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Van Cott Letter Summarizes Year in Base Ball in NYC; Foresees "Higher Position" for 1855 Base Ball

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"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."

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Submitted by Craig Waff, Richard Hershberger, Bill Ryczek


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