by Greg Kannerstein ’63
While most colleges began to play baseball soon after the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ professional debut in 1869, Haverford College saw a battle for supremacy between baseball and cricket waged throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A strong cricket tradition, the desire to focus on one sport and scorn for what baseball represented prevented the diamond game’s rise for decades. Cricket’s preeminence and hostility to baseball nearly produced athletic civil war on campus between 1850 and 1920. The rivalry was so intense at one point that, legend has it, Haverford cricketers even sawed up the baseball bats.
Haverford’s zeal for cricket came from its special hold on Philadelphia, where it remained a major participant and spectator sport through the 1890s, long after it withered in other areas. Its match with the University of Pennsylvania in 1864 was one of the first intercollegiate athletic events in the U.S. The College still has the only varsity cricket team in the country.
Baseball and cricket coexisted during Haverford’s first quarter-century, but in the late 1850s and early 1860s, cricket fever seized the campus. Its rise may have been a reaction to the “New York game” outstripping Philadelphia’s town-ball in baseball circles or it may have been an escape from the war which troubled the pacifist campus. Four cricket fields were used simultaneously and baseball was relegated to winter months. One campus historian in 1860 sniffed, “Baseball had suffered the contaminating influences of a later day…and was indulged in, at least when the ground was not fit for cricket.”
While cricket was king at Haverford, many colleges organized baseball teams in the 1860s. Amherst and Williams played the first intercollegiate baseball game in 1859, and soon teams sprang up at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Union, Bowdoin, Hamilton, Kenyon, Hobart, NYU and other colleges. But at Haverford, the cricket victory over Penn in 1864 sealed baseball’s lesser status. A graduate wrote, “How exultant we were when we won the game! We were stronger, more athletic, more used to active outdoor life than the University fellows.” Haverford President Samuel Gummere half-heartedly reproved students for missing required evening Bible reading while the team hosted defeated foes for dinner.
Baseball made a slight surge in popularity in 1867. In October of that year, a baseball team from the Quaker boarding school Westtown came to campus. “The score and the excitement were equally tremendous, Haverford winning by 44-43,” penned a student scribe. The game provoked a student essay which claimed that cricket’s virtues of quiet and patience were much more admirable at a Quaker college. A baseball player had to get more excited (“especially if his Betsy Jane is present”) than some thought fit. The faculty eventually said no to a game at Westtown, 15 miles away. “Baseball was kept in its place,” a sportswriter observed.
By that time, the faculty had taken over discipline from the Board of Managers since students were indulging in riotous behavior such as pillow fights. It canceled a major event, the Junior Show, because hapless undergrads used “February” rather than Quaker plain style “Second Month” on the invitation. But even the faculty quailed before cricket. In 1872, it allowed the student body a “half-holiday” for weekday afternoon cricket matches, a privilege devotees of other sports fumed over.
Throughout the 1870s, cricket was inscribed in Haverfordian hearts and minds. “For us cricket is…the national game,” a student wrote. Students trooped to Germantown to watch a famous match between “The Gentleman Eleven of England” and the “American Twenty-Two.” A new cricket ground was dedicated in 1877 and in 1878 Haverford defeated Penn with the founder of cricket at Haverford, William Carvill, then 84, on hand. The spectacle moved a Philadelphia reporter to speculate that Penn-Haverford cricket would become a “fashionable event,” á la Derby’s races, Thames crew contests or Oxford-Cambridge cricket.
That note heralded a new theme the moral and social superiority of cricket and the inferiority of baseball. An alumnus said, “It has always pleased me to see Haverford clinging to cricket for I have never learned to care much for its too-popular rival base ball.” Eminent Quaker philosopher Rufus Jones, then a Haverford student, quoted a “prominent Friend” as advising him “in awful seriousness in an extra-ordinary rhythmic quaver that we must guard against a great and growing evil which is extending over the length of our land and has now reached the Allegheny mountains–I mean baseball.”
Class struggle was played out on the athletic field. “In cricket we are thrown in with a gentlemanly class of fellows. In baseball, we would be thrown in with a far different class for it is a common saying that anybody can play baseball and the result is that anybody does play.” The writer attributed this trend to professional baseball. Drinking and gambling were associated with baseball, but class and ethnic prejudice were involved. Half of professional baseball players at that time were of Irish or Irish-American origin. No Irish or German or other “ethnic” names were yet found in the Haverford student catalogue.
Though baseball threatened all that was sacred to cricket, Quakerism, Haverford and Philadelphia, the upstart game would not die. The fall 1879 cricket season ended early, and baseball sprang up. But even a 28-24 extra-inning victory over arch-rival Swarthmore lacked the significance reserved for cricket. “We accepted the challenge…for the fun of the thing,” said a student newspaper. Other sports were also raising their ugly heads. “Lacrosse may have its benefits, but we give it no welcome to Haverford, certainly not in preference to cricket,” the paper wrote. Students were warned, “Every time a fellow student sees you with a tennis racket or a baseball bat in your hand…you do the cricket club irremediable harm.”
Swarthmore College’s student paper chided Haverford in 1881 for staying aloof from baseball: “Did a lack of success in American college games suggest this decidedly British sport?” Unamused Haverfordians accused the Hicksites of an over-emphasis on sports like football. “Recently, merely as a side issue, we picked our (baseball) team to play Swarthmore and easily won both games.”
Until 1884, cricket received strongest support from students and graduates. The largely Quaker faculty and administration worried about sports leading to frivolity or neglect of studies. But in March 1884, the voice that was to guide Haverford for the next 34 years was raised in favor of athletics. Isaac Sharpless, president from 1887 to 1917, pulled together disparate threads of educational thought and historical influence into a framework which promoted Haverford’s advance into the forefront of America’s small liberal arts colleges and his philosophy still shapes Haverford today. Sports were a pillar of Sharpless’ educational edifice. He was also a major cricket proponent.
Sharpless wrote, “In a few years a sound and active body, as well as a sound and active mind, will be a requisite of graduation in all good colleges. Colleges are to make useful men. When the great battle comes…of life from thirty to fifty, we do not find the good solider who can endure hardness but the soft voluptuary who is carried away by disease or accident.” Games, in the British sense, were the means to Sharpless’ ends. “Truly a game is life in miniature…We might thus adapt the old proverb, ‘Let me regulate the games of a school, I care not who hears the lessons.’ It is better for students to be playing on college grounds than loafing about with canes and cigarettes.”
Sharpless had no trouble choosing his weapon: “The noble game of baseball, in itself perhaps the best game designed for students in warm weather, has degenerated into a victim of gamblers and a trysting-place for all kinds of immorality. Foot-ball has (had to) set up rules against rowdyism, which are inadequate against a spirit which public opinion cannot control. Cricket alone seems to remain on the high ground. Neither bowler or batsman has the other at his mercy. There is little temptation to personal provocation and good feeling usually persists in the hottest games.”
Though Sharpless advocated cricket, all sports profited from “Uncle Isaac’s” enthusiasm for athletics. A notable baseball victory was recorded in 1888, even though “Gallagher’s big bus” broke down en route to Swarthmore and the students had to walk part of the way. A huge ash-heap in left field and “primitive conditions” daunted Haverford’s team which fell behind by 20 runs, but then rallied and won in the ninth. The players stayed at Swarthmore for dinner, paying 25 cents each for stewed prunes, bread and milk. The baseball revival of 1888 aroused calls on campus for baseball to replace cricket completely and games between class teams and against outside rivals became more numerous.
Sharpless’ approach led to grumbling in Quaker provinces. Friends’ journals appealed to Haverford “to prohibit all games with outside colleges” since gambling and drinking were associated with college sports. Sharpless responded by saying, “to maintain a college which shall uphold Quaker morality and give the best intellectual opportunities is worth more than all the college games.” But he noted the high moral fibre and values of Haverford students ensured that “study time is not seriously impaired.” While reassuring doubters off-campus, Sharpless kept up pro-sports pressure at Haverford. He told alumni, “We want new athletic grounds. We propose to convert an unsightly swamp into a fine ball field and to make a quarter-mile track. Our students have already raised (money for the field) out of their own pockets though I suppose it ultimately came out of their fathers’ pockets.”
Counter-reaction to baseball was swift. An 1882 graduate howled, “Baseball is identified with uproarious crowds, extensive betting and the most childish sorts of recrimination between umpires and players. Let boys and ragtags play baseball but let the scholars and gentlemen of Haverford have their ancient game.” The alumni association had more practical advice: “Don’t forget that when the unhappy date comes to leave College your chances of playing baseball are nil. Cricket will give you immediate position in (the prestigious local) clubs.” Two prominent old grads said, “The traditions of half a century must be reversed before the pulse of the Alumni can be thrilled over the records of a base ball match with Swarthmore.”
The college paper remained true to cricket, quoting a mythical freshman’s “Mama”: “Now dear, don’t engage in gambling or baseball or drinking.” The arrival of a professional cricket coach in 1887 led the paper to warn, “The College is hardly large enough to play more than one game with any success and with the coaching of our professional, cricket can be that successful game.”
As the anti-baseball bombardment intensified in 1889, the team expanded its outside schedule. Haverford’s first baseball star, pitcher Edwin Haley ’90, held neighbor Villa Nova to six hits but the Augustinians won, 6-4. Haley then hurled a 3-hit 11-3 defeat of Swarthmore. Even with the teams totaling 14 errors, Haverford and Swarthmore ran off seven innings in only 75 minutes. This was a strong Haverford team. John Guss was an “ex-Brandywine professional” and Henry Conard a “phenomenal pitcher.” Even cricket star Henry Baily, called “The Little Demon” for his bowling, was recruited to play third.
By 1891, college baseball stories and box scores appeared in leading papers. Haverford scheduled Lehigh, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania Military and other colleges. The Haverford student paper denied “the charges of the Philadelphia Press that several ball players received salaries for playing.” Haverford split games with Swarthmore, and the usually hostile Haverfordian bragged, “A victory over a college larger than Haverford and in a game that is something of a specialty at Swarthmore is not to be despised. But the greatest victory was that which Haverford won in both games a victory in gentlemanly conduct.” Baseball seemed finally poised to supplant cricket on the Haverford campus.
It didn’t happen. Perhaps it was continued passion for cricket in the Philadelphia area and the rise of influential cricket clubs, such as Merion, Germantown, and Philadelphia. Perhaps it was evolution of Philadelphia cricket into a game for the leisure classes, not workers and artisans who had dominated it in an earlier era. Cricket enthusiasm from Sharpless and professional coaching by Arthur Woodcock played a role. But the disappearance of baseball during the 1890s “The Golden Age” of Haverford cricket might have owed most to two unusual undergraduates, John A. Lester and J. Henry Scattergood, Class of 1896.
Ironically, the earliest mentions of Lester and Scattergood concerned baseball feats as shortstop and catcher for the freshman class baseball team in 1892-93. The scholar-athletes arrived at Haverford through different routes. One story claims Sharpless was vacationing in Yorkshire and a likely lad carried his bags into his hotel. By the time they’d gotten to the front door, Sharpless had ascertained Lester’s intellectual and athletic merit and offered him a place at Haverford at the advanced age of 22. Scattergood, only age 16 at matriculation, grew up in Philadelphia in a family of countless Haverfordians and had excelled as a baseball catcher.
Lester starred in seven sports at Haverford but his greatest feats were in cricket. In his first year, he averaged “a century” per batting appearance, an unheard-of performance. He was also a fine slow bowler and took one wicket for every eight runs allowed (comparable to an 0.25 ERA). Scattergood converted his baseball skills into wicket-keeping and developed as a batsman, launching a Ruthian clout out of the field, across the street and over a house into a backyard in a match in Camden.
In 1896, while Princeton, Yale, Brown and Penn were diamond hotbeds and Wesleyan defeated Harvard in baseball, all Haverford eyes were on cricket. The eleven won every match but one. They traveled via boat to Fall River, MA, train to Boston and horse cars to Harvard’s field where they won a 156-155 thriller. The team then sailed for England in early summer, where it remained six weeks, playing well against the flower of English universities and public schools, and royally entertaining everywhere. If there was any baseball on campus that year, no one cared enough to report the scores.
The glories of the English trip and the 1896 team’s success sealed baseball’s doom and cricket ascendancy for two decades. Trans-Atlantic cricket tours took place every four years. Campus publications effervesced, “The year 1900 and the word cricket have always seemed reciprocal,” and “Cricket is unquestionably the king of games at Haverford,” and “Cricket and springtime are entirely co-existent at Haverford.”
Occasional baseball subversives were visible. Edward Dale Freeman’s yearbook biography read, “Freeman held that cricket games went tame/Just give him baseball and the ‘National Game.'” A 1900 graduate wrote later that Haverford failed its students because “many a man of our day was a misfit (in post-college life) because the College provided no course in Baseball.” The only record of anyone hurling a baseball came in a track meet when William Supplee won the baseball throw for distance with a remarkable 330 feet, four inches in 1898.
In 1901-02, Haverford fielded four cricket teams, involving 54 students out of a student body of just over 100 and three professors. Christy Morris ’04 inherited the cricket mantle of Lester and Scattergood and played on the 1900 English cricket tour before matriculating. Luckily, no NCAA existed to penalize this blatant violation of amateur eligibility standards. Football, track, tennis and golf were played, but little or no baseball. The lack of a baseball team was emphasized when William Gibbon Lindsay arrived in 1905-06 to earn a second bachelor’s degree after graduating from Guilford College where he’d been a baseball star. The North Carolinian eventually went on in 1912 to play second base for Napoleon Lajoie’s Cleveland entry in the American League after a distinguished minor league career. Unfortunately, his athletic activities at Haverford had to be limited to the bowling team and “pursuit of the fairer sex.”
But Haverford could not remain sheltered forever from social and athletic winds picking up force around the country. By 1908, cricket talent was diminished and financial problems hit Haverford athletics. Students griped at being dunned every couple of weeks for 25 cents to help this or that team. Athletes resented using cheaper Ivory Soap instead of rugged Life Buoy. The Haverfordian suggested a radical means for ending budget blues: a baseball game with Swarthmore. Cricket now seemed a millstone around Haverford’s neck: “In at least three cases (the lack of baseball) has turned valuable men from Haverford into other colleges.” Eighteen days before graduation in 1909, Haverford’s varsity baseball team revived, even if it lost to schoolboys from Westtown, 11-7.
The infection of baseball caused antibodies to form by 1909-10. The College Weekly trumpeted cricket’s cause. “Every spring some freshmen agitate to get baseball instituted, but by the time they become second or third year men most of them are in line with Haverford’s peculiar temperament and support better cricket.” Lester, Scattergood and other cricket greats were brought back in spring, 1910, to tutor the cricket XI for Haverford’s fourth English tour. Even though The College News boasted, “I had rather make a clean cut to the ropes than knock all the home runs in history,” Lester worried the cricketers weren’t ready.
By 1911, even cricket’s journalistic voice admitted there “will probably be a baseball team in college this spring.” Several groups were playing and the faculty formed a team studded with distinguished scholars, bowing only in the final inning to the seniors, 7-6, on a disputed call at first. While faculty and students were cavorting in good fellowship on the diamond, racist malignancy attacked the cricket corpus. A 1911 match with Howard was canceled when it was learned that “not all (Howard’s players) were West Indians.” Some black Americans showed up for the match. “Some alumni felt rather strongly about the color-line” so the match was dropped. Cricket, partly due to its own internal failings, seemed beset on all sides.
The battle was joined. In 1912, the newspaper said a baseball team would be “one of the most harmful things at Haverford in a long time. (It would) sound the death-knell of cricket, for which we are famous both in this country and abroad and which we will be able to play long after we are too old to properly curse a baseball umpire.”
But loyalists were crumbling. By 1913, there were still four cricket squads and no baseball varsity at Haverford but few prep schools still played. Proponents asked Sharpless to defend their sport, but even he seemed perfunctory. He conceded that especially in length of games, “cricket fails where baseball gains.” By now, his major rationale for cricket at Haverford was that fathers of current students played it. He even called cricket “an elderly man’s game.”
Classes with several fine baseball players arrived in 1911 and 1912 and diamond talent included the flower of Orthodox Quaker youth, bearing hallowed names of Stokes, Shipley, Steere and Cary. Those students broke down cricket’s last defenses against baseball. The frosh of 1912-13 beat everyone in sight including their sophomore campus mates, 21-10. Captain James Emlen Shipley was a fine pitcher and Isaac Steere ran down every fly ball and hit some home runs. In their sophomore year, the stars from the Class of 1916 beat the new freshmen 12-5 and Lower Merion HS, 14-12.
Cricket sent a team to England in the summer of 1914, despite the turmoil in Europe. They also conducted guerrilla warfare on the home front, inducing the student council to ban “batting, base running or knocking out flies” on the campus lawns. The virus was isolated on two designated fields some distance away.
Baseball, not to be deterred, went over the top in 1915. A college team of unusual merit was formed. All the cricket supporters could do was persuade members to call it the “Haverford Baseball Club” rather than “Haverford College Baseball Club.” Paced by two remarkable pitchers, freshman George Haines Buzby and sophomore Bob Gibson, the new team rolled up a 5-2 record all this without a coach. Player-manager Bill Hannum held out the olive branch to cricketers: “(Ousting cricket) is not the purpose or intention of the club.”
The first editor of the Haverford News, cricketer Douglas Cary Wendell ’16 editorialized that “within the next six years cricket will be a dead letter as a major sport at Haverford due to lack of incoming material and lack of any competition.” A.G. Scattergood ’88 traced the decline of cricket to World War I’s effect on England, lawn tennis, golf, motoring and weekend parties.
Haverford baseball heroes were born daily. Hannum became “Home Run Bill,” college counterpart to Philadelphia A’s star Frank “Home Run” Baker. Tad Sangree ’17 was a “savage hitter” (.381), Chic Cary a fine lead-off man, and Don Chandler ’17 the “leading sticksmith” (.500 season BA). Gibson homered against Penn Military and he and Buzby
combined for 17 strikeouts vs. the cadets. By the end of 1915, students felt “the time has come to provide a professional coach (for baseball). A coach for next year means better baseball and a better schedule.”
April 10, 1916, will long live in Haverford baseball history. New coach Douglas Adams ’96 was on hand, and the fine team of 1915 returned almost intact. But no one expected what happened on that day. Haverfordians pinched themselves to make sure the headlines were true: “Haverford Blanks Penn, 2-0; University Saved from No-Hit Game in Final Inning. College of Under 200 Gains Victory from Institution of 6,000!” Buzby and Penn’s star, Cross, matched seven hitless innings before the Fords scored with a brilliant display of “inside baseball” a single, a perfect hit-and-run, a double steal, and a squeeze which produced two runs. Buzby allowed a hit and a walk in the ninth, but retired the final two Penn batters on ground balls.
The Haverford News rhapsodized, “Won’t that open their eyes?” The team went on to a 5-5 record against strong opposition. On June 5, the Athletic Association approved baseball as a “major sport” at Haverford and the first varsity letters were awarded. Buzby and his mates had made baseball a varsity sport at Haverford. World War I interfered with the rise of baseball at Haverford, but couldn’t stop it. The first spring training trip was to North Carolina in 1917, but the war forced cancellation of 1918 and 1919 seasons. George Buzby, who did so much to establish baseball at Haverford, never served the captaincy his teammates awarded him and died young. His name now graces the baseball MVP trophy. Sixty-eight years passed before Haverford beat Penn again, but in that time baseball took firm root.
Prophecies that baseball would kill cricket proved false. Sharpless retired in 1917, but presidential successors William Wistar Comfort and Felix Morley, who had been baseball players, supported cricket as well. The team went to England in 1924 and consistently drew numerous candidates. Most cricketers between 1930 and 1980 learned the game at Haverford and though the sport seemed an anachronism, the College’s commitment did not waver.
By the mid-1980s, West Indian, Indian and Pakistani students raised cricket’s level of play to a standard Lester and Scattergood would have admired. The 1989 XI toured England and Scotland, preceded by a scouting report from octogenarian veterans of the 1924 trip, Howard Comfort and Murray Haines. Lester just missed his personal century,
dying at 98, but lived to see Haverford’s cricket pavilion dedicated in his honor in 1964. Philadelphia cricket as a “gentleman’s game” disappeared from the sports scene. But more Philadelphians, immigrants from cricket-mad countries, play now than ever did in Lester’s time. Haverford cricketers now bear names like Desai, Mehta, Poonen and Sheth rather than Stokes, Scattergood and Morris but the spirit is the same. Baseball still flourishes as well. In 1990, a 6’5″ Haverford baseball pitcher, Chaon Garland, received a $70,000 bonus as a third-round draft-choice of the Oakland A’s. Cricket and baseball now happily coexist at Haverford, and the passions that provoked the baseballcricket wars of 1870-1920 lie buried under the green fields of the campus.
Acknowledgements–Writers George B. Kirsch and Jerrold Caswell supplied valuable background. The late William Ambler ’45, long-time Director of Admission, provided encouragement, anecdotes and quotations