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1621.1 Some Pilgrims "Openly" Play "Stoole Ball" on Christmas Morning: Governor Clamps Down
Governor Willliam Bradford
Governor Bradford describes Christmas Day 1621 at Plymouth Plantation, MA; "most of this new-company excused them selves and said it wente against their consciences to work on ye day. So ye Govr tould them that if they made it mater of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed. So he led away ye rest and left them; but when they came home at noone from their worke, he found them in ye street at play, openly; some at pitching ye barr, and some at stoole-ball and shuch like sport. . . . Since which time nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly."
Bradford, William, Of Plymouth Plantation, [Harvey Wish, ed., Capricorn Books, 1962], pp 82 - 83. Henderson cites Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856. See his ref 23. Full text supplied by John Thorn, 6/25/2005. Also cited and discussed by Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 190
Bradford explained that the issue was not that ball-playing was sinful, but that playing openly while others worked was not good for morale.
Note: From scrutinizing early reports of stoolball, Protoball does not find convincing evidence that it was a base-running game by the 1600s.
1725c.1 Wicket Played on Boston Common at Daybreak
Judge Samuel Sewell
"March, 15. Sam. Hirst [Sewall's grandson, reportedly, and a Harvard '23 man -- (LMc)] got up betime in the morning, and took Ben Swett with him and went into the [Boston MA] Common to play at Wicket. Went before any body was up, left the door open; Sam came not to prayer; at which I was most displeased.
"March 17th. Did the like again, but took not Ben with him. I told him he could not lodge here practicing thus. So he lodg'd elsewhere. He grievously offended me in persuading his Sister Hannam not to have Mr. Turall, without enquiring of me about it. And play'd fast and loose in a vexing matter about himself in a matter relating to himself, procuring me great Vexation."
Diary of Samuel Sewall, in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Published by the Society, Boston, 1882) Volume VII - Fifth Series, page 372. As cited by Thomas L. Altherr, “There is Nothing Now Heard of, in Our Leisure Hours, But Ball, Ball, Ball,” The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture 1999 (McFarland, 2000), p. 190.
While this is the first known reference to ballplaying on Boston Common, there are several later ones. See Brian Turner, "Ballplaying and Boston Common; A Town Playground for Boys . . . and Men," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 21-24.
A letter in "The Nation," July 7, 1910, dates this play in 1726. Cites George Dudley Seymour's address to the CT Society of Colonial Wars. [ba]
1760s.1 Harvard Man Recalls Cricket, "Various Games of Bat and Ball" on Campus
Writing of the Buttery on the Harvard campus in Cambridge MA, Sidney Willard later recalled that "[b]esides eatable, everything necessary for a student was there sold, and articles used in the play-grounds, as bats, balls, &c. . . . [w]e wrestled and ran, played at quoits, at cricket, and various games of bat and ball, whose names perhaps are obsolete."
Sidney Willard, Memories of Youth and Manhood [John Bartlett, Cambridge, 1855], volume 1, pp 31 and 316. Thomas L. Altherr, "A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball," reprinted in David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It, ref # 44.
1791.1 "Bafeball" Among Games Banned in Pittsfield MA - also Cricket, Wicket
In Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in order to promote the safety of the exterior of the newly built meeting house, particularly the windows, a by-law is enacted to bar "any game of wicket, cricket, baseball, batball, football, cats, fives, or any other game played with ball," within eighty yards of the structure. However, the letter of the law did not exclude the city's lovers of muscular sport from the tempting lawn of "Meeting-House Common." This is the first indigenous instance of the game of baseball being referred to by that name on the North American continent. It is spelled herein as bafeball. "Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.
An account of this find (a re-find, technically) is at John Thorn, "1791 and All That: Baseball and the Berkshires," Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, Volume 1, Number 1 (Spring 2007) pp. 119-126.
Per John Thorn: The History of Pittsfield (Berkshire County),Massachusetts, From the Year 1734 to the Year 1800. Compiled and Written, Under the General Direction of a Committee, by J. E. A. Smith. By Authority of the Town. [Lea and Shepard, 149 Washington Street, Boston, 1869], 446-447. The actual documents themselves repose in the Berkshire Athenaeum.
