Chronology:Round Ball

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1840s.31 Lem: Juvenile Fiction's Boy Who Loved Round-ball

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball, Massachusetts Game

Age of Players:

Juvenile

Lem may be fiction's only round-ball hero.

On pages 93-97, the novel lays out the game that was played by Lem [born 1830] and his playmates, which seems to follow the customs of the Massachusetts game, but without stakes as bases. The passage includes a field diagram, some terminology ["the bases . . . were four in number, and were called 'gools,' a word which probably came from 'goals.'"], and ballmaking technique. Lem is, alas, sidelined for the season when he is plugged "in the hollow of the leg" while gool-running [Page 97] Other references:

On spring, pp 92-93: "Ball-playing began early in the spring; [p92/93] it was the first of the summer games to come out.

On Fast Day, p. 93: "I am afraid that Lem's only notion of Fast Day was that that was the long-expected day when, for the first time that year, a game of ball was played on the Common."

On the pleasant effects of a change in the path of the Gulf Stream, pp. 228-229: "no slushy streets, and above all, no cold barns to go into to feed turnips to the cold cows! A land where top-time, kite-[p228/229] time, and round-ball-time would always be in season. Think of it!"

On making teams for simulating Revolutionary War tussles, p. 107: "We can't all be Americans; and we have agreed to choose sides, as we do in round ball."

 

Sources:

Noah Brookes, Lem: A New England Village Boy: His Adventures and his Mishaps (Scribner's Sons, New York, 1901). Accessed 11/15/2008 via Google Books search "Lem boy."

Comment:

As of Jan 2013, this is one of three uses of "gool" instead of "goal" in ballplaying entries, all in the 1850s and found in western MA and ME.  [To confirm/update, do an enhanced search for "gool".]  One of these 1850s.33 uses "gool" as the name of the game.

Query:

We welcome comment on the authenticity of Brooks' depiction of ballplaying in the 1840s, and whether how the game depicted compares to the MA game.

Decade
1840s
Item
1840s.31
Edit

1847.14 Fast Day Rites Encroached by Round Ball, Long Ball, Old Cat

Tags:

Holidays

Game:

Round Ball, Long Ball, Old-Cat Games

Age of Players:

Youth, Adult

"FAST.  This time-hallowed, if not time-honored occasion, was observed n the usual way.  The ministers preached t pews exhibiting a beggarly emptiness . . . . The b-boys smoked cigars, kicked football, payed [sic] round ball, long ball, an [sic] old cat, and went generally into the outward observances peculiar to the occasion."

Sources:

New Hampshire Statesman, and State Journal (Concord, New Hampshire), April 30, 1847, column B (originally from the Nashua Telegraph).

Year
1847
Item
1847.14
Edit
Source Text

1850s.49 Round Ball Played North of Portland, Maine with "Cat Stick" and "Gools"

Tags:

Holidays

Location:

Maine

Game:

Round Ball

"Fast Day was a holiday. Usually that day Loring Hill had become bare of snow and, if so, here was a game of round ball on it.

"The Village Square, where now stands the round iron water tank was often a lively scene.  Baseball and "Nines" did not then exist.  But round ball was played, sides being chosen by two players putting alternate hands on the bat (or as we called it the cat stick), the one first reaching the top having the first choice.  The ball was not hard but soft and a player was put out either by being caught out as now, or by being struck by the ball thrown at him when running for a base,  or as we said then a gool, meaning goal.  It was a soft ball, compared with now, but it sometimes stung pretty smartly.

Sources:

Alfred Cole and Charles F. Whitman, Buckfield, Oxford County, Maine (Journal Printshop, Lewiston, 1915)., page 894.

Comment:

Buckland is about 45 miles north of Portland.

The ages of players is not clear.

As of Jan 2013, this is one of three uses of "gool" instead of "goal" in ballplaying entries, all in the 1850s and found in western MA and ME.  [To confirm/update, do an enhanced search for "gool".]  One of these 1850s.33 uses "gool" as the name of the game.

