This is less a biography than it is a first person retelling of trying to find out information about an obscure player who spent a dozen games with the Resolutes of Elizabeth (NJ) the lone year this amateur team became a professional team in the National Association for the 1873 season.
I was trying to find Favel Wordsworth’s obituary. And while I didn’t find that, I did see that someone had posted a picture of Wordsworth on Ancestry.com and listed the spelling as Favell. Additionally, baseball records only know that Wordsworth was born in 1850 but according to a private record on Ancestry.com, a member notes a birth date of 27 November 1850. Even that date is probably wrong, though. Favel is listed in the 1850 census as being six months old when the enumerator visited the Wordsworth home in late October, 1850. That puts Favel’s birthday around April 15th, give or take a few weeks.
According to the 1850 US Census and 1855 New York Census, Favel (or Favell) Parry Wordsworth was born to William and Charlotte (Parry) Wordsworth. The Wordsworths came to the United States aboard the Hannibal in 1837 with a few children and two of Charlotte’s sisters in tow. William was a lawyer; Charlotte took care of a large brood of children. Favel had at least five siblings, and spent most of his short life in New York City. He was a love child – the parents were both about 40 when Favel came along and his nearest sibling, Alice, is seven or eight years older than he.
Wordsworth makes your baseball encyclopedia because he played a dozen games with the Elizabeth Resolutes of the National Association in 1873, mostly at shortstop. It was the only season that Elizabeth was part of the National Association – they played twenty-three games, winning just two.
Scanning New York area newspapers of 1873, I noticed Favel the baseball player went by Wadsworth. (Baseball playing was frown upon in some circles, and his dad was a lawyer and all that.) And, I found an article in the Brooklyn Review that he may have violated Association rules by playing with a new team before his “probation” ended. Per the rules, a player released by one team couldn’t play with another team in an Association game for sixty days. Anyway, as the 1873 season was organized, a Wadsworth was listed on the Philadelphia club.
“On May 26th, the Philadelphians played the Resolutes of Elizabeth, at Philadelphia, and in the game the Resolutes played Wadsworth as short-stop. Now, Wadsworth played as short-stop in the “regular match” played April 8th, between the Philadelphia Club and the Villanovas, and consequently he was ineligible to play in any other club nine from April 8th to June 8th. So, his playing in the Resolute nine in this game makes the contest null and void. The professionals must be kept to a strict observance of their own association’s rules, and it is the duty of the President of said association to see that it is done.”
“Base Ball,” Brooklyn Review, 01 June 1873, Page 6.
You’d think that if anyone would have had a problem with this, it might have been Philadelphia – since they were the team that decided Wadsworth/Wordsworth wasn’t good enough for their own team.
The Resolutes of Elizabeth continued to lose games (and, presumably, fans) and the team disbanded as the season rolled into August. The 60 day probation rule was waived to allow Doug Allison and other Resolutes players to take part in Association games for other teams. (Doug Allison was a pretty famous player back then – a member of the 1869 Cincinnati Reds, among other stops.)
Favel Wordsworth passed away on 12 August 1888. He was buried at the Church of the Redeemer on August 15th – his name in the New York dioceses record book says Favel B. Wadsworth.
I couldn’t find a marriage record, death certificate, or obituary. I did, however, reach out to the Ancestry.com member who apparently is a distant relative. This story is left as “to be continued…”
NY Passenger and Immigration Lists
1850 US Census
1855 New York Census
“Base Ball.,” Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, 24 March 1873, Page 1.
“The Resolute Club Players,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 09 September 1873, Page 2.