Thorn: When Cleveland and baseball were young

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on November 12, 2018:

Thanks to all in attendance and to those who did the hard work of organizing the conference, the third such sponsored by SABR’s 19th Century Research Committee (which I co-founded with Mark Rucker 35 years ago). Thanks to the Cleveland Public Library for hosting us. And thank you, baseball, for giving us another season, even if the Indians came in for heartache once again.

Loss is something of a baseball tradition here, and not only since 1948. After all, Cleveland lost the very first game ever played in a professional league, to the Kekiongas of Fort Wayne, on May 4, 1871. But we all know that baseball, like life, is more about losing than winning, and so we go on.

I had thought of going off the cuff here, offering a hearty welcome on behalf of Major League Baseball — which I serve as its official historian — but this is a research oriented conference, and I thought maybe I’d better display some chops of my own. Let me open the proceedings with a racehorse run through Cleveland’s 19th-century baseball history, touching upon Cleveland’s earliest baseball experiences, the Civil War and the Forest City club, Oberlin College and African American players, and Cleveland’s White Sewing Machine, parent company to White Autos and a powerhouse in semipro baseball. All in 20 minutes!

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Originally published: November 12, 2018. Last Updated: November 12, 2018.