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[A] A boys’ game reportedly played in Hawaii before the game of base ball was introduced in the 1860s. As described, its rules were consistent with those of wicket, but no running or scoring is mentioned.
[B] See also item 1855c.10:
"In 1855 the new game of wicket was introduced at Punahou [School] and for a few years was the leading athletic game on the campus. . . . [The] fiercely contested games drew many spectators from among the young ladies and aroused no common interest among the friends of the school."
"One game they all enjoyed was wicket, often watched by small Mary Burbank. Aipuni, the Hawaiians called it, or rounders, perhaps because the bat had a large rounder end. It was a forerunner of baseball, but the broad, heavy bat was held close to the ground."
[Through further digging, John Thorn suggests the migration of wicket to Hawaii through the Hawaii-born missionary Henry Obookiah. At age 17, Obookiah traveled to New Haven and was educated in the area. He may well have been exposed to wicket there. He died in 1818, but not before helping organize a ministry [Episcopalian?] in Hawaii that began in 1820.
See also John Thorn's 2016 recap is the supplementary text to 1855c.10.
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.
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.
|Balle au Camp||France|
Translated as “rounders” in an 1855 translation of a French poem. Maigaard identifies it as a longball-type game with four bases [set in a line] and in which the ball is thrown into the field by a member of the in team to initiate play.
A fungo-like game played in Elizabethan times in England. The ball was an inflated leather bag, and was knocked with the arm - sometimes aided by a wooden brace. Hitting for distance was evidently desired, but no running or fielding is described.
As depicted in Protoball Chronology entry 1660c.3, balslaen was prohibited on the Sabbeth in New Netherland (now New York City) in the 17th century. The source is a 2009 book's translation from a Dutch ordinance of the 1600s. The translator mentions that while "balslaen" has been [where?] translated as "cricket," it "simply means 'hitting the ball.'
With the generous help of Pamela Bakker, we find that "balslaen" can be taken as a description of games like hand-ball, or a team game like volleyball in which players propel a ball with their hands. The game described in Item 1660c.3 appears to be the game of Kaatsen -- Pamela's summary:
"Kaatsen/Ketsen, Caetsen, Caatsen
"Kaatsen is a Dutch-Flemish form of handball which is largely played in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands, and in about 50 other countries. The game is mentioned in the 1600’s in records of New Netherlands (New York) with prohibitions against playing the game on the Sabbath. It is related to American handball and tennis with the first team to score 6 games winning the match. The game is played on a rectangular field which measures about 61 meters by 32 meters. Two teams of three players each operate on opposing sides. One side is the serving side (A) and one the receiving side (B).
"The center of the shorter field line, a 5 meter by 19 meter zone, is the receiving area which has two players positioned there to defend it with the third player in the field out front. The serving opponent (A) serves the hard leather ball with their bare hand from a serving box which is about 30 meters from the receiving zone. If it reaches the opponent’s receiving zone (B), they receive a point.
"The team on the receiving position now tries to hit the ball past the first kaats which landed and if another rally takes place, they try to hit the ball past the second kaats and then add in the points if successful.
Bandy was a game that reportedly resembled shinty or modern field hockey, in which players on two teams attempted to advance a ball with a club into the opposing team's goal.
According to Gomme , 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.
|Barn Ball (House Ball)|
A two-player game set against a wall or barn. The pitch is made from about ten feet away against the wall, and the batter tries to hit it on the rebound. If successful, he runs to the wall and back. If he misses the ball, and the pitcher catches the rebounding pitch on the fly or on one bound, the batter is out. XX add cite XX. Beard (1896) calls a similar game House Ball. It specifies a brick house, perhaps for the peace of mind of occupants.
|Base (Prisoner's Base)|
Sometimes seen as a name for base ball. While some references to “base” most likely denote Prisoner’s Base (a team form of tag similar in nature to modern Capture the Flag and, perhaps, today’s Laser Tag), others denote a ball game. David Block reports that the earliest clear appearance of “base” as a ball game is from New England in 1831, and that his source groups base with cricket and cat as young men’s ballgames.
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.”
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.
