In 1862, less than two decades after baseball emerged in America, a group of Harvard freshmen formed what was then known as the “’66 Baseball Club,” a casual venture that would spur the establishment of one of the longest running programs in Division I athletics — the Yale Baseball team.

As soon as the Harvard club was organized, its members sent challenges to different colleges, such as the Yale Class of 1886. Yale responded that it did not yet have a team, but hoped to arrange a match with the Crimson in the near future. The Bulldogs played their first baseball game against Wesleyan College in 1865. Less than three years later, Yale challenged Harvard to a championship game, which the Bulldogs lost 25–17. Though the Crimson continued to dominate Yale in ensuing high-scoring matches, the Elis finally fielded a formidable lineup in 1874 and took down their ancient rival.

Between the years of 1887 and 1910, the Yale baseball program enjoyed 24 straight winning seasons, claiming nine Intercollegiate Championships under various coaches. Legendary MLB pitcher “Smoky” Joe Wood — a two-time World Series champion — coached the Bulldogs from 1924 to 1942, a difficult and trying time for both the program and the country. Nevertheless, Yale baseball persisted.

In 1928, Yale Field was built in the same place it stands now to house the college’s baseball team. The first pitch of the stadium’s first game was thrown by then-Mayor of New Haven John B. Tower. In the ensuing decades, the historic field would be visited by Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in exhibition games and host generations of Yale Baseball players who still practice on its grounds every spring. In 2018, the Yale Field received a new synthetic turf and a new clubhouse.

“Our senior class has been here during a very exciting era,” pitcher Scott Politz ’19 said. “We have been blessed with both a new turf field and a new clubhouse. These new features have given us the ability to practice during many more months of the year.”

From 1943 to 1945, Yale was coached by Robert “Red” Rolfe, who played third base for the New York Yankees and won five World Series championships with teammate Lou Gehrig. From 1993 when the Ivy League began sponsoring baseball to 2018 when the system was dissolved, the conference was split into two divisions: the Lou Gehrig Division and the Red Rolfe Division. Yale played in the latter.

In 1948, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush ’48 served as team captain and played first base for the Bulldogs. That year, the team boasted a 21–9–1 record and advanced to the College World Series, eventually falling to the USC Trojans 2–1 in the Championships Series.

Current head coach John Stuper, who pitched a complete game victory for the St. Louis Cardinals when they won the World Series in 1982, is in the midst of his 27th season at Yale. His tenure boasts three Ivy League titles and the most victories in school history at 525.

In 2015, Yale celebrated 150 years of baseball by hosting Wesleyan in a tribute to the schools’ first match in 1865. The celebration opened with University President Peter Salovey delivering the honorary first pitch. The Bulldogs prevailed 7–3, and the event was a joyous occasion as scores of alumni from both schools crowded Yale Field to watch their alma maters compete.

America’s pastime has a long history at Yale University, and one that is still very much relevant and developing today. After claiming Ivy titles again in both 2017 and 2018, the Yale baseball team continues to proudly represent the University and thrive for excellence.

The Bulldogs — ranked sixth in the Ancient Eight standings — face second-place Penn in a doubleheader on Saturday.

Lucy Liu | l.liu@yale.edu