Typical of many small towns across Michigan, organized baseball came to Northville soon after the Civil War when it was reported in the September 19, 1867 edition of the Detroit Advertiser & Tribune that the village had formed its first base ball club.
Just nine days later, the newly-formed club defeated the “Red Rovers” of Plymouth, 37-12, in a shortened, 5-inning match.
The Northville club went on to play two more matches in the fall of 1867, defeating the “Agrestic” Club of Farmington, and losing the season’s apparent finale to the “Lone Star” of Plymouth. A rematch, scheduled for November 1st, was either canceled or not reported.
In the late summer of 1869, Sam Little, began to publish the Wayne Country Record (later renamed Northville Record). In its fifth edition, he offered an account of a match played between the “Lone Star” of Plymouth and the “Eclipse” of Northville.
It is interesting to speculate the impetus of early base ball clubs’ names. When the above match took place, still fresh in the minds of spectators and players were the darkening skies of a scientifically-significant eclipse which swiped a path across the Midwest and passed just south of the state, offering a portion of its full effect to Northville and southeastern Michigan. Could this celestial event have been the reason that the local ballists took the field as the “Eclipse”? Author and MLB historian, John Thorn, offered, “I think we need to look not only to the heavens for the source of inspiration but to the horse-race tracks. In May of 1823, at a racecourse in Queens, the northern-bred horse “Eclipse” defeated a southern challenger named “Henry”. “Eclipse” was also known as “American Eclipse” to distinguish it from the Arabian horse of the same name that won fame in the previous century (and whose name still honors champions through the “Eclipse Award” for Horse of the Year. The symbolic value of this race was not lost upon the sporting community and “Eclipse” came to be synonymous with fortitude, endurance, supreme athletic ability, and high character.”
While the 1869 match is the first in which a club moniker is noted, two officers of the newly-formed 1867 club, Webster and Gardner were active on the “Eclipse” two years later, playing catcher and center-field, and thus documented a nexus between the two clubs. Whether or not the earliest club embraced the nickname “Eclipse” shall remain a source of speculation.
As the 1869 article indicates, the Eclipse left the field that day with a 53-36 victory but was never to be heard from again….that is…. until 2003 when, a mere one-hundred and thirty-four years later, several novice vintage ballists joined together to recreate their local namesake and embrace the sprouting notion of playing the gentleman’s game by the rules of the 1860s.