The New York Base Ball Club (a.k.a. Washington BBC, Gotham BBC), Part 3

Base Ball Founders, 2013

Base Ball Founders, 2013

This biographical section concludes the essay, commenced here: and continued here: It was published in print in Base Ball Founders: The Clubs, Players and Cities of the Northeast That Established the Game. (McFarland, 2013). The aid of editor Peter Morris in this section was invaluable.

Cornelius V. Anderson: President of the Washington Club in the early 1850s after being the chief engineer of the Volunteer Firemen from 1837 to 1848. His portrait was prominently displayed at Harry Venn’s Gotham Cottage at 298 Bowery, the ballclub’s headquarters after 1845. Born in New York City on April 1, 1809, Anderson was a mason by trade. In 1852 he became the first president of the Lorillard Fire Insurance Company. His health began to fail in 1856 and he died on November 22, 1858. He was revered among the city’s firemen, who erected an elaborate tombstone in his honor at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Charles H. Beadle: First baseman and officer of the Gotham Club during and after the Civil War, into the 1870s. Charles’s brother, Edward Beadle, was also involved in the club and both brothers later moved to Cranford, New Jersey, where Edward served as mayor in 1885.

Edward Bonnell: Edward Bonnell was recalled by George Zettlein as “one of the players” on the Gothams. Born around 1825, Bonnell was a liquor dealer before becoming a member of the New York Board of Fire Commissioners in 1865. Zettlein reported that Bonnell was living in Philadelphia in 1887.[39]

William F. Burns: A Gotham catcher in 1855–56. According to the Clipper article quoted in the profile of Venn, Burns died in the 1857 sinking of the SS Central America. Contemporary coverage of that tragedy does indeed list him among the missing: “William Burns of New York City. Had been in California about a year.”[40]

C[larence] A. Burtis: The leading Gotham player of 1860, in which his runs-per-game ratio was the third best in the National Association, behind only Grum of the Eckfords and Leggett of the Excelsiors. In a game against the Mutuals on September 4, 1860, Burtis hit two home runs. After playing for the Gotham Club in 1859 and 1860, Burtis was absent from the lineup in 1861. He was back by the summer of 1862 and played through at least 1865. He also played in an 1888 oldtimers benefit game for John Zeller, crippled by a gruesome baseball injury. George Zettlein described Burtis (though recalling him as Bustis) as a “boss painter in the Ninth ward,” so he can only be Clarence A. Burtis, a painter who was born around 1835 and died in Manhattan on May 16, 1894. Burtis enlisted in the 83rd Regiment, New York Infantry, on May 26, 1861, and was a sergeant-major by the time of his discharge in June of 1862. Like many of his fellow club members, Burtis was also very active in the fire department.

Charles L. Case, passport application, 1850

Charles L. Case, passport application, 1850

Charles Ludlow Case: Born in Newburgh, New York, in 1818, he was a NYBBC player in the contest of November 10, 1845, when he resided at 7 Murray and was a merchant at 101 Front. He was at one time a butcher at Washington Market. He also played for the New York Club in the two games against the cricketers from the Union Star of Brooklyn on October 21 and 24, 1845. In the game of June 19, 1846, he played with the club designated as the New Yorks. Case arrived in San Francisco for the Gold Rush on February 27, 1849. At a meeting of January 6, 1851, he became a member of the Finance Committee of the newly formed Knickerbocker Association, composed of New York residents living in San Francisco. He was joined on that committee by Edward A. Ebbets and Frank Turk, who had been members of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York. It is reasonable to think that they were among the unnamed men reported to have played baseball in Portsmouth Square in 1851.[41] Case returned east and died in Newburgh on March 25, 1857.

Leonard G. Cohen: Officer of the Gotham Club during and after the Civil War; catcher for the ballclub. As of 1869 he was a fruit dealer in Washington Market and living at 144 West Street. Cohen was born around 1839 in New York to a Polish-born father (though one census had Germany). He later moved to New Jersey and served as the first postmaster in Garwood, part of Westfield township, where he was still living as late as 1910.

