New Bedford Baseball ca. 1858 Update

I have an update about baseball in New Bedford in 1858. It appears that all of the clubs in New Bedford made the jump to the Massachusetts Game before the end of the year. In late November the Republican Standard reported:

Ironsides Club at a special meeting held Tuesday evening, voted to be governed by the Massachusetts rules of play, instead of the New York rules which have hithertogoverned them. By this change all the Clubs in the city now play that game.

I haven’t found any evidence that notes when the other clubs formally became Massachusetts rules clubs. I am not really sure why they all made the switch. It is not that the New York rules clubs were with out competition. There were three clubs playing by those rules. It may have been the reluctance of the Massachusetts rules clubs to play any games by New York rules that drove the clubs to conformity. By making the switch, the clubs would have more options for competition. It appears that by the end of November, after losing competing clubs that made the switch to the Massachusetts rules and having been denied the opportunity to participate in the Thanksgiving Day game, the Ironsides gave up and joined the other clubs by abandoning the New York rules.

The reasons for the demise of the Massachusetts Game have long been debated among baseball historians and fans. Those reasons, what ever they may be, may explain why a city such as New Bedford completely abandoned that form after the Civil War and after establishing those rules as the ones to be played on “Massachusetts soil”. In 1867, a year after the formation of the Wamsutta Base Ball Club, there were at least 47 different clubs that formed in New Bedford throughout the season. None appear to be Massachusetts rules clubs.

Some members of the Ironsides Base Ball Club names show up on the Wamsutta Club’s roster in 1866 including Stephen Delano, H. Wilder Emerson, Otis N. Pierce and Savillion Van Campen who had been president of the Ironsides Club. In the end the Ironsides’ preferred method of rules prevailed.


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