America's National Game/Chapter 24

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WITH Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes declaring that he played a game called Base Ball while at college—and he graduated at Harvard in 1829—and from other published facts, it is certain that the game (then generally known as "Town Ball" or the Massachusetts game of Base Ball) was known in the leading colleges many years before the breaking out of the Civil War. But the first recorded intercollegiate game took place in 1859, just two years before the struggle of the 60's began.

This game was between Amherst and Williams, and was played at Pittsfield on July 1, and was won by Amherst by a score of 66 to 32. There are now hanging in the Amherst College trophy room the two balls which were used in this game, which bear the following inscription: "The veritable balls used in the first game of intercollegiate Base Ball ever played, July 1, 1859, Amherst vs. Williams, won by Amherst."

This is how it came about. At a meeting of the college, directly after morning prayers, at which Mr. Sneed, of the senior class, presided, Mr. Claflin made a motion that "Amherst challenge Williams to a friendly game of ball, to be played at some intermediate spot on or before July 4th," which was passed by a strong majority. A committee was appointed of J. T. Claflin, senior class; Walker, junior class; H. D. Hyde, sophomore, and T. Tomson, freshman, to make arrangements for the game. A challenge was immediately sent and accepted for thirteen picked men of each college to meet on June 27th. A delegation from Williams was to meet that from Amherst at Chester Factories and draw up the rules and regulations for the game. Mr. Hyde, of Amherst, met the two Williams delegates, but nothing was agreed on. On Mr. Hyde's return, negotiations were carried on by mail for two weeks, till at last it was amicably settled that each party should use its own ball, and it must always be caught on the fly, sixty-five runs to be the limit of the game. The Pittsfield Base Ball Club offered its grounds for the game, and July 1st was appointed as the date.

There was to be but one drawback to the game. All Williams College was to be present, including the faculty, while Amherst allowed only the players to go.

It is interesting to note the manner of selecting the team for this game. The men were "chosen by ballot from the students at large." There was no long period of daily practice and no elimination from the squad at various times.

On Thursday afternoon Amherst's seventeen picked men started for Pittsfield. They arrived in Pittsfield eager for battle. Soon the Williams boys began pouring into town until it seemed as if Williams must be deserted. Old men and women, young men and maidens, proprietors of female schools with their pupils—the great square of the ball ground was surrounded five or six deep.

The appearance of the teams on the field must have been very amusing, although there was some attempt at uniformity of dress, as "the Williams team were all dressed alike and wore belts marked Williams, but the appearance of the Amherst team was decidedly undress. The only attempt at a uniform was the blue ribbon which each man had pinned on his breast."

It seems that the question of professionalism entered even into the first game, as it was "rumored that the Amherst thrower was the professional blacksmith who had been hired for the occasion." A bystander remarked that "the story must be true, as nobody but a blacksmith could possibly throw for three and a half hours as he did."

The Amherst ball weighed two and one-half ounces and was about six inches in circumference. It was made by Henry Hebard, of North Brookfield, and was considered a work of art at the time.

The Williams ball was about seven inches in circumference, weighed about two ounces, and was covered with light colored leather, so as to make it seen with difficulty by the batters.

About 11 o'clock the game started, with Amherst having the first inning, and at the end of the second round the score stood: Amherst, 1; Williams, 9. This success called out from the Williams students a long, universal clapping and cheering whenever one of their comrades gained a tally. Amherst grew desperate and at the end of the third round stood even; at the end of the fourth

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round Amherst led, and continued to do so until the end of the game, sometimes having three tallies to one for Williams.

After four hours of steady playing, in which twenty-six rounds had been played, with no intermission and with unabated interest on the part of the spectators, the game was decided finished, and Amherst was declared the winner by the score of 66 to 32.

The batting order of the teams was as follows:

J, T. Claflin (C.) 7 H.S.Anderson (C.) 2
E. W. Pierce 5 H. T. C. Nichols 2
S. J. Storrs 7 R. E. Beecher 3
P. E. Tower 7 J. E. Bush 4
M. B. Cushman 4 J. H. Knox 4
J. A. Evans 5 S. W. Pratt, M 2
E. W. Fenn 6 A. J. Quick 3
H. D. Hyde, thrower 4 B. F. Hastings 4
J. A. Leach 5 J. L. Mitchell 3
H. C. Roome 5 C. E. Simmons 4
H. Gridley 5 G. P. Blagden 1
T. Tomson 6 H. B. Fitch 0
G. A. Parker 0
L. R. Smith, Umpire. C. R. Taft, Umpire.

Referee, W. R. Plunkett, President Pittsfield Base Ball Club.

