This article was written by Eric Miklich
This article was published in the Baseball’s 19th Century Winter Meetings: 1857-1900
“The disturbed state of the country and the fact that the baseball players are the most largely represented fraternity in the ranks of our volunteers, and to this may be attributed the small number of represented, there being sixty-one answering the roll call,” wrote the Brooklyn Daily Eagle,1 referring to the annual meeting of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). Although it was difficult to concede that baseball players filled the role the Eagle professed, the Civil War claimed the attention of America and affected the attendance of the December 11, 1861 baseball meeting. Thirty-four clubs hailing from New York, Brooklyn, and New Jersey attended. Sixty-two clubs sent delegates to the March convention, the first of two held in 1860. Fifty-four clubs sent delegates in December of the same year which included a club from as far west as Detroit.
Although the Civil War may have had contributed to the lack of attendance of clubs from outside the New York/New Jersey area, the weakness of the NABBP was the main contributor. Without a presence in the parts of the country that produced large numbers of clubs, the effectiveness of the association regarding the implementation of rules and customs had no teeth, and as a result, clubs that wanted to be included in the NABBP felt there was no value to their admission. A national feel was not at all what clubs outside of New York and New Jersey felt.
The proceedings were convened at 8:00 p.m. at Clinton Hall in New York, the usual place and starting time for the gathering, by President D.E. Milliken of the Union Club of Morrisania.2 The first order of the night was to read the minutes from the previous year’s meeting, which were adopted, and then the treasurer’s report was disbursed and accepted. The amount in the treasury was $398.37.3 The collection of dues was then discussed. An impost of $2 for existing clubs and $7 for new clubs was collected. What did member clubs receive for the dues they submitted? That question must have been asked of the NABBP since it was born.
New club applications were the next order of business. The Favorita, Constellation, and Resolute, all from Brooklyn, were accepted as senior clubs after some discussion.
The election of officers produced excitement, to say the least, among the delegates. Mr. Milliken, the president of the 1860 convention, was re-elected, becoming the first president of the NABBP to win consecutive terms. He defeated Joe Leggett of the Excelsior Club by 32 votes to 20. Leggett was synonymous with the Excelsiors. He was their catcher and perhaps best all-around player. He was responsible for “recruiting” Jim Creighton, one of the game’s best pitchers. Leggett had a reputation for being a highly respected figure; however, this convention would test that reputation.
Leggett did have issues with other clubs. For example, the dearth of Excelsiors included in the final match of the 1858 All-Star series, pitting the best Brooklyn and New York (Manhattan today) players against each other in a best-of-three meeting, angered Leggett so much that he avoided scheduling matches against the powerful Eckfords of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn roster contained eight combined Atlantic and Eckford members, while he filled the role of the Brooklyn scorekeeper. More likely, Leggett used this excuse to avoid the Eckfords and Mutuals, far more talented clubs.
Leggett pulled his club off the field in the third and deciding match against the Atlantic club in 1860, after he warned the Atlantics that the crowd needed to be better controlled. The match was declared a draw, and Leggett announced that he would never schedule a meeting against the Atlantics again. He kept his word. Leggett made sure the Excelsior opponents were as beatable as possible. A careful review of the club’s opponents during his tenure would strengthen that point.
Joseph Bowne Leggett was born in Saratoga, New York, on January 14, 1828. He began his playing career with the Wayne Club in 1856 at the late age of 28, then became an Excelsior the following year when the two clubs merged.4 Leggett was the vice president of the Wayne Club and continued in that role with the Excelsior Club through 1861. He became the Excelsior’s regular catcher in 1859 and their best all-round player. After an Excelsior loss to the Star Club, 17-12 at the hands of Jim Creighton on September 3, 1859, Leggett set his sights on procuring the young pitcher. Creighton held the Excelsiors scoreless in five of their nine innings. Once Creighton and his teammate George Flanly were “induced” to join the Excelsiors, in the winter of 1859, Leggett added to his legend by suggested that Creighton practice by throwing an iron ball to increase his arm strength as well as the speed of his pitches. Leggett’s athletic ability allowed him to handle Creighton’s deliveries, which in turn allowed the young pitcher to begin his ascent to the top of the pitching class. Leggett enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. The 37-year-old returned to Brooklyn in 1862, played sparingly that year and the following year, and became the Excelsiors’ president in 1864, before formally retiring in 1865. He took up employment with the Bureau of Excise in Brooklyn as a chief clerk in charge of receiving money paid for liquor licenses.5 This job came on the heels of Leggett’s working in the fire department in which “he has proven unworthy of the confidence of his friends.”6 Despite the fact that Leggett was known for his honesty and the expectations of fair play by his players during baseball matches, he was accused of embezzlement in 1877 and fled Brooklyn with cash “somewhere among the thousands…”7 He died in Galveston, Texas, in 1894.
