Chronology:Base

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1720c.4 Game of Base was "A Peculiar Favorite"

Game:

Base

Age of Players:

Youth

"Notwithstanding bloody affrays [in war times] between the English and Indians, they were generally of familiar terms in times of peace, and  often mingled together  in athletic sports.  The game of 'base' was a peculiar favorite with our young townsmen, and the friendly Indians, and the hard beach of 'Garrison Cove' afforded fine ground for it."

Sources:

W. Southgate, The History of Scarborough, 1633 - 1783, Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Volume III (Portland, 1853), page 148.  G-Books search <"bloody affrays like these">, 4/2/2013.

Warning:

One wishes there was more evidence that this form of "base" was a ball-game, and not a game like tag or capture-the-flag.  If "base" was a ball-game, this report of native American play nearly 3 centuries ago is certainly remarkable. 

Comment:

Scarborough Maine is about 8 miles SW of Portland ME (then still a part of Massachusetts).

Circa
1720
Item
1720c.4
Edit

1750s.3 1857 Writer Reportedly Dates New England Game of "Base" to 1750s

Game:

Base

Age of Players:

Juvenile, Youth, Unknown

"Dear Spirit:  . . .

"I shall state [here] that which has come under my observation, and also some of my friends, during the last four years of the ball-playing mania . . .   

Base ball cannot date back to so far as [cricket], but the game has no doubt, been played in this country for at least one century.  Could we only invoke the spirit of some departed veteran of he game, how many items of interest might we be able to place before the reader.

"New England, we believe, has always been the play-ground for our favorite game; and the boys of the various villages still play by the same rules their fathers did before them.  We also find that many games are played, differing but little from the well-known game of Base.

" . . .  Although I am a resident of State of New York, I hope to do her no wrong by thinking that the New England States were, and are, the ball grounds of this country, and that many of our  present players were originally from those States.  

"The game of Base, as played there, was as follows: They would take the bat, 'hand over hand,' as the present time, 'whole hand or none.'  After the sides  were chosen, the bases would be placed so as to form a square, each base about twenty yards from the other.  The striker would stand between the first and fourth base, equi-distant from each.  The catcher was always expected to take the ball without a bound and it was always thrown by  a player who would stand between the second and third bases. A good catcher would take the ball before the bat cold strike it.  A hand was out if a man was running the bases should be struck with the ball which was thrown at him while he was running.  He was allowed either a pace or a jump to the base which he was striving to reach; or if a ball was caught flying or on first bound.  There was no rule to govern the striker as to the direction he should knock the ball, and of course no such thing as foul balls. The whole side had to be put out, and if the last man could strike a ball a sufficient distance to make all the bases, he could take in one of the men who had been put out. The ball was not quite the same as the one in present use, and varied very much in size and weight, it also was softer and more springy.  

"The bats were square, flat, or round -- some preferring a flat bat, and striking with it so that th4  edge, or small side, would come in contact with the ball.  Another arrangement of bases is, to have the first about two yards from the striker (on this right), the second about fifty down the field, and the third, or home, about five. . . .

"Yours, respectfully,  X"

  

 

Sources:

Base Ball Correspondence," Porter's Spirit of the Times, Volume 3, number 8 (October 24, 1857), page 117, column 2. The full text of the October 20 letter from "X" is on the VBBA website, as of 2008, at:

http://www.vbba.org/ed-interp/1857x1.html

Warning:

The writer present no evidence as to the earliest dates of known play.

Comment:

The game described by "X" resembles the MA game as it was to be codified a year later except: [a] "a good catcher would frequently take the ball before the bat cold strike it," [b] the runner "was allowed either a pace or jump to the base which he was striving t reach," [c] the bound rule was in effect, [d] all-out-side-out innings were used, [e] the ball was "softer and more spongy" than 1850's ball, [f] the bats were square, flat, or round," and [g] there was a second field layout, with three bases. [This variation reminds one of cricket, wicket, and "long town or "long-town-ball, except for the impressive 150-foot distance to the second base]."

Query:

Can we interpret the baserunning rule allowing "a pace or jump to the base [the runner] was striving to reach?"  Plugging didn't count if the runner was close to the next base," perhaps?

Decade
1750s
Item
1750s.3
Edit

1778.4 Ewing Reports Playing "At Base" and Wicket at Valley Forge - with the Father of his Country

Game:

Wicket, Base

Age of Players:

Adult

[A] George Ewing, a Revolutionary War soldier, tells of playing a game of "Base" at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: "Exercisd in the afternoon in the intervals playd at base."

Ewing also wrote: "[May 2d] in the afternoon playd a game at Wicket with a number of Gent of the Arty . . . ." And later . . .  "This day [May 4, 1778] His Excellency dined with G Nox and after dinner did us the honor to play at Wicket with us."

