the elevens at Haverford (see #1848.8 above) don't qualify for this honor.
1854.15 Sacramento "Hombres" Play Ball Before Several Hundred, Break Stuff
"A Game of Ball - People will have recreation occasionally, whether it be considered exactly dignified or not. Yesterday afternoon there was a game of ball played on J street which created no little amusement for several hundred persons. The sport lasted a full hour, until finally some unlucky hombre sent the ball through the window of a drug store, penetrating and fracturing a large glass jar, much to the chagrin of the gentlemanly apothecary, who had not anticipated such unceremonious a carronade."
Daily Democratic State Journal (Sacramento CA), March 24, 1854.
Richard adds: "Of course this raises the usual questions of what "a game of ball" means. Clearly it is a bat-and-ball game, and given the documented earlier games of baseball (in some form or other) in California and the absence of documented references of the other usual suspects such as wicket in California, it is a reasonable guess that this was [a form of] baseball. I am less willing to make the leap to its being the New York game."
1854.16 The Eagle Club's Field Diagram - A Real Diamond
John Thorn has supplied an image of the printed "Plan of the Eagle Ball Club Bases" from its 1854 rulebook.
"Revised Constitution, by-laws and rules of the Eagle Ball Club," (Oliver and Brother, New York, 1854).
It seems possible that he who designed this graphic did not intend it to be taken literally, but it sure is different. Folks around MIT here would call it a squashed rhombus. Using the diagram's own scale for 42 paces, and accepting the questionable guess that most people informally considered a pace to measure 3 feet, the four basepaths each measure 132 feet. But the distance from home to 2B is just 79 feet, and from 1B to 3B it's 226 feet (for football fans: that's about 75 yards). Foul ground ("Outside Range" on the diagram) leaves a fair territory that is not marked in a 90 degree angle, but at . . . wait a sec, I'll find a professor and borrow a protractor, ah, here . . . a 143 degree angle.
Do we have evidence that the Eagle preferred, at least initially, a variant playing field? Or did the Eagle Club just assign this diagramming exercise to some Harvard person?
Is this image published in some recent source?
1854.17 Pre-modern Base Ball in Michigan
"A single tantalizing glimpse survives of a baseball club in Michigan before 1857. In 1897, the Detroit Free Press observed:
'It may be of interest to lovers of the sport to know where the first club was organized in the state of Michigan. Birmingham claims that distinction. Forty-three years ago, nine young men, ages ranging from 20 to 30 years, decided that it would be a good thing to have a baseball club and by practice to become able to play that fascinating game, not for gate receipts and grand stand money, but for fun, pure and simple. Accordingly, they practiced and, representing the town of Bloomfield, challenged the adjoining township of Troy to a trial of skill. The two teams lined up in front of the National hotel . . . one bright spring day at shortly after 12 o'clock, and the first game began. It was played for a supper of ham and eggs, the losing side to pay for same. Bloomfield won by a score of 100 to 60. The game was not finished until after 5 o'clock in the evening. The ball played with was a soft one, weighing four ounces. Old time rules of course governed the game, one of them being that a base runner could be put out if hit by a thrown ball anywhere between the bases. Many men were put out this way.
'Elated by their victory, the young men of Bloomfield decided to organize a baseball team, the constitution and by-laws were drafted and adopted and every Saturday a certain number of hours were devoted to practice. That summer the team won many games. . . .
'In those days the team that first scored a hundred tallies (generally marked on a stick with a jack-knife, opposite edges used for the two clubs) carried off the honors of the day.'"
Detroit Free Press, April 19, 1897, per Peter Morris. Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan (U of Michigan Press, ), pp 15-16.
The use of "tallies" for runs was common for the form of base ball played in Massachusetts, and winning by scoring 100 runs was to be encoded in in the Massachusetts Game rules of 1858.
Birmingham is in Bloomfield Township MI, about 15 miles NW of Detroit. Troy MI is about 7 miles E of Bloomfield Township.
1854.18 Bass Ball and Truth-telling
"Tucked away in the 1854 Youth's Casket was a . . . moralistic tale centered on lying . . . ."
Three lads play "game of bass" with a new bat and ball, and one of them hits the ball so hard it breaks a school window. . . . One of them is punished for lying to cover up his mate's act.
"Hiding One's Faults," in The Youth's Casket; An Illustrated Magazine for the Young (E. F. Beadle, Buffalo, 1854), pages 151-152.
Cited in Tom Altherr, "Another Base Ball Reference," Originals, volume 4, number 12 (December 2011), page 2.
1854.19 Sixty-foot Liner Breaks Schoolhouse Window in "Game of Bass"
"WARREN BUEL, as he came, bright and early, into the play-ground in the rear of the old school-house; 'hoighho! See what a nice new bat I bought at the cabinet-shop this morning. And father gave me money enough to buy a new India-rubber ball, so that I have both a new bat and a new ball.'
"'Hurrah! for a game now,' shouted HARRY WILLIAMS, taking the ball from the hands of Warren, and bounding it high over his head. 'Let it be a game of bass. Come, Warren, and select some one to choose sides with you.'
