Monday, June 11, 2012

. . . At the Old Ball Game

Our teammate, Sports Legends Museum, has a special treat for visitors this weekend.

Melding Camden Station's role in the Civil War with its current identity as the home of the premier area sports museum, Legends is presenting a talk by historian Richard D'Ambrisi on the role base ball played in the recreational activities of soldiers during the Civil War.

The discussion will take place at 2:00 pm on Saturday, June 16. Visitors to the museum can enjoy this as part of their experience.

Most of us think the national pastime became part of our cultural fiber in the beginning of the 20th century.  But organized base ball, with paid players, traveling teams, and leagues, goes back much further.

At the time the Civil War broke out, it was just a popular game played  in cow pastures and grassy fields in both north and south.  When the young men marched off to war, they took balls and bats with them.  Sometimes, they fabricated the equipment as they went along.  And yes, they had pick-up games between battles. 

(No, the Army of the Potomac did not challenge the Army of Northern Virginia, but that would have made a heck of a World Series.)
Vintage Base Ball, as it is called (it was two words until late in the 18th century) is still practiced today in the area. (That's Mr. D'Ambrisi in his Chesapeake & Potomac uniform at the top.)

It's hard to talk about base ball's origins, or the Civil War for that matter, without bringing up Abner Doubleday.  He's a two-fer.  The man from Cooperstown credited with naming the game, designing the diamond, and laying down the rules was also a West Point graduate who served the Union with distinction as a general.

It seems the decision to declare General Doubleday the founder of base ball in 1839 was actually made by a committee in the early part of the 20th century.  The Mills Committee was appointed, by sporting goods entrepreneur Albert Spalding, to decide once and for all where the game truly originated.  The committee consisted of league executives, equipment suppliers, and politicians.  No historians need apply.

In any case, Cooperstown got the Hall of Fame out of the deal.

The history of the national pastime is interesting at any time, but when incorporated into the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, it can be seen in a new perspective as a common interest among those in the blue and those who wore gray.

 Mr. D'Ambrisi has spoken about baseball's colorful past several times at Sports Legends.  His talks are both entertaining and educational, with pictures and letters from an earlier era illustrating his stories.

Stop in and take a step back in time, when Camden Station was a vital transportation link for miliary and civilian transport, and baseball was a way for young soldiers to momentarily forget the horrors of war.

No comments:

Post a Comment