Early Baseball at Harvard University – Playmakerjournal

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Early Baseball at Harvard University

Harvard Baseball

Harvard's team, perhaps the nation's best early twentieth century college squad, posed for the university's 1904 calendar. Despite its success, not everyone was a fan. Harvard president Charles William Elliot viewed most college sports as unethical and corrupt.

One one occasion, he said of a Crimson baseball team, "Well, this year I'm told the team did well because one pitcher had a fine curve ball. I understand that a curve ball is thrown with a deliberate attempt to deceive. Surely this is not an ability we should want to foster at Harvard."

in 1905, stellar shortstop William Clarence Matthews (front row, left),  a Selma, Alabama native, led the team with a .400 batting average. Yet his remarkable talent on the field was not the only thing that unnerved opponents; some all-white teams refused to play Harvard because Matthews was black.

After graduation, he declared, "What a shame it is that black men are barred forever from participating in the national game . . . As a Harvard man, I shall devote my life to bettering the condition of the black man . . . "

Matthews earned a law degree from Boston University in 1908 and went on to have a successful career at the U.S. Justice Department.

For the next forty seasons, Major League Baseball missed out on the contributions of Matthews and other black prospects. In 2006, the Friends of Harvard Baseball instituted the William Clarence Matthews Trophy, awarded annually to the winner of the Ivy League baseball championship.