Moonlight Graham

archibald_graham

You may remember the film Field of Dreams and the mysterious scene at Fenway Park where Ray Kinsella hears a voice say “Go the distance” while the life time stats of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham of Minnesota is flashed on the score board. One game in 1922;  no at bats.

Well, that is not entirely true. The part about hearing voices at Fenway is most likely true. We have all experienced that, right? The untrue part is Moonlight playing one game in 1922. He actually did not play in any games in 1922. By then he was 45 years old and presumably practicing medicine in Minnesota. Archie Graham did make one appearance with the New York Giants but it was much earlier . He played in 1905.

As the story goes, Moonlight Graham made one appearance in right field for New York in 1905. He was actually out there for two innings. In the bottom of the 9th inning he was on deck when the final out of the game was made. After that game, he went back to the minors without having any at bats in the major leagues. The Giants that year would go on the beat the Philadelphia Athletics four games to one in the World Series.

The film, which was released in 1989, probably made the adjustment to fit the time line of the movie. The book, Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, got the date right. Incidentally, I think this is one of the rare cases of the movie being just as good as the book. If you haven’t read the book, please pick it up at your local library. It is a good read and I think you will find the building of the field and the description of the ghost ball players interesting.

What does this have to do with local baseball history? There is a connection. A year before Moonlight made his debut in the National League he roamed the outfield in a New Bedford baseball park when his team from Manchester of the New England League paid a visit to the city. According to SABR researchers Dick Thompson and Tom Simon, the young Moonlight took part in a triple play against New Bedford in August of 1904. All nine members of the Manchester club took part in to record the outs (As soon as I find a box score or clipping of this game I will post it).

When Moonlight wasn’t taking part in triple plays in New Bedford he could also be found playing in triple headers. In September of that year Graham and his Manchester club played 3 games against Nashua in one day. Manchester was swept but Graham went 6 for 13 with a double and two stolen bases.

(click to enlarge)

Boston Journal Sept. 6, 1904 New England League

Bay Sox

Exciting news for baseball fans was announced yesterday in New Bedford. One hundred fifty years after the first known baseball clubs began appearing in New Bedford, the city will be getting a team of its own.  The New England Collegiate Baseball League will be fielding a franchise in the 2009 season. The NECBL is a summer collegiate baseball league similar to the Cape Cod Baseball League. You may even see a future major leaguer at a NECBL game as their players are often selected in the MLB draft.

PETER PEREIRA Standard Times

Photo: PETER PEREIRA Standard Times

The New Bedford Bay Sox will take the field on June 4, playing out a 48 game schedule. Home games will be played at Paul Walsh Athletic Field. Prior to moving to New Bedford the Bay Sox played as the Torrington Twisters in Connecticut. The Twisters finished last season with a 14-27 record.

I could be mistaken but I believe that this is the first organized league to field a team in the city since 1941 when the semi-pro New England League fielded an entry in New Bedford.

Now the way this works is that people have to buy tickets and go see the games. I lived in Newark, Ohio several years ago and we got a franchise from the professional Frontier League. To make a long story short they left after two seasons. Some people were surprised. Had they gone to a game? Many I knew had not.  Seeing low level minor league ball and collegiate level baseball is fun and entertaining. I don’t see that happening in New Bedford. This isn’t Ohio and there is more baseball history behind the Bay Sox here.

There is a certain level of competitive excitement you see that you don’t typically see on the major league level. These are kids that have something to prove and they appreciate a good crowd cheering them on.

But before we start buying tickets we need Bay Sox hats.

Support the New Bedford Bay Sox folks. This is part of baseball history.

For more on this exciting news read the Standard Times: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081218/NEWS/812180343.

Talking Baseball at the Dighton Public Library

Dighton Public Library. Courtesy Dighton Public Library

Courtesy Dighton Public Library

Tommorow evening (November 5) at 6:30 I will be giving a presentation at the Dighton Public Library. I plan to talk a little bit about baseball history, vintage baseball and show some vintage baseball pics. Please come out to listen and find out more about playing vintage ball.

The library is located at 395 Main Street, off Route 138 in Dighton.

From Somerset:
Follow Rt. 138 through Somerset past the Dighton Town Line. Look for the Library sign at the corner of Main St. (blinking light). Take a left onto Main St. The library is half a mile on the left.

From the north:
Take Route 24 south to Exit 11 (Berkley/Dighton). Take a right off the exit ramp. Follow this road to Berkley Commons (first stop sign). Keep following to a second stop sign. At the fork in the road, stay right. Continue to the Berkley/Dighton Bridge (a one-lane bridge) and cross the bridge. You will pass Bristol County Agricultural School. Follow to the light at the intersection of Rt. 138. Take a left onto Rt. 138, pass the police station, and take a right at the blinking light onto Main St. The library is half a mile on the left.

From the south:
Take Route 24 north to Exit 10 (Assonet/Dighton). Take a right off the exit ramp. Continue straight until the road ends. Take a left at the stop sign. Continue to the Berkley/Dighton bridge (a one-lane bridge) and cross the bridge. You will pass Bristol County Agricultural School. Follow to the light at the intersection of Rt. 138. Take a left onto Rt. 138, pass the police station, and take a right at the blinking light onto Main St. The library is half a mile on the left.

A Common Soldier Plays Ball in the Revolution

I just finished reading Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 edited by Robert C. Bray & Paul E. Bushnell.

This is an annotated, published diary of Jeremiah Greenman’s experiences in the military during the American Revolution. Greenman was born in Newport, RI in 1758 and enlisted in the Rhode Island Continentals at the age of 17. When the British invaded and occupied Newport, Greenman’s family left and settled in a village called Acoaxet in Dartmouth, Mass now in Westport. Greenman made many trips to visit with family in Acoaxet while in military service.

Among Greeman’s adventures in the Revolution was an expedition under Benedict Arnold to Quebec and two stints as a prisoner of war. Also included in his diary are several entries related to playing ball:

(May 1776 In Quebec Prison)
 “we can’t see no Snow but plenty of Ice in our bumprofe / keep o[u]r Selvs ha[r]ty in playin ball in ye yard [illeg.]
 
(April 1782, Philadelphia)
“The fore noon spent in playing wicket ball / Continuing the Remainder of the day in Barracks.”
 
(May-June 1783 Saratoga)
“Nothing happing worthy remarks, implying our selvs in a skettle & ball Alle[y]”
There are no mentions specifically related to baseball. We do not know what he meant by “playing ball in ye yard”. Skettle according to the diary is nine pins. But Greenman’s diary does show us that adults were playing ball games by the time of the Revolution. Although adults were not probably playing ball games as a leisure activity as they were by the mid 19th century but more of a diversion to the sometimes lag of activity that accompanied military life.
Besides the references to ball playing this is a facinating read if you would like to know more about military life during the Revolution. Unfortunatly I could not find a copy of this in the SAILS library catalog. But go to your library anyway and ask for it. They can get a copy for you as well as find other similar published diaries.

Lowell vs. Wamsutta

John Lowell, ca. 1861

John Lowell, ca. 1861

One hundred forty years ago this week the Wamsutta Base Ball Club took on the mighty Lowell Club of Boston. The Lowell Club was one of the more talented baseball clubs in the area during that time. It was formed in 1861 by students of various Boston secondary schools at the suggestion of John A. Lowell and the Bowdoin Base Ball Club to play the New York game. The New York game was played in New England but it was facing competition from the Massachusetts game. In honor of Mr. Lowell, the club was named after him.

The Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club is widely considered to be the first club in New England formed to play the New York game. Formed in 1857, they didn’t play their first match against another club until early September of 1858 when they beat a club from Portland Maine. It remains a mystery as to why the Tri-Mountain club did not play the Ironsides Club of New Bedford which had been formed to play the New York game at that time.

