Baseball is one of the oldest sports at Penn, having begun back when the University was still located on the other side of the Schuylkill.
But it wasn’t until Penn moved to West Philly in 1872 that America’s pastime began to take off in a big way. In that first decade of Penn baseball, students played in teams organized by individual undergraduate classes, professional schools and student organizations, as well as by Penn itself, which had a team known as the University Nine. The University’s first intercollegiate game came in the fall of 1874, when Penn took on Swarthmore College.
That following year, Penn opened its very own athletic field—marking the beginning of a new emphasis on intercollegiate sports. From 1885 on, the University Nine included more than nine players, and in a few years’ time, even included a manager and a scorer. All of the attention paid off, as the Penn varsity team had winning seasons in 1886 and 1887.
Despite two dismal years in ’88 and ’89, 1890 marked the beginning of University baseball prominence. That year, the team went 21-3. In fact, until 1904, every baseball season was a winning one for the University. At that time, games drew as many as 2,000 spectators, and newspapers even listed socially prominent people who sat in the stands.
For more information on this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives web site at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on May 21, 2009