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640s.1 Medieval Writer: Saint Cuthbert [born 634c] "Pleyde atte balle"
Mulling on whether the ball came to England in Anglo-Saxon days, Joseph Strutt reports "the author of a manuscript in Trinity College, Oxford, written in the fourteenth century and containing the life of Saint Cuthbert, says of him, that when young, 'he pleyde atte balle with the children that his felawes [fellows] were.' On what authority this information is established I cannot tell."
Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (Chatto and Windus, London, 1898 edition), p. 158.
The claim of this unidentified manuscript seems weak. As Strutt notes, the venerable Bede wrote poetic and prose accounts of the life of Cuthbert around 715-720 A.D., and made no mention of ballplaying. That a scholar would find fresh evidence seven centuries later would be surprising. Warton later cites the poem as from Oxford MSS number Ivii, and he also places its unidentified author in the fourteenth century, but he doesn't support the veracity of the story line. The poem describes an angel sent from heaven to dissuade Cuthbert from playing such an "ydell" [idle] pastime. Warton, Thomas, The History of English Poetry from the Close of the Eleventh Century to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century (Thomas Tegg, London, 1840, from the 1824 edition), volume 1, page 14.
1400c.1 Savior Son Wants "To Go Play at Ball"
A well-known and still-sung medieval English carol (in this case, not a Christmas carol), is The Bitter Withy (withy is the willow tree). The carol is dated to around 1400.
As it fell out on a holy day.
The drops of rain did fall, did fall,
Our Saviour asked leave of his mother Mary
If he might go play at ball.
"To play at ball, my own dear son,
It's time you was going or gone,
But be sure let me hear no complain of you
At night when you do come home."
. . .
John Bowman reports that "The poem then tells how the boy Jesus tricks some boys into drowning and is spanked by his mother with a willow branch. Although I do not know what scholars have to say about the ball game, it is clear that the upper-class boys regard it as lower-class!"
The full selection, and John's email, are shown below.
Norton Anthology of Poetry (third edition, 1983) page 99.
What, if anything, have scholars said about the nature of the game that Jesus played? A baserunning and/or batting game? More like soccer or field hockey? Other?
1744.2 Newbery's Little Pretty Pocket-Book Refers to "Base-Ball," "Stooleball, "Trap-Ball," Cricket
John Newbery's A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, published in England, contains a wood-cut illustration showing boys playing "base-ball" and a rhymed description of the game: "The ball once struck off,/Away flies the boy/To the next destined post/And then home with joy." . This is held to be the first appearance of the term "base-ball" in print. Other pages are devoted to stool-ball, trap-ball, and tip-cat [per David Block, page 179], as well as cricket. Block finds that this book has the first use of the word "base-ball."
Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly [London, John Newbery, 1744]. Per Henderson ref 107, adding Newbery name as publisher from text at p. 132. The earliest extant version of this book is from 1760 [per David Block]. Note: we may want reassurance that the "Base-ball" poem appeared in the 1744 version. According to Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, the 1767 London edition also has poems titled "Stoolball" [p. 88] and Trap-Ball.[p. 91]. According Zoernik in the Encyclopedia of World Sports [p.329], rounders is also referred to [we need to confirm this, as Rounders does not appear in the 1760 edition or the one from 1790.]. There was an American pirated edition in 1760, as per Henderson [ref #107]; David Block dates the American edition in 1762. He also notes that a 1767 revision features engravings for the four games.
1748.1 Lady Hervey Reports Royals' "Base-ball" in a Letter
Lady Hervey (then Mary Leppel) describes in a letter the activities of the family of Frederick, Prince of Wales:
"[T]he Prince's family is an example of innocent and cheerful amusements All this last summer they played abroad; and now, in the winter, in a large room, they divert themselves at base-ball, a play all who are, or have been, schoolboys, are well acquainted with. The ladies, as well as gentlemen, join in this amusement . . . . This innocence and excellence must needs give great joy, and well as great hope, to all real lovers of their country and posterity."
[The last sentence may well be written in irony, as Lady Hervey was evidently known to be unimpressed with the Prince's conduct.]
Hervey, Lady (Mary Lepel), Letters (London, 1821), p.139 [Letter XLII, of November 14, 1748, from London]. Google Books now has uploaded the letters: search for "Lady Hervey." Letter 52 begins on page 137, and the baseball reference is on page 139. Accessed 12/29/2007. Note: David Block, page 189, spells the name "Lepel," citing documented family usage; the surname often appears as "Leppell." In a 19CBB posting of 2/15/2008, David writes that it is "George III, to whom we can rightly ascribe the honor of being the first known baseball player. The ten-year-old George, as [Prince] Frederick's eldest son, was surely among the prince's family members observed by Lady Hervey in 1748 to be 'divert[ing] themselves at base-ball.'"
1750s.3 1857 Writer Reportedly Dates New England Game of "Base" to 1750s
"Dear Spirit: . . .
"I shall state [here] that which has come under my observation, and also some of my friends, during the last four years of the ball-playing mania . . .
Base ball cannot date back to so far as [cricket], but the game has no doubt, been played in this country for at least one century. Could we only invoke the spirit of some departed veteran of he game, how many items of interest might we be able to place before the reader.
"New England, we believe, has always been the play-ground for our favorite game; and the boys of the various villages still play by the same rules their fathers did before them. We also find that many games are played, differing but little from the well-known game of Base.
" . . . Although I am a resident of State of New York, I hope to do her no wrong by thinking that the New England States were, and are, the ball grounds of this country, and that many of our present players were originally from those States.
"The game of Base, as played there, was as follows: They would take the bat, 'hand over hand,' as the present time, 'whole hand or none.' After the sides were chosen, the bases would be placed so as to form a square, each base about twenty yards from the other. The striker would stand between the first and fourth base, equi-distant from each. The catcher was always expected to take the ball without a bound and it was always thrown by a player who would stand between the second and third bases. A good catcher would take the ball before the bat cold strike it. A hand was out if a man was running the bases should be struck with the ball which was thrown at him while he was running. He was allowed either a pace or a jump to the base which he was striving to reach; or if a ball was caught flying or on first bound. There was no rule to govern the striker as to the direction he should knock the ball, and of course no such thing as foul balls. The whole side had to be put out, and if the last man could strike a ball a sufficient distance to make all the bases, he could take in one of the men who had been put out. The ball was not quite the same as the one in present use, and varied very much in size and weight, it also was softer and more springy.
"The bats were square, flat, or round -- some preferring a flat bat, and striking with it so that th4 edge, or small side, would come in contact with the ball. Another arrangement of bases is, to have the first about two yards from the striker (on this right), the second about fifty down the field, and the third, or home, about five. . . .
"Yours, respectfully, X"
Base Ball Correspondence," Porter's Spirit of the Times, Volume 3, number 8 (October 24, 1857), page 117, column 2. The full text of the October 20 letter from "X" is on the VBBA website, as of 2008, at:
The writer present no evidence as to the earliest dates of known play.
The game described by "X" resembles the MA game as it was to be codified a year later except: [a] "a good catcher would frequently take the ball before the bat cold strike it," [b] the runner "was allowed either a pace or jump to the base which he was striving t reach," [c] the bound rule was in effect, [d] all-out-side-out innings were used, [e] the ball was "softer and more spongy" than 1850's ball, [f] the bats were square, flat, or round," and [g] there was a second field layout, with three bases. [This variation reminds one of cricket, wicket, and "long town or "long-town-ball, except for the impressive 150-foot distance to the second base]."
Can we interpret the baserunning rule allowing "a pace or jump to the base [the runner] was striving to reach?" Plugging didn't count if the runner was close to the next base," perhaps?
1755.6 NYS Traveler Notes Dutch Boys Playing "Bat and Ball"
Gideon Hawley (1727-1807), traveling through the area where Binghamton now is, wrote: "even at the celebration of the Lord's supper [the Dutch boys] have been playing bat and ball the whole term around the house of God."
Hawley, Gideon, Rev. Gideon Hawley's Journal [Broome County, NY 1753], page 1041. Collection of Tom Heitz. Per Patricia Millen, From Pastime to Passion , page 2.
Writing in 2011, Brian Turner discerns that "bat and ball" maybe the name of a defined game, and not just a generic term. See Brian Turner, "Bat and Ball: A Distinct Game or a Generic Term?", Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 37-40. He finds several uses of the phrase in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, most of them north and east of Boston.
1790.10 "Young Man's Amusements" Include "Bat and Ball"
'[A]t the same time a game called simply 'bat and ball' began to be appear in English writings. A 1790 book listed a young man's amusements as including 'marbles, bat and ball [and] hop-step-and-jump.'"
David Block, German Book Describes das English Base-ball, Base Ball, volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), page 51. The original source is Incidents of Youthful Life; or, the True History of William Langley (1790), page 94.
1797.6 "Ample Space" Allowed "For Cricket, For Bat and Ball . . . "
"A 1797 newspaper article, praising the layout of a new school ground, noted "it affords ample space for cricket, for bat and ball, or any other school-boy exercise."
David Block, German Book Describes das English Base-ball, Base Ball, volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), page 51. The original source is Westminster School, The Oracle and Pubic Advertiser (London), August 24, 1797.