Leggett’s anger would rise again in 1862 and be directed at the Eckford Club. As Jimmy Wood recalled, “We wanted to play them, issuing repeated challenges. But their Captain, Joe Leggett, refused for the sole reason that he had become angered during the summer of 1862 when our Captain, who was captain of a picked nine on which Leggett played, was presented with a souvenir ball. Leggett thought he was entitled to it and vowed afterward that so long as he was leader of the Excelsiors he never would permit them to play the Eckfords. He kept his word.”8
Leggett was next defeated in his run for the position of first vice president. There were four candidates for the position. Round one resulted in W.H. Hegeman, (Victory Club of Troy, New York) receiving 20 votes; Leggett, 19; Z. Voorhies (Brooklyn Club), 8; and K.M. Kellogg (New York Club), 3. Voorhies and Kellogg withdrew before the second round of voting, in which Hegeman soundly defeated Leggett, 41 votes to 17.9 Upon receiving the nomination, Hegeman stood and acknowledged the membership, as he was an unknown.10
Leggett finally won an election, that for second vice president, by defeating J.W. Dawson (Eureka Club, New Jersey), 38 votes to 26, but not without controversy. When Leggett’s nomination was announced, it was put forth that he be elected by one vote (without opposition). C. Thomas (Eureka) objected and asked that Dawson run against Leggett.11
The elected slate:
- President — D.E. Milliken, Union of Morrisannia, re-elected.
- First vice president — W. Hegeman, Victory Club, Troy, New York.
- Second vice president — J.B. Leggett, Excelsior Club, Brooklyn.
- Recording secretary — J.R. Postley, Jefferson Club, New York, unanimously re-elected by one vote.
- Corresponding secretary — Z. Voorhies, Brooklyn Club (Jackson, the corresponding secretary in 1860, was not a delegate).
- Treasurer — E.H. Brown, Metropolitan Club, New York, re-elected.
The report from the Committee on Rules and Regulations was asked for next. No recommendation for changes was reported by Chairman D.L. Adams (Knickerbocker).12 “A member of the Eckford Club proposed an amendment in section 31, by which the clubs would be in a measure restricted from ‘playing off,’ or delaying the game. Laid over.”13 According to Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, this was a common practice in the recently concluded season.14
The new rule was proposed to read as follows.
Sec. 31. The umpire in any match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if the game cannot be concluded, it shall be decided by the last even innings, provided five innings have been played, and the party having the greatest numbers of runs, shall be declared the winner, except as provided in the annexed subdivisions, if an innings is entered upon, and both parties have been at the bat, and those last at the bat have the greatest number of runs when the play is suspended, they shall be declared the winners.
The new rule created a group discussion. Judge Van Cott (Gotham), P. O’Brien (Atlantic), and T. Vanderhoef (Charter Oak) were the most vocal. Van Cott was for acceptance of the new rule since the intent was to eliminate “playing a club into the dark.”15 Vanderhoef was against the rule and made it clear that he felt the rule was not an improvement. Instead he suggested that a winner should be declared after nine innings and not five.16 A delegate from Newark suggested that the time of the sunset be known prior to the start of the game and no inning should commence after that time.17
Adams endorsed Vanderhoef’s proposal.18 Cauldwell (Union) favored any proposal to curb the growing issue; however, he stressed that the umpire of each match should be the person responsible for controlling the delaying of the game.19 Jones (Excelsior) and E.H. Brown (Metropolitan) concurred with Cauldwell.20
Finally, J. Mott (Eagle) proposed that Rule 31 remain unchanged, and this was approved.21 The 1861 rule would be used for the 1862 season. It read as follows:
Sec. 31. The umpire in any match shall determine when play shall be suspended; and if the game cannot be concluded, it shall be decided by the last even innings, provided five innings have been played, and the party having the greatest number of runs shall be declared the winner.