"Warren peleeted [selected?] some favorite playmate, and the choosing went on amid loud words, and still louder laughter. 'Now throw up for the "'first ins,"' said the boy whom Warren had selected to choose with him. Up went the bat; and as it descended, Warren grasped it about midway of the smaller part. 'Whole hand or none!' shouted BRUCE RAWLEY, the largest boy of the school, and a noisy, troublesome fellow. Accordingly the whole hand was declared in favor of Harry's party, and the others drew back, leaving two of their number to 'throw and catch.'
"When it came Bruce's turn to knock, he kept his bat motionless by his side until the ball came fair. Then drawing back his arms at full length, he dealt the elastic ball such a blow that it went bounding and skipping up the ascending lawn, a distance of twenty yards or more, and crash through the school-room window.
"'O, Bruce' exclaimed Warren, with the tears gathering in his eyes, 'you have lost my new ball, and father will not buy me another before the next quarter.'
"'What is one ball?' replied Bruce, with a sneer. 'I have lost a dozen already, and the term is not half out yet.'"
R. C. Knowles, Hiding One's Faults, Youth's Casket -- An Illustrated Magazine for the Young (Volume III, 1854), page 151. G-books search <"warren buel"> on 4/3/2013.
The illustration accompanying this short story shows two boys looking down at a ball and cricket bat on the ground.
1854.20 Empire Club Begins Play
"The Empire Bass Ball Club played their first regular  season game at McCarthy's ground, Hoboken, yesterday afternoon. This club, consisting of some thirty young men, mostly clerks in the lower part of the City, was organized last year nearly at the close of the season."
"Empire Bass Ball Club," New York Daily Times Volume 4, number 1125 (Thursday, April 26, 1855), page 8, column 1.
1854.22 "Greatest Game of Base Ball Ever Played in this Country"
An Old Fashioned Base-Ball Club
The Stoneham 'One Hundred and Fifty' Held the Championship Forty Years Ago
"Forty years ago Stoneham was the greatest base ball town in New England and the Kearsarge Base Ball Club held the championship. In these days base ball playing has dwindled down to such an insignificant proportion that it only takes nine men on a side to play a game, but forty years ago this Spring the Kearsarge Club had no fewer than 150 players and a club that could get the best of them in a game of 'three-year-old-cat' [sic] had to be pretty spry. The club had a reunion at Maker's Hotel last evening, and after dinner talked baseball as it ought to be played now and as it was played in the days when the club was the leading social as well as the only athletic club in Stoneham in addition to being champion of New England. The reunion was attended by about fifty of the oldest players. Myron J. Ferris was the orator of the occasion, and he talked until the umpire called him out. During his address he recalled to the minds of those present the events of the greatest game ever played in this country. It was the game between the Kearsarge and Ashland clubs, and was played on the Boston Common forty years ago.
"The Kearsarge team won, and when the members got back to Stoneham that evening they were given about as much an ovation as were the soldiers when they returned from the war. Richard Park was the umpire of that memorable game and he was present last evening and told how he helped the team win. Then he told of the base ball league that which was formed after the war. This was a wonderful league then, but what would the baseball public think now if the Stoneham, and Peabody then South Danvers, and Saugus with a few other little towns should get up a base ball league. The league was prosperous and the players had a good time. Other speakers gave interesting accounts of baseball forty years ago."
Boston Evening Transcript, March 23, 1894, page 3.
Variant uses of "base ball" and "baseball" are as printed.
Can readers provide insight as to what game was played on Boston Common in 1854, whether there was a post Civil War league in this area, and otherwise help us interpret this account?
1855c.1 "Massachusetts Run-Around" Recalled
"This [Massachusetts Run-Around] was ever a popular game with us young men, and especially on Town Meeting days when there were great contests held between different districts, or between the married and unmarried men, and was sometimes called Town Ball because of its association with Town Meeting day."
"It was an extremely convenient game because it required as a minimum only four on a side to play it, and yet you could play it equally as well with seven or eight. . . . There were no men on the bases; the batter having to make his bases the best he could, and with perfect freedom to run when and as he chose to, subject all the time to being plugged by the ball from the hand of anyone. It was lively jumping squatting and ducking in all shapes with the runner who was trying to escape being plugged. When he got around without having been hit by the ball, it counted a run. The delivery of the ball was distinctly a throw, not an under-hand delivery as was later the case for Base Ball. The batter was allowed three strikes at the ball. In my younger days it was extremely popular, and indulged in by everyone, young and old."
T. King, letter to the Mills Commission, November 24, 1905; accessed at the Giamatti Center, HOF.
The game of "run around" is mentioned in the Sycamore (IL) True Republican, May 29, 1878
Did King grow up in MA? Do we know why this ref. is dated c1855?
1855c.2 Town Ball Played in South Carolina
A woman in South Carolina remembers: "The first school I attended with other pupils was in 1855. Our teacher was a kind man, Mr. John Chisholm. The schoolhouse was the old Covenanter brick church. We had a long school day. We commenced early in the morning and ended just before sundown. We had an hour's intermission for dinner and recreation. The boys played town ball and shot marbles, and the few girls in school looked on, enjoyed, and applauded the fine plays."
Remarks of Mrs. Cynthia Miller Coleman [born 1/17/1847], Ridgeway, SC, at loc.gov oral history website:
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/wpa/30081905.html, accessed 2/11/10.
