Murderers' Row

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Nov 22 14:20:45 UTC 2002

2nd attempt to send this post---first one disappeared into the bit bucket

Subj:         Fwd: Murderer's Row
Date:   10/23/02 8:42:22 PM Eastern Standard Time
From:   gcohen at UMR.EDU (Gerald Cohen)

Here's an item from the 19th Century Baseball discussion group:

>To: "19cBB" <19cBB at>
>From: "John Thorn" <john at>
>Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 14:38:05 -0400
>Subject: [19cBB] Murderers' Row

>More in the rummaging vein. I hope this of interest.
>While the usual etymology for this term is plausible--that it derives from a
>row of cells in New York's Tombs reserved for the most dastardly of
>criminals--this fact gleaned from Charles AHemstreet's Nooks and Cranies of
>old New York (Scribner, 1899) might give pause:
>Murderers' Row was an actual alley long before the Civil War, starting where
>Watts Street ended at Sullivan Street, midway along the block between Grand
>and Broome Streets.
>Now part of the fashionable Soho district, Murderers' Row was one of many
>mean streets in the neighborhood later known as Darktown (as the Chinese had
>Chinatown and the Jews had Jewtown--yes, that was what they called the Lower
>East Side in the years before 1900).
>John Thorn

Subj:         Re: Fwd: Murderer's Row
Date:   10/24/02 9:39:21 AM Eastern Standard Time
From:   jester at PANIX.COM (Jesse Sheidlower)


I thought that the baseball sense predated the Tombs sense by
about fifteen years. Is that not the case, or is the assumption
that the Tombs sense is earlier but unrecorded?

Jesse Sheidlower

Subj:         Re: Fwd: Murderer's Row
Date:   10/24/02 11:08:06 AM Eastern Standard Time
From:   dave at WILTON.NET (Dave Wilton)

Dickson's New Baseball Dictionary gives an 1858 date for baseball use of
"murderers' row," but says the jail usage predates that and is the ultimate
origin. Only indirect citations are given. Dickson cites an April 1948
"Baseball Digest" article by Bill Bryson (either a different Bill Bryson or
a typo in the date) that refers to an 1858 newspaper article. Also a Ph.D.
dissertation by Edward J. Nichols, "An Historical Dictionary of Baseball
Terminology" (1939) refers to an 1858 clipping in Henry Chadwick's scrapbook
that uses the term.

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