First HR in Professional League History

Ezra Sutton 1st Professional League Home Run May 8, 1871

Ezra Sutton
1st Professional League Home Run
May 8, 1871


Ezra Sutton, May 8, 1871

We will most likely will never know who hit the first home run in the history of baseball back in the 1840s Elysian Field days. Perhaps, though, it will be, or already is, available and possible to  reconstruct from some ancient scoring records in a descendant’s attic trunk, the identity of the first player on the famous 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings’ undefeated independent club to have “run yard”, but we have no clue at the moment. All we know is that the identity of the first HR author is found in the record-keeping data of the first short-lived all-professional team league, the 1871-1875 National Association.

Ezra Sutton hit the first home run by a professional ballplayer playing in a professional baseball league on May 8, 1871. He did so as the third baseman for the Cleveland Forest Citys in a game they played against the Chicago White Stockings. It happened in the 4th inning against pitcher George Zettlein. With Cleveland’s Al Platt running at first, Sutton lined a shot over the head of left fielder Mart King. The force of the blow and the long roll of the ball made it also the most common kind of home in the 19th century, an “inside the park” job that was always a literal run home for the first home run credit, as well.

Later in the game, the sometimes cross-hand-hitting right-side hitter hit another home run, making him also the owner of both the first and second homers in professional league history – and also the first guy to hit more than one home run in a single league game.

Although Sutton’s career spanned from 1871-1875  in the NA through the start of the NL in 1876, and ending for him after 1888, our baseball basher of the first four-base hit only totaled 25 over the course of his 18-year career. And that was pretty good for those days.

As most you already know, home runs were rare in the early days because of soft baseballs, distant or non-existent fences, and a style of hitting that aimed to line the ball over the heads and in the gaps between outfielders. These were the true “hit ’em where they ain’t days” when the wisdom prevailed, until Babe Ruth and the lively ball changed the game forever, that the attempt to hit the ball out of any park back then was mostly dooming one’s chances for reaching base because of the much more probable long fly ball outs they produced.


Ross Barnes 1st National League Home Run May 2, 1876

Ross Barnes
1st National League Home Run
May 2, 1876

Ross Barnes, May 2, 1876

Now, if you choose to be pedantic, and to insist upon the creation of the National League in 1876 as the true start of a sustainable professional baseball league, the first home run honor passes to Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings (the “Sox” version that later indelibly came to be  known as the Cubs). Ross Barnes posted the first National League home run on May 2, 1876.

The Pecan Park Eagle elects to keep the honors for first professional league home run attached to Ezra Sutton. Ross Barnes’ honor for being the first in the NL should be good enough, but like Sutton before him, neither was a home run hitter. It was an era in which there were no seasonal home run hitters that really lived up to our expectations of what that term came to mean after the coming of Ruth and the lively ball through the present time in the early 21st century.

Barnes “hit” only six home runs over the course of his 9-year (1871-79, 1881) professional baseball career.


eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


One Response to “First HR in Professional League History”

  1. Anthnony Cavender Says:

    It should be noted that the Barnes home run preceded the Little Big Horn debacle by about a month.

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