Old Time Baseball: March of Timeline
"Baseball is the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the
drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming
nineteenth century."--Mark Twain, Delmonico's Restaurant, New York City
The 2005 baseball season is in full flower. And those of us who are
dedicated and adoring fans of the national pastime are loving every
pitch. The game has been ours for a long, long time. And it's
interesting to flash back to its antecedents to see how far base ball
The first book of instructions for baseball appeared - 'The Book of
September 23 The Knickerbocker baseball club of New York was organized
at the suggestion of Alexander J. Cartwright who created rules to
distinguish his brand of baseball from other forms played throughout the
June 19 The first recorded baseball game took place. Alexander
Cartwright's Knickerbockers lost to the New York Baseball Club at the
Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey. The New York Club defeated the
The Knickerbockers were the first team to wear an official uniform
December 5 Baseball was first dubbed the "National Pastime" by the New
March 7 The rules committee stated that 9 innings should constitute an
official game rather than a team scoring 9 runs. For the first time,
rules mandated 9 men to a side, even though the game had been played
that way since 1845.
March 10 The National Association of Base Ball Players, the first league
in baseball, was formed.
July 20 Paying fifty cents, some 1,500 fans attended an All Star Game at
the Fashion Race Course on Long Island
November 28 The first baseball club on the West Coast was organized, the
Eagle Club of San Francisco.
May 15 The Union Baseball Grounds at Marcy Avenue and Rutledge Street
in Brooklyn was opened. It was the first enclosed ball field to charge
an admission fee.
December 25 More than 40,000 watched two teams of Union soldiers
compete in a baseball game at Hilton Head, South Carolina.
August 30 President Andrew Johnson brought the first organized
baseball team (referred to as "a delegation of the National Base Ball
Club") to the White House / Presidential Mansion for a visit.
December 12 The tenth annual convention of the NABBP was staged. A
record 202 clubs send delegates.
December 9 The National Association of Base Ball Players banned
blacks participating in their league "on political grounds."
April 25 The New York Clipper announced that it would award a Gold
Ball of regulation weight and size to the club dubbed Champions of 1868.
In addition, Gold medals would also be given to the 9 best players.
May 4 The Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first admittedly
all-professional team, played their first game of the year. They
trounced the Great Westerns 45-9.
June 26 President Ulysses S. Grant hosted the Cincinnati Red Stockings
at the White House.
September 18 The Pythians defeated the City Items, 27-17. It marked the
first time an
all-black team played an exhibition game against an all-white team.
June 14 After 84 straight wins, the Cincinnati Red Stockings were
defeated, 8-7, by the Atlantics of Brooklyn.
November 10 At the New York State Base Ball Convention in Albany, a
motion passed that no club in New York composed of colored men would be
admitted to the National Association
The first professional baseball league, the National Association of
Professional Base Ball Players, was founded on March 17, 1871-in New
York City. The organization's charter members included the Red
Stockings, Chicago White Stockings, Cleveland Forest Citys, Fort Wayne
Kekiongas, New York Mutuals, Philadelphia Athletics, Rockford Forest
Citys, Washington Nationals, and Washington Olympics.
May 4 The National Association played its first game. Forest City
defeated Fort Wayne 2-0. The first batting averages were recorded
starting with Boston and Cleveland.
April 13 An auction of memorabilia from the 1869 tour of the Red
Stockings was held at Union Grounds in Cincinnati. People paid two to
four dollars for baseballs.
July 30 After a three week holiday spent in Cape May - claimed as
needed rest from the exhaustion of the season - the Philadelphia
Athletics were defeated in Boston, 24-10.
September 11 The first baseball game with women professionals was
played in Springfield, Illinois on a half-sized diamond with a 9-foot
high canvas surrounding the field. Uniforms were similar to those worn
by males except that the pants were shorter. The final score was -
"Blondes" 42, "Brunettes" 38.
