Baseball (Family of Games)

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Baseball 1

Safe-Haven games featuring running among bases, a bat, pitching, and two distinct teams.

Games belonging to the Baseball Family (170)

TermGame ErasLocationDescription
21st Century TownballContemporary
California, Michigan, Oregon

This game has evolved from the guidance of Daniel Jones in California.  It is a blend of baseball predecessor games (citing the Massachusetts Game -- "TMG" below) with aspects of early town ball and cricket.

(A background account is included in the Supplemental Text field, below.)  

The game's expansion as of 2022 is also included there.


From the developer of the game, Daniel Jones, in 2017:

"Some features of 21st Century Townball:

1. No foul balls (like TMG - the Massachusetts Game).

2. Stakes, but no base lines (like TMG).

3. Pegging the runners allowed (like TMG).

4. No set batting order (can change each round) (unique).

5. Stakes are 42, 68, 110, 110, 110 feet away, from first to fifth, respectively, in a (Fibonacci) spiral (Similar formation to TMG, but better geometry).

6. A “zone” behind the batter. If the pitch hits it, you are out (like cricket or stoolball).

7. If you hit the ball and don’t run, a strike is called against you (similar to cricket with limited overs).

8. A swing and a miss is only a strike if the catcher catches it (like TMG).

9. Three strikes and you are out. Third strike hit, batter obligated to run (unique, similar to TMG).

10. First team to eight runs, win by five, cap at thirteen, wins the game (similar to TMG).

11. 13 players per side (similar to TMG).


1860 baseball used (developed by Eric Miklich).

1930’s gloves only (or similar size)

bamboo bats recommended (because the ball is a little heavier)"


Aleut Baseball1800s

Aleut Baseball, called a "Sugpiat novelty," has been played on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.  The Sugpiat are a Native population.

Although called baseball, its rules resemble the Russian game lapta, and players point out that the game differs from modern baseball in having only two safe-haven bases, retiring runners by throwing at them, and lacking a strike-out rule.  The area was once a Russian colony, and hundreds of residents are reportedly of Russian descent.  An airplane landing strip was the site of a game observed in 2007 and described in 2010.  The game is associated locally with Easter Sunday, with some games played in the dawn light after Easter services.

Attributes of Aleut baseball include:

[] there are no umpires

[] two large safe zones for runners at the ends of the field 

[] two "home" areas for batting near the ends of the field

[] sides take turns batting

[] runners score one points when reaching an opposing base, and another for a safe return.

[] multiple baserunners after any  hit ball

[] caught flies put the side out.

[] soft tosses to batters

[] baserunners can pick up balls thrown at them and try to plug members of the fielding side

[] games can last several hours.  Some games end when one side passes an agreed number of points (runs).


 Note: Schoolchildren play a form of kickball resembling American baseball, using kicked rubber balls in place of batted tennis-style balls.



American Cricket1800s

A hybrid cricket-baseball game reportedly introduced in Chicago in 1870. The game is described as generally  having cricket rules, except with no LBW rule, and with the addition of a third base, so that the bases form a triangle with sides of 28-yards. We have no other accounts of this game.

Full text:  


The Philadelphia Mercury contains the following: 'A new game of ball has recently been introduced in Chicago, under the name of American cricket.  The field is laid out like a cricket-field, and the striker wields the willow instead of the ash.  The bowler, who stands twenty-two yards from the striker, bowls as in cricket.  The striker, in making a tally, runs to first base and then to third (dispensing with the  second), these being in the form of a triangle and at a distance of twenty-eight yards apart.  There are no fouls to cause delays. There are none of the stupid and senseless six-ball 'overs.' 'Out leg before wicket' is dispensed with, a rule which, while in force, gives great annoyance to the umpire and general dissatisfaction to the batsman.  The prominent and attractive features of both the English game of  cricket and the American pastime of base-ball are taken and rolled into one, thereby making a magnificent game.'"



New Mexico

From the 1860s to the 1880s, Navahos in NM played a gmae that evolved from one (possibly the Massachusetts game?) taught to them on a NM reservation mannned by the US Cavalry.  This game is recalled as involving plugging, very feisty baserunning customs, no foul ground, four strikes, one-out-side-out innings, and multiple batters at the same time.


the 1818 Dictionary of the Scottish Language defined the word ba'-baises as 'the name of a particular game at ball.' 


In 1805 a game of “bace” was reportedly played among adult males in New York City. Its rules were not reported. The word “bace” is extremely rare in sport: it appeared in a 1377 English document, and, in a list of obsolete Cornish terms, for the game Prisoner’s Base in Cornwall in 1882. Unlike the usual case for prisoner’s base, however, a final score [41-35] was reported for this match.

"Bace" is also reported as an obolete term for a British game, the nature of which is not yet known.  

Backyard CricketPost-1900Britain, India, Australia South Africa, New Zealand"Backyard Cricket, Bat Ball, street cricket, beach cricket, garden cricket, box Cricket (if the ground is short) referred to as Gully Cricket in the Indian subcontinent, is an informal ad hoc variant of the game of cricket, played by people of all genders and all ages in gardens, back yards, on the street, in parks, carparks, beaches and any area not specifically intended for the purpose.  Backyard cricket has connotations to the pastimes of Australian, South African, and New Zealander children who had large expansive backyards where they were able to play this informal game of sport often with friends, family and neighbors. In the South Asian region, gully cricket is very popular."

Though loosely based upon the game of cricket, many aspects are improvised: the playing ground, the rules, the teams, and the equipment. Quite often there are no teams at all; the players take turns at batting and there is often no emphasis on actually scoring runs"


Ball-bias, a term as yet only found in seven scattered British sources from 1856 to 1898, was evidently the name of a batting-running game in the south-east of England.

David Block, who came across the game in 2013, tentatively concludes that, unlike early English base-ball, ball-bias probably used a bat.  The 1898 source's description: "ball-bias, a running game much like 'rounders,' played with a ball."

Most references to ball-bias appear from 1856 to 1880 in newspaper accounts of school picnics or church outings in the vicinity of the Sussex-Kent border south of London. 

The rules of the game are not well understood.  Block writes that "It appears that ball-bias was distinct from other baseball-related, locally-based games that I'd discovered in 19th century England.  These included Tut-Ball, played in the Sheffield area, and Pize Ball that was mostly found in the vicinity of Leeds.  These latter games were played without a bat, like English base-ball, whereas . . . ball-bias falls more in the bat-using category, alongside rounders."

 We have no present evidence that this game preceded English base-ball.



per Block. The 1836 book Perth Traditions described Ball-Paces, by then almost extinct, as a game that used a trap to put a ball into play, at which point in-team runners at each of four bases run to the next bases, stopping only when the ball was returned to the original batsman’s station. There is no mention of plugging.


per Dick, 1864. A team game like rounders, but having large safety areas instead of posts or bases. A feeder makes a short gentle toss to a batter, who tries to hit it. The batter-runner then chooses whether to run for a distant goal-line or a nearer one, for which there is a smaller chance of being plugged. The nearer station can hold several runners at once. Three missed swings makes an out, as does a caught fly. Versions of Ball-Stock are found in British and American boys’ books in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

From another source:

BALL-STOCK, or Ball-stick, is, as its name would indicate, a German game, but in some respects resembles our favorite English sport of "Rounders." The players are divided into two parties; six bases are then marked out, as in the accompanying Diagram; and for the first " innings" the players toss up.

         C _l_l_l_l_l_l_l_ D

                    E   (.)     F

         A _l_l_l_l_l_l_l_ B

                   l     l    l

                  c     b   a

The in-players occupy the "home" — A to B; the out-players station themselves as in Cricket, having one boy as feeder who stands at a, and another at c who acts as wicket-keeper, and tosses back the ball when tipped or missed. The striker stands at b. The ball having been thrown, and, we will suppose, well hit by the striker, he runs off to the base C — D, touching on his way at the resting base E — F; but if he has only tipped the ball, or struck it but a very short distance, or if it is stopped by one of the out-players, he should make off at once for the resting base E — F, and remain there until relieved by one of his fellow-players, whose fortunate hit may drive the ball so far out of range as to enable him to escape to C — D, or even run " home." If struck with the ball on his way from one base to another, he goes out. The other regulations are the same as in "Rounders."

From Elliott, The Playground and the Parlour (1868), p. 57

Banana BallContemporary

In May 2022, Protoball first heard of Banana Ball from Brett Hammond, who advised us of the following 2022 article in the Los Angeles Times.  Additional input will be welcomed.  


"For a collegiate summer league team — playing a rung below the minors — the Savannah Bananas draw big crowds when they barnstorm through the South and Midwest during the offseason. Fans come to see “Banana Ball,” a quirky version of baseball with a whole different set of rules. “We looked at every boring play,” franchise owner Jesse Cole says, “and we got rid of it.”

It's time for Banana Ball -

Fans in the game: Any foul ball caught by a spectator counts as an out.

No time to waste: Neither managers nor catchers can visit the mound and if a batter steps out of the box between pitches, it’s a called strike.

Run don’t walk: The moment the umpire calls “ball four,” the batter takes off sprinting and the defense snaps into action. Runners can keep going until the ball is thrown to every fielder, including outfielders. A walk can turn into a home run.

More running: Batters can steal first on any passed ball or wild pitch, regardless of the count.

No bunting. Really: If a batter bunts, he is thrown out of the game.

Match play: “Banana Ball” is like match play in golf. The team that scores the most runs during an inning gets a point for that inning. The win goes to the team with the most points at game’s end.

Skeleton crew: During extra innings, the defense gets only a pitcher, catcher and one fielder. If the batter puts the ball in play, he must try to round the bases and score before the ball is chased down and thrown home for an out.

Early to bed: “Banana Ball” has a strict time limit, with no new inning started after 1 hour 50 minutes."


More stuff to ponder: 


According to Gomme [1894], Bandy-Wicket is Cricket played with a bandy (a curved club) instead of a cricket bat. This name was evidently once used in Norfolk and Suffolk.

"Bandy Wicket" was also used in the US.

Base Ball1800s

The term “old fashioned base ball” appears to have been used in the decades after the 1850s to describe whatever game was played locally before the New York game arrived. The term was used extensively in upstate New York and New Jersey.  We are still uncertain as to whether OFBB had common rules.  In Western New York State, OFBB seems to align with the old form of the Massachusetts game, but prior to the codification of Mass Game rules in 1858.  It is possible that the term was used for diverse variations of local safe-haven games in other areas.

One might speculate that later still, such games would be thought of as “town ball.”


America’s national pastime since about 1860. Writing about rounders in 1898, Gomme mused that “An elaborate form of this game has become the national game of the United States.”  The term “baseball” actually arose in England as early as 1748, referring to a simple game like rounders, but usage in England died out, and was soon forgotten in most parts of the country.  The term first appeared in the United States in 1791.

Baseball on Ice1800s

[A] The first known game of base ball played on ice skates occurred on in January 1861 near Rochester NY.  Skating was very popular, and the hybrid game was played into the late 1800s.

A few special rules are known, a key one being that runners were not at risk when they overskated a base.  Deliveries were pitches, not throws; a dead ball was used and the bound rule was in effect.  A ten-player team deployed a left shortstop and a right shortstop.


[B] Richard Hershberger posted the following on Facebook on 2/4/22 [See clip, below]:

 "150 years ago in baseball: baseball on ice. This was a thing. Look at the list of the "Capitoline Ten" and you will see some top ball players. This is not true of the Brooklyn Skating Club's players, raising the question, is baseball or skating skill more important here? Good question. I don't know. I also don't know if there is money involved here, or if everyone is doing this for fun.

Adapting sports for ice skates was a thing more broadly. In Britain they sometimes played cricket on ice, which takes real devotion. They also adapted the fine old summer game of hockey to play on ice. This will spread to Canada, where it will be discreetly forgotten that they hadn't come up with the idea themselves.

Baseball on ice required some rules adaptations. Ten players is the most obvious, the extra fielder playing at right short. Chadwick had been advocating this for the regular game for years. Spoiler alert: It won't happen. But it was standard for the ice version. Over-skating the bases also was standard, and this variant did influence regular baseball. The rule allowing the batter-runner to overrun first base was borrowed from the ice game. This was a safety measure, advocating by George Wright who had pulled a hammy. But while safety was the motivation, ice baseball provided the solution to the problem. There will be discussions for another twenty years about extending the right to overrun to the other bases, but nothing will come of it. New York Sunday Mercury February 4, 1872: 


"Baseball5 (B5) is an internationally played Safe Haven game with many of the same rules as baseball and softball, and is governed alongside those sports by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).


The game revolves around two teams of five players taking turns playing offense and defense, with each of the offensive team's players taking turns hitting a small rubber ball with their bare hands into the field of play (which is a 21 m (68.90 ft)-square), and then running counterclockwise around four bases (13 m (42.65 ft) apart) laid out in a square shape to score a run, while the defensive team tries to eliminate ("get out') offensive players before they complete their trip around the bases to prevent them from scoring. Outs occur either when a hit ball is caught before touching the ground, or (in specific situations) when a defender with the ball touches either a base or a runner. Offensive players can also get themselves out by illegally hitting the ball.

The teams switch roles after three outs are made, with an "inning" being completed when both teams have played offense once. The game is played to five innings, with any ties being broken by playing extra innings as necessary, and games generally lasting 15 to 20 minutes. Unlike baseball/softball, there is no pitcher, with the batter (offensive player who hits the ball) starting each play with the ball, which is the only equipment used in the game." (wikipedia)

Baste Ball1700s

Baste, or baste ball, may simply be a variant spelling of base ball. The most famous US usage is in a Princeton student’s diary entry for 1786 (5 years before the first known use of "base ball" in the US), which reveals only that the game involves catching and hitting.  Note: Princeton was known as the College of New Jersey until 1896.

As of February 2017, Protoball knows of only three US uses of the term Baste: the Princeton diary, in an account of President Benjamin Harrison's teen years around 1850, and in Tennessee in 1874.  Further input is welcome.

In early 2017,David Block summarized his English research findings:  "Regarding 'baste,' I have seen at least two dozen examples of the term 'baste-ball' used in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. It's clear from context that this was an alternate spelling of base-ball, along with bass-ball. I don't doubt the same was true for the few instances of baste-ball's use in America." 

A superficial Google search for <baste pastime game> in February 2017 throws no further light on ballplaying forms of baste.  A somewhat primitive tagging game for children -- Baste the Bear -- in Europe and England is known, but does not appear to be consistent with US finds reported to Protoball.


"Bat-and-Ball" is a term that can help you find very early references to predecessor games in the US.

Brian Turner finds that the term is likely to connote a distinct form of early ballplaying; in an April 2020 email to Protoball, he said "I can confirm that Newburyport and other coastal towns north of Boston -- Salem, for example -- were places where the term "bat and ball" was used to refer to an unambiguously distinct game." 

A May search of the Protoball Chronology for <bad and ball> yields 44 hits from circa 1745 to 1845.  A subset of them may be specifically denote a game locally known as Bat and Ball.

The earliest seems to be in US President John Adams, in a reflection on his ballplaying youth.



Battle Board


Beep BaseballContemporary

Baseball for blind players. The balls emit beeps, and a base buzzes once a ball is hit. Runners are out if the ball is fielded before they reach base. Sighted players serve as pitcher and catcher for the batting team, but cannot field. There is a national association for the game, and annual World Series have been held since 1976.


Bete-Ombro "is a Brazilian form of street cricket." "A player from one team throws the ball from one wicket to another, while a player from the other team holding a bat stands at the other wicket.  The batter can hit the ball and then run between the wickets to score runs, while his partner does the same but crossing him.If the ball is thrown at a wicket before a player a player from the bating team gets to it, then the teams swap.