Charles C. Commerford

Charles C. Commerford

Charles C. Commerford: Born in New York City, June 2, 1833; died in Waterbury, Connecticut, February 6, 1920. Played shortstop with Gothams and later the Eagles. Moved from New York to Waterbury in 1864, where he continued to play ball. After some political successes, he was appointed postmaster in Waterbury by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. His father, the chair-maker John Commerford of New York City, was an Abolitionist prominently identified with labor interests, and was a candidate for Congress on the Republican ticket in 1860. [See the entry on the Bridgeport Club in Base Ball Pioneers, 1850–1870 for more details on his life.]

John Connell: George Zettlein described this man as a member of the Gothams and added that he “was on the Herald for some time, and is still [in 1887] a writer.”

Reuben Henry Cudlipp: Reuben Cudlipp was a Nassau Street lawyer who served as vice president of the Gotham Club in 1856 and as one of the vice presidents of the NABBP in 1857. He also played for the first nine until 1858. One of the Gothams’ better players, he was proposed for membership in the Knickerbockers on April 1, 1854, the same date as that of Louis F. Wadsworth’s similar move.[42] Still active as a New York attorney in 1894, he resided at that time in Plainfield, New Jersey, as did Wadsworth. Cudlipp was 78 when he died at his daughter’s home in Yonkers, New York, on December 5, 1899.

C[harles?] Davis: a frequent entrant in the NYBBC box scores, he has been mistaken in print for the celebrated Knickerbocker James Whyte Davis, against whom he played.

William W. De Milt: Like Harry Venn and Seaman Lichtenstein, he was a member of the Columbian engine company, Number 14. As a carpenter and machinist for the Union Square, Brougham’s Lyceum (where fellow Gotham George W. Smith worked in 1850) and other New York theatres, he was responsible for producing a wide variety of stage apparatus and special effects. Born 1814, died 1875. Buried at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Patsy Dockney: Born in Ireland ca. 1844. Catcher with Gotham in 1864–65. Paid under the table to move to Philadelphia Athletics in 1866; according to the Philadelphia Times, Dockney “used to play ball every afternoon and fight and drink every night. He was a tough of the toughs.”

Andrew J. Dupignac: Andrew Dupignac, Gotham Club secretary in 1860 and 1861, was born around 1828. He later became the president of the New York Skating Club and in 1903 was described as “the oldest living amateur skater.”[43] Dupignac died in Brooklyn on November 27, 1908.

298 Bowery, Old Gotham Cottage In The Bowery, May 25, 1878,  Leslie's.

298 Bowery, Old Gotham Cottage in the Bowery, May 25, 1878, Leslie’s.

James Fisher: Identity not known for certain but after thorough review of the New York City directories and considering other factors, I tentatively conclude that this early player, according to Peverelly, was James H. Fisher. Roughly the same age as the two other prominent players who were named honorary Knickerbockers in June 1846—Col. James Lee and Abraham Tucker (the former born in 1796, the latter in 1793)—Fisher was born in 1798. Like Lee, he had made his fortune by 1850 and in the census lists his occupation as “gentleman.” Previously he had listed his profession, with subtlety, as “agent.” In 1847, the year of his death, his address was 134 Allen Street, the neighborhood from which Wheaton and his mates had begun their search for lively recreation.

Robert Forsyth: In 1855, the year after the death of the affluent patron of this independent military company, the Herald reported: “The Forsyth Cadets, a well drilled company, composed chiefly of butchers belonging to Washington Market, will make their annual parade on the 18th inst.”[44] Shortly before his death, the Clipper observed: “This organization is named in honor of Robert Forsyth, Esq., a gentleman whose name is a ‘Household Word’ to all those who have occasion to visit Washington Market, being one of the most extensive dealers connected with that place. He must indeed feel honored at the compliment paid him by the ‘Cadets.’”[45] Robert Forsyth was also a member of the Washington Market Chowder Club at the time of his death, which was reported in the New York Herald on March 23, 1854. His sons, Joseph and James, were both Gotham Club members. According to the 1887 New York Sun article, Joseph was already dead while James was an oyster dealer.

View of Washington Market, from the Southeast corner of Fulton and Washington Streets, 1859. Weingartner_Valentine Manual

Washington Market, from S.E. corner of Fulton and Washington Streets, 1859. Weingartner, Valentine’s Manual.

George H. Franklin: George H. Franklin was one of the club’s representatives at the 1857 NABBP convention.

