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A marker notes the first reference to baseball found in the town of Pittsfield's bylaws of 1791.

Pittsfield Council Says Baseball Should Be a Holiday

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council wants to give America's pastime a birthday and recognize its history in the city.

The council last week supported a request from Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey and baseball enthusiast Phil Massery to recognize Sept. 5 as the official birthday of baseball.  

"It has been played here since before we were a nation. In fact, it was played so rapidly in the late 1700s that the town elders had to pass an ordinance to prevent people from playing ball in certain areas of the city because they were breaking all the windows and they were trying to prevent broken windows at the meeting house. Glass was an issue back then. If you broke a window it was a while before it got replaced," Massery explained.

"We are not claiming by having this birthday to have invented the game. We are simply saying that Pittsfield recognizes Sept. 5 as baseball's birthday."

Massery, who has for years championed Pittsfield's role in baseball, approached Kavey to give the game of baseball a local holiday. The date is in reference to the over 230-year-old broken-window bylaw and always falls around Labor Day weekend, which is a good time to celebrate baseball.

"This situation is what the word serendipitous is all about, which means 'unexpected fortune,'" he added. "We have an unexpected fortune by having this game played in our city. Also, the big point is it's free. There is nothing we have to do. There is no money to be appropriated. There is no fee to have this done."

Thanks to the efforts of the late U.S. Rep. John Olver, Congress recognized the Sept. 5, 1791, broken window bylaw of Pittsfield as the first written mention of the game of baseball in North America. Then Gov. Patrick Deval proclaimed Sept. 5 as "Pittsfield Baseball Day" in 2007.

"I just find this to be completely fascinating," Kavey said. "I think we should be highlighting our history with baseball in the city."

The bylaw prohibits the playing of "wicket, cricket, base ball, bat ball, foot ball, cat, fives, or any other game or games with a ball" to protect the city's new meeting house.  

The site across from Park Square is now the First Church of Christ and is marked with a sign.

Congress also officially recognized Pittsfield Massachusetts as the birthplace of college baseball because of the first college game in 1859 that was played in Pittsfield on the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue between Williams College and Amherst College.

On June 23, 2008, Congress officially recognized these findings as accurate and they were made unimpeachable facts.

Kavey suggested that the local holiday be recognized with a street fair on Wahconah Street or a charity baseball game at the historic Wahconah Park, which is currently the focus of a multi-million dollar overhaul.

He added that the item was purposefully presented for the September meeting so that it could be discussed during the same month that the original bylaw passed.

Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren pointed out that he supports the effort for a different reason.

"I think most of my colleagues don't realize the most important reason to support this is that not only is it the earliest reference to the game of baseball, but it was one of the earliest examples of a Pittsfield-wide binding voter referendum," he said.

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