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.

Vintage ball at Tabor

Yesterday morning, Joe the star second baseman of the Mattapoisett 150th game and I made a trip to Tabor Academy to give a demonstration on how to play 19th century base ball. The Tabor students have the luck to be offered an elective English course during their senior year called “Baseball in American Society”. The students learn about the role of baseball in society and history with an emphasis on reading and writing about baseball. How cool is that? Among the readings for the course are Shadow Ball, The Natural and Shoeless Joe. There are colleges and universities that teach baseball and culture themed classes. I seem to remember at one time there was a class taught at Umass Dartmouth relating to the 1919 Chicago White Sox as a labor history course.

Joe Sheridan (left), Kyle DeCicco-Carey (right) Tabor Academy, Marion, Mass. 04/21/2008

The Tabor teacher, Tom Jaillet, tries to get the students to experience playing 19th century baseball including the Massachusetts Game. This year he invited Joe and me out to demonstrate vintage base ball to the students. We met at the softball diamond and I quickly went over some of the basic, quirky rules of the New York game circa 1860. But the best way to learn is to do. The students took the field while Joe pitched and I caught. Overall the fielding displayed by the Tabor 10 or 11 students was excellent. Playing ball with out gloves did not deter them one bit. Barehanded fly balls were caught with ease and after one or two one-hop infield hits the students remembered that those were indeed outs. I would place this bunch a step above a muffin nine and with some work they could be one of the best crack clubs on the south coast of Massachusetts since 1877.

Vintage base ball talk at Tabor Academy, 4.21.2008. Image by Tom Jailett

Ironsides play ball! Ironsides on YouTube!

Due to a last minute cancellation by the Cornish Game Hens of Providence, the Ironsides Base Ball Club was asked to fill in for a match game against the Bristol Blues in picturesque South Dartmouth on Saturday. Unfortunately for many members of the Ironsides BBC the announcement to join the game was too short of a notice to attend the games. However, representing the Ironsides along with me were Judy Wallace and Dave Gries along with newcomers Rick Crosby and Steve Rezendes.

Game one started at approximately 1:00 and was played in the style played in the year 1886. Seven balls was all that was needed for a batter to receive a free pass to first base and a hit batters only reward was to stand at home plate and take another shot at hitting. Only one batter was hit during the game (and lived to tell about it) and no one received a free pass via a called 7th ball. Batters were able to call for the pitcher to throw a high or low pitch. On the field the players, with the exception of the catcher, played with out the aid of a gloved hand.

The Ironsides were split up for the first game with the members of the club playing on opposing sides. Steve Rezendes played short stop on a team consisting of three players from the Game Hens, employees from Concordia Company and a Bristol Blue or two. Rick Crosby and I played on the team that was made up mostly of the Bristol Blues. Rick played left field and I had the misfortune of being stuck in right field were I saw no action.

A close seven inning game was played with the scored was tied at 1-1 going in to the 7th. The Bristol Blues scored a run in the 7th to pull off a 2-1 victory.

The second game was started after a lengthy break due to good food, drink and magic bars. The rules of 1861 were played for the second game. Again, the Ironsides were split up for the game. Rick and I played with the Game Hens and some Blues. Rick was stationed at third and I was at second. Judy and Dave played in the second game at left field and second base respectively.

Steve had to leave after the first game and I had to leave during the progress of the second game. The report is that the club with the majority of Blues lost the match in 8 innings of play by a score of 8-4. Everyone played well and the addition of Steve and Rick is a hopeful sign that the Ironsides can come together with a full squad to play on a regular basis for next season.

A record of hits and runs made by the players was not kept for the game. The innings and score was kept by the Bristol Blues’ faithful umpire. The games greatly contributed to the moral improvement of the Ironsides who have had to find other forms of entertainment to keep them occupied while not playing.

Thanks to Stuart MacGregor and John Simmons for inviting us out and a thanks to Concordia for providing the play ground and refreshments.

Ironsides ballist Judy Wallace reported a video is circulating on YouTube. It is a short (2 minute) video of the Mattapoisett 150th game with the Bristol Blues and Essex Base Ball Club. The video says the game was a circa 1855 game. It was actually 1861 rules we played. And the Bristol Breakers is actually the Blues misidentified. Check it out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9WfolZYpgU  (Click on the link. The embedded video does not work).