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Latest revision as of 15:55, 23 June 2012

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Bruce Allardice’s paper on the spread of modern base ball in the American south has won a 2013 McFarland Award for the best history or biography for 2012.  The article, “The Inauguration  of This Noble and Manly Game Among Us,” appeared in Base Ball’s Fall 2012 issue (volume 6, number 2, pages 51-69).  Bruce uses extensive newly-found newspaper and other sources to dispel myths about the neglect of base ball by southerners and about the relative importance of northern influences in the spread of modern base ball in the South from 1859 on.  One judge wrote:   “Here's a very well researched piece that takes on the long-established ‘prison camp’ theory of dissemination. It represents exactly what we are looking for in an award winner; well written, thoughtful, convincing, and one that makes you wonder why this hadn't been proven before. It breaks new ground and should be cited for a long time to come.”

New Charting of Base Ball’s Spread, 1859-1870

Bruce Allardice has traced and charted the growth of base ball in the US from 1859 to 1870 as it is presently captured on the PBall site. See http://protoball.org/The_Spread_of_Base_Ball,_1859_-_1870. These data clearly show the moderating effect of the Civil War on (non-soldierly) ballplaying, and the dramatic "Base Ball Fever" spread of the game to new areas right after the war.

Note: A few Protoballers are venturing to chart the modern game’s earliest growth, from 1843 to 1859. Wish us luck as we try to determine which ones of the reported games were really played by modern rules.

Having added nearly 1000 finds of the early play of modern base ball around the US, Bruce Allardice has begun to turn up earliest games in other countries.  In July he pinned down and entered new “Earliest Known Games” in Argentina, Bermuda, Burma, the Netherlands, Panama (a  Cricket and Baseball Club in 1883, yet), Uruguay and several other nations.   

A monograph on pre-1845 North American games played with a ball or some other projectile is a goal for Tom Altherr. The work would include, but not be limited to, safe haven games, and would include indoor a well as outdoor games.  He notes that some of this work has appeared in the journal Base Ball, the SABR Originals newsletter, and Protoball’s online chronology and its Next Destin’d Post newsletter.  Tom is also interested in ball-playing among slave and free African Americans before 1865 and in the possible contributions of German schlagball, and perhaps other mid-European games, to the evolution of base ball.  He remains convinced that ball-playing was more common in North America than most sports historians allow . . . and he continues to confirm that view with fresh finds most every month.

Tom has brought to light another big slug of references to early ballplaying.  His article in the spring 2008 issue of Base Ball, "Chucking the Old Apple; Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games," resulted in 33 new entries for the Protoball Chronology.  Included are references to ballplaying by slaves between 1797 and the 1840s, soldierly play between 1775 and 1815, and numerous accounts of campus ballgames between 1813 and about 1840.

Tom Altherr contributed two essays to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this May:

Tom has revised a paper he presented at NASSH in 2006 (“Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries in Pre-1839 North American Ball Games History”) for possible publication. His 2007 contribution at theCooperstown symposium is based on further research and more theoretical speculations why baseball emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It may appear in the next biennial anthology.  After his week in Cooperstown, Tom spent a very solid week researching at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester.  This has all led him to see a possible book on all pre-1840 North American games – base ball and beyond -- played with a ball.

David has been looking to confirm the report that baseball gloves were first used in an 1858 Massachusetts-rule game.  Old-timers later recalled that a ball with a bullet core was put in play, and that players then donned gloves to protect their hands.  Contemporary accounts haven’t yet confirmed this story.

Rich Arpi reports that the Minnesota SABR chapter has discussed the idea of mapping the spread of base ball in Minnesota by locating the first known modern game in the larger MN towns.

Priscilla is moving ahead on a manuscript on the history of baseball in Rochester NY.  She has also joined colleagues to form the Rochester Baseball History Association, which is preparing an exhibit for the Rochester Public Library next April on local baseball history that will include material loaned by the HOF.