Andrew Gibney: Started with Gotham Juniors in 1863, graduated to senior club the following year. Played second base with the Gothams in 1865, then center field with the Nationals of Washington in 1866. Played professionally with Olympics of Washington in 1870. Alfred W. “Count” Gedney played as Gibney with the Keystone club in Philadelphia in his early years, but these two are not the same individual.

John V(an) B(uskirk) Hatfield: Widely regarded as one of the best players of the 1860s, with the Eckford and Mutual clubs, he also played one year with the Gothams, in 1865. See the [entry for the] Active Club of New York for more details.

NYBBC game of November 10, 1845

NYBBC game of November 10, 1845

Johnson: Played in the NYBBC anniversary contest of November 10, 1845. Harold Peterson, in his book The Man Who Invented Baseball, names him as a Knickerbocker and calls him F.C. Johnson. However, Francis Upton Johnston was a member of the Knickerbocker and the New-York Academy of Medicine, as were D.L. Adams and Franklin Ransom. One of his sons also practiced medicine for many years at Hyde Park, where he is buried. The NYBBC Johnson may, however, be neither man but instead William Johnson, named in a reminiscence of the Gotham Cottage by Colonel Thomas Picton in 1878, and a player for the club in the 1850s.

John Lalor: This sturdy New York and Gotham player is surely the “Jno.” Lalor listed in the box score published in Spirit of the Times on July 9, 1853, detailing a match game between the Knicks and Gothams. He also played in the NYBBC second-anniversary game of November 10, 1845. Harold Peterson, in his book The Man Who Invented Baseball, instead identifies the player as Michael Lalor, “Segar Seller.” I think it is constable John Lalor, who umpired the Knickerbocker intramural game of June 26, 1846, and signed his name in full this way. This fellow was an up-and-comer in the Whig party in the Fifteenth Ward in 1845, and later its leader in the Seventh Ward. A lawyer by profession, he served in the Civil War, organizing the 15th Regiment, known as McLeod Murphy’s Engineers. John Lalor was born in 1819 and died on February 21, 1884. His obituary in the Herald noted that he was “a member of the Gotham club.” At his death he was chief clerk at Castle Garden.

Spirit of the Times, July 9, 1853; note Lalor

Spirit of the Times, July 9, 1853; note Lalor

Col. James Lee: According to Wheaton, he was one of the original Gotham Club members of 1837. Born December 3, 1796, he was a prominent businessman and sportsman. President of the New York Chamber of Commerce, he claimed to have played baseball in New York City ca. 1800. John Ward wrote, in How to Become a Base-Ball Player (1888), “Colonel Jas. Lee, elected an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Club in 1846, said that he had often played the same game when a boy, and at that time he was a man of sixty or more years. [In fact he was fifty.] Mr. Wm. F. Ladd, my informant, one of the original members of the Knickerbockers, says that he never in any way doubted Colonel Lee’s declaration, because he was a gentleman eminently worthy of belief.” In 1907 Ward added to his remarks about Lee a sentence that echoes editor Porter’s reason for establishing the New York Cricket Club: “Another interesting tale told me by Mr. Ladd was that the reason they chose the game of Base Ball instead of—and in fact in opposition to—cricket was because they regarded Base Ball as a purely American game; and it appears that there was at that time some considerable prejudice against adopting any game of foreign invention.”[46] Lee died on June 16, 1874.

Seaman Lichtenstein: A candidate for the first Jewish player, Lichtenstein began to run with Columbian Engine No. 14 at the age of 15, becoming a member of the company in 1849, at age 24. He began his business career salvaging scraps from the butchers at Washington Market, selling the meat to the Indians who lived in Hoboken and the bones to a manufacturer of glue (Peter Cooper). In the 1880s he owned a trotter named for Gotham Cottage proprietor and archetypal Bowery B’hoy Harry Venn. He died at age 77 on December 24, 1902.[47]

John McCosker: A third baseman, he began play with the Gothams in 1856. Played in Fashion Race Course Game 3 and in many games for the Gothams of the 1850s. Tom Shieber reported in the 1997 National Pastime: In a match game played between the Gotham and Empire clubs in September of 1857, McCosker hit a home run with the bases full. While he was most probably not the first to accomplish the feat, the description in the New York Clipper is the earliest known recounting of what would later be termed a grand slam: “The Gothamites … scored 4 beautifully in their last innings, chiefly owing to a tremendous ground strike by Mr. McCosker, bringing each man home as well as himself.” George Zettlein described McCosker (“McClosky”) as an engineer of the Fire Department, so there can be no question that the ballplayer was John A. McCosker, who was born around 1829 and was a fire department engineer prior to the war. When the war started, McCosker was one of the organizers of the 73rd Infantry—the Second Fire Zouaves—in which he served as a quartermaster until being discharged on August 4, 1862. His whereabouts become much harder to trace after that, but he may have died in 1881.

Dr. John Miller: According to Wheaton, he was one of the original Gotham BBC members of 1837. In 1842 John Miller, physician, is at 74 James Street. In 1845 he is at 186 East Broadway.

James B. Mingay: Entered the poultry business in Jefferson Market in his youth and remained in it until age 72. For 14 years a member of the Volunteer Fire Department with Hose Company 40, the Empire. A member of the Jefferson Market Guard and a judge of its target excursion on Christmas Day 1857. An officer of the Gotham club 1861–64. In 1876 a director of the North River Insurance Company. Born January 6, 1818. Died April 27, 1893, at his 19 Christopher Street residence.

John M. Murphy: According to Wheaton, he was a “hotel-keeper” and one of the original Gotham BBC members of 1837. He played in NYBBC anniversary contest of November 10, 1845, in Hoboken. Murphy’s establishment is the Fulton Hotel at 164 East Broadway.

Joseph Conselyea Pinckney

Joseph Conselyea Pinckney

Joseph Conselyea Pinckney: In a celebrated early instance of revolving, or seeming professionalism, Pinckney played a game with the Gothams in 1856 while still nominally a member of the Union of Morrisania. Both the Unions and the Knickerbockers objected publicly. Along with Knickerbocker defector Louis F. Wadsworth, he played with the Gotham in 1857. The next year, back with the Unions, he was one of only three New York players selected for the Fashion Race Course match to play in all three games. Enlisting at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was colonel of the 6th New York Militia. In 1863 he was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers for war service. Afterward he served in New York City politics as an alderman. Born and died in New York City (November 5, 1821–March 11, 1881).

Henry Mortimer Platt: Born July 7, 1822, died December 8, 1898. Played match game in 1854 but otherwise served Gotham Club as scorekeeper. He merits mention because in 1939 his daughter donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame the sole surviving badge of the Gotham Base Ball Club, featuring three men at sea in a tub.

Gotham Base Ball Club Pin

Gotham Base Ball Club Pin

Dr. Franklin Ransom: In the game of June 19, 1846, Dr. Ransom played with the club designated as the New Yorks. In 1838 Dr. Ransom resided at 44 Wall Street. He was in a medical partnership with Dr. Lucius Comstock but also found time to invent a fire engine with a modified hydraulic system. Dr. Ransom exhibited his fire engine to the City Council in 1841 but came to believe that the city had stolen his design. In 1858 he took a patent infringement lawsuit against the mayor of New York all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but did not prevail. Ransom was born near Buffalo in 1805 and earned his medical degree in 1832 from what was then known simply as the University of New York. He eventually returned to Buffalo, where he continued to file new patents but slipped into obscurity. He died there on March 25, 1873.

Edward G. Saltzman (Salzman, Salzmann, Saltzmann): Born about 1830 in Jefferson County, New York, he was schooled in Hoboken, New Jersey. Saltzman played second base for the Gotham club of New York for five seasons, from 1852 through 1856. Helped to bring the New York Game to Massachusetts via the Tri-Mountain Club. Brought baseball to Savannah, Georgia, in 1865, forming the Pioneer Club. Returned to Boston two years later and resided there until his final year. Died August 14, 1883, in Brooklyn.[48]

T. Seaman(s): Played in NYBBC anniversary match of November 10, 1845. He may be a billiard-room proprietor of that name or, more likely, he is one and the same as the later Gotham player and treasurer Seaman Lichtenstein, discussed earlier.

James Shepard: Played with Gotham, then Alpine BBC in 1860. Pioneer in establishing baseball in San Francisco, beginning in 1861.