In his interesting book, "Old Boston Boys and the Games They Played," published in 1908 by Brown, Little & Co., Boston, Mr. James d'Wolf Lovett writes: "About this time we lent our aid to the class of '66 in organizing the first club at Harvard under the New York rules." This would seem to indicate that theretofore, in common with most other clubs in that section, Harvard had been playing under the New England rules, which differed materially from the New York game under the Knickerbocker rules.

Continuing, upon the same subject, Mr. Lovett says: "The prime movers in starting this game at Harvard were George Flagg, Frank Wright, Arthur Hunnewell, Tom Nelson, Eugene Greenleaf, Frank Harris, Ned Sprague, George Parker, Putnam Abercrombie, Charles Fiske and others. Thus was the pioneer Base Ball club of Harvard College duly organized."

We may safely assume that all the colleges of the New England States knew the game before the Civil War period, and that those of all the Atlantic States had teams soon after the struggle, in the furore for Base Ball that followed upon its heels. The statistical columns of the Guides contain the records of the hard-fought contests of every year since the game has been established in the great educational institutions of the land. Every season has witnessed fine exhibitions in contests between college teams, and not a few of the best League professionals have graduated from colleges to enter the game as a vocation.

There are now fully half a hundred or more regularly organized teams in connection with the leading Universities of this country. Among them are Alabama, Amherst, Arkansas, Army, Beloit, Brown, Bucknell, Carlisle, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, DePauw, Fordham, Georgia, Georgetown, Harvard, Holy Cross, Illinois, Indiana, Lafayette, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Navy, New York, Northwestern, of Evanston, Ill.; Northwestern, of Watertown, Wis.; Pennsylvania, Princeton, Purdue, Rochester, Seton Hall, Southern California, Syracuse, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington and Jefferson, Washington State, Wesleyan, West Virginia, Westminster, Williams and Yale.

That education and Base Ball go hand in hand had notable exemplification at Boston in the fall of 1908. The story, as given below, is from Boston papers:

(The Globe, Sunday, September 20, 1908.)



"One of the old masters would have the opportunity of a life-time could he come back to this mundane sphere for but one afternoon, next Thursday, and sketch the animated picture that will be presented at the American League Ball Park, when members of the old-time Boston National League world-beaters will meet for a friendly bout their old college rivals. Then the crimson of Harvard, the blue of old Yale, with the green of Dartmouth, will meet in a kaleidoscope of color.

"This first meeting of old professionals with genuine college amateurs will be a red-letter day in the history of our national pastime.

"The professionals will wear the same style and color of uniforms worn by the Boston Club in the 70s, while the collegians will appear once more in the same style and color of the uniforms worn by the rah rah boys during their days in college.

"No player will be allowed to take part in the game who has played ball for the last twenty years, while age or early service will be no handicap to a player taking part in the mighty contest. In fact, the more ancient, the more honor and glory for the individual.

"John F. Morrill, famous in his day as a player, captain, and finally manager of the Boston Club, has given much time to make the event a success.

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"Among those sure to be here for the game will be A. G. Spalding, who pitched nearly every game for the Boston Champions during the first five years of their existence, and who was one of the original members of the club in 1871.

"Mr. Spalding arrived East from California last Thursday, and wired at once from New York to Mr. Morrill, sending his measurement for a uniform for the occasion.

"George Wright, one of the original members of the team, is due to arrive in Boston from California to-day and should be in good shape to enter the contest.

"James H. O'Rourke, a second-year member of the team, still playing ball, has accepted the invitation to join the old fellows, objecting, however, to being considered an old-timer.

"John Manning, who started out with the team in '74, as young as ever, is already on the ground working for new glory.

"Harry Schafer, one of the original third-base men, will be there in his old-time style, as young as ever in mind and heart.

"Frank Whitney, a member of the '76 team, will come on from New York. Among others who have promised to be on hand wearing the grand army badges of the old Boston Club will be Jerry Hurley, William Haws, Robert Wheelock, John O'Rourke and Thomas Bond, one of the really great pitchers of the country for Boston for several years. Charley Snyder from Washington, Murtie Hackett, Dr. Thomas Gunning from Fall River, Thomas McCarthy, one of the real kings of the diamond, John Burdock, if possible, and several others. As guests John M. Ward and John Chapman will be on hand. Among those who will take a long chance will be the writer.