Ridgeway SC is in central SC, about 25 miles north of Columbia.
1855c.3 Demo Game of Wicket, Seen as a CT Game, Later Played in Brooklyn
In 1880 the Brooklyn Eagle and New York Times carried long articles that include a description of the game of wicket, described as a Connecticut game not seen in Brooklyn for about 25 years:
[A] "Instead of eleven on a side, as in cricket, there are thirty, and instead of wickets used by cricketers their wickets consist of two pieces of white wood about an inch square and six feet long, placed upon two blocks three inches from the ground. The ball also differs from that used in cricket or base ball, it being almost twice the size, although it only weighs nine ounces. The bat also differs from that used in cricket and base ball, it being more on the order of a lacrosse bat, although of an entirely different shape, and made of hard, white wood. The space between the wickets is called the alley, and is seventy-five feet in length and ten feet in width. Wicket also differs from cricket in the bowling, which can be done from either wicket, at the option of the bowlers, and there is a centre line, on the order of the ace line in racket and hand ball, which is called the bowler's mark, and if a ball is bowled which fails to strike the ground before it reaches this line it is considered a dead ball, or no bowl, and no play can be made from it, even if the ball does not suit the batsman. The alley is something on the order of the space cut out for and occupied by the pitcher and catcher of a base ball club, the turf being removed and the ground rolled very hard for the accommodation of the bowlers."
[B] "The game of wicket, a popular out-door sport in Connecticut, where it originated half a century ago, was played for the first time in this vicinity yesterday. Wicket resembles cricket in some respect, but it lacks the characteristics which mark the latter as a particularly scientific pastime. In wicket each full team numbers 30 players instead of 111, as in cricket. The wickets of the Connecticut game are also different, , being about 5 feet wide and only 3 inches above the ground, and having a bar of white wood resting on two little blocks. The space between wickets measures 75 feet by 10 feet, and is termed the 'alley'. . . . [No scorebook is use to record batting or fielding.] The bat sued is 38 inches long, and bears a strong resemblance to a Fiji war-club, the material being well-seasoned willow. The Ball, although much larger than a cricket ball, is just as light and no quite so hard. . . . If a delivered ball fails to hit the ground before the [midway] mark it is called a 'no ball' and no runs for it are counted. The game was originated in the neighborhood of Bristol.
"Yesterday's match was played between the Bristol Wicket Club, the champions of Connecticut, and the Ansonia Company, of Brooklyn, on he grounds of the Brooklyn Athletic Club."
Bristol won the two-inning match 162-127.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 41 number 239 (August 28, 1880), page 1, column 8.
"A Queer Game Called Wicket," New York Times, 8/28/1880.
There are inconsistencies in these accounts to be resolved.
1855.4 NY Herald Previews Several June Games for Five Area Clubs
"BASE BALL. Our readers are perfectly aware that the good old fashioned game of base ball is at present receiving much attention among the lovers of sport and manly exercise. Five clubs are organized and in operation in this city and Brooklyn, composed of some thirty or forty members each, and are in continual practice. Three of them play at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken, one on every afternoon during the week the Knickerbocker Club on Monday and Thursday, the Eagle Club on Tuesday and Friday, and the Empire Club on Wednesday and Saturday. One other, the Gotham Club, plays at the Red House, Harlem, on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The Excelsior Club of Brooklyn, we understand, have not as yet arranged their days of practice. We would recommend such of our readers who have sufficient leisure, to join one of these clubs. The benefit to be derived, especially to the man of sedentary habits, is incalculable, and the blessing of health and a diminished doctor's bill may reasonably be expected to flow from a punctual attendance. On Friday, the first of June, the Knickerbocker and Gotham Clubs will play a match at the Red House, Harlem, and the Eagle and Empire Clubs will also play a match at the Elysian Fields on Friday, the 15th of June. Matches between the Knickerbocker and Eagle and the Gotham and Eagle Clubs are also expected to come off during the month of June. The play takes place during the afternoon, commencing at about three o'clock"
New York Herald, May 26, 1855, page 1, column. 1. Submitted by George Thompson, June 2005.
1855.5 Seymour Research Note: "7 Clubs Organized" [But We Now Know of 30]
"1855 -- seven clubs organized. In 1856 four more."
Per Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809.
He cites Robert Weaver, Amusements and Sports (Greenwood, 1939), page 98 ff.
Note: Seymour did not name the seven listed clubs; drat.
As of mid-2013, Protoball lists a total of 30 clubs operating in the NYC area New York State: nine were in Brooklyn (Atlantic, Bedford, Columbia, Continental, Eckford, Excelsior, Harmony, Putnam, and Washington), five in Manhattan (Baltic, Eagle, Empire, Gotham, and Knickerbocker -- all but the Baltic playing one or more games at Hoboken), two (Atlantic of Jamaica, Astoria) in Queens, and two (Union, Young America) in Morrisania [Bronx]. See [[http://protoball.org/Clubs_in_NY]] In addition, twelve clubs are listed in New Jersey (Empire, Excelsior, Fear Not, Newark Senior, Newark Junior, Oriental-cum-Olympic, Pavonia, Palisades, Pioneer, St. John, and Washington). See[[http://protoball.org/Clubs_in_NJ]].
