Sunday, 26 February 2017

1886 - The Hams Pre-Season


 “Yesterday, the members of the Hamilton team began seriously to practice for the summer campaign.”

Hamilton Spectator.   April 20, 1886.

Just three weeks previously, Hamilton had endured a severe wind and snow storm, but on April 19, 1886, the grounds of Dundurn park were green with new leaves and fresh grass.

At the baseball grounds of Dundurn, located just east of the castle, the sound of bat hitting ball, and the chatter of players working out were observed by a Hamilton Spectator reporter:

 “Some desultory practice was indulged in on Friday and Saturday, but yesterday they got down to real earnest work. If the present fine weather lasts, it won’t take long for them to wear off the winter’s rust and get into playing shape.”1

1“The Hamilton Team : Some Facts About the Men Who Compose It.”

Hamilton Spectator.   April 20, 1886.

The Hamilton professional baseball team known as the Clippers had received a name change during the off-season, becoming known simply as the Hams. New uniforms had been ordered as well:

“Some of the players wore their new bronze-green uniforms, which will look well on bright days, but rather dull when the sun doesn’t shine.”1

One member of the team, the playing-manager was wearing a new uniform but in a decidedly unprofessional way:

“Manager Collins had neglected to tuck his abbreviated breeches under his stockings, and they flapped wildly in the balmy spring breezes in a manner that was strongly suggestive of an ancient spinster in a burlesque”1

Collins who played second base as well as managing the Hams soke briefly to the young man from the Spec:

“ ‘I don’t want to boast of our team,’ said Manager Collins last night, with the caution and good sense which distinguish him; ‘it is easy to win games on paper, and talk is cheap; but I have an impression that the other teams in the league will have to play very good ball in order to beat us.’ ”1

The Hams’ manager had already made a name for himself as a player locally, as well as internationally:

“Manager Charles Collins, familiarly and irreverently called ‘Chub,’ will guard second base. He is a Dundas boy, having first seen daylight in the Valley City some 27 years ago. In early boyhood, Mr. Collins aspired to be a ball player, and used to distinguish himself with the old Hamilton Standards when that club was in the full noontide blaze of its fame.

“Mr. Collins began playing professionally in 1883, with the Port Huron club, and, in 1884, played second base with the Buffalo league team. Last season he played the same position with the Clippers, and managed the team during the latter half of the season.

“His qualities as a ball player are well known here; one of the best second basemen in the business, a fair hitter, and a superb baserunner. He weighs 165 pounds, and his height is five feet, 11 ½ inches.

“As a manager, Collins is a success. Naturally genial and good-tempered, he is a great favorite with the whole team, but he is also strict when it is necessary to be so, and so long as he is manager there will be no ‘monkeying’ in the team. It may be added that the manager neither drinks nor smokes, and discourages the use of liquor and tobacco as much as possible among the members of the team.”1

A new addition to the team, third base coach James Rainey received a detailed description of his looks and his antics in, rather near, the coaching box:

“With ordinary clothes on Rainey looks like an aesthetic divinity student, but the similarity vanishes when he stands between the home plate and third base pretending to encourage the runner, but really trying to rattle the pitcher or catcher by emitting ghastly shrieks which sound like a mixture of a fog horn whistle and the familiar noise produced in sharpening a cross-cut saw”

At a meeting of the shareholders of the Hamilton Baseball Association, at the Royal Hotel  held on April 19, 1886, the following charges were put in place for fans wanted to see the Hams in action at Dundurn : general admission 25 cents, plus 10 cents to get into the grandstand. Ladies, 25 cents plus no charge to the grandstand, except on holidays.

A new measure put in place gave serious fans the opportunity to obtain a ticket for each of the 50 homes games during the 1886 season:

“Book tickets, good for 50 games, one ticket for each game, will be issued at a special rate. These tickets will entitle the holders to admission and will give them the additional privilege of a reserved seat. A seat will be held for each season ticket holder until five or ten minutes after each game commences, after which those who have no arrived will have to take chances. Carriages will be admitted free “

As the ball grounds at Dundurn had only been created a few years previously, the general manager of the Hams wanted to assure local fans that some improvements were made for the 1886 season

“Mr. Stroud stated that the lessees of the park would keep the grounds in perfect shape; furnish sufficient grandstand accommodation and convenient places where to tie up horses; see that the ball field was kept free from the intrusion of outsiders and that was always adequate police protection.

“The cottage at the east end of Dundurn park is being conveniently fitted up for the players. It will have baths and a locker for each man, as well as for members of visiting teams.”1



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