William Shepard: Played with Gotham, then Alpine BBC in 1860. Pioneer in establishing baseball in San Francisco, beginning in 1861.

Philip Sheridan: Joined the Gothams in 1854. Frequently umpired. Said by Peter Nash in Baseball Legends of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery to have been buried in Green-Wood
Cemetery in Brooklyn, but the Philip Sheridan interred there is not the Gotham player.

George Wshington Smith

George Washington Smith

George Washington Smith: A member of the Gotham Club after 1845, he was born and raised in Philadelphia. Smith was considered the only male American ballet star of the 19th century. He went on to become ballet master at Fox’s American Theater. He also served in this capacity at the Hippodrome, where the costume of a dancer under his instruction caught fire with fatal consequence. In his later years he opened a dancing school in Philadelphia. Born ca. 1820, died February 18, 1899.

Milton B. Sweet: See Excelsior Base Ball Club.

Oscar Teed: Oscar Teed, a celebrated ship’s fastener and oarsman as well as a Gotham player. Born in 1828, he died November 4, 1866. A boat named in his honor ca. 1860 continued to race.

Austin D. Thompson: Born in 1820, Austin Thompson was described in his obituary as “a Connecticut Yankee, who came to New York when a youth and opened a coffee house in Pine street, near the old Custom House…. The coffee house, which was called the Phoenix, was frequented by the notabilities of the neighborhood, politicians as well as business men, particularly Democratic politicians, for Mr. Thompson was a Jeffersonian Democrat of the old school.” As its proprietor, Thompson was the successor to the famed Edward Windust, 149 Water Street (Wall, corner Water). In 1851 his coffee rooms and restaurant relocated from 13 Pine to 25 Pine. It moved again in 1860, this time to 292 Broadway, where it remained until Thompson’s death on June 7, 1892. By then Thompson was “probably the oldest eating-house keeper in the city,” which made him “a man who knew nearly everybody and nearly everybody knew him.”[49]

Thorn & Co., 1874

Thorn & Co., 1874

Richard H. “Dick” Thorn: Played with Empire Base Ball Club in 1856, yet was a representative of the Enterprise Base Ball Club at the convention of January 22, 1857. With Gotham in 1858; pitched for New York in Game 3 of Fashion Race Course Match that September. Returned to Empire 1859–61. With Gotham again 1862. With Mutual 1865–68. From about 1850 a prominent member and revenue collector of the Washington Market Association, Thorn partnered with Lathrop and then Marcley in his produce business in the 1860s. In 1870s he wholly owned Thorn & Co., 11–13 DeVoe Avenue, west of Washington Street. On January 26, 1889, rode on horseback, with Seaman Lichtenstein, in a parade to mark the opening of the West Washington Market. In that year lived at 233 West 13th Street. Does not appear in New York City directories thereafter, though he did testify at a hearing in 1890. On May 2, 1892, however, the Riverside (California) Daily Press published a notice that Thorn had purchased a substantial piece of land in the locality. One year later, he is described as an orange grower. He died in Riverside County on May 4, 1901 at the age of 71.

Tooker: Played outfield in Fashion Race Course Game 3. Later played with Henry Eckford Club. In 1871 was a director of the Athletic Base Ball Club of Brooklyn. Possibly this is Theodore, son of William Tooker, ship’s carpenter, who joined his brother-in-law George Steers in the shipyards that built the America.

Trenchard: Could be Samuel Trenchard, constable or marshal in various years from 1835 until 1861. In 1846 he resided at 86 Ludlow. Played with the club designated as the New Yorks on June 19, 1846. Also played with Washingtons against Knickerbockers in match game of June 17, 1851. Born 1791, died February 15, 1865, in his 75th year. This would make him a bit of a graybeard for active play in the 1840s and 1850s, so perhaps he is billiard-hall proprietor Alexander H. Trenchard, at 139 Crosby Street in 1855.

Tuche: After the 1856 season, Porter’s Spirit of the Times reported that the Gotham Club had been organized in the early summer of 1852 with “old ballplayer Mr. Tuche” at its head.[50] Other accounts also name Tuche as one of the principals, but his name soon disappeared from the club’s annals and nothing more is known about him.