We have references to bat-ball from 1791 (when it was banned in both Pittsfield and Northampton MA), but the basic rules of this game as first played are unclear. Writers have diversely compared it to bandy, to schlagball, and to punchball. It is clear that a club was not always required for hitting, as the ball could instead be slapped into play by the hand.
"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.
All we know about Batton is that in 1851 boys played a game in the village of Norfolk, MA - about 20 miles SW of Boston.
A game called bittle battle is mentioned (but not described) in the 1086 Domesday Book in England. Some have claimed that this game resembled Stoolball.
[A] In fact, Gomme  defines Bittle-Battle as “the Sussex game of ‘Stoolball.’”
[B] Similarly, Andrew Lusted reports that an 1875 source lists bittle battle as "another word for stoolball,"
[C] 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, . . . "
Tom Altherr has found a reference to buff-ball in Baltimore in 1773.
A visitor wrote in his journal for 10/28/1773: "In Baltimore for some Buff-Ball." Tom notes that the nature of the game is not known, but that OED lists "to hit something" as one meaning of "buff."
per Brewster . “Basemen” stand at each corner of a bounded field of play, and try to plug other players inside the bounds. Each player has three “eyes” [lives]. A player loses an “eye” if plugged or if a target player catches a ball thrown at him. There is no batting or baserunning in this game.
According to Gomme, a Lincolnshire glossary specifies that Bunting is a name for Tip-Cat.
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:
 Eleven players.
 All-out-side out innings.
 Two innings to be played.
(Note that these three rules are familiar cricket rules)
 Use of four bases, in addition to home base
 The plugging of baserunners when away from bases
 Throwing, not pitching to batsmen
 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 Jamieson (1825). A game known in County Fife. Two teams, armed with clubs, try to drive a ball into a hole defended by their opponents. This game may have resembled field hockey more than a safe-haven game.
For a recent description of Cat/Old-Cat, see Supplemental Text below.
Per Culin. A batting game played with a six-inch, pointed wooden “cat.” The cat is pitched to a batter standing near a four-foot circle. The batter is out if he hits a caught fly or if the ball falls, unhit, into the circle. If put out, the batter goes to the end of the sequence of fielders, and the pitcher becomes the new batter. A batter can accrue points based on the distance from the circle to the where the hit ball lands. A version described by Newell allows the batter to elevate and hit any cat that is pitched outside the circle.
Note: A Dutch book printed in 1845 also describes "Kat:" See http://protoball.org/1845.29.
"The Kat is a piece of wood about 6 inches long, 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide at the midpoint and comes to a point at both ends making the form of a double cone. The Kat is placed on the ground in the middle of a big circle and a player uses a "ball stick" to hit one end of it to launch it into the air. As it comes down he tries to hit it out of the circle. If he fails to hit it or doesn't hit it out of the circle he steps off and the next player takes his turn. If he's successful he's assigned a certain number of points depending on how far he hit it."
|Cat i’ The Hole||Scotland|
per Brand and Jamieson. All but one player stands by a hole, holding a stick [called a “cat.”] The last player, holding a ball, gives a signal, and the others run to place their stick in the next adjacent hole before a ball enters it, or he will become the thrower.
Gomme specifies that when before thrower tosses the ball, he gives a sign and all the (boy) players must scramble to a neighbor's hole to obstruct the ball from entering it.
Court records from 1583 [Elizabeth I was in her 25th year as queen] show a dim view of this game. “Whereas there is great abuse in a game or games used in the town called ‘Gidigadie or the Cat’s Pallet . . . ‘ no manner persion shall play at the same games, being above the age of seven years, either in the churchyard or in any streets of the this town, upon pain of . . . being imprisoned in the Doungeon for the space of two hours . . . . Thus, Gidigadie may be another name for Cat’s Pallet. The rules of this game are as yet unknown.
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;
http://protoball.org/1833.3 [Cat-and-dog as the ancestor of cricket]
http://protoball.org/1841.11 [Scottish dictionary account]
http://protoball.org/1856.30 [Nyack, NY, 1856]
http://protoball.org/1866.10 [Pittsburgh PA throwback game]
|Cerkelspelen (Circle-Game?)||Flanders, Belgium|
According to Maigaard, Cerkelspelen was “rounders without batting” as played in Flanders. The game evidently had five bases, with fielders near each one, but the infield area was occupied only by the in-team.
