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Eagle Archive: Civil War era baseball revisits county's love of the grand old game

Eagle Archive

By Kevin E. Dayhoff, kevindayhoff@gmail.com

9:37 AM EDT, April 12, 2013

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On April 14, 1866, the Olympian Base Ball Club was formed in Carroll County.

Carroll County has always had a love affair with the game. Some of my fondest memories of growing up came from listening to Orioles baseball on WTTR or getting together with friends and family to attend local Little League or Babe Ruth baseball games.

Last week it was announced that the Carroll County Farm Museum, in conjunction with the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area First Call event, will host a Civil War era baseball game on May 5, at 2 p.m., as part of a two-day Civil War re-enactment event, May 4 and 5.

The baseball game will be held at the Landon Burns Park baseball field adjacent to the Farm Museum, with play-by-play called by WTTR's Bob Mathers.

Local historian Richard Hershberger wrote an article for the Historical Society of Carroll County several years ago in which he observed: "Baseball came to Westminster the year after the end of the Civil War. Bat-and-ball games had been played since time immemorial, but modern baseball is descended from the game as played in New York City in the 1840s.

"In the late 1850s, it began to spread beyond the New York region. By 1860, it was played in most major cities, including Baltimore and Washington, and in the years immediately following the Civil War spread to smaller cities and towns. Westminster was right on schedule."

In 1993 another local historian, now-State Sen. Joe Getty, wrote about the early days of baseball in Carroll for the Historical Society. "Following the Civil War, the sport of baseball became increasingly popular in Carroll County," wrote Getty.

Hershberger reports, "The typical early baseball club was composed of young professionals and merchants with sedentary occupations and some free time. Baseball was a way to take exercise in a social setting."

The Olympians, he wrote, "fit this pattern, with their president, 24 year-old Harry J. Shellman, son of James M. Shellman, a former burgess of Westminster.

"The younger set of the county bar was particularly well represented, including pitcher and team captain William A. McKellip, a former lieutenant colonel in the Union Army and the clerk of the circuit court. Other surnames of Westminster ballplayers that year still familiar in Carroll County include Reese, Yingling and Baumgartner.

"Most of the games were between club members playing every Tuesday and Friday evening at six o'clock. But the real excitement came from match games against other clubs. The baseball craze spread rapidly throughout the region, providing opportunities for competition."

For more information on the upcoming baseball event at the farm museum, call 410-386-3880 or go to carrollcountyfarmmuseum.org or ccgovernment.carr.org/recreation.

When he is not out practicing his knuckle ball, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com