In the winter of 2007, a small band of baseball fans gathered at the fireplace of the home of Richard and Priscilla Astifan.  The main thing that was kindled that eve was the Rochester Baseball Historical Society.  And this spring, the RBHS sponsored a major 45-day exhibit, Rochester Baseball: From Mumford’s Meadow to Frontier Field, at Rochester’s Central Library.  The exhibit featured 22 panels of photographs and traced the path of local baseball from 1825 to the current day.

Priscilla and a colleague discuss the predecessor game to Knicks-style base ball in upstate New York in “Old-Fashioned Base Ball” in Western New York, 1825-1860,” which appeared in the fall 2008 issue of Base Ball.  The article notes that until 1860 the unusually unnamed earlier game was still played competitively in several places.  About 20 news accounts from that time, and from later accounts of a number of “throwback” games, allow a partial picture of the nature of that earlier game.  Strong similarity to the Massachusetts Game is found.

Priscilla is expanding her earlier work on early base ball in Rochester into a monograph, and has recently examined the circumstances surrounding Samuel Hopkins Adams’ famous story about base ball in the Flower City in 1827.  She and Larry McCray have drafted a 10-page research note on what was called “old-fashioned base ball” – it was portrayed as the predecessor to the New York game -- inWestern New York State

Daniel is completing a book with Murray Dubin on the civil rights movement in the US in the 19th century, tentatively titled There Must Come a Change: Murder, Baseball and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America The book, slated for 2010 release, will include a chapter covering black baseball and the effort to integrate pro baseball in the late 1860s by the Pythians in Philadelphia and what may be the first game between whites and blacks, played in 1869.

David Block contributed two essays to the "Special Protoball is of Base Ball," Guest-edited by Protoball functionary Larry McCray: 



David contributed an article to the spring 2008 issue of Base Ball on what is recognized as the earliest appearance of the word “base-ball,” the John Newbery’s 1744 Little Pretty Pocket-Book.  David examines some remaining mysteries of this source (which gives us that ringing phrase, “the next destin’d post”) including whether we can claim 1744 as the year “base-ball” first saw print when no editions of the book are available prior to 1760, and whether the absence of a bat in the relevant woodcut means that the bat hadn’t yet joined the game – one can, of course, “bat” a ball with one’s hands, and the text only refers to a ball that is “struck off.”

Article Lauds David Block, Our Own "Karate-Chopper" of Base Ball Lore

A long, wry, and fairly reverent article on the amazing David Block can be found at


Bryan Curtis’ "In Search of Baseball’s Holy Grail: How One Man is Rewriting the History of the Game – One Diary at a Time," was posted at the Grantland site on September 18, 2013.

Protoball’s favorite nuggets from the Curtis article:

[] "In a just world, Block would be an archeological hero. What Bill James did for 20th -century baseball, Block is doing for 18th-century baseball."

[] "Said Tom Shieber . . . [David’s book] ‘Baseball Before We Knew It and its aftermath is to me probably the single most important baseball research of the last 50 years, if not more.’"

[] "’When David started his work and I started my work, this [topic of origins] was the dark side of the moon,’ said [John] Thorn."

[] "Block had confirmed that the Doubleday theory was bunk. But he had also discovered that the rounders theory was bunk. Everything we knew about baseball’s parentage was wrong."

[] "Block is being painfully modest. Let me be immodest on his behalf. Block is a scholar on a lonely frontier. He is karate-chopping the wisdom of the ages. "

Protoball later asked the author about the response to the article. Bryan Curtis’ reply: "The Block article attracted a very large amount of attention--larger, in fact, than my typical articles about star players. Which was wonderful, because David's more interesting than most of them."

David Block has found a new reference to English base ball dating to 1749.  He notes that it is the first known base ball game involving mature adults.  The only earlier references, believed to be printed in the 1744 first edition of the Little Pretty Pocketbook and a reported reference to play within the English royal family written by Lady Hervey in 1748, depicted juvenile play.  We learn of this fresh find in the June 12 issue of the Daily Telegraph in Britain.

For a recent feature article on David by ESPN writer Brian Curtis, go to http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9681627/baseball-archaeologist-david-block.  It describes "How one man is rewriting the history of the game — one diary at a time."