Decade
1850s
Item
1850s.49
Edit

1853c.1 "Rounders" Said to be Played at Phillips Andover School

Location:

Massachusetts

Game:

Rounders, Massachusetts Game, Round Ball

Age of Players:

Youth

[A] "The game of "rounders," as it was played in the days before the Civil War, had only a faint resemblance to our modern baseball. For a description of a typical contest, which took place in 1853, we are indebted to Dr. William A. Mowry:"

[Nine students had posted a challenge to play "a game of ball," and that challenge was accepted by eleven other students.] "The game was a long one. No account was made of 'innings;' the record was merely of runs. When one had knocked the ball, had run the bases, and had reached the 'home goal,' that counted one 'tally.' The game was for fifty tallies. The custom was to have no umpire, and the pitcher stood midway between the second and third bases, but nearer the center of the square. The batter stood midway between the first and fourth base, and the catcher just behind the batter, as near or as far as he pleased.

'Well, we beat the eleven [50-37].' [Mowry then tells of his success in letting the ball hit the bat and glance away over the wall "behind the catchers," which allowed him to put his side ahead in a later rubber game after the two sides had each won a game.]

 [B] "We had baseball and football on Andover Hill forty years ago, but not after the present style.  Baseball was called round ball, and the batter that was most adept at fouls, made the most tallies.   The Theologues were not too dignified in those days to play matches with the academy. There was some sport in those match games."

Sources:

[A] Claude M. Fuess, An Old New England School: A History of Phillips Academy, Andover [Houghton Mifflin, 1917], pp. 449-450.

Researched by George Thompson, based on partial information from reading notes by Harold Seymour. Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search ("history of phillips").

A note-card in the Harold Seymour archive at Cornell describes the Mowry recollection.

[B] William Hardy, Class of 1853, as cited in Fred H. Harrison, Chapter 2, The Hard-Ball Game, Athletics for All: Physical Education and Athletics at Phillips Academy, Andover, 1778-1978 (Phillips Academy, 1983), accessed 2/21/2013 at http://www.pa59ers.com/library/Harrison/Athletics02.html.  Publication information for the Hardy quote is not seen on this source.

Warning:

It appears that Fuess, the 1917 author, viewed this game as rounders, but neither the Mowry description nor the Hardy reference uses that name. It is possible that Fuess was an after-the-fact devotee of he rounders theory of base ball. The game as described is indistinguishable from round ball as played in New England, and lacks features [small bat, configuration of bases] used in English rounders during this period.  The placement of the batter, the use of "tallies" for runs, and the 50-inning game length suggests that the game played may have been a version of what was to be encoded as the Massachusetts Game in 1858.

Comment:

Wikipedia has an entry for prolific historian William A Mowry (1829-1917). A Rhode Islander, his schooling is not specified, but he entered Brown University in 1854, and thus may have been a Phillips Andover senior in 1853.

Hardy's 1853 reference to the "Theologues" is, seemingly, a local theological seminary -- presumably the nearby Andover Theological Seminary -- whose teams played many times from the 1850s to the 1870s against Phillips Andover.  Hardy's note may thus mark the first known interscholastic match of a safe haven ballgame in the United States.

A prestigious preparatory school, Phillips Academy is in Andover MA and about 20 miles N of Boston.

 

Query:

Can we identify the seminary with the rival club, and determine whether it has any record of early ballplaying?

Circa
1853
Item
1853c.1
Edit

1854.2 First New England Team, the Olympics, Forms to Play Round Ball

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"The first regularly organized team in New England was the Boston Olympics of 1854. The Elm Trees followed in 1855 and the Green Mountains two years later."

 

Sources:

Seymour, Harold, Baseball: the Early Years [Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 27. [No ref given.]

It seems plausible, given similarity of phrasing, that this finding comes from George Wright's November 1904 review of baseball history. See#1854.3 below.

There is also similar treatment in Lovett, Old Boston Boys, (Riverside Press, 1907),  page 129.

Query:

Is there any detailed indication, or educated guess, as to what rules the Olympics uses in 1854?

Year
1854
Item
1854.2
Edit

1854.3 Organized Round Ball in New England Morphs Toward the "MA Game"

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball, Massachusetts Game

Age of Players:

Adult

"'Base Ball in New England.' The game of ball for years a favorite sport with the youth of the country, and long before the present style of playing was in vogue, round ball was indulged in to a great extent all over the land. The first regularly organized Ball Club in this section was doubtless the Olympic Club, of Boston, which was formed in 1854, and for a year or more this club had the field entirely to themselves.

"In 1855 the Elm Trees organized, existing but a short time, however. In 1856 a new club arose, the 'Green Mountains,' and some exciting games were played between this Club and the Olympics. Up to this point the game as played by these clubs was known as the Massachusetts game; but it was governed by no regular code or rules and regulations . . .  ."

