The Origin of Baseball

It is difficult to trace the precise evolution of baseball from the older games of bat and ball. An old French manuscript dating back to the year 1344 has a picture of clerics playing a game, conceivably la soule, a French game with close resemblances to baseball. Many other old French games like the que, la balle empoisonnee and la balle au baton appear to be associated as well. Many had once agreed to it, that, the game baseball was a development made by the North Americans to the old game rounders, popularly played in Ireland and Great Britain.

David Block the writer of the book Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game, does not agree to it and argues that its origin comes from the English game stool ball. He even falsified the first print appearance of baseball, which was so long known to be in the year 1791 as an ordinance passed in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He claimed with evidence baseball’s first printed appearance in an English book “A Little Pretty Pocket Book” in the year 1744 by John Newbery. It comprehends the description of baseball through a woodcut which shows a field which has been set up in the similar manner as the modern day baseball. The small differences that were found was that the field was more triangular in shape rather than of diamond outline and it had posts instead of the ground level bases that the modern game has.

David Block also discovered the first ever noted game of “Bass-ball” which had taken place in Surey in the year 1749.

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The Prince of Whales played in it. A recording of a baseball game on an Easter Monday of the year 1755 in Guildford, Surrey by William Bray an English Lawyer was also found.

Such early form of the game seemingly came to Canada through the English immigrants. The game Rounders was brought to U.S. by immigrants of Irish and British ancestry.

The rules of the game were well established by the year 1796 to earn its mention in a book on popular pastimes by Johann Gutsmuths a German scholar. It described the “Englische Base-ball”which involved two teams who compete against each other, the batter was required to hit the ball in three attempts and run for home plate to make a run. Block suggests in his book that baseball came to U.S. along with the migrants in the colonial period. The Americans developed the game with some regional variations to give birth to modern baseball.

Early in the year 1830 unorganised bat and ball games were reported of being played everywhere in North America. The games were given local names such as round-ball, town-ball and even base-ball. A person who attended the baseball match in Beachville, Ontario in the year of 1838, gave a detailed description of the game to a sports magazine nearly 50 years later.

Alexander Cartwright a member of the Knickerbocker Club of the New York City, made the rules of the Knickerbocker club in the year 1845 which many of the club rules made it look similar to the modern game, however, ball caught on first bounce was out and overhand pitching was not allowed at all.

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Some reports have the mention of the New York Knickerbocker having played in the year 1845. The first officially recorded baseball game in the U.S. history is dated to 19th June, 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey. The game was played between New York Nine and Knickerbocker club, the latter was defeated by 23-1 only in four innings. The Knickerbocker club’s rules continued for a long time for the game, in the next 50 years the rules kept evolving to finally form the modern baseball rules.

Would you like to read more about this topic? This book might interest you: Baseball History.