David, a member of the MLB Committee on Origins, worked with Committee chair John Thorn to establish a record of the spread of baseball to foreign countries.  He continues to deepen his research on English base-ball from the 1740s to 1900.  He has now amassed about 150 references to the game.  He continues to doubt that a bat was uniformly used in early English base ball.

John Bowman is taking a fresh look at the history of the 90-foot basepath in baseball, and is reflecting on how the choice of a different distance might have affected the game.

Anita Broad is also now listed as a digger.  Anita has recently written her Master’s thesis, “Stoolball Through the Seasons: It’s Just not Cricket,” and now serves as Research and Education Officer of Stoolball England.  She has already helped Protoball sort out what the English safe-haven games Pentoss (a form of ladies’ cricket) and Target Ball were all about.  She and her daughter play stoolball, as did her mother and grandmother.  She is now working on a grant that funds a primary school education project on the history of stoolball.

Mark Brunke continues to collect information on very early ballplaying in Sacramento, Seattle, and Victoria British Columbia.  He is finding that some early pioneers in that region played both base ball and cricket, at first. 

A new voice in Origins research, Mark Brunke last year volunteered to coordinate an effort within SABR’s Pacific Northwest chapter to fill in an almost completely blank map of the first modern games in that area.  “What I like about baseball history is how it fits into American history, and how it illuminates and questions the past,” he explains.  Mark, who works in Human Resources  and has pursued painting, music, and filmmaking as well as baseball, is presently putting together a history of pre-professional base ball in the Seattle area. 

Mark’s January comprehensive presentation to the Pac Northwest chapter on findings to date is found at: http://protoball.org/The_Spread_of_Base_Ball_in_the_Pacific_Northwest.

Howard Burman has  been trying to figure out the game of Irish Rounders.  The game’s players  see it as unrelated to English rounders, and possibly as  a predecessor to American base ball.  Having visited Ireland and gotten to know officials of the Gaelic Athletic Association, his report on the game is imminent, and will be posted to the Protoball site.

“Gentlemen at the Bat” is the working title of Howard's current book project, one that focuses on the Knickerbocker Club.  The book’s story is told by club members in the form of a collective oral history, in which Howard’s historical research is presented through the medium of fictionalized dialog.  His earlier books include one on Shoeless Joe Jackson and one on 1950’s stickball inNew York.

Perhaps looking for ways to broaden upcoming travel to Ireland, Howard Burman cheerfully took on the job of reporting on the game of Irish Rounders, one our four sports sanctioned by the Gaelic Athletic Association as early as 1884.  Howard’s report appears in the “Glossary of Games” on the Protoball site at http://protoball.org/Irish_Rounders_(Burman’s_Report).  Today’s players see the game as one of Irish birth, without English parentage, and having been played locally as early as the beginning of the 19th century . . . and as possibly have been exported to North America via Irish emigrants.  The game has a number of variants from base ball rules, including optional running with less than two strikes, limited substitutions, no gloves for fielders, and catchers positioned well back of batters.

Ralph has been working on unifying all of the data for the Greater New York City area in anticipation of the Interdisciplinary Symposium at John Jay College in November 2014.  He has also been looking into new information about the game on Staten Island as well as Manhattan, with a special focus on digitizing the game results from the entirety of the Knickerbocker Game Books in the Spalding Collection at the New York Public Library.

Jerry's work continues on the 19th-century. He wrote an expanded piece on the Philadelphia Pythians and its captain, Octavius Catto. It will be published in Pennsylvania Legacies, a periodical for the Pennsylvania Historical Society. The issue, published in May, examines Negro baseball in Pennsylvania.  At the Cooperstown Symposium in June, Jerry presented “Which Irish Played Baseball in the Emerald Age?”  He is now finishing up a study of the life and career of Lipman Pike.

