Baseball was the second intercollegiate sport at Brown, coming after rowing. Class teams contended with each other and with local teams. The Class of 1865 team as freshmen captured the championship of Providence by defeating the Dexters and was challenged by the freshman team of Harvard. We are indebted to librarian Reuben A. Guild for the account of Brown’s first intercollegiate game on June 27, 1863, written for the Providence Journal, which described the details of the encounter from meeting the Harvard team at the railroad station, taking them to Humphreys’ for lunch, touring them through the library and laboratory, to escorting them to the Dexter Training Ground for the game. His description of the game follows:
“The contest lasted upwards of four hours, and as was anticipated, proved highly exciting. For a long time the tallies on each side increased with even pace, and up to 6 o’clock it seemed entirely doubtful which side would win. The Brown boys did ‘splendid execution,’ but the superior muscle and the longer and more thorough training of the Harvard boys finally prevailed. They won the game by a majority of nine, the tallies counting twenty-six and seventeen. ... The occasion was enlivened by the delightful music of the American Brass Band, and smiles and nods from countless fair ones cheered and encouraged the players. The very best feeling pervaded the Clubs, the vanquished joining with the victors in cheers at the final result. Such friendly peaceful contests do much toward uniting kindred institutions in a common bond of sympathy and love. Harvard and Brown have always sustained the happiest relations towards each other in the past years of their history, notwithstanding the somewhat different theological tendencies of the two institutions. ‘So mote it ever be’ in the future.”Interest in baseball continued, and, if the varsity did not meet with immediate success, there was much baseball activity on the campus as class teams were formed. The class of 1870 had an especially strong team, and in 1868 members of that team accounted for eight players of the varsity nine. After a successful season, the varsity team was challenged by the “Lowells” of Boston. The Lowells were named for John A. Lowell, an engraver who was the patron of their team, and they were considered, especially by themselves, to be the best team in New England. The Brown team decided to put them in their place. On the arrival of the Lowells from Boston, they were told that Smith (the only varsity player not of the class of 1870) was ill, so that the University nine could not play them. However, they were offered a game with the Class of 1870 team. The Lowells were insulted, but, having made the trip, condescended to play and were defeated, 22-19. At the Hammer and Tongs entertainment in the evening following the game, Edward K. Glezen 1866 presented, on behalf of the young ladies present at the game, a shield of flowers bearing the letters “B.U. June 17th, 1868,” definitely a day to be remembered.
The freshman team of 1872 took an unprecedented tour in July of 1869 to play against five other colleges. For the first game of the series Harvard came to Providence and was defeated by Brown, 37-15. After that game, the Brown team began its tour by train and boat for a week of games of which the Brown team won against Wesleyan 44-22 and Amherst 25-24 and was defeated by Yale 55-14 and Dartmouth 38-18. From September 1870 to June 1871 the varsity won eight of its thirteen games, losing three times to Harvard and twice to the Boston Red Stockings.
Lincoln Field was laid out on the back campus in 1880. Before that time, games were played at the Dexter Training Ground, Adelaide Park, or the Messer Street Park. J. Lee Richmond 1880 pitched the first perfect game in professional baseball, a 1-0 victory for Worcester over Cleveland, on June 12, 1880, four days before his graduation. Walter Angell 1880 pointed out some time later that the Worcester-Cleveland game was actually Richmond’s second game of the day, since at about 4:30 A.M. he had taken part in the traditional early morning game which followed the seniors’ class supper, and then hopped the train to Worcester. In the 1879 season Richmond had led the Brown team to a college championship, won in the last minutes of the final game with Yale. In the ninth inning, with a 3-2 score in Brown’s favor, Yale had two men out and the bases loaded, and a batter with two strikes and eight balls, when Richmond threw the final strike.
When Sayles Hall was built, the baseball team had an on-site training facilityin its basement, which was in 1889, according to the Brunonian, improved by “the construction of a narrow track around the sides of the basement floor to the north of the batting cage. The underlayer of the track is of rotten leaves which are used to produce the required qualities of softness and elasticity; over this is a layer of sawdust.” Baseball revived in the early 1890s with Fred Woodcock 1891 and Frank Sexton 1893 pitching and Fred Tenney 1894 as catcher. The fifteen to twenty home games each season were played on Lincoln Field, with home plate near the junction of Waterman and Thayer Streets. The peculiarities of the baseball diamond had an effect on the games. The right field foul line ran past Lyman Gymnasium, and there was a low fence on the left field line. A ground rule limited a ball hit over the fence to two bases. When a ball hit over first base by Fred Tenney rolled up the concrete walk which led to the middle campus for a home run, the Princeton team objected and walked off the field, with the result that baseball relations with Princeton were severed. Several of the players of the 1890s went on to play major league ball, Woodcock with Pittsburgh, Sexton, Tenney, and outfielder John “Daff” Gammons 1893 with the Boston Nationals, Thomas Dowd 1893 with the Washington Senators, and William Lauder 1898 with the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants. The Brown team, defeated only by Holy Cross and Harvard, won 27 of 31 games in 1896 for the college baseball championship of the country. The 1897 varsity won 24 of 30 games, and as champions of the East traveled to Chicago to meet and win two games of three in a series with the champions of the West, the University of Chicago. In 1900 Libe Washburn’s pitching brought the team to second place among college teams, defeating both Harvard and Yale. The team of 1903, with pitchers M. J. Lynch ’04 and H. F. Hatch ’06, won fifteen of its twenty regularly scheduled games. The team had benefited from a southern practice trip to North Carolina, Washington, and Philadelphia, during which Brown won two of five games. The team and the college were looking forward to a great season in 1904, but the entire team played summer ball and was disqualified. The 1904 team was therefore made up entirely of inexperienced men who had never played on a varsity squad, with the expected result of a losing season brightened by unexpected victories over Princeton, Holy Cross, and Dartmouth. Lynch later played for Pittsburgh and the New York Giants.
