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home : columnists : time was March 28, 2017

2/17/2015 3:12:00 PM
Base ball in Braidwood, a long legacy

Sandy Vasko

When Braidwood first sprang into being in the late 1860s, many of the new immigrants were Civil War vets. They brought with them the game of base ball (always spelled with two words until the 20th century), played by so many of the soldiers during their off time in camp.

We know by 1871 clubs had been organized. We read in August of that year in the Wilmington Advocate, "A game was played at Elwood on the 17th inst., between the "Comets" of Braidwood and the "Hickorys" of Elwood. After considerable wrangling with the Umpire, on the part of the latter club, the game resulted in a victory for the Hickorys by a score of 27 to 13."

During the coal strike in 1874 the editor of the Advocate wrote, "Probably never in the history of Braidwood has there been a time when base ball is more acceptable as an amusement, or beneficial as a pastime than now when nearly all of the inhabitants are idle."

It seems that right from the start Braidwood and Wilmington were arch rivals. When another Braidwood team visited Wilmington that same year, Editor Conley wrote, "On the 28th the Stars of Braidwood clenched with the Riversides of this city. The latter were worsted and their paper collars wilted considerably. Fault was found with the umpire."

Perhaps the most colorful name for a base ball club of that year indicated the idleness of the miners that played on the team. They called themselves the Deadbeats.

We read on August 14, 1874, "The "Emeralds" and "Deadbeats" played their return game on Friday, August 7th, at Braidwood. Good fielding and strong batting characterized the game; also good "stops" were made by both clubs. The affair resulted in favor of the Emeralds by a score of 17 to 16. Time of game, one hour and forty minutes. Umpire, W. Simms, of Braidwood."

In 1875, "On last Saturday the Nationals of this place met the Young Tigers of Braidwood, in battle array, with clubs as trumps. After a spirited game the youthful tigers came out second best, the score standing 19 to 9."

Of course, Wilmington was not the only adversary. There were the other coal towns. In 1883 we read, "The Braidwood -Diamond base-ball match on Tuesday resulted in a score of 31 to 29 in favor of the Hearts of Oak nine, of Diamond. The pitcher and catcher of the club each had a finger mashed, while Ross Goodrich came home with a "shanty" under his eye. N. B. Storer had one arm bruised somewhat." I guess those mining boys played a little rough.

All of the above games were played "for the love of the game," though no doubt there was betting on the side. The players however were lucky to get a free beer out of it. In 1883 that changed when the teams started playing for a purse. We read on August 31, "Our base-ball boys are to play with the Braidwood club today for a purse of $36. May the best men win."

Four dollars a man doesn't sound like much, but in today's money that would be about $100 a man, or perhaps a bit less if the coach takes a cut.

Perhaps the thought of all that money made the boys nervous. We read on September 7 of that year, "The Wilmington base-ballists did themselves proud in the contest with the lads in Braidwood on last Friday. A large number of visitors witnessed the game and considerable chagrin was felt at the poor showing made by the Braidwood club. The latter, however, for some reason, did not do itself justice, and its fortune will probably be retrieved on some future occasion. The prize was $36, and was won by our local club by a score of 52 to 20."

It wasn't until after the turn of the century that I read about serious base ball clubs again in Braidwood. M. J. Donna tells of the Braidwood Cubs, and I can find evidence of another team called the Senators.

In 1905 we have evidence that baseball games were being played at the Braidwood race track on Sundays for $65 a purse. (About $1,700 today) The Braidwood track would continue to host a baseball game every Sunday after that.

After World War I another famous Braidwood team was organized, the Braidwood Grays. They were an almost semi-pro team, playing other teams from Chicago. We also know of one black team that might have been organized by the coal companies, or perhaps the black Masonic Lodge.

So in honor of my all time favorite player I say this to you, "Let's play two!"

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2016
Article comment by: Richard Green

I am a grandson and namesake of Braidwood catcher Richard McCambridge. Anyone with more info, documentary or anecdotal, in the Braidwood Cubs from 1900 to 1920, please contact me.

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