[A] in the 1670s, Francis Willughby listed hornebillets on his compilation of games, or "plaies."  Of all his games, this game description closest to base ball and cricket -- resembling the o'cat games with two or four or six players -- but it employs a section of animal horn, or a sort stick, and not a ball. 

[B] "Thomas Wright's 1857 Dict. of Obsolete and Provincial English(v. 1 p. 210) lists as the third meaning for "billet" the game of Tip-Cat and connects it to Derbyshire."

[C] Responding to John Thorn's Our Game blog on 2/26/2013, Clive Williams wrote that trap ball "is  a very similar game to one my brother encountered near Halifax, Yorkshire about 50 years ago. In Yorkshire the game was called I think 'Billets' and he was never able to make it clear whether the piece to be struck was a round wooden ball or just a small chunk of hardwood of no particular shape. What you had to do, as is mentioned in the article is to make sure that nobody can catch the wooden article so getting the direction and the height right with a sort of weapon like a walking stick (cane) must have been tricky."



Bittle-Bat1800sSussex, England

Bittle-Bat appears to be another name for stoolball as played in the County of Sussex.  The as no evidence that this game is related to Bittle-Battle, also listed in this Glossary, which some see referred to in the hjistoric Domesday Book of 1086.

[A] In fact, Gomme [1894, ] describes Bittle-Battle as “the Sussex game of ‘Stoolball.,’ but does not link it to the Domesday Book.

[B] Similarly, Andrew Lusted reports that an 1875 source lists bittle-battle as "another word for stoolball," 

[C] Andrew Lusted also finds an 1864 newspaper account that makes a similar but weaker claim: "Among the many [Seaford] pastimes were bittle-battle, bell in the ring, . . . "

[D] W. W. Grantham, an energetic popularizer of Stoolball in the 20th Century, refers to a 1909 history of bittle-bat (later called stoolball).  That author wrote: "The game is an old one. It is mentioned in Domesday Book as Bittle Bat, and the present name of Stoolball is supposed to have originated from milkmaids playing it with their stools.”







Maigaard (1941) notes they while most forms of rounders and longball are now lost, three - baseball, cricket, and bo-ball - remain vigorous. He places Bo-Ball in Finland. The only known source on this game, called Lahden Mailaveikot in Finnish, is a Finnish-language website, one that shows photographs of a vigorous game with aluminum bats, gloves, helmets, and much sliding and running but no solid hints for English-speakers about the nature of the game. Similarities to Pesapallo, including the gentle form of pitching, are apparent.

Fall River, MA

The game of bowlywicket, played at least as late as 1980, resembled a poor man's cricket, and used a broomhandle, three empty soda cans piled one-on-two, and a common "pinky" drugstore ball.  Batters defend the teetering cans, and run to a second base to score runs.

It has been played in the city of Fall River MA, often by immigrants from France and Brazil, and may have evolved from a game played by workers from English cities in the late 1800s.


Brannboll (Brennball)Derivative

A Swedish game, also played in Germany and Denmark. A batting and running game with four bases, this game involved fungo-style hitting to start a play. As in some forms of longball, a base can be occupied by more than one runner. A caught fly ball gives a point to the out team, but the runner is not thereby retired. Innings are timed. A home run is six points. A 90-degree fair territory is employed. This game may relate to Swedeball, a game reportedly played in the US upper midwest. It has been reported that that Brannboll is played in Minnesota, but no such references are known.

British Baseball (Welsh Baseball)Derivative
Wales and England

This adult game, sometimes referred to as Welsh Baseball (in Wales) and English Baseball (ii Liverpool England), has been played since the early 1900s, reportedly reaching a high point in the late 1930s.  Something of a blend of modern baseball with some cricket features, it is known in Liverpool England and in Cardiff and Newport in Wales.

Owing to cricket, presumably, the game has no foul ground, comprises two (all-out-side-out) innings, teams of 11 players, and flat bats.  42-inch posts are used instead of bases.  Underarm pitching is required.  Runs are counted for each base attained by a batter (one run for a single, two for a double, etc.).  Batters are required to keep a foot in contact with a peg in the batting area.

An annual "international game" has been played between a Liverpool team and one from Wales. In the 1920s crowds of over 10,000 were reported to attend the international context. 

Martin Johnes writes that both the Liverpool game and the Welsh game likely evolved from rounders, with some local variation.  In 1927 they agreed to common rules for their international game; Liverpool had restricted the placement of batters' feet and used one-handed batting, while Wales saw two-handed batting and less restricted batter placement.  

Liverpool had been very active in rounders in the 19th century, they and the Welsh but switched to use the term "baseball" in 1892, possibly to distinguish the adult game from juvenile rounders play. A common set of rules was agreed to between the two governing groups in 1927.

Adult play in Liverpool is not thriving:  from the website of the English Baseball Association, accessed 4/1/2016:  "Sadly the game in Liverpool is in a very poor state and we have very few senior teams remaining.The junior game is where our game needs to grow and we still need to get a bit more interest as we try to generate interest with the youth in the Liverpool area. 

"Through the help of schools, youth clubs, junior football teams or any other individuals willing to play the game we hope the game can survive for another 100 years."








According to Gomme, a Lincolnshire glossary specifies that Bunting is a name for Tip-Cat.

Burn Ball1800s

per Appel [1999]. Appel reports that the young Mike Kelly, growing up on Washington DC in the late 1860’s, first played Burn Ball, a form of base ball that included "plugging" or "burning" of baserunners by thrown balls.

California Base Ball Variant1800sCalifornia, Cuba


"The game in California has some curious features, it seems. A game played in Woodbridge, May 26, had ten men on a side, the extra played being a "2d c.," or sort of backstop put behind the regular to nip fouls and prevent passed balls. The game was ten innings, though there was no tie on the ninth, the score was 24 to 20, and the winners, the Eagles of San Francisco, won $50 and a silver cake-basket. The latter implement would seem to be rather useless to a ball club."

Richard Hershberger noted, October 2015: "This is immediately recognizable as Chadwick's beloved ten-men ten-inning rule, though Chadwick placed the tenth man at right short rather than second catcher.  We know that Cuban baseball adopted the rule, apparently taking at face value Chadwick's assurances that it was inevitable and not noticing for some time that it had not in fact been enacted.  Did this happen in California too?  Or is this an isolated instance?  I don't know much about California ball at this time, but the Eagles of San Francisco were a major club, weren't they?  Or is that no longer true by 1877?"

Canadian GamePost-1900

The New York Clipper reported two 1860 games in southernmost Ontario as "the Canadian game" between the Ingersoll and Woodstock clubs [add locations?].

The playing rules for this game are not given [is there anything beside the 11 player sides that signals that it's unusual?]. 

In May 2015, William Humber re-examined other accounts of Canadian ballplaying, and suggests/hypothesizes/concludes that seven playing conventions/rules/practices may have distinguished it from other North American predecessor games:

[1] Eleven players.

[2] All-out-side out innings.

[3] Two innings to be played.

(Note that these three rules are familiar cricket rules)

[4] Use of four bases, in addition to home base

[5] The plugging of baserunners when away from bases

[6] Throwing, not pitching to batsmen

[7] 40-foot bases [sic?], with first base [how?] close to home

In drawing up this list, Humber drew on the Clipper articles, recollections of Adam Ford that may have come from his own playing days from 1848 to 1855, and a Clipper account of a 1859 game played by [a London Ontario club? Woodstock itself?  other?].

By [date/year], it appears that all Ontario clubs had adopted the NY rules. 






per Burnett. Burnett identifies Cat-and-Bat as a form of cricket that was played in Scottish streets in about 1860.


A game for three players. Two defend foot-wide holes set about 26 feet apart with a club, or “dog.” A third player throws a four-inch cat toward the hole, and the defender hits it away. If the cat enters the hole, defender and thrower switch places. Gomme, who uses the name Cat and Dog Hole, describes a game using a ball in which a stone replaces the hole where the batter stands, and adds that if the third player catches a hit ball in the air, that player can try to hit the stone, which sends the batter out.

On US play, 1866: "Cat and Dog -- An interesting trial of skill at this old time game was played at Pittsburgh Pa., on the 5th inst., between the Athletics, of South Pittsburgh, and the Enterprise of Mt. Washington.  The game was witnessed by a large crowd of ladies and gentlemen.

[The printed box score shows three players on each side, a pitcher-catcher and two fielders.  The result was the Athletics, 180 "measures" and the Enterprise 120 measures.  There is no indication of the use of innings, a side-out rule, or fly rule]

[This spare account leaves the impression of a one-time throwback demonstration.]

For other references to cat-and-dog, see these Chronology items; [Scotland] [Cat-and-dog as the ancestor of cricket] [Scottish dictionary account] [Nyack, NY, 1856] [Pittsburgh PA throwback game]

Cavalry Base Ball1800sPennsylvania?


The October number of one of the Comic Monthlies, contains an illustration of a Cavalry game of base ball, which it says is patented.  On a large field is placed a picked nine, 'operating' on horse-back; the left field, centre field, and right field occupy appropriate positions.  The pitcher has a cannon that looks like one of the Fort Pitt twenty-inch guns (this exceeds Pratt, the lightening pitcher), and is pitching a ball by means of it at one of the cavalrymen, whose bat  is raised to stop it; home-runs, short-stops, and the other points of the game are well illustrated.  The umpire occupies a block house, from which protrude two telescopes, and the picture generally has a military aspect.  One of the chief advantages of the horse-back game is to be found in the ease with which the home-runs ae accomplished." 



An October 2017 article on the Dominican game of vitilla notes, "In other baseball-loving countries ,vitilla exists in other forms.  Chapita is a similar game from  Venezuela, and major league players from there said they grew up playing it."


In an email of 12/10/2008, Tom Altherr tells of the game of chermany, defined in a 1985 dictionary as “a variety of baseball.” Early usage of the term dates to the 1840s-1860s. Two sources relate the game to baseball, and one, a 1912 book of Virginia folk language, defines it as “a boys’ game with a ball and bats.” We know of but eight references to chermany [churmany, chumny, chuminy] as of October 2009. Its rules of play are sketchy. A Confederate soldier described it as using five or six foot-high sticks as bases and using “crossing out” instead of tagging or plugging runners to retire them.

Cluich an Tighe1800s

According to Morrison (1908) this game is “practically identical with the game of “Rounders.” He goes on to describe a game with three bases set 50 yards apart, with plugging and crossing as ways to retire batters. Games are played to 50 or 100 counts. The game is depicted as “practically dead” in Uist (In the Outer Hebrides off Scotland) but formerly was very popular.


A game among youngsters similar to “Cricket,” a short piece of wood being struck up by a long stick instead of a ball by a bat.
Coed SoftballContemporary

Coed softball is basically just softball using female as well as male players.

It is, however, evolving a bit independently.  Local coed leagues have formed for after-work play in US cities.  It seems to have become necessary to add some rules to ensure that women are not put at a disadvantage (and so continue to participate) among all those males with more ballplaying experience and more upper-body strength.

Examples include use of a smaller ball, requiring outfields to play deep enough to allow balls to drop in the outfield, requiring alternating genders in the batting order, etc. 


Continuous CricketContemporary

[The game we played] "had only one batsman at a time, running to a point about 10 yards off to the right and back again after each hit . . . we called it Continuous Cricket.  The blurring of the concepts of "bowled" and "run out" makes the game a bunch of fun to play."


Cricket is not generally seen as a source of base ball.  However, it shares many of base ball's key characteristics: base-running, batting, pitching (bowling), innings, etc.  And the physical dimensions of the ball are close to that of base ball.

The game is (arguably) recorded in 1300 in England, and for sure in 1598. See Altham, "A History of Cricket" p. 18-19, and Green, "A History of Cricket" p. 12-13.

A game played in the United States, called wicket, bears some resemblance to cricket as it was played in the 1800s.  Wicket is reported in many U.S. states, led by Connecticut and Massachusetts.  It seems to have crested in the post Civil War era, and town vs. town matches, some using teams of as many as 30 players.  See wicket

The English exported cricket to many of its colonies.  To see how the game later evolved in a section of New Guinea, see the well-presented 53-minute clip at:


Cricket -- USContemporary

Cricket remained the game of choice for some Americans, particularly in the Philadelphia area.

In addition, we note that a County Cricket League was in operation in western MA in 1905:

[A] "At a joint meeting of the secretaries of the Cricket clubs of Berkshire county (sic) held yesterday in Adams [MA} the schedule for the league games was arranged. There will be teams representing Pittsfield, North Adams, Adams and Lenox.  Five games with each team will be played with the exception of Lenox."

The schedule extends from June 3 to September 9, with a championship game set for September 16, 1905.  

[B] "PENNANT ON EXHIBITION.  The pennant offered the winner in the Berkshire county cricket league and which went to the Pittsfield team is on exhibition at Enright's shoe store.  The pennant is made of blue silk, on which the names of the teams in the order they finished in the league are printed in gold leaf"



is defined in the OED as “a kind of rounders.” Gomme equates Cuck-Ball with Pize Ball and Tut-Ball.


per Gomme. Two holes are made about ten feet apart. A player on the out-team pitches a cat toward a hole, and its defender tries to hit it with his stick. He and his in-team mate then run between the holes. When more than four boys play the extra out-team players field as in cricket.

Danish LongballContemporaryCanada, Australia

This game resembles other northern European safe-haven games like lapta.  Batters bat, then run to a single distant base, trying to return as later batters have their turns.

Some unique aspects of this game are that only one (good) pitch is allowed, and the batter runs whether the ball is hit or not; multiple runners can occupy the single base if they don't think they can reach home safely; once a runner leaves the runing base, he/she cannot return; fielders cannot run with the ball; a three-out-side-out rule obtains, except for the case of a caught fly, which immediately retires the in team; runners are out if tagged, or plugged below the knee.

This game is apparently played today in Canada and Australia.  The paper does not discuss the origins or history of the game.

For its origins, see David Block, Baseball Before we Knew It pp. 260-274.

De KatPost-1900The Netherlands

David Block describes the Dutch game of Da Kat as a form of [[tip-cat]].

Diamond BallDerivative

A game played from 1916 to 1926, when it transformed into Softball.  Diamond ball was also known as women's baseball.  Particularly popular in Sarasota FL, this game was played in the 1920s on sandy beaches (sometimes at night under lights) , and uses a 14-inch ball like used in indoor baseball.  Games were played in less than an hour, affording lunch-hour play. 

Donkey Baseball1800s

In its 1934 manifestation, donkey baseball let the donkeys run, and the players ride.  "[A]ll participants, excepting the catcher, pitcher and the batsman are astride donkeys.  After hitting the ball it is necessary for the hitter to get on the back of a donkey and make his way to first base before the fielders, also on donkeys, retrieve the ball."

The earliest version of donkey base ball was named for "donkey races," which Peter Morris sees as "a silly type of contest."  The team that scored the fewest runs was the winner.  Maybe you had to be there to agree with the Brooklyn Eagle that the game was "very amusing , and perhaps the most novel match ever played."


A Scottish name for rounders as played by “Edinburgh street boys” in about 1880 and by schoolgirls in about 1900.

Dutch Long1800s

This game, called “long out of date” in an 1867 newspaper article, seemed to resemble Long Ball but with three bases. A “tosser” lofted the ball and a nearby batter hit it, then ran to a base [a “bye”] a few feet away, then to a second base 25-30 feet distant, then home. Completing this circuit before the ball was returned by fielders to the tosser gave the striker another turn at bat. The account does not say whether this was a team game, whether it employed plugging, or whether runners could elect to stay on base.  It seems possible that the adjective "dutch" indicated that the game came from Holland or Germany.