Frank Ceresi’snew e-book The Washington Nationals and Their Grand Tour of 1867 (Search <nationals ceresi ebook>) follows the National Club, and others, from 1859 through the following decade.  He remains on the hunt for a photograph of the Nationals at the time of their tour, and is about to sift through the Matthew Brady collections in hopes of spotting one. Frank also serves as Executive Director of a new online baseball museum at http://thenationalpastime.com/, which will show up to 25,000 artifacts, including many from the origins era.  

“Baseball in the Bronx, before the Yankees,” is Gregory Christiano’s new book. It focuses some on the Morrisania Unions, and draws extensively on Craig Waff’s Games Tab (http://protoball.org/Games_Tabulation) and other PBall data.  A google search of <”Gregory Christiano” Bronx> takes you to Amazon page for Gregory’s  book.

Kyle is researching early base ball on the southern coast of Massachusetts, from Fall River to New Bedford.  He reports finding a 33-inning Massachusetts-rules game from 1858, and has discovered thatNew Bedford clubs in those days were willing to play by either NY or MA rules.

Kyle has begun collecting early references to trap ball.  His website, at http://scvbb.wordpress.com/category/19th-century-baseball/, includes many items on ballplaying before the pro era.

The Vintage Base Ball Association’s [VBBA] recently-installed Glenn as their president.  One of Glenn’s objectives is to review the organization’s Rules and Customs program to reinforce historical accuracy.  Glenn is in touch with Peter Morris, Fred Ivor-Campbell, and Tom Shieber as part of that initiative.

Murray is completing a book with Daniel Biddle on the civil rights movement in the US in the 19th century, tentatively titled There Must Come a Change: Murder, Baseball and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America The book, slated for 2010 release, will include a chapter covering black baseball and the effort to integrate pro baseball in the late 1860s by the Pythians in Philadelphia and what may be the first game between whites and blacks, played in 1869.

Researcher and author John Freyer reports that his interest is still Chicago-area baseball from back before the National League.  Among other feats, he has accumulated every Chicago box score between the years 1859 and the Chicago Fire in 1871.  He also enjoys researching New York baseball before the Civil War.  John has an ongoing project of bat and ball games over history, from Wicket to Wiffleball, but hasn't determined whether it amounts to a new book. Currently, John is working with others to establish a Chicago Baseball Museum, and serves as the project’s ad hoc historian.

César introduced several new finds in his “March, Conquest, and Play Ball: The Game in the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848,” Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, volume 5, number 1 (Fall 2011), pp 13 – 22.

César is exploring the origins of baseball in Mexico and Cuba.  His article “A New Perspective on Mexican Baseball Origins” appeared in the inaugural issue of Base Ball.

British-born Joe Gray is collecting information on the play of modern base ball in Britain, and has recently turned up games played as early as 1870 in Dingwall, Scotland. Joe reports that his personal interest is expanding to include earlier British baserunning games.  His very comprehensive web page is found at http://www.projectcobb.org.uk/

Tom Heitz participated in a large Cooperstown tour organized in part by filmmaker Ken Burns.  Tom presented a lecture on base ball’s early rules and supervised a throwback Town Ball game for the tour on the lawn behind the Fenimore Art Museum.

Film-maker Ken Burns has enlisted Digger Tom Heitz as a presenter on early base ball for a tour group to Cooperstown in June 2013.   The group numbers an unprecedented 160 visitors.  Some of us think of Tom as the unofficial Dean of Diggers – he co-wrote the 70- item origins chronology that inspired th Protoball Project--  and we welcome him back.

Brock is collecting information on baseball history in towns -- like Syracuse and Troy NY -- that once had, but then lost, major league teams.  Shoot him an email if you want to know more, or to help out.

Richard Hershberger contributed two essays to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this May:

Introducing . . . Hershie's Nuggets!

Richard Hershberger has offered to supply short pieces on assorted sweet subtopics in early base ball history. The first of these, Sliding in the Amateur Era, is a 3-page summary of contemporary news accounts' evidence on sliding.

