Baseball, Princeton's oldest sport and once one of its most popular, first came into prominence in 1858 when some freshmen from Brooklyn organized the Baseball Club of the Class of 1862 of Nassau Hall, which played intraclub matches every day except Sunday.

Later, members of other classes joined in, and on October 22, 1860, Princeton met its first outside opponent, playing an Orange, New Jersey, team to a 42-42 tie (balls were livelier then and the pitching less sophisticated) in a long nine-inning game that was called on account of darkness. Four years later, on November 22, 1864, Princeton played its first intercollegiate game, defeating Williams 27 to 16. Four years after that, while on a tour of New England, the Princeton team helped initiate Big Three athletic competition (the visitors were defeated both times, by Harvard 17 to 16, by Yale 30 to 23).

Three Princetonians made notable contributions to the game in the early years. William S. Gummere 1870 was the first baseball player to use the hook-slide, stealing second successfully by throwing himself feet first under the second baseman's tag, in an exhibition game with the Philadelphia Athletics in the spring of 1870.

Joseph McElroy Mann 1876 was the first college pitcher to control the curve ball and use it successfully in a game. He saw Candy Cummings, a professional pitcher with the Hartford, Connecticut Club, give an exhibition of curve-throwing in the fall of 1874, and that winter he developed his own curve ball by constant practice in the corridors of Nassau Hall. His highly effective use of this novel delivery, on May 29, 1875, in New Haven, Connecticut, enabled him to pitch the first no-hit game in the history of baseball, amateur or professional. Only two Yale batters got as far as first base, on errors, and Princeton won 3 to 0. There have been half a dozen Princeton no-hitters since then, but Mann's is still the closest to a perfect game on record: he faced only 28 batters.

William S. Schenck 1880 was the first catcher to use a primitive kind of chest protector: copies of the Princetonian stuffed beneath his shirt. After the 1880 Harvard game, a Boston sporting goods manufacturer learned of this contrivance from Schenck, and within a year had developed a rudimentary form of the present pad.

Another phenomenal pitching performance came in Princeton's 13 to 0 victory over Yale in its Big Three championship season of 1896. In that game, pitcher Ros Easton 1898 struck out sixteen Yale batters, a record all the more remarkable because at that time no foul ball was counted as a strike. (Years later, Easton set another record when as class agent he made 1898 the first class to achieve 100 percent participation in Annual Giving.)


In 1897, Bill Clarke, then catcher for the Baltimore Orioles, came to Princeton to help correct some of the Varsity team's flaws. He returned again for short periods in 1899, 1900, and 1901, and then in 1909, on his retirement from professional baseball, became Princeton's first full-time baseball coach.

The 1897 team won the Big Three championship, and so did the Clarke-helped teams of 1899, 1900, and 1901. A notable player of this era was catcher Frederick Kafer 1900, whose classmates later gave a cup in his honor, awarded annually to the outstanding varsity player.

Princeton continued to win the Big Three championship with near regularity, failing to take it in only two years from 1903 through 1912. From 1907 through 1909, pitcher ``Biggie'' Heyniger '09 won every Big Three game in which he started: four against Yale and five against Harvard, four of the latter shutouts. Against Yale in 1912, Sanford White '12, shortstop and cleanup batter, scored five runs and took part in two double plays. King Lear '14 (his proper name was Charles Bernard Lear) pitched every inning of the four Big Three games in 1912, beating Yale twice and Harvard once; he later pitched for Cincinnati.

Among Clarke's best teams were the 1923 team, which won 21 out of 25 games (nineteen of them in a row), and the 1924 team, which won 19 out of 23. Leading players of this period were shortstop Moe Berg '23, pitchers Charlie Townsend '24 and Charlie Caldwell '25, and third-baseman Jimmie Boohecker '25. Boohecker was an ideal leadoff man; ``he would do anything to get on base,'' Clarke once said, ``even to the extent of declining to respond to the instinct of self-preservation when the pitcher threw one in his direction.'' In 1924 Caldwell and Townsend shut out Yale, Caldwell 1-0 in New Haven, Townsend 7-0 in the Commencement game at Princeton. Throughout the Commencement game -- the last of his career -- Townsend coolly preserved a slowly developing no-hitter as well as a shutout, four times striking out the last Yale batter of the inning with one or two men on base.

