21st Century Townball
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This game has evolved under the guidance of Daniel Jones of Fresno California. It is a blend of baseball predecessor games (notably, the Massachusetts Game) with aspects of early town ball and cricket.
(A background account is included in the Supplemental Text field, below.)
From the developer of the game, Daniel Jones:
Email from Daniel Jones to Protoball, April 30, 2018.
The project website is at https://sites.google.com/mail.fresnostate.edu/21ctownball
A video of the game is at:
http://ds.uhs.csufresno.edu/video/websiteMedia/townball16.mp4 [loads slowly 9/8/2107]Edit with form to add a comment
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[ From Daniel Jones email to Protoball, August 2017]
Hi, My name is Daniel Jones. I am a math teacher, a writer, and a vintage baseball enthusiast.
As you know, there is a hunger in the hearts of many Americans. I have experienced it. I have seen it. And I am sure that you all have as well.
All of us have turned to vintage baseball in an effort to satisfy the craving that modern baseball has left in us. I would suspect that this is the reason for explosion that has taken place recently in the growing number of vintage baseball leagues across the country and baseball research organizations such as yours.
It has occurred to me over the past two decades of thought and trial-and-error that we have an opportunity to harness that longing and to organize these efforts in such a way as to offer to the American Public something that it greatly needs right now. Something that hits home as part of what it really means to be American.
I propose that the solution does indeed reside in the 19th century. But it isn’t baseball. And it isn’t cricket either…
I have been a baseball player my whole life. Somewhere in my late 20's I came to admit something that I never imagined coming out of my mouth. Something that my friends growing up would often tell me, only to incur my passionate defense of my favorite game.
Baseball... dare I say it... is boring.
At some point I switched to cricket. I found the game much more satisfying. The no-foul-balls aspect is really hard to beat. You can see it in the fans too. After all, it isn't for no reason that cricket is, after soccer, the second most widely played sport in the world...
For a while, I thought that I had finally found what I was looking for. A game that was easy to organize a pickup game for, and that used "the whole field," so to speak, in a way that was intuitive, primitive, fun.
In 2009 I started a cricket club at the school that I teach at. I have had a very large following among the students there since that time; other students also trying to satisfy the itch.
But there was still something missing. What I love most about baseball is the baserunning. I wished there was a way to combine the baserunning of baseball with the playability and primitiveness of cricket.
In 2012 the dean of the school, being very happy with what I was doing with the students with cricket, asked me to think of another sports-type elective to teach. It didn’t take long for me to decide on a title: “Origins of the American Pastime.”
I had been brainstorming for a few years by this time about bat-and-ball games in general, and what exactly a game would look like that would satisfy the craving within me and in others for the perfect bat-and-ball experience. So this was a perfect opportunity for me to flush out some ideas. For this class, I chose 10 bat-and-ball games played around the world and asked the students to, in partners, each research one of the games and teach the rest of us to play.
On the second day one pair of students taught us The Massechussets Game. Oh, my. What a blast. Every day after that, no matter what game we played, we finished the day out with the Massachusetts Game. The only way I can describe it is that we were hooked.
We took it a bit farther. We said to ourselves, “What if this game had won out over baseball as the American Pastime? What would it look like today?”
Being the math teacher and researcher that I am, we pushed this question to every limit. We researched, debated, experimented, and eventually came into a consensus. Since that time we have developed what we now call “21st Century Townball.”
People who play our game don’t go back to baseball.
We now have a very organized club going on five years strong with no sign of stopping. This September  we have our very first exhibition game with the Bay Area Vintage Baseball League. Something is happening here…
Here is our website:
Researchers have asked, “Why did baseball win out over the Massachusetts game?” This is a research project that I intend to resolve. I know that others of you have already begun this quest, and I would like to offer my services to this end, hopefully as a “digger” with protoball, if you find my cause worthy.
1. Baseball was intended to be an “underhand” pitching sport, not an “overhand” pitching sport. Overhand pitching sports work much better with no foul balls (like cricket and TMG). However, in the 19th century, underhand pitching sports were more popular because it was more inclusive. This is one reason baseball won out.
2. Politics and presentation. This has already been documented, regarding the role of the Knickerbockers in dominating the baseball arena just before the turn of the century. I think this point and the politics taking place around this time cannot be overstated with respect to the role it played in baseball taking center stage in this country.
3. Geometry. Baseball is perfect geometrically. The Massachusetts game, as it was played in the 19th century, was not. The version we have reinvented here in Fresno exploits this fact and provides geometric perfection to the last detail. . . .
Our intent is to some day make 21st century townball a national phenomenon.
Is anyone interested in starting a dialogue or in working together on this project?
Math Teacher, University High School, California State University, Fresno