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Interest in baseball goes back to the late l860s in this state. The Nebraska Herald of Plattsmouth said on May 1, 1867: "The friends of athletic sports in Omaha, and also in Council Bluffs have organized Base Ball clubs, and have large and respectable memberships. Why don't some of our young men move in the matter and organize a club in Plattsmouth--we certainly have enough in our midst to make a large club, and it will be more likely to benefit them, physically, than sitting with their feet higher than their heads in some 'loafer's heaven.'" Again on August 14, 1867, the Herald wondered what had become of the Plattsmouth baseball club: "Baseball clubs appear to be all the rage now. The Omaha Club is making a tour through Western Iowa, slaying the various clubs through that region and proposes visiting Nebraska City before returning."

J. E. Wilbur shared his reminiscences of early Omaha baseball with the readers of Nebraska History in 1936, when baseball was the "universal game." He recalled the Elkhorn Baseball Club, started in 1870: "A number of our present distinguished citizens were members of that club. . . . Our star performer was a chap from the east named Pete Haskins, who had formerly played with the celebrated Union club of Massena, New York. We also had a center fielder named McCauley who distinguished himself especially on one occasion by executing a difficult catch of a fly-ball which he was forced to get by leaning over the back of a cow which came peacefully meandering across the field just at the psychological moment. . . .

"Later there was formed a baseball club called the 'Close-Cuts' (I don't know what prompted this name unless because they wore their hair cut short)." A rival club, Wilbur recalled, called itself the Stars.

"I don't remember many big games in which the Omaha teams took part except one Fourth of July when we played the 'Bugeaters' of Fremont. At another time we went over to Marshalltown [Iowa] and played the nine captained by one of the Anson brothers afterwards known as 'Pop' Anson and a member of the celebrated Chicago club. . . . The 'Close Cuts' and the 'Stars' being bitter rivals, we had many interesting and exciting games.

"During the activities of the Elkhorns I remember the city was visited by the famous 'Red Stocking' nine from Cincinnati, who played our team an exhibition game in which they accumulated many runs and by courtesy allowed the Omaha boys to obtain one."

(May 2000)


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