Baseball (Family of Games)
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Safe-Haven games featuring running among bases, a bat, pitching, and two distinct teams.
Games belonging to the Baseball Family (141)
|21st Century Townball||Derivative|
This game has evolved under the guidance of Daniel Jones of Fresno California. It is a blend of baseball predecessor games (notably, the Massachusetts Game) with aspects of early town ball and cricket.
(A background account is included in the Supplemental Text field, below.)
From the developer of the game, Daniel Jones:
A hybrid cricket-baseball game reportedly introduced in Chicago in 1870. The game is described as generally having cricket rules, except with no LBW rule, and with the addition of a third base, so that the bases form a triangle with sides of 28-yards. We have no other accounts of this game.
"A NEW AMERICAN GAME
The Philadelphia Mercury contains the following: 'A new game of ball has recently been introduced in Chicago, under the name of American cricket. The field is laid out like a cricket-field, and the striker wields the willow instead of the ash. The bowler, who stands twenty-two yards from the striker, bowls as in cricket. The striker, in making a tally, runs to first base and then to third (dispensing with the second), these being in the form of a triangle and at a distance of twenty-eight yards apart. There are no fouls to cause delays. There are none of the stupid and senseless six-ball 'overs.' 'Out leg before wicket' is dispensed with, a rule which, while in force, gives great annoyance to the umpire and general dissatisfaction to the batsman. The prominent and attractive features of both the English game of cricket and the American pastime of base-ball are taken and rolled into one, thereby making a magnificent game.'"
From the 1860s to the 1880s, Navahos in NM played a gmae that evolved from one (possibly the Massachusetts game?) taught to them on a NM reservation mannned by the US Cavalry. This game is recalled as involving plugging, very feisty baserunning customs, no foul ground, four strikes, one-out-side-out innings, and multiple batters at the same time.
In 1805 a game of “bace” was reportedly played among adult males in New York City. Its rules were not reported. The word “bace” is extremely rare in sport: it appeared in a 1377 English document, and, in a list of obsolete Cornish terms, for the game Prisoner’s Base in Cornwall in 1882. Unlike the usual case for prisoner’s base, however, a final score [41-35] was reported for this match.
"Bace" is also reported as an obolete term for a British game, the nature of which is not yet known.
Ball-bias, a term as yet only found in seven scattered British sources from 1856 to 1898, was evidently the name of a batting-running game in the south-east of England.
David Block, who came across the game in 2013, tentatively concludes that, unlike early English base-ball, ball-bias probably used a bat. The 1898 source's description: "ball-bias, a running game much like 'rounders,' played with a ball."
Most references to ball-bias appear from 1856 to 1880 in newspaper accounts of school picnics or church outings in the vicinity of the Sussex-Kent border south of London.
The rules of the game are not well understood. Block writes that "It appears that ball-bias was distinct from other baseball-related, locally-based games that I'd discovered in 19th century England. These included Tut-Ball, played in the Sheffield area, and Pize Ball that was mostly found in the vicinity of Leeds. These latter games were played without a bat, like English base-ball, whereas . . . ball-bias falls more in the bat-using category, alongside rounders."
We have no present evidence that this game preceded English base-ball.
per Block. The 1836 book Perth Traditions described Ball-Paces, by then almost extinct, as a game that used a trap to put a ball into play, at which point in-team runners at each of four bases run to the next bases, stopping only when the ball was returned to the original batsman’s station. There is no mention of plugging.
per Dick, 1864. A team game like rounders, but having large safety areas instead of posts or bases. A feeder makes a short gentle toss to a batter, who tries to hit it. The batter-runner then chooses whether to run for a distant goal-line or a nearer one, for which there is a smaller chance of being plugged. The nearer station can hold several runners at once. Three missed swings makes an out, as does a caught fly. Versions of Ball-Stock are found in British and American boys’ books in the mid-Nineteenth Century.
According to Gomme , Bandy-Wicket is Cricket played with a bandy (a curved club) instead of a cricket bat. This name was evidently once used in Norfolk and Suffolk.
"Bandy Wicket" was also used in the US.
The term “old fashioned base ball” appears to have been used in the decades after the 1850s to describe whatever game was played locally before the New York game arrived. The term was used extensively in upstate New York and New Jersey. We are still uncertain as to whether OFBB had common rules. In Western New York State, OFBB seems to align with the old form of the Massachusetts game, but prior to the codification of Mass Game rules in 1858. It is possible that the term was used for diverse variations of local safe-haven games in other areas.
One might speculate that later still, such games would be thought of as “town ball.”
America’s national pastime since about 1860. Writing about rounders in 1898, Gomme mused that “An elaborate form of this game has become the national game of the United States.” The term “baseball” actually arose in England as early as 1748, referring to a simple game like rounders, but usage in England died out, and was soon forgotten in most parts of the country. The term first appeared in the United States in 1791.
|Baseball on Ice||Derivative|
The first known game of base ball played on ice skates occurred on in January 1861 near Rochester NY. Skating was very popular, and the hybrid game was played into the late 1800s.
A few special rules are known from the 1880s, a key one being that runnders were not at risk when they overskated a base. Deliveries were pitches, not throws; a dead ball was used and the bound rule was in effect. A ten-player team deployed a left shortstop and a right shortstop.
Baste, or baste ball, may simply be a variant spelling of base ball. The most famous US usage is in a Princeton student’s diary entry for 1786 (5 years before the first known use of "base ball" in the US), which reveals only that the game involves catching and hitting. Note: Princeton was known as the College of New Jersey until 1896.
As of February 2017, Protoball knows of only three US uses of the term Baste: the Princeton diary, in an account of President Benjamin Harrison's teen years around 1850, and in Tennessee in 1874. Further input is welcome.
In early 2017,David Block summarized his English research findings: "Regarding 'baste,' I have seen at least two dozen examples of the term 'baste-ball' used in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. It's clear from context that this was an alternate spelling of base-ball, along with bass-ball. I don't doubt the same was true for the few instances of baste-ball's use in America."
A superficial Google search for <baste pastime game> in February 2017 throws no further light on ballplaying forms of baste. A somewhat primitive tagging game for children -- Baste the Bear -- in Europe and England is known, but does not appear to be consistent with US finds reported to Protoball.
"Bat-and-Ball" is a term that can help you find very early references to predecessor games in the US.
Brian Turner finds that the term is likely to connote a distinct form of early ballplaying; in an April 2020 email to Protoball, he said "I can confirm that Newburyport and other coastal towns north of Boston -- Salem, for example -- were places where the term "bat and ball" was used to refer to an unambiguously distinct game."
A May search of the Protoball Chronology for <bad and ball> yields 44 hits from circa 1745 to 1845. A subset of them may be specifically denote a game locally known as Bat and Ball.
The earliest seems to be in US President John Adams, in a reflection on his ballplaying youth.
Baseball for blind players. The balls emit beeps, and a base buzzes once a ball is hit. Runners are out if the ball is fielded before they reach base. Sighted players serve as pitcher and catcher for the batting team, but cannot field. There is a national association for the game, and annual World Series have been held since 1976.
[A] in the 1670s, Francis Willughby listed hornebillets on his compilation of games, or "plaies." Of all his games, this game description closest to base ball and cricket -- resembling the o'cat games with two or four or six players -- but it employs a section of animal horn, or a sort stick, and not a ball.
[B] "Thomas Wright's 1857 Dict. of Obsolete and Provincial English(v. 1 p. 210) lists as the third meaning for "billet" the game of Tip-Cat and connects it to Derbyshire."
[C] Responding to John Thorn's Our Game blog on 2/26/2013, Clive Williams wrote that trap ball "is a very similar game to one my brother encountered near Halifax, Yorkshire about 50 years ago. In Yorkshire the game was called I think 'Billets' and he was never able to make it clear whether the piece to be struck was a round wooden ball or just a small chunk of hardwood of no particular shape. What you had to do, as is mentioned in the article is to make sure that nobody can catch the wooden article so getting the direction and the height right with a sort of weapon like a walking stick (cane) must have been tricky."
Maigaard (1941) notes they while most forms of rounders and longball are now lost, three - baseball, cricket, and bo-ball - remain vigorous. He places Bo-Ball in Finland. The only known source on this game, called Lahden Mailaveikot in Finnish, is a Finnish-language website, one that shows photographs of a vigorous game with aluminum bats, gloves, helmets, and much sliding and running but no solid hints for English-speakers about the nature of the game. Similarities to Pesapallo, including the gentle form of pitching, are apparent.
|Fall River, MA|
The game of bowlywicket, played at least as late as 1980, resembled a poor man's cricket, and used a broomhandle, three empty soda cans piled one-on-two, and a common "pinky" drugstore ball. Batters defend the teetering cans, and run to a second base to score runs.
It has been played in the city of Fall River MA, often by immigrants from France and Brazil, and may have evolved from a game played by workers from English cities in the late 1800s.
A Swedish game, also played in Germany and Denmark. A batting and running game with four bases, this game involved fungo-style hitting to start a play. As in some forms of longball, a base can be occupied by more than one runner. A caught fly ball gives a point to the out team, but the runner is not thereby retired. Innings are timed. A home run is six points. A 90-degree fair territory is employed. This game may relate to Swedeball, a game reportedly played in the US upper midwest. It has been reported that that Brannboll is played in Minnesota, but no such references are known.
|British Baseball (Welsh Baseball)||Derivative|
|Wales and England|
This adult game, sometimes referred to as Welsh Baseball (in Wales) and English Baseball (ii Liverpool England), has been played since the early 1900s, reportedly reaching a high point in the late 1930s. Something of a blend of modern baseball with some cricket features, it is known in Liverpool England and in Cardiff and Newport in Wales.
Owing to cricket, presumably, the game has no foul ground, comprises two (all-out-side-out) innings, teams of 11 players, and flat bats. 42-inch posts are used instead of bases. Underarm pitching is required. Runs are counted for each base attained by a batter (one run for a single, two for a double, etc.). Batters are required to keep a foot in contact with a peg in the batting area.
An annual "international game" has been played between a Liverpool team and one from Wales. In the 1920s crowds of over 10,000 were reported to attend the international context.
Martin Johnes writes that both the Liverpool game and the Welsh game likely evolved from rounders, with some local variation. In 1927 they agreed to common rules for their international game; Liverpool had restricted the placement of batters' feet and used one-handed batting, while Wales saw two-handed batting and less restricted batter placement.
Liverpool had been very active in rounders in the 19th century, they and the Welsh but switched to use the term "baseball" in 1892, possibly to distinguish the adult game from juvenile rounders play. A common set of rules was agreed to between the two governing groups in 1927.
Adult play in Liverpool is not thriving: from the website of the English Baseball Association, accessed 4/1/2016: "Sadly the game in Liverpool is in a very poor state and we have very few senior teams remaining.The junior game is where our game needs to grow and we still need to get a bit more interest as we try to generate interest with the youth in the Liverpool area.
According to Gomme, a Lincolnshire glossary specifies that Bunting is a name for Tip-Cat.
per Appel . Appel reports that the young Mike Kelly, growing up on Washington DC in the late 1860’s, first played Burn Ball, a form of base ball that included "plugging" or "burning" of baserunners by thrown balls.
|California Base Ball Variant||1800s||California, Cuba|
"The game in California has some curious features, it seems. A game played in Woodbridge, May 26, had ten men on a side, the extra played being a "2d c.," or sort of backstop put behind the regular to nip fouls and prevent passed balls. The game was ten innings, though there was no tie on the ninth, the score was 24 to 20, and the winners, the Eagles of San Francisco, won $50 and a silver cake-basket. The latter implement would seem to be rather useless to a ball club."
Richard Hershberger noted, October 2015: "This is immediately recognizable as Chadwick's beloved ten-men ten-inning rule, though Chadwick placed the tenth man at right short rather than second catcher. We know that Cuban baseball adopted the rule, apparently taking at face value Chadwick's assurances that it was inevitable and not noticing for some time that it had not in fact been enacted. Did this happen in California too? Or is this an isolated instance? I don't know much about California ball at this time, but the Eagles of San Francisco were a major club, weren't they? Or is that no longer true by 1877?"
The New York Clipper reported two 1860 games in southernmost Ontario as "the Canadian game" between the Ingersoll and Woodstock clubs [add locations?].
The playing rules for this game are not given [is there anything beside the 11 player sides that signals that it's unusual?].
In May 2015, William Humber re-examined other accounts of Canadian ballplaying, and suggests/hypothesizes/concludes that seven playing conventions/rules/practices may have distinguished it from other North American predecessor games:
 Eleven players.
 All-out-side out innings.
 Two innings to be played.
(Note that these three rules are familiar cricket rules)
 Use of four bases, in addition to home base
 The plugging of baserunners when away from bases
 Throwing, not pitching to batsmen
 40-foot bases [sic?], with first base [how?] close to home
In drawing up this list, Humber drew on the Clipper articles, recollections of Adam Ford that may have come from his own playing days from 1848 to 1855, and a Clipper account of a 1859 game played by [a London Ontario club? Woodstock itself? other?].
By [date/year], it appears that all Ontario clubs had adopted the NY rules.
per Burnett. Burnett identifies Cat-and-Bat as a form of cricket that was played in Scottish streets in about 1860.
A game for three players. Two defend foot-wide holes set about 26 feet apart with a club, or “dog.” A third player throws a four-inch cat toward the hole, and the defender hits it away. If the cat enters the hole, defender and thrower switch places. Gomme, who uses the name Cat and Dog Hole, describes a game using a ball in which a stone replaces the hole where the batter stands, and adds that if the third player catches a hit ball in the air, that player can try to hit the stone, which sends the batter out.
On US play, 1866: "Cat and Dog -- An interesting trial of skill at this old time game was played at Pittsburgh Pa., on the 5th inst., between the Athletics, of South Pittsburgh, and the Enterprise of Mt. Washington. The game was witnessed by a large crowd of ladies and gentlemen.
[The printed box score shows three players on each side, a pitcher-catcher and two fielders. The result was the Athletics, 180 "measures" and the Enterprise 120 measures. There is no indication of the use of innings, a side-out rule, or fly rule]
[This spare account leaves the impression of a one-time throwback demonstration.]
For other references to cat-and-dog, see these Chronology items;
http://protoball.org/1833.3 [Cat-and-dog as the ancestor of cricket]
http://protoball.org/1841.11 [Scottish dictionary account]
http://protoball.org/1856.30 [Nyack, NY, 1856]
http://protoball.org/1866.10 [Pittsburgh PA throwback game]
An October 2017 article on the Dominican game of vitilla notes, "In other baseball-loving countries ,vitilla exists in other forms. Chapita is a similar game from Venezuela, and major league players from there said they grew up playing it."
In an email of 12/10/2008, Tom Altherr tells of the game of chermany, defined in a 1985 dictionary as “a variety of baseball.” Early usage of the term dates to the 1840s-1860s. Two sources relate the game to baseball, and one, a 1912 book of Virginia folk language, defines it as “a boys’ game with a ball and bats.” We know of but eight references to chermany [churmany, chumny, chuminy] as of October 2009. Its rules of play are sketchy. A Confederate soldier described it as using five or six foot-high sticks as bases and using “crossing out” instead of tagging or plugging runners to retire them.
|Cluich an Tighe||1800s|
According to Morrison (1908) this game is “practically identical with the game of “Rounders.” He goes on to describe a game with three bases set 50 yards apart, with plugging and crossing as ways to retire batters. Games are played to 50 or 100 counts. The game is depicted as “practically dead” in Uist (In the Outer Hebrides off Scotland) but formerly was very popular.
Coed softball is basically just softball using female as well as male players.
It is, however, evolving a bit independently. Local coed leagues have formed for after-work play in US cities. It seems to have become necessary to add some rules to ensure that women are not put at a disadvantage (and so continue to participate) among all those males with more ballplaying experience and more upper-body strength.
Examples include use of a smaller ball, requiring outfields to play deep enough to allow balls to drop in the outfield, requiring alternating genders in the batting order, etc.
[The game we played] "had only one batsman at a time, running to a point about 10 yards off to the right and back again after each hit . . . we called it Continuous Cricket. The blurring of the concepts of "bowled" and "run out" makes the game a bunch of fun to play."
is defined in the OED as “a kind of rounders.” Gomme equates Cuck-Ball with Pize Ball and Tut-Ball.
per Gomme. Two holes are made about ten feet apart. A player on the out-team pitches a cat toward a hole, and its defender tries to hit it with his stick. He and his in-team mate then run between the holes. When more than four boys play the extra out-team players field as in cricket.
|Danish Longball||Contemporary||Canada, Australia|
This game resembles other northern European safe-haven games like lapta. Batters bat, then run to a single distant base, trying to return as later batters have their turns.
Some unique aspects of this game are that only one (good) pitch is allowed, and the batter runs whether the ball is hit or not; multiple runners can occupy the single base if they don't think they can reach home safely; once a runner leaves the runing base, he/she cannot return; fielders cannot run with the ball; a three-out-side-out rule obtains, except for the case of a caught fly, which immediately retires the in team; runners are out if tagged, or plugged below the knee.
This game is apparently played today in Canada and Australia. The paper does not discuss the origins or history of the game.
|De Kat||Post-1900||The Netherlands|
David Block describes the Dutch game of Da Kat as a form of [[tip-cat]].