The Lowell club quickly established their talent by winning their first game against Medford 17-10. Lowell played its second match in May of 1863 against the established Tri-Mountain club. Lowell won 37-1. In 1866 the Lowell club’s first nine would win every match they played.

In 1868 the Lowell Base Ball Club set out on tour of New England cities in an effort to reach out and be “neighborly”. While the tour lasted only during the month of June the Lowell club made a trip to New Bedford in August where they faced the Wamsutta club. The game lasted 3 hours and 25 minutes. It was painful 3 hours in 25 minutes for the Wamsuttas losing to the Lowells 62-6 in 7 innings.

New Bedford Republican Standard
August 20, 1868

Base Ball. – The game between the Lowell and Wamsutta clubs at Myrick’s on Friday was concluded at the end of the 7th inning, with the following score:

Lowell. Wamsutta.

O.  R.                                      O.  R.

Lovett, p.,            1    9   N. E. Howland, 2. b.,    3    0
Alline, 3. b.,         3    7   J. H. Tallman, r. f..,      3    0
Dennison, 1. b.,   0    8   O. N. Pierce, p.,           1    1
Sumner, 2. b.,      6    4   Walter Clifford, s. s.,   3    0
Bradbury, c.,         1   8   G. D. Gifford, c.,          2    1
Rogers, c. f.,         1   8   C. Almy, Jr., c. f.,         3    0
Newton, l. f.,        4   6   M. M. Howland, l. f.     2    2
Hawes, r. f.,          3   6   F. W. Knowlton, 1. b.,  2    1
Dillingham, s. s.,  2   6   W. C. Gooding, 3. b.,   2    1

62                                            6

Runs in each Inning.

1st.   2d.   3d.   4th.   5th.   6th.   7th.
Lowell,       5        9      1      10     6     11     20
Wamsutta, 1         0     2         1     1      0        1

Say it ain’t so; No Cape League ball for New Bedford?

New Bedford American Legion team, ca. 1955With the Cape Cod League set to play a game on Monday in New Bedford, the Standard Times published a story yesterday about the unlikely possibility of New Bedford getting a Cape league team:

City’s hopes for Cape league franchise beginning to fade

NEW BEDFORD – Mayor Scott W. Lang has made no secret that he wants the Cape Cod Baseball League to expand to the city, but the storied amateur collegiate league seems to have an it’s-not-you-it’s-me attitude about the courtship.

“The likelihood is really not all that great,” Wareham Gatemen general manager Tom Gay said of the city’s chances. “It has nothing to do with New Bedford, but with expansion at all.”

This is discouraging considering that New Bedford has history of playing Cape Cod teams going back to at least 1867 when a club from Barnstable played the Wamsutta Club in New Bedford:

The New Bedford Republican Standard

September 12, 1867

The game between the Wamsutta Base Ball Club, of this city, and the Cummaquid, of Barnstable, on Saturday, was won by the former, by 25 runs, in seven innings. The eighth inning was played by the Cummaquid, scoring one run, but the game was called when the Wamsutta on the eighth inning had made six runs, with two men out, the Barnstable boys having barely time to get to the cars.

New Bedford last had an organized, high level team in 1934. That year the New Bedford Whalers played in the Northeastern League. They finished with a 46 win 60 loss season. 1934 was the only year of the Northeastern League. It folded at the end of the season and the Whalers folded with them. The New Bedford Whalers had played in the New England League the year before finishing the season with a 58-33 record in a split season format. New Bedford, with the best record in the league, finished in first place during the second half (Worcester won the first half). A round robin playoff system was decided upon for the end of the season consiting of New Bedford, Worcester and Lowell. But New Bedford withdrew from the playoffs when they learned that they would not face first half winner Worcester in a single series to determine the champion. The New England League folded after that season prompting New Bedford to join the ill fated Northeastern League. The New England League was revived in 1941 as a semi-pro league with New Bedford as a club member.

