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

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Fiction, Holidays
Location New England
Game Round Ball, Massachusetts Game, Gool Ball ( Goal Ball)
Immediacy of Report Retrospective
Age of Players Juvenile
Holiday Fast Day

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."



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."

See Supplemental  Text, below, for Bill Lyons' description of the author and the work.


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, at 1850s.33 uses "gool" as the name of the game.  See also Supplemental Text, below.

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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.

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Submitted by Bill Lyons
Submission Note email of 6/14/2019
Has Supplemental Text Yes


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Supplemental Text


Notes from Bill Lyons, email of 6/14/2019:

"A book by Noah Brooks, Lem, A New England Village Boy (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1901). Brooks wrote books for juveniles. Brooks was born in Castine, Maine in 1830 (see his fiction character, Lem, below, also born in 1830) and moved to Dixon, Illinois in 1856.  Lem is about Lemuel Hutchinson Parker born in 1830. The book has several pages of description (including a field diagram) of a bat and ball game that seems to be a version of Old Cat. The description suggests that Lem played the game in the late 1830s and early 1840s.  Lem lived in the fictional coastal fishing village of Fairport, Maine, but the description of the town sounds much like Castine, my hometown..  Brooks also wrote a baseball book for juveniles, Our Base Ball Club and How It Won the Championship (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1884)."