It begins: "Did base runners slide in the amateur era, and if so, how frequently? Looking at period reports, the most striking feature is that the evidence is thin. There are undoubted reports of runners sliding, but they are few and far between. The problem then is to determine if reports of sliding are rare because sliding was rare, or because it was commonplace and therefore unremarkable: are they man bites dog reports, or dog bites man? Or something in between?"

Nugget #1 is found at http://protoball.org/Sliding.

Richard Hershberger continues with his collection of data on as many early base ball clubs as he can find.  At this point he has rounded up over 850 clubs that formed prior to the Civil War and that played by New York rules.  Richard has generously shared his collection with Protoball, and all of the clubs are entered into the PBall Pre-Pro data base.  Richard’s quest parallels the effort started in 2008 by Craig Waff to build a directory of early ball games before the War, and we are trying to  systematically link clubs and games for PBall users.

Long-term preparation for a special exhibit on cricket and baseball is under way by Beth.  The exhibit is slated for spring of 2010 at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, home of the MCC cricket museum, where Beth serves as a guest curator.  The exhibit may also tour in the US and Australia.  For details, send Beth an email.  Beth, a Yale-educated Cleveland Indians fan, has 20 years experience in curating social-history events at Australian and American museums.


Beth Hise contributed two essays to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this May.


Swinging Away (Marylebon Cricket Club and Scala Press, 2010) is curator Beth Hise’s  new book on her exhibitions on base ball and cricket at Lord’s and at the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Besides writing two essays on cricket in the United States for the recent Origins Issue of Base Ball, Beth has contributed a paper on the English response to exhibition base ball games in England in the early 1900s.

Beth notes that April 2010 is the time slotted for her exhibition on Cricket and Baseball at the Marylebone Cricket Club [Lord’s Grounds] in London.  It is possible that the exhibit would also be shown in Australia and at Cooperstown afterward.  Part of the exhibition will focus on bat and balls games prior to 1840, and Beth is looking into stoolball history and the 1755 William Bray diary as well.

The UK Chapter of SABR is preparing to resume publication of The Examiner, which has given us several accounts of members’ research on English ballplaying (see http://www.sabruk.org/examiner/index.html).  Martin, who has uncovered contemporary stoolball and trap ball in the olde country, is leading the renewed effort.

SABR-UK maintains an interest in the origins of baseball. Martin has produced a handsome compilation of articles on the English roots of baseball in 1995-2003 issues of the SABR-UK Examiner.  The material was distributed at the June 20 meeting of SABR’s UK chapter in London, which was addressed by David Block and Jules Tygiel.

In addition to helping lead the Boston SABR Chapter and pushing along an anthology of Deadball Era baseball poetry, Joanne is working on a local project that brings together the histories of the Massachusetts game and the NY Game as they impacted one small town — Holliston.  She sees a big story in these local events.  She says that when one wanders around among the ghosts of the game, the stories are impressive: they involve triumph and tragedy, sex and violence, pathos and drama.  Besides, she lives in the original Mudville, and that’s part of the story. Her tentative title: For Fun, Money or Marbles: How Baseball Transformed a Perfectly Good Town.  She hasn’t set a target date for publication yet.

Bill Humber is working on the story of Canada’s earliest base ball, focusing in partonWilliam Shuttleworth, a key person on an 1854 team.  Bill is also continuing to identify the nature of the “Canadian game,” which preceded the arrival of the New York game in Canada.

John is the author of “Ohio’s First Baseball Game; Played by Confederates and Taught to Yankees” which appeared in the spring 2008 issue of Base Ball.  The match game itself, apparently played by New York rules, took place at a Civil War military prison on a Lake Erie island near Sandusky OH in August 1864.  John concludes that the southern players, who were gentleman officers having connections to eastern US culture, were the ones who introduced the new game to local Ohioans. 

Newly listed as a digger in June 2013, Jim Kimnach heads the Advisory Board of the Ohio Village Muffins Vintage Base Ball Team, which plays by 1860 rules.  His main base ball interests include mid-Century ballplaying, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner.

