19th century baseball in Colorado
1830 – Numerous clubs in the upper-Atlantic states are playing some form of ‘base ball.’1845 – Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City is formed, and radically alters the game. Most importantly, their ”New York Rules” establish foul territory, which allows for the convenience of spectators and greatly boosts the game’s popularity.1858 – Gold discovered near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the Platte River in western Kansas (later Colorado) Territory.1862 – The territory’s first organized team is formed, the Colorado Base Ball Club. However, only a handful of games are played due to the spreading Civil War.
1866 – Organized base ball returns, with teams such as the Young Bachelors, Rocky Mountains and Occidentals. Typical scores through the 1860s and early 1870s are 50-39 and 33-20. Defense is so abominable, that any game with fewer than 20 errors is lauded by newspapermen as extremely well-played.1869 – The Star Base Ball Club of Central City is formed, an “eclectic” – or what today is called an “all-star” team – assembled from among all the many clubs around that mining metropolis. The undefeated Stars are declared territorial champions in 1869 and 1870.1871 – The Blue Stockings, a Denver “eclectic” team, wins the territory’s first true championship tournament.1872 – Drunkenness and gambling has taken root and nearly every contest is fixed or suspected of it. Many newspapers refuse to cover games until order is restored years later. Despite this blackout, the game continues to thrive.
1876 – Colorado becomes the 37th state and the National League is formed.1877 – Denver Brownstockings become the state’s first semi-pro team. They play for eight years in the Colorado Base Ball League with the Colorado Springs Reds, Pueblo Pastimes and Leadville Blues, among many others.1882 – Colorado Springs builds the state’s first “permanent” baseball stadium, capable of seating 1,000. Leadville flirts with ”big time” baseball, as the Blues hire players on loan from Eastern leagues, and predictably sweep the league title.1885 – Denver Base Ball and Athletic Club makes formal entry into professional ball when the Denvers begin play in the Rocky Mountain League, a minor league. Denver finally gets a stadium at 32nd and Larimer streets, Denver Base Ball Park, very near the present-day location of Coors Field.
– . Sources: Home Run in the Rockies by Mark Foster; National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, N.Y. (courtesy of Thomas Heitz); Rocky Mountain News; Western History Section of the Denver Public Library.Vail, Colorado