A game played from 1916 to 1926, when it transformed into Softball. Diamond ball was also known as women's baseball. Particularly popular in Sarasota FL, this game was played in the 1920s on sandy beaches (sometimes at night under lights) , and uses a 14-inch ball like used in indoor baseball. Games were played in less than an hour, affording lunch-hour play.
In its 1934 manifestation, donkey baseball let the donkeys run, and the players ride. "[A]ll participantgs, excepting the catcher, pitcher and teh batsman are astride donkeys. After hitting the ball it is necessary for the hitter to get on the back of a donkey and make his way to first base before the fielders, also on donkeys, retrieve the ball."
The earliest version of donkey base ball was named for "donkey races," which Peter Morris sees as "a silly type of contest." The team that scored the fewest runs was the winner. Maybe you had to be there to agree with the Brooklyn Eagle that the game was "very amusing , and perhaps the most novel match ever played."
A Scottish name for rounders as played by “Edinburgh street boys” in about 1880 and by schoolgirls in about 1900.
This game, called “long out of date” in an 1867 newspaper article, seemed to resemble Long Ball but with three bases. A “tosser” lofted the ball and a nearby batter hit it, then ran to a base [a “bye”] a few feet away, then to a second base 25-30 feet distant, then home. Completing this circuit before the ball was returned by fielders to the tosser gave the striker another turn at bat. The account does not say whether this was a team game, whether it employed plugging, or whether runners could elect to stay on base. It seems possible that the adjective "dutch" indicated that the game came from Holland or Germany.
|English Base Ball||Predecessor|
Only in the 21st Century did we learn that a major predecessor of modern baseball was an English pastime known as “base ball”.
Bowen (1970) writes that “Gate-ball (‘Thorball’), as found in the early Dutch and Danish accounts is “obviously but wicket [cricket], again.”
|German Ball Game||Post-1900|
per Perrin (1902). This game involves pitching a ball to a batter who hits it into a field where an opposing team’s fielders are. He tries to reach a goal line at the end of the playing area [80 feet away] and to return to the batting zone without being plugged by the ball. There is no mention of the possibility of remaining safely at the goal area. Three outs constitute a half-inning, and a team that scores 25 “points” [runs] wins the contest. The game resembles the family of "battingball" games reported by Maigaard.
This game, described as an amalgam of Baseball and traditional German Schlagball, was introduced in 1986 by Roland Naul in the context of a revival of Turner games for German youth. In the mid-1990s, a one-handed wooden bat was developed especially for the game. As of October 2009, we are uncertain how the two sets of rules were blended to make this new game. The author mentions that the fielding team can score points as well as the batting team.
From 2012 searches, it is not clear that this game is still played.
In Baseball Before We Knew It, [page 207] David Block describes a game in a German manual that “is identical to the early French game of la balle empoisonee,” and that an illustration of two boys playing it “shows it to be a bat-and-ball game." Giftball in German translates literally as "poison ball."
Another name for early base ball, perhaps confined to certain areas. Usage of the name is known in New England. As of June 2012, the Protoball Chronology lists 10 references to the game of Goal Ball or Goal, or games in which bases are term "goals." All refer to play in the six New England states, and all but two are found before 1850.
Halfball was a game using half of a rubber ball and imaginary baserunning. It seems likely to resemble Half-Rubber, which was reportedly played in the US. South and the Philadelphia area.
It is also described as a street game on Wikipedia.
Baby Boomer Jack Hammer (actual name!) describes Half Ball as a subspecies of a street game (known there as stickball) as played in Cambridge MA in the late 1950s. The ball used in this game was a hollow pink spiky object known as a "pimple ball," which, when stressed by play, tended to split open along its seam. The players separated the two halves, and the resulting game was called half ball. A half ball had interesting aerodynamic behaviors.
The bat used in this game was a broom handle sawed off at about 30 inches. Man-hole covers in the street could serve as bases for actual baserunning. Jack adds: "Besides manhole covers, sometimes we marked outlines of bases with chalk (rarely available) or with pieces of slate roof tiles. Sometimes we used a board for home or second base. First base and third base could be a tree, a utility pole, or the tail light or head light of parked vehicles." (Email of 12/31/2019.)
Another subspecies of game , called "Judge," employed imaginary runners.
For these games, oncoming traffic was marked by a common shriek -- "Carrr!!!" -- that cleared the motorway of lads.
Hildegarde is described in an 1881 publication as a new English game that was "a combination of the noble old English one of Cricket with the popular American one of Base-ball. It is especially adapted in its arrangements and implements to fit it for the use of ladies."
The game was played with 15-inch paddles and 2.5-inch rubber balls. Three poles, several yards apart, are both the bases and targets that can put batters and runners out. Teams of from two (maybe four?) to fifteen are accommodated, and a "scrub" (non-team) form is an option when very few players are available. A pitcher throws pitches with one foot placed on a foot-base located amid the three bases and at a distance of ten feet.
Some interesting variations from cricket and base ball:
 The batter ("striker") can adjust the height of the (roughly one-foot by two-feet) "strike zone" to her/his taste. This recalls the early base ball practice of allowing the batter to request high or low pitches.
 Batters can employ bats in each hand if desired.
 The number of outs per inning depends on team size, with eleven-player side, for instance, six outs retires a side.
 After completing a single circuit of the bases, a batter completes the at-bat, unlike in cricket, so the entire batting order is continually active, unlike in cricket.
 We have the impression that running is compulsory when a ball is batted.
The pamphlet also describes a second game, Ladies' Cricket, that can be played with the same equipment, but employing 2 bases and using more cricket-like rules.
Explaining the niche for Hildegarde, the game instructions (page 4) explain that "The best possible game hitherto has been the old game of Ball, called in some places Tut-Ball; but in this there is no scope for the exhibition of an individual skill, and no object is to be gained worth the winning."
Describing the ball, the point is made (page 7) pilosophizes that "There is no good out-door game without a Ball in it . . . "
As of 2/4/2014, we know of only one report of actual play, a game in the Washington Heights section of New York reflected (as a football/cricket hybrid, a "big soft ball, being struck with a wide bat as well as kicked), which appeared in the Sunday Boston Herald on 9/23/1883. No reports of play in Britain are yet known.
Only known from Francis Willughby’s 17th century Book of Games, hornebillets is played with a cat (fashioned from animal horn), which is thrown toward holes defended by players with dog-sticks. When they hit the cat, batters run to the next hole, placing the stick in the hole before the cat can be retrieved and be put into the hole. The number of holes depends on the number of players on each team.
Confected in 2009 at an unidentified school in Howland, Ohio, this game (“usually played from May to September”) melds baseball and rounders. Teams of six players populate an area with an infield in the form of an isosceles triangle [two sides are 83 feet long, and the base is 62 feet long, with home set at the angle at the right side of the base, and foul lines extending from home through the two running posts]. The counterparts to balls and strikes are influenced by whether a pitch lands in a net to the rear of the home square. Apparently, a batter cannot stay at a base, but must try to complete a round before the fielders can return the ball to the net. A local league is reported to play the game.
The German game of schlagball was reportedly called Imperial Ball and Kaiserball as played in Austria.
Evolving from an 1887 innovation in Chicago involving a broomstick as a bat and a boxing glove as the ball, indoor baseball is described in a 1929 survey as particularly popular in gymnasiums in the US mid-west in the early 20th century. The game of softball traces back to indoor play.
Origins -- On Thanksgiving Day at te Farragut Club in Chicgo in 1887, a participant recalled, "[T]he fellows were throwing an ordinary boxing glove around the room, which was struck at by one of the boys with a broom. George W. Hancock suddenly called out, 'Bpys, let's play baseball!'" Hancock was later known as the Father of Indoor Baseball.
A communication received from Peadar O Tuatain describes what is known of the ancient game of Irish Rounders. Details of the old game are apparently lost to history, but some rules encoded in 1932 were used for a revival in 1956, and the revival version, which resembles baseball much more than it does English rounders, is still being played. It employs a hurling ball and a game comprises five three-out innings. The game is played without gloves and, perhaps unique among safe-haven games, batted balls caught in the air are not outs.
Lowth (1855) describes Jellal, encountered among the people of Upper Eqypt, as resembling “in some of its parts our old game of Rounders” as he knew it in England. There was hitting and “getting home,” but a difference that he noted was that one boy hit the ball and another ran.
This is reported to be the local name for schlagball as played in Austria. Another name was "Imperial ball."
Brand describes Kit-Cat as a game for two teams of three players each. Each player on the in-team stands near a hole with a two-foot stick. One is thrown a cat. If he hits it (and if it is not caught in the air for an out), the in-team runs from hole to hole, placing their sticks in each hole and counting the number passed. Outs can also be made by throwing a cat into an unoccupied hole, or by strikeout. The number of outs per half-inning, and the number of missed swings that constitute an out, are agreed in advance.
