In honor of the Ohio Village Muffins’ season opener this past Sunday, we wanted to highlight some of the baseball teams and players in Ohio history who didn’t make it into any Hall of Fame, but who still helped to make the sport America’s pastime.
Starting in the mid-1800s in New York City, clubs began forming to play what was then known as “base ball.” Soon, the popular sport began spreading to other cities along the East Coast, and with the Civil War, the game became a national trend. Soldiers played baseball for recreation during their free time in camp, held occasional games between army units and local clubs, and even made prison camp life more endurable by organizing ball games among prisoners. When the war was over, dozens of new clubs were formed in Ohio and throughout the Midwest, and America’s sport was truly born. Photographs and records of these small-scale baseball clubs can be found in Ohio Memory, chronicling the many groups formed of neighbors, co-workers, students and even prisoners who “went to bat” out of a love for the game.
Seen above are players from the Antioch Baseball Club, regarded as one of the finest amateur clubs in Ohio, in a team photograph from 1869. That same year, the Antioch team had their game against the Cincinnati Red Stockings (the first professional baseball team) cancelled due to wet weather. So even though Antioch wasn’t a professional baseball team, they have the distinction of being a part of the first professional game to be rained out!
Thanks to Antioch College’s “Antiochiana” archives, the names of these men have not been lost to history. According to the image record, in the front row are Hod Frost (right field), Thad Carr (catcher), Hugh Taylor Birch (pitcher), Arthur Elliott (third base), and Dan Stone (left field). In the back row are Cliff Bellows (second base), Sam Beals (first base), Matt Corry (center field), and Edward Felthausen (short stop). Several of their names (and what appear to be home states and towns) were jotted on the photograph’s reverse side, which can be seen to the right.
An interesting Ohio sidenote: Pitcher and team captain Hugh Taylor Birch, the central figure in the photograph, later went on to become a prominent naturalist, donating Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs to his alma mater, Antioch College.
Judging from the collection in Ohio Memory, there was a period of time in Ohio’s history when nearly every workplace had a company baseball team for their employees–everyone from Youngstown’s Carnegie Steel Mill to the American Rolling Mill Company (Armco) in Middleton, Ohio. The above picture shows the Buckeye Steel Castings Company foundry baseball team in August of 1915. However, we also have the team photograph for Buckeye Steel’s office baseball team–it makes you wonder if there was any rivalry between the two groups!
Check out Ohio Memory to see more of the unsung history of baseball in Ohio, including:
- Warren G. Harding throwing a pitch with Chicago Cubs players in his hometown of Marion, Ohio, on September 2, 1920
- A baseball game between London Prison Farm inmates
- Camp Sherman’s 317th Engineers baseball team during World War I
- An early photo-collage of a Columbus baseball team
Plus much more! And don’t forget to make it out to one of the Muffins’ games this season to experience vintage 1860s “base ball” for yourself!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!