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Kent Base Ball Club
Grand Rapids Daily Democrat, May 18, 1883


The National Game in Its Prestine Glory in Grand Rapids.

History of the Primeval Base Ball Clubs of the City,

And the Triumphs and Defeats of the Peninsulars and Kents.

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 Peninsulars.

The 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 constantly changed.

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.

 About 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.

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*Thanks to Dr. J. Gray Sweeney for permission to use material from
Artists of Grand Rapids 1840-1980, J. Gray Sweeney; Grand Rapids, 1981:
The Grand Rapids Art Museum, The Grand Rapids Public Museum

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