These clubs played in about 35 reported match games; over fifteen reports of intramural play are also known. There are reports of only one junior club (in NJ) and match play by one "second nine" (a Knickerbocker match game).
Corrections and additions are welcome.
1855.6 Jersey City Club is Set Up
Jersey City BBC forms.
Constitution and By-Laws of the Pioneer Base Ball Club of Jersey City [New York, W. and C. T. Barton], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 223.
1855.7 Cricket Becoming "The National Game" in US: "Considerable Progress" Seen
[A] "Cricket is becoming the fashionable game - the national game, it might be said."
[B] Things looked rosy for cricket in New York, too. In a report of the results of a June match between St. George's second eleven and the New York clubs first string [which won by 74 runs], this upbeat assessment was included: "We shall look for stirring times amongst the cricketers this season. Last week St. George's best Philadelphia. Next Wednesday the 1st Elevens contend for mastery between St. George and New-York. The "Patterson," "Newark," "Harlem," "Washington," Williamsburgh," "Albany," "Utica," and last, though not least the Free Academy Cricket Clubs, have matches on the tapis [sic?]. Even the Deaf and Dumb Institution are likely to have a cricket ground, as the pupils have had it introduced, and are playing the game . . . . This healthful game seems to be making considerable progress amongst us."
[A] "New York Correspondence," Washington Evening Star, June 18, 1855, page 2. This statement is expressed in the context of the influence of John Bull [that is, England] in the US.
[B] "Cricket," New York Daily Times, Thursday, June 21, 1855.
1855c.8 New British Manual of Sports Describes Rounders
An English sports manual includes a description and diagram of rounders that Block characterizes as "generally consistent with other accounts of rounders and pre-1845 baseball." This version of the game used a pentagon-shaped infield and counterclockwise base running.
Walsh, J. H. ("Stonehenge"), Manual of British Rural Sports (London, G. Routledge, 1855), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 216.
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.
1855c.10 "New Game" of Wicket Played in HI
[A] "In 1855 the new game of wicket was introduced at Punahou [School] and for a few years was the leading athletic game on the campus. . . . [The] fiercely contested games drew many spectators from among the young ladies and aroused no common interest among the friends of the school."
[B] "One game they all enjoyed was wicket, often watched by small Mary Burbank. Aipuni, the Hawaiians called it, or rounders, perhaps because the bat had a large rounder end. It was a forerunner of baseball, but the broad, heavy bat was held close to the ground."
 Through further digging, John Thorn suggests the migration of wicket to Hawaii through the Hawaii-born missionary Henry Obookiah. At age 17, Obookiah traveled to New Haven and was educated in the area. He may well have been exposed to wicket there. He died in 1818, but not before helping organize a ministry [Episcopalian?] in Hawaii that began in 1820.
See also John Thorn's 2016 recap in the supplementary text, below.
[A] J. S. Emerson, "Personal Reminiscences of S. C. Armstrong," The Southern Workman Volume 36, number 6 (June 1907), pages 337-338. Accessed 2/12/10 via Google Books search ("punahou school" workman 1907). Punahou School, formerly Oahu College, is in Honolulu.
[B] Ethel M.Damon M. , Sanford Ballard Dole and His Hawaii [Pacific Books, Palo Alto, 1957], page 41.
[C] John's source is the pamphlet Hawaiian Oddities, by Mike Jay [R. D. Seal, Seattle, ca 1960]. [Personal communication, 7/26/04.]
Damon added: "Aipuni, the Hawaiians called it, or rounders, perhaps because the bat had a larger rounder end.t was a a forerunner of baseball, but the broad, heavy bat was held close to thee ground."
1855.12 Students Bring Cricket to Saint John and Fredericton NB
"[C]ricket was brought to Saint John by the students who went to the Collegiate School in Fredericton. At that time, cricket was far more advanced in the 'celestial' city. When the students returned to Saint John [from Fredericton], they brought with them the game of cricket. The military leased to the new club a large field behind the military barracks. They formed the 'Saint John Cricket Club' in the year 1855."
Brian Flood, Saint John: A Sporting Tradition 1785-1985 [Neptune Publishing, Saint John, 1985], page 20.
1855.13 Spirit Gives Season Plans for 5 Base Ball Clubs
"Base Ball -- The interest in the game if Base Ball appears to be on the increase, and it bids fair to become our most popular game. There are now four clubs in constant practice, vis, Gotham, Knickerbocker, Eagle, and Empire . . . . "
The practice and match schedules for the Knickerbockers, Eagles, Empires, Gothams and [Brooklyn] Excelsior appeared in June.
"Base Ball," Spirit of the Times June 2, 1855.
Full text is reprinted in Dean A. Sullivan, Compiler and Editor, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 [University of Nebraska Press, 1995], pp. 20-21.
1855.15 2000 Demurely Watch Englishmen-heavy Cricket at Hoboken NJ
"A Game that few Yankees Understand
"The scene at the Cricket Ground at Hoboken, for the last three days, has been worth a long ride to see . . . .
"[A] most pleasing picture. It had a sort of old Grecian aspect - yet it was an English one essentially. Nine-tenths of the immense number of visitors, we guess from the universal dropping of their h's were English. But it is a game that a Yankee may be proud to play well. It speaks much for the moral effect of the game, though we were on the ground some three hours, and not less than 2,000 were there, we heard not a rough or profane word, nor saw an action that a lady might not see with propriety. It costs three cents to get to Hoboken and for thousands of New-Yorker there can be no greater novelty that to watch a game of cricket."