Organized amature baseball still exists in the New Bedford area in the form of American Legion ball and adult leagues with players trying to extend their playing days or relive their glory days (and even non glory days). The Southeastern Massachusetts Baseball Association existed about 10 years ago based in New Bedford and included teams such as the Fairhaven Lumber Red Sox, Mattapoisett Marlins and Fall River Indians. That league folded and was eventually replaced by the Southcoast Baseball League which is currently operating. Fall River has the Fall River Independent Baseball League (formally the Southeastern Massachusetts Baseball League) and the Cape has the Baseball Clubs of Cape Cod for its has been but still- wants-to-play competitive ball players.

As far as competitive spectator sports entertainment, there maybe other alternatives such as the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

Invite the NECBL here to play a game or two and see what sort of interest is out there for this league. Although it is not as well known as the Cape league, it is quality baseball. Just remember to remind people of the long history of baseball in New Bedford and on the south coast. Baseball loves its traditions and history and so does the south coast. Baseball is part of south coast’s history and it is a tradition that needs to be revived.

 

Baseball in Mattapoisett or Heaven?

This must be the inspiration for Field of Dreams. To be fair it was the book Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella first published in 1982 that inspired the film. This is one of those rare cases where the movie was still good having read the book first. Unfortunatley people seem to know of the movie more than the book.

New York Times; Aug. 8, 1910

A HEAVEN WITH BASEBALL.

Preacher Believes It Will Be Found in a Spiritual Form.

Mattapoisett, Mass., Aug. 7 – “Baseball in Heaven,” was the subject of a sermon preached to-day by the Rev. C. Julian Tuthill, pastor of the Congregational Church. He said in part: “Heaven is but an evolution of this world. A Christian may love a ball game and loving it remain a Christian. Why, then, is it not safe to prophesy that even the game of baseball will have its place in some spiritual form in Heaven.”

Would this group have been opposed to the mixing of baseball and religion?

Boston Investigator; March 7, 1894

Ho For Mattapoisett, Boston Investigator; 3/7/1894

Hingham Historical Society Baseball

Mike \'King\' Kelly, ca. 1891

Here is an event I thought I would pass on. It is not too local, just about an hour away. Maybe there is a local historical society that would like to make vintage base ball part of their program. Read on…

 

Lace up your sneakers!!  It’s time for Vintage Baseball with the Hingham Historical Society.

 

Come  to the opening bash of the Hingham Vintage Baseball season at the home of Mike “King” Kelly, Hingham’s 1880’s Hall of Famer at 507 Main Street, Saturday, May 31, 2008  6:00 to 10:00 P.M.  Who was King Kelly? At the height of his career in the 1880s, hitter and base-stealer extraordinaire Mike “King” Kelly was hired by the Boston Bean Eaters for the unheard of sum of $10,000. Kelly was then presented Kelly with a home on Main Street in Hingham, followed later that year by a carriage and two horses. To the bitter disappointment of Boston and Hingham fans, Kelly only stayed for a year before he left town to join the Cincinnati Reds. Even so, it was long enough for Kelly to make a colorful impression locally. He was known to promenade through town accompanied by his valet and a little pet monkey on his shoulder.

 

Historical Society members, and current owners of the “King” Kelly House, Moira and Cameron Congdon, will host this grand event. Originally built in the 1850s, the Kelly house contains many of the original fine details of its fine Neo-classical construction, in addition to Victorian-style furnishings that evoke “King” Kelly’s world. And no doubt keeping with the spirit of “King” Kelly, Moira confirms that the house “is a perfect place to have a party.”

