Thursday, January 29, 2009

That's One Way To Get In The Park

Last Thursday, when the Browns and Athletics were playing, a boy, sitting on top of the seats on the Grand avenue side, yelled out to another boy in the street to keep an eye out for the ball, as Pike was at the bat. Pike generally sends a ball or two over the fence on the avenue, and the lad that gets it takes it in, thereby gaining free admission to the Park.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 17, 1875


Richard Hershberger said...

That's a good deal for the club. I have notes from the A.J. Reach & Co. catalogue from 1882, or perhaps 1883. Baseball were expensive: $1.25 each or $12.00/dozen for League balls, $1.00 ea. or $10.00/dozen for AA balls. There were cheaper, lower quality balls available down to a nickel apiece, but presumably the Browns and the Athletics were using the good ones.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I didn't think about like that but, you're right, that is a good deal for the club.

I need to go and find my picture of the Grand Avenue Grounds from Pictorial St. Louis and see where Pike was hitting these balls. They were most likely foul balls hit on the first base side of the park (if I remember the layout of the park during this period correctly). He certainly wasn't hitting fair balls onto the street considering he had 0 home runs in 1875.

Richard Hershberger said...

We tend to laugh at the old parsimony with regard to baseballs, but it is plausible that they were a significant expense, back in the day.

It is interesting to compare modern baseball's approach with that in cricket. In theory, one ball is used for the entirety of each team's innings. The gradual conversion of a hard ball into mush is part of the game. If a ball goes into the crowd, they retrieve it. If it gets lost, they in theory replace it with a ball in similarly decrepid condition. I am skeptical of that part, but I have attended amateur games where both teams are combing through the woods looking for the ball.

I'm not entirely sure why baseball went a different direction with this. My first guess is that the presence of foul territory means that many more balls are going into the crowd, making retrieval much more problematic.