An off-shoot of Indoor Baseball played early in the 20th Century. In 1920, 64 men's teams and 25 women's teams played regularly in the Twin Cities. Authorites changed the name of the game to diamond ball in 1922. In the 1930s, the game merged with sofball.
“Among the several types of Dutch kopfspeel there is one like rounders.” No other lead to kopfspeel is provided, and we don't know if the game is still alive.
Satisfactory evidence has yet to be collected, but it appears that a Polish game, quadrant, is a lively base-running game.
We have come across three YouTube videos on the game, none in English. The field resembles a three-base baseball diamond. Batters are seem to put the ball into play with a one-handed club, usually with an uprightstroke resembling an overhand tennis serve. The ball must, apparently, travel in the air past a line between first and third base. Caught flies are outs. The batter-runner advances as far as possible, but some rule limits that advance -- perhaps when the fielding team throws the fielded ball past a the batter's line. Players depicted are children and school-age youths or both genders. Plugging is not depicted.
One 1895 source, identifies this game as Tip-cat. He writes that Tip-cat “is doubtless a very old diversion for children. It is illustrated as “La Batonet” in the charming series of children’s games designed by Stella and published in Paris, 1657, as “Les Jeux et Plaisiris [sic] de l’Enfance.”
Maigaard (1941) notes they while most forms of rounders and longball were now lost, three - baseball, cricket, and bo-ball - remain vigorous. Bo-Ball is played in Finland. The only known source on this game, called Lahden Mailaveikot in Finnish, is a Finnish-language website, on that shows photographs of a vigorous game with aluminum bats, gloves, helmets, and much sliding and running but no other helpful hints for English-speakers. Similarities to Pesapallo are apparent.
HELP? Can you help us get a fix on the nature of contemporary Lahden Mailaveikot?
Varying accounts of this game are found. It is claimed that evidence places a form of the game to the time of Peter the Great, and that bats and leather balls date back to the 1300s. One 1989 news article reports that it is now strictly a children’s game. Still, some Russians say that “baseball is the younger brother of baseball.” In contemporary play, the fielding team’s “server” stands next to a batter and gently tosses a ball up to be hit. After the hit, runners try to run to a distant line [one 1952 account calls this the “city”] and back without being plugged. Caught fly balls are worth a point, but a successful run is two points. A time clock governs a game’s length.
A 1952 article does not mention a pitcher or points awarded for catches (but not runs?), but notes use of a round stick to hit with and also confirms the use of plugging. Neither account says that runners can stay safely at the "city" if they don't venture to run back home.
As of July 2020, we note four lapta finds on YouTube. They show some variance in playing rules. In some, batters strike the ball directly overhead, as seen in a tennis serve. The bats sown are narrow flat paddles. After each hit, multiple runners (other members of the batting side?) take diverse paths, evading plugging by fielders. Tennis balls are commonly used.
Isak Lidström, a doctoral student at Malmö University, reports that in studying the isolated island of Runö in the Baltic Sea, he found a game called "leik mjul" ["play ball"] among the Swedes there prior to World War II.
One source suggests that the game came to the island in the 1840's when a ship from England was stranded, and that perhaps the game evolved from rounders.
Isak is preparing a paper on the find for publication, and Protoball plans to update this entry at a later time.
Maigaard sees Long Ball as the oldest ancestor of rounders, cricket and baseball, a game that was played in many countries. Long Ball is described as using teams of from 4 to 20 players. It involved a pitcher, batter, and an “out-goal” or base that the batter-runner tried to reach after hitting (or after missing a third swing) and without being plugged. Caught flies signaled an immediate switch between the in-team and the out-team. Many members of the in-team could share a base as runners. Runs were not counted, as the objective was to remain at bat for a long period. A 1914 US text describes Long Ball in generally similar terms, but one that uses a regular "indoor baseball." There is a single base to run to, scoring by runs, a three-out-side-out rule, and no foul ground. Plugging is allowed.
A weblog written in the Australian outback in 2007 described a version of contemporary Long Ball. Modern variants of Long Ball are still played on a club or school basis, including Danish Longball in Denmark and England, Schlagball in Germany and Silesia and Palant in Poland.
Only two sources mentions this game. Cassidy implies that there were only two bases, and that if a runner only got to the far base, that runner would need to return home as the pitcher and catcher played catch. The era of play is uncertain.
A 2004 website for a teen camp program also soptslights its "long-dutch baseball" tradition for both boys and girls. The camp is located at Onaway Island in Wisconsin.
Curtis (1914) mentions Long Town as an alternative name for Long Ball. We have several references to Long Town Ball, most in the South and mid-West states, none north of a line between New York and Chicago. Most describe no rules of the game. One account in Lehigh County PA (about 50 miles NE of Philadelphia) recalls the game as played in the 1850s as having two bases about 25 paces apart, plugging, a fly rule, and as allowing multiple runners on the (non-batting) base.
|New England, WNY, Upper Midwest|
This is the game played according to rules that were codified in May 1858 in Dedham Massachusetts. It featured short basepaths, an absence of foul ground, plugging of runners, a smaller and softer and lighter ball, wooden stakes in place of sascks as bases,winners definied as the first team to reach 100 “tallies,” and a one-out-side-out rule. It remains unclear how close these rules -- written 13 years after the Knickerbocker rules were codified -- were to round ball, goal ball, and/or base games played in MA for the previous 50-75 years.
The Massachusetts Game declined fairly rapidly after 1860.
|Meta, or Longa Meta||Predecessor|
Incompletely verified accounts suggest that Meta, sometimes called Longa Meta, is a traditional Hungarian folk game that involves base-running.
As of Fall 2015, we are actively seeking further information about this game and how it was played.
A few scattered accounts in English describe the game (see our reading notes in the Supplemental Text below). Hungarian sources are largely unexamined as yet.
Some impressions that emerge at this stage:
 Generally, the game resembled English rounders, German schlagball, and early forms of base ball in the US: scoring was done by running to one or more distant bases and returning safely to the batting area; some form of bat was used to put the ball in play after it had been served to the batter, and then hit away; runners could be put out if they were caught off base;
 The playing field was a rectangular area (defining fair ground for hits, apparently) whose dimensions could vary with the number of players;
 The batting team and the fielding team exchanged sides after their side was put out, or at the end of an allotted time period.
 The game is thought to have subsided in the 20th Century, but attempts to re-create it have been noted in the past few years. There are undocumented assertions that the game dates back to the 1500s.
"Longa Meta" is said to be a Latin phrase, not a Hungarian term.
History: Writing in 1988 about Budapest in 1900, John Lukacs wrote, "there was nothing in the way of organized athletics or sports in the schools. An old Hungarian game of longa meta (the name came from Latin), a game similar to stickball or even baseball, was still played by children in empty lots of the city. By 1900 it was replaced by soccer."
Novaball was played as All-Star competition by the Arlington softball program in 2001 and 2002. Each inning, one team selected a special rule for that inning; examples are clockwise baserunning, the use of 6 bases in place of 4, force outs implemented by throwing the ball into a 5-gallon paint bucket, etc.
A game played in Romania, reportedly traced back to a shepherd’s game, played in southern Romania from the year 1310. The game is described as involving two 11-player teams that alternate batting as in a one-innings game of cricket. The pitch is a soft toss from a teammate.
One 1990 report says that there are nine (fielder's?) bases set out over 120 yards, that the defensive team can score on tagging and plugging putouts, and that there were over 1500 teams throughout Romania, mostly in rural areas. That account describes a ball the size of a baseball and a bat resembling a cricket bat. A second report from 1973 describes the ball as small, and the bat only a little thicker than a billiard cue, and that if a runner deflects a thrown ball with the palms, he is not put out. Note: Protoball’s initial evidence on oina came from the two western news accounts provided in the Hall of Fame’s “Origins of Baseball” file (cited below).
2017 Input: In early 2017 we viewed a handful of Youtube videos (only one of which was in English), and we office the following rough impressions of the game. Most were discovered by John Thorn, and they depict mature players.
The most interesting feature, to a baseball fan, is that oina has found a way to preserve plugging (you may know it as burning, soaking, etc.) as a way to retire runners. This appears to be handled by requiring fielders to throw at runners from a few specific spots, so that runners at risk can remain at some distance. They resemble dodgeball players in their attempted evasions, but if they deflect a ball with the palms of their hands, they remain immune.
The detailed rules for scoring remain non-obvious.
In the available clips, we did not see outs made when fly balls were caught. There are foul lines for hit balls.
Baserunners appear to be restricted to the far end-line when a new batter bats. Two or more baserunners may occupy that station, according to rules that are hard to fathom at this point.
Pitches are very soft short lobs, none appearing to soar much above the batter's head. Servers must smartly step away to avoid the lustily swung bat.