Jeff Kittel has completely redesigned his “This Game of Games” website at http://www.thisgameofgames.com/.    Its main focus is regional 19th Century ballplaying, but Jeff’s interests have expanded beyond St. Louis base ball  to varieties of ballplaying in America’s trans-Appalachian West. Jeff plans to post his new finds on the site as they turn up.

“This Game of Games”, a snazzy website dedicated to the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball, is the creation of Jeff Kittel.  See (http://thisgameofgames.blogspot.com/.)   Jeff has agreed to help curate Protoball’s “Glossary of Games” feature, which is meant to serve as a registry for diverse baseball-like games, both those that precede our game and that appear to have later been derived from it (http://protoball.org/Glossary_of_Games).  In that role he has helped write short accounts of evidence about town ball, the Massachusetts game, and English Rounders (http://protoball.org/Essays.)    He has contributed essays to SABR’s Pioneer Project reports and to The Rank and File of 19th Century Major League Baseball.  (http://www.amazon.com/Rank-Century-Major-League-Baseball/dp/0786468904) Jeff is currently working on an extensive monograph on baseball’s full history in St. Louis, in which he traces the roots of the game in the city back to the 18th century.

A new version of the “This Game of Games” website was
launched in June by Jeff Kittel.  The site, which traces early ballplaying in
Greater St. Louis and the Trans-Appalachian West, is at http://www.thisgameofgames.com/

St. Louis Digger Jeffrey Kittel  is at work at, among other things, a history of ballplaying in the St. Louis area from the 18th century on.  He runs This Game of Games, a blogsite that you’ll really like, at http://thisgameofgames.blogspot.com/, and in his spare time he co-curates the Protoball Glossary of Games at http://protoball.org/Glossary of Games.  

Wendy's main baseball research interest is Billy Sunday. However, she is also interested in American cultural history in general, and while doing research on a book about a contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson, she was delighted to find [and to submit for the Protoball chronology] an entry on baseball from Emerson's journals. It was while reading Emerson's journals to get a handle on Emerson’s friendship with (and admiration for) her current research subject, Edward T. Taylor, that she found the June 1840 baseball reference (see Protoball entry 1840.20), which imagines that some young ballplayers feel “a faint sense of being a tyrannical Jupiter driving spheres madly from their orbits.

Jim has just completed coding all of the 178 rich entries in David Block’s bibliography in Baseball Before We Knew It for SABR’s Baseball Index (http://www.baseballindex.org/).  In doing this, Jim has added several new search codes to TBI, including stool-ball, trap-ball, trapstick, cat, and tipcat.

Rob has assembled a chronology of the evolution of ballmaking. Rob has a collection of photos of well over 200 19th C baseballs and is analyzing them to estimate their size and weight.

Angus is investigating the earliest days of California base ball. He identifies the local Knickerbockers as the first CA team, and is working with Mexican historian Cesar Gonzalez to ascertain the role of the New York Volunteer Regiment, which sailed to CA in 1846, in implanting baseball in Mexico.

Base Ball Discovered continues to charm audiences.  The MLB Advanced Media documentary on baseball’s origins, written and produced by Sam, received the Award for Baseball Excellence at the 3rd annual Baseball Film Festival at the Hall of Fame in September.  The award recognizes the film that best captures “research, factual accuracy, historical context, and appreciation of the game.”  This follows the warm reception Sam was given at this year’s SABR Convention in Cleveland, where she addressed the SABR Origins Committee and screened the film for a packed house of conventioneers.  Others agree:  Vin Scully calls the film a “grand slam,” and the unexcitable George Will calls it “fascinating.”

MLB Advanced Media is preparing a full-length documentary on the origins of baseball.  Directed by Sam, Origins of the Game traces baseball back to its early roots, and shows why predecessor games from outside the US are just now being considered integral parts of the sport's evolution.  The crew consulted with SABR’s John Thorn, David Block, and Martin Hoerchner, among others, in piecing the story together.  And its work in England in June led to an original find of a 1755 diary entry referring to young adults playing "base ball."  (David describes this lucky disclosure in the Fall 2007 issue of Base Ball.) The MLB.com crew spent a damp week filming games of stoolball, rounders, cricket, and trapball.  There were times when a combination of equipment malfunction, rain, noisy low-flying aircraft, and early-morning auto mishaps might have discouraged a weaker soul, but Sam kept on smiling.

