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- 1 1729.1 At Harvard, Batt and Ball "Stirs Our Bloud Greatly"
- 2 1760s.1 Harvard Man Recalls Cricket, "Various Games of Bat and Ball" on Campus
- 3 1781.2 "Antient" Harvard Custom: Freshmen Furnish the Bats, Balls
- 4 1781.3 "Game at Ball" Variously Perceived at Harvard College
- 5 1810s.5 Harvard Library Worker Recalls Occasional Bi-racial Ball Play in Harvard Yard
- 6 1820s.33 Harvard Man: "We had Baseball"
- 7 1829c.1 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Plays Ball as a Harvard student.
- 8 1830s.22 Ballplaying Recurs in Abolitionist's Life -- From Age 10 to Harvard
- 9 1840c.39 Cricket [or Maybe Wicket?] Played by Harvard Class of 1841
- 10 1842.3 Harvard Man George Hoar Writes of Playing "Simple Game We Called Base"
- 11 1846.13 Spring Sports at Harvard: "Bat & Ball" and Cricket
- 12 1853c.13 At Harvard, Most Students Played Baseball and Football, Some Cricket or Four-Old-Cat
- 13 1854.13 English Visitor Sees Wicket at Harvard
- 14 1858.8 Harvard Student Magazine Notes "Multitude" Playing Base or Cricket There
- 15 1858.51 At Harvard, Two Clubs Play Series of Games by New York Rules
- 16 1862.6 Harvard Seeks Base Ball Rivals, Settles on Brown
- 17 1867.4 Cummings' Curve Curtails Crimson's Clouting
1729.1 At Harvard, Batt and Ball "Stirs Our Bloud Greatly"
From Harvard College,
In a letter written from Harvard College dated March 30, 1729 to Nicholas Gilman, John Seccomb wrote: “The Batchelors Play Batt & Ball mightily now adays which Stirs our bloud greatly”
Nicholas Gilman papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, as cited in Clifford K. Shipton, New England Life in the Eighteenth Century (Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 287.
Brian Turner notes that this find "predates by 33 years the 1762 ban on bat-and-ball (along with foot-ball, cricket, and throwing snow-balls and stones in the streets of Salem -- see entry 1762.2). It also predates by two decades a reference in a 1750s French & Indian war diary kept by Benjamin Glazier of Ipswich." (See entry 1758.1)
Gilman was from a leading family of New Hampshire, mainly centered in Exeter, a bit inland from Portsmouth, where Elwyn gave a description of 1810's "bat & ball," in which he certainly seems to name a specific game. (See entry 1810s.9). Seccomb, also spelled Seccombe, was born and lived in Medford, Mass., and later in life wound up in Nova Scotia -- not because he was a Loyalist, but for other reasons.
Brian notes that "By “Batchelors,” Gilman probably means students pursuing a bachelor’s degree, hence the categorization of this entry under "Youth." For over two centuries, 14 was the age at which boys entered Harvard." (Email of 9/1/2014.)
1760s.1 Harvard Man Recalls Cricket, "Various Games of Bat and Ball" on Campus
Writing of the Buttery on the Harvard campus in Cambridge MA, Sidney Willard later recalled that "[b]esides eatable, everything necessary for a student was there sold, and articles used in the play-grounds, as bats, balls, &c. . . . [w]e wrestled and ran, played at quoits, at cricket, and various games of bat and ball, whose names perhaps are obsolete."
Sidney Willard, Memories of Youth and Manhood [John Bartlett, Cambridge, 1855], volume 1, pp 31 and 316. Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 44.
1781.2 "Antient" Harvard Custom: Freshmen Furnish the Bats, Balls
"The Freshmen shall furnish Batts, Balls, and Foot-balls, for the use of the students, to be kept at the Buttery."
Rule 16, "President, Professors, and Tutor's Book," volume IV. The list of rules is headed "The antient Customs of Harvard College, established by the Government of it."
Conveyed to David Block, April 18, 2005, by Professor Harry R. Lewis, Harvard University, Cambridge MA. Dr. Lewis adds, "The buttery was a sort of supply room, not just for butter. Who is to say what the "Batts" and "Balls" were to be used for, but it is interesting that any bat and ball game could already have been regarded as ancient at Harvard in 1781."
Dr. Lewis has written a essay on early ballplaying at Harvard College; see Harry Lewis, "Protoball at Harvard: from Pastime to Contest," Base Ball Journal (Special Origins Issue), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 41-45.
