The oldest reference in the archives to athletics at Ashland comes from the first
volume of the Randolph-Macon Monthly for December 1878. There we find the
Bandy is now the great game. Every evening the play ground [sic] is crowded.
Well contested and exciting are the games. Would the Richmond boys, who are so emulous
of fame, like to try a game of bandy? The Oxford English Dictionary suggests
bandy was a game something like hockey. We have no hint of what sports existed before
the magazine came into existence. One of them was probably baseball.
The same publication announced three months later that Base-Ball is all the rage.
Two clubs had elected officers-ln-dependent and Ashland, all of whom were students.
It is not altogether certain that these were, strictly speaking, school teams. In
April 1880, the magazine reported there have been already two or three hotly contested
games between our rival clubs, the Ashland and the Independent. The college is mostly
on the Ashland side, but the town is in general vociferous for the Independents.
Baseball continued in the fall term, as a kind of minor league for the organized
teams. Many of the 'Fish' show base-ball propensities and play with a vim and liveliness
that argues [augurs?] well for the future. Something novel is introduced. We intend
to have no outsiders on our nine this year, it is to be strictly a college matter,
and we shall make an agreement with the Richmond college nine that the contest shall
be simply college against college, and not Richmond college and Richmond
against Randolph Macon and Ashland.
Playing outside men, perhaps townies, perhaps semipros, continued through the 1890s.
The faculty condemned the practice in 1897 ''as being against the principles of
college atheletics [sic] and against the law of morality and forbade from further
play students who went on the team to match games in Lexington and Farmville. In
1899, the faculty refused the team permission to allow an outside man.
The first official cognizance of the sport came in 1893, when the faculty gave permission
to the baseball team to play two games in Richmond in May-one of which was with
Vanderbilt University. In 1894, the faculty permitted the teams two games anywhere
in Virginia, but the students could not go to watch unless it was in Richmond. In
1895, three games away from Ashland were allowed, and by 1896, there was an away
schedule of five games against Richmond College, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia Military
Institute, and its next-door neighbor, Washington and Lee, as well as against the
Randolph-Macon Academy. Beginning in 1894, the student publication carried rather
complete reports on the games, giving paragraph-long descriptions of games and tables
of scores for individual players.
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Reprinted from Professor James Scanlon's Randolph-Macon College: A Southern History