A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About the 1857 Gothams

1857 New York Gothams

1857 New York Gothams

It seems to me that for the 1001st post here I ought to do something special, so I’d like to introduce you to an early photograph; one of the most important early photos in baseball history. The picture above is of the 1857 Gothams, a premier team in New York City (as opposed to Brooklyn). Usually with these kinds of pictures I do several posts laying out what is available on the players. That’s been a mess with this team. Instead, as there are 12 men in the picture, I’ll use this format to give a very brief comment on each man plus a comment on the picture itself. Players are listed from left to right on the back row, then the three seated men also left to right.
1. Thomas Gabriel Van Cott was the pitcher and he’s the man holding the ball (Interestingly enough, there is no bat in the picture). He was the brother and half-brother of two (or maybe one, see below) of the figures in the picture. He was born in 1817 and died in 1894. After he retired from ball he was a bookmaker at the race track in Saratoga, New York. He is one of several men credited with inventing the curve ball.

2. William Burns was the catcher. He died in September 1857, one year after this picture was taken. He moved to California and drowned in the sinking of the SS Central America. The ship’s location was discovered in 1988.

3. John McCosker was born in 1829 and died in 1881. He played third base for the Gothams. He was a firefighter and served as quartermaster for the 73rd New York Infantry in the Civil War from its creation in 1861 until his discharge in August 1862.

4. Oscar Teed was the shortstop. He was born in 1828 and died 4 November 1866. He worked in a boatyard.

5. Philip Sheridan was born in either 1826 or 1827 (sources differ), joined the team in 1854, played left field and apparently was not related to Civil War General Philip H. Sheridan.

6. Ruben Henry Cudlipp played second base for the Gothams and was born in 1821, dying on 5 December 1899. When not playing ball he was a lawyer.

7. William Vail was an original member of the Gothams when they formed in 1852. He played first base and was born in 1817. His off-season occupation was as a firefighter. He died 12 December 1881.

8. Robert F. Winslow, Jr. played center field. He was born in 1829 and died in 1909. His father, Robert, Sr., was an original member of the Gothams in 1852.

9. Charles C. Comerford played right field and was born 2 June 1833. He died 6 February 1920 and was the last of the Gothams. His father was prominent in the Abolition Movement. In the 1860s he moved to Waterbury, Connecticut where he was appointed postmaster in 1886. He ends the back row.

10. William Hathaway Van Cott was president of the club in 1856. He was a brother of Thomas Van Cott and half-brother of Gabriel Van Cott (different mothers obviously). He later became a judge and was first President of the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1858 the year after he posed for this picture). He was born 26 September 1821 and died 30 June 1908.

11. Gabriel Van Cott was half-brother to the other Van Cotts. He was born in 1827 and died in 1866. He served as umpire for the Gothams. There was also a cousin named Gabriel. It is possible he, rather than the half-brother, is the man pictured (hence the caveat in the Thomas Gabriel Van Cott paragraph).

12. Henry Mortimer Platt was a well-known gold and silver smith in New York. He was born 2 July 1822, dying 8 December 1898. He served as “gamekeeper” which is an archaic title for the modern “scorekeeper.” I didn’t know that last little bit of information, so even after 1000 of these, I’m still learning things.

13. What’s so special about this shot? The picture is important because it is the earliest known picture of a complete baseball team (making it the first in a long line of team pictures).

 

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8 Responses to “A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About the 1857 Gothams”

  1. Precious Sanders Says:

    “I will not think of Batman when I see the word Gotham… I will not think of Batman when I see the word Gotham… I will not think of Batman when I see the word Gotham… Aw, damn.”

    More seriously, though, this is totally awesome. The picture looks strangely photo-shopped, but that’s probably something to do with the age of it and the way it was scanned, or something along those lines. And those unis must’ve been ridiculously warm. Thanks for sharing!

  2. The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    I love this photo … TYFTMS!

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