Welcome to Protoball

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Supporting Researchers and Writers on Baseball’s Origins.

Protoball.org

(User Feedback Welcomed)

Protoball welcomes input from current and potential site users on initiatives that might make protoball.org more responsive to their research interests.

In the past decade or so, due to major data contributions from several origins researchers, the site has expanded to include sourced accounts of over 1750 chronology entries, many thousands of early games of modern base ball, over 11,000 early clubs, a registry of nearly 300 different baserunning games, a few hundred key reference works on early ballplaying, etc. Dave Anderson, Protoball’s site wizard, has found innovative ways to search and display this somewhat unruly mound of basic data. (Try playing with favorite search terms at http://protoball.org/Special:EnhancedSearch.)

We’d appreciate your candid ideas about ways to make Protoball a better tool for baseball historian and writers. Please send your ideas and views of the site’s limitations to comments@protoball.org or to Lmccray<at>mit.edu.

  • Bruce Allardice
  • Ralph Carhart
  • Jan Finkel
  • Larry McCray
  • Bob Tholkes

Current Resources On Protoball.org

The Protoball Chronology covers memorable mileposts in the evolution of ballgames from Ancient Times to 1870, just before the first professional baseball league began.

Our PrePro Baseball is a working database of over fourteen thousand clubs and games, mostly in the Origins Era (before 1871). Its interactive maps may help you visualize the spread of baseball over time. It is designed so that individual club pages can link to a club's games, players, and field locations. For an example, see the Knickerbocker Club here.

The Games Tabulation (version 2.0) is a record of over 1300 ballgames in various parts of the US from 1845 to 1860. It was compiled by the late Craig Waff᾿s careful and path-breaking research. More recently, Bob Tholkes has tabulated key data from over 5000 early games, mostly from the 1860s.

Base Ball Players Pocket Companion.jpg 1859 Base Ball Players’ Pocket Companion

The Glossary of Games provides a short description of 322 baseball-like games. The Glossary includes baseball's likely predecessor games and later games that derive from baseball.

The Bibliography is a list of publications you can use to explore the origins of ball games and baseball in depth. Some of these publications are available online. For sources that are in Protoball's Buzz McCray Collection, we can, via email and phone, help you determine what their content is.

A listing of fellow origins enthusiasts and contributors can be found in our Diggers section. You can read news about them and their work in the revived Origins Newsletter and the discontinued Next Destin'd Post. Several Diggers have contributed informal Essays relating to baseball's origins.

We offer an Enhanced Search for complex full-text searches on much of the information on the site. You can save your searches, pick out important articles, and share them with other researchers.

On a whim, we have collected information on as many baserunning games as we can find on our Glossary of Games. About half of them preceded the rise of the modern "New York" game of base ball in the 1850s.

Articles

Here are 3 of our latest articles:

  1. Protoball Interview With Richard Hershberger - by Lawrence McCray in December 2021
  2. Early Women's Baseball - by Bob Tholkes in December 2021
  3. Notes on the History and Evolution of Stoolball - by David Block in December 2021

Here are 3 randomly selected articles:

  1. Origins Newsletter -- September 2021 - by SABR Origins Committee in September 2021
  2. Peanuts, But No Cracker Jack - by Bruce Allardice in September 2021
  3. Interview With Author Tom Gilbert - by Larry McCray in September 2021
  4. Towards A Definition Of Baseball - by Bruce Allardice in September 2021
  5. "A Plague Is Upon Us" - by Steve Sisto in September 2021
  6. Number of Known BB Clubs in 40 Largest US Cities, 1870 5.0 - by Bruce Allardice in July 2021
  7. Old Team Nicknames - by Bruce Allardice in May 2021
  8. Origins Newsletter -- May 2021 - by Bruce Allardice in May 2021
  9. Rounders: A Game That "Gets No Respect" - by David Block in May 2021
  10. When The Game Was Not The Thing - by Bob Tholkes in May 2021
  11. Playing "Ball" In Canada In 1803 - by William Humber in May 2021
  12. McKinstry vs. Brooklyn Daily Times - by Steve Sisto in March 2021
  13. Such Tumbles, Such Collisions - by Steve Sisto in February 2021
  14. Rounders: Baseball's True Origin? - by Bruce Allardice in February 2021
  15. The First Baseball Game In Mexico - by Bruce Allardice in February 2021
  16. Origins Newsletter -- February 2021 - by SABR Origins Committee in February 2021
  17. Lost for 200 Years: John Thorn Detects Base Ball in New York in 1821 - by John Thorn in January 2021
  18. Number of Known BB Clubs in 40 Largest US Cities, 1870 3.0 - by Bruce Allardice in September 2020
  19. Ethnicity in 19C Base Ball -- A General Introduction - by Tom Gilbert in May 2020
  20. The Early Sporting Press in New England 1.0 - by Donna Halper in April 2020
  21. Base Ball on the Field, 1858-1865 - by Bruce Allardice in March 2020
  22. Old old games - by Larry McCray in December 2019
  23. Search Terms - by Larry McCray in December 2019
  24. NER Project Overview - by Larry McCray in December 2019
  25. Wicket Ball - by Larry McCray in December 2019
  26. The Massachusetts Game - by Larry McCray in December 2019
  27. Research Bibliography for Early Base Ball - by Bill Lyons in December 2019
  28. Emperics - by Larry McCray in December 2019
  29. Length of Games, 1860-1865 1.0 - by Bob Tholkes in October 2019
  30. Sons of Liberty - by Tom Gilbert in June 2019
  31. Ballplaying by Civil War Soldiers 1.0 - by Bruce Allardice in September 2018
  32. Very Early (pre-1857) Rules on Base Advancement After Caught Fly Balls - by Richard Hershberger in June 2018
  33. Baseball Making Notes - by Corky Gaskell in March 2018
  34. Ten-Position Base Ball - by Mark Brunke in February 2018
  35. Feeder and Rounders, 1841 - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  36. 1854 Unified Kinickerbocker-Eagle-Gotham Rules - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  37. 1860 NABBP Rules - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  38. The 20 Rules of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  39. La balle empoisonnée - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  40. Rules of the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  41. Englische Base-ball - by Bill Hicklin in March 2016
  42. Early Evidence on Base Stealing - by Richard Hershberger in February 2016
  43. The Play-Testing of Early Base Ball Rule Modifications, version 1.0 - by Richard Hershberger in January 2016
  44. Cricket and the Rise of Baseball - by Bruce Allardice in June 2015
  45. Beachville Deconstruction (The New York Game Comes to Canada) - by Bill Humber in May 2015
  46. Uniforms - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  47. The Big Tours - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  48. Media Effects - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  49. Predecessor Pastimes - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  50. Club Makeup - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  51. Competing Pastimes - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  52. The Grounds - by Marty Payne in September 2014
  53. Patterns of Spread - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  54. Gambling's Role - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  55. Accounts - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  56. Playing to Win - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  57. Base Ball Fever - by Jeffrey Kittel in September 2014
  58. The Beneficiaries - by Larry McCray in September 2014
  59. The Spread of Early Base Ball in Illinois to 1870 - by Bruce Allardice in August 2014
  60. The Backstop - by Richard Hershberger in July 2014
  61. Pitchers Covering First - by Richard Hershberger in July 2014
  62. Called Pitches - by Richard Hershberger in July 2014
  63. Judgment! - by Richard Hershberger in July 2014
  64. Protoball Search Aid - by Larry McCray in March 2014
  65. Spirit Letters From X, 1857-8 - by Bob Tholkes in February 2014
  66. Stoolball Today -- The Rejuvenation of an Ancient Pastime - by John and Kay Price in November 2013
  67. Richard Hershberger Interview, October 2013 - by Protoball Functionary in October 2013
  68. Internet Search Tips - by Bruce Allardice in October 2013
  69. Bruce Allardice Find Stories, October 2013 - by Bruce Allardice in October 2013
  70. 19CBB Highlights, August September 2013 - by Bob Tholkes in October 2013
  71. For Fun and Health -- That's Why She Played - by Debbie Shattuck in October 2013
  72. Sliding - by Richard Hershberger in October 2013
  73. The Spread of Base Ball, 1859 - 1870 - by Bruce Allardice in September 2013
  74. Interview with 2013 SABR-Origins Chair Bill Johnson - by Protoball Functionary in August 2013
  75. Next Destin'd Post, August 2013 - by Larry McCray in August 2013
  76. 1857 Rules - by Jeffrey Kittel in July 2013
  77. Sam Marchiano and the 1755 Bray Diary Find - by Protoball Functionary in June 2013
  78. Interview with Bill Ryczek - by Protoball Functionary in June 2013
  79. Performing Logic Searches on Protoball - by Dave Anderson in June 2013
  80. Don't Forget the Girls - by Debbie Shattuck in June 2013
  81. The Next Destin'd Post, June 2013 - by Larry McCray in June 2013
  82. 19CBB Digest, April-May 2013 - by Bob Tholkes in June 2013
  83. 1845 Knickerbocker Rules - by Jeffrey Kittel in April 2013
  84. Multi-word Searches on Protoball - by David Anderson in April 2013
  85. New England Woman Observes Ball Play in Norfolk, Virginia in 1802 - by Tom Altherr in April 2013
  86. Interview with Peter Morris - by Protoball Functionary in April 2013
  87. 19CBB Digest, March 2013 - by Bob Tholkes in April 2013
  88. Randall Brown's Find of the Wheaton Account -- Before the Knickerbockers - by Randall Brown in April 2013
  89. Next Destin'd Post, April 2013 - by Larry McCray in April 2013
  90. New Englander Confronts Impious Sunday Ball-playing in Virginia - by Tom Altherr in March 2013
  91. Irish Rounders (Burman's Report) - by Howard Burman in March 2013
  92. Linking Clubs to Ballgames - by Dave Anderson in February 2013
  93. Tom Altherr Contemplates His Favorite Finds - by Tom Altherr in February 2013
  94. Dave's Tip No. 1 -- Using "Site Search" and "Enhanced Search" - by Dave Anderson in February 2013
  95. An Interview with David Block - by Protoball Functionary in February 2013
  96. Postings to 19CBB, Jan. - Feb. 2013 - by Bob Tholkes in February 2013
  97. A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball - by Tom Altherr in February 2013
  98. The Next Destin'd Post, January 2013 - by Larry McCray in January 2013
  99. The Story of George Thompson’s 1823 Find --- Base Ball in New York City - by George Thompson in January 2013
  100. A New Find on Early Wicket and Old Fashioned Base Ball - by Tom Altherr in January 2013

