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Baseball’s been a hit at the Mount

James Rada
Emmitsburg Dispatch

As part of the celebration of baseball at Mount St. Mary's, the Mount & Gettysburg College donned old-style uniforms for a game on Sept. 29. Gettysburg College was the first team the Mount played in 1883.

(10/4)  They thought they were the best baseball team ever, but no team is truly unbeatable even if they are the best.

“From 1896-1898 the players in Blue and White were virtually unbeatable,” Frank Zarnowski wrote in A Century of Sports at the Mount.

Though baseball had been played at the Mount for generation, the 1898 team thought they had mastered the game as they defeated other college teams, town clubs and even semi-professional teams. The team’s secret weapon was Edward Kenna.

“For three seasons Kenna pitched and won virtually every game,” Zarnowski wrote. “He also batted better than .500 for his college career.”

Kenna would eventually go on to be the first Mount player to play professional baseball. He played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902.

But in 1898, “Edward Kenna, C’1898, and his teammates were so confident of their abilities that they even challenged the Washington Nationals of the National League (who later became the Senators) to a game,” reported Mount Magazine.

That’s when the unstoppable team was stopped in a big way on April 22, 1998. The Nationals defeated them 16-1. It was a stunning defeat, but the Mount baseball games continued and still continue to draw in the crowds.

Although the Mount is celebrating 125 years of intercollegiate baseball this year, baseball has been play at the college for at least 138 years.

“After the Civil War, interclass and interhouse baseball contests were a major recreation attraction,” Zarnowski wrote. “The earliest reference to these contests dates to May of 1869 when the Stonewalls pasted the Xanthas 38-29. High scores were the order of the day since pitching rules required the hurler to place the pitch, underhanded, where the batter wanted it.”

The first baseball field was developed after the Civil War about 150 yards east of Sheridan Hall, according to Zarnowski.

By 1872, the Mount began playing outside teams and in 1883 a Baseball Association was formed on campus to arrange the schedules for intercollegiate play. Helped along by Kenna’s powerhouse team, the Mount won 75-80 percent of its games in the 1800’s. And winning teams attracted the fans.

“By the end of the 19th century, baseball was the sport on campus,” reported Mount Magazine. “Crowds for home games ranged from 500 to almost 1,000 fans.”
Echo Field opened on April 17, 1902. However, the Mount lost its first game there to Penn State.

While the Mount launched more than a few major league careers. The most famous may have been Babe Ruth. In 1911, the Mount played a St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Campus legend has it that a professional baseball scout discovered George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. during the game. Whether or not that is true, the legendary baseball player visited the campus many times during his 22-year professional baseball career.

Interest in baseball waned somewhat in the 1930’s and 1940’s, yet the college continued to field solid teams.

In 1989, the Mount moved to NCAA Division I and became a member of the Northeast Conference.

“With the step up in competition, Mount baseball struggled until recent years,” wrote Mount Magazine. “It’s now enjoying resurgence.”

This year, the Mount opened the E.T. Straw Family Stadium, which was a $400,000 renovation to the existing facility.

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