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Eagle Archive: Calling all 'well-behaved players' for baseball in Carroll County

You may have noticed that the Baltimore Orioles have gotten off to a good start so far in the young 2012 season.

Hope springs eternal, and spring makes me eternally hopeful, so it's only fitting to note that baseball was also on the minds of Carroll County readers more than 110 years ago.

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On this day in 1899, a local newspaper carried a news story that the local "Westminster Base Ball Club" was looking for a few good baseball players…

"The Westminster Base Ball Club ... desires to win the championship and toward that end desires to have a team composed of good players who will be able to play good base ball, and will take full advantage of the five mile limit in order to obtain the players if they can not be gotten in this city."

What is that 'five-mile limit' all about? We may need to call upon local historian and Carroll County baseball history expert Dan Hartzler.

Since Hartzler is also the author of at least six books on Maryland weapons and soldiers, we usually think of him as a military history expert; especially "about firearms used in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812," according to Jay Graybeal.

However, Hartzler is also the author of "Carroll County Baseball: Semi-Pro and Amateur, 1860-1999." (He gave a box lunch talk for the Historical Society of Carroll County on the subject back in April 2006.)

Of course, the five-mile limit had to do with the practice of baseball clubs using 'ringers,' professional baseball players, presumably from outside of the county to improve the opportunity for a local team to have a winning season, according to Hartzler.

Baseball has always been taken quite seriously throughout Carroll County. State Sen. Joe Getty wrote about the early days of baseball in Carroll County for the Historical Society in 1993, noting that "following the Civil War, the sport of baseball became increasingly popular in Carroll County."

According to Mary Ann Ashcraft, an historian for the Historical Society, "Baseball was a big draw in all parts of the county, and competition between local teams often got very intense…"

In the April 22, 1899 article that appeared in the now-defunct Democratic Advocate newspaper, it is interesting to review the set of qualifications desired by the Westminster Base Ball Club.

"While no roughness or rowdyism on the team will be permitted, the team will be no kid glove affair, to the detriment of good ball playing, but every effort will be made to obtain a representative club of conscientious, efficient, and well-behaved ball players…

"The team announced last week will be permanent only so far as the members, so announced, are able to play good ball and play regularly."

Where do I sign up?

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play.

When he is not listening to Orioles baseball on WTTR, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com

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