1791.1

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"Bafeball" Among Games Banned in Pittsfield MA - also Cricket, Wicket

Salience Prominent
Tags Bans
Location New England, MA
Game Cricket, Base Ball, Bat-Ball, Wicket
Text

In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in order to promote the safety of the exterior of the newly built meeting house, particularly the windows, a by-law is enacted to bar "any game of wicket, cricket, baseball, batball, football, cats, fives, or any other game played with ball," within eighty yards of the structure. However, the letter of the law did not exclude the city's lovers of muscular sport from the tempting lawn of "Meeting-House Common." This is the first indigenous instance of the game of baseball being referred to by that name on the North American continent. It is spelled herein as bafeball. "Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.

An account of this find (a re-find, technically) is at John Thorn, "1791 and All That: Baseball and the Berkshires," Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Volume 1, Number 1 (Spring 2007) pp. 119-126. 

See also http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1799618.

 

Sources

Per John Thorn: The History of Pittsfield (Berkshire County),Massachusetts, From the Year 1734 to the Year 1800. Compiled and Written, Under the General Direction of a Committee, by J. E. A. Smith. By Authority of the Town. [Lea and Shepard, 149 Washington Street, Boston, 1869], 446-447. The actual documents themselves repose in the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Comment

While this apppears to be the first American use of the term "base ball," see item 1786.1 above, in which a Princeton student notes having played "baste ball" five years earlier.  See item 1786.1.

The town of Northampton MA issued a similar order in 1791, but omitted base ball and wicket from the list of special games of ball.  See item 1791.2. Northampton is about 40 miles SE of Pittsfield.

John Thorn's essay on the Pittsfield regulation is found at John Thorn, "The Pittsfield  "Baseball" By-law: What it Means," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, Number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 46-49.



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