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A Baserunning Ballgame in the Stone Age?
|Game||Om El MahagOm El Mahag|
|Immediacy of Report||Retrospective|
|Age of Players||AdultAdult|
In 1937 the Italian demography researcher Corrado Gini undertook to study a group of blond-haired Berbers in North Africa, and discovered that they played a batting/baserunning game in the sowing season.
They called the game Om El Mahag. It employed a "mother's base" and a "father's base, and baserunners were retired if their soft-toss pitch resulted in a caught fly or if they were plugged when running between bases.
[A] Contemporary experts were persuaded that the "blondness of the Berbers suggests that they brought the game with them from Europe" some fifty or more centuries earlier when cold northern climates drove civilization southward.
[B] For later accounts of this research and its interpretation, see below.
[A] Erwin Mehl, "Baseball in the Stone Age (English translation), Western Folklore, volume 7, number 2 (April 1948), page 159.
[B] For a succinct recent summary, see David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It (UNebraska Press, 2005), pages 95-100. For a rollicking but undocumented take on possible very early safe haven games, including Om El Mahag, see Harold Peterson, The Man Who Invented Baseball (Scribner's, 1969), pages 42-46.
Today's reader will want to determine how modern demography sees the advent of blond-haired Berbers and the evidence on the preservation of games and cultural rituals over scores of human generations.
Peterson sees a striking resemblance of Om El Mahag to Guts Muths' "German game" as described in 1796.Edit with form to add a comment
Has this game been observed in other North African communities since 1937? Are alternative explanations of Om El Mahag now offered, including a much more recent importation from cricket-playing and baseball-playing areas?Edit with form to add a query
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