1781.3 "Game at Ball" Variously Perceived at Harvard College
"And that no other person was present in said area, except a boy who, they say was playing with a Ball From the testimony some of the persons in the kitchen it appeared that the company there assembled were very noisy That some game at Ball was played That some of the company called on the Boy to keep tally; which Boy was seen by the same person, repeated by running after the Ball, with a penknife & stick in his hand, on which stick notches were cut That a Person who tarried at home at Dr. Appleton's was alarmed by an unusual noise about three o'clock, & on looking out the window, saw in the opening between Hollis & Stoughton, four or five persons, two of whom were stripped of their coats, running about, sometimes stooping down & apparently throwing something . . ."
Source: Harvard College Faculty Records (Volume IV, 1775-1781), call number UAIII 5.5.2, page 220 (1781).
Posted to 19CBB by Kyle DeCicco-Carey [date?]
1810s.5 Harvard Library Worker Recalls Occasional Bi-racial Ball Play in Harvard Yard
"During my employment at Cambridge [MA] the College yard continued without gates. The Stage passed through it; and though I was very attentive to the hour, I could not always avoid injury from the Stage horn. Blacks and Whites occasionally played together at ball in the College yard."
William Croswell, letter drafted to the Harvard Corporation, December 1827. Papers of William Croswell, Call number HUG 1306.5, Harvard University Archives.
Supplied by Kyle DeCicco-Carey, 8/8/2007.
Finder Kyle DeCicco-Carey notes that Croswell was an 1780 Harvard graduate who worked in the college library 1812-1821.
1820s.33 Harvard Man: "We had Baseball"
"Boating[,] which now prevails so largely in Harvard, had not yet come, but we had baseball and football in their season."
-- James Freeman Clarke, Harvard Class of 1829
E. Hale, ed., James Freman Clarke: Autobiography, Diary, and Correspondence (Boston, 1891), page 44.
1829c.1 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Plays Ball as a Harvard student.
Several sources report that Oliver Wendell Holmes playing ball at Harvard.
[actual Holmes text is still needed]
Krout, John A, Annals of American Sport (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1929), p. 115. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, p. 240, ref 49. Richard Hershberger, posting to 19CBB on 10/8/2007, found an earlier source - Caylor, O. P., "Early Baseball Days," Washington Post, April 11, 1896. John Thorn reports [email of 2/15/2008] that Holmes biographies do not mention his sporting interests. Note: We still need the original source for the famous Harvard story. Holmes graduated in 1829; the date of play is unconfirmed.
See entry #1824.6 above on Holmes' reference to prep school baseball at Phillips Academy.
We still need the original source for the famous Harvard story. Holmes graduated in 1829; the date of play as cited is unconfirmed. The Holmes story reportedly appears in JM Ward's "Base Ball: How to Become a Player," where he says OWH told it "to the reporter of a Boston paper." (Ward page citation?)
Small Puzzle: Harvard's 19th Century playing field was "Holmes Field;" was it named for this Holmes? Harvard is in Cambridge MA.
1830s.22 Ballplaying Recurs in Abolitionist's Life -- From Age 10 to Harvard
You may think of Thomas Wentworth Higginson [b. 1823] as a noted abolitionist, or as the mentor of Emily Dickinson, but he was also a ballplayer and sporting advocate [see also #1858.17]. Higginson's autobiography includes several glimpses of MA ballplaying:
- at ten he knew many Harvard students - "their nicknames, their games, their individual haunts, we watched them at football and cricket [page 40]"
- at his Cambridge school "there was perpetual playing of ball and fascinating running games [page 20]".
- he and his friends "played baseball and football, and a modified cricket, and on Saturdays made our way to the tenpin alleys [page 36]".
- once enrolled at Harvard College [Class of 1841] himself, he used "the heavy three-cornered bats and large balls of the game we called cricket [page 60]." Note: sounds a bit like wicket?
- in his early thirties he was president of a cricket club [and a skating club and a gymnastics club] in Worcester MA. [Pages 194-195]
See also #1858.17.
Source: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cheerful Yesterdays (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1898). Per Thomas L. Altherr, "Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games," Base Ball, Volume 2, number 1 (Spring 2008), pages 33-34 and ref #29. Accessed 11/16/2008 via Google Books search for <cheerful yesterdays>.
