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Barbara Schmidt

Henry Guy Carleton was a noted humorist, journalist and playwright of the nineteenth century. After attending a baseball game in Elmira, New York in July 1887, he wrote the following tongue-in-cheek report of the event which appeared in the Boston Daily Globe and other newspapers across the country.


by Henry Guy Carleton

Boston Daily Globe, July 3, 1887, p. 1

By Henry Guy Carleton

The Humorist Presides at a Game of Base Ball,
And Lays Down Some Original and Startling Rules.

The Coroner Summoned, But Mark Revived.

Rev. Mr. Beecher Acts as an Associate Umpire.

An Event at Elmira Which Marks An Epoch in Base-Balling.

ELMIRA, July 2. - I left New York last evening to attend the base ball match here between the Alerts and the Unions, Governor Hill being unable to come, and journeyed by way of the Delaware & Lackawanna.

I occupied upper "3" in the third alleged sleeper, in company with four flies, who had neither tickets nor a pass.

I ascertained from the porter, during a somewhat heated conversation about 11 o'clock, that ice-water and flies are allowed to every traveler going west without extra charge.

I took my ice-water about 11:30 and then turned in to enjoy my flies.

The railroad fly is an innovation which will be appreciated by tourists during the heated term, and I was thankful I had four. "Lower 6," across the way, who had a lunch basket and some beer under his berth, made several remarks during the silent watches of the night, which led me to believe he had several times that number. The flies assigned to me slipped over now and then to take a light back at the pie and a sip of the beer, but just as I had settled into a doze they would come frolicking back to skate on my forehead, toboggan down my nose and tunnel under the sheet to study anatomy, so that it was daylight before I ceased to be amused and fell asleep.

At 7 o'clock the porter aroused me and remarked, in a low, confidential key, that he had somehow got me mixed up with another man who was going to Bath, farther up the road, and shunted him off by mistake for me at Elmira which we left at 6:44. He added that if I would hurry and dress he would ask the conductor to stop the train at Corning, where, in a couple of hours, I might get a train back to Elmira; and he would be obliged, if I met Bath there, to explain how the little affair occurred and tell him he could continue his journey on the afternoon limited.

Iced Porter.

I expressed my thanks to that porter, and after seeing his remains packed in ice so that he wouldn't spoil before reaching his family, I got off at Corning, and after corning up for two hours got on an Erie hearse bound for Elmira and arrived just before noon. To while away an hour or two before the game I drove out to the State reformatory to see Mark Twain, alias S. L. Clemens, who is serving a summer term for a misunderstanding with the authorities over the ownership of a mule. According to his story he found a lariat on the outskirts, and was pained on arriving home to find that mule tangled with the other end.

I was courteously received by the superintendent, who informed me he could easily fix things so I could remain six months or so without charge. He said that Twain had been loose for several days, but the police were in possession of valuable clews and would be able to lay their hands on him in the course of the day. He pressed me to remain and enjoy a cool, dark cell but I thanked him and left.

The match game for the championship of Elmira occurred this afternoon on the race track. The Unions and Alerts were rival clubs 25 years ago, but were disbanded by the sheriff in 1866 and most of the members have just got out.


The Unions are composed of Mayor Stanchfield, p.; John Potter, c.; J. D. Burt, 1b.; W. L. Hylen, 2b.; L. M. Millspaugh, 3b.; D. C. Robinson, s.s.; C. E. Kapeleyea, l.f.; S. I. Seeley, c.f.; Burr Hendricks, r.f.

Mr. Stanchfield is Mayor of the city. Mr. Robinson is attorney for the Erie road and the Mutual Life. Mr. Kapeleyea is the largest and most desperate lumber merchant in the county, and the others are equally notorioius.

The Alerts are J. S. Denton, p.; John Bennet, c.; William Easterbrook, 1b.; Frank M. Blossom, 2b.; John Bailey, 3b.; Chauncey M. Beadle, s.s.; Charles Hart, l.f.; Seymour Dexter, c.f.; John A. Reynolds, r.f..

Easterbrook is president of the telephone company; F. M. Blossom is teller of the Chemung Bank, and bald as a hard-boiled egg; Beadle is manager of J. Langdon & Co., limited; Hart is receiving teller of the Chemung Bank; J. S. Denton is superintendent of the mails and females; Bennett's cashier of the Chemung Valley Bank; Reynolds is a lawyer, practicing at both bars, and Dexter is county judge.

Umpire Mark Twain.

The umpire selected by the Unions was Rev. Thomas K. Beecher, who is so expert as to be able to umpire just as well with his eyes closed as open. This aroused the jealousy of the Alerts, who elected as their umpire John R. Josyln, who can give decisions by telephone just as well as when on the ground. These appointments gave great satisfaction, but at the last moment Mark Twain arrived from the reformatory and threatened the terrified players that if he were not appointed general umpire at once he would lecture that night and depopulate the county. As no militia were within call, and the local authorities were powerless to interfere, the appointment was made.

