Baseball in 1838?

The Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia (pictured) formed in the 1830’s from groups of townball enthusiasts who crossed the Delaware river to Camden, New Jersey to avoid the strict puritan laws of Philadelphia. 

According to the recent book,
Baseball in Blue & Gray

The Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia (pictured) formed in the 1830’s from groups of townball enthusiasts who crossed the Delaware river to Camden, New Jersey to avoid the strict puritan laws of Philadelphia. 

According to the recent book,
Baseball in Blue & Gray by George B. Kirsch, “After another group of townball enthusiasts joined them in 1833, the two formally merged and organized the Olympic Ball Club, drawing up a constitution and field rules to govern their play.” Attached to this page is an electronic file of the Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia Constitution (see right). 

Some members of SABR’s Ninteenth Century Committee suggest that even though the Olympics were termed by later observers to be practitioners of that catch-all phrase “town ball,” there is evidence that they also played a variant of baseball, with a diamond-shaped layout, as well as other ball games such as wicket and cat.

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Image & document contributed by John Thorn



Originally published: January 21, 2004. Last Updated: January 21, 2004.

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