1798.1 Jane Austen Writes of "Baseball" in Northanger Abbey.
Jane Austen mentions "baseball" in her novel Northanger Abbey, written in about 1798 but published in 1818, after her death. "Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books . . . . But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; so read all such works as heroines must read. . . "
Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey (London, 1851), page.3.
Note: The 2008 "Masterpiece" TV version of this novel included a brief scene in which Catherine, at the age of about 17, plays a baseball-like game [rounders-based, arguably] involving posts with flags as bases.
It would be interesting to know how the Masterpiece drama's screenwriter arrived at this depiction.
1799.3 Will Satan Snag the Sunday Player?
"Take care that here on Sunday/None of you play at ball,/For fear that on the Monday/The Devil takes you all." Inscription on the Church Wall of a small village in Wales.
Mercantile Advertiser, August 3, 1799, page 2, column 3.
Weekly Museum, April 19, 1800, Vol. 12, No. 27. page 2.
We have no indication as to when the inscription was carved.
1801.3 Book Portrays "Bat and Ball" as Inferior to Cricket
"CRICKET. This play requires more strength than some boys possess, to manage the ball in a proper manner; it must therefore be left to the more robust lads, who are fitter for such athletic exercises. Bat and ball is an inferior kind of cricket, and more suitable for little children, who may safely play at it, if they will be careful not to break windows."
Youthful Sports[London], pp 47-48., per David Block, page 184. An 1802 version of this book, published in Baltimore, is similar to the chapbook at #1801.2, but does not include trap-ball.
1802.3 New England Woman Sees Ballplaying in Virginia, Perhaps by "All Colors"
[A (April 25, 1802)] "Saw great numbers of people of all ages, ranks, and colours, sporting away the day -- some playing ball, some riding the wooden horses . . . . , others drinking, smoaking, etc."
[B (May 9, 1802)] "the inhabitants employed as they usually are on Sundays, some taking the air in coaches, some playing at ball, at nine pins, marbles, and every kind of game, even horseracing."
Diarist Ruth Henshaw Bascom had moved from New England to the Norfolk area in 1801.
[A] A. G. Roeber, ed., A New England Woman's Perspective on Norfolk, Virginia, 1801-102: Excerpts from the Diary of Ruth Henshaw Bascom, (Worcester MA, American Antiquarian Society, 1979), pp. 308-309.
[B] A. G. Roeber, ed., A New England Woman's Perspective on Norfolk, Virginia, 1801-102: Excerpts from the Diary of Ruth Henshaw Bascom, (Worcester MA, American Antiquarian Society, 1979), pp. 311.
Tom Altherr comments that while Mrs. Bascom disdained such activities on Sundays, she had "left valuable evidence of the seemingly commonplace status ball play had in her day in the South. Moreover, despite the ambiguity of her [May 9] diary entry, African Americans may have been playing ball, perhaps even with whites."
1810c.1 "Poisoned Ball" Appears in French Book of Games
The rules for "Poisoned Ball" are described in a French book of boy's games: "In a court, or in a large square space, four points are marked: one for the home base, the others for bases which must be touched by the runners in succession, etc."
To See the Text: David Block carries a three-paragraph translation of text in Appendix 7, page 279, of Baseball Before We Knew It.
David notes that the French text does not say directly that a bat is used in this game; the palm may have been used to "repel" the ball.
Les Jeux des Jeunes Garcons [Paris, c.1810]. Per Robert Henderson. Note: David Block's Baseball Before We Knew It, at page 186-187, dates this book at 1815, some of the doubt perhaps arising from the fact that the earliest [undated?] extant copy is a fourth edition.
We have one other reference to poisoned ball, from about three decades later. See item 1850c.8.
This game has similarity to base ball; could a French-speaking digger take a few moments to sort out whether more is known about the rules, origins, and fate of the game?
1812c.1 Young Andrew Johnson Plays Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy in Raleigh NC
[At age four] "he spent many hours at games with boys of the neighborhood, his favorite being 'Cat and Bass Ball and Bandy,' the last the 'choyst' game of all."
Letter from Neal Brown, July 15, 1867, in Johnson Mss., Vol. 116, No. 16,106.[Publisher?]
Listed Source seems incomplete or garbled. Help?
1820.29 Base ball an "Old-fashioned" Activity For English Girls
"In 1820, another girl-oriented book, entitled Early Education, mentions 'base ball' among a footnoted list of appropriate 'old-fashioned' amusements that also includes 'hunt the slipper' and 'my lady's toilette."
E. Appleton, Early Education (2nd Edition, 1821), page 384, cited in David Block, John Newberry Publishes A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, and With it Our First Glimpse of the game of English Baseball,Base Ball, volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), page 34.
1820.32 Baseball in Brooklyn 1820
" I went to school in 1820-1, to one Samuel Seabury, on Hicks street, near Poplar, and afterward in a private house at the corner of James and Front streets; then to one Lummiss, who taught in the Titus House, in Fulton street, between York and Front. I also attended Mr. Hunt's school, over George Smith's wheelwright shop in Fulton street, opposite High. Foot racing and base ball used to be favorite games in those days, and we used to go skating on Fricke's Mill Pond, at about Butler street and Third avenue."
from an article "School Days Recalled: By Graduates of the Old Brooklyn Districts" on October 2, 1887. 19cbb post by David Dyte, Apr. 24, 2010
1823.6 Students Play Ball Game at Progressive School in Northampton MA
[A, B] In their recollections during the 1880s, John Murray Forbes and George Cheyne Shattuck describe playing ball during the years 1823 to 1828 at the Round Hill School in Northampton MA. This progressive school for young boys reflected the goals of its co-founders, Joseph Green Cogswell and George Bancroft; in addition to building a gymnasium, the first US school to do so, Round Hill was one of the very first schools to incorporate physical education into its formal curriculum.
[C] In 1825 Carl Beck, Latin and gymnastic instructor at Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, had translated F. L. Jahn’s Deutche Turnkunst (1816). Jahn had mentored the Turnerbund, a movement devoted to gymnastics. According to Beck’s original preface, “[T]hose who take an interest in the cause would be pleased to acquaint themselves with the exertions of Gutsmuths . . . years before Jahn came forward.” (Gutsmuths’ book on games provided David Block with the 1796 rules and diagram of a game called “Englische baseball,” in his 2005 Baseball before We Knew It.)
Round Hill School is renowned as the first school in the nation to include physical education in its curriculum. Translating Jahn, Beck wrote that in “games to be played without the precinct of the gymnasium, playing ball is very much to be commended.” Tellingly, where Beck inserted “playing ball,” Jahn himself recommended “the German ball game” (also in Gutsmuths and Block). Beck, however, changed the “German ball game” to “ball-playing” to suit his American audience. Also, given that the boys of Round Hill came from across the nation, Ball acknowledged regional variations: “The many variations in different parts, are altogether unessential and a matter of choice.” Ball-playing, Beck wrote, “unites various exercises: throwing, striking, running and catching.”
[A] Forbes was writing his recollections in 1884, as reported in Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Sarah Forbes Hughes, editor [Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1899], vol. 1, page 43.
[B] Shattuck is quoted in Edward M. Hartwell, Physical Training in American Colleges and Universities [GPO, 1886], page 22.
[C] Primary source: Carl Beck, Treatise on Gymnastics Taken Chiefly from the German of F. L. Jahn (Northampton, Mass., 1828).
Are any reports available on the rules of the game as played at Round Hill?
Beck didn't give the game a particular name?
1824.3 English Novel Cites Base-ball as Girls' Pastime, Limns Cricket Match
[A] "Better than playing with her doll, better even than base-ball, or sliding or romping, does she like to creep of an evening to her father's knee."
[B]Bateman states that Our Village, which was initially serialised in The Lady's Magazine between 1824 and 1832, contains the first comprehensive prose description of a cricket match." See
[A] Mitford, Mary Russell, Our Village [London, R. Gilbert], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 191. Block notes that this novel was published in New York in 1828, and Tom Altherr [email of April 2, 2009] adds that there were Philadelphia editions in 1835 and 1841.
[B] Bateman, Anthony,"'More Mighty than the Bat, the Pen . . . ;' Culture,, Hegemony, and the Literaturisaton of Cricket," Sport in History, v. 23, 1 (Summer 2003), page 34.
Note: It would be good to confirm when the baseball and cricket references were first published, given the conflicting data on serialization and book publication.
1824.7 Bat and Ball, Cricket are Sunday Afternoon Pastimes
"on Sunday, after afternoon service, the young people joined in foot-ball and hurling, bat and ball, or cricket."
Does the context of this excerpt reveal anything further about the region, circumstance, or participants in this ball-playing?
1827.10 "a nonsuch for (Girls') eyes and arms"
From the London Literary Gazette of March 24, 1827, in a negative review of a book on calisthenic exercises for ladies by one Signor Voarino:
[noting that the author is a foreigner] "Perhaps he was not aware...that we had diversions like these just mentioned, and many others of the same kind--such, for example (for our critical knowledge is limited,) as hunt the slipper, which gives dexterity of hand and ham; leap frog, which strengthens the back (only occasionally indulged in, we believe, by merry girls;) romps, which quicken all the faculties; tig, a rare game for universal corporeal agility; base-ball, a nonsuch for eyes and arms; ladies' toilet, for vivacity and apprehension; spinning the plate, for neatness and rapidity; grass-hopping (alias shu-cock,) for improving the physical powers; puss in the corner, and snap-tongs, for muscularity and fearlessness;--all these, and hundreds more, not so well known nor so much practised in London, perhaps, as in the county, we have had for ages..."
