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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Important Information About Early Baseball in Pelham Including a Game Against the Monitors of Brooklyn

Baseball is upon us again!  It is time for pitchers and catchers to report to the Port St. Lucie training facility of the New York Mets and to the Tampa training facility of the New York Yankees.  It seems, therefore, time to provide a little more background on the history of 19th century baseball in Pelham.

As the sport of baseball grew increasingly popular and became our "National Pastime" during the 19th century, Pelhamites played the game with gusto.   As early as the 1860s until the end of the century, there were many "base ball clubs" founded on City Island and in Pelhamville and Pelham Manor.   Unsurprisingly, records of these various clubs no longer seem to exist given their recreational and social focus.   Thus, we are left to piece together what can be gleaned from an incomplete collection of local newspapers to develop some semblance of a history of the rise of the sport in Pelham.

Today's article provides important information about the most famous and successful 19th century Pelham Baseball team:  the "Country Club Giants."  It also provides information about an interesting baseball game played by a City Island team and a well-known African-American team, the Monitors of Brooklyn, on City Island on July 4, 1883.

The Country Club Giants and Their Rival:  The New York Knickerbockers

The Country Club at Bartow that once stood along today's Shore Road had a baseball field that was the scene of grand and well-attended ballgames throughout the 1880s.  Indeed, the sport of baseball clearly was important to members of the Club.  Today we learn that the Country Club's biggest baseball rival was the New York Knickerbockers.  

The famed New York Knickerbockers club was an early baseball club founded by Alexander Cartwright, an early baseball proponent who helped shape modern aspects of the game.  The team is believed by some to have worn the earliest recorded baseball uniform.  Members of the club formulated a famous set of twenty "Knickerbocker Rules" that confirmed aspects of the game that continue to this day.

Throughout the 1880s, the Country Club Giants of Pelham played the Knickerbockers for challenge cups.  Typically, the Country Club Giants won.  At the time, the nine players who formed the Country Club team included:  J. G. Agar, E. R. Ader, E. M. Ader, G. A. Ader, S. H. Furman, D. P. Morgan, W. F. Morgan, W. H. Sands, and C. G. Treat.  

In 1888, the Country Club displayed prominently in its clubhouse on Shore Road two silver challenge cups.  The first cup was inscribed "Baseball Challenge Cup" and included engravings indicating that the Country Club Giants won the cup in 1884, 1885, and 1886.  We know from prior research that the team played the Knickerbockers in such annual challenges.  

The second silver challenge cup was inscribed "Knickerbocker Baseball Challenge Cup" and reflected that the Country Club of Pelham won that challenge cup in "June, 1887."

City Island Team Played the Monitors of Brooklyn on July 4, 1883

The material below also reflects an interesting baseball game played on City Island on July 4, 1883.  According to the brief account, a group styling itself the "James Hyatt Baseball Club" of City Island organized solely for the match that day and never even practiced before the game.  The newly-organized City Island club played the Monitors of Brooklyn.

The Monitors of Brooklyn was an established and successful African-American baseball team that had played in the region for at least twenty years.  The Monitors defeated the James Hyatt Baseball Club 14 to 10.  Immediately following the game, the Monitors "enjoyed a genuine Rhode Island clam bake, at the expense of the City Island club."  A local newspaper proudly noted that " When it is considered that the City Islanders have had no practice, merely organizing for the occasion, the score was a very close one."

19th Century Baseball Game Like Those Played in Pelham.

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Below is the text of two articles that contain brief references that form the basis of today's article.  The articles are transcribed in full, however, because they contain a wealth of additional information of interest to those who are students of Pelham history, particularly the New York Herald article that contains an extensive description of the Country Club at Bartow, its clubhouse, and its grounds.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.


The cutter Surf, recently built by Mr. Byles, has been hauled out at Robinson & Co.'s yard, for additional ballast.  She now carries nine tons, and two more tons are to be added.

Mr. Thomas Collins's new dwelling, on Main street, is inclosed [sic] and painted.  It will soon be completed.  Mr. James D. Bell owns the adjoining lot, and expects to build thereon.  The island is rapidly building up.  

An entertainment of a musical and literary character was to have been given by some of the members of the M. E. Church, on Tuesday evening last, but owing to the unusual amount of sickness in the vicinity of the church, it was deemed best to postpone it until some future date.

Mr. Samuel P. Billar, a prominent resident of City Island, died of consumption, on Tuesday of last week, and was buried on Thursday, the the City Island Cemetery.  Mr. Billar was a member of Pelham Lodge, F. & A. M., and, commemorative of his decease, the front of the building in which the lodge meets has been draped.

Messrs. Robinson & Co. have, at their yard, the schooner Pierce, for a new deck and deck frame.  They expect a large schooner, next week, to rebuild.  They also find it necessary to have an additional marine railway, and will put one down.  Their present railways are capable of hauling a vessel of 1,000 tons.  The new ones will be about the same capacity.

The Board of Excise intend taking aggressive steps towards the liquor dealers of Pelham.  They have notified all hotel keepers, to make application for their licenses, at the next meeting of the board, which will be held August 6th, prox., and will take legal steps to close up all places selling without a license after that date.

