Excerpt from "A Concise History of Sport in Canada"

by Don Morrow, Oxford University Press, 1989

Reprinted with permission from author

"...Though profoundly American in its later development - with its star players, rules, leagues and large financial backing - it [baseball] was not 'invented' as legend has it, by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. A game has been described one year earlier in Beachville, Ontario, halfway between Woodstock and Ingersoll. It was played in a form remarkable similar to the so-called "New York" rules later established by the New York Knickerbocker Club in 1845...The Beachville game of 4 June 1838 was described by Adam Ford (1831 - 1906) in a letter that was published in part in the Ingersoll Chronicle on 20 May 1886 and later appeared in full in Sporting Life. The game was held on a holiday, Militia Muster Day (This was only 6 months after the Mackenzie Rebellion in Toronto) and took place in a field behind Enoch Burdick's shops, between the Beachville Club and the Zorras, players from two Neighbouring townships.

Four bases, called "byes" marked the infield area, and there were foul areas - corroborating the early departure from cricket's 360 degree "fair territory" (The 'oval') surrounding the batsman. Hits and runs were numerous, since the real fun was in getting runners out by "plugging" - that is the runner, when caught between bases , could be tagged or hit (plugged) by a ball thrown at him. No one wore gloves, the score was kept by notches on a stick; and games lasted from 6 to 9 innings. Games played earlier than 1838 (so Ford Suggested) were declared finished when one team reached 18 or 21 runs first. Finally the players - Ford noted that the number per team varied between 7 and 12 - ranged in age from 15 to 24. Ford named them all.

His letter establishes baseball as one of the earliest team sports in Canada. Moreover, it underscores the village roots of the game. Vestiges of the 1838 rules - namely the use of 11 players and 4 bases and a common striker's box / home bye - remained in the Woodstock - Ingersoll area until at least 1860. The more popular New York Game - which used 9 players and 3 bases - was in vogue in the United States and in other Ontario communities.

... The team of the 1860's was the Woodstock Young Canadian, who played their first match in 1861 and were undefeated by a Canadian team until 1867. When they were beaten by the Dundas Independent Club...This club [Woodstock Young Canadians] was instrumental in introducing the concept of baseball 'championship' when in 1863, they solicited subscriptions to purchase a silver ball, the winner of which would be designated the champion baseball club in Canada.

 

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