London Literary Gazette, March 24, 1827, per 19cbb post by Richard Hershberger, Oct. 26, 2010
1828.9 Mitford Story Centers on Cricket, Touches on Juvenile Baseball
"Then comes a sun burnt gipsy of six . . . . her longing eyes fixed on a game of baseball at the corner of the green till she reaches the cottage door . . . . So the world wags until ten; then the little damsel gets admission to the charity school, her thoughts now fixed on button-holes and spelling-books those ensigns of promotion; despising dirt and baseball, and all their joys."
From "Jack Hatch," taken from the Village Sketches of Mary Russell Mitford, The Albion: A Journal of News, Politics, and Literature September 9 1828, volume 7, page 65.
Submitted by Bill Wagner 6/4/2006 and by David Ball 6/4/2006. David explains further: "The title character is first introduced as a cricketer, 'Jack Hatch the best cricketer in the parish, in the county, in the country!' The narrator hears tell of this wonder, who turns out to be a paragon of all the skills but is never able to meet him in person, finally hearing that he has died. Mitford treats cricket (with tongue admittedly somewhat in cheek) as an epic contest in which the honor of two communities is at stake. In the opening, very loosely connected section, on the other hand, baseball is described as a child's game, to be put away early in life."
1829.8 Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Until Age 10, Anyway)
"Then comes a sun-burnt gipsey of six, beginning to grow tall and thin, and to
find the cares of the world gathering about her, with pitcher in one hand, a
mop in the other, and old straw bonnet of ambiguous shape, half hiding her
tangled hair, a tattered stuff petticoat, once green, hanging below an equally
tattered frock, once purple; her longing eyes fixed on a game of bass-ball at
the corner of the green, till she reaches the cottage door, flings down the mop
and pitcher, and darts off to her companions, quite regardless of the storm of
scolding with which the mother follows her runaway steps.
So the world wags till ten; then the little damsel gets admission to the
charity school, and trips mincingly thither every morning, dressed in the old
fashioned blue gown, and tippet, and bib and apron of that primitive
institution, looking demure as a nun, and as tidy; her thoughts fixed on button
holes and spelling books - those ensigns of promotion; despising dirt and
bass-ball, and all their joys."
'The American Farmer' March 20, 1829 (No. 1, Vol. 11, page 6, column 1), per 19cbb post by Mark Aubrey, Jan. 29, 2008
1829.9 Pupil in Class Seen to "Scamper like a Boy at Bass-ball"
Under the heading "School-boy Anecdote," this item tells of a "pupil in one of the common schools in New-York" who responded in an oral spelling quiz with an indistinct answer. The teacher pressed him on his answer: "Did you say 'a' or 'e'?"
"Why, you take ary [sic] one on 'em!" said the boy, and he scampered [to the front of the classroom] "like a boy at bass-ball, and placed himself at the head of the class."
Carried in the New-Hampshire Statesman and Concord Register, [Concord, NH], June 6, 1829, page 4, column 3: Attributed to the Berkshire American (no date given).
One source identifies the Berkshire American as being published in Pittsfield MA 1825-28.
Pittsfield is in westernmost MA and within 10 miles of the New York border. It is about 35 miles SE of Albany NY.
1830c.28 Fictional Mom Recalls Liking to Bat Ball as a Girl
Tom Altherr located a fictional story in The Child's Friend (January 1848) in which a mother recounts to her son, George, how she 'liked boys' playthings best' when she was a little girl and could 'drive hoop, spin top, bat ball, jump, and climb' as well as her brothers could."
The Child's Friend, January 1848. Full citation needed. Submitted by Deb Shattuck, May 2013.
It is, of course, difficult to specify a reasonable date for a fictional account like this one.
1830s.29 PA Schoolboys Recalled as Playing Town Ball and Long Ball
"Here we played town ball, corner ball, sow ball and long ball. Sometimes we would jump, to see how high we could leap; then it was hop, step and jump. Once in a while we played ring, provided the girls would help, and generally they would..."
Samuel Penniman Bates, Jacob Fraise, Warner Beers, History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, Containing a History of the County, its Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc; Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania, Statistical and Miscellaneous Matter, etc. (Chicago: Warner, Beers and Company, 1887), page 300.
This observation is attributed to John B. Kaufman, a teacher turned surveyor in Franklin County, PA , reflecting on his childhood spent in a log school house in "50 odd years ago": Kaufman was born in 1827. Find confirmed 10/9/2014 via search of <"john b. kaufman" "long ball">
Franklin County PA is in south central PA, on the Maryland border. Its population in 1830 was about 35,000.
1830c.31 Balk Rule Recalled from Childhood Games in 1847 Newspaper Commentary
"A Balk is a Base." -- Any one having a remembrance of the ball games of his youth, must recollect that in the game of base if the tosser made a balk to make the individual making the round from his post, the latter had the right to \walk to the next base unscathed. Pity it is that the Hudson folks engaged in the political movement in Columbia County did not remember that "a balk is a base" in the games of children of a larger growth.
[The article proceeds to criticize the partisan tactics of the "Antirenters of Taghkanic" in a local dispute in nearby Columbia County NY.]
"A Balk is a Base," Roundout Freeman, June 5, 1847 (volume II, issue 46), page 2.
Dating this item as "circa 1830" is highly speculative, and turns on the ages of the writer and his intended readers. Arguments for an alternative dating are welcome.
 Rule 19 of the 1845 Knickerbocker Rules sates that "A runner may not be put out in making one base, when a balk is made on the pitcher." David Block in 2005 wrote that the rule "apparently originated with the Knickerbocker club, as there is no mention of it in any earlier accounts of baseball." (Baseball Before We Knew It, page 92.)
 Kingston NY (1850 populations about 10,000) is about 90 miles north of Manhattan on the Hudson River and 20 miles north of Poughkeepsie NY. Columbia County is north of Kingston.
Protoball welcomes further comment on the possible origin of the balk rule.
1831.5 "Cricket, Base, and Long Ball" Played in Worcester MA on Election Day
When the Massachusetts Legislature announced that Election Day would be moved from May to January, a protest was lodged in a newspaper, recalling:
". . then amusements were planned; then were hunting matches and fishing parties made; then was the quoit hurled in the air; then were cricket, base, and long-ball played; then were sports of every kind, appropriate to the season, sought after and enjoyed with particular zest."
'Lection Day, National Aegis (Worcester Massachusetts), June 15, 1831, page 1, as cited in David Block, Polish Workers Play Ball at Jamestown, Virginia, Base Ball, volume 5, number 2 (Spring 2011), page 8. (The National Aegis credits the New York Constellation with the article, but David Block notes that the subject is clearly the lot of Massachusetts children not those in New York City.)
1835c.18 CT Boy "Played Base Ball til Noon"
"I have a handwritten journal kept by a young boy for the years 1835 and 1836. This young man grew up to be a person of note in Connecticut but that is not what I am writing about. On the very first page of his two year journal, actually the very first sentence he states, 'this morning I painted my stick.' A few sentences later me mentions that he 'played base ball til noon.' He was 11 years old when he wrote this and ther are other mentions of base ball and his stick here and there and generically playing with the boys. There is no description of how they played the game. . .
"Respectfully, Ed Cohen"
Email from Ed Cohen to Retrosheet, October 8, 2013.
Protoball replied to Mr. Cohen, but communication was lost, and we are unable to add detail or context to this find, as of 11/22/2013.
Are there any contemporary references to "base ball" in CT before this?
1835.19 An "Outdoor Professor" is Appreciated by Former Student
[Josey Haywood, a classics instructor and "great friend of school boys] "was a species of out-door Professor of Languages at the Academy; under him we were all Philosophers of the Peripatetic sect, walking constantly about the play grounds, and bestowing on Fives, Base, Cricket and Foot Ball the 'irreperabile tempus' due to the wise men of Greece. -- Hence he was quite a troublous fellow to the in-door Professors. They found nothing classical in his 'bacchant ar.' They loved him not, and wished him far away."
Long Island Farmer, and Queens County Advertiser [Jamaica, NY] , December 16, 1835, page 2, column 2.
In the following paragraph, the man is called "Joseph Heywood."
Do we know what was meant by "Foot Ball" in the early 19th Century?
Can we determine what "the Academy" was, and the ages of its students?
1839.1 Graves Letters of 1905 Say that Doubleday Invented Base Ball
[A] Abner Doubleday, who was to become a Civil War notable, is much later (1905) said to have "invented" baseball at Cooperstown, New York, according to the findings of the Mills Commission (1905-1907), a group of baseball magnates appointed by the American and National League Presidents to investigate the origins of baseball. The Commission bases its findings almost entirely on letters received from Abner Graves, a resident of Cooperstown in his childhood. The Commission's findings are soon discredited by historians who proclaim the "Doubleday Invention" to be entirely a myth.
The Doubleday game, according to Graves' offerings, retained the plugging of runners, eleven players per team, and flat bats that were four inches wide. Graves sees the main improvement of the Doubleday game that it limited the size of teams, while town ball permitted "twenty to fifty boys in the field."
Graves believed that Abner Doubleday was 16 or 17 years old when he saw him lay out his improved game [in fact, Doubleday was 20 in 1839, and at West Point]. Graves himself declined to fix a year to the Doubleday plan, suggesting that it might have occurred in 1839, 1840, or 1841. In choosing 1839, the Commission rested its story on the memory of a boy who was then 5 years old.
