Friday, March 15, 2019

Outdoor Games - Base-Ball

1744 A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer by John Newbery. 

The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game, possibly la soule, with similarities to baseball. Other old French games such as thèque, la balle au bâton, & la balle empoisonnée also appear to be related.
Baseball evolved from older bat-and-ball games already being played in England by the mid-18C.  When British American colonials began sailing across the 17C Atlantic to the New World, they brought with them memories of games played for centuries in England & on the European continent.  Games brought people together.  Many of these indoor & outdoor games morphed & changed a bit in the colonies.  Some disappeared, but many others remain today in one form or another.
References to games resembling baseball in the United States date back to the 18C. Its most direct ancestors appear to be two English games: rounders (a children’s game brought to New England by the earliest colonists) and cricket. By the time of the American Revolution, variations of such games were being played on schoolyards and college campuses across the country. They became even more popular in newly industrialized cities where men sought work in the mid-19th century.

The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game, possibly la soule, with similarities to baseball. Other old French games such as thèque, la balle au bâton, & la balle empoisonnée also appear to be related.
A game from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, c. 1280, involving tossing a ball, hitting it with a stick and competing with others to catch it

Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game (2005), by David Block, suggests that the game originated in England. Block argues that rounders & early baseball were actually regional variants of each other, & that the game's most direct antecedents are the English games of stool-ball & "tut-ball."

The first recorded game of "Bass-Ball" in Britain took place in 1749 in Surrey, & featured the Prince of Wales as a player. William Bray, an English lawyer, recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey.

The first known American reference to baseball appears in a 1791 Pittsfield, Massachusetts Town Bylaw prohibiting the playing of the game near the town's new meeting house.  As described by German Johann Gutsmuths, "englische Base-ball" involved a contest between two teams, in which "the batter has three attempts to hit the ball while at the home plate." Only one out was required to retire a side.

By the early 1830s, there were reports of a variety of  bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. These games often were referred to locally as "town ball", though other names such as "round-ball" & "base-ball" were also used. In a letter from an attendee to Sporting Life magazine—took place in Beachville, Ontario, in 1838. There were many similarities to modern baseball, & some crucial differences: 5 bases (or byes); first bye just 18 feet (5.5 m) from the home bye; batter out if a hit ball was caught after the 1st bounce.

In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbocker Club, produced a code of baseball rules now called the Knickerbocker Rules. The practice, common to bat-and-ball games of the day, of "soaking" or "plugging"—a putout by hitting a runner with a thrown ball—was barred. These rules called for the use of a smaller, harder ball than had been common. Several other rules also brought the Knickerbockers' game close to the modern one, though a ball caught on the first bounce was an out & only underhand pitching was allowed. While there are reports that the New York Knickerbockers played games in 1845, the contest long recognized as the first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey: the "New York Nine" defeated the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings.