“The Bat and Ball” is one of the first known baseball periodicals. The publication sold for 5 cents a copy on the streets of Hartford, Connecticut and was delivered for 50 cents for 14 issues. The Bat and Ball was published for budding ”base ball” fans to read about recent developments throughout the country. There were also columns on the game of cricket. During the post-Civil War era when the sport, still in its infancy, baseball was becoming increasingly more popular and fans demanded closer coverage of the sport. The author of capitalize on the
THE Sporting News is generally acknowledged to have been the first newspaper primarily devoted to baseball since it made its debut March 17, 1886. But now it appears that a paper known as The Bat and Ball, published in Hartford, beat The Sporting News to the newstands by 20 years.
A rare copy of The Bat and Ball has been uncovered at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, which serves as a repository of virtually every newspaper ever published in the state. Linda Grodofsky, the reference and government documents librarian at the library, said in an interview that she recently found the paper on a shelf in a reading room among other old newspapers.
The issue in the possession of the Connecticut State Library, dated May 1, 1867, was the first during the paper’s second year of publication.
”This season, which is now opening, bids fair to be one of the most exciting that our National Game is likely ever to know,” a story on page one of the four-page paper said, nine years before the first major league was formed. ”And it is well that it should be so, for there is no more worthy object of public attention now before the American people than this same national game.”
The Bat and Ball issue also outlined rules agreed upon by local base ball dignitaries:
Rules of the Connecticut Base Ball Player’s Association.
1. All match games for the championship shall be played in accordance with the rules adopted by the National Convention.
2. The season for play shall commence on the first day of May, and continue until the first day of November.
3. All challenges shall be sent to the secretary of the club at the time holding the emblem.
4. The champion club must be prepared to play within fifteen days after receipt of a challenge, provided that they be not required to play a game oftener than once in ten days, and shall play clubs in the order of the dates of their challenges, the champions being allowed choice of time, ground and ball for the first game, the challenging that for the second game; and the third game, if such game be necessary, shall be played upon neutral ground in the State, with a ball furnished by the cham pion club. In case of any dispute relative to grounds or rules, the difficulty shall be referred to the committee on rules and regulations, and their decision when given shall be final.
5. The expenses of every champion game must be defrayed by the challenging club.
7. No challenging club, being defeated, shall challenge again the same champions during the same season.
8. The champions, being defeated, may challenge immediately after the defeat, and be allowed a match in the order of their challenge.
9. In case the champions shall change bands during the season, all outstanding challenges shall be assumed by the new champions.
President – John A. Sterry of Norwich.
Vice President – lst, Gersbom B. Hubell of Hartford; 2d, S. M. Knevals of New Haven.
Recording Secretary – R. E. Crane of Agallian Club, Middletown.
Corresponding Secretary – Thomas M. Haven of Pequot Club, New London.
Treasurer – Alexander Hawley of Bridgeport Club, Bridgeport.“
At a time when rules varied widely, including the number of balls and strikes allowed a ”striker,” as batters were known, the story calls for ”a uniform manner of playing.” Another column urges umpires to be more diligent in ensuring that pitchers (who, at the time threw underhanded from a distance of 45 feet) throw their pitches where the striker, or batsman, wanted the pitch, a rule during the early days of ”base ball.”
Not surprisingly, that rule, changed in the 1880’s, accounted for high scores. For example, The Bat and Ball, in a column headed ”Match Games,” reported how, in a game played on ”the birthday of the father of his country” (Feb. 22, 1867) in San Francisco, the Eagles routed the Pacifics, 70-32. Grodofsky does not know how long the publication endured. But she said that, given its historic significance as a baseball journal, the Connecticut State Library’s copy of The Bat and Ball had been preserved and stored in a secured area, and available for perusal by library users.