Base-Ball. On Ice.

baseball on ice 1

“Games, you remember, go by a kind of immutable rotation – as much a law of childhood as gravitation of the universe. Marbles belong to spring, to the first weeks after the frost is out of the ground. They are a kind of celebration of the season, of the return to bare earth. Tops belong to autumn, hockey to the ice, base-ball to the spring and summer, football to the cold, snappy fall. … If you played ‘em out of time, they didn’t seem right; there was no zest to them.” ~ Walter Prichard Eaton in Scribner’s, 1911.

(Spinning your tops in the spring? Unzesty.)

There wasn’t much snow in Central Virginia yesterday. Just a splatter. Or, maybe someone just emptied a bag of cotton balls out in the yard.

a cotton ball of snow

© The Baseball Bloggess

You can’t do much with a snow like that.

By noon it was gone.

Time to get on with spring.

Some people argue that baseball season goes on too long, that games are too long, that everything should just be shortened up, speeded up, and wrapped up quickly.

They are wrong. Who wants more baseball-less winter?

In the 1860s, “Ice Base-Ball” was invented to keep the season going longer.

Ice baseball Washington Park 1884 by C.J. Taylor

“Base Ball On Skates” by C.J. Taylor in Harper’s, 1884

A few teams in Brooklyn – and later in Chicago and Philadelphia – gave it a go and you can find reports of it through the early 1880s or so.

Some games had 15,000 fans out in the cold watching players skate around the bases.

(Imagine this … Billy Butler. Stealing second. On skates.)

(You’ll be thinking about it all day, won’t you? Maybe this baseball on ice thing isn’t such a bad idea.)

Following a game between the New York Mutuals and Atlantics in January 1871, The New York Sun noted that the bases were drawn on the ice with paint and ashes, the ice “was in fine condition” and “[t]he play was good.”

The Mutuals lost, although the reporter neglected to give a final score.

The game’s highlight? “In the second innings, [sic] one of the Mutuals, Shreeves, took the bat and struck at the first ball pitched to him. The next that was seen of him he was lying in a heap on the ice, while his bat was flying over the heads of the spectators.”


Just 21 days until pitchers and catchers report to warm places where the only ice is in drinks and wrapped around sore muscles.

In the meantime, here’s a hardy women’s team in Toronto playing baseball on ice in 1924.

The “latest in Winter sports – demands skill, speed and strong clothes.”

(Don’t forget your strong clothes … there’s still a bit of winter left out there.)