New York Daily Times, vol. 4 number 1168 (June 15, 1855), page 1, column 6. Posted to 19CBB on 9/11/2007.
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.
1855.19 Clipper Editor: NYC Now Has Five Clubs "in Good Condition"
In March 1855, the editor of the Clipper listed five teams that were "in good condition" and the locations of their twice-a-week practices - Gothams at Red House, Harlem; Knickerbockers, Eagle, and Empire at Elysian Fields at Hoboken , and the Excelsiors in Brooklyn.
New York Clipper, March 3, 1855; from the Mears Collection.
Articles published later in the New York Clipper, the Spirit of the Times, the New-York Daily Times, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the first appearance in print of 18 new clubs in the Greater NYC region during 1855.
1855.20 Base Ball Games Reach Really Modern Duration; Score is 52-38
[A] Having more energy, apparently, than what it takes to score 21 runs, the [NJ] Pioneer Club's intramural game in September 1855 took 3 and a quarter hours, and eight innings. Final score: single men, 52, marrieds 38.
[B] In December, the Putnams undertook to play a game [intramurally]to 62 runs, and started at 9AM to give themselves ample time. But "they found it impossible to get through; they played twelve innings and made 31 and 36."
[C] "At East Brooklyn a new club, the Continentals, of which H. C. Law is president, played from 9 till 5 o'clock."
[A] Spirit of the Times, Volume 25, number 31 (Saturday, September 15, 1855), page 367, column 3.
[B and C] Spirit of the Times, (Saturday, December 8, 1855), page 511, column 3.
Note: these results seems like deliberates exceptions to the 21-run rule; are there others? Was the 21-run rule proving too short for practice games?
1855.21 Spirit Eyes Three-Year Knicks-Gothams Rivalry
The Spirit of the Times gave more than perfunctory coverage to the September match-up between the Knickerbockers and Gothams at Elysian Fields on Thursday, September 13. The box score remains rudimentary [only runs scored are listed for the two lineups], but the report notes that there were "about 1000 spectators, including many ladies, who manifested the utmost excitement, but kept admirable order [gee, thanks, ladies - LMc]." It must have felt a little like a World Series game: "The Knickerbockers [who lost to the Gothams in June] came upon the ground with a determination to maintain the first rank among the Ball Clubs."
The Knicks won, 21-7, in only five innings. The Spirit tabulated the rivals' history of all seven games played since July 1853, listed below. The Knicks won 4, lost 2 (both losses at Red House), and tied one [12-12 in 12 innings; Peverelly, pages 16 and 21, says that darkness interceded]. The longest contest went 16 innings [a Gothams home victory on 6/30/1854], and the shortest was the current one.
The three-year rivalry:
7/14/53, Elysian Fields; Knicks 21-12, 6 innings
10/14/53, Red House; Knicks 21-14, 9 i
6/30/54, RH; Gothams 21-16, 16 i
9/23/54, EF; Knicks 24-13, 9 i
10/26/54, RH; Tied 12-12, 12 i
6/1/55, RH; Gothams 21-12, 11 i
9/13/55, EF; Knicks 21-7, 5 i
Spirit of the Times, Volume 25, number 32 (Saturday, September 22, 1855), page 373 [first page of 9/22 issue], column 3.
Craig Waff reported that, as far as he could tell, this was the first game in which the size of the assembled crowd was reported.
1855.22 The Search for Base Ball Supremacy Begins? (It's the Knicks, For Now)
"These two Clubs [Knickerbocker and Gotham] who rank foremost in the beautiful and healthy game of Base Ball, met on Thursday . . . . The Knickerbockers came upon the ground with a determination to maintain the first rank among the Ball Clubs, and they won the match handsomely [score: 22-7]."
Craig thinks this may be one of the first attempts to tap a club as the best in the game; thus the long road to naming baseball "champions" begins. The game had been played at Elysian Fields on September 13.
"Base Ball: Knickerbockers vs. Gotham Club," Spirit of the Times Volume 25, number 32 (September 22, 1855), page 373, column 3.
1855.23 Modern Base Ball Rules Appear in NYC, Syracuse Papers
[A] The current 17 rules of base ball are printed in the Sunday Mercury and in the Spirit of the Times early in the 1855 playing season -- 12 years after the Knickerbocker Club's initial 13 playing rules were formulated.
[B] Without accompanying comment, the 17 rules for playing the New York style of base ball also appear in the Syracuse Standard.
The 1854 rules include the original 13 playing rules in the Knickerbocker game plus four rules added in in New York after 1845. The Knickerbocker, Gotham, and Eagle clubs agreed to the revision in 1854.
[A] Sunday Mercury, April 29, 1855; Spirit, May 12, 1855. Bill Ryczek writes that these news accounts marked the first printing of the rules; see Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163. Earlier, the initial printing had been reported in December of 1856 [Peter Morris, A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006), page 22]. The Sunday Mercury and Spirit accounts were accompanied by a field diagram and a list of practice locations and times for the Eagle, Empire, Excelsior, Gotham, and Knickerbocker clubs.
