Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vintage Base Ball - 1867 Style

Base ball apparently enjoyed a banner year in Paterson in 1867.  Not only did the city's best team, the Olympics knock off the Irvington Club, the best New Jersey team of the late 1860's, but there was also a revival of what the Paterson Daily Press called the "old fashioned game."  On August 2, 1867, the paper reported on "the great match" played by "selected elevens who had never played the modern game."  Down 28-20 after five innings to John Walden's "Unknowns," the "Never Sweats" led by John Garrabrant scored 24 times in the sixth and final inning for a 44-28 triumph.

                                            Paterson Daily Press, August 2, 1867

Only two rules are mentioned in the game account, part of which is shown above, base runners "must be put out by being hit with the ball when . . . more than a pace off the base" and there was no foul territory.  Unlike articles about Antiquarian Knickerbocker games, however, some information was provided about the field of play.  Apparently assuming readers had some familiarity with "the old game," the writer noted that "it will be remembered that there is a first base about a rod [16.5 feet] to the right and a little to the front of where the batter stands."  "About 20 rods [ 330 feet] in front of the batter" was the "second base" located in the centre of the field."  Only one other base is mentioned - "the home base" which was "about ten feet to the left of the batter."  Unfortunately no further information was provided.

Over the next two months, the Daily Press reported on four more old fashioned base ball games, but none of these accounts provide any information about the rules or the layout of the field.  All but one of these contests lasted six innings (the other was the more modern nine) and all of them were played between two teams with 11 on a side.  One match, described below, was between a select team from Paterson (apparently a mixture of the "Unknowns" and "Neversweats") and a team from the neighboring town of Little Falls, won by the latter 63-57.  Other Paterson teams were made up of men from different Paterson manufacturing companies and a "club" known as the "Michael Erles."

Paterson Daily Press, August 8, 1867

To date the earliest documented base ball game in Paterson is a November 26, 1857 (Thanksgiving Day) contest between two teams of seven.  It's not clear whether the contest was the New York game or some other version of base ball, but two players in that game (Cadmus and Garrabrant) appear to have played in some of the 1867 matches. No further accounts have been found of what could be called the first vintage base ball league.  As with the Antiquarian Knickerbockers much work needs to be done on these teams and the game they played - I have a feeling I'm going to write that about a lot of things! 

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