[B] Mark Pestana provides a scenario of this game, which he considers more likely to have taken place in 1840.
[C] As Pestana does, Hugh MacDougall wonders if Graves was confusing (General) Abner Doubleday with his younger cousin, Abner D. Doubleday, who was closer to Graves' age and was in Cooperstown at the time.
[A] Three Letters from Abner Graves -- two letters to the Mills Commission, April 3, 1905 and November 17, 1905 and one of unknown details. To read them, go here.
[B] Mark Pestana, "The Legendary Doubleday Game", Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the 19th Century (SABR, 2013), pp. 3-5
[C] Hugh MacDougall, Abner Graves: The Man who Brought Baseball to Cooperstown, 2011.
1840s.31 Lem: Juvenile Fiction's Boy Who Loved Round-ball
Lem may be fiction's only round-ball hero.
On pages 93-97, the novel lays out the game that was played by Lem [born 1830] and his playmates, which seems to follow the customs of the Massachusetts game, but without stakes as bases. The passage includes a field diagram, some terminology ["the bases . . . were four in number, and were called 'gools,' a word which probably came from 'goals.'"], and ballmaking technique. Lem is, alas, sidelined for the season when he is plugged "in the hollow of the leg" while gool-running [Page 97] Other references:
On spring, pp 92-93: "Ball-playing began early in the spring; [p92/93] it was the first of the summer games to come out.
On Fast Day, p. 93: "I am afraid that Lem's only notion of Fast Day was that that was the long-expected day when, for the first time that year, a game of ball was played on the Common."
On the pleasant effects of a change in the path of the Gulf Stream, pp. 228-229: "no slushy streets, and above all, no cold barns to go into to feed turnips to the cold cows! A land where top-time, kite-[p228/229] time, and round-ball-time would always be in season. Think of it!"
On making teams for simulating Revolutionary War tussles, p. 107: "We can't all be Americans; and we have agreed to choose sides, as we do in round ball."
Noah Brookes, Lem: A New England Village Boy: His Adventures and his Mishaps (Scribner's Sons, New York, 1901). Accessed 11/15/2008 via Google Books search "Lem boy."
As of Jan 2013, this is one of three uses of "gool" instead of "goal" in ballplaying entries, all in the 1850s and found in western MA and ME. [To confirm/update, do an enhanced search for "gool".] One of these 1850s.33 uses "gool" as the name of the game.
We welcome comment on the authenticity of Brooks' depiction of ballplaying in the 1840s, and whether how the game depicted compares to the MA game.
1844.14 "At Base, They Cannot Hit Him With the Ball."
A small work of juvenile fiction published in 1844 contains this description of a youthful ballplayer: "Johnny is a real good hand to play with the older boys, too. At base, they cannot hit him with the ball, any more than if he were made of air. Sometimes he catches up his feet, and lets it pass under him, sometimes he leans one way, and sometimes another, or bows his head; any how, he always dodges it."
Another scene describes several boys sitting on a fence and watching "a game of base."
Willie Rogers, or Temper Improved, (Samuel B. Simpkins, Boston), 1844.
David Block observes: "the sentence describing the boy's skill at taking evasive action when threatened by soaking seems significant to me. I don't recall ever seeing this skill discussed before, and, although long obsolete, it must have stood as one of the more valuable tools of the base runner in the era of soaking/plugging ."
1844.17 Hilarious "Base Ball" and "Two Old Cat" Recalled by Chicagoan
Gale's "Reminiscences of Early Chicago and Vicinity" (1902) pp. 213-214 talks about his school days in 1844: "in the immediate vicinity of the school we could indulge in a game of 'two old cat' or in the hilarious sport of 'base ball.' We had no regulation balls or clubs, or even rules." Goes on the describe how the students made balls and bats.
This was at Bennett's school, in modern downtown at the southwest corner of State and Madison.
Gale's "Reminiscences of Early Chicago and Vicinity" (1902) pp. 213-214
This information is also listed at http://protoball.org/In_Chicago_in_1844undefined
1845c.6 NY Man: "We Used to Say Come Let Us Play Ball or Base Ball"
Andrew Peck writes: "We used to say them come let us play Ball or Base Ball . . . . I used to play it at school from 1845-1850 [Peck was about 9 in 1845]. We used more of a flat bat and solid rubber ball. The balls we made ourselves [from strips of rubber overshoes - ed.] . . . . I forget now as to many points of the game, but I do remember that we used to run bases, and the opposite side to ours would try to get the ball, and you would have to be hit with it before out while running your base to get home."
John Thorn, email of 2/10/2008, reports that Peck attened school in "upper NY State.
Letter from Andrew Peck, Canada Lake, NY, to the Mills Commission, September 1, 1907.
1845c.26 Melville (Maybe) Describes New England Ball Game Poetically
And now hurrah! for the speeding ball
Is flung in viewless air,
And where it will strike in its rapid fall
The boys are hastening there--
And the parted lip and the eager eye
Are following its descent,
Whilst the baffl'd stumbler's falling cry
With th'exulting shout is blent.
The leader now of either band
Picks cautiously his men,
And the quickest foot and the roughest hand
Are what he chooses then.
And see!the ball with swift rebound,
Flies from the swinging bat,
While the player spurns the beaten ground,
Nor heeds his wind-caught hat.
But the ball is stopp'd in its quick career,
And is sent with a well-aim'd fling,
And he dodges to feel it whistling near,
Or leaps at its sudden sting,
Whilst the shot is hail'd with a hearty shout,
As the wounded one stops short,
For his 'side' by the luckless blow is out--
And the others wait their sport.
This poem, published pseudonymously as the work of "William M. Christy" in 1845, is Melville's first published work, according to Melville scholar Jeanne C. Howes, author of a monograph entitled '"Poet of a Morning: Herman Melville and the 'Redburn Poem': Redburn: Or the Schoolmaster of a Morning". From 19cbb post by John Thorn, July 6, 2004
"In the case of the Redburn poem, a strong competing interpretation concludes that HM is not its author. I can't argue either side of Howes' hypothesis since I have not read her work, and I only have a couple hundred words of notes on the topic, but I think we all readily understand that the attribution of Melville as author of this four canto poem is not universally accepted." 19cbb post by Stephen Hoy, July 6, 2004
These lines appear to be part of the poem Redburn: Or the Schoolmaster of a Morning, published under an apparent pseudonym in 1845 (or 1844). In 2000, Jeanne C. Howes published Poet of a Morning: Herman Melville and the "Redburn" Poem.
The online blurb for this work states: "In a tour de force of literary detection and scholarship, Jeanne Howes has conclusively proven that shortly after Herman Melville’s return from the South Pacific in 1844 an anonymous book published in Manhattan, Redburn: or the Schoolmaster of a Morning, is his first book. Early scholars pondered whether this book might have been written by Melville but dismissed it since not enough was then known about Melville’s life and writings. Serious scholarship did not begin until the 1920s, as Herman Melville, the great dark god of American letters had fallen into an obscurity so encompassing that at the time of his death in 1891 he was entirely forgotten by the literary community."
An annotation: "Possibly written about a game played by the schoolboys attending Sykes District School in Pittsfield where Melville, as an 18 year old taught for a short while before he went to sea." He shipped out in 1841.
Further opinions about this poem's description of a baserunning game with plugging are welcome.
1845.29 Dutch Publication Covers "Engelsch Balspel," "Kat," Other Batting Games
John Thorn passed along text of a Dutch book of games printed in 1845.
This book, comprising about 170 pages, describes about 110 juvenile pastimes, including nine listed as ball games.
English language versions of the "English Game," Kat, and Wall Ball are offered in the Supplementary Text, below.
John Thorn supplies this online source for the book:
The book is: Jongens! Wat zal er gespeeld worden?: handboekje voor knapen bij hunne, (Leeuwarden, G.T.E. Suringar, 1845). The author is not specified.
Translations of the English game, kat, and Wall Ball are provided in the Supplemental Text, below.
David Block (email of October 20, 2016) explains:
" . . . the Dutch account of Engelsch balspel was clearly taken almost verbatim from the 1828 description of rounders that appeared in The Boy's Own Book. The Dutch version leaves out the first sentence that begins with "In the west of England..." but from there on follows the English original with only minor changes (such as converting the base path dimensions from yards to feet). It replicates the exact diagram and lettering of the base and pitcher positions from The Boy's Own Book. Mareike's translation abridges some of the detail in the text, but conveys the general idea."
The 1845 Introduction to the Dutch book indicates that it was a translation of the the German book "Womit soll ich mich belustigen?" (1842?) which was a translation of an 1828 English work The Boys Own Book.
As of October 2016, we are unsure whether the successive translations are direct and literal or allowed for modification to reflect German and Dutch preferences and practices.
1846.6 Walt Whitman Sees Boys Playing "Base" in Brooklyn: "Glorious"
In July of 1846 a Brooklyn Eagle piece by Walt Whitman read: "In our sun-down perambulations of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing "base," a certain game of ball. We wish such sights were more common among us. In the practice of athletic and manly sports, the young men of nearly all our American cities are very deficient. Clerks are shut up from early morning till nine or ten o'clock at night . . . . Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms . . . the game of ball is glorious."
