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Yale Grad Compares Certain English Ballgames to New England's

Salience Noteworthy
Location New England
Game Cricket, Wicket
Immediacy of Report Contemporary
Age of Players Youth

"July 9 [1805, we think] . . . . The mode of playing ball differs a little from that practiced in New-England. Instead of tossing up the ball out of one's own hand, and then striking it, as it descends, they lay is into the heel of a kind of wood shoe; and upon the instep a spring is fixed, which extends within the hollow to the hinder part of the shoe; the all is placed where the heel of the foot would commonly be, and a blow applied on the other end of the spring, raises the ball into the air, and, as it descends, it receives a blow from the bat.

"They were playing also at another game resembling our cricket, but differing from it in this particular, that he perpendicular pieces which support the horizontal one, are about eighteen inches high, and are three in number, whereas with us they are only two in number, and about three or four inches high."



Benjamin Silliman, Journal of Travels in England, Holland, and Scotland, Volume 1 (Boston, 1812 - 1st edition 1810), page 245.  Accessed via Google Books, 2/12/2014 via search of <Silliman "journal of travels">.



Protoball notes, circa 2010



The writer, Benjamin Silliman, thus implies that an American [or at least Connecticut] analog to trap ball was played, using fungo-style batting [trap ball was not usually a running game, so the American game may have been a simple form of fungo].


His second comparison is consistent with our understanding or how English cricket and American wicket were played in about 1800. However, it seems odd that he would refer to "our cricket" and not "our wicket"   It is possible that a form of cricket - using, presumably, the smaller ball - was played in the US that retained the older long, low wickets known in 1700 English cricket.

Note that if the US wicket was only 3 or 4 inches high, a rolling ball would most likely dislodge the bail.



From David Block, 2/12/2014:


"This reference raises some questions, which may not be answerable. Was he implying that striking a ball, fungo-style, was the general method of ball-play in New England, or was he only making a more narrow comparison to how a self-serve type of ball game was played at home. If the latter, might this have been 'bat-ball'?"


"It appears that the author was previously unaware of English cricket. What he refers to as "our cricket" is obviously wicket. This was an educated man, but it was also apparently his first trip overseas. My first reaction was to be very surprised at his apparent ignorance of English cricket, but it may well be that things that seem like obvious knowledge to us today may not have been so in the America of two hundred years ago."

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Can we find out more about the long, low wicket reportedly used in earliest forms of English cricket, and when the higher and narrower  wicket evolved there?

Can we find out more about Silliman's life and his age when touring England? 

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Submitted by David Block
Submission Note Emails of 1/17/2010 and 2/12/2014


<comments voting="Plus" />