Monday, October 28, 2013

Post-Civil War North Country baseball in October


            Sports fans in the North Country love their baseball—especially in October. And it has been that way since the end of the Civil War, over 147 years ago.
This Currier & Ives lithograph shows an 1866 championship game played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.

            On October 6, 1866, the St. Lawrence County baseball championship game was played at Potsdam Junction. The Union Club of Canton won the title by defeating the Raquette River Club of Potsdam 42-41. The winners were awarded a silver ball as a prize for their victory.
            Two weeks later, at the Franklin County fairgrounds in Malone, the North Stars played the Young Americans for the local baseball championship. According to newspaper accounts of the game, the Young Americans won 23-21 in a nine-inning contest during which the conduct of the umpire was “unexceptionable” and the “batting was very poor on account of the pitching.” The game was played in one hour and 45 minutes and featured six home runs.
The Cincinnati Red Stockings are shown standing around a 27-foot-long “champion” baseball bat presented to the team after amassing a 21-0 record in 1869. The sketch of the scene was drawn by J. A. Gervis.

            A month before voters elected Ulysses S. Grant president and William Almon Wheeler congressman, the press in the North Country urged their readers to attend “The Greatest Base Ball Match of the Season” on October 7, 1868 at the Franklin County fairgrounds in Malone. The Tri-Mountains of Boston, the champions of New England, were scheduled to play the undefeated St. Lawrence Club, the champions of Northern New York. Rail fare on the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad was cut in half for those wishing to go to the game.
            On the day of the contest, it took four hours for the Tri-Mountains to hand St. Lawrence its first defeat, 29-11. According to a sports writer, “the best order and good humor prevailed.”

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