I remember actually feeling a bit disappointed when it became common knowledge that Abner Doubleday was in fact not the inventor of baseball. Why? Well there was that beautiful Baseball Hall of Fame ballpark down in Cooperstown named after the guy, which I always thought was about as perfect a tribute as possible for the person who invented my all-time favorite sport, even if it no longer is “Our National Pastime.
But Doubleday doesn’t need credit for inventing the game to go down in history. After all, he had a pretty distinguished Army career and fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter which is where the Civil War began. Then during the battle of Gettysburg, it was Doubleday’s division of 9,500 men who held off 16,000 Confederates in one of the fiercest defenses of ground in US Military history.
It was during the Civil War that the soon-to-soar flame of Doubleday’s role in the beginning of baseball probably got its fuel. By the time the War began, early versions of the game were already being played throughout the North and especially here in New York State. That’s why baseball games became a favorite pastime for Union Army troops, waiting to march into their next battle. And it is at this point of my story that I get to introduce today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Nicholas Ephraim Young.
Born in Amsterdam, NY on September 12, 1840, Young’s family had taken up residence in Old Fort Johnson almost 100 years after Sir William Johnson had built the two story stone structure a mile west of this city. Young’s father, an owner of an Amsterdam mill was evidently well-to-do, affording his boy the opportunity to attend Amsterdam Academy and to have enough spare time available to learn to play the game of Cricket and become quite good at it. But when the War between the States reared its ugly head, Young did not avail himself of the rich folks’ option of purchasing a substitute to fight for him. Instead, he enlisted in New York’s 32nd Regiment, eventually landing with the Signal Corps, where he became in-the-field tent mates with John F. Dwyer, an Amsterdam, NY plumber who would one day become Mayor of his hometown.
Both soldiers had become fond of baseball during their Army hitch and would often participate in games while in between marches and battles. It was during one such lull in the action, while bivouacked in Virginia that Young and Dwyer decided to organize a game between soldiers from New York and troops from other states. They called the team of Empire Stater’s the “New York’s” and the other squad the “United States.” Young pitched for the New York nine and Dwyer was the catcher. Though I cannot locate a final score, it was reported that 15,000 spectators showed up for this contest including generals and a bunch of newspaper reporters and the event got nationwide publicity. As both captain and manager of the New York team and an organizer of the game, Young’s name was prominently mentioned in these accounts. Thus began his public affiliation with the sport that would end up getting him elected as the fourth-ever President of the National League…
How and when did Young become the top dog of the National League? You can find out in my complete birthday post for this former local skipper. It will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.
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