Baseball and Chess, Muscle and Mind – Playmakerjournal


Baseball and Chess, Muscle and Mind

Amherst Express

In the summer of 1859, two neighboring New England liberal arts colleges met in a calculated test of muscle and mind; these concurrent baseball and chess matches between Amherst College and Williams College, played at a neutral site to ensure fairness, were the country's first organized intercollegiate games. At the time, organized baseball was about a year old on both campuses. According to the broadside, experienced players were few and sides were chosen by ballots from the students at large. The teams played Massachusetts Rules with 13 players per side.

On game day, the crowd enjoyed "glorious" weather, "Williams appeared in the uniforms of club belts, Amherst decidedly in undress . . . The Amherst ball was 2 1/2 oz. and 6 1/2 inches around. It was made by Mr. Henry Hebard of North Brookfield, Mass., and was really a work of art. The Williams ball we judged to be 7 inches in circumference and not to exceed in weight 2 oz. It was also covered with some leather of light color, drab or buff, so as not too easily distinguished by the batter."

By comparison, modern Major League balls must weight 5 to 5 1/4 ounces and measure 9 to 9 1/4 inches around.

Foreshadowing countless college victory rallies to come, news of Amherst's dominating 73-32 win sparked a campus-wide celebration:

"In the few moments the students were assembled en masse upon the college hill. The chapel bell joined in the jubilee and sent forth its merriest peals. A large bonfire was kindled and the event was celebrated with a copious display of enthusiasm and rockets."