Play! Ball!

Can you guess what was the earliest sport played on the M.A.C. (Maryland Agricultural College) campus in the mid- to late 1800s?

Baseball.  The cadets began playing baseball competitively shortly after the Civil War.  Games were more of the club variety, without a formal squad or schedule. The first record of game action the University Archives has found in the local newspapers comes from the Baltimore Sun of June 7, 1869:

On Saturday last, a friendly match game of base ball was played between the Vernon Club, composed of the students of the Maryland Agricultural College, and the Star Club of Laurel. After a well-contested game, the Vernon was declared the winning club, the score standing–Vernon 61, Star 40. The day was cool and favorable for playing, the sky being overspread with clouds. There was quite a number of ladies and gentlemen present to witness the friendly struggle. The game was called at four o’clock and lasted until seven. S. Brashbears as acted as umpire, and W. Easter and Thomas O’Brian as scorers.

A recent University Archives acquisition challenges this 1869 date. In summer 2016, the Archives purchased a diary from 1865 written by M.A.C. student Charles Berry. Berry described playing “base ball” in his several of his March entries, so it is likely that the game was prevalent on campus even before 1869. You can find more information about Berry’s diary here.

1871-rule-book-coverAnother early indication of the presence of baseball on the M.A.C. campus is the grouping of baseball rule books, dating from 1871 to 1910, found in the mid-1990s among the records of the University of Maryland President’s Office. Although there is no direct proof that these rule books were used at M.A.C., their presence among the president’s files would seem to imply that the cadets were indeed playing baseball at that time.

By 1893, according to the Maryland Agricultural College Bulletin of July 16, 1894, a typical team consisted of the college’s vice president, a math professor, the athletic director, and several students.

Several early players of note deserve special attention:

simon-nicholls-page_cropThe first Terp to play baseball professionally was Simon Nicholls (Class of 1903), who played shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Naps in the early 1900s.

Charlie (King Kong) Keller (Class of 1937) is the only Terp to play in the All-Star game and the World Series to date.

charley-keller-day_crop
Charley Keller Day at Yankee Stadium, 1948

H. Burton (Ship) Shipley, baseball and basketball coach to players known as “Shipleymen” for 38 years (1923-1961), was inducted into the Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. Shipley Field was named in Coach Ship’s honor in 1956.

 

As the Terrapins inaugurate America’s Favorite Pasttime this spring, we celebrate and honor our baseball heritage and recognize the many accomplishments of the men who built the UMD baseball program.

Go Terps! Play! Ball!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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