Selmes (Alpine) asked for the opinions of the committee on when a fair ball is in play, as defined in Sec. 16.22 Adams replied that “a fair ball is in play the moment it is caught; and although a player running a base is compelled to return, when a fair ball is caught, he is not compelled to remain on the base after having returned to it, if he has a chance to make another.23 Although not specified, Adams was referring to a fair batted ball caught on the fly.
In the end, no changes were made to the playing rules; it would not be the only time in the 1860s.
E.H. Brown (Metropolitan) made a motion that 500 copies of the rules be printed, including the proceedings of the 1861 meeting, to which Selmes (Alpine) added that the expense should not be more than $50. The motion was carried.24
Dr. Joseph B. Jones of the Excelsior Club proposed the following regarding the size of the National Association treasury:
“Resolved, That the President of this Association ascertain from the Presidents of the various clubs in good standing, members of this Association, the names of such and the regiments to which they belong, now engaged in supporting the Constitution and Laws of our Country, and distribute in the name of this Association, such surplus funds belonging to this Association, pro rata to each volunteer referred to. The amount to be drawn from such fund, to be determined by the President.”25 The treasury contained $400.26
Loud discussions followed and led to other suggestions. It was suggested that the families of the deceased should receive compensation.27 An unidentified member argued that those receiving money would feel insulted. Dr. Jones immediately defended his suggestion: “… [I]f he did feel insulted, he was no true Ball Player; that he should consider it an honor — it proving that he was not only thought of but also respected by the Association of which he was a member.28 A motion was made to defer any money to the “Widows and Orphans of the Ball Players killed in the war.”29 Initially the motion was accepted by the majority; however, the amount of money was relatively small, prompting new arguments. Cauldwell (Union) and Voorhies (Brooklyn) suggested that an entertainment benefit be organized for the soldiers’ families.30 A member of the Eureka Club of Newark announced that ballplayers belonging to Newark would be looked after by the Newark clubs. More heated discussion took place, resulting in all proposals to aid ballplayers and/or their families being rejected.
Editorially, the Eagle urged the Brooklyn clubs to do as the Newark clubs stated they were doing, and proposed a match or matches played on ice to raise money.31 By a vote of 30 to 25, the matter was defeated.32
An unnamed member asked for further enforcement of Rule 27. He was concerned about players who played for a club while members of another. The current rule stated that a 30-day period must elapse before a player could make an appearance for a new club once he left his original club.33 The rule was not changed. The membership was reminded that if violations of this rule were brought before the convention, the club found guilty would be expelled from the fraternity.34
The following committee and members were announced by the chairman.
- On Rules and Regulations — A.L. Adams, Knickerbockers; A.J. Bixby, Eagle; H.B. Taylor, Mutual; J.B. Jones, Excelsior; M.P. Masters, Putnam; W. Cauldwell, Union; P. O’Brien, Atlantic; J.W. Dawson, Eureka; W.A. Brown, Eckford.
- On Nominations — Wm. H. Van Cott, Gotham; Wm H. Bell, Eckford; J.E. Bloomfield, Empire.
- On Printing — E.R. Wilbur, Hamilton; W.H. Grenelle, Knickerbocker; J.R. Postley, Jefferson.
- Committee on Rules — A.J. Bixby, Eagle.
