Chess and Base Ball
In perusing the issues of the "Brooklyn Daily Eagle" of the last half of the 19th century, I noticed that Chess happenings are very often put in the Sports section. In fact about the two most popular items in that section seem to have been Chess and Base Ball (as it was often called). The doings of various local clubs and even popular members of those clubs was fodder for the editors. Chess and baseball were the first two pasttimes in America to form national orgaizations. The American Chess Association was formed on Oct. 10, 1857 during the First American Chess Congress. In May 1857, 16 amateur baseball clubs convened as a group and formulated the rules and recognized a need for a governing body. The National Association of Baseball Players was formally created and joined by 25 N.Y. clubs in March 1858.
It so happened that a very frequent chess contributor to the "Brooklyn Daily Eagle" since the 1870s, and actual chess editor from Nov. 1892 through Jan. 1893, was none other than the "Father of Baseball" himself, Henry Chadwick. Chadwick provided many firsts in baseball, including compiling the first rule book, creating or implementing the box score, batting average and the earned run average. Chadwick never played baseball seriously but he did take chess seriously and was one of the better players in the city. In 1905 Chadwick even published a beginner's chess book (with Charles Gilberg), "How to Learn to Play the Game of Chess."
"The American Chess Magazine," July 1897, mentions:
The U.S. Champion, Jackson Showalter is often credited with inventing the curve ball. While this is clearly untrue since the curve ball had been around since he was a baby, the March 1935 issue of "Chess Review" credits Showalter with the more modest but equally unsubstantiated, "first man in Kentucky to pitch a curve ball ."
It's enough to know that Showalter was an avid baseball fan and amateur player. The Brooklyn Daily Eagles tell us in it's Oct. 17, 1893 edition:
One baseball clubs in N.Y. was named after Paul Morphy-
On Aug. 9, 1859 Morphy Club lost to the Exercise, Jr. Club 28-34 ;
Yet another U.S. Chess Champion's name was associated with baseball : George Henry MacKenzie. Chadwick wrote a couple long-winded accounts of a game, and a mixed-up return match between 2 teams composed of N.Y. chess players.
Two truncated "Brooklyn Daily Eagle" accounts (notice the steep admission price):
Aug. 16, 1873
MacKenzie's team scored 10 runs; Eckhorn's team scored 24 runs.
In a highly entertaining article called "Baseball Ph.D.s," the author, Mr. Williams, recounts a peculiar competiton held between Amherst and Williams Colleges involving both baseball and chess on July 1, 1859."The respective student bodies selected teams of 13 baseball players and three chess players, and dispatched them to neutral Pittsfield, Mass."
Amherst College easily won the baseball game.
"Next day, muscle rested as the two schools turned to chess. The arrangements were odd and the play protracted, with the opposing teams situated in separate rooms and given 15 minutes for each move; when they finally made one, an intermediary rushed off to deliver it. The match stretched to 11 hours. "
Although the Williams team was favored, their star chess player took ill and Amherst won the chess match also.