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The Balk -- From the Knicks, Prior US Games, or Abroad?

Salience Prominent
Tags Antedated Firsts, Pre-modern Rules
City/State/Country: Kingston? Manhattan?, NY, United States
Game Base Ball
Immediacy of Report Retrospective
Age of Players Youth

 [A] " 'A Balk is a Base' --Any one having a remembrance of the ball games of his youth, must recollect that in the game of base if the tosser made a balk to entice the individual make the round from his post, the latter had the right to walk to the next base unscathed. Pity it is that the Hudson folks engages in the late political movement n Columbia County did not remember that 'a balk is a base' in the children of a larger growth. When the frequent and flagrant outrages of the Taghkanic Anti Renters had apparently aroused the people of Columbia County to a true sense of their position and duty every friend of good order rejoiced."


[B] The ball is “dead,” to the extent of putting a player out, when either a “ball” or a “baulk” is called. The rule is the same as in cricket. For instance, a “no ball” in cricket can be hit by the batsman, and he can score a run on it, but if the ball be caught it is not considered an out. So in base ball when a baulk is called, and the striker chances to hit the ball and it be caught, he is not out, and he can take his base on it on the grounds of his being “a player running the bases,” which he is when he hits a ball that is not foul. The ball, though “dead” as regards putting a player out, is not “dead” so as to prevent the striker counting what he is entitled to count under the rule


[A]"A Balk is a Base," Roundout Freeman, June 5, 1847 (volume II, issue 46), page 2.  [Brad Shaw, email to Protoball 1/26/2017]

[B] New York Clipper, Saturday, September 8, 1866.  See https://protoball.org/Clipping:Interpreting_the_dead_ball_on_a_ball_or_a_balk;_the_rule_the_same_as_in_cricket 


Dating this item as "1840s" is speculative, and turns on the ages of the Freeman  Arguments for an alternative dating are welcome.  

[] "I had always supposed that the balk rule was introduced by the crafters of the New York game, but this passage suggests it began to be practiced at some earlier time."  David Block, 19CBB posting, 1/28/2014.

[] "I wrote in my book [R. Hershberger. Strike Four, Rowman and Littlefield, 2019, page 37] that the balk rule seemed to be novel to the 1845 Knickerbocker rules. Evidently not. While this is two years later, it also is from [nearly] a hundred miles away in Kingston, NY, and presented as a homespun saying from the writer's youth." -- Richard Hershberger, 12/9/2020.

[] Added Local color:  "Rondout has been, since 1870, an unincorporated hamlet within the city of Kingston (where I lived for decade; it was called "Rondout" because of its adjoining Roundout Creek, which fed into the Hudson River). The Rondout Freeman in its first incarnation may have indeed lasted till 1847 (founded 1845):https://www.loc.gov/item/sn86071034/.

"Hudson is a large city about 25 miles north of Kingston, on the other side of the Hudson River, in Columbia County.  Today a bridge connects my hometown of Catskill (west bank) with Hudson (east bank).  Taghkanic is the proper spelling of the tribe for whom today is named the Taconic Parkway."  - John Thorn, email of 12/10/2020.

[]The terms "balk" and "baulk" are both used in period sources.  As of December 2020, a search of "balk" fetches 91 hits in  Richard Hershberger's generous 19C Clippings file; a "balk OR baulk" search yields 102 hits.  There are no hits for "balk" or "Baulk"  in David Block's file on English baseball-like games.

[] As of 12/12/2020, Protoball has no other record of the balk prior to 1845.  

For a succinct summary of our desultory learning about balks/baulks from 2010 to 2020, see the Supplementary Text, below.


Edit with form to add a comment

Is it obvious why a balk is in some way considered comparable to a "flagrant outrage?"

Was the balk known in earlier baserunning games in England, or elsewhere?

Do histories of cricket shed further light on the origin, nature, or rationale for, automatic batter-runner advances despite catches of balls hit when a "no ball" has been called?

Do we often see early rule variants for players of different ages?

Edit with form to add a query
Submitted by David Block, 19CBB Posting, 2010; Brad Shaw email of 2017. [B] Richard Hershberger's 19C Data Base, 2020


<comments voting="Plus" />



Our learning pathway on the balk rule from  2010 to late 2020:


[1] 2010:  David Block reports Roundout Freeman source, posts it on 19CBB. 

[2] 2014: David Block questions whether the Knicks invented the balk rule.

[3] 2017: Brad Shaw finds 1847 text from Roundout Freeman, informs Protoball, Protoball adds item 1830c.31

[4] 2019: Richard Hershberger provides over 9000 19C clippings from his research files to Protoball.

[5] 2020: Richard Hershberger locates his misplaced notes on the 1847 text, posts to FaceBook, Protoball; Protoball adds item 1845c.31.

[6] 2020:  John Thorn clarifies local geography of Kingston NY area.

[7] 2020: In reconciling two balk-related items, Protoball bumps into 19C Clippings' 1866 source describing a balk-like law in English cricket.  


At one 2020 phase, Protoball unknowingly listed two Chronology entries on the 1847 find, one under item 1830c.31 and one under item 1845c.31  The two

chronology entries were combined in December 2020 as item 1840s.46.