A Wicked Game of Wicket
The following was posted in the Hartford Courant on July 8th, 1858.


It is the soul of all sport that the utmost fairness, gentlemanly courtesy, and thorough good temper should prevail. The moment a particle of bad temper gets in the fun is all gone. It is therefore disagreeable to our feelings to publish the subjoined; but as it comes to us vouched for by responsible names, and as it is right that the public should act as censors in such cases, we print it with the single remark, that it is avowedly the Burlington account, and if Harwinton chooses to furnish us, from some responsible man, their version of the difficulty, we shall cheerfully print that, also.

Dear Editor of the Courant - Burlington, July 5th, 1858
A match game of wicket ball, between Burling and Harwinton wicket players, came off in Burlington on Saturday, June 26th. It being an interesting time to both towns represented, we very naturally expected that some gentleman from the former place would give you the result; but searching diligently in your issue of last week, and finding nothing in regard to the subject, we venture, very reluctantly, to give you a report.

A challenge was sent by the Burlington Club for a game to take place, June 19th, but Harwinton, not liking the looks of the number (35 each side) declined. The agreed however, to accept of 30.

Thirty was the number designated in the next challenge, June 26th the day, 9 o’clock A.M. the hour and Burlington the place. The side beaten to pay for supper.

June 26th came along about the time we expected it, but brought a little more sun than we cared to see. Both parties were at the ground at the hour appointed, but were delayed till about 11 o’clock in agreeing to rules etc. Harwinton reserving the privilege of changing men when some of their “Bully Players” should arrive. Burlington struck first, furnished the judges with a list of names, struck in order, and tallied 145.

Harwinton then took her turn at striking. There was no list furnished by this side, but they claimed the privilege of sending along their men in such manner as might seem to them most convenient. This side tallied 84.

At this point the judges demanded a list of the names of the players, and after the delay of more than an hour, Harwinton gave birth to the desired document and commenced her second strike, getting 99 tallies.

At the close of this (2nd game) a shower of some 19 minutes duration visited us, when Harwinton took to their heels and sloped. Burlington, notwithstanding the rain, manned the bats at the order of the judges, and remained on the ground. After the shower, a deputation was sent to inquire into the matter, and request that Harwinton report herself at head-quarters immediately.

The committee discharged their duty, and received a proposition from Mr. S ____ (the leading spirit on that side) that each man pay for his own supper, and meet again after haying was over and play another game. The committee on the part of Burlington would agree to that provided the side beaten would pay for two suppers. Not agreed to, Burlington then demanded the privilege of taking their 2nd in, but Harwinton would not tend them out – having an excuse that the grass was wet. Burlington then proposed to give Harwinton their 3rd and last strike, and take the benefit of the wet grass themselves. Couldn’t hit them. Burlington then proposed to go on the ground, and if they could produce three men who could get tallies, added to what was got on the first game, sufficient to balance to what Harwinton got in two games, they were to own up beat and pay for the supper. No go. Mr. S ____- then declared that he would not go on the alley again that day.

Harwinton was then invited to go into the Hall and take supper free of expense. Wouldn’t do that, but would foot the whole bill, not admitting however, that they were beaten. Supper was ordered immediately.
After the elapse of about 2.5 hours, supper nearly ready, Harwinton “flunked”, declared they would pay for no suppers unless beaten; went on the ground and Slumped Burlington to play the remaining three games. It was now past 6 o’clock. The proposition was treated with the contempt it deserved. It is the current opinion, however, that they would have “backed down” again had their proposition been accepted.

We feel in duty bound to say, that there were several gentlemen from Harwinton who did not countenance the acts of the majority, among whom was Lewis Catlin, Esq, At home abroad, wherever yon chance to meet him, a gentleman. We believe that Mr. Catlin paid for supper for two, and would not consent to sit at the table till he had the privilege of so doing.

We would not by any means intimate that Harwinton did not deal fairly, but feel confident that had Burlington done the same, the worthy Pastors of both churches would have been likely to have taken their texts on the following day from some passage that would remind us of the importance of decency. If they could not have found one conveniently between the two lids of the Bible we think they would have manufactured one for the occasion.

Footnote:
The game of wicket, a popular out-door sport in the 1800’s originated in Bristol Connecticut about 1830. Wicket resembled cricket n some respect, but it lacked the characteristics which mark the latter as a peculiarly scientific pastime. In wicket each full team numbers 30 players instead of 11, as in the game of cricket. The wickets of the Connecticut game were also different, being about 5 feet wide and only 3 inches above the ground, and having a bar of white wood resting on two little blocks. The space between the wickets measured 75 feet by 10 feet, and is termed “the alley”. Runs are made and recorded as in cricket, but no record kept of the fielding, nor are the achievements of the bowlers credited to them on the score book. The bat used is 38 inches long, and bears a strong resemblance to a Fiji war-club, the material being well-seasoned willow. The ball, although much larger then a cricket ball, was just as light and not quite so hard. Bowling was done from either end of the alley at the option of the bowler. There was a central mark between the wickets, something like that of the ace line in rackets, If a delivered ball fails to hit the ground before it passes this mark it is called a “no ball” and no runs from it are counted.

Sources:
Historical Hartford Courant
New York Times archives

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