Friday, January 13, 2012


Every culture had it's form of stick and ball style game. They all had one thing in common, when you hit the ball you ran to a stake, spot, place or base as we know it today. The game of Rounders, first came to America back in colonial times and evolved into a game called 'Town Ball". Town Ball was played on a rectangular field with four stakes place sixty feet apart. The pitcher or tosser stood in the middle of this rectangular shaped field and tossed the ball towards the striker (batter or hitter) who was located at the mid-point between first and fourth stakes or bases.

The first organized ball club was formed in New York City in 1845, called the Knickerbockers. This would be almost two years before Syracuse became a city. The club's members met two or three times each week, first in Manhattan, then  across the Hudson River In New Jersey. The biggest weakness they found was a need for a set of playing rules. A committee was formed and Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. was given credit for getting these new rules formulated. The rules set up in 1845, included many principles contained in the baseball rules of today. For this reason Mr. Cartwright, is commonly referred to as "The Father of Baseball".

Mr. Cartwright and his committee were the first to establish the ball diamond as follows: The bases, shall be from home to second a total of 42 paces, both equidistant. The basis for an innings was when each team goes to bat in turn. The game consisted of 21 counts or aces, and at the end an equal number of innings must be played. The third rule states that the ball must be pitched: not thrown at the bat. Other rules say, that a ball knocked or hit outside the range of first and third base was a foul ball. Any player running the bases was out if the ball was in the hands of an opponent on that base and the runner was touched by it before he reached that base. Now a change from town ball rules, in no instant was the ball to thrown at the runner. When three players were called out, the side was out. Players were now to bat in regular order or in turn. All disputes were to be decided by the umpire with no appeal by a player.

These new rules made two other significant points. First, the pitching was set at 45 feet, and each team was limited to nine players on the field. To test these new rules, the Knickerbocker Ball Club setup a match games against the New York club. The game was to be played at Elysian Field located in Hoboken, New Jersey. This game was played on June 19, 1846.

Other important rules of the game. The pitcher was required to throw the ball underhanded, and bases had replaced the old Town Ball stakes. In 1845, rules listed that the ball was to weight between 5 1/2 and 6 ounces, and be between 2 3/4 and 3 1/2 inches in diameter. The major change in 1857 was the game were now based on a nine inning contest. A year later the pitcher was confined to an area located some 45 feet from home plate, and strikes were first introduced.

During the 1850's, more than 200 new baseball clubs had formed. Sixteen of these formed in 1857 what was called 'The National Organization of Baseball Players". They established for the first time a uniform playing code of players. It's most important rule was that its members could not accept money for playing.

Syracuse was an early hotbed for our national pastime. One local historian has written "That the youths played ball in the vicinity of Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse as early as the 1830's". Written evidence suggest that the organization of the Syracuse Baseball Club occurred in the winter of 1857-58.

George Gratton was elected as its first president. William H.H. Geer, Molton Avery and Frank Carroll filled the remaining team offices. Frank Carroll would become in later years the mayor of the City of Syracuse.

 The first organized games of the Syracuse Baseball Club were played in the fall of 1858. These games pitted the married against the single members of the club. Games were played on a vacant lot on Otisco Street (later the site of May School) and on Catherine Street, opposite Rose Hill Cemetery. The first contest was played on October 23, 1858 and won by the married members 31-20. Two other games followed that fall. In the rematch the singles prevailed 37-24, while the married took the final game 44-38.

The grounds at the corner of Fayette & Geddes streets hosted the first game by picked squads on November 5, 1858. Captained by William H. Geer and Frank Marsh ended with Geer's on the better end 30-24.

The members of the Syracuse Baseball Club of 1858 are as follows:

 Moulton H. Avery, George Barnes, James Barnes, William Beebe, Jacobus Bruyn, John G. Butler, August Cheney, Frank Carroll, William H. Geer, Sidney B. Gifford, George Gratton, John H. Ireland, John Kidder, James Mann, Frank Marsh, David McCelland, John McNamara, Alfred Moore, Franklyn Mosher, William Ostrander, Richard Paine, Richard Parker, Thomas Putman, Thomas Radcliff, George Redfield, Stiles Rust, John Ryan, John Sherman, H.C. Sherwood, W.D. Stafford, Charles Tamkins, James Tracey, Horace Wolpole, Alfred Wilkinson, John Wilkinson, A.C. Youngblood. Plus a list of.others who's first names are not listed include- Baker, Barker, Brockway, McFarland, Roberts & VanHouton,

Uniforms of the Syracuse Baseball Club consisted of long pants with a reversible belt. The belt was white on one side and black on the other that was used for choosing teams within the club. Team managers as we know it today hadn't been created. Players gathered on the playing field and picked captains and then team members were selected.

Under early playing rules a foul ball caught on one bounce retired the batter (or striker). But the  batter could use any length of bat as long as it didn't measure more than 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The umpire scored the game as well as officiating them. The players could only speak to the umpire when spoken to. Those who spoke out of turn received a $1.00 fine.

In a scrapbook owned by Richard H. Parker an original team members a listing of the clubs by-laws and constitution were found. There are some of the more interesting ones.

