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#onthisday in 1873, Bostonians debated baseball on the Common

May 5, 2017

On May 5, 1873, a group of Bostonians asked Boston’s Board of Aldermen to ban the game of baseball from the Boston Common.

Their request was in response to the Beacon Hill Baseball’s Club proposal that a portion of the Common’s parade ground be made available for baseball games.

Petitions for and against baseball on the Common, 1873 May 5
Petition against baseball on the Common, 1873 May 5,

The petitioners believed that baseball was a dangerous game, not only for the players, but also to Bostonians passing by, who might be hit by a ball. They argued that if the city gave the baseball club the right to use the Common “the comfort and safety of many citizens will be endangered.” Furthermore, they argued, “the Boston Common was laid out for the recreation and enjoyment of all the inhabitants and that no portion of it should be appropriated for any use that would defeat that purpose.” 

Petitions for baseball on the Common, 1873 May 5,
Petitions for baseball on the Common, 1873 May 5
Petitions for baseball on the Common, 1873 May 5

The Beacon Hill Baseball Club responded in the above letter. They stated that baseball was not a dangerous game and that “the only opposition…comes from a small number of the wealthy residents of this locality who are able to afford expensive recreation on land and water and who, for the sake of making the Common a little more beautiful to the eye, would deprive hundreds of young men of the exercise necessary for their bodily health, which exercise they are able to obtain in no other place.”

As well, the Club argued that most of the opposition to baseball on the Common came from individuals who spent the summer months away from the City.  They reminded the Board of Aldermen that the young men who wanted to play baseball on the Common did not have the resources to “afford expensive recreation nor have the time to go to the outskirts of the City to obtain exercise.”

Despite the club’s arguments, in a vote on May 12, 1873, the Board of Aldermen denied the Beacon Hill Baseball Club’s request to play baseball on the Common.