The history of baseball in the Southern Union can trace its roots back to the 19th century when the popularity of the sport grew and amateur men’s ball clubs were formed in the 1860–80s with the first professional teams and leagues arriving prior to the turn of the 20th century.
Baseball was introduced to the Southern Union as early as 1888, when Albert Spalding’s team of All-Stars and the Chicago Club toured the Koana Islands and Ianoia, following a tour of New Zealand several months earlier.
The sport quickly gained popularity within the Koana Islands most notably, with American gold miners regularly playing friendly games amongst themselves, having abandoned the gold rush in Australia and immigrating to areas in the state of Norra Koana such as Jordnot Kanjon, Erana Kullar but predominately Connestad (now known as Conneaut). American immigrants flocked to Connestad so much, the population grew to over two and half times it’s size, something Koanian’s referred to as Yankifiering, or “Yankee-fication”.
The sport of baseboll became so popular in the years following Spalding’s exhibition tour, that towns and cities quickly formulated social club teams with small circuits operating throughout the nation, particularly state-by-state. However, with the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs growing from strength to strength in the United States it wasn’t long before rich businessmen sought to start a professional league to capitalise on the popularity.
Mattis Schiele, Koana Islands’ biggest sewer operator and military historian, established the Koanian Baseboll Sammanslutning in Ny Aucklanda in 1892 with a view of creating the nation’s first professional league. Schiele had a tough time convincing other businessmen to invest in his idea, tentatively called the Koanian Baseboll Omlopp, or Koanian Baseball Circulation. The initial rulebook written out by Schiele has been lost, but some strange rule changes included five bases instead of four, and more importantly the re-introduction of soaking or plugging the runner, where a fielder could put a runner out by hitting the runner with the thrown ball – something the Knickerbocker Rules had removed.
With many of the businessmen and social club owners Schiele approached laughing him out of his office, it wasn’t long before the owner of the Nyhaven Broderskap Baseboll Klub (Nyhaven Brotherhood Baseball Club) by the name of Rolf Berthagen – a bank manager – formed his own league to be known as the Super Ligan in 1893, an attempt to establish a circuit that sits above all state and amateur leagues for which teams must apply for a spot in the competition. It was to begin
The response to Berthagen’s plan was overwhelming. Of the over 100 amateur baseball clubs within the Koana Islands, nearly 50 had applied to become the first professional clubs in the Super Ligan – including Mattis Schiele’s Ny Aucklanda Trolldom Baseboll Klub (Ny Aucklanda Witchcraft Baseball Club). The list was wittled down to just 10 teams, with the 1895 Koanian baseball season being recognised as the first professional league in the Southern Union.
The Durand Rules
Prior to 1904, professional leagues in the Southern Union had wildly varying rules, with many competitions changing rules from year-to-year which caused great unrest amongst players, fans and especially team owners.
By 1901, all competitions in Koana Islands and Ianoia attempted to follow the National League and American League rulebooks in the United States, whilst Günsovölk and Houtmansland refused and stuck with their own rulebooks. Team owners from all countries voiced their concerns about various rules, with a push for a united rule book to be used by all leagues throughout the Southern Union.
On the 12th of October 1903 at the Durand Insurance Building in Sandwick, Albaland, a prominent business owner called Tadd Steward organised a meeting to settle the debate on the rules once and for all. He even made travel arrangements for all club owners out of his own pocket.
By a narrow margin, the Durand Rules were officially adopted for the 1904 season onwards.
Since then, rules added or amended tended to follow professional baseball in the United States, with rules like the foul strike rule being adopted in 1906. In 1909 the sacrifice fly rule was adopted, and in 1911 cork centres were added to balls. In 1969, the pitcher’s mound dropped five inches and the strike zone reduced: from the armpits to the top of the knees.
Some rules that were never added included the designated hitter rule and a ball that bounced over the outfield fence in fair territory remained a home run, not a double.
In early-1903, prior to the Durand Rules being voted in, Tadd Steward proposed a tournament amongst the 8 nations situated in the South Indian Ocean with players representing their country. His idea of running a competition during the off-season had a lukewarm reaction from club owners who felt until one rulebook was decided upon, an international tournament would not be viable.
With four nations not even having a professional competition at the time (Albaland, Le Grout, Novainsula and Zuidgelders), head of the Ianoian Baseball Association Ambrose Cavanagh suggested limiting the tournament to countries with professional leagues only, something that was ratified during a meeting on the 8th November 1905.
Despite the backing of fans, journalists and even governing bodies for baseball in Günsovölk, Houtmansland, Ianoia, and Koana Islands, many team owners were worried the competition would be a failure, suggesting that the poor competition would turn people off club baseball and affect the profits of clubs across the Southern Union.
During a meeting on 8th of November 1905, the first Centaurus Cup was formally agreed upon, albeit as a one-off ‘trial’, to be contested between Günsovölk, Houtmansland, Ianoia, and Koana Islands in November of 1906 with all games being played in Omfattandestad’s Gothica Stadion.
With most team owners and even players believing the competition to be a failure, and regarded suspiciously as a show rather than a competition, no further tournament was organised until Tadd Steward pushed for the tournament to become at least biennially following the financial success of the 1906 event. On 24th on June 1908, with the vocal backing of fans and journalists who were crying out for another tournament, the national governing bodies formally agreed to organise the Cup every 5 years under the new South Indian Ocean Baseball Association (SIOBA) and that any nations within the South Indian Ocean running professional competitions may enter.
Tadd Steward acted as the first general secretary until his death on the 23rd of April 1911, seven months prior to the second tournament.
The Centaurus Cup is the oldest international baseball tournament in the world. The championship has been played every 5 years since its inception in 1906, except in 1941 due to the Second World War.