10. The Lost Sport of Ice Baseball Was Popularized Near the Gowanus Canal
The nascent sport of baseball was particularly popular in Gowanus. The Old Stone House, scene of the Revolutionary War battle less than a century before, became a clubhouse in 1855. Games were played in the fields around the house, unless they flooded – which was fairly common given the original marshland nature of the area. When the temporary ponds froze over, Brooklynites would ice skate on them, with entertainment brought in – crowds reached upwards of 10,000 at these gatherings. By 1861, the ice skating craze got combined with the baseball craze to create ice baseball. The game on February 4, 1861 between the Atlantics and the Charter Oaks was witnessed by 12,000 people.
As Alexiou describes in the book:
The rules to ice baseball were essentially the same as for regular baseball but with certain concessions: there were only five innings and only ten players allowed on the field; the ball was painted bright red for greater visibility and was somewhat softer than a normal baseball. The bases were scratched into the ice, and players could overshoot them and still be safe, like with first base in a regular game. With different seasonal physics to work with, the best skaters soon grabbed the title of most valuable ice baseball players.