"Col. Sam Winslow has full charge of the college end of the meeting, and reports everything going along swimmingly. The colonel was a prime favorite at Harvard about '85, when the old college had a ball team that made the boys sit up and take notice. Walter I. Badger, the old Yale second baseman; William Coolidge, who covered second for Harvard at the same time, and Fred Thayer, the captain of the great Harvard team of '77, have lined up the old guard from their colleges in the most enthusiastic manner. Bigelow Carter and A. Hubbard will wear the blue once more on the ball field, J. Rollins of Tech, and the greatest amateur catcher of his time, George Richardson, and a large number of college men will be out to offer their services to make the meeting a grand, all-round success.

"The gate receipts will go to charity, and Col. Benton and Col. George B. Billings have given much of their valuable time to make the event one long to be remembered.

"A banquet at the Algonquin Club after the strenuous day's work is down on the program, where the old games will be won over again and Base Ball made better for the meeting of the men who were instrumental in building up a national sport."

(Boston Transcript, September 25, 1908.)



"There was nothing of the burlesque order in the remarkable game of Base Ball played on the Huntington Avenue grounds yesterday by forty-three old-time professional and amateur players. It was a game in which men famous on the diamond in the seventies and eighties took part, and by instinct their old cunning, dulled a bit by long lack of practice, came back to them for the afternoon, and they played the best Base Ball of which they were capable. For seven innings men with gray hair, men with little hair at all, men grown rotund and men grown thin, assumed the old Base Ball gait, laid for infield and outfield flies, and handled the willow at the bat as only men to the diamond born can. For six innings the score ran evenly, the amateurs, or collegians, getting two runs in the first, the professionals one in the third and two in the fourth, and the amateurs tying the score in the sixth with two more runs added to the one they had pounded out in the fifth. In the seventh inning the professionals fell on Smith, Harvard, '86, and by timely work at the bat secured two runs. As the amateurs were blanked in that inning and the game was called, the final score was: Professionals 7, Amateurs 5.

"Practically every one of the celebrities of decades ago who had promised to take part showed up. To mention all the achievements and past affiliations of each would require columns of space; suffice it that A. G. Spalding, who used to pitch for Boston thirty-seven years ago and probably is the best known man in the Base Ball world, was there, and, in a clean white flannel uniform occupied the pitcher's box for several innings. Next to him was Colonel Samuel E. Winslow, who was captain of the Harvard team of '85, which took the collegiate championship by winning twenty-six games and losing one; and after him Walter Badger, Yale's old foot ball and Base Ball player of the early eighties. The two latter acted as captains of the amateur teams yesterday. Mr. Badger played throughout the game; but it was Colonel Winslow who received the cheers of the crowd of six thousand people when, the first and only time up at the bat, he dropped a beauty in short center and made possible the tying run. He had only one chance in right field and that was to chase a rolling ball clear to the back fence. His throw in was a work of art.

"The majority of college players were old Harvard men, but there were several from Yale, Dartmouth, M. I. T., Amherst and the University of Iowa. Twenty-seven men were used on their side, while the professionals had sixteen men. Everybody had a crack at the ball or a chance in the field. There were three umpires, Hon. Louis A. Frothingham, candidate for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor and an old Harvard Base Ball captain himself; Hon. James A. Gallivan, another Harvard man, and Joe Kelley, manager of the Boston Nationals. It was odd to note under what rules the old-timers played. They moved the pitcher's box nearer the plate at least ten feet; the pitchers threw an underhand ball; the batsmen called for a high, low or fair ball, and they had to have it; they had a chance to have nine balls called before they took a base; they ran the danger of being out on caught foul tips; and the catchers could catch foul flies on the bounce and still have their man out. Also, to effect a double play, the catcher could drop the ball after a third strike, pick it up, touch the home plate, and then nail a runner between bases, scoring a double play. All of these things, with the personalities and the histories of the players, with men with mega-phones to announce everything, and with the First Corps Cadet Band to break the innings with tunes appropriate to the individual players, made a very interesting afternoon.

"In the evening a banquet at the Algonquin Club was attended by all of the participants in the game and a few invited guests. Governor Guild and Hon. Louis A. Frothingham were compelled to send letters of regret. Colonel Everett C. Benton, chairman of the committee in charge of the event, introduced Colonel Winslow as toastmaster, and he called on Mr. Spalding for the first speech. The latter said he was glad he had come three thousand miles for the game, for Boston was the only city where such an event could be carried through successfully. He referred to the fact that the national game got its first real start in this city. 'Just as Boston was the cradle of liberty for the Nation, so also was it the cradle in which the infant game was helped to a healthy maturity,' he added. 'The work of the early Boston teams, with Harry Wright—God bless him—Messrs. Adams, Porter, George Wright and other Nestors of Base Ball, left its impress for all that is good in the national game. Base Ball is fast getting a foothold in the remote parts of the world, and the time is surely coming when it will be the universal field sport of the world.'