Sri Lanka

A lusty baserunning game, Elle, is played in Sri Lanka.

As of August 2020, Wikipedia has this general description of Elle:

"Elle is a very popular Sri Lankan bat-and-ball game, often played in rural villages and urban areas. It involves a hitter, a pitcher and fielders. The hitter is given three chances to hit the ball pitched at him or her. Once the hitter hits the ball with the bat – often a sturdy bamboo stick – the hitter has to complete a round or run which includes four possible "stoppings" spaced 55 metres [~180 ft] apart. A strikeout happens if the hitter's ball is caught by the fielding side or if the fielding side is able to hit the hitter with the ball while he or she is in the course of completing a run. The hitter can stop only at one of the three stoppings in the round thereby paving the way for another member of his team to come and become the hitter. The side that gets the highest number of (complete) runs wins the match."


The article cites a source with the claim that the game has a 2000-year history, but notes that this has not been documented, and suggests that it may date from the 1900s. It is reportedly played by males and females, and town vs town matches have been common.

12 to 16 players comprise a team. In today's game, tennis balls are commonly used.  The batsman strikes a ball tossed softly by a teammate.  

A 3-minute 2020 Youtube introduction to elle in English was reached on 12/8/2022 via a search of "elle sri lanka traditional sport". 

The essence of this boisterous game is perhaps conveyed in Youtube clips: in Summer 2020, a Youtube search for <elle match sri lanka> returned about 20 such displays.  One unique feature is that a batter does not run bases;instead, a (usually barefoot?) teammate with a head start sprints around a circular path when a ball is struck.  Caught flies are outs, and runners reportedly can be retired if hit between stopping points. 

Ceylon was a British colony, and it is tempting to suppose that elle evolved from a rounders-like game, but Protoball has not seem such speculation.

Further information is welcomed.  A large Facebook presence reflects the idea that elle should be embraced as Sri Lanka's national game.

A 3-minute 2020 Youtube introduction to Elle was reached on 12/8/2022 via a search of "elle sri lanka traditional sport".  We have seen other foreign-language elle videos on Youtube.



-- Can we find a written history of elle? 

-- Are uniform playing rules printed available?



Allardice Score: 8 or 9?

From inspecting its several very watchable YouTube videos, Elle may score the maximum score of 9: we cannot yet confirm that foul ground is used, that total runs scored determines the winner, or that uniform written rules are found. 

In Elle, the pitcher acts as a server, and is on the batter's team. 


Draft 1.5 of the story of Elle, drafted 12/1/2023 -- To be updated over time.  Comments and supplements are welcome.


Getting to Know Elle -- A Progress Report on Sri Lanka's Flashy Baserunning Variant
[Note: This short overview was drafted as a possible submission to SABR's  Origins Newsletter, but it was impossible to complete without better data.
Someone informed about an unusual baserunning game known as being played in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) in south Asia, and we were interested in learning how that might have happened.  Sources in English appear to be limited at this point, but several YouTube videos reflect a joyous and generally familiar pastime.   We'd like to know a lot more about how it has evolved.
When I first tuned into a video of elle,  this lusty game seemed to resemble someone's attempt to mimic MLB's annual 'Home Run Derby',-- as transplanted,  for some reason,  to an island nation just south of India. I saw a pitcher lofting a baseball-sized orb to a burly teammate, who slammed it hard with a 'well-seasoned' bamboo bat, sending it into a large, well-manned outfield, often beyond camera range.
But . . . Whoa!  . . .  in the next instant, a barefoot teammate sped past the batsman at full speed , immediately in front of the batting area, and then traced a curved loop that took him around to the area we baseballers might think of as third base . . . pay dirt, in this exotic game.
Well, welcome to Elle ( say 'elleh' ), Sri Lanka's unique baserunning game! The batsman stood and watched the play unfold.  In this game, his job was not to be a runner/scorer.  He just can focus on being a good hitter.
Reportedly, a hundred or more Sri Lankan elle clubs are now active, and the collection of YouTube bits are indicative of its nature (try a simple YouTube search for 'elle sri lanka').  One site even lists 10 elle clubs at play in Italy-- a country perhaps has less intrigued by baserunning games than most of the world's cultures are.
Watching a few such videos may prove entertaining but won't at this point provide a solid understanding of the game's rules to a Western reader.  One website lists 80 different elle rules but doesn't give us full explanatory detail.  
The Game on the Field
In general: The game features teams of 16 players trying to score via big hits during innings limited by the number of pitches delivered or by reaching a specified timer period. Runners (sometimes referred to as 'assistant runners') try to complete a circuit of four 'stopping points.'  Retirements come from hit balls caught on the fly and runners hit by thrown balls,  or from tagging between stopping points, which serve as safe havens.  
I have not yet seen an account of the history and evolution of elle.  On the videos, the ball appeared to be spherical, and behaved like a tennis ball would. I have not come across any discussions  of how the elle has changed during or since colonial times.
Most videos appear to take place on large fields conducive to long hits.  Another source recommends (post-harvest?) paddy fields and shorelines as suitable for the game.
About The Origin and Evolution of Elle
Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, after 133 years as a British colony.   It still takes pride in its international cricket successes, but elle doesn't appear to resemble cricket closely beyond its hitting and fielding.  I have seen no claim that t he has game evolved from cricket.
One might ask if elle might have evolved, at least in part,  from rounders, or,  possibly, from earlier forms of English base ball.  There is reportedly newspaper documentation of elle being played (with its players wearing "European clothes") in 1911, but current videos do not point to an English origin for elle.  They do include some as-yet undocumented conjecture that the game was played on the island many centuries ago.  Initial web searches for rounders or baseball in Ceylon and/or Sri Lanka are not productive.  
While elle doesn't have much in common with cricket, some traces of past rounders play are seen in today's elle.  Games are typically played to two 'innings', which are defined by the number of pitches made or elapsed time, and outs are called when hit balls are caught on the fly and when baserunners are hit with thrown balls while not at one of the four designated "stopping points." on the running routes  Thus, the four stopping points (bases) serve as 'safe havens' for runners, as is found in rounders and base ball. A batsman is accorded only three good balls to hit or is retired, as in some past versions of rounders, although current rounders rules allow only one Good Ball to be received by a batsman.  Team scores likely mak what baseballers would think of as long (multibase) hits.
I have not yet seen an account of the history and evolution of elle. The rules permit the use of a tennis ball as the batted object, but also allow a dried sea mango (that is cerbera mangha, to all you botanists) as an alternative, and it seems plausible that this fruit served as the ball in the past.  I have not otherwise  come across accounts of how the game may have changed over time.
Modern Elle and the 1856 Rounders Rules
It may interest readers to compare today's elle rules to an 1856 summary of rounders in the Manual of English Sports, by "'Stonehenge":
  1. The batting stick resembles a common rolling pin (did that favor two-handed batting?)
  2. Bases are arranged in a regular pentagon (there are five bases, not four}
  3. 10 to 30 players can be involved
  4. Balls are 'tossed, not thrown', to the batsman
  5. Fielders are arranged outside the pentagon of bases
  6. Batsmen are put out by three failures to connect with a 'good ball,' by hitting a ball foul, a fly out or a bound out
  7. Runners are put out if hit by the ball when not on a base
  8. A score is awarded for each base a runner attains
  9. A feeder can feign a pitch   
Items 4, 5, 6,  and 7 appear to apply to elle as now played.  This in itself does not mean that elle evolved from rounders -- and the separation of hitters' and runners' functions, the bamboo bat,  balls fed by teammates, and other elle features were unlikely parts of early rounders in England.  
The Current Popularity of Elle
It is mentioned, on one site, that elle was named the "Sri Lanka National Sport" in the 70's.  (Another Sri Lanka site calls volleyball "the national sport.") 
Another first impression
[] I was surprised to note how many fielders were in active motion before the batsman actually hit the ball, possibly because they anticipated by setup motion revealing which field  the batsman was hoping to send the ball to
A Long-shot Plea for Help from Newsletter readers
If you know a Sinhala or Tamil speaker, we could use a little help here interpreting online accounts of elle.
Some Introductory Sources
We will update our glossary entry as more is learned:  
Wikipedia has an introduction of elle at
A good general introduction is at
My favorite Sri Lankan source is







English Base Ball1700s
Great Britain

Only in the 21st Century did we come to appreciate that a major predecessor of modern baseball was an English pastime known as <wait for it> “base ball”.

Gate-ball (Thorball)Predecessor

Bowen (1970) writes that “Gate-ball (‘Thorball’), as found in the early Dutch and Danish accounts is “obviously but wicket [cricket], again.”

German Ball GameDerivative

per Perrin (1902). This game involves pitching a ball to a batter who hits it into a field where an opposing team’s fielders are. He tries to reach a goal line at the end of the playing area [80 feet away] and to return to the batting zone without being plugged by the ball. There is no mention of the possibility of remaining safely at the goal area. Three outs constitute a half-inning, and a team that scores 25 “points” [runs] wins the contest.  The game resembles the family of "battingball" games reported by Maigaard.

German BaseballDerivative

This game, described as an amalgam of Baseball and traditional German Schlagball, was introduced in 1986 by Roland Naul in the context of a revival of Turner games for German youth. In the mid-1990s, a one-handed wooden bat was developed especially for the game. As of October 2009, we are uncertain how the two sets of rules were blended to make this new game. The author mentions that the fielding team can score points as well as the batting team.

From 2012 searches, it is not clear that this game is still played.


In Baseball Before We Knew It, [page 207] David Block describes a game in a German manual that “is identical to the early French game of la balle empoisonee,” and that an illustration of two boys playing it “shows it to be a bat-and-ball game." Giftball in German translates literally as "poison ball."

Goal Ball1800s

Another name for early base ball, perhaps confined to certain areas.  Usage of the name is known in New England.  As of June 2012, the Protoball Chronology lists 10 references to the game of Goal Ball or Goal, or games in which bases are term "goals."  All refer to play in the six New England states, and all but two are found before 1850.  A new reference to the game "gould" in 2020 may denote the same game (see 1854.23).

On 11/3/2020 Brian Turner added the following clarification:  "As best I can tell based on examples I've put together for an article I'm doing for Base Ball, "gould" (AKA "gool") are regional pronunciations of "goal." The region in which those terms occur includes western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, mostly in rural communities where (I surmise) old-time game names may have survived into the 19th century. Peter Morris has identified two instances associated with Norway, Maine, where "gool" is used as synonymous with "base" as late as the 1860s, but when one of those the incidents was recalled in the 1870s, it's clear that the use struck the lads of Bowdoin attending the game as risible. The use of "goal" for "base" is consistent with Robin Carver's 1834 inclusion of the term in The Book of Sports. One must be cautious about anointing every use of "goal" or "gool" or goold" as synonymous with base and therefore "base ball," since, like base by itself, goal can be used to describe other sorts of games. By itself, "base" can refer to Prisoner's Base, a running game that seems to resemble a team form of tag.  So too "goal" by itself."


Gully CricketIndiaGully Cricket is a more forgiving form of cricket often associated with India and the Indian diaspora.

"10 Gully Cricket Rules That We All Played With!     

"From screaming “outzaatttt” every time someone catches the ball to breaking the window glass of the neighbour’s house, it’s safe to say that gully cricket is an integral part of all our well-cherished childhood, especially in India! And I’m sure, all you cricket fanatics can relate to the same. So what makes gully cricket so much more enjoyable than the regular cricket that there are now gully cricket leagues being held that everyone oh so enjoys? As a gully cricket enthusiast myself, it’s safe to say, that as a kid from India, it’s the freedom that comes with making up your own rules in this game that makes this game so enjoyable.

So here are 10 gully cricket rules that most of us played with during our childhood that will leave us feeling nostalgic.

1) Pitch-catch is considered out if you catch the ball in one hand.

When the fielding team member catches the ball after one bounce, but in one hand, the player who hit the ball is out!

2) First ball = Trial ball

The first ball that every batsman will attempt will always be a trial ball just so they can warm up their batting skills and get used to the bowling.

3) If the ball hits the neighbour’s house, window, wall or car, the batsman is out!

If the batsman hits the ball directly into the wall of the neighbour’s house, widow or the car, they will have to bear the expenses that follow and they are out!

4) The winning team will always get to bat first in the next match!

The team that wins this match will automatically bat for the next match, cause who doesn’t love to bat.

'5) 'The batsman should always leave some space for the wicket to be seen because there is no concept of LBW!

The batsman should not cover the whole wicket while batting cause there is no LBW rule. And if you don’t, the bowler will throw a fit.

'6) 'If the batsman thinks the ball is too fast, the bowler should re-bowl the ball!

If the batsman feels the ball was too fast, it is too fast. Oh and that ball will not be counted because clearly, it’s unfair.

7) If the ball goes far out of reach or is lost, the batsman is held responsible.

When the batsman hits the ball so far that it’s lost, he will have to replace the ball. Because well, he hit it!

8) The umpire is chosen from the batting team.

The umpire will be a player from the batting team because he’ll be sitting on the sidelines. When it’s his turn to bat, someone else will replace him!

9) The last batsman will play without a non-striker batsman.

The last man gets to bat without assistance from the other non-striker batsman. Because hey… we can make up their own rules.

10) The team with the extra player will have to lend him to play fielding for the other team!

The extra player in the team, usually the worst player will be asked to play for both teams. Obviously because then the powers of both the team will be equal."

Cambridge MA

Halfball was a game using half of a rubber ball and imaginary baserunning.  It seems likely to resemble Half-Rubber, which was reportedly played in the US. South and the Philadelphia area.

It is also described as a street game on Wikipedia.

Baby Boomer Jack Hammer (actual name!) describes Half Ball as a subspecies of a street game (known there as stickball) as played in Cambridge MA in the late 1950s.  The ball used in this game was a hollow pink spiky object known as a "pimple ball," which, when stressed by play, tended to split open along its seam.  The players separated the two halves, and the resulting game was called half ball.  A half ball had interesting aerodynamic behaviors.

The bat used in this game was a broom handle sawed off at about 30 inches.  Man-hole covers in the street could serve as bases for actual baserunning.  Jack adds: "Besides manhole covers, sometimes we marked outlines of bases with chalk (rarely available) or with pieces of slate roof tiles. Sometimes we used a board for home or second base. First base and third base could be a tree, a utility pole, or the tail light or head light of parked vehicles." (Email of 12/31/2019.) 

Another subspecies of game , called "Judge," employed imaginary runners.

For these games, oncoming traffic was marked by a common shriek -- "Carrr!!!" --  that cleared the motorway of lads.   

England and New York

[A] Hildegarde is described in an 1881 publication as a new English game that was "a combination of the noble old English one of Cricket with the popular American one of Base-ball. It is especially adapted in its arrangements and implements to fit it for the use of ladies." 

The game was played with 15-inch paddles and 2.5-inch rubber balls.  Three poles, several yards apart, are both the bases and targets that can put batters and runners out.  Teams of from two to fifteen are accommodated, and a "scrub" (non-team) form is an option when very few players are available.  A pitcher throws pitches with one foot placed on a foot-base located amid the three bases and at a distance of ten feet. 

[B] "The new game of Hildegarde will encounter vigorous criticism . . . [It is} a combination of football and cricket . . .a big, soft ball being struck with a wide bat as well as kicked . . . "

[C] "Wingfield’s [1874] invention [of lawn tennis]included ‘five-ten’, a combination of tennis and fives, and ‘Hildegarde’, a hybrid of real tennis with rounders and cricket.

[D] "The new Game of Hildegarde, or Ladies' Cricket . . ."