1. The ball must weigh no less than 6 oz.

2 The bat must be round and must not exceed 2 1/2 inches in diameter. It must be made of wood.

3. The tosser (pitcher) must deliver the ball as near as possible to the center of home base. The ball must be pitched not jerked or thrown to the bat. Whenever the hurler draws back his hand with the apparent purpose or pretension to deliver the ball, he shall deliver it and must have neither foot in advance and if he falls in either of these, then it shall be declared a balk. A player making home base shall be entitled to score one run.

5 If three balls are struck at and missed and the last one not caught on the fly or first bounce it shall be considered fair and the batter must attempt to make his run.

6. The striker (batter) is out if a foul ball is caught on a fly or first bounce.

SECTION 1 of ARTICLE 2 is in relation to fines and penalties

1. For using improper or profane language during a game, there will be  a 10 cent fine.

2. Refusing to obey his captain, a 10 cent fine.

3. Wearing or using the apparel of a fellow member without his permission, a $1.00 fine.

4. For audibly expressing his opinion on a doubtful play before the decision of an umpire is given, a 10 cent fine.

By 1859 new members Charles Randall and Levi Mayo had joined the club. New teams were forming in and around Syracuse, the best being the Syracuse Olympic Club. In what was called the "Big Battle of 1859" the Syracuse Baseball Club defeated the Olympians 43-27. These clubs played for small prises or awards and cash not exceeding $20.

Between the summer and fall of 1859 three more teams arrived on the Central New York baseball scene. Teams from Cazenovia, Utica and Oswego all played match games in Syracuse. Baseball was at the peak of popularity as the Civil War broke out. The war curtailed baseball until the wars end in 1865. Many ware prisoner's from the northern states played games against their confederate captors as the sport spread quickly across the early United States. Following the wars end many new teams formed and many heated rivalries started between local towns and communities in Central New York.

As Syracusans returned for war baseball again flourished. The most successful new team at the time was the "Central City Baseball Club". This group was made up of many former members of the Syracuse Baseball Club plus other new exciting young baseball talent.

The Central City nine as it was called listed the following players on it's 1865 team roster. Ted Adams, Chalres Barnes, George Barnes, Fred Bonta, Oscar Brownell, Frank Carroll, Jerome Clark, Charles Colton, William Cruttenden, L.S. Edgar, T.W. Fitsh, T.H. Gilbert, William Graves, Harvy Loomis, Levi Mayo, Franklyn Mosher, Mathew Myers, George Porter,  David Sanford, W.P. Stewart, Charles Tampkins, F.W Weaver, E.E. Weisotten, D.P. Wilkinson, A.E. Yale, John W. Yale, plus Baker and Stone.

Central City's first president was Frank A. Marsh with Levi Mayo, Fred Bonta and David Sanford rounding out the executive board. Under their leadership the ball club existed for over thirty years. But its first ten are the most significant to the early history of Syracuse Baseball.

The club of 1867 became the first Syracuse team to win a nationally recognized championship outside of New York City. Teams representing the cities of Auburn, Rochester and Utica fought hard for the gold baseball prize awarded to the Central City nine. Fred Dodge was in the pitchers box that year who along with the fine play of David Sanford, George Porter, Ted Adams, Frank Carroll and Dr. Charles Barnes completed a successful campaign with 14 wins against 3 loses. Victories over such opponents as Lysander, Cazenovia, Marcellus, Binghamton, Oneida, Excelsior's of Rochester and the Niagara's competing for the "Gold Ball Championship of Western New York". The "Gold Ball" won that day by Central City  still exists and is housed at the Onondaga Historical Association in downtown Syracuse.

1868 found first George Porter, the "Major" Park Wheeler as club president. Porter and Ed Yale were named team captains and games were now shifted to the Central City grounds on Onondaga Street. This season brought many national teams to the Salt City. June 12, 1868, Syracusans viewed the battle of great baseball nines. In what was called "The largest crowd ever to see a ball game in Syracuse," The Atlantic's of Brooklyn, NY, tripped Central City 20-14. Fred Dodge dueled George "The Charmer" Zettelin on Memorial Day when everyone from nine to ninety claimed to have witnessed that great contest.

Later in the same season the Athletics of Philadelphia visited the city crushing Central City 41-12. This year ended with nine wins and eight losses. As there success continued on the diamond new national teams dotted the 1869 schedule. The biggest name that being the Cincinnati Red Stockings downed our boys 37-9 and 36-22 in their two meetings.  New opponents as Forest City, Eckfords of New York, Alerts of Rochester, Independents of Mansfield and the Unions of Union Springs proved to be more than the Central City nine could handle as their year ending record dipped to five wins , ten losses and a tie.

The team made their first western tour in 1870 with stops in Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York City (against the Mutuals), then over the bridge to Brooklyn for a match with the Atlantic's.

Uniforms of the club consisted of white hats with blue trim, white full body uniforms with blue trim, knee breeches and blue stockings.

The popularity of the Central City nine continued until 1873, when a new amateur squad pushed them aside with a stunning upset on September 4th. That score read Stars 21, Central City 4. The amazing fact upon the score was that the Star Baseball Club were considered just an up and coming group of junior ball players, while the Central City nine comprised some of Central New York's finest players.


No comments:

Post a Comment