1840c.39 Cricket [or Maybe Wicket?] Played by Harvard Class of 1841
"Games of ball were played almost always separately by the classes, and in my case cricket prevailed. There were not even matches between classes, so far as I remember, and certainly not between colleges. . . . The game was the same then played by boys on Boston Common, and was very unlike what is now  called cricket. Balls, bats, and wickets were all larger than in the proper English game; the bats especially being much longer, twice as heavy, and three-cornered instead of flat. . . . What game was it? Whence it came? It seemed to bear the same relation to true cricket that the old Massachusetts game of base-ball bore to the present 'New York' game, being less artistic, but more laborious."
Member of the Class of 1841, "Harvard Athletic Exercises Thirty Years Ago," Harvard Advocate [Cambridge MA], Volume 17, number 9 (June 12, 1879), page 131. Accessed 2/9/10 via Google Books search <"wickets were all larger" "harvard advocate">.
1842.3 Harvard Man George Hoar Writes of Playing "Simple Game We Called Base"
George F. Hoar, a student at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, writes: "The only game which was much in vogue was foot-ball. There was a little attempt to start the English game of cricket and occasionally, in the spring, an old-fashioned simple game which we called base was played."
Hoar, George F. Autobiography of Seventy Years [Pubr?, 1903], page 120. Per Seymour, Harold - Notes in the Seymour Collection at Cornell University, Kroch Library Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections, collection 4809.
1846.13 Spring Sports at Harvard: "Bat & Ball" and Cricket
"In the spring there is no playing of football, but "bat-and-ball" & cricket."
From "Sibley's Private Journal," entry for August 31, 1846, as supplied to David Block by letter of 4/18/2005 from Prof. Harry R. Lewis at Harvard, Cambridge MA.
Lewis notes that the Journal is "a running account of Harvard daily life in the mid nineteenth century."
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
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.
1858.8 Harvard Student Magazine Notes "Multitude" Playing Base or Cricket There
"[On] almost any evening or pleasant Saturday, . . . a shirt-sleeved multitude from every class are playing as base or cricket . . .
"Mens Sana," Harvard Magazine 4 (June 1858), page 201.
1858.51 At Harvard, Two Clubs Play Series of Games by New York Rules
The Lawrence Base Ball Club and a club from the Harvard Law School played "regular matches" on campus. The Lawrence Club's 1858 Constitution stipulated that "the Game played by this Club shall be that known under the name of the 'New York Game of Base Ball'" under its March 1858 rules, and that it would play no other game. The dates of the games against the law school and the nature of that club as not known, but accounts exist of intramural games in 1858.
"The Lawrence Base Ball Club," The Harvard Graduates' Magazine, Volume 25 (March 1917), pp 346-350. Accessed 2/16/10 via Google Books search ("lawrence base").
1862.6 Harvard Seeks Base Ball Rivals, Settles on Brown
"Base-Ball, the second in importance of [Harvard] University sports, is even younger than Rowing [which still prevailed]. It originated apparently, in the old game of rounders. Up to 1862 there were two varieties of base-ball - the New York and the Massachusetts game. In the autumn of 1862 George A. Flagg and Frank Wright organized the Base Ball Club of the Class of '66, adopting the New York rules; and in the following spring the city of Cambridge granted use of the Common for practice. A challenge was sent to several colleges: Yale replied that they had no club, but hoped soon to have one; but a game was arranged with Brown sophomores, and played at Providence [RI] June 27, 1863. The result was Harvard's first victory."
D. Hamilton Hurd, compiler, History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts (J. W. Lewis, Philadelphia, 1890), page 137. Accessed 2/18/10 via Google Books search <"flagg and frank" hurd>.
Frank Wright wrote another version in James Lovett, Old Boston Boys and the Games They Played (Riverside Press, 1907). Accessed in Google Books.
This was not Harvard's introduction to the New York game. See entry 1858.51.
Flagg and Wright reportedly had played avidly at Phillips Exeter Academy. See entry #1858c.57 above.
1867.4 Cummings' Curve Curtails Crimson's Clouting
Candy Cummings claimed that he first used his curve ball successfully (after numerous previous attempts) in a game against Harvard College on Oct. 7, 1867
Mark Pestana,"Candy Cummings Debuts the Curve-- Excelsiors vs. Harvard", in Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century SABR, (2013), pp. 60-61
Candy Cummings, "How I Pitched the First Curve", The Baseball Magazine, Aug. 1908. Cummings dated his first boyish attempts at a curve to the summer of 1863.
There are many issues with any individual claim to invention of the curve ball.