Friday, April 20, 2018

April Remembrance: Jim Creighton, Charles Ebbets, and The Fathers of Baseball

April 15, 1841 ~ October 14, 1862
Picture Credit Below

Jim Creighton is well considered base ball's first superstar.  His documented exploits far transcend those of his predecessors.  In both style and substance during the mid 1850s through the early 1860s Jim effectively pioneered the pitcher/batter confrontation.  By the advent of the called strike in 1858 Creighton was pitching less to satisfy a batter's preference, electing instead to challenge opposing batters with an underhand (speedball) fastball featuring both speed and spin previously unseen by the competition and spectators alike.  Over-matched batters naturally accused him to no avail of an illegal delivery.  However, there was simply no denying his elevated skills and craftsmanship.  Creighton not only set a new standard for all future hurlers and indeed created the adversarial relationship between pitcher versus striker, but was equally renown for wielding the era's most productive bat.

Born April 15, 1841 on the island of Manhattan, Jim's family moved when he was 17-years old to Brooklyn where in 1859 he played for the local Niagaras club.  He then joined the Excelsior Base Ball Club of Brooklyn in 1860, whom he led during their historic first ever barnstorming tour through various northeastern cities and Canada.

Against the Morrisania (Bronx) Unions on October 14, 1862, Creighton in his final at-bat struck a mighty blow for a potential home run, but in the course of his swing is said to have sustained a life-threatening internal injury and subsequently collapsed while rounding third base.  Jim passed away suddenly four days later.  He was only 21-years old at the time of his death, but by then had already earned the respect and admiration of all his base ball contemporaries.

The Excelsiors marked their fallen team mate's final resting place at Greenwood Cemetery with an ornate marble obelisk.  What is essentially the first ever monument dedicated to baseball, Creighton's extraordinary marker suffered significant weathering over the ensuing 150-plus years since its dedication.  The original baseball crowning the obelisk eroded away some time ago.

However, Jim Creighton's obelisk has since been restored 
and on April 15, 2014, baseball's first ever monument was rededicated.

The Excelsior Base Ball Club of Brooklyn was formed in 1854, and would feature another standout, (future) Hall of Fame member Candy Cummings.  They went undefeated during their barnstorming tour (which includes victory over the rival Atlantic Base Ball Club of Brooklyn), through cities in upstate New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, to name a few.

Picture Credit Below

1854 ~ 1870

Claim to the 1860 baseball championship is somewhat in dispute.  An overly rambunctious crowd assembled at Court Street's south end grounds grew too disruptive thus causing a decisive contest between the Excelsiors and Atlantics ending in a draw.  After which, both teams naturally claimed the crown.

The Excelsiors clubhouse is located downtown at 133 Clinton Street at Livingston Street in Brooklyn Heights.  Built in 1851, the corner building first served as clubhouse for the Jolly Young Bachelors, whom would evolve to become the Excelsiors.  Along with Jim Creighton's obelisk, the Excelsior clubhouse is one of base ball's oldest existing historical landmarks.

Brooklyn's Excelsior BBC played at Carroll Park (1854-1859) bounded by Carroll Street; President Street; Smith Street; Court Street. The land was purchased in 1858 by New York City and formalized as recreational space.  The club relocated further down Court Street at Bay Street in Red Hook where they continued playing through the 1870 season.

October 5, 1824 ~ April 20, 1908

April 20th marks 110 years since the passing of Hall of Fame member and one of the Fathers of Base Ball, Henry Chadwick.  As writer for the New York Times, the Herald, the Clipper, the Evening Telegram, and the Brooklyn Eagle (... to name only a few), by 1857 he was fully committed to covering, cataloging, and promoting the game.  Mr. Chadwick would publish the first comprehensive rule book, create the first scorecard, assign each position a numerical identifier (i.e. first base is three), invent the box score, and thereby introduce and compile the game's first statistics, effectively making him baseball's first historian.

Hardcover reproduction of Henry Chadwick's scoring ledger;
(Courtesy Flemington Neshanock Vintage Base Ball Club)
Fine Print: Entered according (in) Act of Congress in the year 1868 by Henry Chadwick 
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

Greenwood Cemetery

This monument dedicated to Henry Chadwick was paid for by A.G. Spalding and Charles Ebbets.  Chadwick attended his last game on Opening Day 1908, as the New York Giants hosted his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. He was elected in 1938 to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Henry Chadwick attended his last game on Opening Day 1908, as the New York Giants hosted his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds.  Chadwick was elected in 1938 to the Baseball Hall of Fame.


Born: NYC, Nov. 28, 1812
Died: Brooklyn, April 1894

Duncan Curry participated in the first committee tasked in 1853 with standardizing the "New York Game" into a set of written rules whereby the game of Base Ball would hence forth be played.  By 1845, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York was formed, with Curry being named its first president.  The Gothams and Eagles clubs were the Knickerbockers primary competition.

Born: Oct. 29, 1859
Died: Apr. 18, 1925

Owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers
1897 ~ 1925

150 Years of Baseball; Beekman House; 1989; Library of Congress CC#89-61429
Greenwood Cemetery

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