"Base Ball" Match Played at Arcularius Hotel at Pelham Bridge in 1875
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Slowly the ancient archives are giving up the storied history of the game of baseball played in nineteenth century Pelham. Indeed, I have written extensively about the history of the sport in our Town. For a lengthy bibliography of articles with links, see the conclusion of today's posting.
On June 11, 1875, more than sixty Yonkers residents gathered on the grounds of the Arcularius Hotel at Pelham Bridge to enjoy a social gathering and clambake and to watch two teams of fifteen players each play what was described as an "old fashioned game" of "base ball." Indeed, the article strongly suggests that the "old men" who played that day had played the sport for many, many years since the time of their youth. As one account put it: "old men became young again, and all played with a vim which betokened stiff joints for several days to come."
The same account describes the mid-19th century equipment in fascinating terms. For example, the players used a "flat bat" more in the nature of a cricket bat than a modern, round baseball bat. (Townball, considered a predecessor to modern baseball, sometimes involved the use of a flat bat.) The players also used a "soft ball" -- something well understood by modern aficionados who play vintage versions of "base ball" well understand is quite necessary when playing without the equivalent of a modern baseball glove with which to catch the ball and protect the hands. The players also used what were described as "the long bases . . . of course." This reference to "long bases" is a bit puzzling since one-square-foot bases had been in use since at least the late 1850s.
The Veteran Base Ball Club was organized in Yonkers in 1873. According to an account published in the New York Times in 1882, since its founding in 1873, the Club had a tradition of holding a grand Clam Bake "by way of toning its muscles up to the necessary event." See BRAVE MEN AT THE BAT, N.Y. Times, Jun. 22, 1882, p. 5, col. 4 (Note: Paid subscription required to access via this link). That tradition was followed in the game at Pelham Bridge in 1875.
The officers of the Veteran Base Ball Club included an officer with the title "caterer" -- emphasizing the prominence and importance of the social component of 19th century baseball matches in the region when games often were associated with lavish repasts planned well in advance of the competition. Indeed, the office of caterer was one of the most important in this instance.
The weather was perfect on June 11, 1875. By 7:30 a.m., Yonkers residents streamed onto the roadways toward Pelham Bridge. Some paid to ride in stage coaches. Most used their own conveyances. All were headed to the Arcularius Hotel at Pelham Bridge, a hotel built from the old Lorillard Cottage that once stood near the southern end of today's Pelham Bridge and where the famous Pelham "Tally Ho" coach operated by Col. Delancey Kane once stopped.
I have written before about the Arcularius Hotel and published pictures of the resort. See, e.g.:
Tue., May 17, 2016: Rare Images of the Lorillard Cottage of "Coaching to Pelham" Fame.
Thu., Jan. 21, 2016: Research Regarding David Blizzard's 19th Century Grand View Hotel at Pelham Bridge (scroll down to section on Arcularius Hotel).
The game was played that day on a "broad smooth lawn in front" of the hotel (rather than the sweeping lawn behind the hotel that sloped to meet the waters of Long Island Sound). The field was surrounded by trees with "ample shade" for spectators and, indeed, "the wide shade of the trees was eagerly sought by the lookers-on at the sport."
Near the waters of the Sound on the hotel lawn was a noble old tree. Beneath that tree, there were tables set up for a giant, pre-game "clambake and chowder." At 11:00 a.m., all ballplayers and spectators gathered at the tables beneath the noble tree for a wonderful repast described in one account as follows: "This was of the very best, and the pile of empty shells at the close was the best of witness as to the enjoyment of the partakers. The less said about individuals in this matter the better."
As soon as the clambake and chowder was over, everyone adjourned to the "ball ground." There, two community leaders chose teams of fifteen from the attendees. Two men were chosen for "keeping tally" and a former President of the Club was designated as the umpire of the match.
Clearly the competition was for fun. The later published account of the match noted "[a]musing incidents were frequent" and "the sport went on amid constant laughter and good feeling." The match lasted for hours, until 4:00 p.m.
Who won? We'll never know. The match was important enough to appoint two tally keepers to keep the score, but was not important enough to report the results in the published account of the festive day. Indeed, the end of the match did not mark the end of the festive day.
At 4:00 p.m., the thirty ballplayers and all the spectators were summoned to prepare for dinner. A local newspaper reported:
"The sumptuous feast was served in the long parlors of the old mansion, and was, like everything else during the day, first class. . . . The dinner itself was excellently served, and the most satisfactory the club has yet received, which is a great deal to say in view of the past."
As service of the meal concluded, speeches followed. Interestingly, a formal "report of the game" was made to the gathering. The keepers of the tally then announced that, for the third time, Rev. L. W. Mudge had scored more runs in the match than any other player. Given that this was the third annual "base ball match" of the club, it seemed quite an accomplishment. A "cup was presented," thought it appears we never will know not only the score of the game, but also the number of runs Reverend Mudge scored.
Following presentation of the cup, "[o]ther addresses followed, and then after a short time the party gradually wended their way homeward, thoroughly satisfied with the day and the sport."
What was the significance of that social event at Pelham Bridge on a beautiful day nearly 150 years ago? Put simply, the "National Game" of the United States was still in the midst of being born (or at least was still stumbling along in its toddler years). The sport was being interwoven with the social fabric of our region. Such matches, where the social aspect was at least as important as the athletic battle, left importantly pleasant memories in the minds of all who played and who watched. Such memories eventually influenced the youngsters of those who played and watched that day. Such trickles of pleasant baseball memories washed into small streams of such memories that flooded toward a tidal wave that presaged the rise of our National Pastime. Pelham, it seems, was part of the trickle.
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"VETERAN BASE BALL CLUB -- On Friday evening last the Vets met at the Getty House, and elected Matt H. Ellis, President; O. A. Bills, Treasurer; Kellogg Francis, Secretary, and Jacob Read, Caterer. Next Friday was fixed for the ball match, on the old Lorillard grounds at Pelham Neck. A meeting is called for to-night to complete arrangements. Next Friday the editor of THE STATESMAN may be discovered in the vicinity of the Caterer's base."
Source: VETERAN BASE BALL CLUB, The Yonkers Statesman, Jun. 4, 1875, Vol. XX, No. 1007, p. 3, col. 2.
ANNUAL GAME OF THE VETERAN BASE BALL CLUB.
A Delightful Day and a Good Time.
Last Friday, the 11th of June, was a red-letter day in the calendar of 1875, being the day of the third annual excursion of the Yonkers Veteran Base Ball Club. The weather was charming, and as early as half-past seven o'clock in the morning, the greater portion were on their way to the rendezvous. Some went in four-horse stages, but the greater number in their own conveyances. The place chosen was the old Lorillard mansion and grounds, which have been turned into a place of summer resort, under the management of Mr. Arcularius. This beautiful spot is very near the Pelham Bridge, and contains every advantage for a most enjoyable day in the sort of pleasure upon which the VETERANS were bound. The mansion itself is very spacious, with piazzas front and rear, affording excellent opportunities for social chat and pleasure. The broad smooth lawn in front, skirted with ample shade, was the perfection of a field for the old fashioned game, and the wide shade of the trees was eagerly sought by the lookers-on t the sport. In the rear of the house is another lawn, sloping down to the waters of the Sound, at the edge of which, under the shade of a noble tree were the tables for the morning lunch. The water view was beautiful, with Fort Schuyler and Willett's Point in the distance; and in the afternoon the scene was varied by a perfect cloud of eastern bound schooners, no less than sixty being counted at one time.
The morning was passed in waiting for the stragglers on the road, preparing for the game, and in general social intercourse, until promptly at 11 o'clock the guests were summoned to lunch in the shape of a huge clam-bake and chowder. This was of the very best, and the pile of empty shells at the close was the best of witness as to the enjoyment of the partakers. The less said about individuals in this matter the better. After lunch the entire party adjourned to the ball ground, where sides of fifteen were chosen by Supervisor Read and Col. Prosens, with Capt. Van Sice and Mr. Beach keeping tally,. and Ex-President Carpenter in his old position as umpire. It is hard to say who enjoyed the game the more, the players or the spectators. The old soft ball and flat bat, with the long bases, were used of course. Amusing incidents were frequent, old men became young again, and all played with a vim which betokened stiff joints for several days to come. So the sport went on amid constant laughter and good feeling, until at 4 o'clock all were summoned to prepare for dinner.
The sumptuous feast was served in the long parlors of the old mansion, and was, like everything else during the day, first class. At the head sat President Ellis, supported on either side by Revs. R. M. Stratton and L. W. Mudge. Among the sixty who graced the board were representatives of all classes of our citizens -- Ex-Supervisor Dusenberry, Water Commissioner Ethan Flagg, President Olmsted, Street Commissioner Peene, Mr. Johnson, of the New Brunswick Fredonian, Ex-Alderman Radcliff, and everybody else. The dinner itself was excellently served, and the most satisfactory the club has yet received, which is a great deal to say in view of the past. At the close occurred the usual after dinner speeches. President Ellis called the gathering to order, and after a neat address, requested a report of the game. The keepers of the tally having announced that Rev. L. W. Mudge had, for the third time, scored the most runs, the new cup was presented, in a characteristic speech, by Rev. R. M. Stratton, D. D. and appropriately responded to by Rev. Mr. Mudge. Other addresses followed, and then after a short time the party gradually wended their way homeward, thoroughly satisfied with the day and its sport.
The Veteran Base Ball Club is certainly the institution of our city, its name being a convenient one for this annual picnic of our citizens. The place chosen this year, we think, by the unanimous vote of the party, will be declared the most desirable that could be found for future gatherings. This choice of place, and the perfection of the arrangements, with all the minute attention to endless particulars so necessary for the success of such a day, are the work of our worthy Supervisor and caterer of the club, Jacob Read, ably seconded in all matters by Treasurer Ellis. 'Honor to whom honor is due.' Those gentlemen were indefatigable, as in past years, in their endeavors to anticipate every want and fulfil [sic] every expectation. The enthusiastic thanks they received were more than merited, and it to any one thing more than another the Veteran Base Ball Club is indebted for these repeated occasions of delightful recreation, it is to their excellent appointments of officers."
Source: THE BAT! ANNUAL GAME OF THE VETERAN BASE BALL CLUB -- A Delightful Day and Good Time, The Yonkers Statesman, Jun. 18, 1875, Vol. XX, No. 1009, p. 3, col. 4.
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I have written more than forty articles regarding the history of baseball in Pelham and early baseball games played in the Town of Pelham. Below is a listing, with links, of some of my previous postings on the topic of 19th century baseball in Pelham.
Thu., Feb. 18, 2016: More on the Storied History of 19th Century Baseball in Pelham.
Tue., Dec. 15, 2015: The 1894 Baseball Season in Pelham, New York.
Tue., Sep. 22, 2015: Two Newly-Discovered 19th Century Accounts of Baseball Played in Pelham.
Thu., Jun. 18, 2015: More Early References to 19th Century and Early 20th Century Baseball in Pelham.
Mon., Dec. 22, 2014: Rare 1889 Photograph of Baseball Players Playing on Pelham Field.
Wed., Nov. 26, 2014: More Early References to Baseball Played in Pelham.
Thu., Nov. 13, 2014: Baseball Crowds in Pelham Got Out Of Hand in 1896.
Fri., Sep. 12, 2014: Reference to an 1884 Baseball Game Between the Country Club of Pelham and Calumet.
Thu., Jul. 31, 2014: Fascinating Account of Baseball Game Played at Pelham Bridge in 1878.
Mon., Jul. 28, 2014: Additional 19th Century References to Baseball Being Played in Pelham.
Tue., Apr. 08, 2014: More 19th Century References to Baseball in the Town of Pelham.
Fri., Mar. 28, 2014: Earliest Evidence Yet! Baseball Was Played in Pelham Only Months After the Civil War Ended.
Thu., Mar. 20, 2014: 19th Century Baseball in Pelham - Newly-Discovered References.
Tue., Feb. 16, 2010: Photograph of Only Known 19th Century Women's Baseball Team in Pelham, New York.
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.
Thu., 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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