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Thanksgiving Day used to be reserved for baseball games

Thanksgiving Day used to be for baseball

America is the home of Elvis Presley, the super-size value meal and "The Humpty Dance." We set off fireworks on the Fourth of July and celebrate Thanksgiving by watching football and listening to our uncles inappropriately pontificate about immigration reform.

But long before Thanksgiving became about discounted surround-sound systems and festive sitcom episodes, it was a day reserved for togetherness ... and baseball.

In 1855, a piece in The Clipper highlighted the popularity of the national pastime on the American holiday: 

"There seemed to be a general turn-out of the Base Ball Clubs in this city and vicinity, on Thursday, 29 Nov. Among those playing were the Continental, Columbia, Putnam, Empire, Eagle, Knickerbocker, Gotham, Baltic, Pioneer, and Excelsior Clubs."

Just a few years later, The Evening Standard in New Bedford, Mass., noted that the holiday marked the official close of the baseball season:

"In the afternoon there were several 'scrub' games, that is games which the various Clubs unite and play together. The regular Ball season is considered to close with Thanksgiving, though many games will doubtless be played through the winter when the weather will permit."

A New York Times article from 1887 announced a game to be played on the Polo Grounds on Thanksgiving Day. Thirteen years later, the Times published an account crediting the 1887 contest as the origin of indoor baseball -- which evolved over time to become softball.

Eventually, Yale and Princeton ended up playing American football on the holiday, which started a vast tradition of pigskin on the last Thursday of November. Baseball obviously became a more organized endeavor that typically culminates with some fancy series in October.  

So, as the chatter of your relatives starts to fade while you're slipping into that sweet, tryptophan-fueled slumber, remember that it wasn't always the Lions and Cowboys entertaining Americans on Thanksgiving, but good ol' boys on sandlots across the country batting baseballs in the blistering cold.