Old News: Baseball’s First Home Run(s)

Because you, reader, are the attentive sort of person this country needs more of, you’ll undoubtedly recall how, two days ago in these electronic pages, I, Carson Cistulli, invoked the name of Chicago White Stocking Ross Barnes — i.e. progenitor of the home run in organized baseball.

Because you, reader, are also the curious sort of person this country needs more of, you probably thought to yourself something like, “I wonder what it might’ve been like to actually have witnessed that historic event.”

Luckily, this is an area in which I’m able to offer some assistance. For, after a combination of database-searching and barely ept cut-and-pasting, I’ve managed to include in this post some excerpts from the Chicago Tribune‘s report of the historic game (from the May 3, 1876 edition of that paper).

The image that introduces this post is the headline for the Tribune’s sporting coverage for that day.

Below, here, is the beginning of the game report proper. Note the antiquated spelling of today.

Next is the description of Barnes’ historic hit. The author doesn’t seem particularly stirred by the significance of the event, suggesting the home run, as a thing, was already common enough.

The phrase “to the carriages” is a bit surprising; however, this image (courtesy of the Society for Cincinnati Sports Research) of Cincinnati’s Avenue Grounds might offer some illumination, as there are, very literally, carriages in the left field area:

Next we have organized baseball’s second-ever home run — this one by Cincinnati’s Charley Jones.

Below is the box score, such as it was at the time. All-Around Smart Guy Rob Neyer provides the key to this old-timey lock, as follows:

T = Times (at bat)
R = Runs
B = Bases
P = Putouts
A = Assists
B? K? = ???

Finally, we have what is almost definitely the most charming portion of the report, a prologue of sorts called “The Character of the Game.” It should certainly be re-instituted as a fixture of the modern game recap.




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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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Dayn Perry
Editor
Member

I’m pretty sure if game stories were still written like this, the newspaper would be saved.

Diane
Guest

I miss the game recaps in The Sporting News. Reading that some pitcher “wielded a calcimine brush” in shutting out a team always brought a smile to my face.

Shoa
Guest
Shoa

What a treat to read! This is my new all time favorite Fangraphs post.

Eric
Guest
Eric

I love the image of the fielder making arrangements to secure the ball.

Also, I may be incorrectly deciphering the text, but I’m glad that the author clarifies that the game, despite appearances, was not a ‘muffin contest’.

danup
Guest

I sponsored Ross Barnes’s Baseball-Reference page for a while in the hopes that his tiny-white-second-baseman example would inspire Aaron Miles to master the fair-foul bunt and put up an OPS+ of 231.

It didn’t happen.

baycommuter
Guest
baycommuter

Beautiful writing from the newspaper that 20 years later would bring us Ring Lardner and some of the funniest baseball writing ever.
“The Whites seemed to have recovered from their tendency to bat Fisher’s delivery up in the air.” Didn’t he know there was too small a sample size for that to be a tendency and that Mr. Fisher in fact had little control over how his “Spaldings were waked up” except for the aforementioned home runs?

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt

“The Ponies once more taken into camp.”

I’m sure that, 130 years ago, that must have been the equivalent of saying “Phillies Phall Phor Phourth time in Phive games.”

Danmay
Guest
Danmay

This was a wonderful surprise, thank you. Your writing style has never seemed more appropriate and straight-foward.

Danmay
Guest
Danmay

I not even sure what I was trying to say with that second sentence. I guess it was too late at night.

Shaniqua Goodier
Guest

Some antique collectors just have a passion for history. They like to comprehend and to know why a certain object was used, how it had been used or who applied it. They are interested by the obvious ways how the world and technology includes changed and grown. By collecting objects from your past they feel like they are partially connected to some time in which they by no means lived, is long removed but somehow still lasted.

Steve-O
Guest
Steve-O

I remember reading an article about the pitcher for the away team “toeing the alien humpback”. I think the old baseball writing is about the best journalism ever written.

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