The Daily has partnered with University Archives to shed light on Case Western Reserve University’s history each month. Follow The Daily to get your fill, and check out Digital Case to find even more information.
Play ball! As Clevelanders prepare to cheer on the Cleveland Guardians in their home opener this week, The Daily is taking a look back on the history of baseball at Case Western Reserve University.
From the mid-1860s to the mid-1890s, baseball was the most popular sport across American college campuses—and Western Reserve College was no exception. In fact, it was so popular that the Hudson campus had to implement an annual 50-cent student fee due to increased broken windows.
Although mentioned in the history of Western Reserve’s campus as early as 1861 and known to be played as a pick-up sport in the late 1850s, baseball’s interclass games weren’t definitively referenced until 1865. During the 1870s, Western Reserve played intercollegiate games with other local colleges, including the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences, Kenyon College and Hiram College, among others.
In the spring of 1876, Clarence Allen, a Western Reserve pitcher, made history by throwing the first curveball in intercollegiate baseball history. To this day, Allen is arguably the first college baseball player to perfect the curveball, resulting in him winning every game he played while at Western Reserve.
CWRU Ball Legends
Ray Mack, a second baseman, is another notable baseball player from Case Western Reserve. Nicknamed the “Case Ace,” Mack was initially known for his talents as a football player. However, after declining his draft pick by the Chicago Bears in 1938, he took a swing at baseball until he was scouted and signed by the Cleveland Indians. Mack also went on to play for the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. By the end of his nine-season career, he accomplished stealing 35 bases, scoring 273 runs and batting an average of .232 with 34 home runs, among other accomplishments.
Today, the tradition of America’s favorite pastime continues at CWRU with its renamed team, the Spartans. Coached by Matt Englander and Steve Gruenberg, the 2022 team’s current overall season record is 14-13.