By Michael Bisceglia
Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 11, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Courtesy photo not in original newspaper article.]
Did Abner Doubleday invent the game of baseball in a cow pasture just outside of Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1839, or did Alexander Cartwright set down the rules to the game in 1845? The argument as to who really is the Father of Baseball has raged for years.
The answer probably doesn't matter. What matters is that "America's Pastime" was a perfect fit for this country's recreational needs from the Civil War to present day. (You may have heard that there's a little team nearby called the Boston Red Sox. The word is that they're doing rather well.)
Baseball was absolutely the ideal summer recreational sport for Hampton, and the timing for the advent of the game couldn't have been better. Southern New Englanders had set their sights on coastal New Hampshire as a vacation destination. The Amesbury & Hampton Street Railway was chartered in 1899, and regular trips from Amesbury, Mass., to Hampton Beach began on the Fourth of July of that year. The railway took tourists directly to the Casino, the best location for a ballpark. (Keep in mind, Fenway Park was still two years away from completion.)
The grand old building was much different from what it is today. The main building ran along Route 1A, and an adjacent building, facing what is now D Street, formed a right angle to it. The rear of the buildings faced Ashworth Street. Both buildings had two-story balconies, which were easily transformed into wonderful grandstand seating for the great new sport.
There were no left-field stands or center-field bleacher sections. Pitchers mounds didn't exist in those early days, but the pitcher's area behind the Casino faced the northeast corner of the building.
Records of what teams and which players participated in those early Casino games may be forgotten, but both the town of Hampton and Hampton Beach had their own teams. In 1888, the roster of the town team included: John Lightbody, catcher; Earnest Mace, pitcher; E. G. Bullis, first base and captain; A. L. Jenness, second base; Thomas Chase, shortstop, and William Joplin, third base.
By today's standards, the teams played little more than a handful of games, but those games were played against teams from Fremont, Kingston, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the U.S. Marines, Manchester and other regional communities.
It is possible that hot dogs slathered in rich mustard were served to fans viewing ballgames from the Casino's balcony. Hot dogs came into existence in 1893.
It is likely that avid fans were munching on Cracker Jacks. Everyone knows that line about peanuts and Cracker Jacks from Jack Norworth's famous ditty, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It was written in 1908.
Baseball aficionados behind the Casino may have stood for the seventh-inning stretch.
Legend has it that President Taft invented it in 1910 when he rose "to use the facilities" in a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics. He's also credited with originating the practice of throwing out the first pitch.
For the record, folks back then definitely did not sing "Sweet Caroline" during the eighth inning. That joyously, triumphant tune didn't become a regional tradition until many years later.
[Mike Bisceglia Jr. is a freelance writer who lives in Hampton.]
Baseball at the Casino
Hampton Beach, N.H.
Chapter 20, SPORTS:
"Hampton, A Century of Town and Beach, 1888-1988" By Peter E. Randall
[Courtesy Horace Estow Hobbs]
[Courtesy Ansell Palmer]
Images of America: Hampton and Hampton Beach
By William H. Teschek -- 1997
[Photo courtesy Emile Dumont]
"Pleasure Spots for Summer Vacationist
Graves & Ramsdell System