 

Sources:

Wright, George, Account of November 15, 1904, for the Mills Commission: catalogued by the Mills Commission as Exhibit 36-19; accessed at the Giamatti Center in Cooperstown.

Warning:

Note: We have other no evidence that the term "Massachusetts Game" was actually in use as early as 1854.  The earliest it is found is 1858.

Comment:

There is a newspaper account of the Olympic Club from 1853, when it played the "Aurora Ball Club." See item 1853.17  As of 10/2014, this is the only known reference to the Aurora Club.

Year
1854
Item
1854.3
Edit

1855.37 Barre Club Challenge to Six Nearby MA Towns -- $100 Grand Prize Planned

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball, Base Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"August 11, 1855 -- Barre.  The Gazette says the Barre boys will challenge their neighbors in he towns surrounding, to play a [at?] round ball.

"The Barre boys  either have or are about to extend a challenge to one of the other of the adjoining towns for a grand game of round, of [or?] base ball, the victors to throw the glove to one of the other towns, and so on, till it is settled, which one of the seven shall be victor over the other six.  A grand prize of one hundred dollars, more or less, to be raised, by general contributions and awarded to the party which shall be finally successful.  The six surrounding and adjoining towns are Hardwick, Dana, Petersham, Hubbardstown, Oakham, and New Braintree.  The seventh is Barre, which is in the centre, and equidistant from them all."

Sources:

Milford Journal.

Comment:

Barre MA (1855 pop. about 3000) is about 60 miles W of Boston.  Hardwick, Hubbardstown, Oakham, New Braintree and Petersham are 8-10 miles from Barre. Poor Dana MA was disincorporated in 1938.

Query:

Do we know if this plan was carried out?  How was the victor decided among participating towns?

Year
1855
Item
1855.37
Edit
Source Text

1856.17 The Mass Game Explained

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball

"I have thought, perhaps, a statement of my experience as to the Yankee method of playing 'Base,' or 'Round' ball, as we used to call it, may not prove uninteresting.

"The ball we used was, I should think, of the size and weight described by the Putnam rules, made of yarn, tightly wound round a lump of cork or India rubber, and covered with smooth calf-skin in quarters (as we quarter an orange), the seams closed snugly, and not raised, lest they should blister the hands of the thrower and catcher: the bat round, varying from 3 to 3.5 feet in length; a portion of a stout rake or pitchfork handle was much in demand, and wielded generally in one hand by the muscular young players at the country schools, who rivaled each other in the hearty cracks they gave the ball.

"There were six to eight players upon each side, the latter number being the full complement. The two best layers upon each side first and second mates, as they were called by common consent were catcher and thrower. These retained their positions in the game, unless they chose to call some other player, upon their own side, to change places with them." Dated Boston, December 20, 1856. A field diagram followed. It shows either 6 or 10 defensive positions, depending on whether each base was itself a defensive station.

 

Sources:

"Base Ball; How They Play the Game in New England, by An Old Correspondent" Porter's Spirit of the Times, Dec. 27, 1856

Query:

The Dedham rules of 1858 specified at least ten players on a team. The writer does not call the game the MA game, and does not mention plugging, the use of stakes as bases, or the one-out-all-out rule; is this conceivably because he thinks the NY game shares those attributes?

Year
1856
Item
1856.17
Edit

1856.20 Exciting Round Ball Game Played on Boston Common, End With 100-to-98 Tally

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

[A] "EXCITING GAME OF BASE BALL. - The second trial game of Base Ball took place on the Boston Common, Wednesday morning, May 14th, between the Olympics and the Green Mountain Boys. The game was one hundred ins, and after three hours of exciting and hard playing, it was won by the Olympics, merely by two, the Green Mountain Boys counting 98 tallies. . . . The above match was witnessed by a very large assemblage, who seemed to take a great interest in it."

The article also prints a letter protesting the rules for a prior game between the same teams. The Olympics explained that were compelled to play a game in which their thrower stood 40 feet from the "knocker" while their opponent's thrower stood at 20 feet. In addition, the Green Mountain catcher [sic] moved around laterally, and a special six-strike rule was imposed that confounded the Olympics. It appears that this game followed an all-out-side-out rule. The reporter said the Olympics found these conditions "unfair, and not according to the proper rules of playing Round or Base Ball."