Very long hits appear to be treated as (trotless) home runs.
A game described in 1845 as another name for town ball, and played in North Carolina with an all-out-side-out rule.
There is not conclusive evidence that Old Hundred is or was a safe-haven ballgame. However, one North Carolina writer saw it as a "variety of baseball" as played in the 1840s: see chronology entry 1840c.33.
The game was played as late as the 1940 by the Mi-kmaq tribe in eastern Canada. "Old-fashion preserved an intriguing number of remnantsof ball-games of the pre-Knickerbocker era,including no foul ground, one out per inning, soaking (plugging), and soft, hnome-made balls." The rules were reported to be flexible.
|Om El Mahag||Post-1900|
In a 1939 account, Om El Mahag is described as elementary baseball, and said to be analogous to rounders and old-cat. It was reported that Om El Mahag was only played by the Berber tribes.
Descriptions of the game are not detailed enough at this point to determine how it related, or relates, to base ball, long ball, or other early safe-haven games.
A 1934 reference from Massachusetts: “One-three-one-one” was the old game the boys used to play when I went to school. Regular baseball - very similar to Stub One.”
Query: This is our only reference to one-three-one-one or Stub One. Can we find others? Is it reasonable to surmise that "1 3 1 1" reflected the number and deployment of fielders?
|Onondaga Longball||Contemporary||Upstate New York|
Longball is played as a summer game in Onondaga Nation, near Syracuse NY.
The game, described as "ancient," features foul lines, pitchers who can make outs by catching hit balls after a first bounce, a leather ball about the size of a baseball, games played to 21 runs, and "stinging," (plugging runners to put them out).
This game is described as a reduced form of softball with no running (ghost runners determine when runs score) and soft tossing by a team-mate as pitching. Fair ground is defines by an acute angle much smaller than 90 degrees, and a line is drawn about 20 yards from home. Three or four players make up a team. Balls hit past the line and not caught on the fly are counted as singles, unless they pass the deepest fielder. A bobbled grounder is counted as Reached on Error. The game is played as a beach game in the San Diego area. Pitches are gentle lobs. Peter Morris writes that this game is an offshoot of softball.
A Polish game. Chetwynd (2008) notes that Palant, similar to baseball, had a long history. “Poland had played its own traditional bat-and-ball game - particularly in the areas of Upper Silesia and the Opole District - dating back centuries and, by the 1920s, the game of Palant had a popular following.”
A Polish website describes Palant as using a rectangular field of about 25 yards by 50 yards, being governed by a clock, and having a provision by which, if a runner is hit, his teammates can enter play and retain their ups by plugging a member of the fielding team. David Block identifies Palant [Pilka Palantowa] as the Silesian game played in Jamestown VA in 1609 by a small group of Polish craftsmen.
Polish play is now reportedly resticted to rural areas.
Patch Baseball is evidently name for a form of baseball that allows the plugging of runners. We find the term used in upstate New York in about 1850. "Patching" is another word for "plugging" or "burning" baserunners.
(Cat’s Pellet, Cat’s Pallet, Gidigadie) - per MacLagan (1905). This game is played like Tip-Cat, but with a ball and a one-handed bat, and with plugging instead of crossing to put runners out. An Orkney game. Elsewhere MacLagan described the game as using four small holes in a twelve-foot square. An 1882 source finds a usage of “cat’s pellet” in 1648, and defines it as “a game, perhaps the same as tip-cat.” Court records from 1583 seem to indication that the game “Cat’s Pallet” was also called Gidigadie, at least in the Manchester area.
Pentoss was reportedly a form of ladies' cricket.
A picture in the W. W. Grantham collection at Lewes, England, shows a game seeming to resemble stoolball, but with wickets that look like round targets, held up by a post on either side of the 'target.' The bats are like smaller stoolball bats.
A photographic image of a game in progress can be found with Google search of <"joshua biltcliffe" "ladies cricket">.
There is no firm indication, at this point, of the time period of the geographic area of play. The photograph was taken in Penistone, in southern Yorkshire. Penistone is about 80 miles north of Birmingham.
Pesapallo is “Finnish Baseball.” This invented game is based on American baseball, and on the traditional Finnish games kuningaspallo, pitkapallo, and poltopallo, and was introduced in 1922. Some call it Finland’s national game.
Pesapallo involves two 9-player teams, pitching via vertical toss from close to the batter, a zigzag basepath of progressive length [about 65 feet from home to first, about 150 feet from third to home], optional running with fewer than two strikes, a three-out-side-out rule, runners being either “put out” or “wounded” (thus not counted as an out, and allowed to bat again), no ground-rule home runs, and four-inning games.
Nations with sizable Finnish emigrants (Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) compete in the annual world cup of Pesapallo.
|Philadelphia Bat Ball||Post-1900|
Called an “advanced form” of German Bat Ball, this game involves three bases for runners instead of one, and runners can remain at a base if they believe they cannot safely advance further. Runners can tag up after caught flies. Otherwise, the rules of German Bat Ball apply.
|Philadelphia Town Ball||1800s|
The game that arose in Philadelphia in the 1830’s. The rules of this game have recently been induced from game accounts by Richard Hershberger. The game is distinct from the Massachusetts Game. It’s signature features were 11-player teams, an absence of set defensive positions, stakes [as bases] set in a circle 30-foot diameter, non-aggressive pitching, a lighter, softer ball, an all-out-side-out rule, and a bound rule.
This game was evidently the game of choice in the Philadelphia area until about 1860, when the New York game came to dominate Philly play.
Johnson (1910) lists Playground Ball among seven “Baseball" games. The rules of this game are not explained.
This game is modification of cricket evidently designed to expedite play, and is played at several English schools. Batters must run when they make contact with a bowled ball. Bowled balls can not hit the ground in front of the wicket, and a baseball bat is used instead of a flat cricket bat.
Maigaard (1941) lists this game as the Swiss variation of Long Ball.
This appears to be the name given to the game played in Massachusetts . . . and possibly beyond that . . . in the years before the Dedham rules of 1858 created the Massachusetts Game.
We have about a dozen references to round ball from about 1780 to 1856 -- all in the state of Massachusetts. New England also has references to goal, or goal ball, base, or base ball, and bat-and-ball forf this period. There is no indication if or how these games differed, or whether they are direct antecedents of the Mass Game rules of 1858.
Round Cat is a game noted by Tom Altherr in September 2009. We find several brief mentions of this game being played from Washington DC southward, but no explanation of how it was played. One account identifies it as similar to Scrub as played in New England.
|Round Town (Round Town Ball)||Predecessor|
[A] As played in Eastern PA in the 1850s, Round Town is recalled as having four or five bases or “safety spots,” tagging instead of plugging, the fly rule, the sharing of bases by multiple runners, and a bat made of a rail or clap-board. A game “similar to baseball” recalled as being played by school boys in 1891 in a grove of trees in Beech Grove, Kentucky.
[B] Another game called Round Town is described as follows:
An Old Virginia Ball Game
The game of round-town is played in this manner: Two sides are formed, the number of players of the division being equal. Four bases are used and are placed in the same manner as if they were being fixed for a game of baseball, although men are only placed in the positions of the pitcher, catcher, and first baseman, the rest of the players being scattered in the field where they think the ball is most apt to be knocked. The first batsman on the opposing side takes his place at the plate, and he has in his hand a paddle an inch or two thick, and in which only one hand is used ins striking. The pitcher delivers a solid gum ball with all the swiftness attainable, the use of the curve never being thought of, and it is therefore very seldom that a "strike out" occurs. The batter hits the ball at the first opportunity and endeavors to drive it over the heads of the opponents, for if it is caught on the fly or the first bound the runner is called out, and also if it is begotten to the first baseman before the runner arrives at the base. Should the runner reach first base safely he can continue to run to the other bases if he wishes, but his opponents have the privilege of hitting him with the ball, and as it is very painful to be struck with a gum ball, the runner is very cautious, and if he is struck he is counted out of the game, although should he reach any of the other bases he is safe.
[C] In February 2016, Bill Hicklin adds:
I found two references to Virginia "round-town," both from Dickinson County, Virginia (in the Appalachian coal country). They come from School and Community History of Dickenson County, Virginia (ed. Dennis Reedy), a compilation of articles published over many years in the local paper, which were themselves based on a series of oral-history interviews conducted at the behest of the school superintendant with senior and retired Dickenson teachers.
 William Ayers Dyer: "I was born May 10, 1880 at Stratton, Dickenson County, Virginia and started to school to Johnson Skeen at the Buffalo School in 1885 when I was 5 years old... The games we played at the Buffalo were straight town, round town, base, bull pen and antnee over." (Bull pen was dodgeball, but played with a baseball. Ouch!)
