Annus Mirabilis 1869: Year of the Rain Out

The Antioch College bombers. Even tho there are 10 of them, there still weren't enough to make an impact on the best pro team of the era.

The Antioch College bombers: even if there were 10 of them, too few to impact the pro team of the era

On July 23, 1866, the Cincinnati Red Stockings were organized, and from 1867 to 1870 their record was 175 wins, 15 losses, 1 draw. Base-ball, to that time, had been “a Gentleman’s game”: even if the Reds beat everyone’s brains in.

English cricket had already begun turning professional. But news to/in the U.S. then was slow. So it was in 1869 that the Cincinnati club shocked the North American sporting world by turning all-pro. Dominance was so cast iron that, opening on May 4, 1869, the Red Stockings’s record for the season would be an ungentlemanly 70 and 0. (At one point, they won 84-straight games before losing 8-7, in extra innings, to the Brooklyn Atlantics.)

Antioch College—where my (Evander) grandfather worked as a teacher of sculpting and bronze-casting, coming from the old country to start there ca. early 1926: he founded the art department and, to mix some metaphors, took to baseball like the proverbial duck (a subject that is covered, from several angles, in Right off the Bat)—was considered the best amateur ball club in 1869. But since you know the record, no surprise that they lost to the Red Stockings on May 15…by a score of 41-7. (Someone missed the extra point—bad [American] football joke for readers unfamiliar.) On October 24, the game was a little more competitive: only a 45-10 shellacking (speaking of statues: and they ran the bases about as well).

Antioch enters the first-ever category, however, on May 31 of that year. Scheduled to play (who else?) Cincinnati, the game was mercifully called off due to pouring rain in Yellow Springs. Yes, May 31, 2016, is the 147th anniversary—if I did the math correctly—of the first-ever professional-baseball rain out. The story was posted on June 3, 1869, by one Harry M. Millar, a reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial.

Because of the weather, the first professional-baseball game is credited to Mansfield, Ohio.

Whether Yellow Springs rain checks were issued by its bastion of U.S. liberal-arts education I do not know. But I do thank super-sleuth and Columbus mathematician Paul Ponomarev for once again inspiring a blog with a surprising factoid as a new baseball season gets underway. Paul might also check my “yearly calculation.”

[Further elucidation is from Antiochian magazine, Spring 2018, with additional details regarding players’ lives and pro ball on pages 46-49. The issue cited is furnished, with thanks of the ROTB project, by Gabriele Knecht.]

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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