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Essays and Articles
- Rounders: A Game That "Gets No Respect" by David Block
- Notes on the History and Evolution of Stoolball by David Block
Submitted Entries: 37
For a recent feature article on David by ESPN writer Brian Curtis, go to http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9681627/baseball-archaeologist-david-block. It describes "How one man is rewriting the history of the game — one diary at a time."
Article Lauds David Block, Our Own "Karate-Chopper" of Base Ball Lore
A long, wry, and fairly reverent article on the amazing David Block can be found at
Bryan Curtis’ "In Search of Baseball’s Holy Grail: How One Man is Rewriting the History of the Game – One Diary at a Time," was posted at the Grantland site on September 18, 2013.
Protoball’s favorite nuggets from the Curtis article:
 "In a just world, Block would be an archeological hero. What Bill James did for 20th -century baseball, Block is doing for 18th-century baseball."
 "Said Tom Shieber . . . [David’s book] ‘Baseball Before We Knew It and its aftermath is to me probably the single most important baseball research of the last 50 years, if not more.’"
 "’When David started his work and I started my work, this [topic of origins] was the dark side of the moon,’ said [John] Thorn."
 "Block had confirmed that the Doubleday theory was bunk. But he had also discovered that the rounders theory was bunk. Everything we knew about baseball’s parentage was wrong."
 "Block is being painfully modest. Let me be immodest on his behalf. Block is a scholar on a lonely frontier. He is karate-chopping the wisdom of the ages. "
Protoball later asked the author about the response to the article. Bryan Curtis’ reply: "The Block article attracted a very large amount of attention--larger, in fact, than my typical articles about star players. Which was wonderful, because David's more interesting than most of them."
David Block has found a new reference to English base ball dating to 1749. He notes that it is the first known base ball game involving mature adults. The only earlier references, believed to be printed in the 1744 first edition of the Little Pretty Pocketbook and a reported reference to play within the English royal family written by Lady Hervey in 1748, depicted juvenile play. We learn of this fresh find in the June 12 issue of the Daily Telegraph in Britain.
David, a member of the MLB Committee on Origins, worked with Committee chair John Thorn to establish a record of the spread of baseball to foreign countries. He continues to deepen his research on English base-ball from the 1740s to 1900. He has now amassed about 150 references to the game. He continues to doubt that a bat was uniformly used in early English base ball.
"1609: Polish Workers Play Ball at Jamestown, Virginia: An Early Hint of Europe's Influence On Base Ball." Base Ball. 5(1): 5 - 9.
"1796 -- German Book Describes Das Englisch Base-ball: But Was It Baseball or Rounders?." Base Ball. 5(1): 50 - 54.
David contributed an article to the spring 2008 issue of Base Ball on what is recognized as the earliest appearance of the word “base-ball,” the John Newbery’s 1744 Little Pretty Pocket-Book. David examines some remaining mysteries of this source (which gives us that ringing phrase, “the next destin’d post”) including whether we can claim 1744 as the year “base-ball” first saw print when no editions of the book are available prior to 1760, and whether the absence of a bat in the relevant woodcut means that the bat hadn’t yet joined the game – one can, of course, “bat” a ball with one’s hands, and the text only refers to a ball that is “struck off.”