Thorn: Magnolia baseball club predated the Knickerbocker club

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on December 7, 2012:

NEW YORK MAGNOLIA BALL CLUB – Vive la Knickerbocker. – A meeting of the members of the above club will take place this (Thursday) afternoon, 2nd instant, at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken [N.J.]. It is earnestly requested that every member will be present, willing and eager to do his duty. Play will commence precisely as one o’clock. Chowder at 4 o’clock.[1]

Among the organized groups that played baseball before the Knickerbockers were the Gotham, New York, Eagle, Brooklyn, Olympic, and Magnolia clubs. The last named came into view only recently, as a ball club composed not of white-collar sorts with shorter workdays and gentlemanly airs but sporting-life characters, from ward heelers to billiard-room operators and bigamists. Why did the game’s earliest writers forget to include this club in its histories? One might venture to guess that the Magnolias were too unseemly a bunch to have been covered by a fig leaf, so they were simply written out of the Genesis story.

In 2007, rummaging through the classified advertisement section of the New York Herald of November 2, 1843, looking for who knows what, I was astonished to find a notice for a baseball club unrecorded in the annals of the game. Moreover, the notice made clear that this city-based club played its games across the North River at the Elysian Fields, almost two full years before the formation of the “pioneer” Knickerbockers and their lease of playing grounds at Hoboken. That diminutive ad, which also ran in the New York Sun, read in full …

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Originally published: December 7, 2012. Last Updated: December 7, 2012.