June 19, 2013 was the 167th anniversary of the first organized and recorded baseball game (1846) as well as Lou Gehrig’s 110th birthday. As a celebration of these events, I will be publishing posts that analyze the importance of Baseball and Lou Gehrig in particular on American Culture. Please Read Part One Here.
While the NABBP suffered in organization and attendance during the Civil War, the end of hostilities resulted in baseball being more popular than ever. Many veterans, most notably Hall of Fame Member and first National League President Morgan G. Bulkeley, would advance the promotion and organization of both professional leagues and interest in baseball in the decades following the Civil War. Notable clubs continued barnstorming tours throughout the United States. On September 6, 1867, the Walla Walla Statesman advertised a game between a local club and the Brooklyn Excelsiors. “”The Excelsiors having challenged the Walla Wallas to play a match game of baseball, the challenge has been accepted and the game will come off at the ball grounds to-morrow …Clubs will bring out their crack players, and hence an interesting game may be expected.” More than 259 miles away, the Vancouver register noted “Base ball mania” had reached its African American townspeople who were buying equipment at a local town stores. Traveling clubs from the north east as well as soldiers returning to the west and south spread the popularity of baseball beyond its pre-Civil War market. This spread helped reduce the class and race barriers that existed in the early years of baseball, thereby allowing a wide variety of Americans to enjoy the game. At Vassar College, women formed baseball clubs, encouraging other colleges to follow suit with women’s teams. In 1867, the Dolly Vardens of Philadelphia were formed with a membership consisting entirely of African American women.
With the return of peace the popularity of baseball soared. The Arizona Weekly Miner reported games being played by mining teams throughout the state on immigrant heavy baseball teams. In 1868, historian Jules Tygiel estimates 200,000 baseball enthusiasts had attended a baseball game. Books such as Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player and children’s fiction Changing Base were popular. Americans were following, discussing, and reading about baseball like never before. Commenting on the era, the Chicago Tribune would call the post civil war era “the arrival of the age of baseball,” a sentiment which was shared by publications throughout America.