The scorers were: Ex-Comptroller James W. Wadsworth of Genesee; Senator J. Sloat Fassett, General Charles J. Langdon, chief of police; Levi D. Little, professor; John B. Marsh, Postmaster; E. F. Babcock, Samuel C. Tabor, Dr. T. A. Wales, Willard N. Pratt, Colonel A. E. Baxter, B. S. Brooks and Charles Hazard. Messrs. Tabor and Hazard were the original scorers in 1866 and got 20 years each. Governor Hill telegraphed that he would come, but it is significant that upon the news reaching Albany that Mark Twain was at large the Governor wired his regrets.

Game Called.

Game was called at 4:20 p.m. and the Alerts went to bat. Most of them had been alert on a bat the night before to practice.

The umpires were placed for safe keeping in the judges' box and the scorers occupied the two front rows on the grand stand.

Mark Twain called time and Mayor Stanchfield delivered the first ball, which cleared the home plate by 11 feet and smote an inoffensive justice of the peace in the ear. Umpires Beecher and Josyln pronounced it one ball and Mark Twain pronounced it a strike, and laid down the following rules

  1. Any ball is a strike that passes within eight feet of the plate on either side of it.

  2. To wait for good balls causes delay and public dissatisfaction, and is not going to be allowed on this occasion. The batsman will strike at everything that comes whether he can reach it or not. In waiting intervals, pecking at the plate with the bat to see if it is there will not be allowed. The batsman is denied all professional affectations; he must stand up straight and attend strictly to business.

These rules were demurred to by Messrs. Beecher and Joslyn, but after a brief conference with Twain under the grand stand, Mr. Beecher came up minus his back hair and Mr. Josyln appeared without his right ear and with four teeth missing, and both said they agreed entirely with the chief umpire and would retire to the surgery.

Smart Playing.

Mayor Stanchfield now delivered his second ball, which Denton neatly stopped with the pit of his stomach, was allowed a base by the umpire, and went to first on a stretcher. Mark Twain then issued the following ruling:

"The pitcher must not wipe the ball on his pants; neither must he keep inspecting it and squirming and twisting it and trying to rub the skin off it with his hands. He must not keep the public waiting while he makes allusory feints at reputable parties or first and second base. All these foolings delay and game and dull the excitement."

Bennet now went to bat, clubbed the catcher on the head and was allowed two bases by the umpire.

The interest now began to deepen as Judge Dexter took the ash. A red-hot twister from Stanchfield took the end of the bat and hummed back over the grand stand.

"Fair ball!" yelled the umpire. Dexter went to first as the recaptured ball flew to second, who muffed and passed it to first, while Denton and Benton came home. While first was chasing the ball, assisted by left field and short stop, Bennett got to third and then stole to the plate, making the first home run amid tremendous enthusiasm.

Making a run

Mark Twain delivered the following decision: "No more than 15 men at a time will be allowed to leave their places to chase a foul or a fly or a bluebottle and prevent the capture of it. The catcher will keep his nose out of the batsman's pocket and stand fair. Cripples will be removed from the field at once and substitutes put into their places. No public rubbings and rollings and restorings will be allowed. They cause delay. Presentation speeches by dumb people not permitted. Persons arriving at bases on their stomachs do not score. Parties who guy the umpire will be killed."

tokens to Umpire Twain

There was some little disagreement among the players, and the spectators presented several tokens of esteem to the umpire, and a delay of nearly half an hour occurred; after which Mark Twain was assisted to the surgery, where the medical director administered to him at once.

Coroner Summoned.

A deputation from both clubs now called upon the coroner, who was present, and said that if he would consent to hold an immediate inquest they would go over to the hospital and bring in the meat. In a few minutes, however, Mark Twain recovered sufficiently to whisper that he would allow Rev. Mr. Beecher to umpire the next inning, and public confidence being restored the game was resumed.

The Unions scored 64 runs in succession, and it is safe to say that no League club ever did such playing. Finally Stanchfield was declared out on his nineteenth strike; Potter died at first, and Kapeleyea failed to score by going to the surgery for a prescription before touching the home plate. On the second innings Mark Twain umpired again, and allowed the Unions 61 runs on one foul, ruling that they could continue to run until the ball was found. He explained that a tie made the game more interesting.

This led to another argument, and the chief umpire went home on a shutter, and the game adjourned.

The medical corps then discovered that the faces and hands of the players were suffused with a peculiar dark color. Upon careful examination they diagnosed this to be either cyanosis or dirt:

It was found that the disease was not cyanosis.

I called upon Mark Twain this evening. He lives in the oriental splendor usually accorded by a mysterious providence to persons utterly abandoned, but in spite of his pale pink smile and the gleam in his polka-dot eye, I could see he was sad.

Mark Twain says that while he doesn't mind the four fractured ribs and a black eye, he thinks he prefers theology to base ball.

Umpire Twain recovers

The doctor says that unless hydrophobia strikes in, or the teeth he swallowed give him liver complaint, he thinks Mark's broken leg will be well enough to enable him to umpire next season, but Mark says that he is entirely satisfied with this experience, and will make room for younger men. Base ball, he says, is a great help to the needy medical profession, but it is too amphibious for him.

The game was attended by the entire population of Chemung county, and over the verdict of the umpires even at this hour strong men are weeping, and knots of determined citizens are threatening to take the law into their own hands.


Also see the Special Feature at this site: Mark Twain and Baseball

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