By Danny Crownover
The first baseball game ever mentioned being played in Gadsden took place in 1879 on the grounds of Miss Fanny Fullenwider’s school located at Eighth Street between Walnut and Chestnut streets in 1879. Participating were local teenage boys and girls. Martin Sibert was the catcher, while the tall, graceful and beautiful Miss Betty Tolson was the pitcher.
There was not room enough for a regulation diamond, so the players used a smaller field that was marked by rocks for bases.
The following year, a big wooden schoolhouse located on Seventh Street was built on the site later occupied by the Gadsden Public Library and Striplin Elementary School. The school’s playground extended to Chestnut Street and had ample space for both a regular baseball diamond and football field.
In the early 1880s, Henry B. Foster, who afterwards became a distinguished circuit judge in his native city of Tuscaloosa, arrived in Gadsden as a teacher and had much to do with teaching young boys the rules of baseball. Foster was a catcher, and from that position was able to instruct both the pitchers and the other players.
Several players from that team became members of the famous Red Jacket and Junior teams.
Other games that the local youths in that era participated in included townball and one-eyed cat. In the latter sport, one boy would stand in the center of a ring while two others hid and juggled a yarn ball in their shirts until they had maneuvered the boy in the center to a position where he might be hit by the ball. At that point, one of the other boys would suddenly throw the ball at him.
In townball, which was said to have been copied from the local Indians, a flat bat and a solid rubber or yarn ball was used. The ball could be thrown at the runner between bases, and if hit, the runner was out.
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