List of Diggers
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Bruce Allardice's article on baseball statistics 1866-70, "Runs, Runs, and More Runs" (SABR Baseball Research Journal, Fall 2021) won the SABR McFarland Award for Best Baseball History article of 2021. The article analyzed every game reported in the New York Clipper for those 5 years, almost 5000 games.
For a link to the raw data, visit http://civilwarbruce.com/Baseball1866-70.html
A monograph on pre-1845 North American games played with a ball or some other projectile is a goal for Tom Altherr. The work would include, but not be limited to, safe haven games, and would include indoor a well as outdoor games. He notes that some of this work has appeared in the journal Base Ball, the SABR Originals newsletter, and Protoball’s online chronology and its Next Destin’d Post newsletter. Tom is also interested in ball-playing among slave and free African Americans before 1865 and in the possible contributions of German schlagball, and perhaps other mid-European games, to the evolution of base ball. He remains convinced that ball-playing was more common in North America than most sports historians allow . . . and he continues to confirm that view with fresh finds most every month.
David has been looking to confirm the report that baseball gloves were first used in an 1858 Massachusetts-rule game. Old-timers later recalled that a ball with a bullet core was put in play, and that players then donned gloves to protect their hands. Contemporary accounts haven’t yet confirmed this story.
Rich Arpi reports that the Minnesota SABR chapter has discussed the idea of mapping the spread of base ball in Minnesota by locating the first known modern game in the larger MN towns.
Priscilla and a colleague discuss the predecessor game to Knicks-style base ball in upstate New York in “Old-Fashioned Base Ball” in Western New York, 1825-1860,” which appeared in the fall 2008 issue of Base Ball. The article notes that until 1860 the unusually unnamed earlier game was still played competitively in several places. About 20 news accounts from that time, and from later accounts of a number of “throwback” games, allow a partial picture of the nature of that earlier game. Strong similarity to the Massachusetts Game is found.
Daniel is completing a book with Murray Dubin on the civil rights movement in the US in the 19th century, tentatively titled There Must Come a Change: Murder, Baseball and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America. The book, slated for 2010 release, will include a chapter covering black baseball and the effort to integrate pro baseball in the late 1860s by the Pythians in Philadelphia and what may be the first game between whites and blacks, played in 1869.
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.”
John Bowman is taking a fresh look at the history of the 90-foot basepath in baseball, and is reflecting on how the choice of a different distance might have affected the game.
Anita Broad is also now listed as a digger. Anita has recently written her Master’s thesis, “Stoolball Through the Seasons: It’s Just not Cricket,” and now serves as Research and Education Officer of Stoolball England. She has already helped Protoball sort out what the English safe-haven games Pentoss (a form of ladies’ cricket) and Target Ball were all about. She and her daughter play stoolball, as did her mother and grandmother. She is now working on a grant that funds a primary school education project on the history of stoolball.
Mark Brunke continues to collect information on very early ballplaying in Sacramento, Seattle, and Victoria British Columbia. He is finding that some early pioneers in that region played both base ball and cricket, at first.
Perhaps looking for ways to broaden upcoming travel to Ireland, Howard Burman cheerfully took on the job of reporting on the game of Irish Rounders, one our four sports sanctioned by the Gaelic Athletic Association as early as 1884. Howard’s report appears in the “Glossary of Games” on the Protoball site at http://protoball.org/Irish_Rounders_(Burman’s_Report). Today’s players see the game as one of Irish birth, without English parentage, and having been played locally as early as the beginning of the 19th century . . . and as possibly have been exported to North America via Irish emigrants. The game has a number of variants from base ball rules, including optional running with less than two strikes, limited substitutions, no gloves for fielders, and catchers positioned well back of batters.
Ralph has been working on unifying all of the data for the Greater New York City area in anticipation of the Interdisciplinary Symposium at John Jay College in November 2014. He has also been looking into new information about the game on Staten Island as well as Manhattan, with a special focus on digitizing the game results from the entirety of the Knickerbocker Game Books in the Spalding Collection at the New York Public Library.
Jerry's work continues on the 19th-century. He wrote an expanded piece on the Philadelphia Pythians and its captain, Octavius Catto. It will be published in Pennsylvania Legacies, a periodical for the Pennsylvania Historical Society. The issue, published in May, examines Negro baseball in Pennsylvania. At the Cooperstown Symposium in June, Jerry presented “Which Irish Played Baseball in the Emerald Age?” He is now finishing up a study of the life and career of Lipman Pike.
