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146th Anniversary of the First Road Trip
2004-07-20 23:58
by Mike Carminati

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?

—Jack "Krol" Kerouac in On the Road

This is ridiculous. What are we going to do?…Road Trip.

—Animal House

1858 was an important year for baseball. The game's first organization, the National Association of Base Ball Players, took its name and adopted its first set of bylaws. The first non-New York area team, the Liberty club of New Brunswick, NJ, was formed to play the "New York" game.

Then on July 20, 1858 there was something very special, the first road trip and first all-star game. Here's the account of how it happened from the peerless book The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870 by Marshall D. Wright:

In late June, the New York Clipper reported plans for a series of matches. These were to be no ordinary games. Instead, they would pit an "All New York Nine" against an "All Brooklyn Nine." In other words, the best nine players from the New York clubs would square off against their Brooklyn counterparts. The New York group consisted of players from the Gotham, Knickerbocker, Eagle, Empire, and Union clubs, while the Brooklyn contingent was made up of members of the Atlantic, Excelsior, Putnam, and Eckford nines.

On July 20, 1858, at the Fashion Race Course in Brooklyn, the first match came off. The Clipper's issue of July 24 described the scene:

The stands at the Fashion on Tuesday [7/20] were crowded, the ladies seeming to preponderate; on different parts of the course were gathered immense numbers of spectators, while hundreds of vehicles were arranged at various places around the track. There could not have been less than 10,000 persons present.

The game itself proved to be close and exciting. In the end, New York bested their Brooklyn brethren 22-18. Very complete statistics were kept on the game—even to the level of measuring the pitch count which saw an astounding 547 pitches tossed by all hurlers.

In the return match played on August 17 at the same location, the Brooklyn contingent soundly thrashed New York by the count of 29-8. The Clipper described the inability of the Gothamites to score as follows: "Of the nine innings played on each side, New York included 5 round 0's their highest score being 4; while the Brooklynites had but a round 0, and the good score of 6 in their first and fourth innings."

With the series knotted at one each, the tie-breaking match was eagerly anticipated. On September 10, once again at the Fashion Race Course, the "All New York Nine" took on the "All Brooklyn Nine." With New York at bat first, the Clipper described the action: Gelston began by making a homerun, Benson was out at first by being caught on the fly by Pidgeon; Tooker by Boerum on a foul ball, and Gelston on the 1st base by Price. Gelston, Wadsworth, Pinckney, Thorne, DeBost, Burns and McCosker each made a run." Trailing by seven after the first one-half inning, the demoralized Brooklyn squad never recovered and lost decisively, 29-18.

These three matches were the pinnacle of baseball interest up to this point. Never before had so much interest been placed in the game—both in the sheer volume of spectators and in the press coverage that followed. Each contributed to the expansion of the sport.

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