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April 1895

Vassar students were among the first to take up a new sport, battle ball, devised the previous summer by the director of Harvard’s gymnasium, Dr. D. A. Sargent, who described it as a combination of bowling, baseball, cricket, football, handball and tennis. Played on a field 50’ by 25’ (or any larger field of similar proportions) and by two teams of five players (or of any equal number on each side up to 20) the game involved stretched cords, three pairs of Indian clubs or bowling pins on the two goal lines and a leather ball weighing two pounds. The game could be played for any pre-agreed period, and a judge watched for fouls—apparently only one possibility, stepping across the field’s centerline—and kept each side’s score according to a complex scoring system.

“Gymnasium directors who value competitive exercise,” The New York Times suggested, “will welcome battle ball for reason of its very simplicity…. The entire separation of the opposing sides, excluding all roughness, and the lighter character of the game make it more suitable than basket ball for women.” Although the sport never caught on, it was a feature of the first women’s field day, held at Vassar later in the year.

The Years