I don’t have a very definitive answer to this question yet, but thought I’d raise it in case readers have information I don’t. To me, it seems likely that the first groups of pioneers included those who knew how to play baseball. If, as I’ve already demonstrated, baseball was played in Nauvoo, then those who played baseball there were likely those who brought it to Utah.
But while I haven’t yet found evidence of early games, I did come across some early mentions of baseball in Utah that I thought I would share.
Both of these are not mere mentions of baseball being played in Utah, but of organized teams playing. The first talks of two baseball clubs in Utah:
BASE BALL MATCH.—There will be a match game of Base Ball, between the first and second Eureka B.B. Clubs of this city, to-morrow afternoon, October 9th, at one o’clock, on the Eighth Ward Square. Citizens are respectfully invited to attend1.
For baseball this is still relatively early. Competitive play among cities was just beginning at this time, and the idea that players might be anything but amateurs was still controversial.
The second item, a post-match report, is from the following Spring, and includes another club:
BASE BALL MATCH.—A very closely contested match was played on Saturday last by the second nine of the Eureka and the first nine of the Alert clubs, both of this city, in the Arsenal inclosure. The game lasted 2½ hours resulting in favor of the Alerts, the score showing 30 to 28.
The news makes it sound a little like Eureka was favored, and Alert was the weaker club, so Eureka’s second team played to try to even up the game.
With more research, I’m sure I’ll find out when these clubs began, and certainly when earlier recreational games began. These games were played more than 20 years after the Mormon immigrants arrived in Salt Lake City, so I’m sure that I’ll find earlier references.
If you’ve seen anything earlier, I’m very interested.
- Deseret News, 13 October 1869 ↩