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.
per Strutt. Strutt speculates that Club-ball was the ancient ancestor of many ball games. Its rules of play are not known.
|Cluich an Tighe|
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.
This game, encountered in Upper Egypt in the 1850s, is briefly described: it is “played likewise with a ball; one tosses it, and another strikes it with his hand, and runs to certain limits, if he can, without being hit by a ‘fag’ who picks up the ball and throws in.”
A plugging game that is closer to dodge ball than to safe-haven games. Some players, standing at designated corners or the perimeter of the playing area, pass the ball teammate to teammate in order to make it easier for one of them to plug anyone among group of players swarming around inside the field. If plugged, a player is out of the game.
A reference to “crekettes” in a 1533 poem has been construed as evidence that the game of cricket originated in a pastime brought to England by Flemish weavers , who arrived in the 14th Century. A German scholar thinks that this earlier game originated in the Franco-Flemish border area as early as 1150. We have no faint notion of how this earlier game might have been played.
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.
Dodgeball is a basic youth game with no batting or safe-haven bases. Two teams form. A player can be put out by being hit with a throw rubber ball, unless he catches it, in which case the thrower is out. The game ends when the last player on a team is put out.
A discussion of several dodgeball variants is found at http://www.funandgames.org/games/GameDodgeball.htm. None mentions base-running or batting, but plugging is a central feature.
Some trace the history of dodgeball to the ancient Egyptions, and the Romans played a version of the game. (citation?)
There is a National College Dodgeball Association at http://www.ncdadodgeball.com/index.html
According to an 1860 text, players sit on stools placed in a circle, and one player tosses or strikes a ball into the air. If he retrieves the ball and hits another player before that player reaches the next stool, the two players switch roles.
|Drive Ball||New England|
 Drive ball: An 1835 book published in New Haven describes drive ball. David Block's summary: "In this activity, two boys with bats face each other, taking turns fungoing the ball. When one boy hits the ball, the other has to retrieve it as quickly as he can, then fungo it back from the spot he picked it up."
 Drive: A ball game, listed along with the Old Cat games and Baseball, mentioned in the memoirs of a New Hampshire man born in 1831. The rules of this game are not given. It may not have been a baserunning game.
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.
A version of this game described in 1860 has players place their hats near a wall. One of them tosses a ball from 15 feet away, and if the ball lands in a player’s hat, he tries to quickly plug a fleeing compatriot or else he receives an “egg” [a small stone] in his hat. Three stones and you’re out of the game.
|English Base Ball||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”.
per Gilbert (1910). Remembered as Town Ball, this game was a simple fungo game played in the 1850s in which a fielder who caught a hit ball on the fly or on one bounce became the fungo batter.
per “The Boy’s Own Book.” A non-team form of rounders using three bases in which a player who is put out then takes on the role of feeder [pitcher]. An 1859 handbook describes feeder as a game with four or five stones or marks for bases. Plugging is permitted.
Bowen (1970) writes that “Gate-ball (‘Thorball’), as found in the early Dutch and Danish accounts is “obviously but wicket [cricket], again.”
Court records from 1583 [Elizabeth I was in her 25th year as queen] show a dim view of this game. “Whereas there is great abuse in a game or games used in the town called ‘Gidigadie or the Cat’s Pallet . . . ‘ no manner persion shall play at the same games, being above the age of seven years, either in the churchyard or in any streets of the this town, upon pain of . . . being imprisoned in the Doungeon for the space of two hours . . . . Thus, Gidigadie may be another name for Cat’s Pallet.
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."
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 he 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."
An apparent non-running relative of tip-cat. A batter hits a gulli (a six-inch cat) with a danda, and is out if a fielder catches it. If it falls to the ground, a fielder throws it back, trying to hit the danda, which is laid on the ground. It is not clear if this is a team game, or if the gulli is pitched on simply fungoed. There is no running. The geographical range of its play is unclear.
per McLean. McLean notes that hand-in and hand-out was among the games banned by King Edward IV in 1477. She identifies it as “probably a kind of trick catch.” The 1477 ban spelled the game name as “handyn and handout.”