 

And a party it will be. Revelers will enjoy live music, beer, barbecue, and a chance to meet sports writer and King Kelly biographer, Marty Appel, who will be on hand to sign copies of his book Slide, Kelly, Slide. Other attractions include raffles of sought-after prizes, including, Red Sox tickets, fresh lobsters, baseball artwork, hand-made bats and more.  “King” Kelly himself will be on hand to give baseball tips to the Historical Society’s vintage players, the Coopers and the Derbys. Tickets are $35 each, $40 the day of the event. Tickets will be sold at the Hingham Historical Society office at 30 North street, 11-3pm Tuesdays – Saturdays, Dot Gallery, 112 North Street, Mondays through Saturdays, Henneseys (aka Hingham Liquors) 118 North Street, and The Sub Galley, 39 Station Street. Check the Hingham Historical Society website for other sale locations, www.hinghamhistorical.org.

 

Mike “King” Kelly, one of 19th century Hingham’s most colorful residents, was known as the “king” of baseball at the height of his career in the 1880s and 1890s. He was a superstar of the Victorian era:  his picture was seen on billboards, cigarette packs, posters, and baseball cards across America. At his acquisition by the Boston Beaneaters in 1887, he was given a house on Main Street.

 

 Although the press release does not mention it, there will be vintage base ball representatives there from the Boston Beaneaters. There may be a vintage game as well.

Childhood Ball Playing Clippings

Boy & Girl with dog and batHere are a couple of news clippings that mention ball playing. The first is children’s poetry from the New Bedford Mecury 200 years ago this month. The second (not local but fun anyway) is commentary from the Cleveland Daily Herald in 1841 on the fun of playing ball.

 

New Bedford Mercury

 

May 13,1808

 

SELECTED POETRY.

 

CHILDHOOD.

 

CHILDHOOD! happiest stage of life,

Free from care and free from strife,

Free from memory’s ruthless reign,

Fraught with scenes of former pain;

Free from fancy’s cruel skill,

Fabricating future ill;

Time, when all that meets the view,

All can charm, for all is new;

How thy long-lost hours I mourn,

Never, never to return!

 

Then to toss the circling ball,

Caught rebounding from the wall;

Then the mimic ship to guide

Down the kennel’s dirty tide;

Then the hoop’s revolving pace

Through the dusty street to chase;

O what joy! – it once was mine,

Childhood, matchless boon of thine!

How thy long-lost hours I mourn,

Never, never to return!

 

Childhood Poetry, 1808

 

Cleveland Daily Herald

 

April 15, 1841

 

Playing Ball, is among the very first of the ’sports’ of our early years. Who has not teased his grandmother for a ball, until the ‘old stockings’ have been transformed into one that would bound well? Who has not played ‘barn ball’ in his boyhood, ‘base’ in his youth, and ‘wicket’ in this manhood? – There is fun, and sport, and healthy exercise, in a game of ‘ball.’ We like it; for with it is associated recollections of our earlier days. And we trust we shall never be too old to feel and to ‘take delight’ in the amusements which interested us in our boyhood.

            If ‘Edith’ wishes to see ‘a great strike’ and ‘lots of fun,’ let her walk down Water Street some pleasant afternoon towards ‘set of sun’ and see the ‘Bachelors’ make the ball fly.

 

100730. New York Public Library

New Bedford High School Baseball, 150 Years Ago

Not only is this year the 150th anniversary of the first known baseball team in New Bedford (predating the Wamsutta Club’s claim by 8 years), it is also an anniversary year for the New Bedford high school team. In 1858 the New Bedford High School fielded a team making them the first high school or secondary school in the country to do so.

To verify this I have been searching for published works about the history of high school baseball but I haven’t had much luck. The only references to early high school baseball teams that I have found have been in the Illinois High School Association’s website which states “Worcester High School in Massachusetts has been traditionally recognized as the first secondary institution to form a team that competed against teams outside of the school.” It notes that their first game was against a club called the Eaglets which Worcester beat on October 12, 1859. Harold Seymour’s brilliant work Baseball: The People’s Game also notes Worcester High School as having the first high school baseball club. My source of New Bedford superseding the Worcester club comes from one line in the October 18, 1858 New Bedford Evening Standard:

The Old Hickory Base Ball Club have challenged the High School Base Ball Club to play the Massachusetts game.