[B] Syracuse Standard, May 16, 1855.
For a succinct account of the evolution of the 1854 rules, see John Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden (Simon and Schuster, 2011), pages 82-83.
One might speculate that someone in the still-small base ball fraternity decided to publicize the young game's official rules, perhaps to attract more players.
As of mid-2013, we know of 30 clubs playing base ball in 1855, all in downstate New York and New Jersey.
1855c.24 Manufacture of Base Balls Begins in NYC
[A] "Prior to the mass manufacturing of baseballs, each one was hand-made and consisted of strips of rubber twisted around a round shape (or, earlier, any solid substance, such as a rock or bullet), covered [wound?] with yarn and then with leather or cloth. Needless to say, the quality and consistency of the early balls varied considerable. In the mid-1850s, two men, Harvey Ross, a sail maker who was a member of the Atlantics, and John Van Horn, a shoemaker who was a member of the Union Club or Morrisania, began to manufacture baseballs on a regular basis. Van Horn took rubber strips from the old shoes in his shop and cut them up to provide the centers for his baseballs."
[B] Peter Morris notes that Henry Chadwick recalled that "even with only two ball makers, the demand [for balls] in the 1850s was so limited" that ballmaking remained a sidelight for both ballmakers.
William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 35. For more details, Bill recommends Chapter 9 of Peter Morris' A Game of Inches (Ivan Dee, 2006).
Peter Morris, A Game of Inches, page 397. He cites the March 13, 1909 Sporting Life and the 1890 Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide as sources.
1855.25 Text Perceives Rounders and Cricket, in Everyday French Conversations
An 1855 French conversation text consistently translates "balle au camp" as "rounders." It also translates "crosse" to "cricket."
A double is seen in "deux camps," as "En voila une bonne! Deux camps pour celle-la" is translated as "That is a good one! Two bases for that."
W. Chapman, Every-Day French Talk (J. B. Bateman, London, 1855), pages 16, 20, 21. Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search <"chapman teacher" "french talk" 1855>. The English titles for the translated passages are The Playground and Returning From School.
It is unclear whether the original poems are the English versions or the French versions; if the latter, it seems plausible that these safe-haven games were known in France.
Would a French person agree that "balle au camp" is rounders by another name? Should we researcher thus chase after that game too? Perhaps a French speaker among us could seek la verite from le Google on this?
1855.26 Tolland CT 265, Otis-Sandisfield MA 189 In Wicket Match
[A] "The ball players of Sandisfield and Otis, thinking themselves equal for almost all things, sent a challenge to the Tolland players for a match game in the former town, on Friday the 14th. Tolland accepted, and with twenty-five players on each side the game commenced, resulting in the complete triumph of the challenged or Tolland party, whose tally footed up 265 crosses, to 189 for the other side."
[B] In August, Barre MA arranged a game with players from Petersham MA and Hardwick MA. Barre MA is about 40 miles NE of Springfield, and the two other towns are about 7 miles from Barre.
[A] The [Lowell MA?] Sun, September 27, 1855, attributed to the Springfield Republican.
[B] Barre Patriot, August 17, 1855.
Accessed May 5, 2009 via subscription search.
Tolland CT is about 20 miles NE of Hartford CT and 20 miles SE of Springfield MA. The two MA villages are about 30 miles W of Springfield.
1855.27 In Brooklyn, the Washington Club and Putnams Lift Off
On July 31, 1855, according to Craig Waff's Protoball Games Tabulation, the first games were played by new clubs in Brooklyn. Both were intramural games, and both seem to have complied with the Knickerbockers' 21-run rule for deciding a game.
The Putnams appear to be the first Brooklyn club to see action, with their June 28 contest in NYC against the Astoria Club. The Putnams played their first match game in Brooklyn on August 4, when they defeated the Knickerbockers at their home grounds.
Here is the Daily Eagle's [8/4/1855] inartful account of the Washington Club's second practice outing on August 3. "The Washington Base Ball Club of this city E.D. [Eastern District of Brooklyn] , met on the old Cricket ground near Wyckoff's Wood's for Ball practice yesterday afternoon. The following is a list of the plays:" There follows a simple box score showing two 7-member teams and a final score of 31-19.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8/4/1855.
1855.29 Even the Australians Are Bothered by Sunday Baseball
"Sabbath Desecration. - A correspondent requests us to call attention to the practice of a number of boys and young men, who congregate in Mr. Wilkinson's paddock, near Patrick and Murray Streets, on Sunday afternoons, for playing at cricket, base-ball, &c., making a great noise, and offending the eyes and ears of persons of moral and religious feeling."
Colonial Times[Hobart], Saturday, September 22, 1855, page 3.
Subsequent comments on 19CBB from Bob Tholkes and Richard Hershberger [11/23/09] led to conjecture that this form of "base-ball" arrived Down Under directly from its English roots, for in 1855 American presence was largely restricted to the gold fields. Note: Hobart is on the northern coast of the island that has been known as Tasmania since 1856.
1855.30 Early Season Game Goes to Knicks, 27-14; Wadsworth Chided
In what appears to be only the second game of the 1855 season [http://protoball.org/images/3/35/GT.NYC.pdf ], "a grand match of this national game" took place on 6/5/1855 at Elysian Fields, pitting the Knicks against the Eagles.