"City Intelligence," Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat, vol. 5 number 177 (July 23, 1846), page 2, column 3. Reprinted in Herbert Bergman, ed., Walt Whitman. The Journalism. Vol. 1: 1834 - 1846. (Collected Works of Walt Whitman) [Peter Lang, New York, 1998], volume 1, page 477. Full Eagle citation submitted by George Thompson, 8/2/2004. .
1847.13 "Boy's Treasury" Describes Rounders, Feeder, Stoolball, Etc.
The Boy's Treasury, published in New York, contains descriptions of feeder [p. 25], Rounders [p. 26], Ball Stock [p. 27], Stool-Ball [p. 28], Northern Spell [p. 33] and Trap, Bat, and Ball [p 33]. The cat games and barn ball and town ball are not listed. In feeder, the ball is served from a distance of two yards, and the thrower is the only member of the "out" team. There is a three-strike rule and a dropped-third rule. The Rounders description says "a smooth round stick is preferred by many boys to a bat for striking the ball." Ball Stock is said to be "very similar to rounders." In stool ball, "the ball must be struck by the hand, and not with a bat."
The rules given for rounders are fairly detailed, and include the restriction that, in at least one circumstance, a fielder must stay "the length of a horse and cart" away from baserunners when trying to plug them out on the basepaths. For feeder and rounders, a batter is out if not able to hit the ball in three "offers."
Feeder appears to follow most rounders playing rules, but takes a scrub form (when any player is out he, he becomes the new feeder) and not a team form; perhaps feeder was played when too few players were available to form two teams.
The Boy's Treasury of Sports, Pastimes, and Recreations (Clark, Austin and Company, New York, 1850), fourth edition. The first edition appeared in 1847, and appears to have identical test for rounders and feeder.
Rounders and Feeder texts are cloned from 1841.1, as is 1843.3
It seems peculiar that rounders and ball stock are seen as similar; it is not clear that ball stock was a baserunning.
We have scant evidence that rouunders was played extensively in the US; could this book be derivative of an English pubication?
:Apparently so: the copy on Google Books says "Third American Edition," and the Preface is intensely redolent of English patriotism (" the noble and truly English game of CRICKET... ARCHERY once the pride of England") Whicklin (talk) 04:08, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
1848.5 New York Book of Games Covers Stool-ball, Rounders, Wicket
A large section of "The Boy's Book of Sports," attributed to "Uncle John," describes more than 200 games, including, rounders (pp. 20-21), stool-ball (pp. 18-19), and wicket (labeled as cricket: page 73).
Rounders (pp.20-21) employs a two-foot round bat, a hard "bench ball," and four or five stones used as bases and arranged in a circle. Play starts when a "feeder" delivers a ball to a striker who tries to hit it and run from base to base without getting hit. There is a one-strike rule. The feeder is allowed to feign a delivery and hit a runner who leaves a base. Struck balls that are caught retire the batting side. There is a Lazarus rule.
Stoolball (pp. 18-19) is described as a two-player game or a game with teams. A stool is defended by a player by his hand, not a bat. Base running rules appear to be the same as in rounders.
David Block notes that "The version of rounders the book presents is generally consistent with others from the period, with perhaps a little more detail than most. Given the choice of games included [and, perhaps, the exclusion of familiar American games], he believes the author is English, "[y]et I find no evidence of its publication in Great Britain prior to ." This 184-page section was apparently later published in London in 1850 and in Philadelphia in 1851.
The book includes an unusual treatment of wicket. The author states that "this is the simple Cricket of the country boys." In reporting on this book, Richard Hershberger advances he working hypothesis that wicket and cricket were used interchangeably in the US.
There is no reference to base ball, base, or goal ball in this book.
Boy's Own Book of Sports, Birds, and Animals (New York, Leavitt and Allen, 1848), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, pages 209-210.
While the preface to this book stresses that it is designed to be limited to "sports which prevail in our country," it includes sections on stoolball and rounders, neither known to have been played widely here.
The author's assertion that wicket was commonly played by boys is unusual. The reported heaviness of wicket's ball, and its heavy bat, seem to mark the game for older players.
One wonders whether an earlier English edition of this book was published; it is not online as of February 2013.
1850.6 Article in The Knickerbocker Mentions "Bass-ball," Old Cat, Barn-ball
A piece on gambling in post-1849 San Francisco has, in its introductory section, "As we don't know one card from another, and never indulged in a game of chance of any sort in the world, save the "bass-ball," "one" and "two-hole cat," and "barn-ball" of our boyhood . . . "
Block observes: "While this is a rather late appearance for the colloquial spelling "bass-ball," it is one of the earliest references to the old-cat games."
The Knickerbocker, volume 35, January 1850 [New York, Peabody], page 84, as cited by David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 213.
Note: Is the author hinting that boys commonly bet on their ball-games? Isn't this a rare mention of barn-ball?
1850.7 Englishman's Book of Games Refers to Rounders, Feeder
David Block only mentions one passage of interest - a section on "rounders, or feeder," a shortened version of what had appeared in 1828 in The Boy's Own Book (see item #1828.1).
Mallary, Chas D., The Little Boy's Own Book; Consisting of Games and Pastimes . . . . (Henry Allman, London, 1850), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 213-214.
1850c.8 Poisoned-Ball Text Recycled in France
The material on "la balle empoisonee" (poisoned ball) is repeated from Les jeux des jeunes garcons. See item #1810s.1 above.
Jeux et exercises des Jeunes garcons (Games and Exercises of Young Boys) (Paris, A. Courcier, c. 1850), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 213.
This game has similarity to base ball; could a French-speaking digger take a few moments to sort out whether more is known about the rules, origins, and fate of the game?
1850c.9 Juvenile Story Book has Two Woodcuts with Ballplaying
One illustration in this chapbook shows boys playing ball; a second shows [icon! icon!] a house with a window broken by a ball.
Frank's Adventures at Home and Abroad (Troy NY, Merriam and Moore), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 213.
1850c.10 B is for Bat, B is for Ball
A chapbook has eight pages of simple verses and some basic illustrations. Highlight: "The letter B you plainly see,/ Begins both Bat and Ball;/ And next you'll find the letter C,/ Commences Cat and Call."
Grandpapa Pease's Pretty Poetical Spelling Book [Albany, H. Pease], per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 213.
1850c.12 Chapbook Reprises Illustration from Contemporary Book.
Louis Bond, the Merchant's Son (Troy NY, Merriam and Moore, c. 1850), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
Block notes that the graphic is lifted by the same publisher's 1850 book, Frank and the Cottage).
1850c.26 Needed: More Festival Days - Like Fast Day? For Ballplaying
"[T]hey committed a radical error in abolishing all the Papal holidays, or in not substituting something therefore. We have Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July, and Fast-Day when the young men play ball. We need three times as many festivals."
Arethusa Hall, compiler, Life and Character of the Reverend Sylvester Judd (Crosby, Nichols and Co., Boston, 1854), page 330. The book compiles ideas and views from Judd's writings. Judd was born in 1813 and died at 40 in 1853. John Corrigan (see #1850s.25) quotes a James Blake as capturing popular attitudes about Fast Day.
Writing of Fast Day 1851, Blake said "Fast & pray says the Governor, Feast & play says the people." John Corrigan, "The Anxiety of Boston at Mid-Century," in Business of the Heart: Religion and Emotion in the Nineteenth Century (University of California Press, 2002), page 45. Corrigan's source, supplied 10/31/09 by Joshua Fleer, is James Barnard Blake, "Diary, April 10, 1851, American Antiquarian Society.
What were the Catholic festivals that were eliminated? Were any tradfitionally associated with ballplaying?
1850.32 NH Ballplaying Washed Out on Fast Day
"Fast Day. Disappointment fastened upon a thousand boys and girls, who calculated on a first rate, tall time on Fast Day. It seemed as if al the water valves in the clouds were opened, and we dare assert that rain never fell faster. The sun didn't shine, the birds didn't sing, the boys didn't play ball . . . "
"Fast Day," New-Hampshire Gazette, April 9, 1850. Accessed via 4/9/09 subscription search.
1850s.40 Future Historian Plays Ball in NYC Streets
"During the winter my time was spent at school and at such sports as city bjoys could have. Our playground was the street and a vacant lot on he corner of Fourteenth Street and Second Avenue. Behind its high fence plastered with advertisements, we played baseball with the soft ball of that day."
The author, John Bach McMaster (b. 1852), later wrote The History of the People of the United States, published in 1883.
John Back McMaster, quoted in "Young John Bach McMaster: A Boyhood in New York City," New York History, volume 20, number 3, (July 1939), pp. 320-321. Noted in Originals. v.4, n, 11 (November 2011, page 2.
1850s.41 "The Popular Game" For Boys in NY State: Old Cat
"The popular game among the boys previously."
M. F. Roberts, A Narrative History of Remsen, New York (private printing, 1914)., page 220. Described in Originals, volume 4, number 10 (October, 2011), page 2.
Reportedly the author writes of Remsen ballplaying before the Civil War. Remsen, a town in Central New York, is about 20 miles N of Utica NY and about 60 miles E of Syracuse and, if you must know, about 60 miles NW of Cooperstown. Its current population is about 1,900.
