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Manning Index of South Australian History
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    South Australia - Sport



    Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience

    Australia is one of the few British dominions which has taken to baseball seriously; today, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are the strongholds of the game. Baseball was played in Victoria in 1857, at the time it was being placed on an established basis in America. The participants were Americans who had come out to Australia in the rush for gold, but their efforts to introduce the game were fruitless, the lure of gold being too strong for counter attractions of this nature.

    Baseball in Australia owes its existence to the visit, in 1888, of two American teams under the management of a millionaire, A.G. Spalding, President of the Chicago Baseball Club. The first match in South Australia was played on 26 December 1888 between those teams. The game was sufficiently popular by April 1889 for a series of inter-colonial games to be held. The South Australian team included the following players: R. Ewers, J. McKenzie, J.J. Lyons, E.G. Phillips, A.W. Pettinger, W. Slight, J.J. Woods, J. Rundle, G. Shawyer and G. Bonnor. They went to Melbourne and won two of the three games played.

    A baseball league was formed at a meeting held on 19 March 1889 when the following were elected to executive office: President, T. Gepp (Mayor of Kensington & Norwood); Vice-Presidents, G.E.C. Stevens, C.W. Uren, W. Blinman, W. Mitchell and A.J. Wight; Hon. Secretary, E. Stewart; Hon. Treasurer, J.H. Cragg; Committee, R. Hill, J.J. Wood, H.C. Burnet and George Giffen.

    An important 'local' game was played on the Adelaide Oval early in April 1889 between teams representing the South Australian League and a company of minstrels that was in Adelaide performing at Garner's Rooms. They were all men who, from their boyhood, had played their national game and, although they were inferior to the American professional players, they were considered to be a good match for the local amateurs, who had made marked progress under the coaching of Harry Simpson, a member of the professional team, who had remained in Australia to foster the infant game. Several hundred spectators evinced a lively interest in the game which the local team won by 19 runs to 2. Our players were Messrs, Lyons, Pettinger, Woods, Phillips, McKenzie, Simpson, Ewers, Shawyer and Bonner.

    At a meeting of league delegates in April 1889 it was decided that the season for play would be from 1 September to 31 May. Accordingly, the 1889-1890 season opened on 26 October 1889 on the Kensington Oval. Two four-horse drags left the General Post Office about a quarter past two in the afternoon and conveyed a good number of persons to the ground, including members of the Eastern Suburban Band, who enlivened the sports with musical selections.

    After the first heats in the Kensington Oval Handicap were run the baseball proceedings began and the first event was 'baseball throwing'. This was won by R. Ewers who put in a splendid throw of 112 yards. In the ensuing match the city team defeated its rivals by 15 runs to 3. Military sports were also conducted and these included 'tilting' and 'tent-pegging'.

    The first premiership was won by Post and Telegraph Club, the other teams competing being Norwood, North Adelaide, Goodwood and Kent Town. In the following year a junior league was formed and the future of baseball seem secured, but as the game was being played in the summer the interest of cricketers was not retained.4 Baseball became popular in Broken Hill and in December 1889 a South Australian team visited the Barrier and played three games all of which were won by the home team. The following Easter the victors came to Adelaide where they were defeated in a like manner. In 1897 an Australian baseball team toured America and was the first foreign team to visit that country. Unfortunately, no games were arranged with first grade teams and the visitors had to be content with matches against second and third rate clubs. The tour was inglorious and ended disastrously, the players being stranded in London without funds. Fortunately, passages for home were arranged and so ended Australia's only venture to the land of baseball. The aftermath was the total demise of the game in South Australia for a decade or more.