Abraham W. Tucker: Born in 1793, he was named an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in June 1846, along with another New York Ball Club player, Col. James Lee. In 1822 he operated a “segarstore” at 205 Bowery. In 1837 he resided at 48 Delancey Street. Tucker died in Morristown, New Jersey, on September 10, 1868.

William H. Tucker was a tobacconist in business with his father, Abraham, who was also a player with the New Yorks. They operated at 8 Peck Slip and lived at 56 East Broadway. In 1849–50 he lived in San Francisco. In Alexander Cartwright’s journal/address book he is listed as: “Wm. H. Tucker 271 Montgomery st. upstairs, San Francisco, Cal.” Tucker appears to have died in Brooklyn, at the home of his son-in-law, on December 5, 1894, in his 76th year, which would conform to a birth year of 1819 recorded in the 1850 census.

Nicholas “Nick” Turner: Played left field in Fashion Race Course Game 2. A shoemaker residing in the Tenth Ward in 1860. Born 1831 in Bavaria. First name supplied by Waller Wallace and Henry Chadwick in Sporting Life in 1889.[51]

William Vail: Known affectionately as “Stay where you am, Wail,” for his often disastrous derring-do on the basepaths. In later years played with Knickerbocker. There are several candidates by this name, but based upon his age, the most likely one appears to be a tobacconist who was born in 1817 or 1818 and was living at 179 Prince Street in 1849. His wife, Mary, was born in 1822–23, and their children as of 1850 were all sons: William, Francis, Martin, Daniel, George, in descending order of age. This man died on December 12, 1881, age 63, and was described in his obituary as a member of the Exempt Fireman’s Association, a good sign that he was our pioneer ballplayer.[52]

Gabriel Van Cott: Acted as umpire for Gothams rather than player. There were a few Gabriels in the Van Cott family, but it appears most likely that this one was a cousin of Thomas and William. Another member of the family, Cornelius C. Van Cott (1838–1904), was the owner of the New York Giants of the National League from 1893 through 1895.

Theodore S. Van Cott: The son of Thomas, Teddy Van Cott later served in the Civil War and died in a home for old soldiers on August 23, 1905.

Thomas Van Cott: Thomas G. (1817–1894), who married Harriet Murphy, was the Gothams’ best player in the 1850s, and the great pitcher of all New York ballclubs. The Elmira Gazette obituary of December 19, 1894, called him “The Father of Baseball” and the first man to pitch a curved ball. He was a bookmaker in later years, at the Saratoga Track.

Judge William H. Van Cott

Judge William H. Van Cott

William H(athaway) Van Cott: Brother of Thomas; born September 26, 1821, in New York City, died June 30, 1908, in Mount Vernon, New York. Played in Fashion Race Course Games 1 and 2. Elected first president of the National Association of Base Ball Players when it formally organized in 1858. Van Cott, who was a lawyer and justice by profession, continued his family’s interest in trotters and began in the stabling business before entering the law. As Justice Van Cott he served 16 years on the bench. His New York Times obituary reported that his efforts to rid New York of gangs led to two attempts to burn down his house.[53]

Harry B. Venn: Played in NYBBC anniversary match of November 10, 1845. A noted fireman with Columbian 14 and the proprietor of the venerable (1778) Gotham Saloon beginning in 1830, when he left his porterhouse at 13 Ann Street and took his first lease at the property. His successor in the lease, S.W. Bryham, transformed the cottage in 1836 to become the Bowery Steam Confectionary and Saloon. By 1842, under new ownership, it was renamed the “Bowery Cottage,” and was the headquarters for firemen, sporting types, and Bowery B’Hoys. Venn resumed his proprietorship sometime before 1845. Behind the bar at the Gotham was a case with the gilded trophy balls from victorious Gotham Base Ball Club matches. (These survived, amazingly, and were sold to collectors in the 1980s; it would be pleasant to think that the Gotham rules survived too!) The back bar also featured a big gilt “6” taken from the Americus engine (the inspiration for Christy Mathewson’s nickname, Big Six). Boss Tweed was a regular patron at the bar. The Gotham Cottage was demolished in 1878, and Venn died a year later, on March 15, 1879. A contemporary wrote that his memorial might be inscribed: “Here lies one whose name was writ in whisky.” Much more could be written about Venn and the Gotham Cottage, but suffice for now this snippet from a long paean to the demolished house by Col. Thomas Picton in the Clipper on June 1, 1878:

