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144 years ago, the home run was born

Roscoe Barnes was his name, hitting dingers was sort of his game
@MattMono11
May 2, 2020

Charles Roscoe Barnes was already a veteran ballplayer by May 2, 1876. From 1871-'76, he starred in the National Association of Professional Ball Players -- the first pro league for the sport. He hit .400 or better in three of those seasons, taking full advantage of the game's fair-foul rules

Charles Roscoe Barnes was already a veteran ballplayer by May 2, 1876.

From 1871-'76, he starred in the National Association of Professional Ball Players -- the first pro league for the sport. He hit .400 or better in three of those seasons, taking full advantage of the game's fair-foul rules (batted balls that landed in fair territory first and then bounced foul were considered in-play back then). Forget Triple Crowns, in 1873, Barnes wore eight: The "king of second baseman" led the league in batting average (.431), slugging percentage (.616), hits (138), runs (125), total bases (197), doubles (31), walks (20), and steals (43). He also apparently had a rifle for an arm, tough on first basemen who weren't allowed to wear gloves yet. I mean, would you want to catch a baseball wound up and fired by a dude that looks like this?

But 144 years ago today, Ross Barnes was at the plate and not interested in another fair-foul hit or some slap-single up the middle. He was now playing for Chicago in the newly-formed National League -- the first iteration of the same MLB league we know today. He wanted to make history. He wanted to be written about for the next 144 years.

So, he stepped up against Cincinnati's Cherokee Fisher and crushed Major League Baseball's very first home run. It wasn't an inside-the-parker either, it was clean over the fence. From the Chicago Tribune that day:

"Barnes, coming to the bat with two men out, made the finest hit of the game, straight down the left field to the carriages, for a clean home run."

Here's a drawing of Cincinnati's Avenue Grounds where it happened. You can make out the fan carriages in left field, an area where balls were seldom hit. The fence is just beyond.

That's it -- that was the very first home run in MLB history. It was the only one Barnes hit all season and he'd hit only one more in his illness-shortened NL career.

But it was also the birth, the humble beginnings of an athletic feat so joyous and remarkable that it could make a crowd of 50,000 stand and scream all at once. It would make grown adults cry, and little kids cry even harder. It's, as said by the people who've hit one, the "greatest feeling the universe has to offer."

Barnes' doesn't sound like it was too flashy, but without footage or living witnesses who really knows? Maybe there was a bat flip? Maybe Roscoe did a Prince Fielder-esque bowling ball celebration with all of his teammates at home plate.

We'll just have to imagine.

Matt Monagan is a writer for MLB.com. In his spare time, he travels and searches Twitter for Wily Mo Peña news.