Walt Whitman, Baseball Reporter

2009 Topps Heritage

2009 Topps Heritage

America’s poet expounded on America’s game in this little-known June 18, 1858 ed­itorial from the Brooklyn Daily Times. (For calling it to my attention, thanks to Jim Carothers.) But these were not Whitman’s only published words on the national pas­time: in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass appears the line “Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or a good game of base-ball”; and in the Brooklyn Eagle of July 23, 1846 (only one month after the Knickerbockers’ purported first match game), he wrote: “In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base,’ a certain game of ball.” By the way, in the box score you’ll note a heading “H.L.”—this signifies “Hands Lost,” or outs made at bat or on the base paths; you’ll also note Pierce at shortstop for the Atlantics—this is the celebrated Dickey Pearce. Here’s Walt, before he became our Good Gray Poet, in his only known reportage of a baseball game.

The game played yesterday afternoon between the Atlantic and Putnam Clubs, on the grounds of the latter club, was one of the finest and most exciting games we ever witnessed. The Atlantics beat their opponents by four runs, but the general opinion was that the defeat was as much the result of accident as of superior playing.

Atlantics, 1859-60

Atlantics, 1859-60

On the fourth innings the Putnams made several very loose plays and allowed their opponents to score nine runs, and those careless plays were sufficient to lose them the game. On every other innings, they played carefully and well, as the score will show. They were also particularly unfortunate in having three of their men injured in the course of the game. Mr. Masten, their catcher, being disabled from occupying his position on the fifth innings, was compelled to take the first base and his place taken by Mr. Burr, who in his turn was disabled on the seventh innings and his place supplied by Mr. McKinstry, the fielder, Mr. Burr taking the third base. Mr. Jackson was injured on the eighth innings so much as to be compelled to discontinue playing, and Mr. Ketcham was substituted in his stead, so that at one time no less than three men on the Putnam side were so seriously injured as to be unable to run their bases. Notwithstanding these accidents, however, the score is highly creditable to the Putnams (always excepting the fourth innings), and we doubt if any other club can show a better one in a contest with such opponents. The Atlantics, as usual, played splendidly and maintained their reputation as the Champion Club. Messrs. M. O’Brien, P. O’Brien, Boerum, Pierce, and Oliver of that club cannot easily be surpassed in their respective positions. Messrs. Masten, Gesner, and McKinstry, of the Putnam Club, also deserve special commendation.

The score is as follows [here I offer the more expansive box score from Porter’s Spirit of the Times, a weekly more readily accessible than the Brooklyn Daily Times–jt].

Atlantic 17, Putnam 13

Atlantic 17, Putnam 13

6 Comments

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Loved baseball but couldn’t make up his mind about slavery or the question of Free African Americans in the land of liberty and the double play. Not a 5 tool player, seeming to lack conviction in certain areas of the game known as America.

Viewing the past through a present-centric lens is unwise.

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To what to the highest and lowest statistics for the pitchers refer? It obviously isn’t speed, and doesn’t seem to be height. Also, the pitch count is amusing, and you John Thorn, have a majestic mustache.

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