    General Notes

    A proposed visit by an American baseball team is reported in the Register, 24 December 1888, page 6h:

    For subsequent events and the formation of clubs in South Australia see Register,
    24, 27, 28 and 29 December 1888, pages 6h, 5a-7d, 6e and 6c,
    17 January 1889, page 5c,
    9 February 1889, page 15b,
    23 and 30 March 1889, pages 15d and 21e,
    6 April 1889, page 15g,
    27 February 1889, page 7h,
    6 and 11 March 1889, pages 6f and 7h,
    13 and 15 April 1889, pages 7h and 7g,
    30 January 1889, page 6b,
    5 and 27 February 1889, pages 4c and 3f,
    7, 9 and 28 March 1889, pages 4c, 4d and 4c,
    3 and 15 April 1889, pages 6e and 4c,
    14 September 1889, page 19b,
    1, 8 and 15 October 1892, pages 6f, 4e and 4e,
    21 May 1892, page 15e,
    15 October 1892, page 15d,
    11 March 1893, page 7c,
    29 September 1893, page 4d,
    9 January 1894, page 4c,
    8 and 25 March 1895, pages 4d and 4c,
    2 October 1895, page 4c,
    12 May 1894, page 15f,
    30 March 1895, page 15f,
    25 April 1896, page 30d,
    4 and 11 September 1897, pages 31d and 17e.

    "Baseball Material" is in the Observer,
    19 January 1889, page 33b.

    A meeting called to form a baseball team at Port Adelaide is reported in the Register,
    21 March 1889, page 6e; also see
    27 March 1889, page 6h.

    Information on a Norwood baseball team is in the Register,
    3 and 6 April 1889, pages 6h and 7h; also see
    3 April 1889, page 7a.

    A letter from a baseball club in Chicago, USA, is in the Chronicle,
    24 January 1891, page 14c; also see
    17 October 1891, page 15f.

    "Funeral of the Late John Hattams" is in the Register,
    25 January 1892, page 6c.

    A review of the baseball season is in the Register,
    14 May 1892, page 7f, 1 April 1895, page 7e.

    Inter-colonial baseball is discussed in the Observer,
    13 February 1897, page 21a.

    A baseball match played at Balhannah is reported in the Register,
    15 April 1889, page 7g;
    a match played in Adelaide by a Port Pirie team against the SA League is reported in the Register,
    5 January 1894, page 7d.

    Also see Express,
    19 and 24 September 1891, pages 3f and 4c,
    14 April 1892, page 4b.

    The death of a player following an incident during a game is reported in the Register on
    25 January 1892, page 6c.
    A proposed overseas trip is mooted on
    9 January 1897, page 4h.

    An annual meeting of the association is reported in the Register,
    30 September 1893, page 7d.

    The formation of a baseball league and other information is in the Advertiser,
    7 and 9 April 1908, pages 6e and 9e.
    Photographs of local teams are in the Chronicle,
    9 May 1908, page 32,
    of the South Australian team on
    3 August 1912, page 31,
    Sturt and Freemason Ramblers on
    9 September 1911, page 32,
    of a Sturt team in the Express,
    4 July 1912, page 8.

    "The Real Baseball", including an account of a visiting American team, is in the Advertiser,
    14 October 1909, page 9h.

    A photograph of Rue Evers, captain and catcher for North Adelaide, is in the Express,
    10 June 1910, page 4,
    of a game on the Adelaide Oval in the Chronicle,
    4 July 1914, page 31,
    of the Freemason Rambler's team in the Express,
    11 September 1913, page 8,
    4 November 1922, page 28,
    of a State team in the Express,
    25 September 1913, page 8,
    of an interstate carnival in the Observer,
    25 August 1923, page 29.

    "The Close of the Season" is in the Express,
    29 August 1912, page 5d.

    A photograph of a Freemasons Ramblers team is in The Critic,
    8 September 1915.

    Photographs of teams are in The Critic,
    9 July 1919, page 5.

    "Dangerous Baseball" is in the Advertiser,
    25 May 1922, page 11d,
    "Lacrosse and Baseball" on
    12 May 1923, page 12g.

    "Baseball - An Old Tour Revived" is in the Register,
    15 August 1924, page 7c.

    Photographs of and information on interstate matches is in the Chronicle,
    27 August 1927, page 23,
    16 August 1934, page 33.

    The formation of the Sturt Baseball Club is reported in The News,
    15 March 1929, page 10g.

    "District Scheme Adopted" is in The News,
    17 April 1931, page 9g.

    "Progress of Baseball" is in The Mail,
    1 August 1931, page 5d.

    "How Baseball has Progressed in SA" is in The Mail
    1 May 1937, page 33c.

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