[E] 1883 game account in New York City.




Only known from Francis Willughby’s 17th century Book of Games, hornebillets is played with a cat (fashioned from animal horn), which is thrown toward holes defended by players with dog-sticks. When they hit the cat, batters run to the next hole, placing the stick in the hole before the cat can be retrieved and be put into the hole. The number of holes depends on the number of players on each team.

Howland RoundersContemporary

Confected in 2009 at an unidentified school in Howland, Ohio, this game (“usually played from May to September”) melds baseball and rounders. Teams of six players populate an area with an infield in the form of an isosceles triangle [two sides are 83 feet long, and the base is 62 feet long, with home set at the angle at the right side of the base, and foul lines extending from home through the two running posts]. The counterparts to balls and strikes are influenced by whether a pitch lands in a net to the rear of the home square. Apparently, a batter cannot stay at a base, but must try to complete a round before the fielders can return the ball to the net.  A local league is reported to play the game.

Ice Cream1800s

Bruce Allardice on 2/26/2021, reported that

around the fall/winter of 1867, some Haverford College students, looking for exercise during periods of snow, invented a game they called "Ice Cream." It was a bat ball game, resembling wicket/cricket, and according to the book was unique to Haverford.

"Certain men of '69 and other classes, mostly from the tribe of Them-That-Dig, being convinced of the need for active exercise, but jealous of the time demanded by cricket, and mindful, too, of its long winter sleep, set about the invention of a game that could even bid defiance to a light snow. They procured a solid rubber ball; obtained from Boll a pine bat, in one piece, flattened slightly in the lower half, and looking like the missing link betwixt baseball and cricket; took solemn possession of the ground between the old carpenter shop and a board fence; placed against the board fence three sticks, in the manner of a wicket, and were ready, The bowler sent his ball as fast as he could (underhand) with intent of hitting the wicket. The batsman struck the ball, and ran to the carpenter shop, touching the closed shutters with his bat.  A third man in the field threw his ball at the said shutters; if he anticipated the batsman, and aimed well, the latter was out, and the bowler went in, batsman took the field, and the third man went to bowl."

Imperial BallPredecessorAustria

The German game of schlagball was reportedly called Imperial Ball and Kaiserball as played in Austria.

Indoor Baseball1800s

Evolving from an 1887 innovation in Chicago involving a broomstick as a bat and a boxing glove as the ball, indoor baseball is described in a 1929 survey as particularly popular in gymnasiums in the US mid-west in the early 20th century. The game of softball traces back to indoor play.

Origins -- On Thanksgiving Day at te Farragut Club in Chicgo in 1887, a participant recalled, "[T]he fellows were throwing an ordinary boxing glove around the room, which was struck at by one of the boys with a broom.  George W. Hancock suddenly called out, 'Bpys, let's play baseball!'"  Hancock was later known as the Father of Indoor Baseball.



Irish RoundersContemporary

A communication received from Peadar O Tuatain describes what is known of the ancient game of Irish Rounders. Details of the old game are apparently lost to history, but some rules encoded in 1932 were used for a revival in 1956, and the revival version, which resembles baseball much more than it does English rounders, is still being played. It employs a hurling ball and a game comprises five three-out innings. The game is played without gloves and, perhaps unique among safe-haven games, batted balls caught in the air are not outs.


Lowth (1855) describes Jellal, encountered among the people of Upper Eqypt, as resembling “in some of its parts our old game of Rounders” as he knew it in England. There was hitting and “getting home,” but a difference that he noted was that one boy hit the ball and another ran.


This is reported to be the local name for schlagball as played in Austria.  Another name was "Imperial ball."


Brand describes Kit-Cat as a game for two teams of three players each. Each player on the in-team stands near a hole with a two-foot stick. One is thrown a cat. If he hits it (and if it is not caught in the air for an out), the in-team runs from hole to hole, placing their sticks in each hole and counting the number passed. Outs can also be made by throwing a cat into an unoccupied hole, or by strikeout. The number of outs per half-inning, and the number of missed swings that constitute an out, are agreed in advance.

Kitten BallDerivative
Chicago, Minnesota

An off-shoot of Indoor Baseball played early in the 20th Century.  In 1920, 64 men's teams and 25 women's teams played regularly in the Twin Cities.  Authorites changed the name of the game to diamond ball in 1922.  In the 1930s, the game merged with sofball.


“Among the several types of Dutch kopfspeel there is one like rounders.” No other lead to kopfspeel is provided, and we don't know if the game is still alive.


Satisfactory evidence has yet to be collected, but it appears that a Polish game, quadrant, is a lively base-running game.

We have come across three YouTube videos on the game, none in English. The field resembles a three-base baseball diamond.  Batters are seem to put the ball into play with a one-handed club, usually with an uprightstroke resembling an overhand tennis serve.  The ball must, apparently, travel in the air past a line between first and third base.  Caught flies are outs.  The batter-runner advances as far as possible, but some rule limits that advance -- perhaps when the fielding team throws the fielded ball past a the batter's line.  Players depicted are children and school-age youths or both genders.  Plugging is not depicted.



La Batonet1800s

One 1895 source, identifies this game as Tip-cat. He writes that Tip-cat “is doubtless a very old diversion for children. It is illustrated as “La Batonet” in the charming series of children’s games designed by Stella and published in Paris, 1657, as “Les Jeux et Plaisiris [sic] de l’Enfance.”

Lahden MailaveikotContemporary

Maigaard (1941) notes they while most forms of rounders and longball were now lost, three - baseball, cricket, and bo-ball - remain vigorous. Bo-Ball is played in Finland. The only known source on this game, called Lahden Mailaveikot in Finnish, is a Finnish-language website, on that shows photographs of a vigorous game with aluminum bats, gloves, helmets, and much sliding and running but no other helpful hints for English-speakers. Similarities to Pesapallo are apparent.

HELP?  Can you help us get a fix on the nature of contemporary Lahden Mailaveikot?

Lang Ball1800s

Lang Ball appears to have been credited to Charles Gregory Lang, director of the YMCA gym at St. Joseph, MO, late in the 19th Century.

Base ball rules generally govern baserunning, but an 1894 describes a quite different way to put the (soccer) ball in play.  The ball "is batted will the soles of the feet, the batter at the time hanging from a bar . . . . When the ball is served by the pitcher, he [the kicker] shoots out his legs and kicks it with both feet."  Plugging runners, 'tho used in some forms of kickball, is not mentioned in this account.  According to an earlier 1892 description, games could be played by teams or the scrub version of rotation among fielding and striking roles.   

Lang Ball was last cited in a 1930 publication.  Some estimate that it led to the game of kickball


Varying accounts of this game are found. It is claimed that evidence places a form of the game to the time of Peter the Great, and that bats and leather balls date back to the 1300s. One 1989 news article reports that it is now strictly a children’s game. Still, some Russians say that “baseball is the younger brother of baseball.” In contemporary play, the fielding team’s “server” stands next to a batter and gently tosses a ball up to be hit. After the hit, runners try to run to a distant line [one 1952 account calls this the “city”] and back without being plugged. Caught fly balls are worth a point, but a successful run is two points. A time clock governs a game’s length.

A 1952 article does not mention a pitcher or points awarded for catches (but not runs?), but notes use of a round stick to hit with and also confirms the use of plugging.  Neither account says that runners can stay safely at the "city" if they don't venture to run back home.

As of July 2020, we note four lapta finds on YouTube.  They show some variance in playing rules.  In some, batters strike the ball directly overhead, as seen in a tennis serve.  The bats sown are narrow flat paddles.  After each hit, multiple runners (other members of the batting side?) take diverse paths, evading plugging by fielders.  Tennis balls are commonly used.

Leik MjulPredecessorEstonia

Isak Lidström, a doctoral student at Malmö University, reports that in studying the isolated island of Runö in the Baltic Sea, he found a game called "leik mjul" ["play ball"] among the Swedes there prior to World War II.

One source suggests that the game came to the island in the 1840's when a ship from England was stranded, and that perhaps the game evolved from rounders.

Isak is preparing a paper on the find for publication, and Protoball plans to update this entry at a later time. His March 2018 summary:


"Leik mjul" is definitely related to Swedish brännboll, although the latter is a simplified game. “Leik mjul” is the same game as English rounders, as it was played in the 1840s. Swedish brännboll also derives from English rounders. It was introduced by physical educators in the late 19th century. It was first called “rundboll” (roundball) and included a pitching procedure and a base running around five bases. As it was played in the schools, more simplified rules were required. The pitching procedure is gone nowadays – instead the batsman throws up the ball himself. Even the pitch has changed. It is shaped like a rectangle, with four bases.

-- isak




There are three or more players on each side, two stones or holes as stations, and one Lobber.

The Lobber lobs either a stick about three

inches long or a ball—(the ball seems to be a new institution, as a

stick was always formerly used)—while the batsman defends the stone or

hole with either a short stick or his hand. Every time the stick or ball

is hit, the boys defending the stones or holes must change places. Each

one is out if the stick or ball lodges in the hole or hits the stone; or

if the ball or stone is caught; or if it can be put in the hole or hits

the stone while the boys are changing places. This game is also played

with two Lobbers, that lob alternately from each end. The game is won by

a certain number of runs.

Long Ball (European baserunning game)1800s

Maigaard sees Long Ball as the oldest ancestor of rounders, cricket and baseball, a game that was played in many countries. Long Ball is described as using teams of from 4 to 20 players. It involved a pitcher, batter, and an “out-goal” or base that the batter-runner tried to reach after hitting (or after missing a third swing) and without being plugged. Caught flies signaled an immediate switch between the in-team and the out-team. Many members of the in-team could share a base as runners. Runs were not counted, as the objective was to remain at bat for a long period. A 1914 US text describes Long Ball in generally similar terms, but one that uses a regular "indoor baseball." There is a single base to run to, scoring by runs, a three-out-side-out rule, and no foul ground. Plugging is allowed.

A weblog written in the Australian outback in 2007 described a version of contemporary Long Ball. Modern variants of Long Ball are still played on a club or school basis, including Danish Longball in Denmark and England, Schlagball in Germany and Silesia and Palant in Poland.

Long DutchContemporary

Only two sources mentions this game. Cassidy implies that there were only two bases, and that if a runner only got to the far base, that runner would need to return home as the pitcher and catcher played catch.  The era of play is uncertain.

A 2004 website for a teen camp program also soptslights its "long-dutch baseball" tradition for both boys and girls.  The camp is located at Onaway Island in Wisconsin.


Long Town1800s

Curtis (1914) mentions Long Town as an alternative name for Long Ball. We have several references to Long Town Ball, most in the South and mid-West states, none north of a line between New York and Chicago. Most describe no rules of the game. One account in Lehigh County PA (about 50 miles NE of Philadelphia) recalls the game as played in the 1850s as having two bases about 25 paces apart, plugging, a fly rule, and as allowing multiple runners on the (non-batting) base.

Massachusetts Game1800s
New England, WNY, Upper Midwest

This is the game played according to rules that were codified in May 1858 in Dedham Massachusetts. It featured short basepaths, an absence of foul ground, plugging of runners, a smaller and softer and lighter ball, wooden stakes in place of sascks as bases,winners definied as the first team to reach 100 “tallies,” and a one-out-side-out rule. It remains unclear how close these rules -- written 13 years after the Knickerbocker rules were codified -- were to round ball, goal ball, and/or base games played in MA for the previous 50-75 years.

The Massachusetts Game declined fairly rapidly after 1860.

Meta, or Longa Meta1800s

Incompletely verified accounts suggest that Meta, sometimes called Longa Meta, is a traditional Hungarian folk game that involves base-running.

As of Fall 2015, we are actively seeking further information about this game and how it was played.

A few scattered accounts in English describe the game (see our reading notes in the Supplemental Text below). Hungarian sources are largely unexamined as yet.

Some impressions that emerge at this stage:

[] Generally, the game resembled English rounders, German schlagball, and early forms of base ball in the US: scoring was done by running to one or more distant bases and returning safely to the batting area; some form of bat was used to put the ball in play after it had been served to the batter, and then hit away; runners could be put out if they were caught off base;

[] The playing field was a rectangular area (defining fair ground for hits, apparently) whose dimensions could vary with the number of players;

[] The batting team and the fielding team exchanged sides after their side was put out, or at the end of an allotted time period.

[] The game is thought to have subsided in the 20th Century, but attempts to re-create it have been noted in the past few years.  There are undocumented assertions that the game dates back to the 1500s.

 "Longa Meta" is said to be a Latin phrase, not a Hungarian term.

History: Writing in 1988 about Budapest in 1900, John Lukacs wrote, "there was nothing in the way of organized athletics or sports in the schools.  An old Hungarian game of longa meta (the name came from Latin), a game similar to stickball or even baseball, was still played by children in empty lots of the city.  By 1900 it was replaced by soccer."



New Marlboro Rules Baseball1800s
Massachusetts, United States

The New Marlboro Rules (from a club in New Marlborough, MA) date from 1863, and can be found in the "Rule Sets" portion of Protoball. They bear some similarities to the Massachusetts game, but with a few differences. "The New Marlboro rules are not the Massachusetts Game. They are not radically different from the Massachusetts Game, sharing regional characteristics such as overhand pitching, but they have clear differences, the most important being the unique playing field and all-out innings. The mere fact that the New Marlboro club was not playing the Massachusetts Game is perhaps the most significant finding." (Richard Hershberger)

Northern Virginia

Novaball was played as All-Star competition by the Arlington softball program in 2001 and 2002.  Each inning, one team selected a special rule for that inning; examples are clockwise baserunning, the use of 6 bases in place of 4, force outs implemented by throwing the ball into a 5-gallon paint bucket, etc.


A game played in Romania, reportedly traced back to a shepherd’s game,  played in southern Romania from the year 1310. The game is described as involving two 11-player teams that alternate batting as in a one-innings game of cricket. The pitch is a soft toss from a teammate.

One 1990 report says that there are nine (fielder's?)  bases set out over 120 yards, that the defensive team can score on tagging and plugging putouts, and that there were over 1500 teams throughout Romania, mostly in rural areas. That account describes a ball the size of a baseball and a bat resembling a cricket bat. A second report from 1973 describes the ball as small, and the bat only a little thicker than a billiard cue, and that if a runner deflects a thrown ball with the palms, he is not put out. Note: Protoball’s initial evidence on oina came from the two western news accounts provided in the Hall of Fame’s “Origins of Baseball” file (cited below).

2017 Input:  In early 2017 we viewed a handful of Youtube videos (only one of which was in English), and we office the following rough impressions of the game. Most were discovered by John Thorn, and they depict mature players. 

The most interesting feature, to a baseball fan, is that oina has found a way to preserve plugging (you may know it as burning, soaking, etc.) as a way to retire runners.  This appears to be handled by requiring fielders to throw at runners from a few specific spots, so that runners at risk can remain at some distance.  They resemble dodgeball players in their attempted evasions, but if they deflect a ball with the palms of their hands, they remain immune.

The detailed rules for scoring remain non-obvious.

In the available clips, we did not see outs made when fly balls were caught. There are foul lines for hit balls.

Baserunners appear to be restricted to the far end-line when a new batter bats. Two or more baserunners may occupy that station, according to rules that are hard to fathom at this point.

Pitches are very soft short lobs, none appearing to soar much above the batter's head. Servers must smartly step away to avoid the lustily swung bat.

Very long hits appear to be treated as (trotless) home runs. 


Old Hundred1800s

A game described in 1845 as another name for town ball, and played in North Carolina with an all-out-side-out rule. 