While this apppears to be the first American use of the term "base ball," see item 1786.1 above, in which a Princeton student notes having played "baste ball" five years earlier. See item 1786.1.
The town of Northampton MA issued a similar order in 1791, but omitted base ball and wicket from the list of special games of ball. See item 1791.2. Northampton is about 40 miles SE of Pittsfield.
John Thorn's essay on the Pittsfield regulation is found at John Thorn, "The Pittsfield "Baseball" By-law: What it Means," Base Ball Journal (Special Issue on Origins), Volume 5, Number 1 (Spring 2011), pages 46-49.
1826.3 Base Ball Associated with Boston Gymnasium Proposal?
Messrs. William Sullivan and John G. Coffin have petitioned the Councils of Boston for the use of a piece of public ground, for two years, for the establishment of a Gymnastic School–a measure of doubtful propriety, we apprehend. If a boy wants to play; let him play but do not spoil the fun by dictating the modus operandi–a game of base ball, or foot ball, is worth a dozen gymnassiums [sic], where the eye of surveillance is to check the flow of animal spirits.
United States Gazette (Philadelphia) March 28, 1826
Note that this find comes five years before town ball is seen in Philadelphia.
From Bruce Allardice, email of 6/9/2021:
Was the Gymnasium actually established in Boston? Was ballplaying among its activities? Was gymnastics seen in the Commons in the early years?
Isn't this ref a very early appearance of the term foot ball in the US? Can we learn what rules may have applied?
1850s.25 If It's May Day, Boston Needs All its Sam Malones at the Commons!
"On the first of May each year, large crowds filled the [Boston] Commons to picnic, play ball or other games, and take in entertainment."
John Corrigan, "The Anxiety of Boston at Mid-Century," in Business of the Heart: Religion and Emotion in the Nineteenth Century (University of California Press, 2002), page 44. Accessed 11/15/2008 via Google Books search ("business of the heart"). Corrigan's source, supplied 10/31/09 by Joshua Fleer, is William Gray Brooks, "Diary, May 1, 1858."
1857.47 On Boston Common, "Several Parties Engaged in Matches of Base Ball" on Fast Day
"The Common was thronged with citizens many of whom engaged in ball-playing. The Bay State Cricket Club were out in full force and had fine sport. Several parties engaged in matches at base ball, enjoying the exercise exceedingly, and furnishing a large amount of amusement to the spectators."
"Fast Day", Boston Herald, April 17, 1857, page 4.
It seems plausible that by 1857 the rules used had some resemblance to those codified as the Dedham (Massachusetts Game) rules in 1858.
1865.10 New England Association Formed
[A] "...the fact is, the Massachusetts and Maine players are so far removed from New York, that they cannot conveniently participate in the meetings of the National Association, and therefore they purpose setting up a duplicate institution...They will, of course, indorse the rules of the National Association...At a meeting lately held at the rooms of the Tri-Mountain Club, the following resolutions were adopted...Resolved, That the Tri-Mountain Base ball Club us its utmost influence and endeavors to secure the formation and organization of a New England Convention of National Baseball Players."
[B] "...A preliminary meeting of Delegates from those Clubs who propose joining the New England Convention of National Base Ball Players will be held on WEDNESDAY next, Oct. 25th, at 12 M., at the Hancock House, Court square, Boston...The following named Clubs have signified their intention of taking part...Tri-Mountain, of Boston, Fly-Away of East Boston, Harvard of Cambridge, Granite of Holliston, King Phillip of East Abingdon, Dictator of Newton, Continental of Newtonville."
[C] "N. E. CONVENTION OF BASE BALL CLUBS.-- A convention of delegates from the Dictator, Eureka, Electric, Fly-Away, Granite, Harvard, King Phillip, Lightfoot, Lowell, Orient, and Tri-Mountain Base Ball Clubs, was held at the Hancock House, yesterday...the association shall be called the New England Association of National Base Ball Clubs."
[A] New York Sunday Mercury, Feb. 19, 1865
[B] Boston Herald, Oct. 21, 1865
[C] Boston Herald, Nov. 9, 1865