It’s a game that started 155 years ago, with no mitts and underhand pitches. It’s a game that was played with the second-oldest baseball bat in American history. It’s 1860s baseball, and it’s coming back to Bowdoin this Saturday.

The Pejepscot Historical Society, in partnership with the Bowdoin Athletic Department, will be recreating a game of 1860s baseball by Farley Field House at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Dirigo Vintage Base Ball Club, a team that plays exhibition games all around New England, will be coming to campus to compete against a team Bowdoin has put together, followed by a game between the Bowdoin team and the town of Brunswick. There will be peanuts, cracker jacks and Necco wafers to add to the historical ambience of the event, and vintage-style baseball caps will be sold. 

John Cross, one of the event’s organizers and a former member of the historical society, is excited about the easy-going nature of the day.

“It’s very much in tradition of finding a cow pasture somewhere and setting up and playing a game,” he said. “People keep score at some level, but the point is to have a good time and relax.”

In 1860, baseball first came to Bowdoin in a game between the juniors and the seniors. The juniors brought home the title, and on October 10, 1860, the seniors took on the town’s team, The Sunrise Club, and once again lost.

“That original game was played to strengthen ties between town and college,” said Cross. Additionally, it is the tradition of the game that the winning teams keeps the bat and ball.
“The ball disappeared somewhere along the way,” he said, “but the bat was returned to the historical society.”

The bat used in that first game is still in existence today, and will be on display at the field this weekend. The bat is the second oldest baseball bat in recorded history, and had been turned on a lathe by a local hardware store owner. All the players who played in that first game signed their names on the bat, and while the writing is much faded, it still makes for a significant historical object, according to Cross. The entire game, in fact, constitutes as a historical occasion. The box score has been recorded, as well as the players who participated.

“You can get a sense of what students might have been doing, 155 years ago, outside of getting into trouble,” noted Cross, “it's not too different from today.”

Also significant is the distinct time period of the historical game.

“This is the class that graduated right into civil war,” said Cross, “They happened to be the group that played the game. They faced some pretty trying circumstances.”

The game this weekend hasn’t just attracted Bowdoin students, but prominent figures as well. The team roster originally included none other than President Rose, though a trip out of town has stopped him from playing. It’s almost a relief that the new president won’t be on the field, however.

“If he injures himself and is on crutches for his inauguration, then I'm in trouble,” added Cross, “But he's a grown up and if he wants to play, he can play.”

That sentiment is the very spirit of the game: it’s a fun, family oriented game where those who want to play, can play.

“It captures that sense of when baseball was new and not played by multi-millionaires,” said Cross. “It was played by neighbor and fellow students, just out to have a good time and relax.”
Cross believes that fun will be had by all, even those just cheering on the side.

“Maybe they’ll come out from the stands and play an inning or two,” said Cross. “I think it will be a good time.”