Baseball in the Berkshires
A County's Common Bond

Berkshire Baseball History

Whose Hearts Swelled With Pride

History

The citizens of Pittsfield in the early 1790's were excited about the prospect of a new meeting house the civic and religious focus of the community, going up in the center of town. Designed by Boston architect Charles Bullfinch who designed the original portion of the State House, and was later to be an architect of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the building was the pride of the townspeople, "whose hears swelled with pride" when they showed it off to visitors, according to city historian J.E.A. Smith. This jewel must be protected, though, and since it sat facing onto the town common an ordinance was deemed necessary to protect its exterior, especially the window glass, from sporting games played on the lawn.

 

Pittsfield Massachusetts, Park Square circa 1900

 

Mike "Doc" Powers

Born in Pittsfield he combined his love of baseball with his family's desire for him to escape the mill worker life. Powers went to college in 1894, became captain of his team and a graduate of the Holy Cross medical school. Hence the nickname "Doc". He began his 11-year major league career in 1898.

 

 

The restriction

By-law of 1791

The sensible, if fun-spoiling, law retains its importance today, long after the demise of the Bullfinch Church and the shrinking of the common, Now a park ringed by paved streets know as Park Square. The ordinance is recognized as one of the very first published uses in America of the word "baseball," indicating that some rudimentary version of the sport that became known as the National Pastime was popular in Berkshire County.

 
 
 

 
 
 

The game

Professionals, amateurs and popularity

Baseball's popularity, here and elsewhere, was going to change this business of playing just for the fun of it, with maybe a few dollars from gate receipts thrown in. The Seymours, in the House of Baseball, point out that as winning became more ad more important to a town's reputation, "outsiders would say that a town that could support such a [good] team must e a wide-awake, hustling place...the compulsion to victory led townsmen to employ outside talent" particularly at the position of pitcher, where paid outsiders, or "rioters", became more prevalent.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Competition

Berkshire County Rivals

Semi-professional baseball in the Berkshires may have reached its zenith in the mid - 1890's and was highlighted by the rivalry between the Renfrews of Adams, sponsored by the Renfrew Manufacturing Co.'s tetil mills in the Mylonite section of town, and a Pittsfield team backed by the Stanley company, the predecessor to the General Electric plant here, know simply as "The Stanleys". Competition between the two teams' was keen. Early in the decade Pittsfield pined for a chance to get a leg up on the team from the north, as when they "tackled their old enemies the Renfrews and as usual, were defeated, 13-11."