There is not conclusive evidence that Old Hundred is or was a safe-haven ballgame.  However, one North Carolina writer saw it as a "variety of baseball" as played in the 1840s: see chronology entry 1840c.33


The game was played as late as the 1940 by the Mi-kmaq tribe in eastern Canada. "Old-fashion preserved an intriguing number of remnantsof ball-games of the pre-Knickerbocker era,including no foul ground, one out per inning, soaking (plugging), and soft, hnome-made balls."  The rules were reported to be flexible. 

Om El MahagDerivative

In a 1939 account, Om El Mahag is described as elementary baseball, and said to be analogous to rounders and old-cat. It was reported that Om El Mahag was only played by the Berber tribes.

Descriptions of the game are not detailed enough at this point to determine how it related, or relates, to base ball, long ball, or other early safe-haven games.


A 1934 reference from Massachusetts: “One-three-one-one” was the old game the boys used to play when I went to school. Regular baseball - very similar to Stub One.”

Query: This is our only reference to one-three-one-one or Stub One.  Can we find others?  Is it reasonable to surmise that "1 3 1 1" reflected the number and deployment of fielders?

Onondaga LongballContemporaryUpstate New York


Longball is played as a summer game in Onondaga Nation, near Syracuse NY.

The game, described as "ancient," features foul lines, pitchers who can make outs by catching hit balls after a first bounce, a leather ball about the size of a baseball, games played to 21 runs, and "stinging,"  (plugging runners to put them out).



This game[141] is described as a reduced form of softball with no running (ghost runners determine when runs score) and soft tossing by a team-mate as pitching. Fair ground is defines by an acute angle much smaller than 90 degrees, and a line is drawn about 20 yards from home. Three or four players make up a team. Balls hit past the line and not caught on the fly are counted as singles, unless they pass the deepest fielder. A bobbled grounder is counted as Reached on Error. The game is played as a beach game in the San Diego area[142].  Pitches are gentle lobs. Peter Morris writes that this game is an offshoot of softball.


A Polish game. Chetwynd (2008) notes that Palant, similar to baseball, had a long history. “Poland had played its own traditional bat-and-ball game - particularly in the areas of Upper Silesia and the Opole District - dating back centuries and, by the 1920s, the game of Palant had a popular following.”

A Polish website describes Palant as using a rectangular field of about 25 yards by 50 yards, being governed by a clock, and having a provision by which, if a runner is hit, his teammates can enter play and retain their ups by plugging a member of the fielding team. David Block identifies Palant [Pilka Palantowa] as the Silesian game played in Jamestown VA in 1609 by a small group of Polish craftsmen.

Polish play is now reportedly resticted to rural areas.


Patch Baseball1800s
New York

Patch Baseball is evidently  name for a form of baseball that allows the plugging of runners. We find the term used in upstate New York in about 1850.  "Patching" is another word for "plugging" or "burning" baserunners.

Scotland (Orkney)

(Cat’s Pellet, Cat’s Pallet, Gidigadie) - per MacLagan (1905). This game is played like Tip-Cat, but with a ball and a one-handed bat, and with plugging instead of crossing to put runners out. An Orkney game. Elsewhere MacLagan described the game as using four small holes in a twelve-foot square. An 1882 source finds a usage of “cat’s pellet” in 1648, and defines it as “a game, perhaps the same as tip-cat.” Court records from 1583 seem to indication that the game “Cat’s Pallet” was also called Gidigadie, at least in the Manchester area.


Pentoss was reportedly a form of ladies' cricket.

A picture in the W. W. Grantham collection at Lewes, England, shows a game seeming to resemble stoolball, but with wickets that look like round targets, held up by a post on either side of the 'target.'  The bats are like smaller stoolball bats.

A photographic image of a game in progress can be found with Google search of <"joshua biltcliffe" "ladies cricket">.  

There is no firm indication, at this point, of the time period of the geographic area of play.  The photograph was taken in Penistone, in southern Yorkshire.  Penistone is about 80 miles north of Birmingham.






Pesapallo is “Finnish Baseball.” This invented game is based on American baseball, and on the traditional Finnish games kuningaspallo, pitkapallo, and poltopallo, and was introduced in 1922. Some call it Finland’s national game.

Pesapallo  involves two 9-player teams, pitching via vertical toss from close to the batter, a zigzag basepath of progressive length [about 65 feet from home to first, about 150 feet from third to home], optional running with fewer than two strikes, a three-out-side-out rule, runners being either  “put out” or “wounded” (thus not counted as an out, and allowed to bat again), no ground-rule home runs, and four-inning games.

Nations with sizable Finnish emigrants (Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) compete in the annual world cup of Pesapallo.


Philadelphia Bat BallDerivative

Called an “advanced form” of German Bat Ball, this game involves three bases for runners instead of one, and runners can remain at a base if they believe they cannot safely advance further. Runners can tag up after caught flies. Otherwise, the rules of German Bat Ball apply.

Philadelphia Town Ball1800s

The game that arose in Philadelphia in the 1830’s. The rules of this game have recently been induced from game accounts by Richard Hershberger. The game is distinct from the Massachusetts Game. It’s signature features were 11-player teams, an absence of set defensive positions, stakes [as bases] set in a circle 30-foot diameter, non-aggressive pitching, a lighter, softer ball, an all-out-side-out rule, and a bound rule.

This game was evidently the game of choice in the Philadelphia area until about 1860, when the New York game came to dominate Philly play.


PlaquitaContemporaryDominican Republic"La Plaquita or La Placa isa form of street cricket played in the Dominican Republic.  It involves two teams of two players, and two wickets (which can be license plates, known as 'placas' in Spanish.  Players from one team bun between the wickets to score runs. but can't score anymore if the wicket is hit with the ball when that team's players are too far away from the wicket."
Playground BallDerivative

Johnson (1910) lists Playground Ball among seven “Baseball" games.  The rules of this game are not explained.


This game is modification of cricket evidently designed to expedite play, and is played at several English schools. Batters must run when they make contact with a bowled ball. Bowled balls can not hit the ground in front of the wicket, and a baseball bat is used instead of a flat cricket bat.

Poisoned Ball1800s

According to an undated early 19th-Century text, “La Ball Empoisonée” was a game for two teams of eight to ten boys involving repelling the ball (presumably by hitting it by the palm of the hand) and running to bases trying to avoid being plugged.

"THE IMPOISONED BALL. Eight should play at this game; and the method is as follows:

"Make a hole, and mark it so as to know it again; then draw, to see who is to throw the ball; that done, he must endeavor to put it into one of the holes, and the person's hole it enters must take the ball and throw at a player, who will endeavor to catch it; the person touched must throw it at another, and he who fails in either of these attempts, or he who is touched, is obliged to put into the hole which belongs to him, a little stone, or a piece of money, or a nut, or any thing to know the hole by. This is called a counter. He who first happens to have the number of counters fixed upon, is to stand with his hand extended, and every player is to endeavor to strike the hand with the ball."



Maigaard (1941) lists this game as the Swiss variation of Long Ball.

Puddox, or PuddockDerivative

"Puddox is a game that was introduced to Boston Grammar School by Robin Gracey in 1990/91. It is a combination of rounders and cricket. Two teams participate, made up of form members from each class and the teams are drawn randomly from a hat. Often first year teams (now year 7) would meet 15 year old lads but size meant little in Puddox, as Mr Gracey would attest, being quite short himself.

John Huggins recalls playing Puddox at Boston Grammar School in 1962. He believes it had migrated there from the Stamford School where it was popular.

The batting team sends out two players to stand at either end of the 'pitch' which is (as far as I remember) about the length of a cricket pitch. The bowler only bowls from one end, and a small baseball-style ball is used. Bowling uses the under-arm style. The batting team uses a small one-handed bat. Runs are made by running to the end of the pitch, just like cricket. I seem to remember a rule that you can only run if you'd made contact with the ball.

There is a time limit for each team (I think these games were played during lunch hours but that may be wrong!) and at the end of the game, scores are collated and the winning team is put through to the next round."

Aka Puddock, and arguably played from the 1920s on.


Youtube commentary from 1999-2022:


The annual summer inter-form tournament of this rather quaint and (allegedly) unique cricket/rounders hybrid. Only at BGS...
Hello Tim, For 111 (one hundred and eleven) years there has been an annual camp held for youngsters of 11-16 years of age... this has happened, with exception of the first 5 years(1908-1913), at Hermanus, about 130 km East of Cape Town, on the coast in South Africa.  Having watched your posted video of Puddox played at Boston Grammar School, it struck me that many hundreds of youngsters and ex campers would be interested to find out more of the origins of Puddox. Now named the "Annual Hermanus Camp", after many years having been called the Kenilworth Scout Camp, the camp is usually held for about 10-12 days, commencing on 27th or so of December, our height of summer. If you are interested to find the odd photos they'd probably be findable on the web page of the Annual Hermanus Camp. Puddox , I believe, is only played in this camp in SA!There seem to be one or two minor differences in the rules of play for the Puddox at the AHC camp. Do make contact through the AHC facebook, or the web page, if you are interested. Best, Mark.

Show less

Blimey, I miss playing this game. I remember the tournaments very fondly."
Entered by Bruce Allardice, 6/6/2022. Supplemented by L McCray, 6/10/2022.


Reversible BaseballPost-1900California

"Reversible Baseball" debuted in 1928 when a U. of California baseball team coached by Carl Zamloch tried out a new variant of baseball.

The game was "a field trial of Coach Carl Zamloch’s proposed revision to the rule books, what he called “reversible” baseball.

What exactly was reversible (also sometimes referred to as “left-handed” or “ambidextrous”) baseball? Simply put, batters were given the option of running to either first or third base after putting the ball in play. Fielders were forced to take note of where the batter was going, and to adjust accordingly. If a batter chose to run to third base and reached safely, all offense in that half inning was reversed: other hitters in that frame would have to follow their teammate’s lead. For example, if the leadoff hitter singled and ran to third instead of first, the subsequent batter would need to run to third base on a single to left, and the runner might attempt to go from third to first on the play."

According to the article, the innovation caused much comment, but attracted little interest.

RigoballContemporaryDominion Republic

Rigoball has developed in the Dominican Republic.  It appears to be played in an enlarged baseball field, but omits batted balls; instead, a ball appears to be put in play from the home plate area when thrown into fair ground by a new baserunner.  Twelve-player teams may include men and women.

The game features no pitcher or catcher.  All fouls are outs.  Bases are set 120 feet apart. There are 5 outs in an inning and 7 innings in an official game.  Adult play appears to include distant outfield fences (455' to center, 355' in the corners).

The game appears to have been devised and promoted by a Dr. Rigoberto Diaz as a pastime that is safer than baseball.  It seems likely that the game's name honors him.









Round Ball1700s

This appears to be the name given to the game played in Massachusetts . . . and possibly beyond that . . . in the years before the Dedham rules of 1858 created the Massachusetts Game.

We have about a dozen references to round ball from about 1780 to 1856 -- all in New England and especially the state of Massachusetts.  New England also has references to goal, or goal ball, base, or base ball, and bat-and-ball for this period.  There is no indication if or how these games differed, or whether they are direct antecedents of the Mass Game rules of 1858.

Morris, p. 23 has a description of the game, from an early Detroit baseball player reminiscing in 1884: ""Previous to the time [1857] we had played the old-fashioned game of round ball. There were no 'balls' or 'strikes' to that. The batter waited till a ball came along that suited him, banged it and ran. If it was a fly and somebody caught it, he was out and couldn't play any more in the game. If the ball was not caught on the fly the only way to put a batter out was to hit him with the ball as he ran. There were no basemen then; everybody stood around to catch flies and throw the ball at base runners." (citing Detroit Free Press, April 4, 1884)

Round Cat1800s
US South

Round Cat is a game noted by Tom Altherr in September 2009. We find several brief mentions of this game being played from Washington DC southward, but no explanation of how it was played. One account identifies it as similar to Scrub as played in New England.

Round Town (Round Town Ball)1800s

Round Town (also found as 'round-town,' or 'Round Town Ball') has been found in a handful of sources listed below.  It appears to have been played at times from the 1850s-1890s in locations outside the northeast US:

[A] "In rural Virginia the ball game of choice was known as round-town, a sport that was "well understood and much enjoyed by every country boy, though only a few of their city cousins know the first rudiments of it." 


[B] As played in Eastern PA in the 1850s, Round Town is recalled as having four or five bases or “safety spots,” tagging instead of plugging, the fly rule, the sharing of bases by multiple runners, and a bat made of a rail or clap-board. A game “similar to baseball” recalled as being played by school boys in 1891 in a grove of trees in Beech Grove, Kentucky.


[C] Another game called Round Town is described as follows:

An Old Virginia Ball Game

Mount Crawford, a town in Rockingham County, Va., was the scene of a novel ball game on, January 13 last, the occasion being a contest at the old Virginia game of ball known as "Round Town, " the weather being unusually mild for winter.

This game is well understood and is much enjoyed by every country boy, though only a very few of their city cousins know the first rudiments of it. 

Forty-four men and boys were engaged in the game mentioned above, and they were the best throwers, surest catchers, and hardest strikers of the two neighborhoods. A large sized crowd watched with unabating interest the movements of the game.

The game of round-town is played in this manner: Two sides are formed, the number of players of the division being equal. Four bases are used and are placed in the same manner as if they were being fixed for a game of baseball, although men are only placed in the positions of the pitcher, catcher, and first baseman, the rest of the players being scattered in the field where they think the ball is most apt to be knocked. The first batsman on the opposing side takes his place at the plate, and he has in his hand a paddle an inch or two thick, and in which only one hand is used ins striking. The pitcher delivers a solid gum ball with all the swiftness attainable, the use of the curve never being thought of, and it is therefore very seldom that a "strike out" occurs. The batter hits the ball at the first opportunity and endeavors to drive it over the heads of the opponents, for if it is caught on the fly or the first bound the runner is called out, and also if it is begotten to the first baseman before the runner arrives at the base. Should the runner reach first base safely he can continue to run to the other bases if he wishes, but his opponents have the privilege of hitting him with the ball, and as it is very painful to be struck with a gum ball, the runner is very cautious, and if he is struck he is counted out of the game, although should he reach any of the other bases he is safe. 

Another batsman appears and if he makes a safe hit with the ball the runners can continue to move until stopped from fear of being hit with the ball. In case a man is on second base and a ball is knocked and caught on the fly or first bound, the runner must stay at the base until the ball is returned to the pitcher. Each side has only one inning and that continues until every man has made out: therefore if a man makes an out at the first time at the bat he is disqualified to play until all on his side have done likewise, then they take the field. If a player makes the circuit safely it is called a run.

The result of the contest was the success of the Mt. Crawford twenty-two by a score of 104 runs to 90, the contest occupying the whole afternoon.


[D]  In February 2016, Bill Hicklin added:

I found two references to Virginia "round-town," both from Dickinson County, Virginia (in the Appalachian coal country).  They come from School and Community History of Dickenson County, Virginia (ed. Dennis Reedy), a compilation of articles published over many years in the local paper, which were themselves based on a series of oral-history interviews conducted at the behest of the school superintendant with senior and retired Dickenson teachers.

 [1] William Ayers Dyer: "I was born May 10, 1880 at Stratton, Dickenson County, Virginia and started to school to Johnson Skeen at the Buffalo School in 1885 when I was 5 years old... The games we played at the Buffalo were straight town, round town, base, bull pen and antnee over." (Bull pen was dodgeball, but played with a baseball. Ouch!)

 [2]Hampton Osborne (b. 1894): "'Round-town' and 'straight-town' were popular games. Round-town had four bases in a circle, as baseball does today. If the batter was caught or crossed-off both ways, he was out. Straight-town had four bases in a row and you used the same rules as round-town.


