Though pickup games may have been played earlier, Norwich University formally fielded its first baseball team in either 1871 or 1872, depending who’s telling the story. A group of cadets got the idea to challenge the Dartmouth College boys to what was already known as the “national game” or the “national pastime.”
Baseball as we know it today was first played in the 1840s, popularized at the amateur level in the 1850s, and by the late 1860s and early 1870s was beginning to form the first professional teams and leagues.
The Norwich “nine” (though they sometimes played with ten men) ran into a hiccup when no one could find the cash to pay for the new uniforms arriving C.O.D. from Boston. Commandant of Cadets Charles Curtis saved the day, and the cadets were outfitted for the competition. They rendezvoused with rival Dartmouth in Montpelier, but sadly were not victorious in their first outing.
The following decade saw a rocky start to the baseball program. Lack of funding proved to be a perennial problem, as it was for the entire university. In 1884, the team formed an official organization with a constitution and bylaws.
Once it took off, baseball became a staple of student life at Norwich. A few games were even played by the quarantined cadets during the smallpox scare in May of 1912. The first baseball field was simply the Upper Parade Ground. Eventually a diamond was added to Sabine Field, where the team played until the construction of Garrity Field in the 1960s.
The Norwich baseball diamond has played host to several notable figures. Famed Orioles pitcher and army doctor Arlie Pond spent two years as a member of the class of 1892, serving during that time as captain of the NU baseball team. Stuffy McInnis of the famous $100,000 infield was the head baseball coach from 1931 to 1944. More recently, Fran Kasheta of the Class of 1963 played eight seasons in the minor leagues and was inducted into the Norwich Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.
Contact the Norwich University Archives if you’re interested in learning more about the history of baseball at Norwich. A valuable resource on this topic is the online Index to Norwich University Newspapers.