1888 - The MCC Baseball Section was established in 1888 to play a team of visiting Americans professionals led by A. G. Spalding organised by the MCC Committee. It is the oldest continuous Baseball Club in Victoria and one of the oldest in the world.
1890 - It won its first premiership in the inaugural season of the competition in 1890. The MCC later dominated the Victorian Baseball League competition in its early years with seven consecutive premierships between 1907 and 1913.
1894 - Club wins back to back VBL pennants in 1893 & 1894. In winning the Spalding trophy for the third time, Melbourne retained permanent possession of it and it now occupies a prominent place in the MCC Museum.
1906 - The MCC become the first team to enter a second side in the competition. The B team are entered into A section and perform creditably.
1913 - MCC Baseball section wins 7th consecutive VBL pennant, a record that it unlikely to ever be broken.
1929 - Bill Mackay pitches a no-hitter against University.
1934 - Perry Ballmer, the giant American first baseman and mighty hitter, received the first award of the Lansdown Medal for the best player in Victoria.
1947 - The MCC Baseball Section moves its headquarters from the MCG to the Albert Ground in St Kilda Rd.
1956 - Max Lord represents Australia at the Olympics, along with former Melbourne star Ross Straw in an exhibition Baseball game vs USA which drew a world record 114,000 fans.
1958 - Relegated from the top grade for the first time in history. Under the coaching of Max Wishart, the All Australian second baseman, there was a superb recovery. They went through the B grade like a hot north wind to win the B grade premiership and the club championship.
1976 - The Victorian Baseball Association made a decision to switch from a winter to a summer game for the following year, an important initiative that unfortunately left our baseballers without a home because the Albert Ground was required for cricket.
1978 - Club moves from Albert Cricket Ground in St Kilda Rd to Macleay Park (North Balwyn).
1982 - With the Junior Section continuing to grow the club formed a separate Junior Committee to specifically look after all matters relating to, and to grow the Junior Section.
1988 - MCC Baseball section celebrated its centenary with a dinner in the Long Room and a 'Living Legends' match at the historic Albert Ground.
1999 - Bruce Church, President of the Melbourne Cricket Club, opens the splendid new baseball field and clubhouse at Surrey Park. It was a joint effort between the City of Whitehorse, the baseball community and the MCC which supplied the majority of the funding.
2013 - The Melbourne Baseball Club celebrated its 125th year and marked the anniversary with a Gala Dinner attended by nearly 200 current and former Melbourne Baseball Club members and the wider baseball community. A Hall of Fame team was inducted as part of this significant milestone.
There has been baseball in Victoria since the 1850’s - ever since the diggers from California played the game in the days of the gold rush. Like most sport on the goldfields, it was unorganised. In the 1860’s many sporting clubs played for recreation but games tended to be intra-club and not organised between teams. Later on in the early 1880’s further interest in the game came from visiting American Minstrels.
The Victorian baseball league was formed in 1889, and the MCC voted three guineas towards its development. J. C. Williamson was the first President of the league and he remained in office for six years. He was succeeded by Major Ben Wardill, who was tremendously interested in the game as he had already put on the uniform.
In October, the US man-of-war Enterprise visits Melbourne. The 18 Officers all became members of the MCC. The Americans wanted to play baseball while they were here, so the MCC Committee recruited a team, provided lunch at the ground, and the first baseball match on the MCG was played.
The MCC committee are asked by Mr A. G. Spalding to use the MCG for exhibition games between two professional sides as part of a World Tour. Mr Spalding was the top man in American baseball at the time. M.C.C. members practice the game of BASE-BALL in the Albert park near Middle Park Station and the M.C.G. in preparations for next years visits by the Chicago White Sox and All-American professional teams.
M.C.C. members play a game between what would become the Melbourne Base-ball Club and a group of resident Americans, it was played on the M.C.G. July 4th.
An MCC Baseball team is formed in April in preparation to play against the touring Americans by playing a series of intra-club warm-up matches. Spaldings All-Americans and Chicago White Sox visit in December 1888 and January 1889.
January 7th, The MCC Baseball section team play against the Chicago White Sox and are soundly defeated 12-0.
The M.C.C. Baseball section was one of the formative clubs in the Victorian Baseball league.
The depression of the 1890s and the Boer War upset baseball, but in 1897 there was an ambitious plan to send a team to the United States - the first foreign team to play in America. The local game survived only through the herculean efforts of Williamson and Wardill and some financial assistance from the Melbourne Cricket Club which has always given support to the game.