[E]  Bruce Allardice contributed:

"There are several newspaper mentions in the late 1800s of "round town" by people who claimed to have played it as a boy:

Easley (SC) Messenger, May 2, 1884. W. P. Price (1846-1940) claimed to have played "round Town" and "cat" as a boy at Holly Springs Academy

Piqua (OH) Daily Call, Aug. 22, 1891: J. P. Smith of Urbana, OH says he played "round town" and "bull pen" as a boy.

Edina (MO) Sentinel, Aug. 5, 1886: writer played "round town" as a boy.

Greenleaf Sentinel, Nov. 11, 1887. when writer was a boy we used to play "round town," "three cornered cat" and "bull pen." Similar, Smithfield (NC) Herald Aug. 17, 1917.

Scranton Tribune, May 8, 1899. Writer talks of boys playing "Round Town Ball and Two Holy Cat."

Philadelphia Times, Aug. 3, 1890 has a long article with a complete description of Round Town Ball, as it was played in Perry County.

Old-time "round, or town ball" played. Warren (PA) Democrat, July 9, 1895.

Asheville Gazette-News, Aug. 9, 1913: "afore the war" the "darkies" played "round town ball from which the [game of] baseball originated."

New Philadelphia Times, June 13, 1910 claims Cy Young played "round town" ball and three cornered cat as a youth.

Bucyrus (OH) Evening Telegraph. Aug. 18, 1915 says there will be a game of round town ball at a picnic. Ditto Jackson (OH) Center News, Oct. 15, 1920; Dresden (TN) Enterprise, Dec. 4, 1914; Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Sept. 5, 1908; Harrisonburg (VA) Evening News, Dec. 5, 1899, March 15, 1909.

Doney, "Cheerful Yesterdays" p. 67 says he learned to play RTB and others c. 1877.

Prokopowicz, "All for the Regiment" p. 85 quotes a Feb. 7, 1862 diary entry from a soldier in Co. C, 17th Ohio saying the soldiers play RTB in their spare time.

Pleasant's "History of Crawford County, Indiana" (1926) says that c. 1840, the boys played three cornered cat, round town ball, long town ball, bat ball and baseball.

"Punxsatawney Centennial, 1849-1949" p. 22 says c. 1870 the boys played RTB and long town ball."

-- Bruce Allardice


 What Protoball Knows, May 2023

Note that our sources now extend to MD, NC, OH, PA, SC, and VA,  as of May 2023. 

Known reports of Round Town appear to run to the end of the 19th Century.








Rounders - Britain1800s

Rounders was first described in the late 1820s.  Current researchers believe that the game was similar to English base ball, which had been described almost 80 years earlier, but it is clearer that rounders employed a bat than that English ball did.

Rounders in the 19th Century generally resembled the game that Mass game; it used overhand throwing, plugging, etc. 

In describing rounders in 1898, Gomme notes a one-out-side-out rule applied for caught (fly?) balls.  Batters who missed three pitches were compelled to run on the third swing as if they had struck the ball.

Rounders is now played in British schools, often by young women.

Rounders Rules

(from  accessed 6/1/2023)

Rounders Rules

Rounders is an ancient field game for two teams that is popular in schools and is the ancestor of more modern sports like Baseball and Softball.

See also: Rounders Equipment.

Rounders Equipment & Preparation

The equipment needed for rounders consists of a truncheon shaped rounders bat, a rounders ball and 4 posts set out in a diamond shape. A traditional ball is hard and covered in leather although safer, softer balls for schools are also available.

The pitch features a bowler's square (2.5m) which is 7.5m from the batter's square (2m). 1 metre behind the batter's square the Backstop line should be marked. The four posts are positioned around the bowler's square as shown in the diagram (black lines show lines that should be marked; green lines are for measuring only).

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Of course, if you are just playing in the park or your garden, exact dimensions don't matter and shrubberies and flower beds may come into play...

For a decent game, each team should have at least 6 people, so that when fielding, a person can stand next to each post in addition to the bowler and the backstop.

Rounders Basics

Each team has two innings with all people in the team having a go at batting. The innings is over when all the batting players are either out or at a base so that there is no-one left to face the next ball.

One, by one, the batters line up to take their turn in the batting square. The bowler throws the ball towards the batter.

Bowling and No-Balls

The bowler must bowl a ball towards the batter so that: 

  • it is thrown with a smooth underarm action
  • the ball arrives without bouncing and within the batters square
  • the ball is above the batter's knee, below the batter's head, and not at the batter's body
  • the bowler's feet are inside the bowler's square when the ball is bowled

otherwise a 'no-ball' is called.

A batter can attempt to hit a no-ball and can run on a no-ball, if desired whether the ball is hit or not, but cannot return once first post is reached. If two consecutive no-balls are bowled to the same batter, the batter scores a half-rounder.


  • The batter gets one chance to hit the ball (ignoring no-balls) and must run even if the ball is not struck.
  • If the ball is hit behind the batting square or not hit at all, the batter may can only run to first base.
  • Otherwise, the batter runs around as many of the bases as possible and stops at a post only when the batter thinks there is a danger of the next post being 'stumped'.

The batter is out if:

  • the batter hits the ball and it is caught without first hitting the ground
  • the post being run to is 'stumped' - a fielder touches it with the ball
  • the batter runs inside a post
  • the batter loses contact with a post when the bowler has the ball inside the bowler's square
  • the batter overtakes a fellow batter when running around the posts.
  • while not running between posts, the batter obstructs a fielder
  • the batter's foot is outside the batter's square when the ball is bowled

Scoring Rounders

A score is immediately posted in the following situations:

 If the batter hits the ball or is bowled a no ball and then reaches the fourth post, a rounder is scored.

  • If the batter fails to hit the ball and reaches the fourth post, a half-rounder is scored.
  • If the batter hits the ball and reaches the second post, a half-rounder is scored.
  • A fielder obstructs a batter running to a post, a half-rounder is scored.
  • If the batter hits the ball and reaches the first, second or third post without being out, the batter stays at that post (and must keep in contact with it) until the next ball is bowled. As soon as the ball leaves the bowler's hand, such a batter can run to the next post, if they wish, even if a no-ball is called.

If the batter does not keep contact with the post, the fielding side can stump the next post to get the player out. 2 batters cannot be at the same post so a batter must run on to the next post if the next batter catches up with them.

  • A batter who continues in this way and reaches the fourth post scores a half-rounder.

Once the fourth post is reached, the person goes to the back of the batter's line and awaits their next turn to bat.


After both sides have played both innings, the side with the most rounders wins.

Other Rounders Rules

The above rules are consistent with the National Rounders Associations laws. However, those wishing to play more strictly, may also wish to incorporate the following NRA rules which aren't really necessary for a friendly game. 

  • A team consisting of a maximum of 15 players and a minimum of 6 of whom no more than 9 may be on the field at one time. An innings is over when the 9th batter is out.
  • If the ball goes behind, the batter may only run to first post but may continue to run once the ball has returned in front of the batter's square again. In this way, it is possible to reach 4th post and score a rounder, even if the ball is hit behind (although this would only happen in practice due to a fielding error).
  • A batter can run to a post even if it has been previously stumped but there is no score if this is done on 4th Post
  • Batsmen must carry their bat when running
  • When the bowler has the ball in his square, you cannot move on, but if you are between Posts, you can carry on to the next.
  • You must touch 4th Post on getting home.
Rounders -- Hungary1800s

This game resembles contemporary British rounders. The bases form a regular pentagon, a pitcher stands at its center, fly balls are outs, and there is plugging. A baserunner, however, could make plays on subsequent batter-runners as a member of the fielding team.


Gene Carney describes this game as a one-out-all-out team game, but notes that “a fielder catching a ball on the fly joined the offense immediately.”


A memoir in Eastern Massachusetts, written about local play in about 1870, describes a game called "roundstakes" or "rounders."

"The game that bore the closest resemblance to our modern baseball was "roundstakes" or "rounders."  In some communities it was know (sic) as "townball."  This game of roundstakes was often played on village commons, or muster fields, on holidays or other public occasions.  Among the larger boys it was the popular game at school.

"It was this game that was so modified as to become later the baseball of today.  It was originally an old English game much played in the colonies.  A  soft ball was always used.  It was made of yarns or other soft materials and covered with leather or a network  to prevent unwinding.  Instead of throwing this ball to a baseman it was thrown at the baserunner himself.  If a hit was made by a thrower, the runner was out.  The bases were usually posts or stakes, but sometimes stones.  These had to be circled or touched by the runner.  There were no fair or foul balls.  The batter ran on any hit, however light, or on his third strike.  There were no called balls or called strikes.  The batter could strike out, fly out or be hit be a thrown ball when between bases.  The game was played between teams or sides of equal numbers, usually from seven to ten. The play was generally without an umpire."


In his definition of Rounders, Hazlitt suggests that “it is possible that this is the game which, under the name of rownes (rounds) is mentioned in the ‘English Courtier and the Country Gentleman,’ in 1586.”


A name given in some localities, evidently, to the game played in the Boston area in the early 19th century; it is possibly another name for what is elsewhere in New England recalled as Round Ball. Our single reference to this game comes from a letter written in 1905 by a Boston man, T. King.

"This [Massachusetts Run-Around] was ever a popular game with us young men, and especially on Town Meeting days when there were great contests held between different districts, or between the married and unmarried men, and was sometimes called Town Ball because of its association with Town Meeting day."

"It was an extremely convenient game because it required as a minimum only four on a side to play it, and yet you could play it equally as well with seven or eight. . . . There were no men on the bases; the batter having to make his bases the best he could, and with perfect freedom to run when and as he chose to, subject all the time to being plugged by the ball from the hand of anyone. It was lively jumping squatting and ducking in all shapes with the runner who was trying to escape being plugged. When he got around without having been hit by the ball, it counted a run. The delivery of the ball was distinctly a throw, not an under-hand delivery as was later the case for Base Ball. The batter was allowed three strikes at the ball. In my younger days it was extremely popular, and indulged in by everyone, young and old."


Rundbold is given as the Danish name for the Swedish game brannboll.

YouTube clips can be found for several depictions of the game.  A (non-Danish-speaking Protoball rep observes the folowing:  The clips  show batters propelling a ball into the field with a (two-handed) fungo style, a one-handed style (think of a sidearmed tennis serve), and  with a second player soft tossing a serve from a few feet away.

Backward hitting is not  observed.  Fly  outs appear to end a batter's time at bat. sometimes with a change of sides.  After hitting the ball,  runners try to complete a circuit of four bases (pegs, cones, etc) before the ball is returned to a defender stationed near the hitting area.

In some cases, a hit is followed by several runners setting off from the hitting zone at the same time. If the ball is grounded by the defender before a runner reaches the next base, that runner must return to the previous base.

Scoring rules are not evident.  Players shown are often children, but young adults are also shown, sometimes with beer  bottles in hand. 





Russian BaseballDerivative

On March 15,  2021, SABR member Rich Moser of (Town?, CA) recalled a game organized by his junior high teacher in California in 1973.  He remembers that it had these rules:

"1. only two (running) bases instead of three

2. no tagging a base to get a runner out, meaning the fielders had to tag the runners

3. no baseline rules, so a runner could run anywhere he wanted to avoid being tagged—except he had to stay on campus. He could elect to hide in the distant outfield or the shrubbery to distract the defense, so they might forget about other runners and let them score

4. multiple runners could occupy the same base at a time

5. there was no foul territory, so batters could elect to turn and hit the ball backwards or to wherever there weren’t any fielders."

Plugging runners was not allowed.  Players used gloves and played with a soft ball.



A longball variant still played in Germany. “German Schlagball (‘hit the ball’) is similar to rounders.” No other clues to schlagball are provided.

Other unverified sources state that schlagball evolve as early as the 1500s.

The game certainly features pitching and hitting.  An early form was described by Gutsmuths as the German Ballgame (Deutsche Ballspiel). Rules can be found here.  One write-up compares schlagball to lapta stating that while the running base in lapta is a line, in schlagball runners proceed along a series of discrete bases; this is a misapprehension. In modern Schlagball the goal line is replaced with two side-by-side "touch posts," either one of which may serve as the running base.

Single-Wicket Cricket1700s

Single-wicket cricket uses teams smaller than the usual 11-player teams. All bowling is to a single wicket.

There is, in effect, a foul ground behind the wicket, so unlike full-team cricket, only balls hit forward are deemed to  be in play.

As late at 1969 there were annual single-wicket championships at Lord’s in London.  In the very early years, most cricket is believed to use a single wicket, and each references to cricket in the US usually reported very small numbers of players.  Early cricket rules called for single-wicket play when team sizes were five or fewer.

This game was nearly as popular as cricket in England through the 1840s, when it lost favor (see Steel). Frederick Duke of York (1763-1827; son of George III) played SWC with his brothers when he was young.

The Sunbury Gazette, Sept. 3, 1859 reprints an essay on cricket from the North American, and labels single-wicket a predecessor game to cricket.

H. Rowell, "The Laws of Cricket for Single and Double Wicket" (Toronto, 1857) p. 17 says single wicket is for teams of 5 or less, and specifies "bounds" placed 22 yards apart in a line from the off and leg stump (which appears to give a 180 degree fair territory). The ball had to be tossed, not thrown, underhand. 

Revised by the Marylebone Club in the Year 1823
Printed by Carpenter and Son, Engravers and Printers, 16 Aldgate High=Street.
Broadsheet in Sloane=Stanley Collection.
Copy by RS Rait Kerr held at the MCC Library at Lord’s


When there shall be less than five players on a Side, Bounds shall be placed twenty-two yards each in a Line from the Off, and Leg Stump.

The Ball must be hit before the Bounds to entitle the Striker to a Run; which Run cannot be obtained unless he touch the Bowling Stump (or Crease in a line with it) with his Bat, or some Part of his Person; or go beyond them; returning to the Popping Crease as at double wicket according to the 22nd Law.

When the Striker shall hit the Ball, one of his Feet must be on the Ground, and behind the Popping Crease; otherwise the Umpire shall call “No Hit”.

When there shall be less than five Players on a Side neither Byes, nor Overthrows shall be allowed; nor shall the Striker be caught out behind the Wicket, nor stumped out.

The Field’s Man must return to Ball so that it shall cross the Play between the Wicket and the Bowling Stump, or between the Bowling Stump, and the Bounds; the Striker may run till the Ball shall be so returned.

After the Striker shall have made one Run, if he start again he must touch the Bowling Stump, and turn before the Ball shall cross the Play to entitle him to another.

The Striker shall be entitled to three Runs for lost Ball, and the same number for Ball stopped with Hat; with Reference to the 29th, and 34th Law at double wicket.

When there shall be more than four Players on a side there shall be no Bounds. All Hits, Byes, and Overthrows shall then be allowed.

The Bowler is subject to the same Laws as at double Wicket.

Not more than one Minute shall be allowed between each Ball."

Six Man BaseballPost-1900

Along those same lines comes a version of baseball that I've never seen before. It was featured in the December 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics

 and was invented by Stephen Epler to allow smaller groups of players to play games quicker. Epler had, five years previously, invented a game called "six-man football" so, naturally, he also came up with "six-man baseball". From the magazine:

Each team is composed of six players – two infielders, two outfielders, a pitcher and a catcher. Instead of four bases, the "diamond" is composed of three, including home plate. Bases are equal distances apart – ninety feet when a hard ball is used – and they are located at the corners of an equilateral triangle. A full game is six innings, and two strikes, instead of three, retire the batter. Foul balls are counted as half-strikes, and the hitter is called out on four fouls. Three balls, instead of four, give a base on balls.