The Massachusetts game was a competing form of baseball in Massachusetts with the New York game. It is important to note that the Massachusetts game is considered to be baseball and not a different bat and ball game such as rounders. Some differences in the games were:

   Massachusetts Game                                              New York Game

First club to score 100 wins                                   Club ahead after 9 innings wins

Square shaped field, bases at 4 corners            Diamond shaped field

Pitcher threw overhand                                         Pitcher pitched underhand

Fielder can strike runner with ball for out       Fielder must tag runner or base

Ball must be caught in air for an out                  Ball can be caught on a bound

A look back New Bedford’s history of public education in the early 1800s shows hostility to funding public schools even though state law required localities to fund public education. Instead of public education for all of its citizens, New Bedford voted to fund their public school “to school the poor children in this town”. Presumably the rich hired private tutors or sent their children off to private schools. In 1827 a state law went in to effect requiring all towns in the Commonwealth with at least 500 families to open a high school. But in 1829 the town voted to close its high school. They were able to do this because the law was changed to give the towns the option to operate a high school. Although children under six years old could still attend the public school, the high school remained closed until 1837 when it reopened on a permanent basis. By 1858 the high school was operating as a four year course of study, preparing students admitted at age 12, for college.

Although sports teams may not have become the norm for high schools and colleges until later in the 19th century it is safe to say that school aged kids were playing ball in New Bedford in the first half of the century. An 1822 bylaw levied a fine to anyone who would “play at ball, fly a kite or run down hill upon a sled… in any street of that part of the town commonly called the Village of New-Bedford”. Thomas Rodman wrote about being “initiated into the mysteries of Foot-ball, Base and every game boys pursue” when he was a student at Friends Academy in the mid-1830s. When it became fashionable to form social clubs based on sports in the mid 1800s, young adults formed their own clubs as well.

But let’s get back to the high school club. The New Bedford game appears not to have taken place until the following month when the New Bedford Republican Standard reported that the High School club beat Charles Clifford’s Old Hickory club 100-73:

The New Bedford Republican Standard

November 18, 1858

Base Ball. – The match game we noticed a few days ago, took place on Saturday afternoon between the High School and Old Hickory Clubs. After playing about two hours and a half, the High School boys, the challenged party, were declared the victors, having scored 100. The Old Hickory Club scored 73. During the first half of the game the latter Club took the lead. Considerable interest was manifested by a large number of spectators. At the close the vanquished gave three cheers and the victors responded.

Those appear to be the only references to high school baseball in the 1858 New Bedford newspapers.  It is not clear if this club was sanctioned by the high school as an extracurricular activity or if it was made up of high school students calling themselves the High School Base Ball Club. Harold Seymour notes that the Worcester club in 1859 was formed by students on their own. School officials at first protested calling the club a high school club before warming up to the idea of a high school baseball club and supporting it. If New Bedford high school officials had issues with the High School Base Ball Club it wasn’t reported on in the papers. It is hard to judge how long the 1858 edition of the high school team lasted. There were just a few mentions of baseball in the 1859 and 1860 New Bedford papers but nothing on the high school club. In fact there is no mention of baseball in the newspapers again until 1866. In that year, in addition to the Wamsutta and other clubs, the Howland Grammar School Association formed the Acushnet Base Ball Club. This association was formed by a Middle Street Grammar School student for the “prevention of profanity and vulgarity”.

High school baseball appears again in the New Bedford papers in 1867 when the High School club beat Friend’s Academy 33-17, presumably playing the New York rules which the Ironsides Base Ball Club may have first introduced to New Bedford in 1858.

Here is to another 150 years of baseball in New Bedford and throughout the south coast of Massachusetts (and maybe high schools will go back to wood bats).