Hampton Osborne (b. 1894): "'Round-town' and 'straight-town' were popular games. Round-town had four bases in a circle, as baseball does today. If the batter was caught or crossed-off both ways, he was out. Straight-town had four bases in a row and you used the same rules as round-town.
|Rounders - Britain||Predecessor|
Rounders was first described in the late 1820s. Current researchers believe that the game was similar to English base ball, which had been described almost 80 years earlier, but it is clearer that rounders employed a bat than that English ball did.
Rounders in the 19th Century generally resembled the game that Mass game; it used overhand throwing, plugging, etc.
In describing rounders in 1898, Gomme notes a one-out-side-out rule applied for caught (fly?) balls. Batters who missed three pitches were compelled to run on the third swing as if they had struck the ball.
Rounders is now played in British schools, often by young women.
|Rounders -- Hungary||1800s|
This game resembles contemporary British rounders. The bases form a regular pentagon, a pitcher stands at its center, fly balls are outs, and there is plugging. A baserunner, however, could make plays on subsequent batter-runners as a member of the fielding team.
Gene Carney describes this game as a one-out-all-out team game, but notes that “a fielder catching a ball on the fly joined the offense immediately.”
A memoir in Eastern Massachusetts, written about local play in about 1870, describes a game called "roundstakes" or "rounders."
"The game that bore the closest resemblance to our modern baseball was "roundstakes" or "rounders." In some communities it was know (sic) as "townball." This game of roundstakes was often played on village commons, or muster fields, on holidays or other public occasions. Among the larger boys it was the popular game at school.
"It was this game that was so modified as to become later the baseball of today. It was originally an old English game much played in the colonies. A soft ball was always used. It was made of yarns or other soft materials and covered with leather or a network to prevent unwinding. Instead of throwing this ball to a baseman it was thrown at the baserunner himself. If a hit was made by a thrower, the runner was out. The bases were usually posts or stakes, but sometimes stones. These had to be circled or touched by the runner. There were no fair or foul balls. The batter ran on any hit, however light, or on his third strike. There were no called balls or called strikes. The batter could strike out, fly out or be hit be a thrown ball when between bases. The game was played between teams or sides of equal numbers, usually from seven to ten. The play was generally without an umpire."
In his definition of Rounders, Hazlitt suggests that “it is possible that this is the game which, under the name of rownes (rounds) is mentioned in the ‘English Courtier and the Country Gentleman,’ in 1586.”
A name given in some localities, evidently, to the game played in the Boston area in the early 19th century; it is possibly another name for what is elsewhere in New England recalled as Round Ball. Our single reference to this game comes from a letter written in 1905 by a Boston man.
Rundbold is given as the Danish name for the Swedish game brannboll.
YouTube clips can be found for several depictions of the game. A (non-Danish-speaking Protoball rep observes the folowing: The clips show batters propelling a ball into the field with a (two-handed) fungo style, a one-handed style (think of a sidearmed tennis serve), and with a second player soft tossing a serve from a few feet away.
Backward hitting is not observed. Fly outs appear to end a batter's time at bat. sometimes with a change of sides. After hitting the ball, runners try to complete a circuit of four bases (pegs, cones, etc) before the ball is returned to a defender stationed near the hitting area.
In some cases, a hit is followed by several runners setting off from the hitting zone at the same time. If the ball is grounded by the defender before a runner reaches the next base, that runner must return to the previous base.
Scoring rules are not evident. Players shown are often children, but young adults are also shown, sometimes with beer bottles in hand.
A longball variant still played in Germany. “German Schlagball (‘hit the ball’) is similar to rounders.” No other clues to schlagball are provided.
Other unverified sources state that schlagball evolve as early as the 1500s.
The game certainly features pitching and hitting. An early form was described by Gutsmuths as the German Ballgame (Deutsche Ballspiel). Rules can be found here. One write-up compares schlagball to lapta stating that while the running base in lapta is a line, in schlagball runners proceed along a series of discrete bases; this is a misapprehension. In modern Schlagball the goal line is replaced with two side-by-side "touch posts," either one of which may serve as the running base.
Single-wicket cricket uses teams smaller than the usual 11-player teams. All bowling is to a single wicket.
There is, in effect, a foul ground behind the wicket, so unlike full-team cricket, only balls hit forward are deemed to be in play.
As late at 1969 there were annual single-wicket championships at Lord’s in London. In the very early years, most cricket is believed to use a single wicket, and each references to cricket in the US usually reported very small numbers of players. Early cricket rules called for single-wicket play when team sizes were five or fewer.
|Sixteen-Inch Softball (No-Glove Softball)||Contemporary|
A 2009 article reports on a game played mostly in Chicago involving a ball of 16” circumference and using no gloves. No other variations are covered. The article is not clear on the local name for the game, but another account calls the large ball a “clincher,” and notes that games were sometimes played in the street. (Note: Line Ball, another Chicago game, also used a large ball.) It appears that the game generally follows the rules of softball.
Query: Can you supply further details about this game?
Slaball is given as the Norwegian name for Brannboll, for which Sweden is a popular baserunning game. "Slaball" is translated as "hit-ball" in this account.
|Slap Ball -- Brooklyn||Derivative|
Slap Ball. This game taught the esoteric rules of of the game. It was strickt baseball.
Pitcher pitched on a bounce with flukes. Ump called balls and strikes -- the ball had to cross the plate in the strike zone. Bunting and stealing ans pickoffs were permitted. Hitter could hit the ball with an open hand only.
Note: You could not steal bases if you did not know how to slide. Sliding on concrete can be painful. But if you went to Coney Island and practiced for a good while on the sand , you could learn to slide well enough not to get hurt sliding on concrete. However, no pair of pants could last more than a game: serious punishment for ruining dungarees.
|Slavonic Long Ball||Post-1900|
Maigaard (1941) lists this game. It varies from other regional variations in placing the batting area mid-way between the home area and the first of two "resting areas" for runners. It is possible that this represents a form of Palant.
Query: can we determine the local name for this game?
Hall-of-Famer Cap Anson recalls that "'soak ball' was at this time [as an Iowa schoolboy in the early 1860's] my favorite sport. It was a game in which the batter was put out by running the bases by being hit with the ball," which was "comparatively soft." Patch baseball was, arguably, another name for this game.
An 1887 source reporting that Rounders was still being played in some Southern and Western states, also noted that the game was called Sockey in some states. Our only reference to Sockey is in an 1888 recollection of ballplaying at a PA school, and notes that this game was played against the wall of a stable.
As described in Bealle, Softball evolved from Indoor Baseball, which was first played in 1887. Softball rules are close to Baseball rules, but the infield dimensions were set to be smaller and the ball is pitched with an underhand motion. A full team has ten players. Many forms are played, depending on the age and agility of the players. The term Softball debuted in 1926.
per MacLagan. The Uist form of Pellet. A horse-hair ball is put in play with a trap, and the batter attempt to hit it with a bat. Outs are attained by caught fly balls, three missed swings, throwing the ball into the hole at home, and plugging runners between two calaichean (harbors). Points are scored by measuring the lengths of hits in bat-lengths.
Query: can we determine when this game was played?
The name for rounders in Crathie in Scotland around 1900, according to a 1975 source.
According to Block, an 1838 encyclopedia describes the game of Squares as “roughly identical” to contemporary Rounders and Baseball.
A game usually played in urban streets. The ball is rubber -- a “spaldeen,” now virtually the same that used in racketball, and bats vary but include broom handles. Allowances are made for traffic of various sorts, and the bases are specified at the start of play. (Verification needed.)
[A] One variation of the game is found in a recollection of Bronx play by Gregory Christiano (see Supplemental Text, below). Gregory played in The Bronx in the mid-1950s.
[B] Brooklyn variants:
1- With (invisible, or "ghost" base runners). Pitching and balls and strikes. Strikes determined by a chalk drawn box on wall behind batter. Box is filled in with chalk so that all strikes make a mark on the ball. Ball has to be wiped off after strike.
A ball hit past the pitcher on a fly is a single, a hit midway to the outfield fence is a double, hitting the fence and bouncing is a triple, and over the fence is a home run. A ground ball that gets past the fielders and hits the fence is a single. If the grounder is caught cleanly it is an out. If missed it is and error and hitter is on first.
2 - With live baserunning. Same rules, runners run out the hits. If there is a catcher, there is stealing. Sometimes this game is played with the pitch coming on a bounce
When no facility was nearby, this game was often played on the street using sewer covers and cars as bases and landmarks for the number of bases awarded.
Traditional pitching and catching. Umpires call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher. There is stealing.
At Inlet Grounds, PS 206, East 23rd Street and Gravesend Neck Road.
