The 1867 Welkins

Port Huron’s earliest Base Ball game took place on Wednesday, June 12 1867, between the “Welkins” and the “Regulars” of Mount Clemens. It is not known how long the match lasted, or the exact score, but the Welkin Club was victorious and out tallied the Regulars by 29 scores.

The reason they chose the name “Welkin” to represent their club is lost to history. The word welkin means “heavens” or “sky.” “Make the welkin ring,” was a common saying in the late 1860’s. It is believed at least one of the original Welkinites served in the 1st Artillery in the Civil War. The artillery would certainly have made the “welkin ring.”
In August of 1867, the Detroit Base Ball Club hosted the “World’s Base Ball Tournament.” With 24 clubs participating, the matches began at the grounds of the Detroit Base Ball Club on August 13, 1867, with the fans paying 25 cents each and 50 cents for each vehicle that entered the property. Seats in the grandstand cost an additional fee, and a fence enclosed the ball field. The Detroit Free Press report­ed extensively on the matches. Crowds as large as 5,000 people attended over the tournament’s three days.

The game accounts also offer an insight into at least some opinions of the introduction of mitts for play­ers. The Free Press writer commented, “We have noticed in all the matches played thus far that the use of gloves by the players was to some degree a customary practice, which we think cannot be too highly condemned and are of the opinion that the Custers would have shown a better score if there had been less buckskin on their hands.” The players can’t be blamed for wanting to protect their hands for defensive purposes; scores such as 41 to 40 and 61 to 32 indicate that offense ruled the diamond.

The original Welkin Base Ball Club participated in the tournament. They traveled the long distance to Detroit on the train. Unfortunately, the train was delayed, and they arrived a day after their scheduled match against the Maple Leaf Club (pictured left) from Hamilton/Guelph Ontario. Discovering they had lost the match by forfeit, they asked the Maple Leafs to not accept a win by forfeit, but play the game. The Maple Leaf Club agreed.

Thursday, August 15 the Welkins played their match-game against the Maple Leaf Club. In the third innings, the Welkins were forced to withdraw from the match when pitcher, Blennerhassett was hit in the back of his hand by a struck ball. The Welkins would have probably lost the match as the score stood 19 to 10 when the Welkins withdrew. The Maple Leaf Club went on to win one of the third prize awards in the tournament. The World’s Base Ball Tournament drew many ball clubs and over 5000 spectators. News of the event traveled across the country. An article from the August 16 edition of the New York Times appears at right.

The Welkin Club continued to play base ball in 1867. At the end of their first and only season of play, the Welkin Base Ball Club played a total of six match games. They won their first by 29 scores and lost the remaining five. Their final match game against the Detroit Base Ball Club was a defeat with the score recorded at 95 to 23.