1850s.42 Indianans Play Town Ball, Two Old Cat
"There were several games of ball played when the weather wold permit. The first was town ball and was played somewhat after the style of baseball, but without outfielders. The bases were much nearer together than in baseball. There is no question that baseball is an outgrowth of the old town ball.
"Another ball game was called 'Two Old Cat,' in which there was a batter at each end, and when one of them hit they exchanged places, and either could be put out before he reached the other plate. As I remember only four could play at once."
Judge Ivory George Kimball, Recollections from a Busy Life 1843 to 1911 (The Carnahan Press, 1912), page 31. Reported in Originals, volume 4, number 11 (November 2011), page 3.
Finder Tom Altherr asks whether there are other known examples of town ball lacking outfielders. One possibility is that the use of a soft ball and young batsmen combined to make long hits so rare as not needing an outfield.
1850s.45 Future NL President Plays ball in Mohawk Valley of New York
Nicholas Young, National League President, 1885-1902
"I was born [in 1840] in Amsterdam in the beautiful Mohawk Valley, and while I played barn ball, one old cat, and two old cat in my early boyhood days, cricket was my favorite game, and until I enlisted in the army I never played a regular game of base ball, or the New York game as it was then called."
Letter, Nicholas Young to A. G. Mills, December 2, 1902, in the Mills Commission file at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was resonding to the Mills Commission's call for knowledge on the origins of base ball.
Young first played base ball in 1863 his cricket friends in the Army could not find opponents to play the game. See entry 1863.19.
1850c.46 Worcester Man Recalls Round Ball in the 1850s
"I will now call your attention to some of the games and amusements indulged in by Worcester boys of fifty or sixty years ago . . . .
"There were various games of ball played in my day. I remember barn-ball, two and three old cat, and round ball. This last was very much like baseball of to-day . . . .
"There were bases of goals, and instead of catching out, the ball was thrown at the player when running bases and if hit he knew it at once and was out. The balls were hard and thrown with force and intent to hit the runner, but an artful dodger could generally avoid being hit.
"On Fast Day there was always a game of ball on he north side of the Common, played by men and older boys, and this attracted large crowd of interested lookers on."
Nathaniel Paine, School Day Reminiscences, Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity, Volume XIX (1903), pages 46 and 49.
1850s.47 Boys and Girls Play Old Cat at Recess in Wisconsin
"elias molee, in his completely lower-case autobiography, recounted mixed-gender cat games at his southern Wisconsin school in the 1850s: 'a little before 10:30 o'clock she [the teacher] called out "20 minutes recess." [the] boys played catching each other, or played ball which we called "1 old cat" when 3 were playing, boys or girls made no difference to us, when 4 played we called it "2 old cat"'"
Elias Molee, Molee's Wanderings, An Autobiography (private printing, 1919) page 34. As cited by Tom Altherr, Coed Cat Games in Wisconsin in the Early 1850s, Originals, volume 4, number 1 (January 2011, page 2.
1850s.50 Benefits for Adults Seen in Ballplaying in English Shire: Tutball Rules Described
"Yorkshire: Now only played by boys, but half a century ago [1850's] by Adults on Ash Wednesday, believing that unless they did so they would fall sick in harvest time. This is a very ancient game, and was elsewhere called stool-ball. [West Yorkshire]. Shropshire: Tut-ball; as played at a young ladies school at Shiffnal fifty years ago. (See also 1850c.34). The players stood together in their 'den,'behind a line marked on the ground, all except one, who was 'out', and who stood at a distance and threw the ball to them. One of the players in the den then hit back the ball with the palm of the hand, and immediately ran to one of three brick-bats, called 'tuts' . . . . The player who was 'out' tried to catch the ball and to hit the runner with it while passing from one 'tut' to another. If she succeeded in doing so she took her place in the den and the other went 'out' in her stead. This game is nearly identical with rounders."
Joseph Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary (Henry Frowd, London, 1905), page 277. Part or all of this entry appears to credit Burne's Folklore (1883) as its source.
Note: This describes a scrub form of tutball/rounders. It suggests that all hitting was forward, thus in effect using a foul line, as would make sense with a single fielder.
The claim that tutball and stoolball used the same rules is surprising; stoolball is fairly uniformly described as having but two bases or stools, and using a bat.
1850c.51 A Form of Cricket
"Until the advent of 'hard' baseball in the late 1850s, boys in Kalamazoo 'played a form of cricket with a big soft ball as large as a modern football, but round and made at home of twine and leather and owled over a level field to knock down wickets less than its own height from the ground.'"
Peter Morris, But Didn't We Have Fun?i (Ivan R Dee, 2008), p.16, quoting the Kalamazoo Telegraph, Dec. 10, 1901.
1851.2 Early Ballplaying on the SF Plaza (Horses Beware!)
From February 1851 through January 1852, there are six reports of ballplaying in San Francisco:
 February 4, 1851. "Sport -- A game of base ball was played upon the Plaza yesterday afternoon by a number of the sorting gentlemen about town."
 February 4, 1851. Sports on the Plaza. "The plaza has at last been turned to some account by our citizens. Yesterday quite a crowd collected upon it, to take part in and witness a game of ball, many taking a hand. We were much better pleased at it, than to witness the crowds in the gambling saloons which surround the square."
 February 6, 1851. "Base-Ball --This is becoming quite popular among our sporting gentry, who have an exercise upon the plaza nearly every day. This is certainly better amusement than 'bucking' . . . ."
 March 1, 1851. "Our plaza . . . has gone through a variety of stages -- store-house, cattle market, auction stand, depository of rubbish, and lately, playground. Numbers of boys and young men daily amuse themselves by playing ball upon it -- this is certainly an innocent recreation, but occasionally the ball strikes a horse passing, to the great annoyance of he driver."
 March 25, 1851. "There [at the Plaza] the boys play at ball, some of them using expressions towards their companions, expressions neither flattering, innocent nor commendable. Men, too, children of a larger growth, do the same things."
 January 14, 1852. "Public Play Ground -- For the last two or three evenings the Plaza has been filled with full grown persons engaged very industrially in the game known as 'town ball.' The amusement is very innocent and healthful, and the place peculiarly adapted for that purpose."
 Alta California, Feb, 4, 1851
 "Sports on the Plaza," Daily California Courier, February 4, 1851.
 "Base-Ball," Alta California, February 6, 1851.
 "The Plaza," San Francisco Herald, March 1, 1851.
 "The Corral," Alta California, March 25, 1851.
 "Public Playground," Alta California, January 14, 1852.
See Angus Macfarlane, The [SF] Knickerbockers -- San Francisco's First Baseball Team?," Base Ball, volume 1, number 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 7-20.
Angus Macfarlane's research shows that many New Yorkers were in San Francisco in early 1851, and in fact several formed a "Knickerbocker Association." Furthermore he discovered that several key members of the eastern Knickerbocker Base Ball Club -- including de Witt, Turk, Cartwright, Wheaton, Ebbetts, and Tucker -- were in town. "[I]n various manners and at various times they crossed each other's paths." Angus suggests that they may have been involved in the 1851 games, so it is possible that they were played by Knickerbocker rules . . . at a time when in New York most games were still intramural affairs within the one or two base ball clubs playing here.
What do we know about "the Plaza" in those days, and its habitués and reputation?
1852.2 Lit Magazine Cites "Roaring" Game of "Bat and Base-ball"
The fifth stanza of the poem "Morning Musings on an Old School-Stile" reads: "How they poured the soul of gay and joyous boyhood/ Into roaring games of marbles, bat and base-ball!/ Thinking that the world was only made to play in, -/ Made for jolly boys, tossing, throwing balls!
Southern Literary Messenger, volume 18, number 2, February 1852, page 96, per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
John Thorn interprets this phrase to denote two games, bat-ball and base-ball. Others just see it as a local variant of the term base-ball. Is the truth findable here? Note that Brian Turner, in "The Bat and Ball": A Distinct Game or a Generic Term?, Base Ball, volume 5, number 1, p. 37 ff, suggests that 'bat and ball" may have been a distinct game played in easternmost New England.
1852.4 Bass-ball "Quite Too Complicated" for Children's Book on Games
An 1852 book's woodcut on trap-ball "shows a tiny bat that looks more like a Ping Pong paddle and bears the caption 'bat ball'."
As for other games, the book grants that Little Charley "also plays at cricket and bass ball, of which the laws or [sic] quite too complicated for me to describe."
Little Charley's Games and Sports (Philadelphia, C. G. Henderson, 1852).
From David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 214.
This book reappeared in 1854, 1857, and 1858 as part of a compendium.
1852.9 Five Fined in Brooklyn NY for Sunday Ballplaying Near a Church
"Yesterday, quite a number of boys were arrested by the police for ball playing and other similar practices in the public streets . . . . [Three were nabbed] for playing ball in front of the church, corner of Butler and Court streets, during divine service. They were fined $2.50 each this morning by Justice King." Two others were fined for the same offense.
"Breaking the Sabbath," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, vol. 11 number 99 (April 26, 1852), page 3, column 1.
1852.10 Fictional "Up-Country" Location Cites Bass-Ball and Wicket
"Both houses were close by the road, and the road was narrow; but on either side was a strip of grass, and in process of time, I appeared and began ball-playing upon the green strip, on the west side of the road. At these times, on summer mornings, when we were getting well warm at bass-ball or wicket, my grandfather would be seen coming out of his little swing-gate, with a big hat aforesaid, and a cane. He enjoyed the game as much as the youngest of us, but came mainly to see fair play, and decide mooted points."