 

[B]

"Q. What did soldiers do for recreation?

"A: During the winter months the soldiers were mostly concerned with their survival, so recreation was probably not on their minds. As spring came, activities other than drills and marches took place. "Games" would have included a game of bowls played with cannon balls and called "Long Bullets." "Base" was also a game - the ancestor of baseball, so you can imagine how it might be played; and cricket/wicket. George Washington himself was said to have took up the bat in a game of wicket in early May after a dinner with General Knox! . . . Other games included cards and dice . . . gambling in general, although that was frowned upon."

Valley Forge is about 20 miles NE of Philadelphia.

 

 

Sources:

[A] Ewing, G., The Military Journal of George Ewing (1754-1824), A Soldier of Valley Forge [Private Printing, Yonkers, 1928], pp 35 ["base"] and 47 [wicket]. Also found at John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Volume: 11. [U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1931]. page 348.  The text of Ewing's diary is unavailable at Google Books as of 11/17/2008.

[B] From the website of Historic Valley Forge;

see http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/youasked/067.htm, accessed 10/25/02. Note: it is possible that the source of this material is the Ewing entry above, but we're hoping for more details from the Rangers at Valley Forge. In 2013, we're still hoping, but not as avidly.

See also Thomas L. Altherr, “A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball: Baseball and Baseball-Type Games in the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, and Early American Republic.." Nine, Volume 8, number 2 (2000)\, p. 15-49.  Reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It – see page 236.

 

Comment:

Caveat: It is unknown whether this was a ball game, rather than prisoner's base, a form of tag played by two teams, and resembling the game "Capture the Flag."

Note:  "Long Bullets" evidently involved a competition to throw a ball down a road, seeing who could send the ball furthest along with a given number of throws.  Another reference to long bullets is found at http://protoball.org/1830s.20.

 

 

Query:

Is Ewing's diary available now?

Year
1778
Item
1778.4
Edit

1800c.12 Author Recalls Cricket and Base

Game:

Cricket, Base

Age of Players:

Youth

 

[From the preface]  "The author of this [1842] book has lived in the world very nearly fifty years. He remembers very distinctly when, and where, how, and with whom he played cricket and base—football and tag—skating, sliding, kite-flying, snow-balling, wrestling, swimming, &c., &c.”

Sources:

The Two Ways and the Two Ends, a book published by the American Sunday School Union, 1842.

Query:

Any clues as to the location of recalled games?

Circa
1800
Item
1800c.12
Edit

1805.4 Enigmatic Report: NY Gentlemen Play Game of "Bace," and Score is Gymnastics 41, Sons of Diagoras 34.

Game:

Base

Age of Players:

Adult

"Yesterday afternoon a contest at the game of Bace took place on "the Gymnasium," near Tylers' between the gentlemen of two different clubs for a supper and trimmings . . . . Great skill and activity it is said was displayed on both sides, but after a severe and well maintained contest, Victory, which had at times fluttered a little form one to the other, settled down on the heads of the Gymnastics, who beat the Sons of Diagoras 41 to 34."

 

Sources:

New York Evening Post, April 13, 1805, page 3 column 1. Submitted by George Thompson, 8/2/2005.

George Thompson has elaborated on this singular find at George Thompson, "An Enigmatic 1805 "Game of Bace" in New York," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 55-57.

Comment:

Note: So, folks . . . was this a baserunning ball game, some version of prisoner's base (a team tag game resembling our childhood game Capture the Flag) with scoring, or what?

John Thorn [email of 2/27/2008] has supplied a facsimile of the Post report, and also found meeting announcements for the Diagoras in the Daily Advertiser for 4/11 and 4/12/1805.

David Block (see full text in Supplemental Text, below) offers his 2017 thoughts on this entry:

"My opinion on whether that game was baseball or prisoner's base has gone back and forth over the years. As of now I tend to lean 60-40 to baseball. Other than the example from Chapman that John cited, I've never come across a use of the term bace to signify either game. Even if I had it wouldn't mean much as the word "base" has been used freely over the years for both of them. The mention of a score in the 1805 article is significant. Rarely are scores indicated in any of the reports of prisoner's base (prison base, prison bars, etc.) that I've come across. Usually they just indicate one side or the other as winner."

 

 

 

 

Query:

Special credit for anyone who can add to our understanding of this item!

Year
1805
Item
1805.4
Edit
Source Text

1828.19 Game of Base Mentioned in Account of Life at Harvard

Age of Players:

Youth

 The Harvard Register, Feb. 1828; from an article entitled “Life in College.”

