Glossary of Games

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Glossary of Games
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Chart: Predecessor and Derivative Games Pdf ico.gif
Predecessor Games
Derivative Games
Glossary of Games, Full List

Game Families

Baseball · Kickball · Scrub · Fungo · Hat ball · Hook-em-snivy

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A compilation of 328 games with a resemblance to baseball, most often using base-running and run-scoring

The Protoball Glossary of (Mostly Base-running) Games is dedicated to Francis Willughby (1635-1672), compiler of a Book of Games, an early member of the England's pathbreaking Royal Society, and perhaps now better known as "the First Ornithologist".

Those attempting to learn about the origins of baseball confront a large zoo of different games that are plausible candidates as modern baseball's predecessors. Even more complicated is the array of names for those games as they evolved over the years; some games appear to have sported different names, depending on the region and the era of play; and some names – including “baseball” -- have been used for rather different games over the years. We see such games as possible forerunners of base ball, and group them as "predecessor games." Note: this list evolved from a list of the names of games that may have preceded base ball in America (town ball, base, roundball, Massachusetts run-around, etc.) On a whim, we later expanded it to include baserunning games that likely derived from modern base ball.

Predecessor and Derivative Games

Consequently, taking the now-familiar features of 1857-rules base ball as a pretty good approximation of "modern" baseball, we began assembling a Protoball registry of both [a] earlier baserunning games and [b] later games that seem to have derived from modern baseball.

As a whim, a few years ago we decided to extend the collection to embrace games that seem to have been spawned by baseball itself -- grouped above as "derivative games."

This glossary is intended to provide a focus for our learning, as a group of researchers, about the full range of “safe-haven” games and their names. We hope that users will add other games, and tell us of mistakes in the current version. We chose to call this set of games “safe haven” or "baserunning" games because what they seem to have in common: a set of bases where players gain immunity from being put out, and for which a round trip normally results in a run. (Some writers have called these games the “stick and ball” games, which would, if taken literally, embrace croquet, golf and tennis, etc., and would exclude kick-ball and punch-ball and all games played with "cats" -- that is, with short rods, or sticks -- instead of balls.)

On this site, we had (experimentally) put the games in our registry into 6 "families" (we just made them up) based on their main attributes, with:

[1] the "baseball family" -- originally about 120 games --reserved for those that generally seemed closest to baseball as we now know it. 
[2] the mysterious "hook 'em snivy" grouping -- about 35 games -- is used for still-mysterious games whose rules we don't know yet.  
[3] The "Kickball" group -- about 20 games -- involve baserunning but no bat; punch-ball also belonged here.
[4] The "Scrub" family -- about 15 games -- are not team games, players play as individuals, commonly rotating through the fielding positions to earn a place at bat.
[5] "Fungo" games -- about 50 of them -- do not use baserunning.
[6] "Hatball" games -- about 20 pastimes -- involve risky running but no striking of the ball to initiate running -- they often use the plugging of players to put them out.

These were plainly arbitrary classes, but we figured we had to start somewhere. But we felt that this scheme has proved unenlightening. Forgive us?

In 2021, the inventive Bruce Allardice developed a way to routinely determine which baserunning games are most like base ball, naming nine characteristics that Origins researchers feel most essential to base ball. We are planning to display Allardice scores for each listed game. That is, a game rated at 9 is most like modern baseball, and one rated lower (like field hockey and golf and croquet, say), measured as less like the game of baseball.

1. A game played by two sides, with; 2. “Fair” and “foul” territory; and 3. A pitcher who tosses or throws a ball to a batter, and; 4. A batter who tries to hit that ball; 5. With a bat; 6. To score runs, which runs are created by the batter running to one or more multiple bases and returning to to “Home; 7. In a game whose length is measured by a defined number of outs or runs, where; 8. The winning team scores the most runs, and; 9. The game has rules (hopefully, written rules). For more, see articles in the Origins Newsletter, August 2021 and January 2023.

Here, a game's "Allardice Score" would be a count of the number of "base ball like" known traits for that pastime. (In many cases, of course, a game's recorded history is awkwardly silent on certain of its traits).

Research Paper

Today's Irish Rounders -- A Research Paper by Howard Burman


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