"John Lowell, the oldest Base Ball player in the party—he was seventy-one years of age July 29 last, and in honor of whom the famous Lowell Base Ball team was named—told of the difficulties the players of those days had in getting practice, and said that the young men in commercial life who played carried their bases from the clubhouse in Bowdoin Square to the Common at 5 o'clock in the morning, played until 7 o'clock and then went to their day's work.

"Samuel J. Elder, Yale, '73, who was the closing speaker of the evening, said that Base Ball was typically American, just as Cricket was typically English. The two games illustrated in an exceptional manner the habits and the sentiments of the two nations.

"'In England the principal Cricket matches in which the championship of the country is at stake often take three days to finish. They go about it in a leisurely, dignified way, the spectators bringing with them their luncheon, and the players often taking tea during the game. Imagine Mike Kelly or any of the idols of Base Ball taking tea during a game! In America we have our hour and fifteen or thirty minutes. It is swift, sharp, keen play. It is decisive, and the same fan who hustles from his office, hangs on to the rail of a car, then gets to the game and enters into it with the keenest zest, is in as great a hurry to get home when the game is over. Base Ball is not only a great pastime, but it is a great salvation, just as is anything that gets people out into the open.'

"Others who spoke were John F. Morrill, Boston, '76-88; George Richardson, Beacon Base Ball Club; Webster Thayer, Dartmouth, '79; C. H. Taylor, Iver W. Adams, first president of the Boston Base Ball Club; Charles Porter, successor to Mr. Adams; Joseph J. Kelley, manager of the Boston Nationals; Timothy H. Murnane, and Walter I. Badger, Yale, '82."

All the larger cities have Public School Athletic Leagues, with regular Base Ball organizations auxiliary thereto. The influence of these is being rapidly extended throughout the country, and now many cities of 50,000 population and upwards are organizing leagues in the ward schools, playing regularly-scheduled matches for trophies, presented sometimes by local friends and sometimes by patrons of the game who are interested in a more general way.

What the outcome of this new movement may be no one may safely predict. Since the government has endorsed Base Ball as a National Game, to be fostered and encouraged as a means for building up a healthful, contented and well-disciplined Army and Navy; as the national administration has found that it pays to provide bats, balls, bases and all the paraphernalia of the game to our soldiers and sailors, is it too much to expect that the time will come when these concomitants of our national pastime may be regarded as just as essential to the equipment of a well-appointed school as globes, maps, chemicals and astronomical apparatus?

Perhaps the following able editorial from the columns of the Newark, N. J., Evening News, of September 10th, 1908, answers the question:


"The Trenton experiment of providing Base Ball for boys under proper supervision is noteworthy because of its success from practically every reasonable point of view. The experiment consisted of devoting a large proportion of one of Trenton's public parks to the use of Trenton's youthful ball players. A large number of 'diamonds' were laid out and a fund was provided whereby balls and bats were purchased. Then, to prevent disputes and disorder, umpires were also selected whose judgment could be relied on and whose decisions were final.

"A Junior Base Ball League was organized and prizes were awarded for the champion players. No less than 153 teams of about a dozen boys each were formed and admitted to this league, and the summer's series of championship games began last June. Out of that number 147 teams completed the series and still remain in the organization, ready and eager to begin another series next summer. Four months ago a majority of the Trenton people would probably have said that not half the Junior League teams would last the season through, but an American boy can no more be separated from Base Ball than he can from the dinner table when he's hungry.

"This 'boys' movement' has taken such a firm hold in Trenton that last week 6,000 citizens attended an athletic meet near that city, given for the benefit of the movement, and $1,000 was netted with which to promote and maintain the Base Ball fields and other playgrounds next year. And the beauty of it is, that there has been clean, harmless Base Ball under reliable auspices, the boys have been kept out of danger, mischief and immoral associations, and the police records show a very marked decrease in the number of juvenile arrests. Not a single arrest for disorder was made during the entire summer at the ball grounds, though many hotly disputed points had to be settled.

"Trenton boys are exactly like the boys of other cities. They love Base Ball. If they can't play themselves they will dig holes in the board fences, climb trees, sit astride chimneys and take all manner of risks to see others play. If they can't play in the parks they will play in the streets, and if there's no place at home they will run away to play. Trenton seems to have successfully solved the problem of what to do for the boys, and is now trying to find out what to do for the girls. It all goes to show that children must play. It is their privilege by nature, by right and by necessity."