A form of Roly Poly (or Roley Poley or Roll Ball) that substitutes hats for holes in the ground. Newell says this game was played among the Pennsylvania Dutch.Brewster says that Hat Ball variants are known in many countries, and include Petjeball [Dutch] and Kappenspiel [German].
|Hoina||Romania||A predecessor of Oina.|
Our single reference to this game comes from an 1847 Alabama newspaper in its attempt to describe curling to southern readers: “Did you ever play ‘bass ball,’ or ‘goal,’ or ‘hook-em-snivy,’ on the ice?” Its nature is unknown. “Hookum-snivy” is slang for adultery, not that it matters.
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.
|Hornie-Holes (also Kittie-Cat)|
per Jamieson (1825.) Two teams of two boys, defend their holes with a sticks, described as like a walking sticks, against a cat (“a piece of stick, and frequently a sheep’s horn”) thrown “at some distance” by their opposite numbers.
The German game of schlagball was reportedly called Imperial Ball and Kaiserball as played in Austria.
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."
According to Brewster, Kappenspiel is the German word for Hat Ball.
An 1834 book on a tour to Abyssinia mentions this game, taken to be “the same game we call bat ball” in England.
|Kibel and Nerspel||Stixwould, England|
per Gomme. A game played at Sitxwold [huh?] resembling “Trap, Bat, and 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.
|Knattleikar||Iceland||A ball game recorded in the “Younger Edda:” Its rules are not known.|
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.”
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.
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.
|Long Ball (European baserunning game)|
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.
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 Game||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 Meta||Hungary|
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."
per Games and Sports. Each player is assigned the name of a day of the week. A player throws a ball against a wall, calling out a day. The player assigned that day must catch the ball, or if missing it must throw as one of his fleeing compatriots, losing a point if he misses.
per Gomme. A boy throws a small stick to another boy standing near a hole, who tries to hit it with a three-foot stick, and then to run to a prescribed mark and back without being touched by the smaller stick, and without that stick being thrown into or very near the hole. Any even number of boys can play this game.
Sometimes described as a board game or a form of quoits, Nine Holes is elsewhere (1853-1868) depicted as a running game -- in which players had to run among holes without being plugged by a ball -- that resembles Hat-ball and Egg-Hat.
|Norr and Spell|
A game described as the same as Trap Ball. Also names as Nor and Spel, Knur and Spell, and Nur and Spel. Gomme notes that a wooden ball was sometimes used. The objective was mainly to hit the ball for distance.
A game described as the same as Trap Ball.
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.
A writer's recollection of past Boston sports, including base ball, includes the unexplained game of "Old Grope."
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.
|One O’ Cat||Brooklyn|
per Culin. A non-team variety of base ball entailing fly outs and four bases and a three-strike rule, but no plugging. Players rotate through a series of fielding positions with each out, until they become one of two batters. “An ordinary base-ball bat is used.”
|One, Two, Three||Brooklyn|
per Culin. Identical to Culin’s One O’Cat, differing only in the way that players call out their initial positions.
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.
|Palm Ball (Slap Ball)|
A form of baseball in which the ball is slapped by the slapper-runner, rather than being batted with a club. (Needs verification.)
|Patch Baseball||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.
(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.
According to Brewster, Petjeball was the early Dutch term for Hat Ball.
|Philadelphia Town Ball||Philadelphia|
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.
a game defined in the OED as “a game similar to Rounders in which a ball is hit with the flat of the hand.” The game is mainly associated with the English North Country, and is said to feature three or four ‘tuts,’ or stopping-places. The first cited use appeared in 1796. Gomme (page 45) adds that if the batter-runner is hit before reaching on of the “tuts” he is “said to be burnt, or out.
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."
a traditional Finnish game, features of which were incorporated into Pesapallo.
A writer's recollection of past Boston sports, including base ball, includes the unexplained game of "Rickets."
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 the state of Massachusetts. New England also has references to goal, or goal ball, base, or base ball, and bat-and-ball forf 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.
|Round Town (Round Town Ball)||PA, VA|
[A] 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.
[B] Another game called Round Town is described as follows:
An Old Virginia Ball 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.
[C] In February 2016, Bill Hicklin adds:
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.
 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!)
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.
|Rounders - Britain|
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 -- Hungary||Hungary|
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.
