Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pitiful Pitching

Baseball was different in 1866, notably in this article about a game in Brooklyn.

The New York Herald - September 12, 1866

Eckford vs. Enterprise.
  The game between these clubs played at the Union grounds, Brooklyn, E.D., on Monday afternoon, resulted in a victory for the Enterprise Club, after a finely played game of eight innings. When it is asserted that the game was well played, it must be understood as applying only to the fielding, as the batting was not at all what it might be, while the pitching was as wild almost as when the pitcher was allowed to run in half a dozen yards before he delivered the ball. But the Umpire did not mind it, and the pitchers were allowed to worry the batsmen to their hearts' content. As an instance, in one innings Hall, of the Enterprise, was at the bat and Southworth pitching. The ball was pitched seven times without reaching the home base once except after a bound or two; then a ball was pitched about eight feet up in the air; then one for which the catcher had to run at least five yards to the left of his position in order to stop. At the tenth ball the batsman struck, but the ball was not at all within reach; then four more bounders and the fifteenth ball was hit. During all this time no "ball" was called. Of the Enterprise nine Richards, Hall and Patterson deserve mention, and of the Eckford Ryan, Manolt and Snyder. The last mentioned was substituted in McDonald's place, who was playing finely, but in attempting to catch a line ball from Pinkhams bat, in the third innings, was badly hurt and obliged to retire. 

I have no comment.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Researching The Patriarch

Samuel Wright was the father of two men in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Harry Wright and George Wright.  He was also the father of Samuel Wright, Jr., who played in 45 games spread out over four years in the big leagues.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection,
The New York Public Library. "Sam Wright". The NYPL Digital Collections.

So, who was Samuel Wright?  He was a cricketer, one of the first professional cricketers in the United States.

But what about his life?  I'll attempt to answer that question using a variety of documents and public records.  I relied on Christopher Devine's Harry Wright: The Father Of Professional Base Ball to guide me through the basics.  I utilized,,,,,, and the direction of Jimmy Leiderman to get me to this point.  Try to think of this post as a mess of annotations and less of a narrative and you'll do fine.

Samuel Wright was born on May 22, 1812 in England and christened the next month.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 March 2016), Samuel Wright, 21 Jun 1812; citing , reference ; FHL microfilm 919,327.

Samuel's wife was named Ann.  I have not found a record of their marriage.  The christening of their son, William Henry Wright, also known as Harry, was recorded in 1832.  Devine states that Ann was Annie Tone, and they were married in 1830.

Harry, born William Henry Wright, was christened on November 8, 1832, at St. Peter, Leeds, York, England.

At some point the Samuel Wright family leaves England and travels to America.  I find them living in New York City at the time of the 1840 US Census.  There are five people in the household.  Two males under the age of 5, one male aged 30-40, one female under age 5, and one female aged 20-30.  Samuel would be the older male, Ann would be the older female.  According to the christening record, Harry would be in the second column, males aged 5 to 10.  From the 1840 Census we can't really tell anything else about the family, such as names or birth years.

"United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 March 2016), Samuel Wright, New York Ward 11, New York, New York, United States; citing p. 75, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 305; FHL microfilm 17,197.

Ten years later (1850) the family is still in New York.  And the Census Bureau does a great thing for future genealogists and researchers.  They include every name, age, sex, color, profession, place of birth, and a few other things.

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 March 2016), Samuel Wright, New York City, ward 12, New York, New York, United States; citing family 631, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

In the 1850 Census we find:
Samuel Wright, 37, Joiner Tool Maker, England (est. birth year = 1813)
Ann, 37, , Ireland (1813)
William H., , 15, Silver Smith, England (1835)
Daniel, 12, , New York (1838)
George, 3, , New York (1847)
Samuel, 1, , New York (1849)

This is where it starts to get fun.  More children, missing child.  Date ranges.  If William (Harry) was born in 1835 in England, and Daniel was born in 1838 in New York, then we can assume that the Wright family came to America between those years.  I have not found any ship's manifest or immigration papers that shows when the travel occurred.

