Sunday, December 23, 2018

Off-Season’s Greetings!

Actually, there never really is an off-season in baseball. The game’s “hot stove league” ensures that the national pastime is on our minds 365 days a year ... sometimes 366! But this is not a just modern-day phenomenon fueled by our 24/7 news cycle. It’s been going on a long time.

For example, did you know that the Alert Base Ball Club of Charleston (SC) played a match game against the host Forest City Base Ball Club of Savannah (GA) on December 25, 1868? Yes, you read that correctly. They played a game of baseball on Christmas Day, 150 years ago!

As was the custom at the time, the clubs played a best two-out-of-three format that year, the first team to capture a pair of victories winning the “home-and-home series.” As it turns out, the clubs had split their previous two meetings, so this late-December game was the so-called “rubber” game.

The nines first faced one another on July 4, 1868, the clubs apparently displaying a fondness for playing ball on major holidays. For this early summer contest, the Alert Club made the journey to Savannah and were generously and lavishly feted by the hosting Forest City Club.

According to an article in the Charleston Daily News of July 6, 1868:

The [Alert Club] was welcomed on the arrival of the [Steamer Fannie] at Savannah by a committee of the Forest City Club, escorted to and from the scene of [the] contest in omnibuses, and entertained by a handsome supper at the Screven House. In company with their antagonists of the Forest City, [the Alert Club was] photographed and afterward partook of champagne and punch at the Metropolitan Billiard Room.

Alas, I have been unable to track down that enticing photograph. If a reader manages to do so, please drop me a line. I’d love to add the 150-year-old image to this blog post.

As for the game itself, the Forest City Club topped the visiting Alerts Club, 27-16. Two months later, on September 7, the second contest of the series, known as the “return game,” took place at Charleston’s Citadel Green, now called Marion Square. This time around, the Alert Club emerged victorious, topping their Savannah opponents, 51-16 in seven innings, the game ending early due to darkness.

When the two clubs met for the third and deciding game on Christmas Day they did so back in Savannah. This was an unusual occurrence, as such winner-take-all finales were generally played at a neutral site. Despite this disadvantage, the visiting Alert Club ended up securing the victory, 45-42.

Merry Christmas!


  1. And let the record show that the middle game of this set was played on the Labor Day holiday.

    So glad to see your posts. Thank you!

  2. No disrespect to the above poster -- we had the identical knee-jerk thought, and perhaps he's being tongue-in-cheek -- but just for the record, and so no one thinks Tom overlooked it, Labor Day wasn't even an informal "thing" until 1882, and wasn't a national holiday until 1894.

    Tom, thanks for yet another great article!