Gotham Ball, 1869

Gotham Ball, 1869

“The Gotham” became, moreover, extensively known in connection with our national pastime, as beneath its roof was held the first general convention of baseball players, one of the earliest clubs in existence deriving its significant title from this snuggery in the Bowery. “The Gotham” Club [as re-formed in 1852] was a large association from the hour of its inception, organized through the election of Judge William H. Van Cott as president, and Gabriel Van Cott as secretary, with a roll of influential members, principally business men, embracing Harry B. Venn, Seaman Senchenstein [sic], James Forsyth, Joseph Foss, John Baum, George Montjoy, William Johnson, Edward Turner, E. Bonnell, Bates, Tooker, and a host of other notables. Its first playing members distinguishing themselves were Tom Van Cott, Sheridan, McCluskey [McClosky, “an engineer of the Fire Department,” as George Zettlein recalled, in fact John McCosker, who played catcher with the Gothams in 1858], Cudliffe [Cudlipp], and William Burns, its pitcher [catcher?], afterwards lost at sea upon the Central America, wrecked in the Pacific [sic].

Louis F. Wadsworth: Born in Connecticut in 1825, he commenced to play baseball with the Washingtons/Gothams in 1852. After a few years with the Knickerbockers (1854–57) he returned to the Gothams, whom he represented in Fashion Race Course Games 1 and 3. One of the veteran Knicks, in recalling some of his old teammates for the New York Sun in 1887, said:
I had almost forgotten the most important man on the team and that is Lew Wadsworth. He was the life of the club. Part of his club suit consisted of a white shirt on the back of which was stamped a black devil. It makes me laugh still when I recall how he used to go after a ball. His hands were very large and when he went for a ball they looked like the tongs of an oyster rake. He got there all the same and but few balls passed him.[54]

His time with the Knickerbockers, and his crucial role in affixing nine innings and nine men to the rules of baseball, are covered at length in Baseball in the Garden of Eden. Dissipating riches and fame, he died a pauper in the Plainfield Industrial Home in 1908.

William Rufus Wheaton: Discussed amply above.

Robert F. Winslow: Robert F. Winslow, a lawyer, played in the NYBBC anniversary game of November 10, 1845, Hoboken. In the game of June 19, 1846, Winslow played with the club designated as the New Yorks. Played center field for Gothams in mid–1850s. He and his son Robert, Jr., played for the Gotham in the match against the Knickerbockers commenced on July 1, 1853 and, after a rain interruption, concluded on July 5. In 1854, an Albert Winslow played with the Knickerbockers. Some evidence points to Robert, Jr.’s earlier demise, but the Robert Winslows are the only father-son pairing of that surname in New York at the time.

George Wright, 1863.

George Wright, 1863.

George Wright: He joined the Gotham juniors when he was 16, in 1863. One year later he graduated to the senior team and was the club’s regular catcher. He also caught for the club in 1866 under the name of “George” before transferring his allegiance to the Union of Morrisania, where he converted to left field and then shortstop. Born in 1847, George Wright was perhaps the greatest player of the 19th century and certainly its first national hero. He died in 1937, four months before his election to the nascent Baseball Hall of Fame. See the Union of Morrisania entry for more on his life.

Harry Wright: The Civil War so decimated the Knickerbockers’ schedule that Wright (1835–95) decided to leave them and join the Gothams in 1863–64. But by the next year he had tired of baseball and resumed his 1850s career, as a cricketer, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He had to wait longer than brother George to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame (1953). Leaving his post as the Cincinnati Cricket Club professional in 1867, he was persuaded to take the helm of the Cincinnati Base Ball Club. The rest is history; see the Cincinnati Base Ball Club entry in Base Ball Pioneers, 1850–1870 for more details.

William P. Wright: With Gothams in 1865, played in five games. Not related to Harry and George. Appears to have gone to Cincinnati with Harry Wright at year’s end. With that city’s Buckeye club in 1868–69, Live Oak in 1870.

