Posts Tagged ‘Folkert R. Boerum’

The All-Star Series

December 18, 2018

The first “All Star” Game

Baseball is odd. Among all the major team sports, it plays its games in a series. Football, soccer, hockey, basketball, play a game, take a break, play another (there are occasional exceptions), but baseball plays a handful of games (sometimes two or four, but usually three) together, then the teams move on to another venue and another set of, usually, three games.

It wasn’t always that way. At its inception, baseball, like the other sports, tended to play single games. One team would play a game against a second team, then move on to play, generally several days later, a game against a third team. But the modern system of “series baseball” took over and you always never see a game in isolation (except for a rainout) anymore. That began to change in 1858.

In 1858 the cities of New York and Brooklyn were separate (and would remain so until 1890). At that point, the best teams tended to cluster in either of the two towns. There were individual teams like the Athletic in Philadelphia or the Niagara in Buffalo, but no one had a group of top level teams except New York and Brooklyn. In New York there were the Mutual, the Gothams, the Knickerbockers. Brooklyn had the Excelsiors, the Eckford, the Atlantic. At some point someone was going to come up with the idea of city teams comprising the best players of each team, joining together to play the best players of another city (sort of an All-Star Game). That finally happened in 1858. But it wasn’t to be a single game, but was to be a series of games to determine which town, New York or Brooklyn had the better players.

Unlike a modern series, the 1858 all-star series was played over three months, one game in July, the second in August, and the final game in September. And unlike the current All Star Game, there were a series of games. So this initial “series” or initial “All Star Game” was a hybrid. To be fair to both sides, the games were held at the Fashion Place Racetrack (a horse racing track) in Queens.

The names today are mostly forgotten. Harry Wright played center field for New York in the initial game. Theodore Van Cott, unknown today, was the Gothams ace. Joe Leggett of the Excelsiors was the catcher for Brooklyn. He later became famous as Jim Creighton’s catcher. Dickie Pearce and Folkert Boerum of the Atlantic also played. Some historians credit Pearce with inventing the modern positioning of the shortstop and Boerum with working toward the invention of catcher’s equipment (neither can be entirely verified.

The games were high scoring affairs in comparison to modern baseball. New York won the first game 22-18 (lots of touchdowns, lots of missed kicks) with Van Cott leading the team with four runs scored and making only two outs (Harry Wright led the team with five outs). Excelsior second baseman, John Holder, had the game’s only home run. In game two the Brooklyn team returned the favor outscoring New York 29-8.

That made the September game the deciding game of the series. Daniel “Doc” Adams, Knickerbockers shortstop, umpired the game (remember, umpires in 1858 didn’t do all the same things they do now so an umpire with a rooting interest wasn’t as big a problem as it would be now).¬†Joe Gelston, Eagles shortstop, led off New York’s part of the game with a home run and the team went on to pile up seven runs in the first. Union outfielder Joseph Pinckney hit another homer for New York later in the game, and the New York team ran up a 29-18 score to take game three and the championship two games to one.

The series would not be repeated. As the 1860s began, the Brooklyn clubs, particularly the Atlantic, began to dominate the baseball scene and not many New York teams wanted to face a Brooklyn all-star team that was composed mostly of players from the Atlantic. But it provides us with a look at a long ago series of games that would become more common and ushered in the idea of an all-star team.