BASE BALL: Correspondence to the Cincinnati Commercial

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It took just a century and a half for Antioch College to finally make up its historic rainout with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Though Antioch lost the game 14-7, it was an exciting back-and-forth affair tied at 7 after seven innings. Originally scheduled for 31 May 1869, the game was to be a launching pad for the first professional baseball team’s grand tour of Eastern States, designed to demonstrate to more established coastal cities that Cincinnati was equal to them by any measure. Because the president of that team was an Antiochian, the tour would begin in Yellow Springs where he had gone to school. So significant was this tour that a newspaper reporter, Harry Millar, was assigned to travel with the team; the first of his articles from the trip is reprinted below.

The commemorative game held on campus 31 May 2019 was played by mid-nineteenth century rules, the most notable of which demonstrates that the baseball glove is one of the greatest inventions in the history of sport. It was played by enthusiasts that keep the vintage game alive under the auspices of the Vintage Base Ball Association. Established in 1996, the VBBA dedicates itself to “representing the game of base ball as it was actually played in accordance with the rules, equipment, uniforms, field specifications, customs, practices, language, and behavioral norms of the period.” The 1869 Red Stockings club formed in 2000 and had been eyeing this date at Antioch College for some time. Since the College hasn’t played an intercollegiate baseball game in about 90 years, the Champion City Reapers of Springfield played the part of the Antioch Nine. For added authenticity, the Reapers buttoned old English “A”s to their uniforms based on the famous team photograph taken by James Landy of Cincinnati in 1869.

From The Cincinnati Commercial, Thursday, June 3, 1869

BASE BALL

Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial

The Cincinnati Base Ball Club—Their Voyage Eastward

Mansfield, O June 1.

     When the Cincinnati Base Ball Club left the Gibson House, on Monday morning, in good spirits, the air was bracing, and “old Sol” was endeavoring to peep from the corner of an eastern cloud. Breakfasting, and then proceeding to our special car on the Little Miami Railroad, they began singing the club songs, and passing the time in pleasant manner to Yellow Springs. But the predictions of the “oldest inhabitant,” whoever he may be, are not always correct, neither were ours, for as we reached Milford “black double-banked clouds promised twenty-four hours moist misery,” and as for the sun, it had entirely disappeared. Falling at first in drizzling showers, and steadily increasing, it was falling in bucketfuls by the time we reached Yellow Springs. Notwithstanding this unexpected drawback, the members of the Antioch Club gave us a hearty welcome, but were sorry to inform us that the grounds would not be fit to play upon in case it should cease raining.

     The President of the club, after expressing his regrets to the Antiochs, informed them that they would try to meet them soon, and hoped under more favorable auspices. They then telegraphed to Xenia to Mr. CS Rodgers, of the Little Miami Railroad, stationed at Xenia, who promptly dispatched a special train to the Springs, and after hastily partaking of a lunch, spread by EP Johnson Esq., of the Yellow Springs House, we returned to Xenia; and taking the Columbus accommodation, were soon at Columbus, where we were obliged to change cars, and from there to Crestline had gay times. The boys, weary after riding so many miles, with the dampness of the moisty atmosphere coming in at the open windows, and at intervals almost suffocating, and again obliged to turn up coat collars and bind handkerchiefs around the throat to prevent catching a cold, determined to keep warm by hustling about and playing jokes on the members of the Nine. Several of the latter, having traveled a great distance, were enjoying a peaceful “snooze,” and one of the members who plays at “short stop,” and wears a handsome gold medal, presented him for best playing in the season of 1868, provided himself with a hideous Yankee contrivance, in the shape of a large bug with long legs made of wire, attached to a string. Passing along the car he would gently drop it upon the face of the individual, who would manifest the unpleasant feeling of the “critter” by slapping at it with his hand.

     Then ballads would be sung, the whole of our party, numbering thirteen persons, joining in the chorus. In the midst of a drenching rain we once more changed cars, at Crestline, for this place, having but twelve miles to go before we would reach our journey’s end for the time being. The cars on the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne, and Chicago road, on which we were placed, were small and dingy—in fact, the meanest road, as far as accommodations are concerned, in the country. This beautiful city we entered about 7 o’clock, and were quickly “bussed” to the Wiler House, where everything is done for our comfort. The hotel is conducted on the country plan, fresh milk and sweet butter being placed on the table in abundance. When nearing this place, the prettiest rainbow we ever saw extended over the heavens, and the sun shone brilliantly.

     Last night one of our members distinguished himself by defeating the champion billiardist of Mansfield some hundred odd points in a friendly game. The boys retired early last evening, and this morning are looking splendidly.

     The Independent Club of this city have a very strong Nine, and will give the boys all the work to do that they can in the game this afternoon. This is a beautiful day, and a large crowd is expected to be on the grounds at the match.

H.M.M.