The National League of Professional Baseball was formed with eight
teams: Boston Red Stockings, Chicago White Stockings, Cincinnati Red
Legs, Hartford Dark Blues, Louisville Grays, Philadelphia Athletics,
Brooklyn Mutuals and St. Louis Browns. All owners agreed to play a
70-game schedule between April 22 and October 21.
The first rule appeared stating the ball must stay in fair territory to
be a hit.
The first printed schedule appeared
July 13 Chicago's George Bradley received the day off. He had pitched
the previous eighty-nine consecutive games.
February 12 Frederick Winthrop Thayer of Massachusetts received a
patent for baseball's first catcher's mask.
December 31 A report was circulated that 8,000,000 bats had been sold
in the United States in 1878.
March 25 the National League voted to keep the fifty cent admission
price to all baseball games
April 4 Providence created a centerfield "bull pen" in the Messer Street
Grounds. Fans who arrived after the fifth inning paid but 15 cents.
The Grays built the first safety net behind the catcher to protect the
February 12 Boston reduced its season ticket prices from $14 to $12 as
a result of the Red Stockings failure to record their third straight
The National League adopted an 84-game schedule.
The owners voted to stop giving refunds or rain checks for postponed
August 21 In a game in Louisville, the Eclipses banned black catcher
Moses Fleetwood Walker from playing with the visiting Cleveland Whites.
A rival league known as the American Association was formed in St. Louis
to compete against the Nationals.
For the first time, teams in the National League were permitted to wear
Paul Hines was the first player to wear sunglasses on the field.
Pete Browning was the first player to have his bats custom made.
January 13 New York's American Association and National League teams
made news. They announced that they would play at the Polo Grounds on
separate diamonds. An eight foot fence would separate the action.
May 1 Moses Fleetwood Walker became the first black player to appear
in a major league game. He went hitless in three at bats with Toledo of
the American Association, a major league at the time.
The first wooden bat was created by Bud Hillerich for Pete Browning, a
Louisville player. The Louisville Slugger was in baseball to stay.
April 22 The modern new park of the Mets opened on Staten Island.
Later in the season fans watched from the St. George grandstand as the
Statue of Liberty was being put together.
March 20 A Mr. Hiroka of Tokyo sent a letter to a New York sporting
goods house ordering bats, balls, and other baseball equipment from. The
letter explained that baseball "has been played there for several
months" and that a baseball association was in the process of formation.
January 9 "Slide, Kelly, Slide," by George Gaskin, made the popular
music charts, the first baseball song to do so.
February 4 The first recorded version of "Casey at the Bat," sung by
Russell Hunting, made the music charts. DeWolf Hopper's more famous
version would not be released until October 1906.
March 7 The National League eliminated the pitching box and added a
pitcher's rubber five feet behind the previous back line of the box,
establishing the modern pitching distance of 60 feet six inches. (The
extra six inches were as a result of an error on the handwritten
instructions). A distance of 93 feet between the bases was also
proposed along with a 12 x 4 inch slab of rubber to replace the
February 26 Rules changes went into effect to help pitchers. Foul
bunts would now be called strikes. The infield fly rule was instituted.
June 15 Future novelist Zane Grey made his minor league debut in left
field for Findlay, Ohio against Wheeling in the Tri State League). The
Pennsylvania University athlete went hitless.
April 19 The Washington Senators were welcomed in the Oval Office by
President William McKinley.
December 31 Charles Hercules Ebbets, who began with the organization as
a ticket taker, gained ten per cent interest in the Brooklyn National
League team and the title of president.
The first modern rules defining a balk and stolen base appeared.
March 8 At the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, the National League met
and voted to go with eight teams. Baltimore owners were paid off $30,000
for their franchise; Charles Ebbets and Ned Hanlon reserved the right to
sell the players. Cleveland, Louisville, and Washington received $10,000
each, Barney Dreyfuss, Louisville owner, sent most of his players to his
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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