A nine run 4th inning put the Knicks into the [imaginary] win column after leading only 12-11 after two. Player positions aren't listed, but DeBost [Knicks] and Place [Eagles] are noted as "behind men."
The reporter added: "Wadsworth [Knicks] makes too many foul balls; he must alter his play." Adams led off for the Knickerbockers and DeBost scored five runs.
"Base Ball. Knickerbocker vs. Eagle Club," New York Herald, June 6, 1855.
1855.31 Competitive Base Ball Suddenly Fills NY Metropolitan Area
At the end of the 1854 season, there were evidently only three organized Manhattan clubs, and they had only played seven match games all year. Most games were intrmural contests.
In the first two months of the 1855 season, ten other clubs were at play, including four in Brooklyn and four in New Jersey. By the end of 1855, 22 clubs were on the field, and 82 games had been reported.
Things would never be the same again.
See Larry McCray, "Recent Ideas about the Spread of Base Ball after 1854" (draft), October 2012.
Data on reported 1855 games and clubs is taken from the Protoball Games Tabulation, version 1.0, compiled by Craig Waff.
It remains possible that the increase was, in part, a reporting effect, as game reports were more frequently seen as a service to newspaper readers in these years.
1855c.32 Numerous Base Ball Clubs Now Active in NYC
Numerous clubs, many of them colonized by former members of the New Yorks and the Knickerbockers, form in the New York City area and play under the Knickerbocker rules. Interclub competition becomes common and baseball matches begin to draw large crowds of spectators. The capacity for spectators in the New York Game is aided by the foul lines which serve to create a relatively safe area for spectators to congregate and yet remain close to the action without interfering with play. This feature of the New York Game is in sharp contrast to cricket and to the Massachusetts Game, both of which are played "in the round" without foul lines.
This item is from the original Thorn and Heitz chronology, which did not give sources. The explosion of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey clubs 1855-1859 is clear from a perusal of the Craig Waff's Protoball Games Tab http://protoball.org/images/3/35/GT.NYC.pdf
1855.33 Wicket Club Plays in Ohio -- Ladies Bestow MVP Prize
"This evening members of the "Excelsior Wicket Club" contest for the prize of a boquet [sic], to be awarded the player who makes the most innings.
The ladies are to be on the club ground--the Huron Park--and award the prize to the winner. Happy fellow, he! May there be steady hands and cool heads that some nice young man shall win very sweet smiles as well as the sweet flowers."
Sandusky Register, 5/12/1855.
Richard Hershberger, who dug up this notice, notes that this club was an early case of an organized wicket club.
New England generally was a late comer to organized clubs as the medium for team sports. Cricket is the exception, with some clubs in imitation of the English model and, from the 1840s on, clubs largely composed of English immigrants.
"Wicket followed a model of village teams, with no obvious sign of formal club structures of constitutions and officers and the like. We don't see that until the mid-1850s, and then more with baseball than with wicket. Even with what where nominally baseball clubs, I suspect that many were actually closer to the village team model, with a bit of repackaging."
Sandusky OH (1855 pop. probably around 7000) is in northernmost OH, about 50 miles SE of Toledo and about 50 miles W of Cleveland.
Do we know what "makes the most innings" means in the newspaper account?
1855.34 Sporting Press Notices Base Ball, Regularizes Reporting
"There was little baseball reported in Spirit [of the Times] until 1855, and what did appear was limited to terse accounts of games (with box scores) submitted by members of the competing clubs. The primary [sports-page] emphasis was on four-legged sport and cricket, which often received multiple columns of coverage. Apparently, editor William Porter felt that baseball was less interesting than articles such as "The World's Ugliest Man." As interest in baseball grew, The Spirit's coverage of the sport expanded. On May 12, 1855, the journal printed the rules of baseball for the first time and soon began to report more frequently on games that took place in New York and its vicinity."
William Ryczek, Baseball's First Inning (McFarland, 2009), page 163.
In its issue of November 11, 1854, Spirit of the Times complained that base ball game reports were not being received.
[A] Was this turn to base ball more conspicuous in other papers earlier?
[B] Has anyone tried to measure the relative coverage of base ball and cricket over time in these crossover years?
1855.35 New Jersey Club Comes Over to the NY Game
[A] "[The Tribune] reports on a game of 9/25/1855 between the Fear Naught Base Ball Club of Hudson City, New Jersey and the Excelsior Club of Jersey City. They played five innings each with nine players on each side. The Excelsiors won 27-7. The item also notes that he Excelsiors intend to challenge the Gotham Club of New York. This is a very early game played by a New Jersey [based] club. It is also interesting because the Excelsiors are known to have also played a non-NY game version, making them a rare example of a club playing two versions in the same season."
['B] "The Excelsior Club of Jersey City was organized July 19, 1855."
[A] New York Daily Tribune, September 27, 1855.
[B] New York Daily Tribune, July 20, 1855.
The deployment of nine players is interesting because the none-player rule was not adopted until 1957; this may indicate that nine-player teams were already conventional beforehand.
Hudson City became part of Jersey City [1850 pop. about 6800; 1860 pop. about 22,000] in 1870.