The 1911 team won twenty games and lost five. In 1912 a team which included pitchers Joe Conzelman ’12 and Eddie Warner ’12, and shortstop Ken Nash ’12, won nineteen games and lost five. The 1913 team won seventeen of its twenty games, losing to Yale twice and to Holy Cross. Catcher and captain Walter Snell ’13 was signed by the Boston Americans and pitcher Edward Eayrs ’16 by the Pittsburgh Nationals. During the 1913 season Frank Gilbreth, an efficiency expert residing in Providence, took motion picture films of the baseball players to use in improving their batting and throwing. In 1915 the varsity won seventeen and lost four, and for the first time a second team was organized and won six of its eleven scheduled games. The team of 1919, with pitcher Ralph Knight ’21, won thirteen of sixteen games, losing to Rhode Island and twice to Holy Cross, and even playing seven innings against the Boston Braves.
In the early 1900s athletic director Fred Parker, and former players Frank Sexton and Fred Woodcock served as coaches. Harry Pattee ’06, who played shortstop for two of his undergraduate years and also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, coached the Brown team from 1912 to 1921. The teams of the 1920s, under coaches Wally Snell and Jean Dubuc, had some great pitchers – Hal Neubauer ’25, who won 23 and lost 7 in his four Brown seasons and played with the Boston Red Sox, Irving “Bump” Hadley ’28, who played on the freshman team before dropping out to begin his professional career with the Washington Senators and then moving on to the New York Yankees, and Haskell Billings ’29, who was both pitcher and third baseman at Brown and later pitched for the Detroit Tigers. One of Brown’s most memorable games was played on June 7, 1924, when Brown and Providence College played a twenty-inning game, which was eventually won by Providence, 1-0. Both pitchers, Elmer Duggan ’26 for Brown and Charlie Reynolds for Providence College, pitched the whole game. Duggan struck out 29 batters to set a new collegiate record, and allowed only five hits. Reynolds had eleven strikeouts and allowed eight hits. The game, which began at 3 p.m. finally ended after 7 p.m., after Ray Doyle of P.C. reached first on an error, was bunted to second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on teammate Billy Beck’s Texas Leaguer. Two years later Reynolds of Providence College again pitched in a long game against Brown on May 22, 1926. Brown’s pitcher this time was William Quill ’27, and the game went to eighteen innings. In the seventh inning with the score tied at 5-5 and Brown runners on first and third, Joseph Gurney ’26 hit a fly ball to center field, Charles Dixon ’26 scored from third, while Preston MacDonald ’26 was ruled safe at third when the third baseman dropped the ball, only to be called out when the ball was thrown to first (because MacDonald had not tagged up). In the ensuing arguments by the coaches, Dixon’s run was overlooked and then disallowed. Providence College won the game, 6-5, in the eighteenth inning. Two days later the umpires admitted that Dixon’s run should have counted. It was too late in the season to remove the game from the records and play another, as was suggested. The fact that Brown would have led 6-5 in the ninth inning was invalidated by the contention that Providence College, being behind by one run, would have played differently, and in the record, if not in the minds of Brown fans, Providence College remains the winner.
Coach John Kelleher’s twelve teams from 1930 to 1941 had four winning, five losing, and three tied seasons. After a three year slump Kelleher’s last two teams in 1940 and 1941 improved to the extent that they had equal wins and losses, with the help of pitcher Walt Jusczyk ’41, who caused Providence College two losses to Brown in one season for the first time, and in 1941 struck out 106 men in 102 innings and allowed only eight earned runs. With the advent of year-round operation of the University in 1942 there were two baseball seasons, spring and summer, neither of them successful for Brown. Eddie Eayrs ’16 coached from 1942 to 1948. Wilfred “Lefty” Lefebrve, who coached from 1949 to 1963, achieved a record of 105-120-2, as a part-time coach with a full time high school teaching job, which left little opportunity for recruiting. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Senators during his nine-year professional career. His 1952 team tied Cornell for the Eastern Intercollegiate title. Stanley Ward’s teams from 1965 to 1968 had a 40-57-2 record. After that, Bill Livesey (43-41-5) coached from 1969 to 1971, and George Woodworth (60-91-4) coached from 1972 to 1980.
Dave Stenhouse, whose thirteen-year professional pitching career included stints with the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Senators, coached the Brown team from 1981 to 1990. His 1986 team had 23 wins, the most in Brown baseball history for a season, and eighteen losses. Stenhouse’s ten-year record at Brown was 177-214. Outstanding players were Hank Landers ’84, three times All-Ivy and three times All E.I.B.L., and Billy Almon ’75, who passed up major leagues and a $50,000 bonus from the San Diego Padres and enrolled at Brown instead. In college he was All-Ivy and All-EIBL in 1973 and 1974, and after playing for the Padres, he returned to Brown as coach in 1992, replacing Frank Castelli, who had coached in 1991 and 1992.
Brown is a member of the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League, which consists of the eight Ivy League colleges plus Army and Navy. Brown’s best finish in the league was a tie with Cornell for the title in 1952. There have been four league batting champions from Brown: Al Gauthier in 1951 (.385), Tom Skenderian in 1966 (.514), Scott Bingham in 1972 (.394), and John King in 1979 (.512). Brown’s two All-Americans are David DeLuca ’64, who led New England batters in 1964 with a .397 average, and Bill Almon ’75, who was named College Baseball Player of the Year in 1974, when he batted .350, made ten home runs, batted in 31 runs, and stole twenty bases.