The inlet is about 120 feet wide and five stories high. Two high walls with windows (with metal bars to prevent breaking windows: a well hit Spaldeen easily breaks a window.) Best played with three people on a team. Pitcher, catcher, and fielder. But there are 4-person games *(2 fielders) and one-on-one games. The fielders stand somewhere near the batter in order to catch the ball off the wall behind the pitcher. Caught off the wall, is out. A hit off the wall up to the second floor is a single. Higher up the wall, a double, then a triple. On the roof is a homer. BUT most of the balls hit on the roof come back. That is, the spin of the hitting a ball that soars within 120 feet has a backspin. If the ball is caught off the roof it is an out. This is a very dramatic play as it takes a few seconds for the ball to get on the roof, a few more seconds to the ball to roll back, then a few more seconds to see if the fielder will be able to make the play on a ball falling five stories and within a few inches of the wall, with backspin.
Usually pink Spaldeens were used. But tennis balls allowed the pitcher much more variation and sharper curves and screwballs -- more surface.
(Communication from Neil Seldman and Mark Schoenberg)
[C] At PS 81 in the Bronx
Stickball as played in the p.s.81 schoolyard [bronx] - no live baserunning - played with 1 or 2 players per team - pitcher threw a spaldeen or tennis ball from a line ~65-70 feet from the school wall on which was marked a chalk rectangle running from knee - shoulder kid height and about 2x as wide as a baseball home plate [hence considerably larger than a normal strike zone] - batter stood in front of wall - balls that were not hit were called balls or strikes depending on whether they struck the wall within or outside the rectangle - arguments occasionally occurred, usually when the pitcher had particularly good curve ball - batted balls were scored as outs if they were grounders or were caught on a fly - balls that hit a very high chain link fence ~125 feet away from the school wall on one bounce were singles, on the fly were doubles, over the fence but short of another fence a further ~100 feet away were triples, balls that hit the second fence on a fly or cleared it were home runs
(Communication from Raphael Kasper, February 4, 2020.)
According to Gomme (1898), stones was a game played in Ireland in about 1850, using either a ball or a lob-stick. A circle of about a half-dozen stones is arranged, one for each player on the in team. A member of the out team throws the ball/stick at the stones in succession. If the defending player hits it away, all members of the out team must move to another stone. The in and out teams exchange places if a stone is hit by the thrower, the ball/stick is caught, or a player is hit while running between stones.
There was a distinct form of cricket at the Roman Catholic College of Stonyhurst. The game played there used a single-wicket, which took the shape of a 17-inch milestone, used a misshapen hand-crafted ball with an exaggerated seams, encouraged bowling with two or more bounces before reaching the batsman, used"baselines" set at 30 yards instead if 22-yards, and 3 to 5 players per side. There was an out-of-bounds line.
The college was located outside England from about 1600 to 1794, and tre conjecture is that this game evolved separately from the dominant 11-man game during that period.
|England (in the past century, predominantly in Sussex and other south east counties)|
Stoolball’s first appearance was in the 1600’s; there are many more references to stoolball than to cricket in these early years. For Protoball's listing of over 60 specific (but mostly fragmentary) sources on early stoolball -- 45 of them preceding the year 1700 -- see Chronology:Stoolball.
Believed to have originated as a game played by English milkmaids using a milking stool set on its side as a pitching target, stoolball evolved to include the use of bats instead of bare hands, and running among goals or bases.
The modern form of the is actively played in counties in the south east of England, and uses an opposing pair of square targets set well off the ground as goals, and heavy paddles as bats. Since 2010, the game has experienced a renaissance, and now has active youth programs, a season-ending All-England match of prominent players, and the expansion of mixed-gender play. (The ancient game was played by women and men, but in recent years most players and have been women.) The game is reportedly played in other countries as well.
For more information on Stoolball England and the current status of the game, see http://www.stoolball.org.uk/. Also see an account of today's stoolball at https://protoball.org/Stoolball_Today_--_The_Rejuvenation_of_an_Ancient_Pastime
Note: McCray suggests that before 1800, there is little convincing evidence that stoolball involved baserunning.
19th-century reflections from essays by schoolboys in rural Virginia:
[William Ayers Dyer essay:] "I was born May 10, 1880 at Stratton, Dickenson County, Virginia and started to school to Johnson Skeen at the Buffalo School in 1885 when I was 5 years old... The games we played at the Buffalo were straight town, round town, base, bull pen and antnee over." (Bull pen was dodgeball, but played with a baseball. Ouch!)
[Hampton Osborne (b. 1894) essay:] "'Round-town' and 'straight-town' were popular games. Round-town had four bases in a circle, as baseball does today. If the batter was caught or crossed-off both ways, he was out. Straight-town had four bases in a row and you used the same rules as round-town."There were three or four base games, but 'Stink-base' was the most popular..." (describes game effectively identical to prisoner's base, which we take to be a form of capture-the-flag)=
Apparently a baseball-like game, perhaps played in Massachusetts in the early 20th Century. We have but one obscure reference to this game, in Cassidy.
Target Ball appears to have strongly resembled stoolball, and thus cricket. An illustration in its rulebook shows a paddle-shaped bat, a round "target" not much larger than the bat, and a ball marked like a tennis ball or double-eight-sewed stoolball.
"Target Ball supplies the need so much felt in girls' schools of a summer game which will take the place that cricket does in boys' schools."
The targets are placed 15 yards apart. Baserunning is mandatory for hit balls. "Bowlers" deliver balls underhand. Deliveries that bounce are declared "no balls." Balls are described as soft lawn-tennis balls.
Modern stoolball uses rectangular wicket separated by 16 yards, but no other differences from target ball are yet known.
Matthew McDowell at the University of Edinburgh reports finding evidence of targette being play in the 1890s on the Scottish island of Bute.
The rules of this game, popular among girls at Rothesay Academy there, are not yet known, but from coverage in the school magazine, it bore a resemblance to cricket: "there are first and second innings, the game is scored in runs, the bowlers attempt to claim wickets off of the batters." The magazine further boasted, "The Targette Club is a leviathan among clubs. Did you ever hear of a school football club with 80 members in it?" McDowell finds indication that former students and members of the community also participated.
Rothesay is about 30 miles west of Glasgow and just off the mainland of Scotland. Its current population is about 6,500.
A description of Spier's School in North Ayrshire, Scotland mentions, cryptically, that "a quaint game called targette was played in the early days." Accessed 2/7/2014.The school is also on the Firth of Clyde in westernmost Scotland.
A "Backyard Tennisball League" is found on Youtube as of September 2018.
This league of teenagers plays a 14-game season with playoffs. Teams are up to 5 players, and the scoreboard reflects 4-inning games. The league is described as originated in 2011.
A list of 27 rules floats down the screen. It includes a "peg rule", which may or may not imply plugging runners to make outs. Stealing of 2B and 3B is allowed. Knees-to chin strike zone (no umpire depicted). Ground rules for "left field trees" and right field tree." Apparent limits on pitch speed. Grassy field. No mention of use of imaginary runners.
Clips suggest wide borrowing from baseball - 4 bases, a skin pitching area, ordinary bats (wooden only), ordinary tennis balls, an outfield fence, throws to first by fielders to retire batters. We see the hidden-ball trick and a runner-fielder collision at home plate.
The location of this league is not indicated.
|The Union Hall Game of Ball||Predecessor|
A game they evidently knew as "base ball" was played by the students of the Union Hall Academy in Jamaica (Queens County, NY) well before the New York game began its spread in the mid 1850s.
Two students (Mills and Cogswell) who played the game in the early 1850s exchanged letters about it in 1905, both of them early members of the Knickerbocker Club. (Excerpts are provided by John Thorn below.) The letters reveal these remembered features:
 Plugging runners to put them out
 Three bases, the first and third near that batter's station.
 Use of foul territory -- its details not supplied
 Flat bats
 Flies caught on one bounce counted as outs
 An all-out-side-out rule for ending an inning
 An end-of-inning Lazarus Rule (three consecutive homers) for staying on offense
A third Union Hall student was William Wheaton (born 1814), who would have been at the school several years before Mills and Cogswell. Wheaton recalled that in 1837, as a member of the Gotham Club at age 22 or 23, the Gotham "decided to remodel three-cornered cat and make a new game," and started by eliminating plugging.
Thus, it seems plausible that the game played at Union Hall may have been a form of three-old-cat, perhaps evolving over time. By 1850, of course, the Knickerbockers were playing intramural games elsewhere in New York.
It also seems possible that foul ground was a Union Hall innovation prior to the formation of the Gotham Club in 1837.
Bowen (1970) writes that “Gate-ball (‘Thorball’), as found in the early Dutch and Danish accounts is “obviously but wicket [cricket], again.”
|Three Out All Out||Predecessor|
|New York City|
"Cauldwell recalled playing baseball in New York City when he was 'knee high to a mosquito" . . . . The game he remembered was called simply 'three out all out.'"
