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- 1 1749.2 Aging Prince Spends "Several Hours" Playing Bass-Ball in Surrey
- 2 1812c.1 Young Andrew Johnson Plays Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy in Raleigh NC
- 3 1820s.18 Syracuse NY Ball Field Remembered as Base Ball Site
- 4 1828.13 In Christian Story, a Young Girl Chooses Batting Over Tatting
- 5 1844.6 Novel Cites "the Game of Bass in the Fields"
- 6 1844.15 Whigs 81 Runs, Loco Focos 10 Runs, in "Political" Contest Near Canadian Border
- 7 1849.16 Two Eight-player Teams Play Bass Ball at Elysian Fields
- 8 1852.14 A Pleasant Beech Grove, Where the Boys Played Bass Ball
- 9 1853.7 Didactic Novel Pairs "Bass-Ball" and Rounders at Youths' Outing
- 10 1854.18 Bass Ball and Truth-telling
- 11 1854.19 Sixty-foot Liner Breaks Schoolhouse Window in "Game of Bass"
1749.2 Aging Prince Spends "Several Hours" Playing Bass-Ball in Surrey
Prince of Wales, Lord Middlesex
"On Tuesday last, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Lord Middlesex, played at Bass-Ball (sic), at Walton in Surry (sic); notwithstanding the Weather was extreme bad, they continued playing several hours."
Whitehall Evening Post, September 19. 1749. David Block's 2013 find was reported at the SABR.org website on 6/19/2103, and it includes interview videos and links to related documentation. Confirmed 6/19/2013 as yielding to a web search of <block royal baseball sabr>.
Block points out that this very early reference to base-ball Indicates that the game was played by adults -- the Prince was 38 years old in 1749, further weakening the view that English base-ball was played mainly by juveniles in its early history.
The location of the game was Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.
Comparing the 1749 game with modern baseball, Block estimates that the bass-ball was likely played on a smaller scale, with a much softer ball, with batted ball propelled the plaayers' hands, not with a bat, and that runners could be put out by being "plugged" (hit with a thrown ball) between bases.
Only two players were named for this account. Was that because the Prince and Lord Middlesex both led clubs not worthy of mentioning, or was there a two-player version of the game then (in the 1800s competitive games of cricket were similarly reported with only two named players)?
1812c.1 Young Andrew Johnson Plays Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy in Raleigh NC
[At age four] "he spent many hours at games with boys of the neighborhood, his favorite being 'Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy,' the last the 'choyst' game of all."
Letter from Neal Brown, July 15, 1867, in Johnson Mss., Vol. 116, No. 16,106.[Publisher?]
Listed Source seems incomplete or garbled. Help?
1820s.18 Syracuse NY Ball Field Remembered as Base Ball Site
David Block reports: "In the lengthy 'Editor's Table' section of this classic monthly magazine [The Knickerbocker], the editor described a nostalgic visit that he and two old school chums had taken to the academy that they had attended near Syracuse. 'We went out upon the once-familiar green, as if it were again 'play time', and called by name upon our old companions to come over once more and play 'bass-ball.' But they answered not; they came not! The old forms and faces were gone; the once familiar voices were silent.'"
"Editor's Table," The Knickerbocker (S. Hueston, New York, 1850), page 298. Contributed by David Block 2/27/2008.
The Editor, Lewis Gaylord Clark, was born in 1810, and attended the Onondaga Academy. He was thus apparently recalling ball-playing from sometime in the 1820s. Onondaga Academy was, evidently, about 3 miles SW of downtown Syracuse.
Can we get better data on Clark's age while at the Academy?
1828.13 In Christian Story, a Young Girl Chooses Batting Over Tatting
A very strict school mistress scolds the title character: "You can't say three times three without missing; you'd rather play at bass-ball, or hunt the hedges for wild flowers, than mend your stockings."
A.M.H. [only initials are given], "The Gipsey Girl," in The Amulet, Or Christian and Literary Remembrancer (W. Baynes and Son, London, 1828), pp 91-104. This short moral tale is set in England, and the girl is described as being eight or nine years old. Accessed 2/4/10 via Google Books search ("amulet or christian" 1828).
Reported by Tom Altherr, "Some Findings on Bass Ball," Originals, February 2010. This story was reprinted as "The Gipsy Girl," in The Cabinet Annual: A Christmas and New Year's Gift for 1855 (E. H. Butler, Philadelphia, 1855) page 93ff:
1844.6 Novel Cites "the Game of Bass in the Fields"
"And you boys let out racin', yelpin,' hollerin,' and whoopin' like mad with pleasure, and the playground, and the game of bass in the fields, or hurly on the long pond on the ice, . . . "
Thomas C. Haliburton, The Attache: or Sam Slick in England [Bentley, London, 1844] no page cited, per William Humber, "Baseball and Canadian Identity," College Quarterly volume 8 Number 3 [Spring 2005] no page cited. Humber notes that this reference has been used to refute Nova Scotia's claim to be the birthplace of modern ice hockey ["hurly"]. Submitted by John Thorn, 3/30/2006.
