THE ORIGINAL DIAMOND STATE BBC (1865 – 1875)
Contrary to popular 20th century belief, Abner Doubleday did not invent the game of baseball. Our National Pastime evolved from childrens’ bat and ball games that had been played in America since colonial times and, before that, in Europe. By the 1830′s, well-heeled gentlemen in large Eastern cities like Philadelphia and New York, began organizing social clubs and, as an outlet for physical fitness, began playing intramural bat and ball games referred to by such names as Old Cat, Town Ball or Base Ball. One such club, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, codified their rules of play in 1845. Eventually, challenge matches of base ball (as it was spelled then) were made between clubs in and around New York City utilizing the Knickerbockers’ ‘New York’ rules. These rules were published in newspapers and periodicals and spread beyond the New York area.
Throughout the 1850′s and into the early ‘60′s, the sport achieved more widespread popularity and many of the first amateur base ball clubs were organized in Eastern states. An explosion of organized amateur teams occurred all over the country at the conclusion of the Civil War, as men returning form the war sought time for leisure. It was at this period that the original Diamond State Base Ball Club (DSBBC) was organized in Wilmington, Delaware.
On October 2, 1865, a group of prominent lawyers and businessmen held the first business meeting of the DSBBC in the office of Wilmington attorney Levi C. Bird, who was nominated the club’s founding president. The hastily assembled Diamond State nine played what is believed to be the first-ever match between formally organized Delaware base ball clubs on October 7 against St. Mary’s College of Wilmington. This historic event took place at the Diamond State’s home ballfield at Delaware Avenue and Adams Street, on the lot adjoining the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery. The Diamond States prevailed by a lopsided score of 69-26 over the college boys.
Emboldened by an easy first victory, Diamond State unwittingly issued a written challenge to the mighty Athletic BBC of Philadelphia, who was widely acknowledged as one of the strongest clubs in the country. The Philadelphians accepted the challenge and arrived in Wilmington ready to decimate the home team. At one point in the October 28th match, the Athletics allowed the Diamond States to scatter their first and second nines about the field to limit the visitors’ offensive onslaught, all to no avail. The Diamond States were thoroughly humbled by the Philadelphians by the lopsided tally of 104-7. Diamond State dropped another match on November 11 to the newly organized Lenapi BBC of New Castle.
DSBBC became the first in Delaware to join the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1866. Meanwhile, club leaders spent the fall and winter preparing for the club’s first season of play in 1866… and what a season it proved to be! Diamond State’s first nine ended with a record of 17-2, defeating every Delaware team it faced. Its only losses were to two Pennsylvania clubs, Keystone BBC of Philadelphia and Brandywine BBC of West Chester. Diamond State crushed the Germantown BBC of Philadelphia 70-17 on Thanksgiving Day to close out the ’66 campaign. With victories over Delaware clubs Atlas of Delaware City, Lenapi of New Castle, Excelsior of Milford, Lafayette, Pacific, and Wawaset all of Wilmington, Diamond State wore the crown of the Delaware state champion in their first full season of play.
By the end of 1866, other ball clubs formed all over the state. Aside from those previously mentioned, the Live Oak of Dover, Olympic of Middletown, Tammany of New Castle, St. Georges, and four additional Wilmington teams, Independence, Minquas, Minute and Pautaxat also started operations.
Though his stay was short in Wilmington, the most accomplished Diamond State player was Fergus G. “Fergy” Malone. Malone was recruited from Philadelphia to pitch for the Wilmington nine in 1866. He never lost a match that he pitched from Diamond State in his one year with the club. He later went on to a long professional career as catcher with professional outfits such as the Philadelphia Athletics, the Philadelphia White Stockings, the Chicago White Stockings and the Philadelphia Keystones. Malone holds the distinction of being one the first Irish-born players in the major leagues and is considered an early pioneer at developing the catching position.
Diamond State continued to battle Wawaset BBC of Wilmington for the state title throughout the remainder of the 1860′s and into the early 1870′s, after which time Diamond State disbanded. Though the original ball club’s lifespan was less than a decade, it was recognized as the preeminent team in the state during its run.
The Quickstep BBC of Wilmington, formed in 1868 by Monk Auston, became the dominant amateur team in Delaware during the early 1870′s. Later that decade, the Quickstep split into two clubs, one that included amateur players and another that featured professionals. Diamond State re-organzied for a brief time in the mid-1870s but did not last.
THE MODERN DAY DIAMOND STATE BBC (2008 – present)
The Diamond State Base Ball Club lay dormant for over 135 years, until the club was revived once again in September 2008. True to the original club, the modern day Diamond States utilize the rules of the 1860′s and 1870′s, use reproduction equipment, and wear uniforms based on the original ball club’s design. The revived Diamond States completed their first season of play in 2009. Our club is a founding member of the Mid Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League.