I've realized that I'm starting to open a can of worms for myself.  I easily get sidetracked.  In this exercise I will try to stay focused on Samuel, the father.  I guess I'll have to write up some posts on the children at another time.  If you stick with me I'll be recycling some of these items.

Trying to keep things in somewhat of a chronological order, here's an 1856 profile on "Veteran Sam".

New York Clipper - July 19, 1856
image from the University of Illinois UC Digital Newspaper Collections
From that profile we're shown a different birth date than the FamilySearch document above.

So, on to the 1860 Census.  The family is now living in Hoboken, New Jersey.

"United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 March 2016), Samuel Wright, 1860.

In this Census we find:
Samuel Wright, 55, Cricketer, England (est. birth year = 1805)
Ann, 50, , England (1810)
George, 12, , New York (1848)
Samuel, 10, , New York (1850)
William, 8, , New York (1842)
David, 23, Clerk , New York (1837)

And then on to the 1870 Census.

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 March 2016), Daniel Wright, New Jersey, United States; citing p. 16, family 117, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,360.

In the 1870 Census we find:
Daniel, 33, Clerk , New York (est. birth year = 1837)
Margaret E., 30, Keeping House , New York (1840)
Sammie Sr., 57, No Occupation, England (1813)
Ann, 50, At Home, Ireland (1820)
Sammie, 21, Works at Book Binding, New York (1849)
Mary, 20, At Home, New York (1851)
George, 5, , New Jersey (1865)

Samuel is no longer head of the house.  Still the Patriarch, but not the head of the house.  This will be the last federal census we find him in, as he dies in 1877.

New York Clipper - December 29, 1877
image from the University of Illinois UC Digital Newspaper Collections

And the official record we see he had disease of the kidneys (among other things), lived at Savin Hill, was a wood turner, and was born in England to Daniel and Sarah.

"Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 March 2016), 0960213 (004221428) > image 633 of 797; State Archives, Boston.
Another death record shows that he was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston.  It also shows that the cause of death was apoplexy, which could either be internal bleeding or a stroke syndrome.

Boston Record of Deaths, 1877; Vol· 3 (Jan-Dec) Source Information Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

I called Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts and spoke with Sally.  She was able to confirm that Samuel Wright was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery on December 21, 1877.  He is in Section 25, grave number 1790.  That section is known as the "Field of Manoah".  I asked if his wife, Ann (who died in 1887), was buried near him.  She said that they had no record for her.

image from

I've created a FindAGrave memorial for Samuel Wright and have requested a volunteer to take a photo of his grave marker.  Maybe when the weather in Boston becomes more mild someone will fill the request.

I've already started working on the next portion of Samuel's life, this time recorded in the directories of the cities in which he lived (Hoboken, Newark, and Boston).  Other bits will include some of his cricket history.  I've got plans to share similar posts about his wife and children and their families.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A guide to cricket guides

In a similar vein to the New Old Base Ball Guides post I've collected a list of Spalding Guides for Cricket.

"But wait. This is supposed to be a baseball blog."

 Yeah, whatever. The two sports are probably form the same mother sport, or at least in the same sport family. I'm currently doing some research with Jimmy Leiderman on Samuel Wright, father of the Wright brothers (Harry and George).  Samuel was a cricketer and I know nothing of the sport.

1904 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1906 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1907 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1908 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1910 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1911 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1912 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1913 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1914 – Spalding's Cricket Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Game and an Escape at Folsom Prison - 1942

Looking through my twitter feed today I came across this gem from Baseball Reference:

Another story too ripe not to look into.  The first article I found at lined up with what the tweet stated.

Cleveland Plain Dealer - February 9, 1942

The second story added a bit more information.  If this article is accurate, then the game wasn't stopped, but delayed, and the delay caused the match to go only seven innings.

Sacramento Bee - February 9, 1942
Below is a list of the players from the box score.
I struggled with who Edwards, the catcher, was. Then I expanded my search in the newspapers.  The previous week Sacramento Bee ran a story about the upcoming game.

