By Joel Alderman
UPDATE: In the anniversary game at Yale Field, on a seasonably mild Saturday night, Wesleyan reversed the outcome of 150 years ago by defeating the Bulldogs, 6-3, in 10 innings. The Cardinals averted a possible loss when they pulled off a double play in the ninth inning, after Yale had loaded the bases with one out. Wesleyan scored its winning runs on a suicide squeeze by AJ Ferrara and a triple by Dylan Millhouse, of North Haven. About 1,000 attended, much better than a typical college baseball crowd in this region during the spring season.
Fay Vincent, who was the Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989 to 1992, will participate in opening ceremonies when Wesleyan and Yale meet in a special commemorative exhibition game at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26th at Yale Field.
It will be in recognition of the first ever meeting of Wesleyan and Yale teams 150 years ago, almost to the day. Admission to the game is free, as is parking behind the field.
Not an ordinary game
It was on Sept. 30, 1865, when Wesleyan, under the banner of the Agallian Club, journeyed by train to and from New Haven to join Yale in the first college baseball game for either school. Yale won 39-13, which was not an unusual score under the rules of the day.
The game coming up has been scheduled in recognition of that historic meeting, and will take place just five days short of its 150th anniversary.
A detailed account of how Yale and Wesleyan began their baseball histories is contained in our earlier Sportzedge article.
After the anniversary game was scheduled some months ago, further details, which are presented here, were recently finalized, including the participation of Fay Vincent.
Both squads will wear throwback uniforms. They are meant to resemble the attire from the beginnings of baseball, when the ball was dead and the “one-bounce” rule made it easier to retire a batter but also led to high scores.
Yale will be fitted with blue collars and blue back pockets in deference to the bygone era.
A notable gathering
Wesleyan and Yale will each be represented by 20 to 40 alumni who once played for the Cardinals or Bulldogs.
Jim Dresser, who played baseball for the Cardinals in 1962, will speak in the pre-game ceremonies along with Vincent, who graduated from the Yale Law School in 1963.
The “Dresser Diamond” on Wesleyan’s baseball field is named in honor of Dresser. He is from an iconic Wesleyan family, going back to the 19th century when his great-grandfather was a professor for almost 40 years. In 1908 his grandfather was captain of the school’s baseball team.
Vincent succeeded his close friend Bart Giamatti, a former president of Yale, to the highest position in major league baseball after Giamatti’s sudden death in 1989.
Others who will speak during the opening ceremonies, which are scheduled to start at 6:20 pm, are Mark Woodworth and John Stuper, the head coaches of Wesleyan and Yale.
Support from the head coaches
“It really is an honor for our program to be a part of this celebration,” said Stuper. “When you think of the hundreds of players who have gone through both programs for the past 150 years, it really is mind boggling.”
Woodworth has spent the last 25 years first as a player and then as the coach at Wesleyan. The long history of baseball on the Middletown campus has always been important to him and he also has a unique Yale interest in this game. It is due to his being a descendant on his mother’s side of Ezra Stiles, the seventh president of Yale and the namesake of one of its residential colleges.
“It is both inspiring and exciting to be a part of the direct link between his (Stiles’) tenure 250 years ago … to this celebration,” he said.
What the captains say
It will be more than just a routine early autumn exhibition game, and its significance has been realized by the undergraduates who will be participating in it.
Eric Jones, who is from Ridgefield, Conn. and played at Ridgefield High School, is one of Wesleyan’s captains. He feels it is a “privilege to have the opportunity to don the throwback jerseys and represent the Wesleyan baseball community.”
He calls the occasion “a chance for the team to thank all of the alums who take the time to act as our mentors, who travel across the country to watch us play, and who have built the history of the program.”
Yale captain and pitcher Chris Moates said “this 150th anniversary game is a great reminder of the rich history of our program.”
It will be an unusual mixture of two sports, baseball and football. The diamond activities will take place the evening of the Yale-Cornell gridiron contest in the Yale Bowl across the street (Derby Avenue). But the baseball day will begin well before the 1 p.m. football kickoff.
A Yale father/son/daughter game will get underway at 9 a.m., followed by a home run derby at 11 a.m.
A lasting reminder
The game itself is part of the fall practices that most colleges have, although Wesleyan’s is just an informal “captain’s practice.” The outcome will have no bearing on league standings or even the won-lost records of the teams. Although it will technically be an exhibition, the young men will be taking it seriously, in full realization that they will be perpetuating a tradition that their predecessors started 150 years ago.
Many of them, it is hoped, will return in 50 years, in time to celebrate what will then be the 200th anniversary of Wesleyan and Yale’s first baseball game.