When Yale defeated Nebraska 5-1 on Friday, in the opener of the NCAA Corvalis Regional, it was not only one of its biggest and most important baseball victories, but it also marked the first time the Bulldogs have played baseball in the month of June in fifty years.
Yale baseball rarely goes past the first weekend in May before putting the equipment in mothballs and the players go their separate ways – heading to their homes mostly far from New Haven. They will be taking temporary jobs, traveling to vacation spots, and maybe even playing some baseball in summer leagues, but not for Yale.
The academic calendar has changed
In times past, colleges started later and ended later in the calendar year than they do now. Yale would often not be finished with term examinations until the end of May or beginning of June. After exams, those students on the baseball team would have to remain around New Haven to compete against other colleges still in session.
The main reason for the June schedule was that special games with Harvard and Princeton were played for the entertainment of returning alumni observing their class reunions.
Baseball was always a centerpiece for the returning grads as they paraded out to Yale Field, wearing class apparel, and accompanied by Dixieland bands. They originally went from the campus to the ballpark on foot, but eventually rode on flatbed trucks, to watch a game against Harvard.
Yale would return the favor by playing at the Harvard reunion games and those at Princeton. All of these happy times took baseball midway into June.
Games in New London ended the season
In addition to the reunion games, there was a special season-ending series of contests between Yale and Harvard from 1937 to 1940. They were played at Mercer Field in New London on “Boat Race Day” in the old Whaling City. They served as preliminaries or diversions to the Yale-Harvard crew race crowd.
The latest date in June for those games in New London was June 25, 1937.
June 28th is the longest a Yale season has gone
The one Yale game that was played even later in June took place just three days before the beginning of July. It was the inaugural NCAA College World Series final on June 28, 1947, when California defeated Yale 8-7. Future U.S. President George H. W. Bush played first base for the Bulldogs that day.
Times have changed
Now, the college year ends early in May, Class Day, commencement (graduation) and the toned down reunions all take place the same month. By the first of June baseball at Yale becomes just a memory.
But the current crop of Bulldog baseballers has prolonged the season a good month by winning the Ivy League championship and then biding their time a couple of weeks for the NCAA regionals to start.
Yale is back in the NCAA playoffs and back to playing in June. Seemingly without missing a beat, the Bulldogs got off to a rousing start by defeating the Cornhuskers of Nebraska, the Big Ten champions, behind Scott Politz and a confident group of position players.
There now exists the odd situation of Captain Richard Slenker, Derek Brown, Alex Hoeschel Harrison White, and Andrew Herrera, who are all now officially Yale graduates, playing baseball for the Bulldogs as though they were still in college.
Back to the future
The last reunion game was on June 15, 1966, in Cambridge, a 14-8 Yale victory over Harvard. One of the players for the Elis that day was Ed Goldtone of Woodbridge who was to become captain of the team two years later.
Dolph Samborski, the Harvard athletic director, said that the traditional reunion game, which went back to the 1800’s, was being discontinued “because it seems unfair to keep the players so long beyond the end of their academic obligations.”
Those on Yale’s 2017 squad don’t seem to have any objections to donning Yale uniforms in June. In fact, they seem to be excited about it.
Fifty years after the last Yale game took place in June, the month that marks the beginning of summer, it is once again a time in which Yale baseball is being played.
Kind of makes one wish the old days were back.