Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

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While researching and preparing my next local history article for The Pelham Weekly, I ran across even earlier references to baseball being played in Pelham than those previously known. The earliest reference now known to organized baseball in Pelham appeared in the June 7, 1885 issue of The New York Times. The article relates an account of a baseball game played in Pelham on June 3, 1885. The article also decribes baseball played in Pelham the previous summer. According to the account:

"On Wednesday a game of baseball was played on the polo grounds of the club between a nine composed of members of the Knickerbocker Club and one from the Country Club. The result of the game was the defeat of the Knickerbocker Club players by a score of 34 to 37. Last Summer the Country Club nine played a match game with the Knickerbockers and Calumeters. It is more than likely that a series of games will be played this Summer between the Country Club nine and nines formed from the members of the different clubs in this city." The World of Society, N.Y. Times, Jun. 7, 1885, p. 14.

Only a few weeks later another such article appeared in the August 16, 1885 issue of The New York Times. It suggested, apparently erroneously, that no baseball games had yet been played on the Country Club grounds that summer. The article also described baseball games played in Pelham during the previous summer in 1884. The reference, quoted in full, reads:

"Little has been heard of the Country Club this Summer. There have been no startling announcements and the games of baseball among members of the Country Club and those of several of the social clubs of New York, which were quite a feature there last . . . year, have not been taken up this season. Last year both the Calumet and Knickerbocker Clubs sent nines to Bartow, where they played several strong games against the Giants of the Country Club. The results of these games, I think, were always in favor of the visiting clubs, at least the majority of games were won by the New-Yorkers. Perhaps the famous nine of Bartow does not feel equal to competing for supremacy again this year. These visiting nines were always treated by the Giants with a great deal of consideration, and the 'spreads' they gave them after the games were worthy of an epicure." The World of Society, N.Y. Times, Aug. 16, 1885, p. 3.

The Country Club Giants drew their team members from the Country Club of Westchester County located near Bartow-on-Sound (roughly near today's Pelham Bit Stables on Shore Road in Pelham Bay Park, once part of the Town of Pelham). The Country Club of Westchester was Pelham's first country club. Founded in 1884, it reportedly was the "second organization of its kind established in the United States, its only predecessor being the Country Club of Boston." The Westchester Country Club, N.Y. Times, Jul. 18, 1897, p. IWM14.

The club was located on a property known as the Dr. Richard Morris place. When the land leased by the club was condemned for inclusion in Pelham Bay Park, the club moved to a 120-acre site on Throggs Neck, building a new clubhouse there in 1888. Id. According to the accounts quoted above, club members played organized baseball against other clubs from New York City during the year the club was founded.

Baseball seems to have been a widely played sport among Pelham youngsters at about this time. Indeed, according to one report published about steeplechase races sponsored at the Westchester Country Club in October 1886, during the lively races "around, all, like the ocean on the shield of Achilles, was the omnipresent, perpetually moving and whooping small boy, who played baseball when he was not looking at the races and yelled wildly when he was." Watching the Pony Races, N.Y. Times, Oct. 24, 1886, p. 14.

Baseball, of course, likely was played in Pelham for many years before 1884. References to the game that predate the summer of 1884, however, remain -- at least for now -- obscured by the mists of time.

If you would like to learn much more about baseball in early Pelham, see Bell, Blake. A., Baseball in Late 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 17, Apr. 23, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.
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