One of the events in anticipation on City Island, is an entertainment to be given to the cavalry division of the Army of the Potomac, by Henry B. Hidden Post, G. A. R., at Starin's Island, some time in August.  Preparations for the entertainment are now being made.  Farnsworth Post, 170, is also in the list of those to be entertained by their City Island comrades, before the summer ends.

The game of baseball played on City Island, July 4th, between the James Hyatt Baseball Club and the Monitors of Brooklyn, resulted in  victory for the latter, by a score of 14 to 10.  Besides the honor of being the victors, the Brooklynites enjoyed a genuine Rhode Island clam bake, at the expense of the City Island club.  When it is considered that the City Islanders have had no practice, merely organizing for the occasion, the score was a very close one.

At Carll's shipyard, during the past week, the sloop yachts Kelpie, Varuna and Comfort have had spinacker [sic] booms put on and various repairs made.  The schooners Duryea and Mary E. Cuff have been on the ways for a general overhauling.  The schooner Sarah, which was in collision with a steam boat, at Hell Gate, a few days ago, is out for repairs, and the three-masted schooner John K. Shaw, was hauled out on Wednesday afternoon.  She is to be thoroughly overhauled."

Source:  CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 13, 1883, Vol. XIV, No. 721, p. 3, col. 3.  


A stag's foot hangs from a wire at the end of a small piece of scantling in front of the Country Club, and when the man, woman or child member, visitor or beggar calls there the natural instinct is to pull it and await the result.  In legislative parlance the pulling of a leg is equal to a ringing of the bell, and in this instance there is a combination of the two acts in one, although the august members are not supposed to be susceptible to what is vulgarly termed a strike.  The evident object of the ornamental pendant is to save the driver or rider the trouble of alighting or dismounting when it is desired to summon an attendant at the door.

When an emissary of the HERALD had driven down the villa lined road from New Rochelle and into the grounds of the Country Club, his intuition led him to do just exactly what was intended by the suspension of the tiny hair-fringed hoof.  A smart young man answered the call, and throwing open the door widely he vouchsafed the information that it was only a mile or so to the Bartow station, on the Harlem River branch of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and so, as there was no necessity for detaining it, the conveyance was sent back whence it had come.  What an air of rural elegance there was within the wide corridors and big rooms of the old building situated within acres of its own grounds and facing the swelling bosom of the Sound!


The Country Club!  Who has not heard of it?  It is a landmark for all the villages around, as was attested by Blacksmith Burns' remark to a policeman at New Rochelle, when Mr. Lynch drove by in his buckboard, with his broad brimmed hat fluttering in the breeze.  He said, 'That little roan horse is the toughest in Westchester county.  He can keep up that three minute gait from here down to the Country Club.'  What a wholesome sound is there to the name, 'The Country Club?'  It seems to ring with rural music -- the baying of hounds, neighing of hunters, crack of guns, snapping of whips and shouts of stable boys.

Within the office was a heap of gun cases, which led to the remark on the part of the young man in charge that the last pigeon match of the winter season was shot off last Saturday.  Do they have many matches?  Well, they kill about fifteen thousand pigeons in a year.  And so it readily appeared, for the grassy plot without for about a quarter of an acre was enclosed with a netting fence, within whose confines were the traps and other paraphernalia necessary to such sport.

It is not, however, to this pastime only that the Country Club devotes its attention.  There are hunters in its stables, hounds in its kennels and trophies in its lockers which tell stories of the various accomplishments.  

The Pelham steeplechases are well known all the country round as events of fashionable importance.  A race track is constructed within a field just across the Pelham highway [i.e., today's Shore Road], and it is there that the crack riders meet every autumn and where they will meet this spring.  The course is three miles in extent, including a trip around its circumference and diagonally across its area and then a short stretch down the centre.  There are a grand stand, boxes, a saddling paddock, a private road from the railroad station, a judge's stand and all the necessary appurtenances to a properly appointed race track.  The obstacles to be leaped in the races include a cornstalk hurdle, a turf bank, a slat fence and a water jump.  The entries for the coming steeplechase have already been announced in the HERALD.  They are open to any one paying the entrance fee, the gentlemen riders having an allowance of seven pounds.


Under the head of 'Polo' the announcement is made on the club bulletin board that 'at a meeting of the representatives of the Meadow Brook, the Rockaway County and Essex County clubs, the conditions adopted are $100 each for teams of four, only $20 forfeit if declared out a week before the match; no forfeit if team plays.  The Rockaway club announces that the Schenck Cup, now held by them, be played for on the grounds on June 9.  Should there be more than one entry ten entries will be drawn by lot, and the second game played June 16.  The Country Club Cup, also held by the Rockaway club will be played for on the grounds of the Country Club at Pelham on June 30.  Entries close June 1.  Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays are the days selected for practice, and on Saturday sides will be chosen to play for pewter mugs.  H. N. Potter, chairman; E. C. Potter and J. C. Cooley, Polo Committee.'

Thus it will be seen that polo is one of the delights affected by the Country Club.  They will begin to practise next week, and it is said they are going in to bring home their cup from its present abiding place in the home of the Rockaway Country Club.

A sharp contrast of tastes is presented in the pictures hanging in the office of the Country Club and in the billiard room adjoining.  But this is simply an indication of the wide cultivation of men who have the time and means to devote themselves to pleasure.  In the first place there are portraits of the celebrated women of society -- Lady Colin Campbell, the Duchess of Montrose, Miss Gordon Ives, Miss Scott, Lady Wolseley, Viscomtess [sic] Tarbat, Miss Shute, Mrs. Lart, the Princess Helen Rhandir Singh and Miss Mabel Newton.  On the other hand were pictures of the Prince of Wales and Lord Cork, in his green coat, going to the hunt, and the jockeys Archer, Cannon, and Fordham.


That the Country Club hunts the brush is famous.  A fox stands over the door in the billiard room as a relic of one of these occasions.  Down in the kennels were found eighteen couples of sniffing foxhounds ready at a moment's notice to take up the scent and go scampering over the country, whether it be in chase of the real animal or only the elusive anise seed bag.

'We will not have a meet of the hounds this year,' said Mr. Howard Nott Potter, who happened into the club from his country seat near by, attired in leggings and corduroy vest.  'The blizzard has kept the spring back so that we come from winter almost into summer.  The ground is now too heavy, and besides we wouldn't care to injure the farmers' early crops.'

The dogs are taken out for a scamper nearly every day.  The stablemen go on horseback, one in the lead and another in the rear as a whipper in to keep the pack together.  Several of the mottled beauties have big litters of puppies.

Baseball is not the least object of the Country Club's attention, and lawn tennis comes in for a large share of patronage.  A number of tennis tournaments will take place this summer, but as yet no dates have been fixed.  The courts are now undergoing preparatory repairs.  The Knickerbocker Club is the rival in baseball contests with the Country Club.  The latter holds two silver cups won from the Knickerbocker nine.  They bear these inscriptions: --

'Knickerbocker Baseball Challenge Cup -- Country Club, June, 1887.'

'Baseball Challenge Cup. -- 1884, won by Country Club; 1885, won by Country Club; 1886, won by Country Club team -- J. G. Agar, E. R. Ader, E. M. Ader, G. A. Ader, S. H. Furman, D. P. Morgan, W. F. Morgan, W. H. Sands, C. G. Treat.'


The Country Club is four years old and numbers 350 members.  The house it occupies was the manor house of Dr. Morris.  It contains between twenty and twenty-five rooms, which are divided into a parlor, billiard room, card room and dining room.  A big stable is attached capable of accommodating upward of a score of horses.  Some time ago the custom of driving the tantivy prevailed, but that has now been abandoned.  From its windows may be seen Hart Island, with its many white houses; City Island, noted for its shipbuilding; Hunter Island, joined to the mainland of Westchester by a causeway of masonry, and formerly the country seat of Mr. Oliver Iselin; Pelham Bay, and High Island, a mere knoll in the water.

'This property has been sold to the city and will be included in the new Pelham Park.' added Mr. Potter.  'We intend to move upon the Van Nest property near Throg's Neck.  The work of a new house will begin this summer, and the plans of architecture are now being drawn.  Our new place will be preferable to this in that it is a mile nearer New York and has a better water front.  We hope to become as much a yachting club as anything else.'


J. M. Waterbury is president of the Country Club and chairman of the Racing Committee.  Delancey A. Kane is vice president, Edward A. Haight secretary and John A. Ellis treasurer.  Among its members are August Belmont, Jr.; O. H. P. Belmont, Frederic Bronson, Carroll Bryce, S. Van Rensselaer Cruger, Francis Brockholst Cutting, William Cutting, Jr.; Arthur M. Dodge, J. Pierrepont Edwards, Stuyvesant Fish, F. Frelinghuysen, the Havemeyers, W. H. Heuriques, P. Cooper Hewitt, Center Hitchcock, Richard Irvin, Jr.; the Iselins, William M. Irvins, William Jay, Adolph Ladenburgh, R. M. Laimbeer, Charles Lanier, Herman R. Le Roy, the Lorillards, James B. Ludlow, William T. Lusk, J. Pierrepont Morgan, Richard Mortimer, Stanley Mortimer, Jordan L. Mott, Jr.; George W. Quintard, T. J. Oakley Rhinelander, the Roosevelts, George K. Sistare, Byam K. Stevens, Alexander Taylor, Jr.; H. McK. Twombly, Cornelius Vanderbilt, William C. Whitney, Edgerton L. Winthrop, and John A. Zeriga.  The following candidates are posted for election to membership: -- Percy R. King, proposed by P. L. Thebaud and seconded by Goold Hoyt; Frank G. Landon, by Percy R. Pyne, Jr., and John G. Agar; Martin J. de Garmendia, by John G. Agar and Ernest R. Adee; G. L. Knapp and F. Pearson, by Center Hitchcock and Philip Allen."


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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.

Fri., Sep. 30, 2016:  More on 19th Century Baseball in the Town of Pelham.

Thu., Jul. 21, 2016:  "Base Ball" Match Played at Arcularius Hotel at Pelham Bridge in 1875.

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.

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.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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