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One, two, three strikes: Villanova Baseball scorebooks

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Students at Villanova College played baseball, and indeed had great sport at playing other teams. Not only did they play other local colleges but they also played amateur teams, like the St. Charles Seminary team, throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Two newly digitized scorebooks document these early Villanova College baseball games and show the historic development of collegiate baseball. Indeed the earliest recorded Villanova game of the “Villanova 9″ just after the end of the U.S. Civil War, November 12, 1866 was a great blowout with the Villanova College team scoring a winning 46 runs to 13 against the amateur team, the “Picked Nine”.

As part of the growing Athletics Collection of the Villanova Digital Library, these box scores allow the reader to visualize the games as they transpired.

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There is no one method of scoring a baseball game. Many different methods prevailed during the development of the modern game. In 1874 Henry Chadwick, known as the father of baseball score keeping, noted, “It is about time that one system of scoring should be adapted throughout the country” [Dickson, 9]. That development never happened, as different publishers produced competing versions. From the 1860’s to the mid-1890, Villanova used a more free form of scorebook, but Villanova scorers switched to the more detailed Caylor System in the late 1899s that included the now common “box score” for recording hits, runs, and fielding outs. The first known scorecard for a professional game was produced for the game between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Philadelphia Athletics on October 11, 1866 [Light, 832]. Collegiate records are much more fragmented, but the dates of these Villanova scorebooks makes them among the earliest in the country.

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Scorebooks remain an essential part of documenting athletic competitions. Indeed today every major league baseball game is required to have an official scorekeeper and scorebook [Light, 833].

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Sources:

Paul Dickson. The Joy of Keeping Score: How scoring the game has influenced and enhanced the history of baseball. New York: Walker and Company, 2007.

Jonathan Fraser Light. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball. Second edition. McFarland & Company, 2005.

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Gentleman Jim, Sailor Brown, the Ithica Giant, and the Brooklyn Strong Boy

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The reigning champion of the world of boxing in 1894 was Gentleman Jim Corbett. Or was he? Corbett was one of the first to treat the sport of boxing as a science and did much to create the modern sport, moving the contest from bare knuckled brawlers of prior days to more “gentle” gloved boxers of the 20th century.

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The Pugilistic Publishing Company of Philadelphia was one of the promoters of this movement toward a more educated sport. In 1894, they published a glamorous large photograph laden volume: Portrait gallery of pugilists of America and their contemporaries from James J. Corbett to Tom Hyer. This title features sketches and photographs of famous current fighters, not just from America but from around the world. These oft mustachioed men performed with a theatrical air, even applying makeup before a match, and are somewhat reminiscent of the modern World Wide Wrestling scene. With ear grabbing sobriquets like: “The Marine”, Professor Clark, “The Cleveland Trumpeter”, Sailor Brown, “The Ithica Giant”, “The Brooklyn Strong Boy”, “The Prussian”, “The Nonpareil “, and “The Thunderbolt”, these were the sports celebrities of the Gilded Age. Contained within this title also are a number of plates detailing and describing the best of the modern boxing and footwork techniques.

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Like other historical cultural objects this book is a product of the times that created it. At that point in time, race divided and segregated athletes. This book does include boxers of different races and nationalities, but the irrational prejudices that still pervaded the sport can be seen manifested in the ways that awards and boxing titles were awarded and contests scheduled. While Jim Corbett is titled the “World Champion”, George Godfrey is given the title “First Colored Heavy-Weight Champion of America”. Indeed, the white boxer John L. Sullivan refused to fight Godfrey for the championship because of his race. So who was really the best boxer of the bare knuckle era? The defining competition never took place so we can only speculate.

Photo of Godfrey:
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Last Modified: February 6, 2009