Other Club Members: John Drohan, Joseph E. Ebling, Hackett, J.A.P. Hopkins, N.W. Redmond, Charles S. Riblet, Peter Roe, Albert Squires, Cornelius Stokem, Andrew Whiteside.


39. New York Sun, February 6, 1887, 6.

40. New York Daily Tribune, September 21, 1857, 7.

41. Angus Macfarlane, “The Knickerbockers: San Francisco’s First Baseball Team?” Base Ball 1:1 (Spring 2007), 7–21.

42. Albert Spalding Baseball Collections, Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, Club Books 1854–1868, New York Public Library.

43. New York Herald, March 20, 1903, 12.

44. New York Herald, October 14, 1855, 1.

45. New York Clipper, December 31, 1853.

46. Letter from John M. Ward to A.G. Spalding, stating his “opinion as to the origin of base ball,” as Spalding submitted to the Mills Commission, June 19, 1907.

47. New York Times, December 25, 1902.

48. New York Clipper, August 25, 1883, 365.

49. New York Sun, June 8, 1892, 4.

50. Porter’s Spirit of the Times, January 3, 1857.

51. Sporting Life, January 16, 1889, 3.

52. New York Herald, December 14, 1881, 8.

53. New York Times and New York Tribune, July 1, 1908.

54. “Ball Players of the Past,” New York Sun, January 16, 1887, 10.


Is the Thorn mentioned in the third installment a distant relation, John?

That would be sweet, but no.

Dear John:

Tank you very much for your excelent papers.

I really enjoy each one and I wait eager for the next one

Best wishes

Virgilio Partida

From Mexico City

Thanks for the kind words!

Baseball has always been THE sport for me and I even had the old sandlot tryouts with the Red Sox & Phils. Even as a child (I’m now 60) I’ve been fascinated by the Dead Ball Era (McGraw & Waddell are favorites) and am attempting my first book about 1908. However, lately, I’m becoming more and more fascinated by the era of ‘Base Ball’ and its early days and, thanks to you Mr. Thorn, the old box scores (1855 to 1860) I’ve obtained now have context. I appreciate how responsive you are and I learn something new each day, proving one is never too old! Thanks again!

Dear John,
I enjoyed reading this article as I have enjoyed reading so much of your work for many years.
As someone who spent fifty years living in Westfield, N.J., I found the statement that Leonard G. Cohen was the first postmaster of Westfield to be implausible, and it sent me off on a search. Westfield was incorporated as a township in 1794, well before Cohen’s birth, and I thought it unlikely the town went without its own postmaster for the majority of the nineteenth century.
According to History of Town of Westfield, Union County, New Jersey by Charles A. Philhower (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1923), the first postmaster of Westfield was appointed in 1805. A full list of postmasters appears on page 55—and there is no Leonard Cohen.
But, according to the website, one Leonard G. Cohen was the first postmaster of Garwood, New Jersey, in 1894. (I fear the website does not supply a source for its statement.) Since Garwood did not become an independent borough until 1903—prior to that, what would become Garwood was split between Westfield and Cranford—it is quite possible that Mr. Cohen was a Westfield resident while Garwood postmaster. That would fit the chronology quite nicely.
Phil Leib

Thanks for this, Phil. Let me dig a little, too, but you are certainly convincing.

John, very informative article. Thank you so much.

The info for Andrew Gibney is not entirely accurate, however. In 1866, Gibney was recruited by lawyers and other deep pockets (Victor DuPont, for one!) who were running the Diamond State BBC of Wilmington, DE, along with 19th century legend Fergy Malone. According to the account book of the Diamond State BBC (at the Delaware Historical Society), Gibney was elected as a member of that club on 9 April 1866. He starred during the ’66 season for Diamond State at catcher and played half of the ’67 season in Wilmington before joining the National BBC of Washington mid-season. After 1868, Gibney moved on to the Olympic BBC of Washington before leaving the sport. He died at the young age of 35 in 1880.

Thanks for the additional information, John.

Pingback: 1891: The Wolf that Went AWOL on the Bowery in New York City | The Hatching Cat

One minor point relating to John Laylor: in the 18th and 19th centuries, “Jno.” was the standard abbreviation for John, presumably to distinguish it from Jonathan (“Jon.”)

Right you are. Will fix.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: