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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Baseball in Australia

In September 1853 the clipper ship the City of Norfolk arrived in Melbourne Victoria. The ship had sailed from New York on 17 March 1853.Two of the first class passengers were 21 year old Davis Calwell from Pennsylvania and his brother Dan Mcgrew Calwell, 22. He and Dan went to the gold fields to seek their fortunes but did not find very much. Instead they worked in the saw milling industry and Davis later became a farmer and 3x great grandfather to our children. 

Believed to be a photograph of Davis Calwell

      Postcard found online of the clipper ship "City of Norfolk" in port

 Amongst the other passengers aboard the City of Norfolk was one Sam Perkins Lord from New Hampshire, who was apparently the ship owner. Sam claimed to have introduced baseball to Australia, although the following passage casts doubt on this claim.

Extract  from Time and Game: The History of Australian Baseball By Joe Clark 

"The man who credits himself with bringing baseball to Australia was Samuel Perkins Lord (1819-1890), an American merchant who arrived in Melbourne on his own ship, The City of Norfolk on 4 September 1853. Lord was originally from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and probably played the New York Game and found numerous other Americans of like mind when he arrived in Melbourne at the age of 33 after the death of his first wife in 1852. It appears that Lord made numerous efforts to organise baseball in Melbourne but either his business interests or the lack of enthusiasm of Australians for the game kept baseball from succeeding until Spalding's visit.

Newly arrived Americans played an early form of baseball with English and Australian cricketers in Melbourne. Played on cricket grounds at the Exhibition Grounds in the old Carlton Gardens on Saturday afternoons in open parklands on cricket fields, at William and Latrobe Streets, the site is coincidentally the office of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. ...They played in the shadow of the great Exhibition Hall, a replica of the original in London. The organised games were probably seen as a curiosity more than serious attempt to start a permanent competition. The first recorded Australian baseball match was here on 21 February 1857. The account tells of the 'Melbourne Base Ball Club' having a series of three matches between Collingwood and Richmond. The scores were astronomical - with Collingwood winning the ssecond match 350 - 230! These early Australian baseball players were probably playing a variation of rounders and the New York Game.

Australian baseball's official creation myth states that American miners played baseball on the goldfields of Ballarat on their rest days in 1857. This story was used as the basis for centenary celebrations of the Victorian Baseball Association in 1957. While it is possible such games took place, no original documentation has ever been found for a Ballarat game. The earliest reference linking Australian baseball with Victorian gold fields is from 1918 while many 19th century references place the first games in Melbourne. "

I have no idea whether or not ancestor Davis Calwell played baseball either in White Deer Pennsylvania or in Melbourne or on the gold fields, but he certainly would have known Sam P Lord by virtue of their having arrived in Victoria together. When our children started playing the game rather than cricket in the 1990s I wasn't into family history and was unaware that they had American ancestry on their father's side. It's an exciting game to watch, once you know the rules, but it has not been successful in becoming a major sport here in Australia.

   Our son at bat. Up in the attic is a box of trophies won over his playing career for Most Valuble Player. I know that at least one of his team mates went on to play in the American leagues. 

Baseball was included in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and we secured tickets to various events , including a baseball game between the USA and Korea. Below are a few shots of the play. Unfortunately a heavy thunderstorm interrupted the game and as it was already late at night we did not stay to see whether or not it would resume, which it eventually did in the early hours of the next morning.

Preparing to cover the mound in the wet, Sydney Olympics 2000

For more blogs inspired by Sepia Saturday #369, click Here

Friday, 19 May 2017

Snakes alive!

The Sepia Saturday prompt this week features a fairly big snake curled up in the lap of a lady wearing what looks like a snakeskin patterned leotard and fishnet stockings. Funnily enough I have no family photographs of anyone in fishnets, although our elder daughter did jazz ballet for some years and may perhaps have occasionally worn a pair as part of her various performance costumes. I did uncover a few photos of people with snakes however, which I've included below.

This first photo shows our younger son and daughter at the Australian Reptile Park, an attraction just north of Sydney, to which my mother was fond taking family and visitors for an interesting outing. You can safely visit the park here and explore what exciting attractions they have to offer. Despite the name of the park, they also have other Australian animals, some of which are a lot more cute and cuddly. 

Our son who was about 6 in this photo from 1991 doesn't seem particularly worried about or even interested in the snake around his neck, but his four year old sister is giving it a close look. Of course this would have to be a non-poisonous species such as a python of some kind, so there would be no real danger to the children. 
They keep highly venomous snakes like the Eastern Brown Snake there too but I'm sure they are not available for the public to handle. They are milked for their venom, as are spiders like the Funnelweb, and the venom is then sent to a laboratory where life-saving anti venom is produced.

Here are our older son and a school friend on a class excursion later the same year, looking happy and unconcerned about the large python adorning their necks. 

This third photograph is from 1996 and shows my late sister-in-law Penny. My mother's caption reads "Penny is brave".  She was indeed brave, not so much for holding what was perhaps a corn snake, again harmless, but because around ten years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she fought courageously for four years before succumbing in 2011. You can read an earlier blog I wrote in her memory here. RIP dear Penny.

Our daughter pictured in the first photo above now lives on a country property where snakes are a not uncommon sight. According to the Reptile Park web site, the deadly Eastern Brown isn't aggressive but when we encountered one in the long grass off the beaten track one summer day it practically chased me down the paddock! I certainly hope they keep a close eye on our young granddaughter who has just started toddling about.

The Australian Blue Tongue lizard is a far more friendly reptile that can at first sight be mistaken for a snake because its little legs are initially rather inconspicuous. 12 years ago we lived in the leafy Sydney suburb of Turramurra and had several blue tongues as long-term residents in our garden. In the first photo one is peering into our garden shed. You would get a shock if you were getting something out of the shed and came across one of these fellows, but they are harmless, and good to have in the garden because they eat snails. Unfortunately I didn't find any photos I've taken capturing their bright blue tongues.

Here's our younger daughter again, circa 2001, holding a baby blue tongue that we rescued from the cat, who was the main danger to their survival, although I doubt he was a match for them when fully grown and generally they lived in harmony. Being cold-blooded like all reptiles, blue tongues like to bask in the sun to warm up. They can shed their tails if necessary and regrow them.

I'd like to think that this photo taken the following year might show that baby grown up. 

Now slither over to Sepia Saturday #368 for more encounters that may or may not involve snakes or other scaly-skinned creatures, but beware of anything lurking in the undergrowth!