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Ballplayer Recalls Boyhood Matches, Ballmaking, Adult Play

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Holidays
Location New England

On Fast Day [page 68]: "The town meeting was succeeded in April by Fast Day, appointed always for a Thursday. For some unknown reason Thursday in New England was an almost sacred day, a sort of secular Sabbath . . . . Boys were not generally compelled to attend the Fast Day religious service. It had ceased to be as strictly kept as before. In villages and towns there was customarily a match game of ball, very unlike the current [1910] base ball. Boys played [p68/69] with boys and men with men. The New England bootmakers, of whom there were some in most villages, were the leaders in these games."

On ball-making, and on plugging [page 174] : "Our ingenuity was exercised in weaving watch chains in various patterns with silk twist; in making handsome bats for ball, and in making the balls themselves with the raveled yarn of old stockings, winding it over a bit of rubber, and sewing on a cover of fine thin calf skin. This ball did not kill as it struck one, and, instead of being thrown to the man on the bases was more usually at thee man running between them. He who could make a good shot of that kind was much applauded, and he who was hit was laughed at and felt very sheepish. That was true sport, plenty of fun and excitement, yet not too serious and severe. The issue of the game was talked over for a week. I did my daily stint of stitching with only one thing in mind, to [p174/175] play ball when through; for the boys played every afternoon. When there was to be a match game the men practiced after the day's work was done."

On bootmakers [page 170]: "The smaller [bootmaking] shops were the centers for the gossip, rumors, and discussions which agitated the community. There men sharpened their wits upon each other, played practical jokes, sang, argued the questions of that [p170/171] day, especially slavery, and arranged every week from early spring to late autumn a match game of ball either among themselves or the bootmakers of neighboring towns for Saturday afternoon, which was their half holiday."

John Albee, Confessions of Boyhood (R.G. Badger, Boston, 1910). Albee was born in 1833 and grew up in Bellingham MA, about 30 miles SW of Boston and in the heart of Round Ball [Mass game] territory, with neighboring towns of Holliston, Medway, Sharon, and Dedham. The book is found via a "confessions of boyhood" search via Google Books, as accessed 11/14/2008.

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