MLB Advanced Media runs the website MLB.com.  Sam, who has covered ports for nearly 20 years, has worked there since 2003, receiving two Emmy nominations, including one for the 2006 documentary Vintage Base Ball.

The documentary is scheduled to be released online at about the All-Star break of 2008.  Online viewing will be free, with downloads available at a fee.

"The Next Destin’d Post will provide additional details on the release of The Origins of the Game" when they become available.

Larry is succeeding Mike Ross as chair of SABR’s Committee on the Origins of Baseball.  Mike has led the SABR-UK chapter for many years, including its creative early examination of the British roots of baseball in the 1990s.

 Larry McCray participated in several short articles in the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this spring. He also served as Guest Editor of the issue:

Larry has put an initial Glossary of Games onto the Protoball website.  This primitive listing includes about 120 distinct games, and names of games, of potential interest to those contemplating the full range of baseball-like games.  Corrections and additions (Tom Altherr tipped us off on the game of Chermany, said to resemble baseball, found in Virginia and the south) are welcome. Most of the games entail safe-haven bases.

When not wrestling with the new Protoball website, Larry McCray has been attending once again to cutting into the backlog of information sent to the site for uploading.  A member of the MLB Origins Committee, he coordinated an informal but spirited effort to gather and interpret new data on the spread of base ball across the United States. 

Wayne is trying to piece together the history of baseball in the Claremont area.

Eric Miklich contributed an essay to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this spring:

"1857 -- Nine Innings, Nine Players, Ninety Feet and Other Changes: The Recodification of Baseball Rules in 1857."  Base Ball. 5(1):   118 - 121.


Eric is working on a book on the World Baseball Tour of 1874.

Eric joined the Vintage Base Ball Association’s Rules and Interpretations Committee in summer 2008.  He remains active in Bethpage NY’s 19th Century Base Ball Program, the oldest in the US.  Eric’s fine website, http://www.19cbaseball.com/, has several items pertinent to the origins of base ball, including a detailed listing of rule changes starting in 1854, the early evolution of ballplaying equipment, and treatment of the baseball’s predecessor games.

Eric, author of a compendium of 19th Century rule changes, is currently researching information on the history of pitching deliveries for an article for his website, www.19cbaseball.com.  Eric is hoping to release a new book on base ball in the 1860’s by next summer.  This book, written in part with the perspective of someone with extensive VBB experience, will offer suggestions of why certain rules evolved as they did.

Dorothy Mills’ Recent Contributions

Dorothy Seymour Mills is publishing "Who Ever Heard of a Girls’ Baseball Club?" She writes: "Everyone needs to know that women and girls have been part of the baseball culture as long as men and boys – and not just as fans, but as players, umpires, and even club owners." The electronic book’s title is taken from a writer who "didn’t realize that girls and women have been playing baseball since at least the 1860s – in long skirts, of course."

Dorothy has been asked to submit four articles on baseball history to the National Pastime Museum’s website at http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article-category/historians-corner. The first one, "Those Nimble American Girls," should appear shortly.

SABR’s Seymour Medal, awarded to “the best book of baseball history or biography from the previous year,” was awarded to Peter for the amazing two-volume Game of Inches (Ivan R. Dee, 2006).  He thinks of his book as “a never-ending project,” and in that vein he is posting updates to the book on his website at http://www.petermorrisbooks.com.  Peter reports that the work has gone through several printings, with sales of about 4000 copies.

Peter’s next publication will be But Didn’t We Have Fun, which examines the first generation of ballplayers, and is based on “dozens of previously unpublished or unavailable reminiscences.”  It is slated for release in March 2008.

Peter’s latest book is Level Playing Fields: How the Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball.  It includes coverage of the development of early ball fields before 1872.   Peter’s next project is a textbook on the history of baseball from 1840-1870, and will include the scoop from many new sources that Peter has turned up. 

