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850c.1 Nausicaa & Maids Play Ball while Laundry Dries
|Nausicaa, going to a river near that place to wash the clothes of her father, mother, and brethren, while the clothes were drying played with her maids at ball; and Odysseus coming forth is fed and clothed, and led on his way to the house of her father, King Alcinous.|
The Odyssey, Homer, Book VI
Even Homer nods
1795.6 Future Tennessee Governor, at age 50, "Played at Ball"
"Sat. [August] 22 played at ball self and son John vs. Messrs Aitken and Anderson beat them four Games."
The Journal of John Sevier, published in Vols V and VI of the Tennessee Historical Magazine, 1919-1920.
Accessed via <sevier "22 played at ball"> search, 6/30/2014.
Editor's footnote #73 (1919?): "'Played at ball.' Sevier and son beat their antagonists four games. There were not enough (players?) for town-ball, nor for baseball, evolved from town-ball, and not yet evolved. There were not enough for bullpen. The game was probably cat-ball."
Revolutionary War veteran John Sevier was nearly 50 years old in August 1795. He became Tennessee's first governor in the following year. His son John was 29 in 1795.
1809.1 Americans in London Play "A Game Called Ball," Seen as a "Novelty" By Locals
"On Wednesday a match for 80 guineas, at a game called Ball. was played by Eight American Gentlemen, in a field on the side of the Commercial-road. The novelty of the game attracted the attention of the passing multitude, who departed highly gratified."
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser (London), June 23, 1809, page 2. See David Block, Pastime Lost: The Humble, Original, and Now Completely Forgotten Game of English Baseball (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), page 237.
Block adds: "Other games besides baseball, of course, could have borne the label Ball on that occasion, but none seem obvious. Cricket, football, trap-ball, stool-ball, golf, and various games in the hockey family ,including bandy, hurling, and shinty, all had a presence in the British Isles in that era, but there is no reason the passing multitude in London that day would have considered any of them a "novelty."
Does the sum of 80 guineas as the game's stakes imply anything about the players?
1820c.35 Horace Greeley No Ballplayer
Ball was a common diversion in Vermont while I lived there; yet I never became a proficient at it, probably for want of time and practice. To catch a flying ball, propelled by a muscular arm straight at my nose, and coming on so swiftly that I could scarcely see it, was a feat requiring a celerity of action, an electrice sympathy of eye and brain and hand, which my few and far-between hours snatched from labor for recreation did not suffice to acquire. Call it a knack, if you will; it was quite beyond my powers of acquisition. "Practice makes perfect." I certainly needed the practice, though I am not sure that any amount of practice would have made me a perfect ball-player.
Greeley, Horace, "Recollections of a Busy Life". New York: J. B. Ford & Co., 1869, page 117.
Perhaps published in a series, since it found in print earlier, for instance in the Davenport (IA) Democrat, Nov. 19, 1867.
1822.7 New Bedford Bans "Playing at Ball"
An 1822 bylaw levied a fine to anyone who would “play at ball, fly a kite or run down hill upon a sled… in any street of that part of the town commonly called the Village of New-Bedford”. Thomas Rodman wrote about being “initiated into the mysteries of Foot-ball, Base and every game boys pursue” when he was a student at Friends Academy in the mid-1830s.
1836.13 "Errant Rogue," in Poem, Prefers Ball to Study
The Dissipated Collegian
"Tis said there was a certain wight,
Whose mother-wit was very bright,
An errant rogue, and even bolder
Than many rogues a good deal older; . . .
This wight of ours disdained to study
And hated books in soul and body;
His lessons, therefore, were neglected
Though he as often was corrected;
But when there was a chance to play,
Our rogue would slily run away;
Yet, had he given due attention,
(So powerful was his comprehension,)
He might have been the first of all
In science, as in playing ball;
He might have done as great exploits
In study as in pitching quoits; . . . .
Selection of Juvenile and Miscellaneous Poems, Written or Translated by Roswell Park, (Desilver, Thomas ad Co., Philadelphia, 1836),. page 44.
Roswell Park was born at Lebanon, Conn., in 1807, graduated at West Point, and at Union College in 1831. He died July 16, 1869. Whether he was an errant wight is not yet known by Protoball.
Was "collegian" a term for a university student, back then?