Frank Ceresi’snew e-book The Washington Nationals and Their Grand Tour of 1867 (Search <nationals ceresi ebook>) follows the National Club, and others, from 1859 through the following decade. He remains on the hunt for a photograph of the Nationals at the time of their tour, and is about to sift through the Matthew Brady collections in hopes of spotting one. Frank also serves as Executive Director of a new online baseball museum at http://thenationalpastime.com/, which will show up to 25,000 artifacts, including many from the origins era.
“Baseball in the Bronx, before the Yankees,” is Gregory Christiano’s new book. It focuses some on the Morrisania Unions, and draws extensively on Craig Waff’s Games Tab (http://protoball.org/Games_Tabulation) and other PBall data. A google search of <”Gregory Christiano” Bronx> takes you to Amazon page for Gregory’s book.
Kyle has begun collecting early references to trap ball. His website, at http://scvbb.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-baseball/, includes many items on ballplaying before the pro era.
The Vintage Base Ball Association’s [VBBA] recently-installed Glenn as their president. One of Glenn’s objectives is to review the organization’s Rules and Customs program to reinforce historical accuracy. Glenn is in touch with Peter Morris, Fred Ivor-Campbell, and Tom Shieber as part of that initiative.
Murray is completing a book with Daniel Biddle on the civil rights movement in the US in the 19th century, tentatively titled There Must Come a Change: Murder, Baseball and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America. The book, slated for 2010 release, will include a chapter covering black baseball and the effort to integrate pro baseball in the late 1860s by the Pythians in Philadelphia and what may be the first game between whites and blacks, played in 1869.
Researcher and author John Freyer reports that his interest is still Chicago-area baseball from back before the National League. Among other feats, he has accumulated every Chicago box score between the years 1859 and the Chicago Fire in 1871. He also enjoys researching New York baseball before the Civil War. John has an ongoing project of bat and ball games over history, from Wicket to Wiffleball, but hasn't determined whether it amounts to a new book. Currently, John is working with others to establish a Chicago Baseball Museum, and serves as the project’s ad hoc historian.
British-born Joe Gray is collecting information on the play of modern base ball in Britain, and has recently turned up games played as early as 1870 in Dingwall, Scotland. Joe reports that his personal interest is expanding to include earlier British baserunning games. His very comprehensive web page is found at http://www.projectcobb.org.uk/.
Tom Heitz participated in a large Cooperstown tour organized in part by filmmaker Ken Burns. Tom presented a lecture on base ball’s early rules and supervised a throwback Town Ball game for the tour on the lawn behind the Fenimore Art Museum.
Brock is collecting information on baseball history in towns -- like Syracuse and Troy NY -- that once had, but then lost, major league teams. Shoot him an email if you want to know more, or to help out.
Beth notes that April 2010 is the time slotted for her exhibition on Cricket and Baseball at the Marylebone Cricket Club [Lord’s Grounds] in London. It is possible that the exhibit would also be shown in Australia and at Cooperstown afterward. Part of the exhibition will focus on bat and balls games prior to 1840, and Beth is looking into stoolball history and the 1755 William Bray diary as well.
SABR-UK maintains an interest in the origins of baseball. Martin has produced a handsome compilation of articles on the English roots of baseball in 1995-2003 issues of the SABR-UK Examiner. The material was distributed at the June 20 meeting of SABR’s UK chapter in London, which was addressed by David Block and Jules Tygiel.
In addition to helping lead the Boston SABR Chapter and pushing along an anthology of Deadball Era baseball poetry, Joanne is working on a local project that brings together the histories of the Massachusetts game and the NY Game as they impacted one small town — Holliston. She sees a big story in these local events. She says that when one wanders around among the ghosts of the game, the stories are impressive: they involve triumph and tragedy, sex and violence, pathos and drama. Besides, she lives in the original Mudville, and that’s part of the story. Her tentative title: For Fun, Money or Marbles: How Baseball Transformed a Perfectly Good Town. She hasn’t set a target date for publication yet.
Bill Humber is working on the story of Canada’s earliest base ball, focusing in partonWilliam Shuttleworth, a key person on an 1854 team. Bill is also continuing to identify the nature of the “Canadian game,” which preceded the arrival of the New York game in Canada.
John is the author of “Ohio’s First Baseball Game; Played by Confederates and Taught to Yankees” which appeared in the spring 2008 issue of Base Ball. The match game itself, apparently played by New York rules, took place at a Civil War military prison on a Lake Erie island near Sandusky OH in August 1864. John concludes that the southern players, who were gentleman officers having connections to eastern US culture, were the ones who introduced the new game to local Ohioans.
Newly listed as a digger in June 2013, Jim Kimnach heads the Advisory Board of the Ohio Village Muffins Vintage Base Ball Team, which plays by 1860 rules. His main base ball interests include mid-Century ballplaying, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner.