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.
"RUSHING BASES. Draw two bases, with a wide space between them. All the players then station themselves in one base, except one boy, to be ' and King Caesar,' by choice or otherwise, and he places himself midway between the bases. The men then attempt to run from one base to the other, and the King strives the catch them; and whenever he takes one, he claps him on the head and cries thrice, 'Crown thee, King Caesar!' and he must thenceforth assist his Majesty in catching the rest of the men, each of whom must, as he is taken, join the royal party; the last man captured being King for the next game. The crowning must be distinctly pronounced thrice, else the captive can be demanded buy his party."
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 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.
A game banned, along with cat-ball, in Norwich CT in 1832. A 1890 source describes Sky-Ball as a fungo game in which a player who can catch the hit ball qualifies to hit the next fungo.
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.
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?
According to Block, an 1838 encyclopedia describes the game of Squares as “roughly identical” to contemporary Rounders and Baseball.
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 Cricket||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.
|Stoolball||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 http://www.stoolball.org.uk/. Also see an account of today's stoolball at https://protoball.org/Stoolball_Today_--_The_Rejuvenation_of_an_Ancient_Pastime
Note: McCray suggests that before 1800, there is little convincing evidence that stoolball involved baserunning.
|The Union Hall Game of Ball||NY|
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.
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 Out||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.
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-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 http://protoball.org/1849c.4 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.
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.
In Tip-e-Up, boy A would loft a short soft toss to a batter B, who wouold hit the ball upward. If A could catch the fungoed ball on the fly, he took possession of the bat.
There appear to be two distinct games that have been labeled Touch-Ball. One was as a local synonym for Rounders, as recalled in an 1874 Guardian article written on the occasion of the 1874 base ball tour in England. That game was recalled as having no bats, so the ball was propelled by the players’ hands; the “touch” was the base. Writing in 1922, Sihler that in Fort Wayne IN from 1862 to 1866 (when base ball arrived) “the favorite game was ‘touch-ball,’ where “touch” referred to the plugging or tagging of runners.
Writing of the Ohio youth of a Civil War general in about 1840, Whitelaw Reid (1868) reported that “Touch-the-Base” was the favorite game, and of all who engaged in the romp, none were more eager or happy than ‘Jimmy” (the late Major-General James McPherson). We cannot be sure that this was a ball game.
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.
Trap ball is one of the earliest known ball games. Its distinguishing characteristic is the use of a “trap,” a mechanical device that, when triggered by a batter, lofts the ball to a height at which it may be struck. Most forms of trap ball do not involve running or bases; to the modern eye, it is a fungo-type game. Trap ball commonly used foul territory to define balls that were in play, where the “play” involved the catching and tossing back of the ball toward the batter. Trap ball persists today in Kent, England, as a tavern game.
Per wikipedia article on "knurr and spell": "Knurr and spell (also called northern spell, nipsy or trap ball) is an old English game, once popular as a pub game. The game originated in the moors of Yorkshire, in England, but then spread throughout the north of England. It can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th century. It was especially popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, but was virtually unknown by the 21st century, though there was a local revival in the 1970s. As late as the 1930s exhibition games of knur and spell by veterans drew large crowds to the Rusland Valley in North Lancashire, according to the chronicles of the North-West Evening Mail, but even then it was regarded as an archaic game....
In Yorkshire it is played with a levered wooden trap known as a spell, by means of which the knurr, about the size of a walnut, is thrown into the air. In Lancashire the knurr is suspended stationary from string. The knurr is struck by the player with the stick. The object of the game is to hit the knurr the greatest possible distance, either in one or several hits. Each player competes as an individual, without interference, and any number can enter a competition.
The stick is a bat consisting of two parts: a 4 feet (1.2 m) long stick made of ash or lancewood; and a pommel, a piece of very hard wood about 6 inches (150 mm) long, 4 inches (100 mm) wide and 1 inch (25 mm) thick. This was swung in both hands, although shorter bats for one hand were sometimes used. A successful hit drives the ball about 200 yards (180 m). The stroke is made by a full swing round the head, not unlike a drive in golf.
