First Inter-Collegiate Baseball Game (1859) Amherst College v. Williams College
This plaque commemorates the first inter-collegiate baseball game that occurred at this location on July 1, 1859. The game featured teams from Amherst College and Williams College and took almost four hours to complete. Amherst won the game 73-32, a score that provides some clues as to how the sport has changed over the years. This particular game was played with an early set of rules known as the "Massachusetts Rules." The game of baseball was evolving at this time, and this set of rules allowed fielders throw a runner out by hitting them with a baseball. This was a harder task than one might suspect, as therules did not require base runners to stay in the baselines.
Backstory and Context
The teams met on July 1, 1859 at 11am. Neither college had an official baseball team and the players were each selected by the student body. Amherst edged out Williams in the almost 4 hour game 73-32 in a rivalry that still takes place today and is considered the oldest collegiate baseball rivalry.
The game was played under the "Massachusetts Rules" which are quite different than today's game. Under these rules, you could hit the ball in any direction because there were no foul balls. Fielders could hit players with the ball to get them out and base runners did not have to stay in the base line. In latter years, teams adopted the "Knickerbocker Rules" which are more similar to modern baseball rules.
There is some debate on whether the game between Amherst and Williams should be considered the first collegiate baseball game due to the divergence of rules, but this has not dissuaded residents of Pittsfield from claiming the honor or placing this historical marker on North Street.
Beschloss, Michael. The Longest Game: Williams vs. Amherst. The New York Times. September 26, 2014. Accessed July 1, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/27/upshot/the-longest-game-williams-vs-amherst.html.