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Princeton Baseball

The definitive history...


Baseball on the Princeton campus dates back more than 150 years. In1858, the first “organized” games began thanks to a group of freshmen from Brooklyn, where the game was already being played on a high level. Other Princetonians joined in and by 1860 the school had a team—known as the Nassau baseball Club— that was ready to play other local clubs. Its first game came against a team from Orange. It ended in a gentlemanly 42–42 draw.

During the Civil War, Princeton was unquestionably the nation's finest collegiate team. They regularly defeated big-name clubs in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Newark and Philadelphia. In1864, Princeton played its first intercollegiate match, beating Williams by a score of 26–16. After the Civil War, the Princeton base-ballers went on a tour of New England.

During the 1870s, Princeton players were at the forefront of the college game. William Gummere was the first player to perfect the hook slide. Joseph Mann was the first collegiate hurler to throw an effective curve. He learned it from future Hall of Famer Candy Cummings. In 1875, Mann pitched baseball’s first recorded no-hit game, against Big Three rival Yale. Bill Schenck, a catcher on the 1880 squad, stuffed copied of The Princetonian into his uniform to create a homemade chest protector. Within a few weeks, commercial chest protectors were being manufactured. In 1897, Princeton became the site of the first successful test of a pitching machine, desugned by a math professor, Charles Hinton.

That same spring, Bill “Boileryard” Clarke began informally coaching the Princeton players. Clarke was the catcher for the Baltimore Orioles, a team known for its clever play. Clarke continued to give the Tigers tips, helping them capture several Big Three titles. After his retirement from pro ball in 1909, Clarke signed on as the school’s full-time coach. MoeBergHe held the job through 1926, developing several excellent players including Moe Berg (left), who played shortstop for the Tigers before becoming a big-league catcher. Although several of Berg’s predecessors had dabbled in pro baseball, he was the first to make a career in the national pastime.

In the mid-1920s, Princeton’s teams were among the best in college baseball. Clarke returned to Princeton in 1934 and coached until 1943.

In 1952, Eddie Donovan began a 24-year run as Princeton baseball coach. During his reign, the school enjoyed success against Ivy League opponents, but the sport took a back seat to football and basketball. During this time, the school did not attract players of any national prominence

That started to change with the new millennium. Under coach Scott Bradley—a former Yankees catcher—the Tigers produced three high draft picks who went on to enjoy success in the pros: pitchers Russ Ohlendorf, and Chris Young, and outfielder Will Venable. In 2013, this trio was joined in the majors by pitcher David Hale. Only 12 other four-year schools had sent four players to the majors, and no other Ivy League university had a player in the big leagues. Young and Venable had originally come to Princeton as basketball players.

Under Bradley, who was named coach in 1998 after working as an assistant under Fred Hill at Rutgers, Princeton qualified for six NCAA Tournaments.


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