The interest and participation in
the game of base ball in this city has not been confined to the last few
years when the small scores of professional clubs have made it more of a
science than it used to be. Among those who today display but little
outward interest in base ball are some who were the fiercest of players
fifteen years ago. And the games played when every inning would tally from
a dozen to forty runs were as exciting then as those when it often takes
nine full innings to get a single run, sometimes more. The rules were much
more simple in those days of Auld Lang Syne than now; but that very
simplicity called for a rugged constitution to do justice to a game.
Grand Rapids' first glory in the
base ball profession was radiated from the Peninsulars and the Kents,
which were formed about 1867. The ball grounds were all of the "green" or
open field between Lyon and Bronson streets which had been the camping
ground of the old Tenth cavalry under Col. Foote. The present residence of
Mr. James A. Rogers on Lyon street was then the last house on the east of
the city settlement, the grove which surrounded his house ceasing just
beyond. The ground was admirably adapted for any sort of field sport and
there was room for a dozen ball diamonds. this place was the scene of many
hard fought contests on emerald academs. Often during the period following
the organization of these clubs a number of games would be going on
especially during practice hours. A silver ball suitably engraved was
"hung up" as a gift of the citizens to the champion club and this ball was
many times transferred to a different nine which had been compelled to
work hard for its possession. The ball at different times was in the hands
of nearly every club that played during the existence of the Kents and
Kent base ball club was organized in
Perkins' boot and shoe store in the old Abel block on Monroe street on the
evening of April 4, 1867. Mr. D. K. Hulbert was chairman of the meeting
and L. C. Earle―since a famous artist―was
secretary. The election of civil officers for the club resulted as
follows: President, S. K. Pierce; vice president, D. K. Hulbert;
secretary, L. C. Earle; treasurer, A. P. Sinclair; directors, W. S. Earle,
L. H. Withey, John M. Avery. It was decided that a "fine of 25 cents be
imposed for disputing the decision of the umpire, for refusing obedience
to the captain and for non attendance." To the constitution which was
adopted the following signatures were affixed―some being charter members,
and others joining afterwards: S. K. Pierce, D. K. Hulbert, L. C. Earle,
A. P. Sinclair, W. S. Earle, L. H. Withey, John M. Avery, A. Bevier, Fred
B. Perkins, Will Hubbard, Alonzo B. Porter, Geo. H. Morgan, Geo. C.
Pierce, S. B. Sinclair, B. F. McReynolds, Geo. D. Herrick, Leon C.
Remington, W. L. Wilkins, E. H. Hunt, T. Stewart White, Fred C. Joslin,
John B. White, C. W. Mills, C. F. Nelson, Charles H. Deane, N. B.
Scribner, Ed. H. Donnally, C. R. Sligh, W., Henry Baars, George R. Allen,
Gay W. Perkins, A. R. Morgan, D. Gunnison, J. Fred Baars, Jr., Henry H.
Pierce, C. T. Henderson, Otis H. Babcock, B. F. Stevens, Lewis F. Waldron,
A. E. Dic, H. B. Grady, A. W. Stevens, Clayton E. Gill. The meetings
continued without serious interruption until late in the season, when the
time for meeting―originally once a week―was changed to once in two weeks.
Then meetings were occasionally noisy, but good order was general, for
stringent rules were adopted. During the season challenges were received
from and given to the Custers of Ionia, the Wolverines of Ionia and of
Muskegon, and the Peninsulars of this city. The practice days were Monday
and Thursday at 5 o'clock a.m., and Tuesdays and Fridays at 4 o'clock p.m.
This last plan continued but a little while, as the days and hours were
The board of directors, for
non-performance of duty were dishonorably discharged July 15, and Fred
Joslin, Will Hubbard and Charlie Mills(sic) were chosen in their place. A
resolution was also adopted punishing neglect of duty by any officer with
expulsion. On July 18 the secretary, L. C. Earle, was discharged and G. W.
Perkins chosen to his place, and Charlie Raton was discharged for
non-payment of dues.
Under the new regime the club
prospered and closed the season very creditably. A new election of
officers for the ensuing year were elected March 24, 1868, as follows:
President, John White; vice president, Fred C. Joslin; secretary, A. B.
Porter; directors, Henry Baars, N. B. Scribner, C. W. Mills. The meetings
through the summer were semi-occasions, and on Sept. 29, 1868, the last
recorded meeting was held. The season closed and the wonderful
organization never revived.
The nine which bore the brunt of
the battle were: Fred Joslin, captain and pitcher; D. H. Hulbert, catcher;
L. H. Withey, first base; John B. White, second base; John Avery, third
base; Alonzo B. Porter, short stop; S. K. Pierce, center field; L. C.
Earle, right field; Will Hubbard, left field. N. B. Scribner was captain
of the second nine. The scores at the games played were varied―one
game standing 80 to 120. A game with the Custers was one by that club with
a score of 60 to 30. John White was the great runner of the club.
Before each game the contestants considered absolutely essential to health
to suck lemons.
the time of the organization of the Kents the Peninsulars came into
existence, with whom they "fought, bled and died"―as one of the veterans
remarked. The Peninsulars were made of good material and continued in
existence for three years. The games of ball they played the last two
seasons are boasted of by an old member as remarkable, and the silver ball
was in their possession most of the time, at the end of the existence of
the two clubs it falling as a legacy to the Peninsulars. The positions in
this club were assumed as follows: John J. Belknap, captain and catcher;
Walter S. Gee, pitcher; Henry Covell, first base; Frank Ward, second base;
Dick Blumrich, third base; Dwight Marvin, short stop; Henry Bolen, center
field; Charles Gee, right field; A. S. Stevens, left field. For the times,
a fine game of ball was played by this club with the Custers of Ionia, the
score being 11 to 7, in favor of the Peninsulars. This as a destructive
and sanguinary contest. John Belknap broke his little finger, but played
the game out; Charles Worden of the Custers, who caught a ground ball on
first base, had his hand split between his fingers; and Al Cash, tending a
base, was jumped on by John Belknap, and his knee was cut to the bone,
causing a profuse flow of blood. A very serious accident happened in this
game to Mr. Fay Comstock, who pitched for the Custers. His hip was
strained and put out of joint; hip disease followed, and he has been
crippled ever since. Of course most of the injuries proved only of short
duration, though some of the bent fingers of today testify to the rugged
use of the ball by the Peninsulars. In 1870 the club disbanded and, as is
the case with the Kents and other organizations of renown, the members
have become scattered; death has taken away some of them, and
comparatively few there are who will peruse, with delight of a
participator of these events in days gone by, these incidents in
connection with their history.
The Kent Baseball Club is Still