Cauldwell was born in 1824. Depending on the size of mosquitos then, the game he recalls was played in c1835. One speculates that the game was a variant of a folk game preceding modern base ball.
Craig Waff came across an 1894 reference to Three-Base Ball as having been played at Erasmus Hall, a school in Brooklyn. The game, reported as being playing circa 1840, involved vigorous plugging and while its rules are not further described, its playing positions suggest base ball. Two-Old-Cat is described separately in the 1894 article.
"Three-Corner Cat" is the name of a game recalled decades later by base ball founder William R. Wheaton, as having been played at a Brooklyn school in his youth. See http://protoball.org/1849c.4 for a chronology entry on this game.
Three-cornered cat was a boys' game, and did well enough for slight youngsters, but it was a dangerous game for powerful men, because the ball was thrown to put out a man between bases, and it had to hit the runner to put him out."
As is indicated in the 1849c.4 entry, the rules of this game, as recalled in 1905, were something of a hybrid between three old cat and modern baseball. Wheaton, who later had the job of writing new rules for the Gotham club, which were apparently a primary basis for the famous Knickerbocker rules of 1845.
Block discusses whether Thèque belongs on the list of baseball’s predecessors. Thèque is an old Norman game, but there are evidently few descriptions of the game before baseball and rounders appeared. He cites an 1899 depiction of the game that shows five bases, plugging, and the pitcher belonging to the in-team, but otherwise resembles baseball and rounders. Block concludes that there is insufficient evidence to say whether Thèque came before or after the English counterpart game.
Strutt (1801) says there were various versions of Tip-Cat, and describes two of them. The first is basically a fungo game: a batter stands at the center of a circle and hits the cat a prescribed distance. Failing that, another player replaces him. (A similar version appears in The Boy’s Handy Book, but adds the feature that the fielding player tries to return the cat to the hitter’s circle such that the hitter does not hit it away again.)
In a second version, holes are made in a regular circle, and each is defended by an in-team player. The players advance after the cat is hit away by one of them, but they can be put out if a cat crosses them - that is, it passes between them and the next hole. Gomme (1898) notes that in some places runners are put out be being hit with the cat, and three misses makes an out. She adds that Tip-Cat was “once commonly played in London streets, now forbidden.” Writing in 1864, Dick noted that Tip-Cat was only rarely being played in the U.S. In 1896, however, Beard advises that it was experiencing a revival in the US, Germany, Italy, “and even in Hindostand,” whereas in about 1850 it had been confined to “rustics on England.” Richardson (1848) notes Tip-Cat’s resemblance to Single-Wicket Cricket. “Twenty-one [runs] is usually a game,” he adds. The earliest reference to a cat-stick we have is the 1775 report that a witness to the Boston Massacre carried a cat-stick with him.
The English version of a (Syrian?) website includes the following text under the heading "Top Degenegi:"
"Top Degenegi was similar to the American game of baseball. To play, one needed a thick bat and a ball, which was usually made using bits of rag tied together with colorful string. Two teams are formed, and they stand at a distance from one another. Like in baseball, one team pitches and the other bats. The batter has to hit the ball back in the direction of the pitching team, whose members must then try to catch the ball before it hits the ground."
Writing of the late 1860’s boyhood of a World War I General, Johnston (1919) writes that “the French boys were accustomed to play a game called tournoi, or tournament, which was something similar to the game of Rounders.” That’s all we seem to know about Tournoi.
Ideas of how to understand the term “Town Ball” are still evolving. In most common usage, the term seems to have been used generically to denote, in substantially later years, any of a variety of games that preceded the New York game in a particular area. Philadelphia Town Ball, however, used the term to denote a current game before the New York game emerged, and had generally standard rules (see “Philadelphia Town Ball,” entry, above). In Cincinnati another form evolved, and there are many recollections of town ball from the South and mid-West. Town ball is not infrequently confused with the Massachusetts Game, but the term is in fact very rarely found in MA sources in the 19th century.
Gomme's compilation (1898) includes the game of Trunket, played with short sticks, and using a hole instead of wickets.
"The ball being 'cop'd', instead of bowled or trickled on the ground, it is played in he same way [as cricket]; the person striking the ball must be caught out, or the ball must be deposited in the hole before the stick or cudgel can be placed there."
This implies to Protoball that the batter runs bases after hitting the ball.
|Two-Base Town Ball||Predecessor|
Describing ballplaying in the Confederate regiments during the Civil War, Wiley suggests that “the exercise might be of the modern version, with players running four bases, or it might be two-base town ball.” It is not clear whether he means “two-base town ball” as a formal name, or simply as a way to distinguish prior folk game(s) in the South. Long Ball and Long Town used two bases.
|Unnamed Games - Balkans||Predecessor||Balkans|
per Endrei and Zolnay. “We may be of the opinion that these ‘hitting’ games, which were universal in the Middle Ages, have disappeared entirely. This is far from true: in the Balkans they are still played by children . . . .” No other lead to the Balkan games is provided.
|Unnamed Games - Czech||Predecessor||Czechoslovakia|
per Guarinoni. This game, reportedly played in Prague circa 1600, involved two teams, pitching, and a small leather ball “the size of a quince.” The bat was tapered and four feet long. Caught balls caused the teams to change positions. Baserunning is not mentioned, according to David Block, but is at least inferred by Endrei and Zolnay: who say that the batter “attempted to make a circuit of the bases without being hit by the ball.” Guarinoni mentions that the Poles and the Silesians were the best players.
|Unnamed Games - Hungarian||Predecessor||Hungary|
per Endrei and Zolnay. “In Hungary several variants of rounders exist in the countryside.” No other lead to these variants is provided.
A sport that claims 1500 players among the women of Queensland, Australia, Vigoro is a souped-up version of (slightly down-sized) cricket. A key point is that if a ball Is hit forward of the crease, running is compulsory.
The game of vitilla ("vee-TEE-ya') is reportedly played widely in the Dominican Republic. "What Dominican doesn't play vitilla?," asked Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez. Several other Major Leagues attribute some of their skills to the game.
". . . the concept is the same [as baseball] -- to hit a moving object with a stick. But because the vitilla is smaller than a baseball and moves unpredictable when thrown, and because the bat is thinner, some . . . believe playing it so regularly helped their hand-eye coordination."
A Times article does not detail the game's rules, and it is not yet clear to Protoball whether batters actually run bases. A photograph suggests that balls and strikes are determined by whether a pitched cap hits a small (12 inch?) target set up behind the batter.
The article refers to a similar game, called chapita, played in Venezuela.
"A game of tip-cat. Four boys stand the corners of a large paving-stone; two have sticks, the other two are feeders, and throw the piece of wood called a 'cat.' The batters act much in he same way as in cricket, except that the cat must be hit whilst in the air. The batter hits it as far away as possible, and whilst the feeder is fetching it, gets, if possible, a run, which counts to his side. If either of the cats fall to the ground [being missed by the batter?] both batters go out, and the feeders take their place."
Gomme (1898) compares Waggles to a game of four-player Cricket using cats instead of balls.
The earliest known game of water baseball was played in 1879 on the [Hudson?] River. Pitcher, catcher, and btter stood in waist-deep water and other players in deeper water.
A variety devised in the 1930s involved teams of six, baselines of 45 yards, balls put in play by throws from a diving board, and runner-swimmers vulnerable to being put out by plugging with the [rubber] ball.
|Welsh Baseball||Derivative||Wales, UK|
Author Martin Johns describes Welsh baseball as having evolved from rounders, and having been re-named baseball in 1892. It has been largely confined to Cardiff and Newport, and further to the working-class sections of those towns. Sixty neighborhood clubs were playing in 1921, and five Cardiff schools formed a baseball league in 1922.
In 2015, the Welsh Baseball website at http://www.welshbaseball.co.uk/ lists eight clubs in a Premier League, several of them evidently providing summer sport for local soccer clubs.
This game uses a smaller ball than is found in US baseball, and features a flattened bat, underhand pitching, eleven-player teams, no foul ground, an all-out-side-out rule, and two-inning games.
Note: in 1927, the rules for Welch baseball and Liverpool baseball were evidently combined. See "British Baseball" at http://protoball.org/British_Baseball and at http://protoball.org/British_Baseball_(Welsh_Baseball).
In Gomme's 1898 survey, she includes the following sentence in an account of the game of waggles:
"A game called 'Whacks' is played in a similar way [to that of Waggles, a form of tip-cat] -- London streets."
The game of wicket was evidently the dominant game played in parts of Connecticut, western MA, and perhaps areas of Western New York State, prior to the spread of the New York game in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Wicket resembles cricket more than baseball. The “pitcher” bowls a large, heavy ball toward a long, low wicket, and a batter with a heavy curved club defends the wicket. Some students of cricket speculate that it resembles cricket before it evolved to its modern form.
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