Hershberger: Solving the Tiger Base Ball Club mystery of 1859

From SABR member Richard Hershberger at Our Game on July 22, 2013:

The annual convention of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) met on the evening of March 27, 1859. There were delegates from twenty-one of the twenty-five member clubs, as well as from nineteen clubs applying for membership. Among the applicants was the Tiger Club, and therein lies a minor mystery of baseball history.[1]

Many clubs from this era are obscure today. Even specialists in early baseball history are unlikely to be conversant with the details of the Tiger club’s fellow applicants such as the Katydid or Esculapian clubs. But while these clubs are obscure, they aren’t mysterious. One could comb through newspaper accounts easily enough and find such details as where these clubs played and who were their officers, and find accounts of matches played against other clubs.

The Tigers, by contrast, are a cipher. There was, until recently, no known record of their existence apart from their membership in the NABBP. Not even their home city was known.

Furthermore, their name is unusual. The taxonomy of antebellum baseball club names is fantastically varied, but animal names are largely absent. In modern sports it is common to name teams after animals, particularly species holding traits a team might wish to emulate. This is a later pattern. The only prominent early club named after an animal was the Eagle Club of New York, and this was most likely chosen for its patriotic associations. So while “Tiger” is an unremarkable team name today, it is very unusual for 1859.

Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2013/07/22/the-tiger-base-ball-club-a-mystery-solved/

Related link: Richard Hershberger is a featured speaker on our SABR 43 Philadelphia Baseball History Panel; join us July 31-Aug. 4, 2013

Originally published: July 22, 2013. Last Updated: July 22, 2013.