Swanson: The Charleston baseball riot of 1869

From Ryan Swanson at The National Pastime Museum on October 30, 2014:

In July 1869, one of the strangest brawls in baseball history occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. The “base ball riot,” as the Charleston Courier described it, took place on the grounds of the Citadel. Racial tensions boiled over when Charleston police attempted to arrest a drunken fan. Partisan epithets filled the air, and thousands of black and white Charlestonians spilled onto the playing field. Baseball bats became weapons. And to make matters more bizarre, the fracas involved a marching band composed of black musicians. This “Washington Cornet Band” traveled in support of the visiting, white ballclub from Savannah; the band played its rousing rendition of “Dixie” repeatedly.

The end of the American Civil War had jumpstarted baseball’s development in the United States. Soldiers returned home anxious to get back to work and eager to resume their pastimes. Baseball clubs organized by the dozens. Tournaments sprang up throughout the North. Baseball enthusiasts worked hard to organize the game’s rules and customs. Henry Chadwick and other leaders of the National Association of Base Ball Players (founded in 1857), determined to make up for lost time and momentum, declared that baseball must be “national in every sense of the word.”

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/charlestons-baseball-riot-1869

Originally published: October 30, 2014. Last Updated: October 30, 2014.