Thursday, May 13, 2004

George Washington Played Third Base?

Probably not, but a new find indicates Washington might have wanted Lafayette to include a baseball stadium in the master plan for D.C. It seems officials in Pittsfield, Mass., have found documentation for a town ordinance passed in 1791 barring the playing of baseball within 80 yards of the town meeting house [ Berkshire Eagle | Globe | Herald | ESPN | NPR | BBC ]. The town officials were worried about baseballs breaking windows, something I am quite familiar with from my youth.

From The Berkshire Eagle:
The Pittsfield bylaw states, "... for the Preservation of the Windows in the New Meeting House ... no Person or Inhabitant of said Town, shall be permitted to play at any game Called Wicket, Cricket, Base ball, Bat ball, Foot ball, Cat, Fives or any other Game or Games with Balls, within the Distance of Eighty Yards from said Meeting House."

Wahconah Park is little more than a mile from the site of the 1790 meeting house (best I can figure).

It's also worth noting that the previous first written reference to baseball came from an 1823 newspaper article about "base ball" in Manhattan. Not to point things out, but a shift of the origins of baseball from the heartland of the Hated Yankees to Red Sox Nation brings a big smile to my face and can only be a harbinger of things to come this October.

The only game I saw in Wahconah Park was when the Pittsfield Mets (a Single A New York Penn League affiliate for the Mets) were there in the late 1990s. For the 2001 season, the Pittsfield Mets became the Pittsfield Astros for one year before moving to Troy, N.Y., to become the Tri-Cities ValleyCats. The Berkshire Black Bears (a Northeast League independent club) moved in next, but after the 2003 season they moved Lynn, Mass., to become the North Shore Spirit.

Now Wahconah Park is being redone for a new team come 2005. Jim Bouton has a full rundown on the latest plans for Wahconah Park.

[ASIDE: Actually, until working on this posting, I hadn't poked around the Minor League Baseball site. It's pretty well done, especially the map to click around to find regional teams.]

[ANOTHER ASIDE: I don't remember who the Pittsfield Mets played in that game I saw at Wahconah, but I do remember that I was distracted by the guy sitting in the row ahead of us who kept explaining the game to two preteens in Norwegian. He grandkids were visiting from Norway, so he took them to a ballgame, which was pretty cool -- even if I didn't learn how to say "double play" in Nynorsk.]

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