Princeton has an important place in the history of early organized base ball because the University (then known as the College of New Jersey) was one of the first colleges where the New York game took root. Thanks to three young men from Brooklyn who brought not only their books and brains, but also their bats and balls to the college in the fall of 1858, organized base ball was played there before the Civil War. Known first as the Class of 1862 base ball team, the club eventually took the name of the Nassau club and gradually grew into the school base ball team, competing against both amateur and other college clubs beginning in the 1860's. It appears that the faculty had some concerns that organized base ball might harm the young men's academic work, but those concerns were allayed somewhat when seven of the first ten academic positions at the Class of 1862 graduation were held by Nassau Club members. The team's academic performance plus any lack of scandal associated with the players got the relatively new version of base ball off to an acceptable start at the collegiate level, perhaps supporting the idea that base ball builds character.
1866 Princeton Base Ball Team - Condit appears to be the man in the middle in the back row
Condit's infamous telegram - New York Herald - December 12, 1876
Apparently determined to rebuild his finances on a big stage, the former Princeton base ball player chose Wall Street to make a big killing by fabricating a big death. Late on the morning of October 16, 1876 the Associated Press's offices in New York City received a telegram over the name of the Rev. Charles Deems, spiritual adviser to Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, if he wasn't the world's richest man, was certainly a contender. The telegram announced the tycoon's death at a time when the market was concerned about Vanderbilt's health and the news sent some stocks lower until Deems and newspaper reporters made it clear the report of the railroad executive's death was a complete fabrication. Although an investigation was launched immediately, it took until December when none other than Edward Condit was arrested as the man responsible for the hoax. Exactly what came of the arrest isn't clear, partially because it wasn't certain if sending an inaccurate telegram was illegal, but the below article from the New York World gives a sense of some of Condit's other activities including his apparent appeal to the opposite sex which he would later attempt to use in even more creative ways.
New York World - December 19, 1876
Either because Condit was recognized as a flight risk and denied bail or he was unable to come up with the cash (one hopes the authorities insisted on cash), he was in jail awaiting trial in early December of 1884. The enterprising criminal was not without solace, however, as he received regular visits from two "ladies," one claiming to be his wife, the other his sister. The two provided more than moral support as on the evening of December 2nd, Condit apparently anxious to get home for the holidays attempted an unauthorized egress from the jail. Equipped, among other things, with a dozen jig saws and a rope ladder, all supplied by his female admirers, Condit cut his way out of his cell, through the bathroom door and was in the process of removing the bars from the window when noise in the cell block alerted the jailer, a Mr. Joyce. Upon discovery, Condit, always the college educated gentleman, handed over this supplies to Joyce, lamenting that he hadn't had 10 more minutes and bidding the jailer not to "scold me, . . I wanted my liberty. You would have done the same under similar circumstances." Condit was wise in trying to escape as this time, he didn't get away with his nefarious deeds with the judge, another Princeton graduate, sentencing his fellow alumnus to four years at hard labor. Even so the former first baseman wasn't rattled, supposedly receiving his sentence "with a great deal of self composure."
Duluth News-Tribune - September 24, 1903
Condit must have served some or all of his sentence and then dropped out of the public eye although not apparently because he had seen the error of his ways. Almost 20 years later, in Belmont, Massachusetts, Edward A. Cranston, a real estate broker was arrested for forging checks in a creative manner. Cranston, through a messenger, would approach banks and brokers with what appeared to be a certified check for an amount slightly more than the price of a stock purchase with instructions that the small overage, typically not much more than $80, be given to the messenger. Ultimately, of course, the check itself was a forgery. Confronted by the police, Cranston took to his heels, while demonstrating "a buoyant and cork like agility in scaling fences and dashing over plowed fields, that in a man of his years was nothing short of marvelous." If the accused's athletic feats suggested a sports background that was the case since at his trial Cranston admitted that he was none other than the former collegiate base ball player, Edward A. Condit. Cranston was apparently only the most recent alias Condit used to support himself by creative criminal ploys, but this malfeasance earned him a prison sentence of 10-15 years. Unfortunately no information about Condit's life after that has come to light, but even if he did survive prison, it's doubtful he attended many class of 1866 reunions at Princeton, although if he did, he certainly had no shortage of stories to tell and, perhaps, classmates to fleece.