Home Culture Hoboken History: The Birthplace of Baseball

Hoboken History: The Birthplace of Baseball

by Danielle Lynch
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The City of Hoboken is full of history. From the Lipton Tea Building to Pier A, which served as a major port during World War I, Hoboken is booming with notable sights and happenings. It is not only known as Sinatra’s hometown but also for being the birthplace of one of America’s favorite Games — baseball.  If you walk uptown on Washington, you will notice a plaque dedicated to Alexander Cartwright, The Father of Baseball. The inscription reads,

“On June 19, 1846, the first match game of baseball was played here on the Elysian Fields between the Knickerbockers and the New Yorks. It is generally conceded that until this time, the game was not seriously regarded.”

In addition, the four corners between 10th and 11th and Washington each proudly bear four bases that mark 1st, 2nd, 3rd and home plate, where Elysian Fields used to be. Although there has been much debate, it has been agreed upon that the first organized baseball game was, indeed, played here at Elysian Fields in Hoboken. Keep reading to discover how Hoboken became the birthplace of baseball.

hoboken birthplace baseball

Before Baseball Was Born

Let’s take a look at the longstanding history behind this. We caught up with The Hoboken Historical Museum to learn more about Hoboken’s first baseball game.

Timewise, baseball was not an organized sport until the mid-1800s. Teams out of Manhattan formed, but were not welcomed by Manhattan real estate developers. They feared that the baseballs would break windows {not wrong, but still — what curmudgeons}. So, Colonel John Stevens invited the Manhattan-based teams to use the Elysian Fields {formally between 9th and 12th} for their games. It was a quick ferry ride across the Hudson and Hoboken welcomed many athletes to come and play. What these men did not know was that their games would one day make history.

See More: 10 Historical Facts About Hoboken {You Probably Didn’t Know}

How Baseball Came to Be

hoboekn baseball elysian fields

^ A sketch of the original Elysian Fields {Photo credit: @hobokenmuseum}

Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr., volunteer firefighter and local bank clerk in Hoboken, was known for his contributions to starting the game of baseball. He is now known as the “Father of Baseball” as he took a leading role in developing the game that we know today.

Cartwright was one of the founders of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club. He organized the team, which was similar to a country club and fraternity. Because of this development, groups of middle-class young men could play baseball every Monday and Thursday at Elysian Fields.

The first official recorded baseball game was played on June 19th, 1846 where the New York Nine defeated Cartwright’s New York Knickerbockers. This game was a turning point and a start to what we know today as baseball. Base Ball Clubs rented their field spot for $75 for the year, which even included a dressing room for players. Soon after the first game, Cartwright developed a set of rules. He is most notably known for setting bases 90 feet apart, capping the number of players on the field at nine, and establishing a nine-inning rule. Prior to those standards, players could stand up there all day and wait for the perfect pitch. The only way they would incur a strike is if they swung and missed. In an effort to make the game move a bit faster, they established these rules as well as a few others, including drawing foul lines.

By 1858, there were 60 organized teams playing under Cartwright’s rules. Games were becoming more popular and teams were even able to charge for admissions to games. Tickets were 50 cents a pop and drew large, eager crowds. During this time, Cartwright served as an umpire and enforced rules so the games could be played fairly. He even fined a player six cents for cursing during a game. Cartwright later moved to Hawaii for health reasons and passed away in 1892, though his contributions to baseball have been forever marked in history.

Baseball and Abner Doubleday

Most people believe that he started the first game of baseball in Cooperstown, NY in 1839, when he reconfigured “town ball” for a prep school contest. However, in the late ‘30s, after the Baseball Hall of Fame was built in Cooperstown, the real truth came out. A few documents from Bruce Cartwright, grandson of Alexander Cartwright Jr., released his grandfather’s diaries explaining his role in baseball. Once all of these were released, people went crazy. It was believed, for so many years, that Abner Doubleday was the original founder. However, The Baseball Hall of Fame accepted the truth that Alexander Cartwright, Jr. was in fact, the “Father of Modern Baseball” as it is inscribed on his Cooperstown Plaque.

Read More: A Hoboken Walking Tour: A {Literal} Step Into The Past

Baseball + Modern Day Hoboken

hoboken baseball marker history

^ One of the “bases” paying homage to baseball 

Hoboken proudly accepts the title of being the birthplace of modern baseball and even pays tribute uptown in the areas where the original Elysian Fields once stood. A monument acknowledging that Hoboken was where the first baseball game was played is situated on the corner of 11th and Washington. There are also bases at every corner of this cross-section which represent one of the baseball fields that once occupied this space.

In 2012, Th Hoboken Historical Museum helped create a vintage baseball club, which honors the original team from 1859. Players use the same rules, equipment, and uniforms that were used back in the first days of baseball. Watching these games take place gives you a sense of history and nostalgia that still holds a dear place in our Hoboken hearts. To learn more, visit the Hoboken Historical Museum at 1301 Hudson Street and be sure to check out the historical monuments on 11th and Washington.

Did you know that Hoboken was the birthplace of baseball? Do you play baseball around the city? Let us know the comments!


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