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1255.1 Spanish Drawing Seen as Early Depiction of Ballplaying
A thirteenth century Spanish drawing appears to depict a female figure swinging at a ball with a bat.
The book Spain: A History in Art by Bradley Smith (Doubleday, 1971) includes a plate that appears to show "several representations of baseball figures and some narrative." The work is dated to 1255, the period of King Alfonso.
The book Spain: A History in Art by Bradley Smith (Doubleday, 1971) includes a plate that appears to show "several representations of baseball figures and some narrative." The work is dated to 1255, the period of Spain's King Alfonso.
Email from Ron Gabriel, July 10, 2007. Ron also has supplied a quality color photocopy of this plate, which was the subject of his presentation at the 1974 SABR convention. 2007 Annotation: can we specify the painting and its creator? Can we learn how baseball historians and others interpret this artwork?
From Pam Bakker, email of 1/4/2022:
"Cantigas de Santa Maria,"or "Canticles (songs) of Holy Mary" by Alfonso X of Castile El Sabio (1221-1284)
Ron Gabriel also has supplied a quality color photocopy of this plate, which was the subject of his presentation at the 1974 SABR convention
From Pam Bakker, email of 1/4/2022:
"Cantigas de Santa Maria" (written in Galician-Portuguese) or "Canticles (songs) of Holy Mary" by Alfonso X of Castile El Sabio (1221-1284) is a collection of 420 poems with musical notation in chant-style, used by troubadours. It has fanciful extra biblical stories of miracles performed by Mary and hymns of veneration. She is often presented doing ordinary things, intended to elevate her while showing her engaged in life. It was very popular in the early Christian world. The book has illustrations, one of which appears to portray a woman swinging at a ball with a bat."
Can we further specify the drawing and its creator?
Can we learn how baseball historians and others interpret this artwork?
Do we know why this drawing is dated to 1255?
1830c.35 Pretty Darn Early Ballplaying Card
"Here is the earliest known card of a bat and ball game, and the only example known. Included within a set of children’s educational game cards typical of those popular in the early part of the nineteenth century, . . ."
From the Sotheby site:
[H]ere is the earliest known card of a bat and ball game, and the only example known. Included within a set of children’s educational game cards typical of those popular in the early part of the nineteenth century, it pictures three boys engaged in a game that is clearly an antecedent and close cousin to the sport that has evolved into baseball. The cards in the series measure 2 1/8" by 2 5/8" and each of the group of seventeen offered here features a different rhyming riddle. The bat and ball game shown here is akin to other known woodcut images depicting primitive baseball-like scenes dating from the period 1815-1830, most of them also showing an oddly-shaped end to the bat typical of the time before there was such a thing as a commercially manufactured bat. Significantly, the few other such known images all originated in books or pamphlets. The image presented here is the only example known to exist on a card.
The curved bat is suggestive of the bat used for the game of wicket in the US.
John Thorn indicates that this card was owned by our late SABR friend Frank Ceresi. Frank is not unlikely the source of the estimate of "around 1830" as when the card appeared.
Can we obtain a more precise estimate of when this card was made?
Can we determine whether the card was distributed in America or in England?
1833.8 Untitled Drawing of Ball Game [Wicket?] Appears in US 1830s Songbook
A songbook drawing shows five children - a tosser, batter, two fielders, and boy waiting to bat. The bats are spoon-shaped. The wicket looks more like an upright cricket wicket than the long low bar associated with US wicket.
Watts' Divine and Moral Songs - For the Use of Children [New York, Mahlon Day, 374 Pearl Street, 1836], page 15. Accessed at the "Origins of Baseball" file at the Giamatti Center in Cooperstown.
David Block, (see Baseball Before We Knew It, page 196), has found an 1833 edition.
Is it wicket? Base-ball?
Here's Block's commentary. " . . .an interesting woodcut portraying boys playing a slightly ambiguous bat-and-ball game that is possibly baseball . . . . A goal in the ground near the batter might be a wicket, but it more closely resembles an early baseball goal such as the one pictured in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" (see #1744.2, above).
Is the drawing associated with a song that may offer a clue?
1862.104 Ballplaying Featured on 1862 Letterhead for Camp Doubleday
[A] John Thorn:
has become a joke among us baseball folks. "He didn't invent baseball; baseball invented him." This letterhead, from 1862 ,may give pause even to hardened skeptics." John also notes that the game depicted does not resemble base ball, or wicket, or cricket.
The 1862 letters of Lester Winslow, of the 76th NY, at the National Archives, feature stationary printed with the heading "Camp Doubleday -- 76th New York" and show soldiers playing a bat-ball game. On this David Block writes:
"In the foreground of the illustration two soldiers face each other with bats, one striking a ball. Since no other players are involved, the only game that seems to correlate to the image is, in fact, drive ball. If not for Abner Doubleday's association, we would pay this little heed, but it is a matter of curiosity, if not amusement, to place baseball's legendary noninventor in such close proximity to a game involving a bat and ball."
[A] John Thorn, tweet (showing the letterhead) on 2/2/22.
[B] David Block, Baseball before We Knew It (U Nebraska, 2005), page 198. See also the brief Protoball Glossary entry on the game of Drive Ball.
This coincidence is not taken as evidence that Abner Doubleday "invented" base ball.
Camp Doubleday is described in an 1896 source as "just outside Brooklyn city limits." See:
https://museum.dmna.ny.gov/unit-history/artillery/5th-heavy-artillery-regiment/prison-pens-south; Other sources locate it on Long Island, NY.
A third source locates Camp Doubleday in Northwest Washington DC: https://www.northamericanforts.com/East/dc.html#NW
So which location is depicted on this letterhead?
 From John Thorn email, 2/5/2022; "Camp Doubleday appears to be in DC. It was also known as Fort Massachusetts. [SOURCE: HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-SIXTH REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS; WHAT IT ENDURED AND ACCOMPLISHED ; CONTAINING DESCRIPTIONS OF ITS TWENTY -FIVE BATTLES ; ITS MARCHES ; ITS CAMP AND BIVOUAC SCENES ; WITH BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF FIFTY - THREE OFFICERS, AND A COMPLETE RECORD OF THE ENLISTED MEN . BY A. P. SMITH, LATE FIRST LIEUTENANT AND Q. M. , SEVENTY- SIXTH N. Y. VOLS. ILLUSTRATED WITH FORTY -NINE ENGRAVINGS ON WOOD, BY J. P. DAVIS & SPEER, OF NEW YORK ; AND A LITHOGRAPH , BY L. N. ROSENTHAL, OF PHILADELPHIA . CORTLAND, N. Y. PRINTED FOR THE PUBLISHER. 1867]"
 From Bruce Allardice email, 2/5/2022:
David Block suggests the drawing (see below: game is shown near the image's center) shows Drive Ball, a fungo game. See Baseball Before We Knew It ,(2005), page 198. See also the sketchy Protoball Glossary entry on Drive Ball.
One auction house in 2015 claimed "This is perhaps the very first piece of American stationery depicting Union soldiers playing baseball. Amazingly, this lithograph has it all by showing Union soldiers at play in Camp Doubleday which, of course, was named after the game's creator Abner Doubleday!"
From John Thorn, 2/22/22: "Lithographer is Louis N. Rosenthal of Philadelphia. Born 1824." See https://digital.librarycompany.org/islandora/object/digitool%3A79709
Is it clear why someone would create such a letterhead?
Can we find a fuller description of drive ball?
How does Protoball give a source for John's Tweet for later users who want to see it?