Note: Understanding the author's intent here is complicated by the fact that he was Canadian, Sam Slick was an American character, and the novel is set in Britain.
Is "bass" a ballgame, or was prisoner's base sometimes thought of as a "field game?"
1844.15 Whigs 81 Runs, Loco Focos 10 Runs, in "Political" Contest Near Canadian Border
"A matched, political game of bass Ball came off in this village on Friday last. Twelve Whigs on one side, and twelve Loco Focos on the other. Rules of the game, one knock and catch out, each one out for himself, each side one inns. The Whigs counted 81 and the Locos 10. The game passed off very pleasantly, and our political opponents, we must say, bore the defeat admirably."
Note: The Whigs were a major political party in this era, and the Loco Focos were then a splinter group within the opposing Democratic Party.
Frontier Sentinel [Ogdensburg, NY], April 23, 1844, page 3, column 1.
The Frontier Sentinel was published 1844-1847 in Ogdensburg (St. Lawrence County) NY.
Ogdensburg [1853 population was "about 6500"] is about 60 miles downriver [NE] on the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario. It is about 60 miles south of Ottawa, about 120 miles north of Syracuse, and about 125 miles SW (upriver) of Montreal. Its first railroad would arrive in 1850.
The HOF's Tom Shieber, who submitted this find, notes that this squib may just be metaphorical in nature, and that no ballplaying had actually occurred. But why then report a plausible game score?
Comment is welcome on the interpretation of the three cryptic rule descriptions for this 12-player game.
 "One knock and catch out?" Could this be taken to define one-out-side-out innings? Or, that ticks counted as outs if caught behind the batter? Or something else? Note: Richard Hershberger points out that 1OSO rules could not have likely allowed the scoring of 81 runs with no outs. That would imply that the clubs may have used the All-Out-Side-Out rule.
 "Each one out for himself?" Could batters continue in the batting order until retired? That too, then, might imply the use of an All-Out-Side-Out inning format
 "Each side one inns?" So the Whigs made those 81 "counts" in a single inning?
Richard Hershberger also surmises that the first two rules are meant to be conjoined: "One knock and catch out, each one out for himself." That would declare that [a] caught fly balls (and, possibly, caught one-bound hits?) were to be considered outs, and that [b] batters who are put out would lose their place in the batting order that inning; but were there any known variants games for which such catches would not be considered outs?
1849.16 Two Eight-player Teams Play Bass Ball at Elysian Fields
"An exciting game of Bass Ball came off at the Elysian Fields on Thursday last. The club was organized at the “Pewter Mug” (kept by that patriotic and devoted friend of the “Sage of Lindenwald,” the Widow Lynch), and proceeded to the ground; where Doctor Ingraham, of the Statesman, and John Midmer, Esq., were selected as captains.
Ingraham, having the first choice, selected Messrs Malbrun, Bouts, McConnell, Watson, Wells, and our friend, Captain Joe Cornell, of the sheriff's office.
Midmer made up his side with Messrs. John M.. Rue (the best player of the party), Chase, Alderman Fream, John Robbins, Aaron Butterfield, Car, and Burrett.
Doctor Walters, the coroner, was appointed game-keeper and judge—twenty-one ins the game. All things being in readiness, the sport commenced, and the game was warmly contested for about three hours, with various prospects of success. Night coming on, and there being no liquor in the neighborhood, the judge decided that neither party could win. The decision was cheerfully submitted to by all; and it was agreed, unanimously, to meet at the same place next Friday, and finish the game. With this understanding, the party made the best of their way to York, where the individual performances were duly discussed, and the sportsmen themselves amply refreshed—of course. The issue of this great game is certainly “highly important,” and we hope to be able to announce it next Sunday."
New York Atlas, April 29, 1849 and May 6, 1849.
Note: Richard's full May 2019 19CBB posting appears in the Supplemental Text, below.
We assume that the phrase"21 ins the game" means that the first side to score 21 runs was the game's winner.
Richard asks: "I don't recognize the individuals. These clearly are men of substance, so I expect they can be tracked down. The mention of "the club" is intriguing. Is this an actual organized club, with or without baseball as its primary purpose? Or is that an informal usage?"