Wendy's main baseball research interest is Billy Sunday. However, she is also interested in American cultural history in general, and while doing research on a book about a contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson, she was delighted to find [and to submit for the Protoball chronology] an entry on baseball from Emerson's journals. It was while reading Emerson's journals to get a handle on Emerson’s friendship with (and admiration for) her current research subject, Edward T. Taylor, that she found the June 1840 baseball reference (see Protoball entry 1840.20), which imagines that some young ballplayers feel “a faint sense of being a tyrannical Jupiter driving spheres madly from their orbits.
Rob has assembled a chronology of the evolution of ballmaking. Rob has a collection of photos of well over 200 19th C baseballs and is analyzing them to estimate their size and weight.
Angus is investigating the earliest days of California base ball. He identifies the local Knickerbockers as the first CA team, and is working with Mexican historian Cesar Gonzalez to ascertain the role of the New York Volunteer Regiment, which sailed to CA in 1846, in implanting baseball in Mexico.
Base Ball Discovered continues to charm audiences. The MLB Advanced Media documentary on baseball’s origins, written and produced by Sam, received the Award for Baseball Excellence at the 3rd annual Baseball Film Festival at the Hall of Fame in September. The award recognizes the film that best captures “research, factual accuracy, historical context, and appreciation of the game.” This follows the warm reception Sam was given at this year’s SABR Convention in Cleveland, where she addressed the SABR Origins Committee and screened the film for a packed house of conventioneers. Others agree: Vin Scully calls the film a “grand slam,” and the unexcitable George Will calls it “fascinating.”
Larry has put an initial Glossary of Games onto the Protoball website. This primitive listing includes about 120 distinct games, and names of games, of potential interest to those contemplating the full range of baseball-like games. Corrections and additions (Tom Altherr tipped us off on the game of Chermany, said to resemble baseball, found in Virginia and the south) are welcome. Most of the games entail safe-haven bases.
Wayne is trying to piece together the history of baseball in the Claremont area.
Eric joined the Vintage Base Ball Association’s Rules and Interpretations Committee in summer 2008. He remains active in Bethpage NY’s 19th Century Base Ball Program, the oldest in the US. Eric’s fine website, http://www.19cbaseball.com/, has several items pertinent to the origins of base ball, including a detailed listing of rule changes starting in 1854, the early evolution of ballplaying equipment, and treatment of the baseball’s predecessor games.
Dorothy Mills’ Recent Contributions
Dorothy Seymour Mills is publishing "Who Ever Heard of a Girls’ Baseball Club?" She writes: "Everyone needs to know that women and girls have been part of the baseball culture as long as men and boys – and not just as fans, but as players, umpires, and even club owners." The electronic book’s title is taken from a writer who "didn’t realize that girls and women have been playing baseball since at least the 1860s – in long skirts, of course."
Dorothy has been asked to submit four articles on baseball history to the National Pastime Museum’s website at http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article-category/historians-corner. The first one, "Those Nimble American Girls," should appear shortly.
The next book from Peter will be Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an Iconic American Folk Hero, due out in spring 2009. The book centers on the later professional era, but also covers the catchers of the 1860s.
Along with Richard Malatzky and John Thorn, Peter is guiding The Pioneer Project toward print. The project goal is to comprise histories of a large number of the oldest base ball clubs, including many from the 1850s and 1860s. The two dozen writers now at their drafting tables include David Arcidiacono, Priscilla Astifan, David Ball, Fred Burwell, John Bowman, Frank Ceresi, Ben Dettmer, Scott Fiesthumel, Robert Gregory, César Gonzalez, Richard Hershberger, Bill Humber, Jeffrey Kittel, Angus Macfarlane, Richard Malatzky, Peter Morris, Greg Perkins, Jeff Sackmann, Trey Strecker, John Thorn, Dixie Tourangeau, Brian Turner, Craig Waff, and John Zinn. For more details on the project, go to http://www.petermorrisbooks.com/pioneer_project.htm.
Monica Nucciarone has been contributing to a new documentary about base ball in Hawaii. The film, by former Boston University student Drew Johnson, touches on the influence of base ball on the political evolution of Hawaii, starting with 1840s ballplaying there as introduced by missionaries. Drew notes that Japanese baseball, as well as the US game, was part of the later story of Hawaiian baseball.
Dennis is working on a monograph on the history of baseball in Milwaukee from its earliest appearance in the late 1850s. The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City from Midwestern Outpost to the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 is slotted for publication by McFarland in 2009.
