Today we begin a two-part, two day series about Mansfield baseball — 19th century “base ball,” that is. We thought we’d begin by taking a pause to ask and answer a question – when did baseball arrive in Richland County?
As students of local history and sports enthusiasts will share, the first professional baseball game in American history was played in Mansfield in 1869. That year, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (today’s Reds) came to town to take on the Independents. The final score of that contest saw the Independents go down 48-14.
That was not the first game played here, however. That had taken place on September 12, 1866 and saw two local teams play each other, the Mansfield and Exchange clubs. The field lay somewhere off of East Fourth Street. The former prevailed by a score of 45-31.
The two squads were combined in May 1866 to become the Independents, with a new playing ground on East Market Street (Park Avenue East). That year saw the following games and scores, among others:
- Mansfield 100, Ashland 30
- Mansfield 70, Delaware Lenape 18
- Mansfield 50, University of Delaware (OWU?) 18
- Mansfield 106, Galion 39
- Mansfield 77, Mount Vernon 22
It should be noted that in the 1860s, “pitching” referred to an underhanded delivery with the arm straight and the palm facing forward.
In a game against Akron, center fielder R.H. Rowland of the Independents had a hit which landed some 495 feet from home plate. That particular contest was interrupted in the second inning by a violent rainstorm.
Several Mansfield baseball scenes can be viewed in this overview presented by the Sherman Room of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library.
Tomorrow, we’ll speed up the clock a bit. Stay tuned.
Photo: Creative Commons License