Less Than Nine

Fig 7: Eight boys with a ball ... Digital ID: 56145. New York Public Library

According to many baseball historians baseball didn’t always have nine players on a team. Depending on which version of baseball you are talking about it sometimes had as many as 20 or 30 participants per team. The version you know today may have been played with 8-11 players at one time. The codified rules of 1857 was the first time the rules mandated nine players per team. A team was often referred to as a “club nine”. In the 1870s there was talk of adding an extra shortstop putting 10 players on the playing field. The 10th player was experimented with, but never caught on.

Modern day vintage base ball teams often find themselves short of players at the last minute. I have played in a couple of games in which we were short a player for each team, limiting us to 8 players each. We managed to get by with the batting team supplying the catcher. Modern vintage players are an honest and trusting bunch.

It appears that 19th baseball teams sometimes had problems fielding a full nine for games. In 1869 the Red Rover Base Ball Club of Fairhaven played the Union Base Ball Club also of Fairhaven. The Red Rover, using only eight players, beat the Union club by a score of 35 to 28. The box score for the game suggests that the Red Rover club went without a left fielder.  They most likely shifted their fielders around when necessary.

Probably one of the more unique games with less than nine involved the Riverside Base Ball Club of Acushnet and an “unattached nine” of New Bedford.  Both clubs took the field with only seven players. The unattached went without a right and left fielder while the Riverside club went with out a shortstop and center fielder.

It would seem that the Riverside club made the better choice in using two outfielders instead of one. But the unattached players beat them 45-22 in 5 innings. Unfortunately, the newspaper at the time didn’t give any information about how the game was played with so few players other than the box score and line score:

Runs in each Inning.

Riverside,                  0          0          8          10        4

Unattached,               9          14        12        3          7

A couple of weeks before this game the same two teams played. It is not noted in the papers of the time if both teams had all nine players for the game but these unattached fellows beat the Riverside club in that game 70-34. Not bad for “9” guys without a team.

Muffin Baseball

Six cards in color, from Ropes... Digital ID: 56337. New York Public Library

A ‘muffin’ is a term that was applied to a new or inexperience ball player in the early 1860s. In the collections of the
Umass Dartmouth Archives and Special Collections is a booklet containing humorous illustrations of the type of play you may expect to see of a mid-19th century muffin. The booklet, Base Ball as Viewed By a Muffin, was published in 1867 and illustrated by Savillion Van Campen. Van Campen was the president of the Ironsides Base Ball Club based in New Bedford in 1858. At the time of publication he was secretary and a member of the Wamsutta Base Ball Clubs first nine. The previous year he had been a member of the Wamsutta Club’s muffin nine. For a guy who had been playing the New York game since at least 1858, it is not clear why he was on the muffin nine. Perhaps it was just for fun.

By the late 1860s muffin baseball had become popular in response to the professionalism of baseball. According to Peter Morris’ book, But Didn’t We Have Fun? muffin baseball spread rapidly during the late 1860s showing that baseball was meant to be played for fun. Rules were not taken seriously and in some cases old rules were reverted to such as the bound rule in which a player could be put out when his batted ball was caught on one bounce as opposed to catching it on the fly. In fact some muffin games forbid players from catching fly balls. They could only be caught on the bound. Muffin games often matched up teams based on appearance or marital status such as in games of fat vs. skinny players or married vs. single players. Other muffin games didn’t limit the number of players on the field. More than nine players could be on a side with two or more fielding one position.

On July 4, 1866 the Wamsutta Base Ball Club played in once such muffin game in which the club’s single men defeated the club’s married men 56-46. Shortstop and each of the outfield positions were manned by two players each and the box score listed a position called the Catcher’s Stop in addition to the catcher. This was most likely a second catcher or a back up to the catcher.

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

Team Names

kit_kat_rochester_72

The 19th century saw many names of baseball clubs in New Bedford. In my research I have noted roughly 60 different club names in New Bedford in a five year period. None of which I have found to have the name Sox included.

Here are a sample of 19th century area baseball team names. Teams were based in New Bedford unless noted otherwise:

Active Base Ball Club

Alaska Base Ball Club (Fairhaven)

Bay State Base Ball Club

Chicopee Base Ball Club

Clipper Base Ball Club

Eureka Base Ball Club

Franklin Base Ball Club

Independent Base Ball Club (Marion)

Ironsides Base Ball Club

Kit Kat Base Ball Club (Rochester)

Lowell Base Ball Club

Mattapoisett Base Ball Club (Mattapoisett)

Monohansett Base Ball Club (North Dighton)

Nautical Base Ball Club

Nobby Base Ball Club

Onward Base Ball Club

Red Rover Base Ball Club (Fairhaven)

Resolute Base Ball Club (Fall River)

Rising Sun Base Ball Club (later changed to Annawan Base Ball Club)

Riverside Baseball Club (Acushnet)

Rough and Ready Base Ball Club

Sons of the Ocean Base Ball Club

Star Base Ball Club

Wamsutta Base Ball Club

Young Tigers Base Ball Club

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.

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

Ball Playing Banned in New Bedford… in 1821

New Bedford Mecury, July 13, 1821

One hundred eighty seven years ago the New Bedford Mercury publish the recently passed by-laws for New Bedford including a ban on ball playing:

Voted, That the following Rules and Regulations be established the By-Laws of this town, viz: —

First, Any person, who shall, after the 1st day of July next play at ball, or fly a kite or run down hill upon a sled, or play any other sport which may incommode peacable citizens and passengers in any street of that part of this town commonly called the Village of Bedford, shall for every such offence, upon convicition of the same forfeit and pay the penalty of fifty cents, with costs of prosecution; the said penality to be applied to the use of the poor of this town.

 

 

 

 

 

This does not mean that it was baseball being played on the streets of New Bedford. It could have been any number of ball games such as football, cricket, trap ball or any of the “old cat” games. It could be baseball but the by-law writters chose not to be specific about the types of ball games banned as Pittsfield did 30 years prior to the New Bedford by-law. Various laws have been passed banning the playing of ball in New England since at least 1762 when the town of Salem ordered that no one would be allowed to play “Foot-Ball, or the Exercise of Bat-and-Ball, or Cricket, within any of the Publick Places, Streets, or Lanes” in town. Closer to home, Providence passed a ban on ball playing in 1823.

I will also point out that in those same 1821 New Bedford by-laws there was already a problem with graffiti:

Fifth. And whereas some evil minded persons are in the habit of disfiguring fences and buildings, by wantonly painting on them, and by writing and drawing obscene words and pictures on them, to the disgrace of this town in the eyes of strangers, and to the disgust of well-disposed citizens: — Therefore, Voted, That any person who shall after the first day of July next, be convicted as aforesaid of any such offence, shall forfeit and pay a penalty of not less than one dollar, nor more than five dollars, for every such offence, with the costs of prosecution; said penalty to be applied as aforesaid.

 

 

 

No doubt that neighborohoods such as Hard Dig were targeted with this law. But did the placement of the by-laws indicate the severity of each problem? Ball playing, kite flying and sledding were listed in the first by-law while graffiti was addressed in the fifth by-law. Number two on the list was blocking the streets with lumber and rubbish. Number three was a speed limit on horses (6 miles per hour) and the fourth delt with carriages blocking the streets. There were a total of 12 by laws altogether. The graffiti penalty had the highest penalty of five dollars along with storing more than 25 lbs. of gun powder in one place and stacking fish for the purporse of making manure. Take a look at the by laws here.