Marty continues to explore the influence of the advent of the New York Game on rural towns. He is finding that The New York game (along with improved transportation) brought competition, and had a profound social, economic, and cultural impact on small towns that previous, less structured versions of ballplay did not.
Greg Perkinshas written articles on base ball, town ball, and cricket for the Northern Kentucky Encyclopedia (University Press of Kentucky, 2009) and has helped organize a VBB club, the Ludlow Base Ball Club, which is named after an 1870s club. He continues to collect data on the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
Had you assumed that stoolball is now only to be found in very old English love poems? Wrong. John and Kay and their colleagues are actively looking after Stoolball England even as you read this. In 2008, Sport England, the funding body for British sport, officially “recognised” stoolball as a national game, but (unlike rounders) it is not as yet supported with public funds. In August, the Angmering club, from the south coast of England, won the Sussex League Championship, scoring 293 runs to outmatch the 106 runs managed by Horsted Keynes from central Sussex.
Contemporary interest in stoolball has been expressed in Roujan in southern France, where a club from Kent has been hosted during the last two Easter holidays; in Augusta, Maine, where re-enactment games have been played; in India, where ten states have joined the Indian Stoolball Federation; in Pakistan, where another Stoolball Federation has formed; in Japan, where stoolball broadcasts may be relayed on TV in the coming year; and in Thailand, where schools have shown interest. John and Kay are also working with Beth Hise on including stoolball in the 2010 exhibition on early ballplay at Lord’s.
Bill is putting together a narrative history of baseball from 1845 to the Civil War. Look for it to hit the shelves in 2009.
Bob Schaefer contributed an essay to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this spring:
"1858 -- The Changes Wrought by the Great Base Ball Match of 1858." Base Ball. 5(1): 122 - 126.
John identifies his continuing primary interest as baseball (and base ball) in Philadelphia, not the easiest choice for someone living far from the local sources at Temple University and the Free Library of Philadelphia. His Base Ball in Philadelphia (McFarland, 2007) is out, with contributions from our colleagues Altherr, Casway, Helander, Hershberger, Thorn, and Marshall Wright, but John still longs to know such things as “did the Olympic Club there really, as Robert Smith wrote in 1993, play on a diamond-shaped field? What was Smith's source for that assertion? And who were the original Olympics . . . a bunch of local rope-makers?” He admits to having thoughts about doing a more extensive book on Philadelphia’s hardball origins, once Georgia and the people at Clayton State University let go of him.
Mark Schoenberg is a new Digger. We are looking for this street-wise New Yorker to curate Protoball’s prospective Schoenberg’s Stickball Collection.
On July 19, Deb Shattuck presented “Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers” at the Triple Play Baseball Festival at Yachats on the Oregon Coast. The presentation is based on her forthcoming dissertation at the U of Iowa. The festival was the work of former MLB pitcher -- and geneticist -- Dave Baldwin.
Bob has founded and is editing Origins, the monthly e-newsletter of the SABR Committee on the Origins of Baseball. Bob also edits The Base Ball Player’s Chronicle, the Vintage Base Ball Association’s three-times-a-year newsletter.
George recently re-discovered the elusive 1859 NY Tribune article that challenges the superiority of the New York Game to the Massachusetts Game. George continues to examine all aspects of life in New York City from the 1790s to 1860, including all varieties of sports.
MLB Official Historian John Thorn has been in contact with cricket/wicket scholar Jay Patel in connection with Patel’s forthcoming book. He notes that a good fraction of his time these days goes to “facilitation” – putting the right people together for special projects. He also works with auction houses and experts on early base ball images to help identify their finds. And – all of this seems not to have lessened the number or quality of his frequent contributions to SABR’s 19CCB list-serve.
Brian Turner reports that his recent research has remained focused on bat-ball and bat-and-ball, but has also focused on settlement patterns in western Massachusetts, to tease out whether that tells us something about why ball games were apparently named one thing (bat-ball) in one town (Northampton) in 1791 and another thing in other towns (such as the names ball games were known by Pittsfield).
John Zinn is working on a manuscript telling the early history of base ball in New Jersey. He has examined 47 newspapers’ coverage of base ball club activities from 1855 to 1860, a period when only five NJ cities had daily papers. John has made major contributions to the SABR “Spread of Base Ball” project and to MLB’s Thorn Committee on Origins, which has stimulated new digging on the early spread of the game.
John reports that both Newark and Jersey City grew clubs that were mentioned at least once during this six-year span. The most active base ball counties in the state were Hudson County (which includes both Jersey City and Hoboken) and Essex County, the two counties closest to Hoboken's famous Elysian Fields.
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