A 2022 Update on Protoball's Holdings

1. The Protoball Chronology: Over 1900 entries, about one-half before 1845 and one-half from 1846-1871.This collection gathered data from the Origins Cttee's early "Spread of Base Ball" project, which SABR HQ putinto a website, one that was hosted by Project Retrosheet later on. This collection was seeded by an origins timeline compiled by John Thorn and Tom Heitz.

2. The PrePro data base of early clubs and early base ball games:

About 11,000 clubs and about 3800 games. Separately, we post about 5100 early games in Bob Tholkes' "RIM" collection of interclub games, about 5% of which precede 1857 and 95% were played 1858- 1865. Richard Hershberger provided his collection of hundreds of early clubs to this data base.

3. 19C Clippings: over 9000 news clippings collected by Richard Hershberger, 1700 of them from before 1870. Now open to new additions.

4.Block's research on English ballplaying.

Over 500 finds turned up in research on David's two fine books on early English play.

5. ProtoPix: [In Process] John Thorn has offered his collection of thousands of images of early base ball.

We will likely need volunteers to help curate this collection.

6. ProtoStats:

Seven studies that rest heavily on Protoball data. Bruce Allardice is, in effect, driving this new feature.

7. Original Analytics: about 35 papers by Protoball participants.

8. The Glossary of Games:

Accounts of over 150 games (mostly baserunning ballgames) reported before base ball was codified in NewYork and Brooklyn. The file includes another 150 "daughter" games that evolved from baseball. It needs a lot of work still.

9. Rule Sets: Over 40 sets of rules, including 12 NABBP updates,

Conditions of Use

Users are encouraged to freely use information on this web site. When that information is found to be useful in drafting published work, we ask that they acknowledge the Protoball Project in their writing, and supply the site's URL -- http://protoball.org -- when possible, in their citations.

Further Information

For more information about the evolution of Protoball Project, its policies, and resources, see our About page.

Contact Larry McCray of the Protoball Project at with any questions or contributions.

Features in Development

Please tell us if you see that new features could make the site more useful to you. Would a User Forum for site-user commentary make sense? Should we highlight "Most Wanted" data?

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1867 Star Club tobacco card