Thorn: Two roads diverged in early baseball history

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on May 10, 2017:

When I first pondered what the subject of my keynote speech at the 2006 NINE conference might be, I came up with “Present at the Creation: Baseball’s Pioneering Clubs, 1830–50.” That’s what attendees saw in their programs. I had intended to talk about five clubs that made the game grow along certain lines, along with three individuals whose vast contributions remain largely uncredited: William Rufus Wheaton, Daniel Lucius Adams, and Lewis F. Wadsworth. These five clubs were to have been the Olympics of Philadelphia, whose history and whose game are so little understood; and four clubs from New York — the Gotham, also known as the Washington for their primacy among New York ball clubs; the New York Base Ball Club, whose membership was for some time in the 1830s and ’40s identical with that of the Gotham; the Eagle, which formed as a ball-playing club in 1840 but like the Gotham did not adopt baseball for several years; and of course the Knickerbocker, who have received too much credit for a hundred years now.

Yes, that’s the talk I was going to deliver. In the days prior to the mid-March event, however, I decided on another path.


These roads are named, in current histories, the New York Game and the Massachusetts Game, but that nomenclature simplifies much and explains little.

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Originally published: May 10, 2017. Last Updated: May 10, 2017.