"There are some other features of college life we fain would sketch but our pen confesses its weakness in the attempt. Would we could call upon the Engine to give out a history of the

 exertions of those who managed it in days of yore; or that we could contrive to make the Delta yield up a narrative of the sports it has witnessed. It could tell , before it took its 

present gallows appearance, of Cricket - Base - and Foot ball; it could tell how many pedal members began the game with white, unspotted skins, but limped off at its conclusion 

tinged with variegated hues.”

Sources:

The Harvard Register, Feb. 1828; from an article entitled “Life in College.”

Query:

"Pedal members"? A pretty good Harvard friend of Protoball can't explain this term.

"Delta"?  

 

 

Year
1828
Item
1828.19
Edit

1829.3 Small Cambridge MA Schoolground Crimps Base and Cricket Play

Tags:

Famous

Game:

Cricket, Base

Age of Players:

Youth

 his new Cambridge school too small. "[N]one of the favorite games of foot-ball, hand-ball, base or cricket could be played in the grounds with any satisfaction, for the ball would be constantly flying over the fence, beyond which he boys could not go without asking special leave. This was a damper on the more ranging & athletic exercises."

-- Charles Henry Dana, on the limitations of school ground play at his new school in Cambridge MA

 

Sources:

Robert Metdorf, ed., An Autobiographical Sketch (1815-1842) (Shoe String Press, Hamden CT, 1953), pages 51-52. Per Thomas L. Altherr, "Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games," Base Ball, Volume 2, number 1 (Spring 2008), page 38. The text of the autobiography is unavailable via Google Books as of 11/16/2008.

Comment:

Charles Henry Dana, later the author of Two Years Before the Mast and a leading abolitionist, was 14 in 1829.

Year
1829
Item
1829.3
Edit

1831.5 "Cricket, Base, and Long Ball" Played in Worcester MA on Election Day

Tags:

Holidays

Age of Players:

Juvenile

When the Massachusetts Legislature announced that Election Day would be moved from May to January, a protest was lodged in a newspaper, recalling:

". . then amusements were planned; then were hunting matches and fishing parties made; then was the quoit hurled in the air; then were cricket, base, and long-ball played; then were sports of every kind, appropriate to the season, sought after and enjoyed with particular zest."

 

Sources:

'Lection Day, National Aegis (Worcester Massachusetts), June 15, 1831, page 1, as cited in  David Block, Polish Workers Play Ball at Jamestown, Virginia, Base Ball, volume 5, number 2 (Spring 2011), page 8. (The National Aegis credits the New York Constellation with the article, but David Block notes that the subject is clearly the lot of Massachusetts children not those in New York City.)

Year
1831
Item
1831.5
Edit

1835.1 Boy's Book of Sports Describes "Base Ball", "Base or Goal Ball"

Boy's Book of Sports: A Description of The Exercises and Pastimes of Youth [New Haven, S. Babcock, 1839], pp. 11-12, per Henderson, ref 21. David Block, in Baseball Before We Knew It, page 197-198, points out that the first edition appeared 4 years before the edition that Henderson cited.

In its section on "base ball," this book depicts bases in the form of a diamond, with a three-strike rule, plugging, and teams that take the field only after all its players are put out. The terms "innings" and "diamond" appear [Block thinks for the first time] and base running is switched to counter-clockwise.

This book also has a description of "Base, or Goal Ball," which described: "gentle tossing" by the pitcher, three-strike outs, a fly rule, counter-clockwise base-running in a circuit of four bases, and the plugging of runners, and all-out-side-out innings.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

For Text: David Block carries a page of text, and the field diagram, in Appendix 7, pages 282-283, of Baseball Before We Knew It.


The text for "Base, or Goal Ball" appears in Preston Oren, Baseball (1845-1881) From the Newspaper Accounts (P. Oren, Altadena CA, 1961), pages 2-3.

Year
1835
Item
1835.1
Edit

1835.19 An "Out-door Professor" is Appreciated by Former Student Ballplayers of Base, Cricket

Game:

Cricket, Base

Age of Players:

Youth

["A  classics instructor and "great friend of school boys, he] "was a species of out-door Professor of Languages at the Academy; under him we were all Philosophers of the Peripatetic sect, walking constantly about the play grounds, and bestowing on Fives, Base, Cricket and Foot Ball the 'irreperabile tempus' due to the wise men of Greece.  -- Hence he was quite a troublous fellow to the in-door Professors.  They found nothing classical in his 'bacchant ar.'  They loved him not, and wished him far away."

Sources:

[A] Long Island Farmer, and Queens County Advertiser [Jamaica, NY] , December 16, 1835, page 2, column 2.  [B] Also found by David Block in Long Island Star, December 31, 1835.

Comment:

NoteIn the following paragraph, the man is called "Joseph Heywood".

