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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
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