From 1888 until 1903 there was no Chairman of the section. The Baseball section was effectively administered by the Melbourne Cricket Club committee. Hence Major B. Wardill (Secretary of the MCC) was effectively Secretary & Chairman of the Baseball section.
The M.C.C. Baseball section wins the inaugural VBL pennant defeating the Metropolitans in a playoff game.
Melbourne and East Melbourne, who were only once beaten during the regular season, play a final match for the pennant with East Melbourne winning 9-4. The battery of Overs and T. Irwin for Melbourne were particular effective.
The deciding match of the season between Melbourne and East Melbourne was played at the South Melbourne ground to determine who should hold the Spalding trophy for the ensuing 12 months. Melbourne had not suffered a defeat during the season while East had only lost one match and that was against Melbourne earlier in the season, the match was a crushing defeat for East Melbourne.
Club wins back to back VBL pennants in 1893 & 1894. In winning the Spalding trophy for the third time, Melbourne retained permanent possession of it and it now occupies a prominent place in the MCC Museum.
Australia sends a team overseas to America, W. G. Ingleton of Melbourne was vice-captain, and the other Melbourne players on the tour were A. Wiseman, H. Irwin and Charlie Over. This fiasco, coupled with a severe financial depression, and the onset of the Boer War, nearly finished the game in Victoria and it only survived because of the indomitable efforts of people such as Wardill, Ingleton, Milford and Chas Nodrum of East Melbourne. It was the last Australian baseball team to tour overseas until 1968.
So many of the Melbourne players were on that tour that Melbourne did not field a team in 1897. Prahran Baseball Club took their place for the season.
The club led by W. Ingelton was back in the picture again in 1903 to start its greatest period of success. Melbourne won the premierships of 1904, and 1905, was runner up in 1906 and then won seven premierships straight from 1907 to 1913 on its way to the greatest run of success by any Club in Victorian Baseball history. Not to be outdone the B team is formed who compete in A section in 1906, performing a creditable job.
MCC wins the 1904 pennant by winning the deciding match against South Melbourne 11-8. The MCC lost only one game during the regular season.
Club wins back to back VBL pennants in 1904 & 1905. The MCC were undefeated in 1905 winning all 13 pennant matches.
The MCC become the first team to enter a second side in the competition. The B team are entered into A section and perform creditably.
The MCC team play an exiting exhibition game against the USS Baltimore losing 20-19 in 9 innings.
The MCC Baseball Section begins an amazing string of 7 years as the top Baseball Club in Victoria. A final four is introduced in both divisions and a playoff round robin system is introduced. Melbourne drew with East Melbourne and then defeat Carlton to take the premiership.
This decade was the most dominant in the MCC Baseball Section’s history, winning 6 A-grade pennants and the B grade team winning a total of 3 pennants in the VBL B grade and won a VBU Major B pennant as well as finishing runners-up several times.
Melbourne’s B team won 3 consecutive pennants.
MCC Baseball section wins 7th consecutive VBL pennant.
MCC beaten by Fitzroy in Grand Final to finally break the pennant streak.
Charles Simmonds transfers from NSW to the MCC and forms an outstanding battery with Len Mullet.
Melbourne with other Major clubs forms breakaway Victorian Baseball Union to avoid playing on association football grounds. Melbourne’s B team wins first VBU Major B pennant.
The MCC won the A-grade premiership in 1916.
The MCC won the A-grade premiership in 1919.
The decade started out strong with a pair of pennants early on however a string of retirements resulted in minimal success until late in the decade. Some of the famous names at the time were Mel Stokes, Charlie Macartney, Peter Gibaud, Frank Mercovich and Frank Beaurepaire.
The MCC complete back to back A-grade pennants in 1919 and 1920. The club had little success after 1922 when Vernon Ransford, Freddie Vaughan and Harry Taylor all retiring by the middle of the decade.
The League and the Union amalgamated into the Victorian Baseball Association under the Presidency of Len Johnston, a noted Melbourne player of earlier years. The A-grade competition coincided with the League football fixture list, which that year had expanded into 12 clubs. Baseball curtain-raisers to League football had been an institution right back to the years before the First World War, and this was the time when the game was most popular with the public.
There were some great occasions in the late 1920s for the MCC Baseball section such as the day in 1929 when the left-hander Bill Mackay pitched a no-hit game against University.
