SABR's "New England Roots" Project

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New England Roots Project

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The Project: SABR's five New England chapters (covering Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and western Massachusetts) have undertaken a joint project to review and extend our knowledge of the early roots of base ball and similar baserunning games in the six New England states. The page serves as something of a homepage for that project.

The Setting: In the past decade and a half, the Protoball Project has collected considerable data points on the origins of base ball. Protoball, launched with substantial support from the SABR central office and from Project Retrosheet, is a website by and for baseball researchers and writers. The site has assembled a registry of thousands early ballgames and ballclubs prior to 1870, has assembled a Ballplaying Chronology of about 1800 key events in the early evolution of base ball, and also displays original analyses from the game's amateur era. in 2018 the site was cited by SABR in conjunction with annual Bob Davids Award for service to baseball research.

Aim: The objective of the current "Roots" project is to refine and extend our understanding of early New England ballplaying, in great part via new research in the region's localities, including sources not found online.

6 Key Questions: Our initial plan is to address these relatively specific research questions:

  1. When did the modern ("New York") style of base ball arrive in the area you are examining? Do you see patterns in how it spread locally?
  2. Did the New York game quickly supplant the Massachusetts Game in your area? Had the Mass Game been firmly established there?
  3. Was the game of wicket (called Wicket Ball is some areas)known in your area? What was it like? Are the playing rules known?
  4. Is there evidence of other baserunning games? Were they associated with special days, like Fast Day or Militia Training Day or Town Meeting Day?
  5. Did local female play/exercise activities include forms of ballplaying, including baserunning games??
  6. Were forms of ballplaying ballplaying banned or restricted by local ordinance? (Recall that Pittsfield restricted "base ball in 1791.)

We hope to add new data into the Pre-pro Baseball data base of about 6,000 Clubs and Games in widespread local areas. SABR participants are invited to join in by doing research on a local town, county, or state that is of interest to you. This effort is encompassing both the modern ("New York rules") form of base ball and the predecessor base-running games (known as bat-and-ball, base, wicket, round-ball, run-round, cricket, etc.) that were known to have been played in particular geographical areas.

How to Join

Contact Larry McCray via He will welcome you to the project and help you get started.


Overview of the Protoball Database on New England: What we know and what we wish we know

Project Organization

Initial Research Areas

Research Aids

Research Dialogs

Some Local-Origins Resources for new researchers

[1] A Search Guide for new researchers

New information on an area's earliest clubs and ballgames is likely to be found in 19th Century newspaper accounts. We have compiled list of searchable national and local data bases (most of them free) to help new researchers to get started. This document includes practical search tips from several of the most-experienced Origins-Era diggers. Version 1.1 of this guide is found at Protoball Search Aid. We welcome additional listings and suggestions for improving later versions of the Search Tips guide. Before searching for new data, it may be useful to familiarize yourself on currently-held data in your geographical area of interest. We are particularly interested in finding earlier data that what is now on the Protoball site.

[2] One-sheet introductions to some less-than-familiar subtopics on New England ballplaying: mass game, wicket, female play, etc.

[3] A bibliography by Bill Lyons on published work on the pre-1870 evolution of base ball

[4] Some Online Sources that May Help You Interpret Local Data

Digger Activity Spreadsheets

Towns Spreadsheet Tab

Topics Spreadsheet Tab

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