1852.14 A Pleasant Beech Grove, Where the Boys Played Bass Ball
"A little way from the school-house . . . was a pleasant beech grove, where the boys played bass ball, and where the girls carried disused benches and see-sawed over fallen logs."
Alice Carey, Clovernook: or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (Redfield, Clinton Hall NY, 1852), page 280. G-Book search: <"beech grove" "alice carey">.
The state or locality of this scene is not obvious.
Is this a recollection or a work of fiction?
1853.7 Didactic Novel Pairs "Bass-Ball" and Rounders at Youths' Outing
"The rest of the party strolled about the field, or joined merrily in a game of bass-ball or rounders, or sat in the bower, listening to the song of birds." .
Cricket receives three references (pages 75, 110, and 211)in this book. The first of these, unlike the bass-ball/rounders account, separates English boys from English girls after a May tea party: "Some of the gentlemen offered prizes of bats and balls, and skipping-ropes, for feats of activity or skill in running, leaping, playing cricket, &c. with the boys; and skipping, and battledore and shuttlecock with the girls."
Trap-ball receives one uninformative mention in the book (page 211).
A Year of Country Life: or, the Chronicle of the Young Naturalists (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1853), page 115.
As a way of teaching nature [each chapter introduces several birds, insects, and "wild plants"] this book follows a group of boys and girls of unspecified age [post-pubescent, we guess] through a calendar year. The bass-ball/rounders reference above is one of the few times we run across both terms in a contemporary writing. So, now: Is the author denoting are there two distinct games with different rules, or just two distinct names for the same game? The syntax here leaves that distinction muddy, as it could be the former answer if the children played bass-ball and rounders separately that [June] day.
Richard's take on the bass-ball/rounders ambiguity: "It is possible that there were two games the party played . . . but the likelier interpretation is that this was one game, with both names given to ensure clarity." David Block [email of 2/27/2008] agrees with Richard. Richard also says "It is possible that as the English dialect moved from "base ball" to "rounders," English society concurrently moved from the game being played primarily played by boys and only sometimes being played by girls. I am not qualified to say."
1854.18 Bass Ball and Truth-telling
"Tucked away in the 1854 Youth's Casket was a . . . moralistic tale centered on lying . . . ."
Three lads play "game of bass" with a new bat and ball, and one of them hits the ball so hard it breaks a school window. . . . One of them is punished for lying to cover up his mate's act.
"Hiding One's Faults," in The Youth's Casket; An Illustrated Magazine for the Young (E. F. Beadle, Buffalo, 1854), pages 151-152.
Cited in Tom Altherr, "Another Base Ball Reference," Originals, volume 4, number 12 (December 2011), page 2.
1854.19 Sixty-foot Liner Breaks Schoolhouse Window in "Game of Bass"
"WARREN BUEL, as he came, bright and early, into the play-ground in the rear of the old school-house; 'hoighho! See what a nice new bat I bought at the cabinet-shop this morning. And father gave me money enough to buy a new India-rubber ball, so that I have both a new bat and a new ball.'
"'Hurrah! for a game now,' shouted HARRY WILLIAMS, taking the ball from the hands of Warren, and bounding it high over his head. 'Let it be a game of bass. Come, Warren, and select some one to choose sides with you.'
"Warren peleeted [selected?] some favorite playmate, and the choosing went on amid loud words, and still louder laughter. 'Now throw up for the "'first ins,"' said the boy whom Warren had selected to choose with him. Up went the bat; and as it descended, Warren grasped it about midway of the smaller part. 'Whole hand or none!' shouted BRUCE RAWLEY, the largest boy of the school, and a noisy, troublesome fellow. Accordingly the whole hand was declared in favor of Harry's party, and the others drew back, leaving two of their number to 'throw and catch.'
"When it came Bruce's turn to knock, he kept his bat motionless by his side until the ball came fair. Then drawing back his arms at full length, he dealt the elastic ball such a blow that it went bounding and skipping up the ascending lawn, a distance of twenty yards or more, and crash through the school-room window.
"'O, Bruce' exclaimed Warren, with the tears gathering in his eyes, 'you have lost my new ball, and father will not buy me another before the next quarter.'
"'What is one ball?' replied Bruce, with a sneer. 'I have lost a dozen already, and the term is not half out yet.'"
R. C. Knowles, Hiding One's Faults, Youth's Casket -- An Illustrated Magazine for the Young (Volume III, 1854), page 151. G-books search <"warren buel"> on 4/3/2013.
The illustration accompanying this short story shows two boys looking down at a ball and cricket bat on the ground.