The Spreading of Baseball

By 1858, baseball in New York and Brooklyn was widely popular. The so called "fans" began following their prospective clubs and by this time a bitter rivalry between New York and Brooklyn grew, so much so that a challenge was arranged between the two areas and it was agreed that both would choose the best players from both sides. All-Star teams were basically created and Brooklyn supposedly by this time had better teams than did the New Yorkers.  A best of three series was arranged to be played at Fashion Course. The star for Brooklyn was J.B. Leggett while the New York side had a little known, former cricket player, named Harry Wright. The New York side won the first game 22-18 and then on August 17th, Brooklyn dominated by a score of 29-8. The final game was played September 10th and as Al Spalding noted in his memoirs that the game saw the highest attendance to that date to watch a baseball game. New York won 29-18 and still maintained supremacy as baseball's champions in the New York area. This series was a key in early baseball history because of the hype it had garnered and would lead to baseball's first tour.

Baseball takes to the Road with Jim Creighton

Using the momentum created from the NY-Brooklyn series, the Brooklyn Excelsiors set off on a tour to the west. The Excelsiors were the prized owner of baseball's first superstar and probably the first player to be paid. He was only 19 at the time but he could hit, field and was the first pitcher to actually try to pitch. He would snap his wrist, use his hips and tried to use a sort of rise ball to fool batters. At the time of gentlemanly sportsmanship many people complained.  But leading baseball expert Henry Chadwick thought nothing of it and soon others would emulate Creighton.  Thus the pitcher-batter confrontation first began to take root.
Creighton and Excelsior fans emerged and to the road in 1860 the Excelsiors took their act. They beat the best team in Philadelphia (the Atlantics) and then later crushed teams from Troy and Buffalo. They returned home to beat the Brooklyn Atlantics (first of a best of three series) and then went off again.  They went to Baltimore and defeated the best team in that area and next were invited to Boston. But the coming of Civil War put an end to any thoughts of a follow up tour in 1861.

The Excelsiors did still have unfinished business though in 1860. They still needed to finish off the Atlantics for the "Championship". They had won the early game but with Creighton sick for the second game, the Atlantics slipped by with a 15-14 win. The next game would see over 15,000 fans in attendance. It was such a heated rivalry by this point and tension (and the gamblers and toughs) were at an all time high. In the fourth inning, with the score 8-6 a fight broke out in the crowds which threatened to involve the players and J.B. Leggett (captain for the Excelsiors) gave the ball to the opposite captain to save his team.  It was declared a draw and the two sides would never meet again.  This did usher baseball into a new era. Gambling had
entered the world of baseball and although the civil war would slow baseball's growth, this new cancer would play a factor when the war ended five years later.

Jim Creighton however would never see this chapter of baseball. He was still playing after that eventful 1860 season. In a game late in 1862, he and his Excelsiors were playing the Unions when he hit a home run. On the swing though, he heard a snap and said he felt like his belt had snapped.  He rounded the bases and then collapsed. He had swung so hard that he ruptured his bladder. Four days later, baseball's best player died. A granite obelisk was placed at his grave and future teams honored him by naming their clubs, "Creightons".

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Jim Creighton