The picture above is an artist's rendition of the sport, and, I have to admit, it looks intriguing. It got me wondering just how the game would play if baseball were really played this way.

Sixteen-Inch Softball (No-Glove Softball)Contemporary
Chicago area

A 2009 article reports on a game played mostly in Chicago involving a ball of 16” circumference and using no gloves. No other variations are covered. The article is not clear on the local name for the game, but another account calls the large ball a “clincher,” and notes that games were sometimes played in the street. (Note: Line Ball, another Chicago game, also used a large ball.)  It appears that the game generally follows the rules of softball.

Query: Can you supply further details about this game?

Skirt BallPost-1900New Jersey

"Women played only in unofficial mixed-gender 'ladies' games at the big hotels. In these games, men had to wear skirts as a handicap. As the skirts on bathing suits became shorter, women started to wear shorter skirts with stockings or leggings in sports, and 'ladies' baseball in Beach Haven ended by World War I."


Slaball is given as the Norwegian name for Brannboll, for which Sweden is a popular baserunning game.  "Slaball" is translated as "hit-ball" in this account.

Slap Ball -- BrooklynDerivative

Slap Ball.  This game taught the esoteric rules of of the game.  It was strickt baseball.


Pitcher pitched on a bounce with flukes.  Ump called balls and strikes -- the ball had to cross the plate in the strike zone.  Bunting and stealing ans pickoffs were permitted.  Hitter could hit the ball with an open hand only.

Note:  You could not steal bases if you did not know how to slide.  Sliding on concrete can be painful.  But if you went to Coney Island and practiced for a good while on the sand , you could learn to slide well enough not to get hurt sliding on concrete.  However, no pair of pants could last more than a game: serious punishment for ruining dungarees.

Slavonic Long BallDerivative

Maigaard (1941) lists this game. It varies from other regional variations in placing the batting area mid-way between the home area and the first of two "resting areas" for runners. It is possible that this represents a form of Palant.

Query:  can we determine the local name for this game?

Soak BallPost-1900

Hall-of-Famer Cap Anson recalls that "'soak ball' was at this time [as an Iowa schoolboy in the early 1860's] my favorite sport. It was a game in which the batter was put out by running the bases by being hit with the ball," which was "comparatively soft."  Patch baseball was, arguably, another name for this game.



An 1887 source reporting that Rounders was still being played in some Southern and Western states, also noted that the game was called Sockey in some states. Our only reference to Sockey is in an 1888 recollection of ballplaying at a PA school, and notes that this game was played against the wall of a stable.


As described in Bealle, Softball evolved from Indoor Baseball, which was first played in 1887. Softball rules are close to Baseball rules, but the infield dimensions were set to be smaller and the ball is pitched with an underhand motion. A full team has ten players. Many forms are played, depending on the age and agility of the players. The term Softball debuted in 1926.

Softball CricketContemporaryEngland

There are two teams of six to eight people. Everyone gets the chance to bat, bowl, and field.

Each game takes no more than an hour, and the team with the highest score wins; unless the scores are tied in which case it’s a draw.

== Batting ==

*Each team bats once. *Batters from the same team bat in pairs, one at each end of the wicket (the three stumps). *Each pair faces two or three overs (an over is six, bowled balls).

Here’s how you can be got out as a batter (dismissed):

  • Bowled (the ball hits the stumps) *Caught (a fielder catches the ball in the air off your bat) *Run out (a fielder hit the stumps before the running batters can reach them) *Stumped (the wicketkeeper hits the stumps with the ball when you’re not behind your line) *Hit wicket (you hit the stumps with your bat or body) *Leg before wicket (you deliberately block the ball with a leg or foot) * == Scoring ==
**Each batting team starts with a score of 200 runs **You score runs by running between the wickets (stumps) or by hitting the ball to the boundary. **You score four if the ball hits the ground before crossing the boundary; six if the ball’s hit over the boundary without touching the ground **Even if you miss the ball, or it hits your body, you can still run and score **If you’re out, five runs are taken from the total score and your batting partner faces the next ball. **Two runs are given to the batting team for each wide (a ball bowled wide of the wicket that’s impossible to reach). **The batting team also gets two runs for a no-ball: when the ball bounces more than twice before reaching the batter, or arrives at shoulder height or above, without bouncing.

per MacLagan. The Uist form of Pellet. A horse-hair ball is put in play with a trap, and the batter attempt to hit it with a bat. Outs are attained by caught fly balls, three missed swings, throwing the ball into the hole at home, and plugging runners between two calaichean (harbors). Points are scored by measuring the lengths of hits in bat-lengths.

Query: can we determine when this game was played?

Spoonie Hoosie1800s

The name for rounders in Crathie in Scotland around 1900, according to a 1975 source.


According to Block, an 1838 encyclopedia describes the game of Squares as “roughly identical” to contemporary Rounders and Baseball.

Urban Areas

A game usually played in urban streets. The ball is rubber -- a “spaldeen,” now virtually the same that used in racketball, and bats vary but include broom handles. Allowances are made for traffic of various sorts, and the bases are specified at the start of play. (Verification sought.)

[A]  Some Bronx Variants:


(1)  A report from Kevin Finneran, 1/19/2023:

"You will be happy to learn that stickball is still played in the South Bronx on a street that has been named Stickball Boulevard. But it's not real stickball because it's played by adults and is organized into formal teams with standings and team shirts. You can learn all about it here:  That is where you will learn that stickball was included in the 2001 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. 

One key characteristic of stickball: it was illegal. The cops in my neighborhood liked to break the bats in front of us. To focus on the many varieties of stickball: In my neighborhood alone there were at least half a dozen popular stickball venues, and the rules were different at each place and for the two or three varieties of the game played at each place. At the great anarchic heart of stickball is the fact that there was nothing standard, not even the Spalding spaldeen, which was the most common ball. There was also a more expensive and somewhat bouncier ball we called a Pinky, a name sometimes applied incorrectly to spaldeens. We seldom used it because it gave the hitter too much advantage, and we couldn't afford it. In addition, the length and thickness of the bat, the distance between manhole covers, the width of the street, the placement of impediments, the slope of the street, and anything else you can imagine also varied. All of these will be documented in my four-volume dissertation, a work that will be matched in significance only by the Reverend Causabon's "A Key to All Mythologies" from Middlemarch. I've started talking to a friendly editor at Simon & Schuster about the size of my advance. The only problem is that there are thousands of kids who grew up playing stickball, and each of them has his own compendium of games. I need to get there first.
A sidebar on the hazards of pinkness, which were not just political:  I've already told you about the toxic sewer ball, but what I feared even more was the egg ball. A spaldeen hit with a lot of spin would deform into an egg shape in the air, which meant as a fielder you would be trying to catch in your tiny 8-year-old bare hands a dauntingly spinning pink egg. It's a recurring nightmare that probably also afflicted Joe McCarthy.
(2) A report from Norm Metzger, 1/19/2023:
Stickball was a game for poor boys in a poor neighborhood, a game created out of materially little and shared imagination.
Stickball in my part of the Bronx (i.e. poor part) had several features worth noting, and maybe best forgotten.   There was of course the game itself plus the ancillaries including confiscations of our hard to acquire sticks, the economics of maintaining a supply of Spaldeens, various encounters with neighbors not least NYPD District 46, and certainly including local candyman Leo.

The game is a simple one.  No running the bases since there were none, certainly no umpires, but there were rules:

If the ball hit a car and bounced back into the field of play aka the street it was playable; else out.  If hit beyond two sewers that was a homerun.  However, rules were flexible.  For example, if too few showed up to play meaning no  "outfielders",  the game became one-sewer stickball.   

There were risks, meaning the appearance of a NYPD District 46 squad car.  The "handover" was ritualized. The car slowed down, the cop stuck out his hand, stick surrendered, and a search launched for another one; there was no "bat rack".

The loss  of the ball was another matter.  Most often, a ball was "lost" when the batter fouled it over the roof of the back of the  one-story Safeway.  Then, finances become operative, and whoever "lost" the ball was obliged to get another Spaldeen, an "obligation" frequently violated.  Acquiring a new Spaldeen  meant a trip to the end of our block, our "playing field", and a visit to the corner candy store and a chat with the proprietor, Leo, who had several distinctions including his generally good disposition and a tattoo of blue numbers on his right forearm.  Leo also made very good egg creams, which, following the classical recipe, contained neither egg or cream.  Go figure. 

(3)  A report from Raph Kasper, 2/4/2020:               

Stickball as played in the Public School 81 schoolyard [Bronx] -- no live baserunning - played with 1 or 2 players per team - pitcher threw a Spaldeen or tennis ball from a line ~65-70 feet from the school wall on which was marked a chalk rectangle running from knee - shoulder kid height and about 2x as wide as a baseball home plate [hence considerably larger than a normal strike zone] - batter stood in front of wall - balls that were not hit were called balls or strikes depending on whether they struck the wall within or outside the rectangle - arguments occasionally occurred, usually when the pitcher had  particularly good curve ball - batted balls were scored as outs if they were grounders or were caught on a fly - balls that hit a very high chain link fence ~125 feet away from the school wall on one bounce were singles, on the fly were doubles, over the fence but short of another fence a further ~100 feet away were triples, balls that hit the second fence on a fly or cleared it were home runs

(4) From Gregory Christiano, who played in the 1950s:

Stickball wasTHE quintessential game played on most city streets. Everyone played stickball. The equipment: A broomstick and the Spalding High-Bounce Pink Ball (the Spaldeen), three manholes and a lot of kids. [You have to consider – this light rubber bouncing ball made playing a ball game in the street safe. Apart from a hardball or softball, the Spaldeen bounced harmlessly off parked cars, never broke a window, and never knocked anyone out cold]. Bases were car door handles, car tires, manhole covers, and Johnny pumps, anything that served as a practical base. The walls of the apartment buildings were the foul lines. If the ball hit them it was foul. Parked cars were ignored except if they were used for bases. (full text at Supplemental Text,  below).


[B] Brooklyn variants:  From Neal Seldman and Mark Schoenberg

1- With (invisible, or "ghost" base runners).  Pitching and balls and strikes.  Strikes determined by a chalk drawn box on wall behind batter. Box is filled in with chalk so that all strikes make a mark on the ball.  Ball has to be wiped off after strike.

A ball hit past the pitcher on a fly is a single, a hit midway to the outfield fence is a double, hitting the fence and bouncing is a triple, and over the fence is a home run.  A ground ball that gets past the fielders and hits the fence is a single. If the grounder is caught cleanly it is an out.  If missed it is and error and hitter is on first.  

2 - With live baserunning. Same rules, runners run out the hits.  If there is a catcher, there is stealing.  Sometimes this game is played with the pitch coming on a bounce

When no facility was nearby, this game was often played on the street using sewer covers and cars as bases and landmarks for the number of bases awarded.

Traditional pitching and catching.  Umpires call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher.  There is stealing.

At Inlet Grounds, PS 206, East 23rd Street and Gravesend Neck Road.

The inlet is about 120 feet wide and five stories high.  Two high walls with windows (with metal bars to prevent breaking windows: a well hit Spaldeen easily breaks a window.)  Best played with three people on a team.  Pitcher, catcher, and fielder.  But there are 4-person games *(2 fielders) and one-on-one games.  The fielders stand somewhere near the batter in order to catch the ball off the wall behind the pitcher. Caught off the wall, is out.  A hit off the wall up to the second floor is a single.  Higher up the wall, a double, then a triple. On the roof is a homer.  BUT most of the balls hit on the roof come back.  That is, the spin of the hitting a ball that soars within 120 feet  has a backspin.  If the ball is caught off the roof it is an out.  This is a very dramatic play as it takes a few seconds for the ball to get on the roof, a few more seconds to the ball to roll back, then a few more seconds to see if the fielder will be able to make the play on a ball falling five stories and within a few inches of the wall, with backspin.

Usually pink Spaldeens were used.  But tennis balls allowed the pitcher much more variation and sharper curves and screwballs -- more surface.

(Communication from Neal Seldman and Mark Schoenberg)

 Stickball was played all over Brooklyn when I grew up. The game and its rules were infinite depending location and availability of "cawts". The "coop" in the school yard could be one on one or 2 on two.

One swing and if not in play was an out. Anything caught on a fly off the wall behind pitcher was an out. Pitcher catching hit on bounce was a single. Designated spots, higher and higher on building wall were double, triple, or HR.
Also played with balls and strikes if there was an available wall to chalk on strike zone.
Played in the street, with narrow foul lines. Could be running bases or not.  All kinds of ground rules. Cars shallower than first "sewer" (manhole cover could be out or foul, Off cars behind first sewer was fair ball. (Please mister, could you pawk foider up da street, yaw parkin' on da cawt.)
Always used broomstick bat and pink Spaldeen ball
[C] NYC  
(From a 2022 FaceBook ) "Your rules are more complicated than the ones we used on Long Island."
Roth:  Rules were not complicated as much as rules had to accommodate where you played and how many people were available. Each location had its "ground rules."
-- Joshua Roth, 3/18/2022 FB posting.



According to Gomme (1898), stones was a game played in Ireland in about 1850, using either a ball or a lob-stick. A circle of about a half-dozen stones is arranged, one for each player on the in team. A member of the out team throws the ball/stick at the stones in succession. If the defending player hits it away, all members of the out team must move to another stone. The in and out teams exchange places if a stone is hit by the thrower, the ball/stick is caught, or a player is hit while running between stones.

Stonyhurst Cricket1700s
Lancashire, England

There was a distinct form of cricket at the Roman Catholic College of Stonyhurst.  The game played there used a single-wicket, which took the shape of a 17-inch milestone, used a misshapen  hand-crafted ball with an exaggerated seams, encouraged bowling with two or more bounces before reaching the batsman,  used"baselines" set at 30 yards instead if 22-yards, and 3 to 5 players per side.  There was an out-of-bounds line.

The college was located outside England from about 1600 to 1794, and tre conjecture is that this game evolved separately from the dominant 11-man game during that period.

England (in the past century, predominantly in Sussex and other south east counties)

Stoolball’s first appearance was in the 1600’s; there are many more references to stoolball than to cricket in these early years.  For Protoball's listing of over 60 specific (but mostly fragmentary) sources on early stoolball -- 45 of them preceding the year 1700 -- see Chronology:Stoolball.

Believed to have originated as a game played by English milkmaids using a milking stool set on its side as a pitching target, stoolball evolved to include the use of bats instead of bare hands, and running among goals or bases.

The modern form of the is actively played in counties in the south east of England, and uses an opposing pair of square targets set well off the ground as goals, and heavy paddles as bats.  Since 2010, the game has experienced a renaissance, and now has active youth programs, a season-ending All-England match of prominent players, and the expansion of mixed-gender play. (The ancient game was played by women and men, but in recent years most players and have been women.)  The game is reportedly played in other countries as well.

For more information on Stoolball England and the current status of the game, see  Also see an account of today's stoolball at

Note: McCray suggests that before 1800, there is limited convincing evidence that stoolball involved baserunning.

Straight Town1800s

As of mid-2023, we have only two (late 1800s] mentions of Straight Town.  It is described as a variant of Round Town, for which the four bases are lain out in a straight line, rather than as a circuit.  Left unsettled is the matter whether advancing to the outmost base results in the scoring of a run. 

Stub OneDerivative

Apparently a baseball-like game, perhaps played in Massachusetts in the early 20th Century. We have but one obscure reference to this game, in Cassidy.

Sun and Planet1800s

In describing an indoor form of Stool Ball played in case of wet weather, an 1891 source adds:  "It is sometimes called Sun and Planet." 

