Old News: Baseball’s First Home Run(s)

Because you, reader, are the attentive sort of person this country needs more of, you’ll undoubtedly recall how, two days ago in these electronic pages, I, Carson Cistulli, invoked the name of Chicago White Stocking Ross Barnes — i.e. progenitor of the home run in organized baseball.

Because you, reader, are also the curious sort of person this country needs more of, you probably thought to yourself something like, “I wonder what it might’ve been like to actually have witnessed that historic event.”

Luckily, this is an area in which I’m able to offer some assistance. For, after a combination of database-searching and barely ept cut-and-pasting, I’ve managed to include in this post some excerpts from the Chicago Tribune’s report of the historic game (from the May 3, 1876 edition of that paper).

The image that introduces this post is the headline for the Tribune’s sporting coverage for that day.

Below, here, is the beginning of the game report proper. Note the antiquated spelling of today.

Next is the description of Barnes’ historic hit. The author doesn’t seem particularly stirred by the significance of the event, suggesting the home run, as a thing, was already common enough.

The phrase “to the carriages” is a bit surprising; however, this image (courtesy of the Society for Cincinnati Sports Research) of Cincinnati’s Avenue Grounds might offer some illumination, as there are, very literally, carriages in the left field area:

Next we have organized baseball’s second-ever home run — this one by Cincinnati’s Charley Jones.

Below is the box score, such as it was at the time. All-Around Smart Guy Rob Neyer provides the key to this old-timey lock, as follows:

T = Times (at bat)
R = Runs
B = Bases
P = Putouts
A = Assists
B? K? = ???

Finally, we have what is almost definitely the most charming portion of the report, a prologue of sorts called “The Character of the Game.” It should certainly be re-instituted as a fixture of the modern game recap.

We hoped you liked reading Old News: Baseball’s First Home Run(s) by Carson Cistulli!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

newest oldest most voted
Dayn Perry

I’m pretty sure if game stories were still written like this, the newspaper would be saved.


I miss the game recaps in The Sporting News. Reading that some pitcher “wielded a calcimine brush” in shutting out a team always brought a smile to my face.