Wesleyan, Yale celebrate 150th anniversary of 1st baseball game – New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN >> Donning throwback uniforms that harkened back to the days when baseball players sported handlebar mustaches and had nicknames like The Fordham Flash and The Georgia Peach, Yale and Wesleyan played a baseball game at historic Yale Field on Saturday night.
But it was more than a game.
And with Fay Vincent, the former Commissioner of Major League Baseball, regaling the crowd during the special pregame ceremony with stories of Babe Ruth, Roger Angell and Ron Darling, the night seemed to carry even more historical significance.
Yale and Wesleyan share a unique baseball tradition, having played the first intercollegiate baseball game on September 30, 1865. Just five months after the end of the Civil War and the Lincoln assassination, the Yale Nine defeated the Wesleyan Agallian Club, 39-13, in an eight-inning contest somewhere in New Haven.
Well, Wesleyan gained a measure of revenge, winning this 150th anniversary reenactment by a score of 6-3. The Cardinals got a suicide squeeze bunt from AJ Ferrara and an RBI triple from North Haven’s Dylan Millhouse to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the 10th inning.
Saturday’s festivities included pregame remarks from Yale’s John Stuper and Wesleyan’s Mark Woodworth, as well as Cardinals alum Jim Dresser, of whom Wesleyan’s home field “Dresser Diamond at Andrus Field” is named. Andrus, located in the middle of Wesleyan’s Middletown campus, is the oldest continuously used baseball field in existence.
It was Dresser’s great grandfather, James Cooke van Benschoten, a Wesleyan Classics professor, who named the baseball team the Agallians.
“Gazing out at the players in their respective period uniforms, warming up in this jewel box of a ball field, I can imagine that I am watching the beginning of the game between these same sides in the 1860s,” said Dresser, who threw out the first pitch. “This willingness to celebrate tradition tonight and to suspend our modern culture of frenetic change is a tribute to the excellence of these two great universities.”
Yale President Peter Salovey also threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
With the players from both teams lined up along the baselines, and many of the school’s former players gathered on the infield, Vincent told the story about the day when his father, Fay, Sr, a legendary athlete at Yale, took him to Yale Field to see Babe Ruth. It was June 5, 1948. Vincent was a fourth grade student at The Hotchkiss School and Ruth was in New Haven to get his autobiography restored at the Yale Library.
“Ruth was dying of throat cancer so his voice was very raspy,” Vincent recalled. “You could barely understand him. Two months later he died. That was a remarkable event for me because I had my father’s permission to take a day off from school and I saw the great Babe Ruth out there from a distance.”
Vincent, baseball commissioner from 1989-1992, also talked about famed baseball writer Roger Angell’s account of the Yale versus St. John’s NCAA Regional championship game at Yale Field in 1981 and the amazing pitcher’s duel between Ron Darling and Frank Viola. St. John’s edged the Bulldogs 1-0 in 12 innings and according to Vincent, “Angell wrote an article about the game that was one of the best baseball stories ever written.”
Angell was sitting in the stands at Yale Field with Smokey Joe Wood, the former Red Sox great and Yale coach, and penned the story of St. John’s legendary win through Wood’s eyes.
“History, like baseball, is circular,” Vincent said. “It’s round. History was on this field, which has involved Wesleyan and Yale for many, many years.”
The Yale and Wesleyan baseball teams came full circle on Saturday night. They wore throwback uniforms and reminded everyone once again about the time Wesleyan’s Agallians, who finally evened things up, took a train from Middletown to New Haven to play the Yale Nine in the first college baseball game.
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