For those who might be interested in viewing the Library of Congress webinar I wrote about a couple days ago, the LoC has provided a link to access a WebEx recording of the webinar here: http://login.icohere.com/vploc?pnum=IEJ61530.
For some folks, the link does bring you to a page that asks you to “log in” (by which they mean provide your name and email). I don’t know if you would be prevented from viewing the presentation if you did not participate in the original webinar, but I suppose it is worth trying.
WebEx will want you to download a player to display the recording. In our experience, using Internet Explorer as your browser is the easiest option if you do not already have a WebEx player on your computer or do not wish to install anything, though all major web browsers are supported. If you are asked to provide a name and an email address, type in the same ones that you provided with your registration. You may find that you have to wait a minute or two before the recording begins; if so, you may see a message that it is “buffering.”
If you find you are unable to view the presentation, LoC has also provided a .pdf of the presentation slides here: https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/baseball/BatterUp.pdf. You don’t get the audio descriptions that accompany it, but you can at least scroll through the visuals of the items they shared from the library’s collections.
Yesterday, I took part in the Library of Congress’s online webinar entitled “Batter Up! Baseball at the Library of Congress.” Hosted by Peter Armenti of the LoC, the webinar covered the early years of the game, sharing a variety of slides from the LoC’s collection.
Bat and ball games have been around in a variety of forms for a long, long time. What I didn’t realize was that versions of bat and ball games went back as far as ancient Egypt (though, the concept of hitting a ball with some form of club is honestly very elementary, so I don’t know why this surprised me).
The webinar debunks the Abner Doubleday myth, which claimed Doubleday invented the game in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, pointing out that early incarnations of baseball existed well ahead of the time of Doubleday’s supposed founding of the game. For example, a game known as “Base Ball” was referred to in The Pretty Little Pocket Book in 1787, though the images of the game in said book look nothing like today’s pastime.
Base Ball gets referenced in a number of sources after that, including this 1823 article:
Industrialization and urbanization in the nineteenth century contributed to the rapid growth of the game. Other sports, including horse racing and boxing, were popular at the time, but the appeal for these did not match the appeal of baseball. Over time, the separation between work and play grew more pronounced in America, and baseball became a popular form of leisure in the off hours of industrial workers. Over time, the rules of the game evolved, and in the mid-nineteenth century, the New York Knickerbockers were founded, leading to a greater standardization of baseball rules.
The webinar goes into the development and codification of rules, including the establishment the 90-foot distance between bases, nine players per side, the elimination of “soaking,” and so on. There were two versions of the game at first, the Massachusetts and the New York games, but in the end, the New York version of baseball won out.
In the meantime, baseball spread rapidly, including a club in San Francisco in the mid-1800s that became California’s first (known) ball club. The outbreak of the Civil War also contributed to the spread of baseball’s popularity.
Baseball was also being played within the black population in the late-nineteenth century, and women also participated in the game as well. The webinar did not go into a lot of detail regarding these, but it did at least touch on them.
In 1868, it became allowed (publicly) for players to get played (some players had been receiving under-the-table compensation prior to this). In September of that year, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional ball team, bringing an end to the amateur baseball era. The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players then became established in 1871, then today’s NL was established in 1876.
The Doubleday myth, as we know now, was the brainchild of Albert Spalding and the Mills Commission at the turn of the century. Spalding despised the idea that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders, as was argued by Henry Chadwick, and thus he set out to prove its American origins. Spalding released the commission’s findings of baseball’s origins in 1905. The results were deemed official by the end of 1907, then published in Spalding’s Base Ball Guide in 1908.
The webinar picks apart the arguments of the Mills Commission, pointing out that it is not possible that Doubleday could have invented baseball. Doubleday’s own lack of mentioning the game aside, the events outlined by the commission regarding baseball’s findings did not match up with the events of Doubleday’s life.
The webinar concluded with a brief question-and-answer session. The bit about ancient Egypt aside, I can’t say I learned much new from the session, which naturally is going to happen when you attend a webinar about something you like to study anyhow. However, it’s always nice to get a refresher on things, and the Library of Congress did a great job with this.
This piece was published in the short-lived National Daily Baseball Gazette on April 20, 1887, and it is believed to be among the first-ever poems inspired by the game of baseball. I wasn’t able to find a title nor an author for the piece, but it is interesting to read, including the note about butterfingers.
Then dress, then dress, brave gallants all,
Don uniforms amain;
Remember fame and honor call
Us to the field again.
No shrewish tears shall fill our eye
When the ball club’s in our hand,
If we do lose we wil not sigh,
Nor plead a butter* hand.
Let piping swain and craven jay
Thus weep and puling cry,
Our business is like men to play,
Or know the reason why.
*Hence the term “butter-fingers,” which, twenty years ago, was applied to a man or a boy who didn’t hold a ball.
The last minor league appearance of Cy Young’s career took place on July 25, 1890. In the game against McKeesport (Pennsylvania), the 23-year-old Young threw a no-hitter, striking out 18 batters in the process.
On July 12, 1897, Louisville outfielder Tom McCreery hit three home runs off Philadelphia right-hander Jack Taylor. The three four-baggers provided the difference in the Colonels’ 10-7 victory over the Phillies at the Baker Bowl. Each of the outfielder’s round-trippers were inside-the-park home runs, which makes me wonder about Philadelphia’s defense.
For anyone who is going to be in the Washington, D.C. area in the near future, this looks like a fascinating opportunity to learn about the Library of Congress’s baseball collections. The LoC currently has a Baseball Americana exhibit featuring items from their collections and from their partners as they relate to the game’s history. You can find information about the exhibit and some of the online collections on their website.
Then on Friday, July 13th, the LoC is teaming up with JSTOR labs, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Wikimedia for an event that appears to be a sort of mini conference featuring not only the collections, but also a panel on baseball, data, and American culture. The poster for the event is below, and more information can be found through Eventbrite here.
These are just a couple events associated with the exhibit. More information regarding additional events can be found here. It’s one of those things that makes me wish I had a bit more flexibility for travel, because I’d totally go to check some of this stuff out if I could. If anyone reading any of this happens to attend any (or all!) of these, please report back here!
The Chicago Colts (later know as the Cubs) of the National League established the record for most runs scored in a game by one team on June 29, 1897 when they destroyed the Louisville Colonels in a 36-7 rout. The modern NL record would be set by the Cardinals in 1929 when they beat the Phillies, 28-6, at Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl.