Hershberger: The baseball race riot of 1869

From SABR member Richard Hershberger at Ordinary Gentlemen on February 5, 2016:

The Savannah Base Ball Club set sail the evening of Saturday, July 24, 1869 on the steamer Nick King. They were traveling to Charleston, South Carolina to play the Carolina Base Ball Club. The game was much anticipated, and the excursion a gala affair. The party was over a hundred persons, including not only the members of the baseball club but also assorted friends of the club and a brass band. They arrived early Sunday morning where they were met at the wharf by the Carolina Club, and spent the day sight-seeing. The band in the meantime gave an open air concert.

The game itself was set for Monday afternoon on the grounds of the Citadel, to be followed by a throwing contest and a banquet hosted by the Carolinas. The ensuing riot was not on the programme, but in the end affected the plans surprisingly little.

The game went off successfully, ending around five o’clock. I know what you are wondering: The Savannahs won 35-17, which was a perfectly plausible score at that time. The game was witnessed by a large, mixed-race crowd. What “large” means precisely is not entirely clear. Given the absence of seating infrastructure, one or two thousand spectators would entirely surround and tend to press in on the field, which was merely roped off. At the conclusion of the game the crowd spilled onto the field, which also was typical of the era. Ordinarily this would not be a problem, but the clubs had also planned the throwing contest. So the club members and the four policemen assigned for crowd control, assisted by a half dozen soldiers from the Citadel, cleared the crowd off the field.

Read the full article here: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/2016/02/04/the-baseball-race-riot-of-1869/

Originally published: February 5, 2016. Last Updated: February 5, 2016.