Cool Things - Baseball Trophy and Bat
The Kaw Valleys received this silver baseball-shaped trophy in 1867.
Baseball first appeared in the years before the Civil War. Its popularity grew during the conflict as soldiers played the game to ward off boredom in camp.
It should be no surprise that baseball continued to grow in popularity after the war, becoming a favorite town activity. This was true in Kansas, too, where veterans came west to settle (read an overview of Kansas baseball).
State fairs have long been closely associated with agriculture, but as early as 1867 the organizers of the Kansas State Fair in Lawrence made an effort to attract visitors without farming ties. A baseball tournament was held for this purpose, and a general invitation issued to all teams. Apparently several squads did compete, though the record has preserved the names of only three: the Shawnee team of Topeka, and the Universitys [sic] and the Kaw Valleys, both of Lawrence.
The games were held from September 24 to the 27. The Kaw Valley team easily won the championship game, defeating the Universitys 75 to 35. For their efforts, they received this silver baseball-shaped trophy, inscribed:
Champion Ball / State of Kansas / Presented Sept. 27, 1867 / by / State Fair Association
But why did the game have such a high score? Because in those days the rules favored batters far more than today. See images of the baseball with its case, before and after polishing, and an image of the trophy in its leather case.
Consider the following:
- A pitch was thrown underhanded, much as in today's softball games. There was no overhand throwing.
- There was no such thing as a "walk," when a batter takes first base after four balls are thrown outside the strike zone.
- The batter could wait for a pitch he could hit. Neither a ball nor a strike would be called.
- The batter also could call for the kind of pitch to be thrown to him, such as a low or high pitch.
Gradually the rules for baseball changed, and scores dropped accordingly.
One member of the Kaw Valley team proved particularly adept at hitting home runs. Standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, Dudley Haskell perhaps was more powerfully built than his fellow players. He became such a frequent home run hitter that the people of Lawrence presented him with an oversized wooden bat, 55 inches in length. As a token of appreciation, he used it in the game the day it was presented—and proceeded to hit a home run! See more closeups of the bat.
Haskell had come to Lawrence with his parents before the Civil War. He served with the Quartermaster Corps during the war, then returned to Lawrence to be a shoe merchant. He was elected to Congress, and while serving secured an Indian School for the city. The school still exists and bears his name—the Haskell Indian Nations University.
This trophy was presented to the Kansas Historical Society prior to 1940. Haskell's bat was preserved after his death in 1883 by another Kaw Valley player, W. M. Newmark, a dry goods merchant. After Newmark's death, it passed to the publisher of the Lawrence Journal-World, W.C. Simons, who presented it to the Society in 1929. It is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Cool Things - Baseball Trophy and Bat
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2007
Date Modified: June 2016
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.