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1791.1 "Bafeball" Among Games Banned in Pittsfield MA - also Cricket, Wicket
In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in order to promote the safety of the exterior of the newly built meeting house, particularly the windows, a by-law is enacted to bar "any game of wicket, cricket, baseball, batball, football, cats, fives, or any other game played with ball," within eighty yards of the structure. However, the letter of the law did not exclude the city's lovers of muscular sport from the tempting lawn of "Meeting-House Common." This is the first indigenous instance of the game of baseball being referred to by that name on the North American continent. It is spelled herein as bafeball. "Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.
An account of this find (a re-find, technically) is at John Thorn, "1791 and All That: Baseball and the Berkshires," Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Volume 1, Number 1 (Spring 2007) pp. 119-126.
Per John Thorn: The History of Pittsfield (Berkshire County),Massachusetts, From the Year 1734 to the Year 1800. Compiled and Written, Under the General Direction of a Committee, by J. E. A. Smith. By Authority of the Town. [Lea and Shepard, 149 Washington Street, Boston, 1869], 446-447. The actual documents themselves repose in the Berkshire Athenaeum.
While this apppears to be the first American use of the term "base ball," see item 1786.1 above, in which a Princeton student notes having played "baste ball" five years earlier. See item 1786.1.
The town of Northampton MA issued a similar order in 1791, but omitted base ball and wicket from the list of special games of ball. See item 1791.2. Northampton is about 40 miles SE of Pittsfield.
John Thorn's essay on the Pittsfield regulation is found at John Thorn, "The Pittsfield "Baseball" By-law: What it Means," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, Number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 46-49.
1791.2 Northampton MA Prohibits Downtown Ballplaying (and Stone-Throwing)
"Both the meeting-house and the Court House suffered considerable damage, especially to their windows by ball playing in the streets, consequently in 1791, a by-law was enacted by which 'foot ball, hand ball, bat ball and or any other game of ball was prohibited within ten rods of the Court House easterly or twenty rods of the Meeting House southwesterly, neither shall they throw any stones at or over the said Meeting House on a penalty of 5s, one half to go to the complainant and the rest to the town.'"
J. R. Trumbull, History of Northampton, Volume II (Northampton, 1902), page 529. Contributed by John Bowman, May 9, 2009.
It is interesting that neither base-ball nor wicket is named in a town that is not so far from Pittsfield. See item 1791.1.
1791.3 Salem MA Diary Covers "Puerile Sports" Including Bat & Ball, and "Rickets"
"Puerile Sports usual in these parts of New England . . . . Afterwards the Bat & Ball and the Game at Rickets. The Ball is made of rags covered with leather in quarters & covered with double twine, sewed in Knots over the whole. The Bat is from 2 to 3 feet long, round on the back side but flattened considerable on the face, & round at the end, for a better stroke. The Ricket is played double, & is full of violent exercise of running."
The Diary of William Bentley, D.D., Volume I (Essex Institute, Salem MA, 1905), pp 253-254. Contributed by Brian Turner, March 6, 2009. Bentley later noted that Bat & Ball is played at the time of year when "the weather begins to cool." Bentley [1759-1819] was a prominent and prolific New England pastor who served in Salem MA. Query: Any idea what the game of rickets/ricket was?
1811.5 Bat-ball Recalled at Exeter
"Next to football, baseball has always been the most popular sport at Exeter. Alpheus S. Packard, who entered in 1811, mentions "bat-ball" as played in his day."
Crosbie, Laurence M., The Phillips Exeter Academy: A History , page 233. Submitted by George Thompson, 8/2/2005. Crosbie does not, evidently, give a citation for Packard.
1815.3 German Book Apparently Shows a Batting Game
Taschenbuch fur das Jahr 1815 der Liebe und Freundschaft [Frankfurt am Main] per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 186. Block reports that the April section of this yearly book has an engraving of children playing a bat-and-ball game. Note: Does the game appear to use bases?
1817.2 Riddle Game Cites "Fourteen Boys at Bat and Ball"
The Gaping, Wide-mouthed, Waddling Frog [London], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 187-188. This chapbook comprises a rhyme resembling the song "the Twelve Days of Christmas, and one verse includes "Fourteen Boys at Bat-and-Ball, Some Short and Some Tall." Block also reports that it contains an illustration of several boys playing trap-ball.
1830c.28 Fictional Mom Recalls Liking to Bat Ball as a Girl
Tom Altherr located a fictional story in The Child's Friend (January 1848) in which a mother recounts to her son, George, how she 'liked boys' playthings best' when she was a little girl and could 'drive hoop, spin top, bat ball, jump, and climb' as well as her brothers could."
The Child's Friend, January 1848. Full citation needed. Submitted by Deb Shattuck, May 2013.
It is, of course, difficult to specify a reasonable date for a fictional account like this one.
1833.3 Creation Wars Begin! English Author Takes on Strutt Theories on the Origins of Cricket and "Bat-and-Ball"
David Block reports that in an 1833 book's short passage on cricket, "the author [William Maxwell] issues a criticism of theories raised by the historian Joseph Strutt in Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, published in 1801.
Maxwell scoffs at Strutt's comments that cricket originated from the ancient game of "club ball," and that the game of trap-ball predated both of these. Maxwell states that cricket is far older than Strutt acknowledged, and adds: 'The game of club-ball appears to be none other than the present, well-known bat-and-ball, which . . . was doubtless anterior to trap-ball. The trap, indeed, carries with it an air of refinement in the 'march of mechanism.' ' Maxwell suggests that a primitive rural game similar to tip-cat was actually the ancestor of cricket, a game that used a single stick for a wicket, another stick for a bat and a short three-inch stick for the ball. He is probably alluding the game of cat and dog, which other historians have credited as one of cricket's progenitors."
Maxwell, William, The Field Book: or, Sports and Pastimes of the British Islands [London, Effingham Wilson], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 195.
Does Maxwell show evidence for his interpretation of cricket's progenitors?
1833.13 Boys Play Bat Ball in New Orleans
A traveler to New Orleans views, on Sunday, "the boys were playing bat ball on a green or park opposite [the old Cathedral]."
The space is presumably the modern Jackson Square.
Indianapolis Journal, June 22, 1833
1852.2 Lit Magazine Cites "Roaring" Game of "Bat and Base-ball"
The fifth stanza of the poem "Morning Musings on an Old School-Stile" reads: "How they poured the soul of gay and joyous boyhood/ Into roaring games of marbles, bat and base-ball!/ Thinking that the world was only made to play in, -/ Made for jolly boys, tossing, throwing balls!
Southern Literary Messenger, volume 18, number 2, February 1852, page 96, per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
John Thorn interprets this phrase to denote two games, bat-ball and base-ball. Others just see it as a local variant of the term base-ball. Is the truth findable here? Note that Brian Turner, in "The Bat and Ball": A Distinct Game or a Generic Term?, Base Ball, volume 5, number 1, p. 37 ff, suggests that 'bat and ball" may have been a distinct game played in easternmost New England.
1852.4 Bass-ball "Quite Too Complicated" for Children's Book on Games
An 1852 book's woodcut on trap-ball "shows a tiny bat that looks more like a Ping Pong paddle and bears the caption 'bat ball'."
As for other games, the book grants that Little Charley "also plays at cricket and bass ball, of which the laws or [sic] quite too complicated for me to describe."
Little Charley's Games and Sports (Philadelphia, C. G. Henderson, 1852).
From David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
This book reappeared in 1854, 1857, and 1858 as part of a compendium.