Perhaps the most notable players to have represented Melbourne to this point in time were: W. Bruce, W. Ingelton, Vernon Ransford, C. Simmonds, William Ponsford (after whom the stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground is named), L. Darling, G. Eustace, K. Kennedy, S. Quinn, L. Cheong, J. Francis, C. Spargo, Colin Miller and Keith Taylor, the Americans J. McKay, Dr Twiss and Perry Ballmer.
The first Nine make the finals for the first time since 1922 but finish runners-up after being narrowly defeated by Carlton.
Hugh Trumble, persuaded Bill Ponsford to transfer his cricket and baseball allegiances from St Kilda to Melbourne as part of an agreement to work on the staff of the Melbourne Cricket Club. Melbourne break a 12 year premiership drought by taking the A-grade pennant beating Richmond 4-3 in the final.
Melbourne win the minor premiership, but changes to the final four system removing the right of challenge resulted in an early exit from the finals at the hands of Collingwood after a controversial tie. Melbourne B team won the B Grade pennant.
In 1934 Perry Balmer, the giant American first baseman and mighty hitter, received the first award of the Lansdown Medal for the best player in Victoria. Undoubtedly Perry was one of the greatest players ever to represent the club and one of the most popular.
MCC Baseball Section wins the A-grade pennant after defeating Richmond 4-1. The MCC went through the season of 19 games losing only 1 including an amazing 9 shut-outs. hits: Wilson (2), Darling (2), Ballmer, Quinn, Morris, Francis, winning pitcher was Les Cheong.
After a short illness, Perry Ballmer dies due to complications from an existing injury, his death saddened all who knew him.
The second world war significantly impacted playing numbers, reducing active players from 42 to 12 at one stage, but the Club continued to be the dominant force in VBA A-grade for most of the decade and was one of the few teams to beat the powerful combination of American servicemen. Great players of the decade included George Merkle, Lyn and Ross Straw, Stan Quin and Bill Jost. Jost was a gridiron footballer of some note, and he fascinated Melbourne crowds by the way he could throw a football. In one demonstration he competed against Fred Hughson of Fitzroy, and according to Fitzroy fans nobody could kick a ball further than Hughson. This day he had to kick the ball 75 yards to beat the throwing of Bill Jost.
Colin Miller wins the Charles Lansdown medal as the best player in the VBA.
The Baseball section wins two A grade pennants in succession and were club champions in 1943.
The VBA A-Grade final was a very exciting match, and the club defeated St Kilda by 2 runs. A big factor in the success was the strong batting of George Merkle and Lyn Straw and the pitching of Ross Straw, backed up by the catching of Stan Quin and Bill Jost.
Following the death of A. N. Crighton in 1943 there was no Chairman appointed. Secretary Mr. G. Belfrage effectively held both positions until his official appointment in 1948.
The MCC win four A-grade pennants in a row. In the previous five years Melbourne had won four premierships and three club championships.
Baseball games as curtain raisers to the VFL games were discontinued. The MCC Baseball Section moves its headquarters to the Albert Ground in St Kilda Rd. The Melbourne B teams win in the 1947 final was an extraordinary affair. Three of Hugh Trumble's sons, Tim, Charlie and Ken were playing. Both Charlie and Ken broke their left legs in the game.
George Belfrage, who had been Hon Secretary for 30 Years, was appointed chairman and Les Millis became the new secretary.
During the 1950’s, while not winning an A Grade pennant, the club was consistently strong taking the club championship of Victoria in 1953, 1956 and 1958 (B Division) and with great interstate players like David Appleby, Max Lord, Ken Stephens, Ken Donald, Stan Matthews and Lyn and Ross Straw there was no shortage of talent.
During the Melbourne Olympics there was an exhibition game between the between the Australian National Team and a US armed services team at which an estimated crowd of 114,000 attended. This was the World Record for the largest attendance for any baseball game, which stood until a 29 March 2008 exhibition game between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers at the Los Angeles Coliseum (also a former Olympic venue) drew 115,300.
George Belfrage resigns as chairman, he started as a player in 1916 so his association with the section had lasted 41 years. He was succeeded as chairman by Tom Trumble, who worked as a player and administrator since 1925. In 1957 the pitching went to pieces, the club sank to the bottom of the ladder and was relegated to B grade for the first time in its history.
