Lone Star Series - History - 19th Century: The Beginning of Baseball in Texas

19th Century: The Beginning of Baseball in Texas

The birth of baseball in Texas happened at the same time as the Civil War in 1861 with the formation of the Houston Base Ball Club to promote the game the same way Alexander Cartwright had during the 1840s with the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in Manhattan. Baseball was played in Galveston and other Lone Star locations prior to the Civil War. The distribution of the game was interrupted by the Civil War but would pick up by the end of the war. Baseball was played during the Civil War mostly by Yankees but occasionally by Confederates. A humorous story by Texas-based Union soldier George A. Putnam told of a baseball game interrupted by Confederate gunfire. Putnam stated:

Suddenly there was a scattering of fire, which three outfielders caught the brunt; the centerfield was hit and was captured, left and right field managed to get back to our lines. The attack...was repelled without serious difficulty, but we had lost not only our centerfield, but...the only baseball in Alexandria, Texas.

On April 21, 1867, the first occurrence of a baseball game was taken into account by the Houston Post. At the San Jacinto Battlegrounds near Houston, where General Sam Houston led Texas to triumph in the War of Independence from Mexico in 1836, a baseball game took place on the anniversary now celebrated as Texas Independence Day. The Houston Stonewalls defeated the Galveston Robert E. Lees, 35–2, that rivaled the result of what originally happened on the same site.

Baseball spread throughout the state in the next two decades as a popular amateur game. The influence of what Houston had done in the early 1860s, those who acquired the nuances of the game from Civil War travels, and experience of immigrants who moved to Texas during the Reconstruction Era helped in organizing the sport and bringing more attention to the game in the state of Texas. Scarcely a generation after the state’s first recorded game in 1867, Texas fielded 100 minor league clubs—more than any other state.

The acceptance of baseball had expanded throughout Texas like a stampede of cattle by the end of the 19th century. Houston was the founding member of the Texas League in 1888 and also won their first league pennant the next year. The Houston ballclub went by the nicknames of Babies, Red Stockings, Mud Cats, Magnolias, and Wanderers before Buffaloes became permanent around the turn of the 20th century.

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