New York Clubs
- Knickerbocker — D.L. Adams, Wm. H. Grenelle
- Gotham — Wm. H. Van Cott, Jas. B. Mingay
- Eagle — A.J. Bixby, John W. Mott
- Empire — Thos Miller, John J. Bloomfield
- Metropolitan — John P. Lecoure, E.H. Brown
- Mutual — James McConnell, Anson B. Taylor
- Social — Wm. H. Wiltie, Clement J. Durgin
- Jefferson — C. Wright Kirby, J. Ross Postley
- Henry Eckford — Dr. W.H. Bell, H. Dalton
- Alpine — Reeves E. Selmes, James H. Pelton
- New York — Dr. K.M. Kellogg, J.H. Jacquelin
- Independent — Wm. Steele, Wm. D. Byrne35
- Union (Morrisania) — David Milliken, W. Cauldwell36
- Adriatic — Chas H. Thomas, Jas S. Clarke37
- Excelsior — Dr. J.B. Jones, J.B. Leggett
- Atlantic — Peter O’Brien, F.K. Boughton
- Eckford — W.A. Brown, E.T. Jenkins
- Hamilton — E.R. Wilbur, C.J. Bergen
- Star — Frank Blydenburgh, W.W. Skaats
- Continental — J.E. Winans, W.L. Wood38
- Charter Oak — John O. Oswell, T.H. Vanderhoef
- Exercise — George Hardy, George J. Rhodes
- Brooklyn — F. Tappan, Z. Voorhies39
- Powhatan — A.V. Bergen, Geo. N. Dick
- Favorita — C.W. Cooper, Wm. B. Allen
- Resolute — R.S. Canfield, S.L. Beard
- Constellation — M.L. Sutton, J.L. Smith
- Olympic (South Brooklyn) – B. Vanbleak, Charles Condit
- Putnam — J. Pierce, M.P. Masten
New Jersey Clubs
- Newark — G.K. Coleman, O.R. Woodruff
- Eureka (Newark) — J.W. Dawson, C. Thomas
- Union (Elizabeth) — Wm. H. Woodruff, J. Ball
- Good Intent (New Utrecht, L.I.) — W. Hedgeman, J.E. Dubois40
- Victory Club (Troy) — A.L. Hodgkin, W.H. Hegeman41
The following clubs were announced as no longer holding membership in the Association due to being in arrears for over one year.42
- E Pluribus Unum
- Neosho (New Utrecht)
- Niagara of Buffalo
- Potomac of Washington
- Independent of South Brooklyn
- Detroit of Detroit
- Morphy of Brooklyn
- Champion of Albany
It was announced that the following clubs would be in arrears when the 1862 convention was called.43
- St. Nicholas
- Liberty of New Brunswick
- Hudson River of Newburgh
- Excelsior of Baltimore
- Quinnipiac of New Haven
- Bowdoin of Boston
- National of Washington
- Olympic of Philadelphia
- New Rochelle
- Baltic of Belvidere
- Continental of Jersey City
- Englewood of New Jersey
- Flour City of Rochester
The number of clubs that failed to maintain their membership and the clubs identified as being in arrears, 46 in this case, faced no penalties. They were still able to schedule matches against NABBP clubs; however, they were required to play by the rules put forth by the NABBP during those matches. As the Civil War continued, the number of clubs attending baseball conventions would slowly increase, but most would continue to be from the New York/New Jersey area.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also relied on Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player Guide, 1861 and 1862.
1 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1861: 11.
2 Mears Base Ball Scrapbooks, Vol. 4; 1856-1868.
3 Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 5.
4 William J. Ryczek, Baseball’s First Inning (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2009), 76.
5 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 20, 1877: 4.
6 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 22, 1877: 2.
7 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 9, 1878: 4.
9 Mears Base Ball Scrapbooks, Vol. 4; 1856-1868.
12 Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 5.
13 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1861: 11.
14 Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861.
15 Mears Base Ball Scrapbooks, Vol. 4; 1856-1868.
17 Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 5.
25 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1861: 11.
26 Porter’s Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861.
27 Mears Base Ball Scrapbooks, Vol. 4; 1856-1868.
28 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 13, 1861: 11.
30 Porter’s Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861.
31 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 13, 1861: 11.
32 Porter’s Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861.
33 Mears Base Ball Scrapbooks, Vol. 4; 1856-1868.
35 As per the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1861: 11, and the Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 7, this club was listed as hailing from Brooklyn. The New York Clipper, December 21, 1861: 283, and Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861, list Independent as a New York club.
36 Identified by the New York Clipper and Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861, not by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1861: 11.
37 Listed as a New Jersey club in the New York Clipper, December 21, 1861: 283, Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861, and Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 5 (Printed as the Adriatic Club). Listed as a New York club in the Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861. Thomas also listed as Thorne, Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 7, and Mears Base Ball Scrapbooks, Vol. 4, 1856-1868.
38 Identified as a New York Club in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 21, 1861: 11.
39 Tappan listed an N. Tappan and H. Tappan.
40 Only S. Morris listed as a representative in Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 12, 1861.
41 Not listed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1861: 11. Only Hegeman identified in Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 21, 1861.
42 Sunday Mercury, December 15, 1861: 5.