When Brooklyn teams played baseball on ice

The history of sports includes lots of nutty ideas. One of the strangest took off big in Brooklyn in the 1860s and 1870s: baseball on ice.


The game was huge in Brooklyn in the decades after the Civil War. Ice skating was trendy too. Why not combine the two into the ultimate winter activity, right?

Local papers covered the games enthusiastically. “Today a grand match at base-ball on ice will be played on the Capitoline Pond, Brooklyn, 2 pm., the contestants being the best players of the Mutual and Atlantic Clubs who are also good skaters,” wrote the New York Times in January 1871.


[Capitoline Pond (photo below) was at the Capitoline Grounds, a baseball park on Fulton Avenue]

Problems cropped up though. First, regular skaters complained that the ballplayers messed up the ice. Then there was the freezing cold.


On January 5, 1879, the New York Times wrote about a game at the Prospect Park Lake, which attracted a “half-dozen shivering spectators.”

The game “was anything but interesting to the scorer and umpire, who became so thoroughly chilled by the fifth inning that they refused to act longer, and thus the game was brought to an untimely end.”

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4 Responses to “When Brooklyn teams played baseball on ice”

  1. Lady G. Says:

    Reblogged this on The Realm Of Olde Brooklyn and commented:
    I haven’t been able to give my blog the proper attention, so I’m happy to share this fun winter post about Civil War Era Brooklyn. Baseball on Ice Skates. I always loved ice skating at the Prospect Park rink, I had no idea people were skating out there 150 years ago. The images look great.

    Don’t know why playing Baseball on Ice never occurred to me, but here you have it. Hockey was invented maybe 50 years earlier. I suppose Baseball fans were inspired. It actually seems like a lot of fun, but I can only imagine the bumps and bruises.

  2. Thomas W. Gilbert Says:

    Great piece! FYI while researching my recent book (“Playing First: Early Baseball Lives at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery”) about Brooklyn and early baseball, I ran across what seems to have been the first baseball game on ice. It was played in January of 1861 between the Atlantics and Charter Oaks, two early Brooklyn baseball clubs. More games were played during the Civil War — interestingly, almost always involving members of these two clubs. The players were either men who did not serve in the military or who were on leave or between enlistments. Dozens of them are buried at G-W. Also, William Cammeyer of Wiliiamsburg (buried at Green-Wood) and Reuben Decker and partner Hamilton Weed (ditto) built New York’s first actual enclosed ballparks; these were multi-purpose recreational facilities (known as the Union Grounds and Capitoline Grounds, respectively) that, as your post shows, were transformed into skating facilities in the off season. For anyone who is interested, there is more in my book. Thomas W. Gilbert

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