 [B] the Daily Atlas briefly mentioned the game, noting "There was a large crowd of spectators, although the flowers and birds of springs, and a wheelbarrow race at the same time . . . tended to draw off attention." A week later, the Boston Post reported that the Green Mountain Boys took a later contest, "the Olympics making 84 rounds to the G.M. Boys 119."

Sources:

[A] Albert S. Flye, "Exciting Game of Base Ball," New York Clipper Volume 4, number 5 (May 25, 1856), page 35. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

[B] The Boston Daily Atlas, May 15, 1856.

Query:

Note: does this article imply that previously, base ball on the Common was relatively rare?

Year
1856
Item
1856.20
Edit

1857.43 Deliberate Bad Pitches Noted

Game:

Round Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

In the game of round ball or Massachusetts ball between the Bay State and Olympic Clubs, the Bay States had "very low balls given them, while those they gave were swift and of the right height." 

Sources:

Spirit of the Times, May 30, 1857.

Comment:

The tactic of trying to get batters to chase bad pitches probably is as old as competitive pitching, but is not previously documented.

Year
1857
Item
1857.43
Edit

1858.10 Four-day Attendance of 40,000 Souls Watch Famous Roundball Game in Worcester

Location:

New England

Game:

Round Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

"One of the most celebrated games of roundball was played on the Agricultural Grounds in Worcester, Mass., in 1858. It was between the Medways of Medway and the Union Excelsiors. It was for $1000 a side. It took four days to play the game. The attendance was more than 10,000 at each day a play [sic]. In the neighboring towns the factories gave their employees holidays to see the game."

 

 

Sources:

"H. S.," [Henry Sargent?] of Grafton, MA, "Roundball," New York Sun, May 8, 1905, p.6. From an unidentified clipping found in the Giamatti Center. The clipping is noted as "60-27" and it may be from the Spalding Collection.

Warning:

David Nevard raises vital questions about this account: "I have my doubts about this item - it just doesn't seem to fit. 1) The club names don't sound right. The famous club from Medway was the Unions, not the Medways, and I haven't seen any other mention of Union Excelsiors. 2) Lowry's evolution of the longest Mass Game does not mention this one. He shows the progression (in 1859) as 57 inns, 61 inns, 211 inns. It seems like a 4 day game in 1858 would have lasted longer than 57 innings. 3) It's a recollection 50 years after the fact. $1000, 10,000 people." [Email to Protoball, 2/27/07.]

Comment:

The source also contains a lengthy description of "Massachusetts roundball", reprinted in Exposition in Class-Room Practice by Theodore C. Mitchell and George R. Carpenter, 1906, p. 239

Query:

Can we either verify or disprove the accuracy of this recollection?

Year
1858
Item
1858.10
Edit

1863.14 Sergeant from 15th MA Plays Round Ball with 34th NY

Location:

VA

Game:

Round Ball

Age of Players:

Adult

At Falmouth VA, excerpts from the diary of Sgt Earle of the 15th MA notes games of ball with the 34th NY on March 18 and again on April 16, 1863 in the regimental history.

The historian, Andrew Ford, writes 35 years later that “during March and April ball playing is frequently mentioned in the diary. The game played in those days was the old-fashioned round ball. Practice games inside the regiment occurred almost daily, and there were several great games with the New York Thirty-Fourth. Our boys were so successful that the captain of the New York team gave up the contest with the admission that if they ‘had been playing for nuts his men wouldn’t even have the shucks.’ The interest taken in these games in the army as a whole almost rivaled that taken in the races, sparring matches, and cock-fights of Meagher’s troops.” Ford does not elaborate on how he concludes that round ball was played, or that the army as a whole was taking to base ball.

Andrew E. Ford, The Story of the Fifteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry [1961-1864] (W. J. Coulter, Clinton [MA?], 1898), pages 242 and 244. Accessed 6/8/09 on Google Books via “’fifteenth Massachusetts’” search. The 15th MA drew significantly from Worcester County MA. The 34th NY regiment was known as the “Herkimer Regiment,” with roots in Herkimer County in Upstate New York; the town of Herkimer is about 15 miles east of Utica on the Mohawk River. The game in this area that preceded the NY game may have been round ball.

Differences from Modern Baseball: 47
Year
1863
Item
1863.14
External
47
Edit


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