Monday, April 30, 2012

Baseball at the Academy

Hi, my name is Matthew Karin, a senior at The Governor's Academy, and I will be a guest archives blogger for the next several weeks. I am currently an intern in the Academy’s archives as a part of my senior spring term project. I chose this as my project because I have always loved history and the fascinating stories that go along with it. My first research is on the history of baseball at The Governor’s Academy because of my lifelong career of playing the sport. Information on this history of baseball can also be found in my Cobb Room display and in the archives flyers posted around campus.

The Governor's Academy has a long tradition with baseball throughout its 250-year history. The first known mention of a game of baseball in America was in 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Pittsfield is also the site of the first intercollegiate baseball game in 1859 when Amherst defeated Williams College 73-32. The first professional baseball teams in America were founded in 1869 under the modern day National League, however it wasn’t until 1901 that Boston had a professional baseball team: The Boston Americans.

Based on photographs and evidence from the archives, we presume that baseball began at Dummer Academy in the 1870s. The earliest photograph of baseball in the archives is a team picture from 1883, which is comprised of 8 students and 1 coach. At the time, it was not uncommon that coaches participated in baseball games as player-coaches. Both the game itself and its field have changed over the past 140 years. The first change came in 1907 when Captain Ambrose raised money from fellow players to renovate the uneven and unplayable field. Every player donated money towards the project and a member of the Trustees doubled each donation. After Easter break, the new field was ready with several inches of new gravel to level the field and a “skin” diamond was put in. A “skin” diamond is the modern day baseball diamond that has dirt around the base paths. Twenty-five years later, in 1932 the baseball field was rotated from home plate directly in front of Route-1 to its present location. The change was made to “prevent the congestion of traffic caused by passing cars pulling up while the occupants watched the game and also to decrease the number of foul tips which last year went over the backstop and rolled across the road.” Lastly, in 1977 Morse Field was renamed Howard J. Buster Navins Baseball Field in honor of the legendary baseball coach. Buster Navins was a graduate of Dummer Academy who coached soccer, basketball, and baseball for 41 years. He was inducted into the GDA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.