Originally the ball was thrown into the air by striking a lever upon which it rested in the spell or trap, but in the later development of the game a spell or trap furnished with a spring was introduced, thus ensuring regularity in the height to which the knurr is tossed, somewhat after the manner of the shooter's clay pigeon. By means of a thumb screw, the player can adjust the spring of the spell or trap according to the velocity of release desired for the ball.
On a large moor, and where the game is general, the ground is marked out with wooden pins driven in every 20 yards (18 m). In matches each player supplies their own knurrs and spells and has five rises of the ball to a game."
In the US, in 1821 the Kensington House, a popular resort near NYC, advertised that its grounds were "well adapted to the playing of the noble game of cricket, base, trap-ball, quoits, and other amusements..."
Gomme (1898) identifies this game as the Lancashire version of Trap Ball. A game named Trypet is listed in a English-Latin dictionary from the 1300s.
An old Dutch game. Chetwynd reports that a proponent of the importation of baseball to the Netherlands in the 1910s “pitched it as an ideal summer activity. It probably helped that Grasé pointed out that baseball bore a resemblance to an ancient Dutch game, called “Tripbal,” which had been played by American colonists.” We have no other reference to this game in the US, and no indication of how it was played.
|Trippit and Coit (Trippets, Trip-Cat)||Newcastle, England|
Gomme (1898) identifies this game as the Newcastle version of Trap Ball.
Gomme (1898) identifies this game as a Norfolk version of Trap Ball, but with a hole for the trap and a cudgel for a bat.
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.
[A] Gomme also cites a view that “This game is very nearly identical with ‘rounders.’” Another writer is known to say that Tut-Ball is the same as Pize-Ball.
Gomme, however reports that balls were hit back with the palm of the hand, not a bat, at least in its earlier form.
[B] Writing in 1905, Joseph Wright said:
"Yorkshire: Now only played by boys, but half a century ago [1850's] by Adults on Ash Wednesday, believing that unless they did so they would fall sick in harvest time. This is a very ancient game, and was elsewhere called stool-ball. [West Yorkshire]. Shropshire: Tut-ball; as played at a young ladies school at Shiffnal fifty years ago. (See also 1850c.34). The players stood together in their 'den,'behind a line marked on the ground, all except one, who was 'out', and who stood at a distance and threw the ball to them. One of the players in the den then hit back the ball with the palm of the hand, and immediately ran to one of three brick-bats, called 'tuts' . . . . The player who was 'out' tried to catch the ball and to hit the runner with it while passing from one 'tut' to another. If she succeeded in doing so she took her place in the den and the other went 'out' in her stead. This game is nearly identical with rounders."
|Two-Base Town Ball|
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 - Balkans||Balkans|
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 - Czech||Czechoslovakia|
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 - Hungarian||Hungary|
per Endrei and Zolnay. “In Hungary several variants of rounders exist in the countryside.” No other lead to these variants is provided.
The nature of this game is unknown. It is found an 1849 chapbook printed in Connecticut: “there are a great number of games played with balls, of which base-ball, trap ball, cricket, up-ball, catch-ball and drive-ball are the most common.”
Wall Ball (our term -- the original Dutch source sites "Den bal tegen den muur werpen") is described in an 1845 Dutch guide to games.
A Dutch speaker's note on the game: "Wall Ball: A line is drawn on a wall about three feet high and another on the ground about six feet in front of the wall. The first player throws the ball against the ground and it has to hit the wall above the line and bounce back and hit the ground in front of the line on the ground. The second player catches it and then does the same. When a player fails to either hit the wall above the line or the ground in front of the line or the ball hits the ground a second time before he catches it, the other scores a point. The first to 15 points wins."
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."
Lieutenant Ebenezer Elmer of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment referred five times to playing whirl between September 16, 1776, and 1777. The nature of play is not described, but one note may be taken to mean it was a ball game.
Numerous web searches have failed to turn up other clues about this game.
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 speculate that it resembles cricket before it evolved to its modern form.
Evolution of Base Ball Rules Before 1857
1845 Kickerbocker Rules
- 3 bases and a home plate
- 3 outs per side
- Ball pitched, not thrown
- Tag outs, force outs, but no plugging
- Foul ground outside baselines, and extended
1854 Rule Revisions
- First player to bat in an inning follows the player who made the third out last inning.
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