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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 has come.


The first book of instructions for baseball appeared - 'The Book of Sports.


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 country.


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 Knickerbockers 23-1.                                                       


The Knickerbockers were the first team to wear an official uniform


December 5  Baseball was first dubbed the "National Pastime" by the New York Mercury.  


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 fans.


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 championship.


The National League adopted an 84-game schedule.
The owners voted to stop giving refunds or rain checks for postponed games.

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 colored uniforms. 

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 pitcher's box.


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 Pittsburgh team. 

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

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. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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