One hundred and fify years ago on July 1, 1859, Williams and Amherst competed in the first-ever intercollegiate baseball game. This Sunday, to celebrate this historic event, the varsity baseball team will play Amherst in a commemorative game at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, to be televised on ESPN-U.
Just as in 1859, the game will be preceded by the traditional Williams-Amherst chess match, followed by an alumni game, where Williams and Amherst alumni will don period uniforms and play under 1859 “Massachusetts Rules.” The varsity game will follow at 1 p.m.
While the historic nature of the game makes it particularly thrilling, last weekend’s victory against Wesleyan in two out of three games adds extra excitement, as it sealed the team a spot in the NESCAC tournament the weekend of May 8. “As fate would have it, the winner of our game against Amherst will be the winner of the NESCAC West division, and will therefore host the NESCAC tournament,” said Dan Benz ’09, one of the co-captains of the team. “So in addition to the historical aspect, this game will have a very real impact on the postseason.”
Donny Brooks, head of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) is working on arranging transportation for Williams fans to Pittsfield on Sunday. The team is hoping that lots of cheering fans with painted faces will head down to Pittsfield and, as team member Taylor Mikell ’09 said, “watch some great baseball and see us beat Amherst!”
Those fans that are particularly excited to cheer on the team may also have the added bonus of seeing themselves on ESPN-U the following day. For those who cannot make it there, the games will be aired live on ESPN360.com as well as Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 6 at 7 p.m., and Wednesday, May 13 at 12 a.m. on ESPN-U. Dick Quinn, director of Sports Information, said that “painted faces, signs and screaming fans are what get shown on ESPN360 and ESPN – it’s time for Williams students to make some noise.”
In 1859, Amherst came back from an early Williams lead and managed to defeat the College in both the baseball game and the chess match. While Amherst leads in the all-time Williams-Amherst series 189-131-2, Williams leads 2-0 in re-enactment games.
“I think everybody on both teams appreciates how cool it is to be part of such a long baseball tradition. Not many people in other sports can say that their rivalry predates the Civil War,” Mikell said. This is an unusual event, and Head Coach Bill Barrale noted, “I don’t think any of us included in the celebration will have proper perspective on the event for quite a while.”
While the team still has a few games left before Sunday’s celebration, they are gearing up for the big game. “It is always exciting to face Amherst,” said Zach Stone ’09, a member of men’s baseball. “To be part of this rivalry is special, and in this historic year the stakes are even higher.”