Rounders - Britain

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Game Rounders - Britain
Game Family Baseball Baseball
Regions Britain
Eras 1800s, Contemporary, Post-1900, Predecessor"Predecessor" is not in the list (Pre-1700, 1700s, 1800s, Post-1900, Contemporary) of allowed values for the "Game Eras" property.
Invented No

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.


The earliest reference to English rounders is in Clarke, W., Boy’s Own Book (London, Vizetelly Branston, 1828, second edition.

Alice Bertha Gomme, The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland (New York; Dover, 1964 – reprinted from two volumes printed in 1894 and 1898), pages 145-146.  Gomme (1898)notes that "An elaborate form of this game has become the national game of the United States." 

David Block, Baseball before We Knew It, has dozens of dozens of indexed references to rounders.

See also Feeder_and_Rounders,_1841, contributed by Bill Hicklin.

See the articles on Rounders in the Origins Committee Newsletter, February, May, 2021.



A relatively complete description of "roundstakes", or "rounders,"  as played in Eastern Massachusetts in about 1870, is found at roundstakes.  The account is shown in that item's  "Supplemental Text."


An aside: Plugging in Rounders? 

About baserunning, Gomme (page 145) writes in 1898:  "As soon as (the batter)has struck the ball, he runs from the base to the first boundary stick, then to the second, and so on. His opponents  in the meantime secure the ball and endeavor to hit him with it as he is running."    

Protoball has found scant evidence that rounders included retiring baserunners by hitting them with the thrown ball.  On May 7 2022, however, John Thorn posted this excerpt from Wickets in the West by R. A. Fitzgerald, published in 1873 and covering the 1872 cricket tour of the US:

"To sum it up, (base ball) is an improvement on our old schoolboys' game of rounders, without, however, the most attractive part to the English schoolboy -- the 'corking'.  We can see still, and we are not sure that we cannot still feel, the quiver of the fat boy's nether parts, as the ball, well-directed, buried  itself in his flesh." 

Putting baserunners out via a thrown ball, recalled as "corking" in this English account, has been called "plugging," "soaking," "burning," etc., in America.  In about 1810, Block notes, the French game Poisoned  Ball used the tactic, and the German Giftball (Poison ball) seems to have, as well.   



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Supplemental Text


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.

Source: see Protoball entry 1870c.8 or roundstakes.