Sacramento Bee - February 3, 1942
Now I know more about the game but I know nothing of the escapees.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Proposed New Base Ball Diamond

Towards the end of January cricket and base ball researcher Jimmy Leiderman posted a Baseball Field Diagram published in Venezuelan newspaper from 1895 on his Facebook page. With his permission I'm sharing it here.

It made me wonder what other base ball field diagrams were printed, and can we learn anything about the evolution of the game?  Off to my favorite haunts to research.  One of the first ones that I came across was an experimental diamond.

The Sporting Life - November 5, 1892

In 1892 civil engineer Clifford B. Spencer, of Rolla, Missouri, submitted a proposal to the Chicago National League club (then the Colts) for a new baseball diamond.  One with four bases and a home plate.  A transcription of the article from The Sporting Life follows the images below.

The Good and Bad Points of the Scheme and Probable Consequences of Adoption Pointed Out. 
  On this page we present for the consideration of the rule-makers, and the comment of all interested in the improvement of the same of base ball, a new diamond. This proposed new diamond is the creation of Mr. Cliff B. Spencer, of Rolla, Mo., who furnishes the diagram and specifications. It was first submitted to the Chicago Club and then turned over to THE SPORTING LIFE by President Hart with earnest request for publication and comment.

  In the accompanying diagram of this new diamond the dotted lines represent the present diamond, and the heavier black lines present the new diamond, which in appearance approaches nearer the true diamond form than what is now designated as a diamond, although really a square.

  The proposed new diamond is a startling innovation, but the more it is studied the more favorably it impresses. The new diamond provides for a home base and four additional bases instead of three as now. This extra base would not, however, necessitate an additional infielder unless it is desired to make the game ten men and ten innings, which increase has been repeatedly suggested for many years by some excellent critics. Under the new system four men could attend to the infield as now the first baseman and second baseman taking care of their usual bases, the short stop becoming third baseman, while the present third baseman would be fourth baseman. A glance at the diagram will show that the new base lines would throw first and fourth bases about ten feet further out than the present base lines, thus making a very much larger area for fair balls, thereby increasing the batting very considerably, besides reducing the number of foul balls.

  It will be observed that the distances from second base to third base and from third base to fourth base are each but 70 feet. This would give the base-runners better chance of stealing bases. It is true, the catcher's throwing distance is decreased from about 128 or 129 feet to 120 or 122 feet, and he is in a better position to throw the ball going diagonally across the diamond and there being no obstacle such as pitcher or umpire in the way. But the advantage would be still somewhat in favor of the runner, which is better than with the present dimensions, under which the ball, if properly handled, must inevitably and invariably beat the fleetest runner if the pitcher does not give him too much start.

  Increased base-running would not, however, mean so many more runs as to make games seem tedious and scores look bad, because the distance from the plate to first base and from fourth base to the plate is still ninety feet and the entire circuit thirty feet more than the present circuit. Thus, while there would be more base-running on the short lines, the additional circuit distance, and the long distances between home and first and fourth and home, would operate against excessive run-scoring.
  The palpable advantages of the proposed new diamond may be briefly summed up a follows:
* Increased batting even with the pitchers in their present position.
* A very marked decrease in the number of foul balls due to extended base lines and larger area for fair batted balls.
* Increased base stealing with better opportunity for good plays by catchers, and with less wear and tear upon the throwing arms of catchers.
* A livelier fielding game, owing to larger fielding area and more chances resulting from increase in batting.

  No decided disadvantage are apparent in this proposed new diamond except that it may operate to the extreme in batting, base running and run-scoring. The first-named objection, could, however be easily overcome by deadening the ball somewhat more should the batting become too heavy. The second and third detects may be neutralized by the greater opportunities afforded catchers for good throwing work and the increased length of the circuit of the bases.

  The proposed new diamond, if adopted, would be a radical innovation. But it may be that a radical remedy is requisite to restore the base ball patient to entire health and vigor. It is generally conceded that some changes in the game are urgently needed in order to make it more attractive, to lift it out of the rut of pitcher-domination into which it has fallen; in short that it is necessary to evolve some new feature to at once challenge and rivet public attention and favor. The proposed diamond would certainly achieve that much. The very novelty of it would arouse public attention and interest.  But whether it would hold that interest permanently can only be ascertained by a trial of the plan, which could be done in some of the April exhibition games.