Under the coaching of Max Wishart, the All Australian second baseman, there was a superb recovery. They went through the B grade like a hot north wind to win the B grade premiership and the club championship. Players in the above list who continued playing were well supported by newer players such as Ron Ralph, Max Chrimes, Ken Capp, Kevin Ryan and others. Photos of the 1958 team can be found on the walls of the clubrooms.
Melbourne wins its first junior premiership in the U16’s.
The 1960’s proved to be another golden era for Melbourne. Winning A grade premierships in 1967 and 1969, Club Champions in 1963. Winning premierships in lower grades in 1963, 1964 and 1965, as well as premierships at junior level in 1960, 1963 and 1969. A reproduced copy of the 1969 scorebook is on the wall in the clubrooms. A feature of this game was Melbourne pitcher Doug Provis, pitching the entire game. During this period Melbourne had many players who represented Victoria in both Claxton Shield and Chrysler Cup games.
Great players of the decade included pitcher Alan Connolly, Ken Stephens, Bernie Bryer, Eddie Illingworth, Ken Capp and David Went.
All these teams were well coached by Max Wishart assisted by Charles Gassner, ex-New York Giants, Ian Huntington and our senior players.
Melbourne lost the Div 1 grand final to Malvern by only one run.
Seven teams represented the club including an extra senior team to absorb all the promising juniors and a third under-16 team.
Melbourne wins Club Championship.
Melbourne wins the 1967 Division 1 title.
Melbourne wins its second Div 1 title in 3 years, defeating a star studded Essendon outfit 2-1.
During the middle 70’s the club's performance faltered and seemed to lack purpose for some years. The junior numbers were impacted by local availability of players due to the aging population and European migration into the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Baseball moved to a Summer competition and the enforced move to Kew helped to rejuvenate the junior section of the club.
During the latter part of the decade, the senior results were competitive but inconsistent as they settled down in their new home. Some outstanding individual performances were recorded. David Went was appointed manager/coach of the Australian team. John Hodges joined him in the national side as short-stop. Ross Arthur and Rod Chapman who had joined the club as juniors in the early 1970s became regular members of the Victorian senior team. Ross Arthur won the VBA Division 1 best-player award – records indicate that he is probably the only Melbourne player to achieve this since the war. An 18-year-old pitcher, Grant Weir, won selection firstly in the Victorian under-18 team and then in a representative side to tour America. He subsequently repeated this performance at senior level.
Club wins their most recent Division 1 premiership, beating Footscray 4-0.
Melbourne wins 1975|76 VBA club championship (Summer).
Club moves from Albert Cricket Ground in St Kilda Rd to Willsmere Park (Kew) due to Baseball moving to a Summer competition in line with the other states as the Albert ground was required for Cricket season.
Club moves to Macleay Park (North Balwyn).
In 1979 a significant milestone in the history of the club was made. Arch and Veronica Cavanagh were awarded Life membership of the club. The first members of the club to be awarded this honour.
The junior programme was developing momentum as a result of the move to Nth Balwyn with numerous state championships and lightning premierships success during the decade. An early indication of its potential was seen when the first batch of the older boys combined to win the Division 1 reserves premiership in 1981|82. The senior section results dropped off towards the middle 80’s resulting in relegation to Division 2 but recovered to return to Division 1 by the end of the decade coinciding with the Clubs Centenary.
Ken Stephens was awarded Life Membership.
In 1982, with the Junior Section continuing to grow the club formed a separate Junior Committee to specifically look after all matters relating to, and to grow the Junior Section. Les Arthur was the inaugural Chairman, with Eric Uren Secretary. Towards the end of that season Peter Unwin was appointed Treasurer and so began his association with the club that is still going.
David Went retires after nearly 33 years association with the club. His service included 20 years as a player (1951-71) and 17 years as senior coach 1967-84. A full history of David’s contribution to Melbourne, Victoria and Australian baseball is recorded in the clubrooms, he was awarded life membership in 1981. Melbourne U/13 team wins Vic. Regional Rep ABF Championship and represents Victoria at the National Championships.
Arch Cavanagh retires after 10 years as section chairman. Arch and Veronica became associated with the Demons in 1959 and then followed the club’s progress along with that of their sons (Tim, Michael and John). They became part and parcel of the administrative and social structure of the club. Arch was succeeded as Chairman by former player Graham Cook who in 1981 had been awarded Life Membership of the club.
October of 1986 saw the Melbourne club produce a 'first' in Australian baseball by hosting a dinner for the visiting American Hall of Fame great, Stan Musial. The evening, staged in the Olympic Rooms, was a huge success - both for the section and for Victorian baseball generally.