 

David Block, 6/1/2021: An "article extolling fellow student at an unnamed school."

Query:

Do we know what was meant by "Foot Ball" in the early 19th Century?

Can we determine what "the Academy" was, and the ages of its students?

Year
1835
Item
1835.19
Edit

1845.31 News Writer (Whitman, Perhaps?) Extols "Base," Cricket

Game:

Cricket, Base

Age of Players:

Adult

Notables:

Walt Whitman

"Public Baths and Grounds for Athletic Exercises.–During many of the pleasant days we have had the past spring, persons walking by the Park, between noon and an hour later, must have observed several parties of youngsters playing “base,” a certain game of ball.  We wish such sights were more common among us. . . .    The game of ball, especially its best game, cricket, is glorious–that of quoits is invigorating–so is leaping, running, wrestling, &c. &c."
 
[Full text is seen at Supplemental Text, below.]  
Sources:

The Atlas (New York), June 15, 1845.

Comment:
 
 
George Thompson, 1/13/21:  "When New Yorkers said "the Park" in the first half of the 19th century, they meant the Park in front of City Hall.  Not a big area, and today at least it's so cluttered with benches and a fountain that it doesn't seem possible to play a game that involves running about.
I will check my notes to see if there is an indication of whether the Park was more open then."
 
John Thorn, 1/13/21:  "certain lines in the 1845 Atlas note were *also* used by Whitman in his now-famous "sundown perambulations of late" note of July 23, 1846!! . . . . Was Whitman the author of the 1845 Atlas note? Did he later plagiarize himself, or an unnamed other?" 

Note:  Whitman's text is at https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/opening-day-e5f9021c5dda.  Whitman's appreciation of base ball is also shown at 1846.6, 1855.9, and 1858.25.

 

 

 

Query:

Extra credit for sleuthing the authorship of this item!

Year
1845
Item
1845.31
Edit

1845.32 NY Atlas Advises: THE OLD GAME OF BASE REVIVED

Game:

Base

Age of Players:

Adult

"THE OLD GAME OF BASE REVIVED–There will be a game of Base come off on MONDAY, October
5th, between eight New York players and eight of Brooklyn, on the U.S.C [Union Star] Club ground.  The game will commence at 11 o’clock, weather permitting; if not, the first fair day.  The following are the Brooklyn players:
 
John Hunt,
Theodore Foman
Edward Hardy
John Waley
John Hyne
Stephen Swift
William Sharp       
 Samuel Myers. " 
Sources:

NY Atlas,  October 5, 1845

Comment:

Richard Hershberger, 2/3/2021

"I don't believe I have seen this before:  An advertisement in the NY Atlas October 5, 1845, for the upcoming baseball game between New York and Brooklyn players.  It is of particular interest as it lists both the first and last names of the Brooklyn players."

"I take the two games as being, on the one side, a function of the New York BBC, and on the other side an unofficial function of some members of the Union Star CC.  One of the accounts carefully distinguishes between the New York Club and Brooklyn players."

Tom Gilbert, 2/3/2021:

"Some known cricketers in there."

 

John Thorn, 2/3/20211:

https://protoball.org/1845.32

Protoball Chronology #1845.32

NY Atlas Advises: THE OLD GAME OF BASE REVIVED

Salience
Prominent

City/State/Country:
BrooklynNYUnited States

Game
Base

Age of Players
Adult

Text

"THE OLD GAME OF BASE REVIVED–There will be a game of Base come off on MONDAY, October
5th, between eight New York players and eight of Brooklyn, on the U.S.C [Union Star] Club ground.  The game will commence at 11 o’clock, weather permitting; if not, the first fair day.  The following are the Brooklyn players:
 
John Hunt,
Theodore Foman
Edward Hardy
John Waley
John Hyne
Stephen Swift
William Sharp       
 Samuel Myers. " 



Sources

NY Atlas,  October 5, 1845

Comment

Richard Hershberger, 2/3/2021

"I don't believe I have seen this before:  An advertisement in the NY Atlas October 5, 1845, for the upcoming baseball game between New York and Brooklyn players.  It is of particular interest as it lists both the first and last names of the Brooklyn players."

"I take the two games as being, on the one side, a function of the New York BBC, and on the other side an unofficial function of some members of the Union Star CC.  One of the accounts carefully distinguishes between the New York Club and Brooklyn players."

Tom Gilbert, 2/3/2021:

"Some known cricketers in there."

John Thorn, 2/3/2021:

"Location of the match:

http://www.covehurst.net/ddyte/brooklyn/ancient.html"

 

 

 

 

Submitted by
Richard Hershberger

Submission Note
19CBB Posting, 2/3/2021

 

 

 

 

Year
1845
Item
1845.32
Edit