There is a second incidental reference to wicket: "this is why it is pleasant to ride, walk, play at wicket, or mingle in city crowds" . . . [i.e., to escape endless introspection]. Ibid, page 90.
L.W. Mansfield, writing under the pseudonym "Z. P.," or Zachary Pundison, Up-country Letters (D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1852), page 277 and page 90.
Provided by David Block. David notes: "This is a published collection of letters that includes one dated March 1851, entitled 'Mr. Pundison's Grandfather.' In it the author is reminiscing about events of 20 years earlier."
It might be informative to learn whether this novel has a particular setting (wicket is only known in selected areas) and/or where Mansfield lived.
1852.14 A Pleasant Beech Grove, Where the Boys Played Bass Ball
"A little way from the school-house . . . was a pleasant beech grove, where the boys played bass ball, and where the girls carried disused benches and see-sawed over fallen logs."
Alice Carey, Clovernook: or, Recollections of Our Neighborhood in the West (Redfield, Clinton Hall NY, 1852), page 280. G-Book search: <"beech grove" "alice carey">.
The state or locality of this scene is not obvious.
Is this a recollection or a work of fiction?
1853.2 Dutch Handbook for Boys Covers "Engelsch Balspel," Trap-ball, Tip-cat
Dongens! Wat zal er gespeld worden? (Boys! What Shall We Play?) (Leeuwarden, G. T. N. Suringar, 1853), A 163-page book of games and exercises for young boys, described by David Block as "loaded with hand-colored engravings." The book's section on ball games includes a translation of the 1828 rounders rules from The Boy's Own Book (see 1828.1 entry, above) but is diagrammed with a diamond-shaped infield, under the heading Engelsch balspel (English ball). A second game is De wip (the whip), a kind of trap ball. Also [[De kat]], which Block identifies as English tip-cat.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 215.
In 2016, an 1845 edition of this book was discovered, and Protoball began to explore translations of its text. See http://protoball.org/1845.29.
1853.3 B is [Still] For Bat and Ball
Under an illustration of trap-ball play, we find in an 1853 children's book: "My name is B, at your beck and call,/ B stands for battledore, bat, and ball;/ From the trap with your bat, the Tennis ball knock,/ With your battledore spin up the light shuttlecock."
The Illuminated A, B, C (New York, T. W. Strong, 1853), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 215.
The use of a tennis ball in a description of a batting game is unusual.
In 1853, the modern game of lawn tennis had not been invented, and most tennis was played for centuries [as players of "Real Tennis" now do] on indoor, walled courts with hard balls that strongly resemble modern baseballs. It is not clear that the old form of tennis was played in the US in the 1850s.
Could this be an American printing of an English volume?
1853.4 School Reader has Description of Bat and Ball
Sanders, Charles W., The School Reader; First Book (Newburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, assorted publishers). This is another Sanders reader (see entries above for 1840, 1841, 1846), this one with an illustration of four boys playing a ball game at recess. A drawing is titled "Boys Playing at Bat and Ball."
Oddly enough, two of the four boys seem to be carrying bats. One appears to have hit the ball toward a boy in the foreground, and a second boy stands near to him, with a bat in hand, watching him prepare to catch the ball. "[H]e will catch the ball when it comes down. Then it will be his turn to take the bat and knock the ball."
No bases or wickets are apparent in the drawing. No pitching or baserunning is mentioned.
per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 215.
In 2013, David Block notes that the 1858 edition of this book includes a different image, where a fifth player appears, and three of them hold bats: see below: "In the newer  edition, all five of the boys are standing around a tree . . . . The bats, especially in the 1858 illustration, appear to be flat-faced, though not as broad as a cricket bat. There are no visible wickets or bases . . . It is impossible to know what sort of game(s) the artists were trying to represent, although my impression is of some sort of fungo game, with one player hitting the ball in the air and the others trying to catch or retrieve. The one who succeeds gets to bat next. Just a guess.
(Email from David Block, 2/7/2013.)
Is it possible that this is a fungo-style game? Is it possible that may other "plaing ball" references denote fungo games?
Do we know of any other fungo games in which more than a single bat is used?
1853.8 If Balls and Bats Were Coinage, They Were Millionaires
Several boys are having trouble raising money needed to finance a project. "If base-balls and trap-bats would have passed current, we could have gone forth as millionaires; but as it was, the total amount of floating capital [we had] was the sum of seven dollars and thirty-seven and a half cents."
"School-House Sketches, in The United States Review, (Lloyd and Campbell, New York, July 1853), page 35.
Would it be helpful to find what time period the 1853 author chose for the setting for this piece?
1853.12 English Cleric Promotes Co-ed Rounders
"In school at Westbourne I generally examine boys and girls together, and I find this always produces a greater degree of attention and emulation, each being ashamed to lose credit in the eyes of he other.
"In the playground they [boys and girls] have full permission to play together, if they like . . . but they very seldom do play together, because boys' amusements and girls' amusements are of a different character, and if, as happens at rare intervals, I do see a dozen boys and girls going down a slide together in the winter, or engaged in a game of rounders in the summer, I believe both parties are improved by their temporary coalition."
Rev. Henry Newland, Confirmation and First Communion (Joseph Masters, London, 1853), page 240. Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search ("henry newland" mdcccliii).
Newland was Vicar of Westbourne, near Bournemouth and about 100 miles SW of London.
1853.15 You've Got to Play Along to Get Along?
Frank Forrester [Daniel Wise], Ralph Rattler: or, The Mischief-Maker (Brown Taggart and Chase, 1853), pp. 12-14: "In one episode, Ralph, a supercilious sort, refused an invitation to play ball with his Belmont Academy fellow students, because he dressed better than they did. . . . this scorn backfired for Ralph as he found making any friends very hard. Ball play, apparently, was a marker of social acceptance"
Tom Altherr, Ball Playing . . . as a Moral Backdrop in Children's Literature, in Originals, volume 5, number 5 (May 2012), pp 1 - 2.
1854.8 Historian Describes Facet of 1850s "School Boys' Game of Rounders"
A cricket historian describes an early attribute of cricket"
" . . . the reason we hear sometimes of he Block-hole was . . . because between these [two] two-feet-asunder stumps [the third stump in the wicket had not yet been introduced] there was cut a hole big enough to contain a ball, and (as now with the school boy's game of rounders) the hitter was made out in running a notch by the ball being popped into [a] hole (whence 'popping crease') before the point of the bat could reach it."
James Pycroft, The Cricket Field , page 68.
Note: Pycroft was first published in 1851. See item #1851.1. Was this material in the first edition?
1854.18 Bass Ball and Truth-telling
"Tucked away in the 1854 Youth's Casket was a . . . moralistic tale centered on lying . . . ."
Three lads play "game of bass" with a new bat and ball, and one of them hits the ball so hard it breaks a school window. . . . One of them is punished for lying to cover up his mate's act.
"Hiding One's Faults," in The Youth's Casket; An Illustrated Magazine for the Young (E. F. Beadle, Buffalo, 1854), pages 151-152.
Cited in Tom Altherr, "Another Base Ball Reference," Originals, volume 4, number 12 (December 2011), page 2.
1855c.2 Town Ball Played in South Carolina
A woman in South Carolina remembers: "The first school I attended with other pupils was in 1855. Our teacher was a kind man, Mr. John Chisholm. The schoolhouse was the old Covenanter brick church. We had a long school day. We commenced early in the morning and ended just before sundown. We had an hour's intermission for dinner and recreation. The boys played town ball and shot marbles, and the few girls in school looked on, enjoyed, and applauded the fine plays."
Remarks of Mrs. Cynthia Miller Coleman [born 1/17/1847], Ridgeway, SC, at loc.gov oral history website:
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/wpa/30081905.html, accessed 2/11/10.
Ridgeway SC is in central SC, about 25 miles north of Columbia.
1855c.11 Master Trap-ball, Meet Mister Window
Pictured is a struck ball heading toward a window. Text: "School's up for to-day, come out boys and play I'll put my trap here on the grass;/ Look out John Thatcher, here comes a catcher, oh dear! It will go through the glass."
Sports for All Seasons, Illustrating the Most Common and Dangerous Accidents That Occur During Childhood . . . [London, J. March], six pages; per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 216-217.
1855.25 Text Perceives Rounders and Cricket, in Everyday French Conversations
An 1855 French conversation text consistently translates "balle au camp" as "rounders." It also translates "crosse" to "cricket."
A double is seen in "deux camps," as "En voila une bonne! Deux camps pour celle-la" is translated as "That is a good one! Two bases for that."
W. Chapman, Every-Day French Talk (J. B. Bateman, London, 1855), pages 16, 20, 21. Accessed 2/11/10 via Google Books search <"chapman teacher" "french talk" 1855>. The English titles for the translated passages are The Playground and Returning From School.
It is unclear whether the original poems are the English versions or the French versions; if the latter, it seems plausible that these safe-haven games were known in France.
Would a French person agree that "balle au camp" is rounders by another name? Should we researcher thus chase after that game too? Perhaps a French speaker among us could seek la verite from le Google on this?
