Round Ball

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Game Round Ball
Game Family Baseball Baseball
Location Massachusetts
Regions US
Eras 1700s, 1800s, Predecessor
Invented No

This appears to be the name given to the game played in Massachusetts . . . and possibly beyond that . . . in the years before the Dedham rules of 1858 created the Massachusetts Game.

We have about a dozen references to round ball from about 1780 to 1856 -- all in New England and especially the state of Massachusetts.  New England also has references to goal, or goal ball, base, or base ball, and bat-and-ball for this period.  There is no indication if or how these games differed, or whether they are direct antecedents of the Mass Game rules of 1858.

Morris, p. 23 has a description of the game, from an early Detroit baseball player reminiscing in 1884: ""Previous to the time [1857] we had played the old-fashioned game of round ball. There were no 'balls' or 'strikes' to that. The batter waited till a ball came along that suited him, banged it and ran. If it was a fly and somebody caught it, he was out and couldn't play any more in the game. If the ball was not caught on the fly the only way to put a batter out was to hit him with the ball as he ran. There were no basemen then; everybody stood around to catch flies and throw the ball at base runners." (citing Detroit Free Press, April 4, 1884)


Henderson, Bat, Ball and Bishop p. 137. Morris, Baseball Fever p. 23; Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden p. 57-60; Block, Baseball Before We Knew It p. 159-160, 87-88.


We also have a reference to Round Ball in Hope, ME circa 1825 and in NH in 1847. Mosher's biography of General Joshua L. Chamberlain (b. 1828) says he played round ball in Brewer, near Bangor, ME. Morris, Baseball Fever p. 23 relates a story that they played round ball in Detroit prior  to 1857. Ditto Stratford, NH (see Protopix). It appears the game named round ball was common in New England.

See also the New England Base Ballist, Oct. 8, 1868, which says that ballplayer N. A. Putnam played Round Ball as a youth, "a game without method" usually played to 31 points, with the two sides numbering whoever showed up.

Other fictional mentions of Round Ball can be found in The Atlantic Monthly, July 1858; Good Housekeeping, May 30, 1885; The Adventures of Bobby Bright; Youth's Companion, Dec. 6, 1860.

The term "Round Ball" may be just a variant name for what is also termed "Town Ball." [ba]

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