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, November 13, 2014

Baseball Crowds in Pelham Got Out Of Hand in 1896

Over the last fifteen years, research has revealed that from the mid-1860's through the end of the 19th century, the Town of Pelham was a hotbed of baseball activity.  Citizens of the town embraced the national pastime with gusto.  There were baseball grounds at Pelham Bridge, Bartow, City Island, in today's Pelham Manor, on the western edge of the Heights, and in Pelhamville.  In short, there were baseball grounds all over the Town of Pelham.  

The baseball grounds in the Village of Pelham (known today as the Heights and later merged with the Village of North Pelham to form today's Village of Pelham) were particularly popular and heavily used.  Ballplayers from all over the region from as far away as Staten Island and Yonkers and as near as Mount Vernon and New Rochelle traveled to the Village of Pelham baseball grounds to play ball. 

Baseball, at the time, could be a day-long affair ending with a glorious meal either hosted by the home team or, occasionally, paid for by the losing team after losing a bet on their own baseball prowess. Clearly, during the last quarter of the 19th century, baseball games in Pelham were truly social affairs that drew large crowds.

By 1896, the crowds for Sunday baseball games had grown too large, too unruly and out of control.  The noise of the raucous crowds disturbed the tiny new village known as the Village of Pelham.  The entire population was fed up with Sunday baseball.  During the summer of 1896, the Citizens League of the Village of Pelham voted to take steps to stop Sunday baseball.  Pelham may have picked the wrong game to make its move, however.  

On Sunday, August 9, 1896, Village President S.C. Caldwell marched to the field with local officials, local citizens, and armed constables as two teams and their fans gathered for another big game.  They told the players and the fans that due to noise and disorderly crowds, no game would be permitted on the field and no baseball would be allowed on Sundays any longer.  One of the two team captains stepped forward and scribbled a note on a piece of paper and handed it to President Caldwell.  It read:  "But we are not noisy people."  It turned out that the captain led a team of "deaf mutes of St. Francis Xavier's Institute in New York."  The St. Francis Xavier's team was preparing to play a Yonkers team on the Pelham field.

The Pelhamites recognized that the situation "was a stickler" but stuck to their guns:  no more Sunday baseball in the Village of Pelham!  The players and crowds stayed until the evening to no avail.  Sunday would be a day of rest in the Village of Pelham.  The national pastime  would have to wait.

"Against Sunday Ball

Sunday baseball playing in the town of Pelham reached a climax yesterday, as many expected that it would, after reading the decision which the Citizens League made at its last meeting to put an end to the practice.  Yesterday, as usual, the noisy crowds and their followers were on hand.  Every arrangement was made for a lively game between a Yonkers team and the deaf-mutes of St. Francis Xavier's Institute, in New York.  As the teams lined up on the grounds they were surprised to find that President Caldwell, of the village, Justice of the Peace Young, John Fairchild, brother of Congressman Fairchild, and other citizens, with a number of constables, had taken charge of the diamond.  The players were told that they could not proceed with the game, under penalty of the law.  The villagers said that they did not object so much to the playing of baseball as they did to the disorderly crowds.  Captain Lloyd, of the mutes, then wrote on a piece of paper.  'But we are not noisy people.'  This was a stickler.  A long wait followed, the villagers taking one side of the campus and the ball players and the audience the other.  But baseball playing was doomed, noise or no noise.  The large crowd waited patiently until six o'clock, and then left in disgust.  The Pelhamites were correspondingly happy, and declare that they have at last ushered in an era of peaceful and orderly Sundays. -- Yonkers Gazette."

Source:  Against Sunday Ball -- RESIDENTS OF PELHAM ARE DETERMINED TO PUT AN END TO IT, Deaf-Mutes' Journal, Aug. 13, 1896, Vol. XXV, No. 33, p. 2, col. 4.  

Undated Photograph (Ca. 1896) of the Pelham A.C. Jr. Baseball Team.
Although Difficult to See in This Low Resolution Version of the Image,
There Are Many Children Whose Eyes Can Be Seen Peering, and
Whose Fingers Extend, Through the Cracks Between the Boards Behind the Team.

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Below is a listing, with links, of my previous postings and a published article on the topic of 19th century baseball in Pelham.

Thu., Jan. 28, 2010:   News About Pelham Manor and Pelhamville in 1895 - Lighting Districts, Gas for the Village, Baseball and More.

Tue., Dec. 15, 2009:  Baseball Games Played by the City Island Beldenites and the City Island Rivals in 1884.  

Mon., Dec. 14, 2009:  Baseball Games Played by the City Island Shamrocks in 1889.  

Fri., Dec. 11, 2009:  Earliest Reference Yet to Baseball Played in Pelham.  

Thu., Dec. 10, 2009:  More 19th Century Baseball and Firefighting References

Wed., Dec. 9, 2009:  City Island Shamrocks Base Ball Club Changed its Name to the Minnefords in 1888.

Wed., Nov. 25, 2009:  Even More Early References to Baseball Played in Pelham.

Tue., Nov. 24, 2009:  Yet Another Reference to Early Baseball in Pelham.

Mon., Nov. 23, 2009:  Additional Brief Accounts of Baseball Played in Pelham in the 19th Century.

Fri., Nov. 20, 2009:  More Accounts of Early Baseball Played in Pelham.

Fri., Nov. 13, 2009:  1894 Account of Developments in Pelham Including a Reference to a Baseball Game Played that Year.

Thur., Nov. 12, 2009:  More Early References to Baseball Played in Pelham.

Wed., Sep. 30, 2009:   Score of June 1, 1887 Baseball Game Between the Country Club and The Knickerbocker Club.

Fri., Mar. 20, 2009:   Another Reference to 19th Century Baseball in Pelham.

Tue., Mar. 4, 2008:   Another Brief Reference to 19th Century Baseball in Pelham.

Mon., Nov. 26, 2007:  Box Score of a Baseball Game Played on Travers Island in Pelham Manor in July 1896.

Wed., Nov. 21, 2007:  Baseball on Travers Island During the Summer of 1897.

Fri., Jul. 20, 2007:  Account of Early Baseball in Pelham: Pelham vs. the New York Athletic Club on Travers Island in 1897.

Fri., Nov. 10, 2006: The Location of Another Early Baseball Field in Pelham.

Mon., Oct. 9, 2006:   Reminiscences of Val Miller Shed Light on Late 19th Century Baseball in Pelham and the Early Development of the Village of North Pelham.

Thu., Mar. 23, 2006:  Baseball Fields Opened on the Grounds of the Westchester Country Club in Pelham on April 4, 1884.  

Tue., Jan. 31, 2006:  Another Account of Baseball Played in Pelham in the 1880s Is Uncovered.  

Thu., Oct. 6, 2005:   Does This Photograph Show Members of the "Pelham Manor Junior Base Ball Team"?

Thu., Sep. 15, 2005:  Newspaper Item Published in 1942 Sheds Light on Baseball in 19th Century Pelham.  

Thu., Feb. 10, 2005:  New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham.  

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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