1856.10 French Work Describes Poisoned Ball and La Balle au Baton
Beleze, Par G., Jeux des adolescents [Paris, L. Hachette et Cie], This author's portrayal of balle empoisonee is seen as similar to its earlier coverage up to 40 years before; its major variant involves two teams who exchange places regularly, outs are recorded by means of caught flies and runners plugged between bases, and four or five bases comprise the infield. Hitters, however, used their bare hands as bats. Block sees the second game, la balle au baton, as a scrub game played without teams. The ball was put in play by fungo hits with a bat, and was reported to be most often seen in Normandie, where it was known as teque or theque.
per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 217.
What are the "other sources" for playing theque? Is it significant that this book features games for adolescents, not younger children?
1856.11 New Reader Has Ballplaying Illustration
Town, Salem, and Nelson M Holbrook, The Progressive First Reader [Boston], This elementary school book has an illustration of boys playing ball in a schoolyard.
per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, pages 217-218.
What are the "other sources" for playing theque? Is it significant that this book features games for adolescents, not younger children?
1856.26 Youths Are "Playing Ball" in San Francisco
"The only reference to any ballplaying activity reported in the SF papers between 1852 and 1860 was a complaint to the editor of the Bulletin by a good Christian on February 13, 1856 who complained about boys and young men plaing ball on the sabbath."
San Francisco Bulletin, 2/13/1856.
1856.296 Ball Play in Children's Song
The New Year's number of a children's magazine, Stu-dent & Schoolmate, featured a musical piece entitled "The Holiday Song" in 1856. The second stanza went as follows:
Hark! we hear our schoolmates call,
And we see the whizzing ball
From the bat stick flying;
Bat the ball,
One and all,
Great and small,
Keep the ball a flying.
"The Holiday Song," in Student & Schoolmate: A Monthly Reader for School & Home Instruc-tion Containing Original Dialogues, Speeches, Bio-graphy, History, Travels, Poetry, Music, Science, Anecdotes, Problems, Puz-zles, etc., January 1, 1856, p. 108. Reprinted in Originals, Newsletter of the Origins Committee of SABR, Vol. 4 No. 12. Dec. 2011
1856.30 "Ball playing" Schoolboy Essay
A game at ball is a very nice play. The boys have a bat, and they hit a ball with it and knock it away. Sometimes the boys miss the ball, and then the catcher catches it, and they have to be out. There are two kinds of ball playing: the base ball and the cat and dog ball. When the boys play cat and dog ball, they have two bats and four boys. Two of the boys take the bats, and the other two throw the ball from one to the other past the boys who have the bats, at the same time one throws the other tries to catch him out. Nyack, Dec. 1856 T.--Dis. 4."
Rockland Co. Journal, Dec. 27, 1856
Per Richard Hershberger, "the one example of the genre I know of from anything like this early."
1857.4 London Rounders Players Arrested
A group of "youths and lads" were arrested by a park constable for "playing at a game called rounders." Posted to 19CBB by Richard Hershberger on 2/5/2008.
The Morning Chronicle, March 17, 1857
1857.11 New Primer, Different Illustration**
Town, Salem, and Nelson M. Holbrook, The Progressive Pictorial Primer [Boston], Continuing the authors' series (see 1856 entry), this book uses a different illustration of boys playing ball than in the earlier book.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 218.
1858.13 New Reader: "Now, Charley, Give Me a Good Ball"
The Little One's Ladder, or First Steps in Spelling and Reading [New York, Geo F. Cooledge]. The book shows schoolyard ballplaying, and sports the caption: "Now, Charley, give me a good ball that I may bat it."
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 218
1858.23 "The Playground" Gives Insight into Rounders, Trap-ball, and Cricket Rules and Customs
George Forrest, The Playground: or, The Boy's Book of Games [G. Rutledge, London, 1858, pp. 67-72]. Available via Google Books.
The manual covers rounders, cricket, and trapball - but not stoolball.
Among the features shown: when only a few players were available, backward hits were not in play; leading and pickoffs were used in rounders; the rounders bat is three feet long; two strikes and you're out in trapball; and when a cat is used in place of a ball in rounders, plugging is not allowed.
1858.37 In English Novel, Base-Ball Doesn't Occupy Boys Very Long
The boys were still restless - ". . . they were rather at a loss for a game. They had played at base-ball and leap-frog; and rival coaches, with six horses at full speed, have been driven several times around the garden, to the imminent risk of box-edgings, and the corner of flower beds: what were they to do?" . The boys appear to be roughly 8 to 10 years old.
Anon., "Robert Wilmot," in The Parents' Cabinet of Amusement and Instruction (Smith, Elder and Co., London, 1858), page 59
1858.38 Baseball Recommended for Brooklyn Schools-- Easier than Cricket
". . . we think it would be an addition to every school, that would lead to great advantages to mental and bodily health, if each had a cricket or ball club attached to it. There are between 30 and 40 Base Ball Clubs and six Cricket Clubs on Long Island [Brooklyn counted as Long Island then] . . . . Base ball if the favorite game, as it is more simple in its rules, and a knowledge of it is more easily acquired. Cricket is the most scientific of the two and requires more skill and judgement in the use of the bat, especially, than base.
"The Ball Season of 1858," Brooklyn Eagle, March 22, 1858; reprinted in Spirit of the Times, Volume 28, number 7 (Saturday, March 27, 1858), page 78, column 2
1859.15 Games and Sports Covers Rounders, Feeder, Trap-ball, Northern Spell
Games and Sports for Young Boys [London, Warne and Routledge] This book's descriptions of rounders, feeder, trap-ball, and northern spell were cloned from the 1841 publication The Every Boy's Book, but many new woodcuts seem to have been inserted.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 221.
1859.16 Boy's Own Toy-Maker Covers Tip-cat and Trap-ball
The Boy's Own Toy-Maker [London, Griffith and Farran]. This book has information on making toys and sporting equipment. It spends two pages on tip-cat and three on "trap, bat, and ball." An American edition [Boston, Shepard, Clark and Brown] also appeared in 1859.
David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, page 220.
1859.19 Phillips Exeter Academy Used Plugging in "Base-ball?"
"Baseball was played at Exeter in a desultory fashion for a good many years before it was finally organized into the modern game. On October 19, 1859, Professor Cilley wrote in his diary: 'Match game of Base-Ball between the Phillips club and 17 chosen from the school at large commenced P.M. I was Referee. Two players were disabled and the game adjourned.' Putting a man out by striking him with the ball when he was running bases often led to injury."
Crosbie, Laurence M., The Phillips Exeter Academy: A History, 1923, page 233. Submitted by George Thompson, 2005.
Cilley himself does not attribute the 1859 injuries to plugging.
1860c.11 Man Played Base Ball in CT Before the War
"I am a native of Hartford, Conn., and have, from early boyhood, taken a great interest in all Out Door Sports that are clean and manly. As a boy I played One, Two, Three, and Four Old Cat; also the old game of "Wicket." I remember that before the Civil War, I don't remember how long, we played base ball at my old home, Manchester, Harford County, CT."
1860.15 Adolescent Novel Describes Base Ball Game
In this moral tale, Nat hits a triumphant home run, "turning a somersault as he came in."
Thayer William M., The Bobbin Boy; or, How Nat Got His Learning (J. E. Tilton, Boston, 1860), per David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, pages 221-222.
1860.24 Mighty Nat at the Bat: A Morality Story
"[T]here was to be a special game of ball on Saturday afternoon. Ball-playing was one of the favorite games with the boys. . . . [Nat comes to bat.] 'I should like to see a ball go by him without getting a rap,' answered Frank, who was now the catcher. 'The ball always seems to think it is no use to try to pass him.'
"' There, take that,' said Nat, as he sent the all, at his first bat, over the hands of all, so far that he had time to run round the whole circle of goals, turning a somersault as he came in."
Thayer, William M., The Bobbin Boy; Or, How Nat Got His Learning. An Example for Youth (J. E. Tilton, Boston, 1860), pages 50-55.
The boys' game is not further described. See also #1860.15
1860c.27 Playing of Hole-less Two-Old-Cat in Providence RI
"Baseball, as now [in 1915] so popularly played by the many strong local, national and international "nines," was quite unheard of in my boyhood. To us . . . the playing of "two old cat" was as vital, interesting and captivating as the present so-well-called National Game. . . . Four boys made the complement for that game. Having drawn on the ground two large circles, distant about ten or twelve feet from each other in a straight line, a boy with a bat-or 'cat-stick,' as it was called - in hand stood within each of those circles; back of each of those boys was another boy, who alternately was a pitcher and catcher, depending upon which bat the ball was pitched to or batted from. If a ball was struck and driven for more or less distance, then the game was for the boys in the circles to run from one to the other a given number of times, unless the boy who was facing the batter should catch the ball, or running after it, should secure it, and, returning, place it within one of those circles before the prescribed number of times for running from one to the other had been accomplished; or, if a ball when struck was caught on the fly at close range, then that would put a side out. The boys, as I have placed them in twos at that old ball game, were called a side, and when a side at the bat was displaced, as I have explained, then the other two boys took their positions within the circles. It was a popular game with us, and we enjoyed it with all the gusto and purpose as does the professional ball player of these later days."
Farnham, Joseph E. C., Brief Historical Data and Memories of My Boyhood Days in Nantucket Providence, R.I. (Snow & Farnham, 1915) pages 90-91.
Farnham was born in 1849. This account seems to imply that some minimum number of crossings from base to base was required to avoid an out.