Berg later played professional baseball for fifteen years, mostly as catcher. He was considered the most scholarly player in the big leagues, and his storytelling made him a great favorite in the bullpen. A good student who never forgot what he had learned in Professor Bender's course in linguistic science, his talent for picking up new languages greatly impressed his teammates on a barnstorming trip to Japan in the 1930s. During the crossing, Berg spent a good deal of time in the ship's engine-room practicing Japanese with a Japanese fireman, and when the team arrived in Tokyo, Babe Ruth and the others were grateful for Berg's ability to read signs and to talk with cab drivers and hotel clerks. In World War II, he served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services and obtained valuable information about Germany's progress in the race with the United States to develop an atomic bomb.

When Clarke gave up coaching in 1927 for six years, Byrd Douglas '16, Harry B. Hooper, and then John H. Jeffries, Jr. '23 took his place. During this period, Herman A. Heydt '29 pitched sixteen innings without giving up a single walk in a 4-3 victory over Cornell his senior year.

In 1934 Clarke resumed coaching for another decade. Throughout his long career, his teams generally had stronger pitching than hitting. ``Hitting's a gift,'' Clarke once told a Princetonian reporter investigating this phenomenon, ``just like God Almighty hanging a good arm on you.'' Providence, which continued to provide Clarke with good pitchers -- one of them, George Lauritzen '37 pitched a 9-0 no-hitter against Lehigh in 1935 -- also favored him with four league batting champions in his last years: Rolf Paine '37 (.452), Brooks Jones '40 (.467), Bill MacCoy '42 (.452), and Roy Talcott '43 (.385). Talcott's batting record was a notable achievement for his position -- pitcher. In Clarke's last decade, two teams won Eastern Intercollegiate League championships -- 1941 and 1942. Talcott and MacCoy stood out among some very fine players these years. Talcott had a 12-0 pitching record the first year, 9-0 the second. MacCoy, who was captain in 1942, scored the winning run in two decisive extra-inning games, against Yale in the tenth inning, against Harvard in the fourteenth. MacCoy was killed in plane crash while serving in the United States Air Force in World war II; he is memorialized by a bronze plaque on Clarke Field given by his family.

After Clarke's retirement in 1944, there was a seven-year interregnum before the beginning of Eddie Donovan's era in 1952. Charlie Caldwell '25 coached in 1945 and 1946, Matt Davidson in 1947 and 1948, and Emerson Dickman in 1949, 1950, and 1951. Caldwell's team won the Eastern Intercollegiate League championship in 1945; Dickman's teams won it in 1949, shared it with Army in 1950, and won it again in 1951. The 1951 team, which had the best record overall (20-6) since the 1923-1924 period, also won the NCAA District 2 championship.

These years were highlighted by a number of outstanding pitching performances. In 1945 Henry Rohner '48 won both halves of a double-header against Dartmouth, pitching all eighteen innings and allowing only three hits in each game. Bob Wolcott '48 pitched four shut-outs against Big Three teams during his three Varsity years. In 1950 sophomore Ray Chirurgi '52 was the pitcher of record in all of Princeton's league victories, and in 1951 Dave Sisler '53 had a phenomenal earned run average of 0.99; he later pitched in the major leagues for six years.


Eddie Donovan was coach from 1952 through 1975. His 1953 team was Eastern Intercollegiate as well as Big Three champion. Outstanding in later years were the 1960 and 1965 teams, both Big Three champions, and the 1971 team, which finished with a 22-7-1 record. In 1971 Donovan was voted District 2 Coach of the year.

Good pitching continued to be Princeton's chief asset. Four pitchers threw no-hitters: Harry Brightman '52 against Fordham in 1952, Dave Douglas '60 against Manhattan in 1960, Anton Schoolwerth '63 against C.C.N.Y. in 1961, and Graham Marcott '67 against Villanova in 1966.

The 1953 pitching staff scored nine shutouts; Dick Emery '55, who produced five of them, was pitcher of the year in District 2 of the NCAA. Jack Hittson '71, who had a 9-0 won-lost record, was an All-American pitcher his senior year.

Donovan was blessed with several outstanding hitters: Joe Golden '53 batted .361 and Arnold Holtberg '70 (an All-American catcher) .356 their senior years. Bob Schiffner '71 had a three-year batting average of .332, the best in Princeton history. Ray Huard '71 set another Princeton record his senior year by hitting five home runs in single season.

Len Rivers, a member of the football coaching staff since 1973, succeeded Donovan as baseball coach at the end of the 1975 season. His 1976 team finished second in the Eastern League with a 10-4 record and reached the semi-finals of the ECAC Mid-Atlantic Regionals where it was eliminated by St. John's, the eventual champion. During the season, Mike French '76 pitched five shut-outs, equaling the Princeton record set by Dick Emery '55 in 1953.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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