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New Bedford will make an appearance in the next edition of the Dickson Baseball Dictionary and be noted with a first. The Dictionary is an amazing piece of work that any baseball fan would love. It contains over 7,000 entries of baseball definitions along with cross references, illustrations, etymology, notes and first usages.
The first that New Bedford is associated with is the earliest known print use of the phrases “New York Game” and “Massachusetts Game”.
On September 2 the New Bedford Republican Standard noted:
The Base Ball Club recently formed in this city, is progressing finely. Its members met on the City Common at 5 o’clock Monday morning, and had a very spirited game. They have assigned Monday and Wednesday mornings, at the hour mentioned, and Friday afternoons at half-past 4 o’clock, as the time for practice. The manner of playing is the New York mode, and not the one usually adopted in Massachusetts.
Then on September 13 the New Bedford Evening Standard reported:
A number of seamen, now in port, have formed a Club entitled the “Sons of the Ocean Base Ball Club.” They play on the City common, on Thursdays, and we are requested to state that the members challenge any of the other clubs in the city to a trial either of the New York or Massachusetts game.
I was surprised to learn that I had discovered the first known use of the phrases. I’m sure the phrases were not invented in New Bedford. But where did New Bedford hear of them? Where and when were they first used? The early usage of the phrases may help explain how the New York game spread.
For the record, according to the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the previous noted first usage of the phrases was in the 1859 publication of the Base Ball Player’s Pocket Companion which was published in Boston.
Incidentally, New Bedford is mentioned in the current (3rd) edition of Dickson’s. Under the entry for “season” on pages 753-754 the November 26, 1858 Evening Standard is quoted as an example.
For all of you that are eager to get a look at this volume it looks like only one library in the area will be getting a copy of it. According to the library catalog the New Bedford Free Public Library has a copy on order.
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.
The baseball history world is shocked to learn of the death of one of its notable historians, Frederick Ivor-Campbell, who was killed in the tragic and senseless automobile accident on I-195 this past Friday. Mr. Ivor-Campbell was a supporter of my efforts to establish a vintage base ball club in the area. He came to Mattapoisett in August of 2007 to see the vintage ball game as part of Mattapoisett’s 150th anniversary celebration. I was surprised and delighted when he approached me just before the game and introduced himself along with his wife Alma. He vaguely remembered Mattapoisett’s 100th anniversary and fondly recalled the difficulties of visiting his wife in Marion before they married due to lack of transportation. I jokingly offered to put him in the game at third base which with good humor he refused.
I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Mr. Ivor-Campbell over the past few years from time to time, sharing information about the early game of baseball. He has been a source of inspiration for me in my research and encouraging me in my pursuit of my various research projects.
He was a member of the Society of American Baseball Research and was awarded SABR’s highest honor, the Bob Davids Award in 2003. While research in to the early game of baseball appeared to have been a passion of his, he once admitted to being distracted by good weather and new books at the public library. That is something I can related to and appreciate.
His wife Alma was injured in the accident and I understand she is in good spirits despite the circumstances. I hope for the best for her and their family.
A vintage ball practice was held on Sunday and it was pretty successful. We had a very nice turn out and we will go at it again this Sunday. I have created a new site for the club at
I thought I should keep the ball club and the historical research separate from each other. I still plan to maintain this site as I do research. Things have been slow lately as I haven’t been able to break away to dig in to research. So check out the new site for updates on the club’s progress. It is named the Ironsides Base Ball Club after the original club of the same name that played in New Bedford in 1858.
There appears to be a reviving interest in getting a vintage base ball team together. If you are interested in playing please let me know. I would like to organize a get together soon so everyone can swing a heavy bat and check out the vintage base balls (They are much softer and will not kill your gloveless hand. I promise.)
Hopefully the photos below will inspire you to get involved. You don’t have to have a whole lot of playing experience or be in shape for that matter. I haven’t played baseball in 7 years and I am getting incredibly winded typing this.
Most of the vintage clubs out there have their schedules in place but I would like to get people together to get a feel for playing vintage ball and go from there. Drop me a line here or at info [at] scvbb.org. Also, feel free to join us on our Facebook Group.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.