Can we specify any of the rules in older game played earlier in 1855 by the Excelsiors?
1855.36 African American Clubs Play in NJ
"BASE BALL -- A match game of Base Ball was played between the St. John's and Union Clubs (colored) yesterday afternoon. Two innings were played when it commenced to rain. The St. John's Club made ten runs and the Union Club only two. The game is to be played again on Friday at 2 o'clock, on the grounds of the St. John's Club, foot of Chestnut Street."
Newark Daily Mercury, October 24, 1855.
Is this the first known report of African American club play of the New York game?
See Supplemental Text, below, for John Zinn's view on this question.
1855.37 Barre Club Challenge to Six Nearby MA Towns -- $100 Grand Prize Planned
"August 11, 1855 -- Barre. The Gazette says the Barre boys will challenge their neighbors in he towns surrounding, to play a [at?] round ball.
"The Barre boys either have or are about to extend a challenge to one of the other of the adjoining towns for a grand game of round, of [or?] base ball, the victors to throw the glove to one of the other towns, and so on, till it is settled, which one of the seven shall be victor over the other six. A grand prize of one hundred dollars, more or less, to be raised, by general contributions and awarded to the party which shall be finally successful. The six surrounding and adjoining towns are Hardwick, Dana, Petersham, Hubbardstown, Oakham, and New Braintree. The seventh is Barre, which is in the centre, and equidistant from them all."
Barre MA (1855 pop. about 3000) is about 60 miles W of Boston. Hardwick, Hubbardstown, Oakham, New Braintree and Petersham are 8-10 miles from Barre. Poor Dana MA was disincorporated in 1938.
Do we know if this plan was carried out? How was the victor decided among participating towns?
1855.38 First Printing of Rules
The New York Sunday Mercury of April 29, 1855 contained an article with a field diagram, playing rules, names, practice days, and grounds of several clubs, and comments on the upcoming season. Much of this material was reprinted on May 12 in The Spirit of the Times.
1855.41 Swift and Wild
An unusually informative game report on the match of Sep. 19 in Jersey City between the Columbia Club of Brooklyn and the Pioneer Club of Jersey City notes:
New York Clipper Sept. 22, 1855
The unidentified reporter doesn't sound enamored of swift pitching, but evidently it was already a feature of interclub matches in 1855.
1855.42 Interclub Meeting Attempt Fizzles
"The Convention of representatives from the Base-Ball Clubs met at "The Gotham", Bowery, on Friday evening. there are twenty-three of these organizations in New York and Brooklyn, Jersey City and Newark; of which eight were represented by committees and other by letters. The object of the convention is to make arrangements for a banquet and ball, and to establish general rules for the various Clubs. Without taking any definite action on these matters the Convention adjourned, to meet on Saturday evening, the 15th inst., when an opportunity for more general representation of the various Clubs will be given."
New York Evening Express, Dec. 10, 1855
So far as is known, the follow-up meeting did not come off.
1855.43 In Boston, Olympic Beats Elm Tree, 75-46
"BAT AND BALL -- The Olympic was challenged by the Elm Tree Club, at a game of ball to be played on the Common, which was accepted and played this morning, on the grounds of the Elm Tree Club. The game was fixed at 75, and was promptly won by the Olympics, the opposite side getting only 46 tallies. Each club had 25 rounds."
Boston Traveler, May 31, 1855.
The item title of "Bat and Ball" is interesting. This term is believed to be the name of a distinct baserunning game in the area in earlier times. Note also the use of "rounds" instead of "innings."
As of 10/21/2014, this is the only known contemporary ref to the Elm Tree club of Boston.
1855.45 Unitarians' Christian Register Defends Base Ball on Fast Day
The Boston-based Christian Register, "Devoted to Unitarian Christianity," appeared to respond to critics of Fast Day ballplaying in an unsigned article titled "Why Give It Up?"
"A game of ball out-doors on Fast Day will not do those who play so much harm as the game of poker that they will play in-doors tomorrow . . . ."
"Fast Day -- by some collusion of the Governor with the prophets of the weather, is almost always pleasant. It is apt to be the first day that savors of Spring. And so, -- even serious men stray into their gardens before sunset, -- look at the peach buds, and show children where the corn is to be, and where the peas. . . . And those who are not serious, -- are hoping to murder one or two robins, or using the dried grass for the first game, so often the last, of base ball or foot ball."last,
Christian Register, Boston, March 31, 1855
We do not know the circulation of this 1855 paper beyond Boston. (We do know that it covered a Worcester MA story at entry 1849.6)
The reference to players playing poker suggests that they were adults.
Was the writer saying, in "so often the last" game, that base ball and/or foot ball was not played much after Fast Day?
Do we know what Boston-area foot ball like in 1855?
1855c.46 "Old fashioned round ball" Played in Detroit
In an 1884 interview Henry Starkey, who helped form the first baseball club in Detroit in 1857, recalled "Previous to that time, we had played the old fashioned game of round ball. There were no balls or strikes to that. The batter waited till a ball came along that suited him, banged it and ran. If it was a fly and somebody caught it, he was out and couldn't play any more in the game. If the ball was not caught on the fly, the only way to put the batter out was to hit him with the ball as he ran."
Quoted in Morris, "Baseball Fever"