The game is was often played with no fielders: "Sometimes there are scouts, but as a rule, the players all take stools [arranged in a circle] except the bowler, who is allowed to bowl out, catch out, and throw out just as at cricket."   

The article continues, "In the south of England Stool Ball is an outdoor game.  It is played in Sussex with a bat like a wooden battledore, and a wicket like a small notice board, the wicket being about six inches square, and the stick on which it is attached is about a foot from the ground.  The wicket is still called the stool so as to show its origin.  The same game is played indoors, when the wicket is merely a copy-book cover, a sheet of paper fixed to the wall in target fashion."  

Target Ball1800s

Target Ball appears to have strongly resembled stoolball, and thus cricket.  An illustration in its rulebook shows a paddle-shaped bat, a round "target" not much larger than the bat, and a ball marked like a tennis ball or double-eight-sewed stoolball.

"Target Ball supplies the need so much felt in girls' schools of a summer game which will take the place that cricket does in boys' schools."

The targets are placed 15 yards apart.  Baserunning is mandatory for hit balls.  "Bowlers" deliver balls underhand.  Deliveries that bounce are declared "no balls."  Balls are described as soft lawn-tennis balls.

Modern stoolball uses rectangular wicket separated by 16 yards, but no other differences from target ball are yet known.




Matthew McDowell at the University of Edinburgh reports finding evidence of targette being play in the 1890s on the Scottish island of Bute.

The rules of this game, popular among girls at Rothesay Academy there, are not yet known, but from coverage in the school magazine, it bore a resemblance to cricket: "there are first and second innings, the game is scored in runs, the bowlers attempt to claim wickets off of the batters." The magazine further boasted, "The Targette Club is a leviathan among clubs.  Did you ever hear of a school football club with 80 members in it?" McDowell finds indication that former students and members of the community also participated.

Rothesay is about 30 miles west of Glasgow and just off the mainland of Scotland.  Its current population is about 6,500.

A description of Spier's School in North Ayrshire, Scotland mentions, cryptically, that "a quaint game called targette was played in the early days."   Accessed 2/7/2014.The school is also on the Firth of Clyde in westernmost Scotland. 


Ten Position Baseball1800sHenry Chadwick pushed for this variation See Mark Brunke's article on Ten-Position baseball

A "Backyard Tennisball League" is found on Youtube as of September 2018.

This league of teenagers plays a 14-game season with playoffs.  Teams are up to 5 players, and the scoreboard reflects 4-inning games. The league is described as originated in 2011.

A list of 27 rules floats down the screen.  It includes a "peg rule", which may or may not imply plugging runners to make outs.  Stealing of 2B and 3B is allowed.  Knees-to chin strike zone (no umpire depicted).   Ground rules for "left field trees" and right field tree."  Apparent limits on pitch speed.  Grassy field.  No mention of use of imaginary runners.

Clips suggest wide borrowing from baseball - 4 bases, a skin pitching area, ordinary bats (wooden only), ordinary tennis balls, an outfield fence, throws to first by fielders to retire batters.  We see the hidden-ball trick and a runner-fielder collision at home plate.

The location of this league is not indicated.

The Union Hall Game of Ball1800s

A game they evidently knew as "base ball" was played by the students of the Union Hall Academy in Jamaica (Queens County, NY) well before the New York game began its spread in the mid 1850s.

Two students (Mills and Cogswell) who played the game in the early 1850s exchanged letters about it in 1905, both of them early members of the Knickerbocker Club.  (Excerpts are provided by John Thorn below.) The letters reveal these remembered features:

[] Plugging runners to put them out

[] Three bases, the first and third near that batter's station.

[] Use of foul territory -- its details not supplied

[] Flat bats

[] Flies caught on one bounce counted as outs

[] An all-out-side-out rule for ending an inning

[] An end-of-inning Lazarus Rule (three consecutive homers) for staying on offense

A third Union Hall student was William Wheaton (born 1814), who would have been at the school several years before Mills and Cogswell.  Wheaton recalled that in 1837, as a member of the Gotham Club at age 22 or 23, the Gotham "decided to remodel three-cornered cat and make a new game," and started by eliminating plugging. 

Thus, it seems plausible that the game played at Union Hall may have been a form of three-old-cat, perhaps evolving over time.  By 1850, of course, the Knickerbockers were playing intramural games elsewhere in New York.

It also seems possible that foul ground was a Union Hall innovation prior to the formation of the Gotham Club in 1837.












Thor-ballPredecessorDenmark, Holland

Bowen (1970) writes that “Gate-ball (‘Thorball’), as found in the early Dutch and Danish accounts is “obviously but wicket [cricket], again.”

Three Out All Out1800s
New York City

"Cauldwell recalled playing baseball in New York City when he was 'knee high to a mosquito" . . . .  The game he remembered was called simply 'three out all out.'"

Cauldwell was born in 1824.  Depending on the size of mosquitos then, the game he recalls was played in c1835.  One speculates that the game was a variant of a folk game preceding modern base ball.


Three-Base BallPredecessor

Craig Waff came across an 1894 reference to Three-Base Ball as having been played at Erasmus Hall, a school in Brooklyn. The game, reported as being playing circa 1840, involved vigorous plugging and while its rules are not further described, its playing positions suggest base ball. Two Old Cat is described separately in the 1894 article.

Three-Cornered Cat1800s

"Three-Corner Cat" is the name of a game recalled decades later by base ball founder William R. Wheaton, as having been played at a Brooklyn school in his youth.  See for a chronology entry on this game. 

"Three-cornered cat was a boys' game, and did well enough for slight youngsters, but it was a dangerous game for powerful men, because the ball was thrown to put out a man between bases, and it had to hit the runner to put him out."

As is indicated in the 1849c.4 entry, the rules of this game, as recalled in 1905, were something of a hybrid between three old cat and modern baseball.  Wheaton, who later had the job of writing new rules for the Gotham club, which were apparently a primary basis for the famous Knickerbocker rules of 1845. 

The Examiner article states: "Baseball to-day is not by any means the game from which it sprang. Old men can recollect the time when the only characteristic American ball sport was three-cornered cat, played with a yarn ball and flat paddles."



Block discusses whether Thèque belongs on the list of baseball’s predecessors. Thèque is an old Norman game, but there are evidently few descriptions of the game before baseball and rounders appeared. He cites an 1899 depiction of the game that shows five bases, plugging, and the pitcher belonging to the in-team, but otherwise resembles baseball and rounders. Block concludes that there is insufficient evidence to say whether Thèque came before or after the English counterpart game.


Strutt (1801) says there were various versions of Tip-Cat, and describes two of them. The first is basically a fungo game: a batter stands at the center of a circle and hits the cat a prescribed distance. Failing that, another player replaces him. (A similar version appears in The Boy’s Handy Book, but adds the feature that the fielding player tries to return the cat to the hitter’s circle such that the hitter does not hit it away again.)

In a second version, holes are made in a regular circle, and each is defended by an in-team player. The players advance after the cat is hit away by one of them, but they can be put out if a cat crosses them - that is, it passes between them and the next hole. Gomme (1898) notes that in some places runners are put out be being hit with the cat, and three misses makes an out. She adds that Tip-Cat was “once commonly played in London streets, now forbidden.” Writing in 1864, Dick noted that Tip-Cat was only rarely being played in the U.S. In 1896, however, Beard advises that it was experiencing a revival in the US, Germany, Italy, “and even in Hindostand,” whereas in about 1850 it had been confined to “rustics on England.” Richardson (1848) notes Tip-Cat’s resemblance to Single-Wicket Cricket. “Twenty-one [runs] is usually a game,” he adds. The earliest reference to a cat-stick we have is the 1775 report that a witness to the Boston Massacre carried a cat-stick with him.

Top DegenegiSyria

The English version of a (Syrian?) website includes the following text under the heading "Top Degenegi:"  

"Top Degenegi was similar to the American game of baseball.  To play, one needed a thick bat and a ball, which was usually made using bits of rag tied together with colorful string.  Two teams are formed, and they stand at a distance from one another.  Like in baseball, one team pitches and the other bats.  The batter has to hit the ball back in the direction of the pitching team, whose members must then try to catch the ball before it hits the ground."


Baseball is an American modification, and, of course, an improvement of the old English game of rounders; or, as it is called in West Riding, touch-ball. The children in these districts play it without a bat or club; they strike the ball with the open hand, and have posts or stones at the corners of the playground, which correspond to the ‘bases’ of the American game. If the ball was caught before it reached the ground, or the fielder could hit the striker with it before he reached the ‘touch,’ he was out., quoting the London Post 8/1/1874

New York Sunday Mercury

1874-08-16 00:00:00


Writing of the late 1860’s boyhood of a World War I General, Johnston (1919) writes that “the French boys were accustomed to play a game called tournoi, or tournament, which was something similar to the game of Rounders.” That’s all we seem to know about Tournoi.

Town BallPredecessor

Ideas of how to understand the term “Town Ball” are still evolving. In most common usage, the term seems to have been used generically to denote, in substantially later years, any of a variety of games that preceded the New York game in a particular area. Philadelphia Town Ball, however, used the term to denote a current game before the New York game emerged, and had generally standard rules (see “Philadelphia Town Ball,” entry, above). In Cincinnati another form evolved, and there are many recollections of town ball from the South and mid-West. Town ball is not infrequently confused with the Massachusetts Game, but the term is in fact very rarely found in MA sources in the 19th century.

For more information on Town Ball, see Chronology entry 1831.1 and Philadelphia Town Ball in the Protoball Glossary of Games.



Heslop (1893) defines this word as “a boys’ game of ball, otherwise known as Rounders, and formerly called Pie-Ball locally.


Gomme's compilation (1898) includes the game of Trunket, played with short sticks, and using a hole instead of wickets.  

"The ball being 'cop'd', instead of bowled or trickled on the ground, it is played in he same way [as cricket]; the person striking the ball must be caught out, or the ball must be deposited in the hole before the stick or cudgel  can be placed there."

This implies to Protoball that the batter runs bases after hitting the ball.  

Two-Base Town BallPredecessor

Describing ballplaying in the Confederate regiments during the Civil War, Wiley suggests that “the exercise might be of the modern version, with players running four bases, or it might be two-base town ball.” It is not clear whether he means “two-base town ball” as a formal name, or simply as a way to distinguish prior folk game(s) in the South. Long Ball and Long Town used two bases.

Unnamed Games - BalkansPredecessorBalkans

per Endrei and Zolnay. “We may be of the opinion that these ‘hitting’ games, which were universal in the Middle Ages, have disappeared entirely. This is far from true: in the Balkans they are still played by children . . . .” No other lead to the Balkan games is provided.

Unnamed Games - CzechPredecessorCzechoslovakia

per Guarinoni. This game, reportedly played in Prague circa 1600, involved two teams, pitching, and a small leather ball “the size of a quince.” The bat was tapered and four feet long. Caught balls caused the teams to change positions. Baserunning is not mentioned, according to David Block, but is at least inferred by Endrei and Zolnay: who say that the batter “attempted to make a circuit of the bases without being hit by the ball.” Guarinoni mentions that the Poles and the Silesians were the best players.

Unnamed Games - HungarianPredecessorHungary

per Endrei and Zolnay. “In Hungary several variants of rounders exist in the countryside.” No other lead to these variants is provided.

VigoroDerivativeQueensland, Australia

A sport that claims 1500 players among the women of Queensland, Australia, Vigoro is a souped-up version of (slightly down-sized) cricket. A key point is that if a ball Is hit forward of the crease, running is compulsory.

Dominican Republic

The game of vitilla ("vee-TEE-ya') is reportedly played widely in the Dominican Republic.  "What Dominican doesn't play vitilla?," asked Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez.  Several other Major Leagues attribute some of their skills to the game.

". . . the concept is the same [as baseball] -- to hit a moving object with a stick.  But because the vitilla is smaller than a baseball and moves unpredictable when thrown, and because the bat is thinner, some . . . believe playing it so regularly helped their hand-eye coordination."

Times article does not detail the game's rules, and it is not yet clear to Protoball whether batters actually run bases.  A photograph suggests that balls and strikes are determined by whether a pitched cap hits a small (12 inch?) target set up behind the batter. 

The article refers to a similar game, called chapita, played in Venezuela.




"A game of tip-cat.  Four boys stand the corners of a large paving-stone; two have sticks, the other two are feeders, and throw the piece of wood called a 'cat.'  The batters act much in he same way as in cricket, except that the cat must be hit whilst in the air.  The batter hits it as far away as possible, and whilst the feeder is fetching it, gets, if possible, a run, which counts to his side.  If either of the cats fall to the ground [being missed by the batter?] both batters go out, and the feeders take their place."

Waggles (Whacks)Derivative

Gomme (1898) compares Waggles to a game of four-player Cricket using cats instead of balls.

Washington Game1800sWashington DC


See; the source is the National Museum on African American History.

Caption: "Throughout the late 19th century, baseball teams—both black and white—played on the Ellipse, just north of the Museum, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass was an honorary member of the Mutual Base Ball Club, which was owned by his son Charles A. Douglass, who also played for the team. Because there were no fences, batters who hit long distances could run around the bases and score as many times as possible before the fielders could return the ball to home plate, according to the generous rules of the so-called 'Washington game.' Scores could top the 100 mark before the rules were changed."

<The attendant photograph showed a game in the Washington Ellipse in 1942>

Water Baseball1800s

The earliest known game of water baseball was played in 1879 on the [Hudson?] River.  Pitcher, catcher, and btter stood in waist-deep water and other players in deeper water. 

A variety devised in the 1930s involved teams of six, baselines of 45 yards, balls put in play by throws from a diving board, and runner-swimmers vulnerable to being put out by plugging with the [rubber] ball.

Welsh BaseballDerivativeWales, UK


Author Martin Johns describes Welsh baseball as having evolved from rounders, and having been re-named baseball in 1892. It has been largely confined to Cardiff and Newport, and further to the working-class sections of those towns. Sixty neighborhood clubs were playing in 1921, and five Cardiff schools formed a baseball league in 1922.

In 2015, the Welsh Baseball website at lists eight clubs in a Premier League, several of them evidently providing summer sport for local soccer clubs. 

This game uses a smaller ball than is found in US baseball, and features a flattened bat, underhand pitching, eleven-player teams, no foul ground, an all-out-side-out rule, and two-inning games.

Note: in 1927, the rules for Welch baseball and Liverpool baseball were evidently combined.  See "British Baseball" at and at

London, England

In Gomme's 1898 survey, she includes the following sentence in an account of the game of waggles:

"A game called 'Whacks' is played in a similar way [to that of Waggles, a form of tip-cat] -- London streets."


The game of wicket was evidently the dominant game played in parts of Connecticut, western MA, and perhaps areas of Western New York State, prior to the spread of the New York game in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Wicket resembles cricket more than baseball. The “pitcher” bowls a large, heavy ball toward a long, low wicket, and a batter with a heavy curved club defends the wicket. Some students of cricket note that it resembles cricket before it evolved to its modern form, with its higher narrower wicket.

A 1834 book published in Boston (See Robin Carver, below) includes, as a final word on cricket, an account of a simpler form of cricket, this view:

"This is, I believe, the old and original way of playing cricket.  It is also played in a simpler way. Two wickets are placed at some distance from each other. The  consist each of two short stakes fixed in the ground, and a cross stick places in notches, in the stakes about the height of the ball from the ground.  Two bowlers stand at each wicket and roll the ball along the ground with the view of knocking off the cross stick.  The striker strives to prevent this by hitting the ball  with his bat: but if he strike it so that it is caught by any of the other players, he is out."

This very low wicket certainly resembles the target in the game called wicket in the Nineteenth Century.




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