  If found satisfactory the new diamond might, and doubtless would, go a long way toward tilling the base ball parks next season, as the novelty would bring out all the old-time lovers and patrons of the game, if only out of curiosity. Once back, the merits of the sport under new conditions might once more make these old-timers permanent patrons and enthusiasts, as of old.  For the general public the innovation would also, for a time at least, serve as a magnet. The new diamond would also stir the amateur and semi-professional clubs and players into renewed activity everywhere. Last, but not least, the innovation would bring out many new points and complications in rules and practice, thus opening numerous avenues for discussion of the artistic aide of the game, and keeping it constantly before the public in its best and brightest aspect.
  Having shown in all fairness the apparent advantages and disadvantages of the proposed new diamond and the probable effects of its adoption, we submit the measure for the consideration of the press, public and magnates without further committing our selves thereto.

  It is not intended here to advocate, either reservedly or unreservedly, the adoption of this radical innovation, because there is an other less radical method available for achieving pretty much the same beneficial effects that have been pointed out above as a probable result of the adoption of the proposed new diamond. In perhaps our next issue we shall present at length and comment fully upon this other less radical and perhaps more certain method of placing the sport upon a permanent basis and restoring it to supreme popular favor and support. The choice of methods will then rest with the magnates.   EDITOR SPORTING LIFE.

Spencer's diagram and the article were later published in newspapers across the country.  I do not know if the proposed field was ever chalked out and played upon.  I'm not a math guy, but I'd be interested to know what the increased area would be for the Spencer's field.

1895 Venezuelan diagram courtesy of Jimmy Leiderman
The Sporting Life images from

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New old baseball guides

Major League Baseball Historian John Thorn shared today that Northern Illinois University has digitized more editions of Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player.  These are some very early base ball guides and rules books.

Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player - 1862
Nickels and Dimes - Northern Illinois University

Watchdog reporter, data journalist, and SABR's Baseball Database Guru, Sean Lahman, has assembled a rather comprehensive list of baseball guides available on the internet.  I've found a few more guides that Sean doesn't yet have listed.  Rather than keep them to myself, I figured I'd share them.  I'm using Sean's html format below.  I'm assuming that he will fold these in with his list.

1884 – Spalding Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1901 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1903 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1905 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1913 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1917 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)
1919 – Reach Guide | View online (Source: Internet Archive)

Actually, they are on his list, just not easily found.  When the Internet Archive digitized these books, they probably took the info from the title page, but the bound volume might have multiple years.  So the above links go directly to the start of the book, which might be in the middle of a bound volume.

Things to read on a snowy day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Monte Irvin's High School

Monte Irvin slipped from this earth this week.  He was a great ball player and will be missed.

While doing some research about his early years I found his high school yearbook.  It is his senior year at Orange High School in Orange, New Jersey.

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

In my joy of finding this I sent it out over social media, mistakenly adding that it was from East Orange HS.

Now, why did I do that?  Because Baseball-Reference, Seamheads, and even the SABR BioProject entry for Monte Irvin have that info.  I had it in my head and that's what I wrote.  But I was wrong.

This clipping from the Trenton Evening Times says that "One of the newcomers is Monte Irvin, former Orange High School and Lincoln University athlete."

Trenton Evening Times - May 12, 1939
image from

Here's another photo of Monte from his yearbook.  He was a member of the Student Patrol.

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from
He's mentioned in the yearbook as being ill for track season.    On the basketball page it is mentioned that "Midway during the season Orange was dealt a severe blow when Monford Irvin was forced to the hospital with a streptococcus infection."

Here are the baseball, basketball, football, and track teams from that same yearbook.  Individual players aren't named and I am not good at identifying people in photographs.  I assume that he's included in these photos.

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

1938 Orange Peel - Orange HS, Orange, NJ
image from

So, I think that Monte Irvin attended Orange High School, in Orange, New Jersey.  How does one request change at other sites that have different information?