The 1986|87 under-17 team won the State Club Championship to confirm their standing as the best top-age junior team in Victoria.
Under 13 teams under the coaching of Des Marshall won the Metropolitan Lightning Premiership in four out of the five years from 1983 to 1987
MCC Baseball section celebrated its centenary with a dinner in the Long Room. Perhaps even more significant there was a 'Living Legends' match at the historic Albert Ground. Each club made a selection of veterans in the 40 to 50 age group and played a game Melbourne versus Coburg, foundation teams from the original competition, 100 years before.
In 1987|88, Melbourne having been relegated to Division 2 at the start of the season won the premiership under the coaching of Ross Arthur. The pitching of Grant Weir throughout the entire final series was a major factor in Melbourne’s win. In that same year the 2nds won the premiership under the coaching of Les Arthur (father of Ross).
The decade was characterised by a cycle of relegation and promotion and a search for a new diamond. The Macleay Park field had become one of the worst in the competition and was almost unplayable at times. This was disastrous for the section's performance. Some of the best players left the club knowing they could get better conditions elsewhere. The decade ended with a move to a new clubhouse and one of the finest fields in the competition.
During the 1990’s Life Memberships were awarded to: David Appleby, John Cavanagh, Ross Arthur, Ian Williams, Des Marshall, Peter Unwin and Bob Fegan.
The club won the Victorian under-18 state title, which was a brilliant effort by coach Bill Longmire and all the players. Les Arthur and Norm Robinson became life members and playing coach, Ross Arthur, played his 400th game. The first player in the clubs history to achieve this feat.
Life Member John Cavanagh, received the highest award that can be offered to a Sporting Sections member of the Melbourne Cricket Club – The Ebeling Award. John’s photo and citation are on the walls of the clubrooms.
The seconds win back-to-back reserves premierships in 1992/3 and 1993/4.
Melbourne relegated to division 2 after 5 years of promotion and relegation.
Melbourne entered a team in the recently formed Women’s league and this was one of the most significant events in the club’s 109 year history, as the team became a vital force to the club off the field. The team only lost one match for the whole season – the Grand Final. Chairman Rob Dyer, in his final year was the major force behind the establishment of this team. Whilst new Chairman Ian Speed and Secretary Peter Unwin worked tirelessly to make this team a success. The women were such a success that the following year Melbourne was able to field a second team, being one of the few clubs that could field two women’s teams.
At last things were happening with the search for a new home. In May 1998 there were meetings between the Melbourne Cricket Club and the City of Whitehorse and construction actually began at Surrey Park in August. The club will always be grateful to Chairman (at the time) Ian Buckingham for all the work he did to bring it about and his supporting committee: John Cavanagh, Matt Duckworth, Ian Speed and Peter Unwin.
Sep 26th Bruce Church. President of the Melbourne Cricket Club, opened the splendid new baseball field and clubhouse at Surrey Park in City of Whitehorse with the MCC providing the largest share of the funds.
The decade was characterised by a gradual rise in the fortunes of the senior side as it was promoted to Division 1 early in the decade, rising to runners up in Div 1 in 2004/05 followed by a gradual decline as senior players retired and other moved on resulting in relegation in 2008 and a next to last finish in Division 2 in 2008|09. The junior section and women’s section continued to be strong and participation increased steadily over the decade. The strong junior section resulted in creating the engine room of the senior side in the early part of the next decade.
Melbourne earns promotion to Division 1 by winning the Division 2 pennant in a dramatic come from behind win over Malvern 8-7.
Melbourne lose Division 1 final to Malvern 6-2.
Melbourne Under 14’s win 2005|06 State league title – youngest ever Melbourne team to win a State league title.
Melbourne 1st nine finishes 9th and is relegated to Division 2.
The junior section grows in stature with the U16’s winning the State League Championship in 2007|08 which was the 2nd State League Championship for this team, stamping it as one of the great Melbourne Baseball Club Junior teams.
Melbourne finished next to last in Division 2 after a large number of retirements but stave off relegation to Division 3 due to restructure of Division 1 and Division 2 competitions.
The firsts won the Second division minor premiership and with it a place in Division 1 for the following season, to cap it off they won the second Division title with a clean sweep of the finals series.
The Baseball Club celebrated its 125th year with an Anniversary dinner and inducted a Hall of Fame team which was a terrific success.