Over the past 150 years, just six Division I programs can boast the historical pedigree that the Yale baseball team can lay claim to.
This Saturday, nearly 150 years to the day, the Bulldogs will host in-state counterpart Wesleyan as a tribute to the Sept. 30, 1865 meeting between what was then the Yale Nine and the Wesleyan Agallian Club.
“Baseball is this country’s pastime and there are not very many places that have a longer history of it than Yale,” third baseman Richard Slenker ’17 said. “To be a part of this history is something we as a team respect and appreciate because it is an unbelievable opportunity to wear the Yale jersey.”
To understand the history Slenker is referring to, one only has to take a brief look at some of the highlights that have transpired at Yale Field, the Bulldogs’ home since 1928.
Historic Yale Field, as it is often called, has hosted Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, both as a Columbia Lion and as a New York Yankee. It served as the home field for former captain, and former president, George H. W. Bush ’48. And it also served as one of Babe Ruth’s final public appearances, when the Great Bambino presented then-captain Bush with an original manuscript of his autobiography for donation to the University.
As both Yale and Wesleyan celebrate this historic 150th anniversary, the pre-game festivities, which will include a host of individuals with strong ties to both programs, will attempt to capture the grandeur of the moment.
“It will be a special experience,” captain Chris Moates ’16 said. “The opportunity to play the same team Yale Baseball played in its very first game 150 years ago is awesome in itself, but when you add all the festivities of the weekend, like former MLB commissioner and Yalie Fay Vincent LAW ’63 giving a speech and President Salovey throwing out the first pitch, the experience will undoubtedly be a memorable one.”
With scores of alumni flocking back to watch their alma maters compete, Yale head coach John Stuper and Wesleyan head coach Mark Woodworth will each make opening comments beginning around 6:20 p.m. Following the remarks of both men will be words from a pair of guests: Vincent and Wesleyan graduate Jim Dresser.
A former senior vice president at the Boston Consulting Group, Dresser’s roots date back to his great-grandfather, a classics professor who named the original Wesleyan squad, and his grandfather, who captained the 1908 Cardinals.
Vincent, meanwhile, followed in the footsteps of former Yale president and MLB commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti ’60 GRD ’64, serving as commissioner from 1989 to 1992.
Capping off the ceremony, in traditional fashion, will be the first pitch. University President Peter Salovey will deliver the honorary toss ahead of the 7 p.m. start time.
In the team’s first live competition of the new school year, the Elis will be wearing throwback uniforms to recognize the history and significance of the game.
“It is very exciting to reflect on the history of the program, and I think that will be reflected in the throwback uniforms we got,” righty Chris Lanham ’16 said. “I think all the guys are excited to play with the old school look for a night.”
The two teams last met this past spring, where the Bulldogs continued their domination of the Cardinals. Yale holds a 59–17–2 advantage in the all-time series following a 7–3 win in April.
The Elis will look to channel the energy and hype surrounding the game onto the field in the tuneup before the start of the City Series, where the Bulldogs will face Southern Connecticut State in two weekends.
“The throwback jerseys, pregame ceremony and alumni in attendance are great for celebrating the tradition of both programs,” shortstop Derek Brown ’17 said. “However, as soon as the pitcher steps on the mound to throw the first pitch, we will be focused on winning a baseball game.”
Moates noted that the game will be an opportunity to see how the team stacks up and set the tone for the rest of the fall. He added that the fall brings a fresh start following a disappointing 15–23 season, and that returning players are excited to show their improvements while freshmen will get their first taste of collegiate ball.
The celebration comes as part of a larger alumni gathering, as Yale football hosts its home opener against Cornell.
“It could not be better for the Yale community to celebrate something like this,” infielder Harrison White ’17 said. “Not only does it tie together generations, but it ties together different demographics than lots of other events. This game is meant for everyone, not just sports fans. It’s a celebration of Yale baseball, yes, but it’s also a celebration of Yale College.”