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Monday, August 29, 2011

Steven: Baseball in Washington During the Civil War

The Civil War helped facilitate the spread of the “New York game” as soldiers idled away time in camp, prisons, and even the front lines. Just as other social organizations, such as fireman units, enlisted together, so to did some baseball clubs.  On April 5, 1861 the Jefferson Base Ball Club demonstrated their dedication to the Union by erecting a flag pole at their regular Franklin Square playing grounds at 14th and I Streets NW.

Amongst the thousands of New York troops arriving in Washington in 1861 were baseball players who brought their New York game with them.  Naturally, matches between regiments soon ensued.  An item in the Washington National Republican on June 28, 1861 announced a game to be played between New York units and hinted at the future NY Yankees/Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers rivalries:

“BASE BALL MATCH- There will be a match played at Camp Wool on tomorrow afternoon at 4 o’clock, between the first nine of the Baldwin B.B. Club (Co. D) and the first nine of the Steers B.B. Club (Co. E).  Those interested in the noble game of base ball are invited to witness the contest.  As the above clubs are composed of some of the best players of Brooklyn and New York, it is expected that the game will be very interesting.”

There were also matches between various New York units and the local Washington clubs The New Yorkers usually won these matches by lopsided scores such as when members of the New York 71st Regiment beat the Nationals 42 to 13 on July 12, 1861.  However, the Nationals got revenge a year later, defeating the 71st 28-13 on August 7, 1862.  The rematch brought out a large number of spectators, including a number of women, and guards from the regiment were posted to keep the crowds from encroaching on the playing field.

For civilians, watching a base ball match in the capital had the added advantage of being a wee bit safer than holding a picnic during the fireworks at Bull Run!

H/T Sarah S.

JE (Jason) Posted: August 29, 2011 at 01:05 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: amateur, history

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   1. TerpNats Posted: August 29, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#3911449)
Fascinating stuff. When the Expos moved in 2004, the choice of the name "Nationals" was considered merely an alternative to not using "Senators" (since the District has no senators, or voting representatives, for that matter), but it had a history of its own long before the original AL team began using it...though I don't think very many clerks in the federal government play baseball in their spare hours these days.
   2. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: August 29, 2011 at 05:05 PM (#3911461)
Cool stuff. It makes me wonder when the first box score was published. To google!

edit: according to this http://thefatherlife.com/mag/2009/08/02/the-150th-anniversary-of-the-box-score/ it was in 1859.
   3. Steve N Posted: August 29, 2011 at 07:27 PM (#3911595)
I'm pretty sure that the Nationals are not called the Senators because the Rangers still hold the Senators trademark.
   4. AndrewJ Posted: August 30, 2011 at 01:32 AM (#3911933)
The Civil War helped facilitate the spread of the "New York game" as soldiers idled away time in camp, prisons, and even the front lines.

True enough. However, as historians like Peter Morris (BUT DIDN'T WE HAVE FUN?) insist, the Civil War also decimated the lineups of most town ballclubs in both the North and South; by the end of the 1860s, amateur town clubs were on their way out.
   5. ray james Posted: August 30, 2011 at 02:22 AM (#3911992)
The New Yorkers usually won these matches by lopsided scores such as when members of the New York 71st Regiment beat the Nationals 42 to 13 on July 12, 1861. However, the Nationals got revenge a year later, defeating the 71st 28-13 on August 7, 1862.


Yeah, the Nationals were the first to adopt the use of contrabands, and they had a competitive advantage for awhile.
   6. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: August 30, 2011 at 02:33 AM (#3912003)
What's the best book on the early history of baseball? I know this is the place to get the answer.
   7. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 30, 2011 at 03:24 AM (#3912030)
I'm pretty sure that the Nationals are not called the Senators because the Rangers still hold the Senators trademark.

Published reports at the time of the decision indicated that Selig pushed hard for the relocated Expos to be called the Senators, but the DC government vetoed it as unrepresentative of current Washington, DC. Since they were paying for the stadium, and there wasn't any local ownership, they got their way on that.
   8. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 30, 2011 at 04:08 AM (#3912052)
the District has no senators


I'm pretty sure they have Senators when Congress is in session.

And if one replies that they are not citizens of the District, well, they are still part of the scenery, like the Rays of Tampa and the Diamondbacks of Arizona. The local wildlife, as it were.
   9. bobm Posted: August 30, 2011 at 04:23 AM (#3912055)
[6] What's the best book on the early history of baseball?

I recommend A Game of Inches and But Didn't We Have Fun? both by Peter Morris (as noted in 4 above). A Game of Inches is a catalog of baseball "firsts", informative and well organized.

The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract has a good overview decade-by-decade.
   10. bobm Posted: August 30, 2011 at 04:39 AM (#3912057)
[2] Cool stuff. It makes me wonder when the first box score was published. To google!

edit: according to this http://thefatherlife.com/mag/2009/08/02/the-150th-anniversary-of-the-box-score/ it was in 1859.


According to A Game of Inches and other sources, the box score dates back to 1845:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B01E7D71230F931A35757C0A9609C8B63


The New York Times
BASEBALL PREVIEW; Take Me Out to the Box Score
By ALAN SCHWARZ
Published: April 2, 2006 ...

1845

Baseball's first box score, printed by The New York Morning News on Oct. 22, 1845, demonstrated the pastime's roots in cricket, which had its own box scores, or abstracts. Because a cricket batter either does or does not score a point by reaching the opposite wicket, early baseball boxes simply listed when a batsman succeeded (by scoring a run) or failed (by making an out). The intermediate step -- getting a base hit but not scoring -- did not get recognized for years. Early box scores were only nine lines long because there were no substitutions, and certainly no relief pitchers.


See also:
http://baseballhistoryblog.com/1173/first-known-box-score/
and
http://thornpricks.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html
   11. The District Attorney Posted: August 30, 2011 at 04:44 AM (#3912059)
I'm pretty sure they have Senators when Congress is in session.

And if one replies that they are not citizens of the District, well, they are still part of the scenery, like the Rays of Tampa and the Diamondbacks of Arizona. The local wildlife, as it were.
I think you can see, though, why people to whom DC Congressional representation is a major political issue are not going to see that as a good answer. It sounds as if they feel like it's rubbing it in to have a team named "Senators" when they want real Senators and can't get any.

I thought they would go with "Grays". It's not exactly a thrilling moniker, but at least it has one hell of a history. I'm surprised they didn't choose it. "Nationals" is ultra-mega-bland. I guess it beats "Wizards" though.
   12. AndrewJ Posted: August 30, 2011 at 01:05 PM (#3912129)
6] What's the best book on the early history of baseball?

I recommend A Game of Inches and But Didn't We Have Fun? both by Peter Morris (as noted in 4 above). A Game of Inches is a catalog of baseball "firsts", informative and well organized.


I also like John Thorn's recent book Baseball in the Garden of Eden.

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