By Bill Ross
Baseball in Morgan County has roots that go back to around the first of the 20th century. Before we look at that history lets take a look at the beginning of baseball in America. Baseball in the 19th century is loaded with interesting history and facts.
1. Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839.
2. In 1845 rules were introduced to the game. An interesting rule involved a batter getting hit by the pitcher. If you were batting and hit by the ball, you were not awarded first base. It just counted as a ball. It took seven balls to be given a walk. When combining these two rules, a batter could get hit by the pitcher 7 times and then get to first base. Talk about “earning” your way to first.
3. The first official game was held between two teams from New York City in the suburban town of Hobokem. The game featured the Knickerbocker Club and the New York Nine.
4. During the Mexican War American Soldiers played baseball. They used the wooded leg of General Santa Anta as their bat.
5. In 1877 four players from the Louisville Grays throw games in exchange for bribes from gamblers. Just over 100 years later Pete Rose is accused and convicted of the same offense.
In the latter part of the 19th century, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (the country’s first professional baseball team) stopped off in Utah as they were touring the country. There was a game played between the Red Stockings and some locals, and the subsequent aftershocks caused a flurry of baseball activity.
Leagues sprung up throughout Utah, causing an interesting cross-cultural phenomenon. Coal miners of all races came together and tossed the ball around. Farming communities gathered and enjoyed a sudden surge in community pride. Morgan County was a community that caught the bug.
Almost everyone who does family history will have a distant relative who played for a local team. My grandfather was part of this phenomenon. He was born and raised in a small mining town by the Utah/Idaho border named Black Pine. He recalls playing games throughout northern Utah and southern Idaho. One of his favorite stories he used to tell me is the time he hit the “urine ball”. His team was playing the Malad Nine and he just clubbed a home run. As he was rounding 3rd base he overheard the third basemen ask the pitcher, “You threw him the urine ball didn’t you!” The pitcher responded by saying he didn’t know what he was talking about. To this the 3rd baseman replied, “I know you did because he just hit the piss out of it!”
At the turn of the century teams were organized all over Utah. Morgan County was no different. The first team was a team made up of county residents. After that teams were formed throughout the county including, North Morgan, South Morgan, Richville, Porterville, Milton, Peterson and Devils Slide or Croydon.
Next week we will look at the first team from Morgan County.
A team photo in March of 1911 is the first piece of information available about organized baseball in Morgan County. Many of the names are familiar names to long time Morgan County residents. The manager was George Carrigan. Names making up the team Fry, Peterson, Francis, Smith, Rich, Heiner and Dickson. All of these men have descendants still living in the county. A check of little league rosters this spring will have almost all have descendants of these original pioneers of baseball.