The next book from Peter will be Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an Iconic American Folk Hero, due out in spring 2009. The book centers on the later professional era, but also covers the catchers of the 1860s.

Along with Richard Malatzky and John Thorn, Peter is guiding The Pioneer Project toward print. The project goal is to comprise histories of a large number of the oldest base ball clubs, including many from the 1850s and 1860s.  The two dozen writers now at their drafting tables include David Arcidiacono, Priscilla Astifan, David Ball, Fred Burwell, John Bowman, Frank Ceresi, Ben Dettmer, Scott Fiesthumel, Robert Gregory, César Gonzalez, Richard Hershberger, Bill Humber, Jeffrey Kittel, Angus Macfarlane, Richard Malatzky, Peter Morris, Greg Perkins, Jeff Sackmann, Trey Strecker, John Thorn, Dixie Tourangeau, Brian Turner, Craig Waff, and John Zinn.  For more details on the project, go to http://www.petermorrisbooks.com/pioneer_project.htm.

David has researched and written Wikipedia pieces on Town Ball and the Massachusetts Game, and has also written a brief overview of the class of safe haven games for the site.  Next: he will try to understand, and explain, what those “old-cat” games were all about.

Monica Nucciarone has been contributing to a new documentary about base ball in Hawaii.  The film, by former Boston University student Drew Johnson, touches on the influence of base ball on the political evolution of Hawaii, starting with 1840s ballplaying there as introduced by missionaries.  Drew notes that Japanese baseball, as well as the US game, was part of the later story of Hawaiian baseball.

Monica Nucciarone  is following up on her authoritative book on Alexander Cartwright, has contributed to a forthcoming documentary about 19C baseball in Hawaii, and is writing her second book, on Cartwright’s daughter-in-law, Princess Theresa.

“The Cartwright Conundrum:  Fact and Fiction of Cartwright’s Baseball Legacy” was the subject of a poster session by Monica Nucciarone at the SABR 36 convention.  She is in the rewrite phase of her treatise on Alexander Cartwright, and may present some results at the St. Louis SABR convention.  She spent part of last April doing research in Hawaii.

Dennis is working on a monograph on the history of baseball in Milwaukee from its earliest appearance in the late 1850s.  The Rise of Milwaukee Baseball: The Cream City from Midwestern Outpost to the Major Leagues, 1859-1901 is slotted for publication by McFarland in 2009.

Marty continues to explore the influence of the advent of the New York Game on rural towns.  He is finding that The New York game (along with improved transportation) brought competition, and had a profound social, economic, and cultural impact on small towns that previous, less structured versions of ballplay did not.  

Marty Payne contributed an essay to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this spring:

"1858 -- Diffusion of the New York Game in Maryland."  Base Ball. 5(1):   127 - 131.

In addition to his contributions to the stellar Base Ball Pioneers volumes (McFarland), Greg Perkins wrote articles on base ball, town ball, and cricket for The Northern Kentucky Encyclopedia (U of Kentucky, 2009).  Greg is weighing the idea of writing an account of early pro base ball in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

Pre-Civil War town ball in Cincinnati is the subject of an article by Greg Perkins in the fall 2008 issue of Base Ball. The article, “The Cincinnati Game: Townball in Cincinnati, 1858-1866,” traces the rise of a distinctive form of town ball (with a hexagonal infield, and with bases 60 feet apart, and with an all-out-side-out rule) before the War.  Covington KY fielded 10 townball clubs, and 28 Cincinnati games received newspaper coverage in summer 1858 alone (average score, 155 to 112, most games lasting four innings, average team size of over 12 players).  Greg, who majored in history at the University of Cincinnati, is now collecting information on Henry M. Millar, a Cincinnati reporter who traveled with the 1869 Red Stockings and later wrote a memoir of the experience.

Greg Perkinshas written articles on base ball, town ball, and cricket for the Northern Kentucky Encyclopedia (University Press of Kentucky, 2009) and has helped organize a VBB club, the Ludlow Base Ball Club, which is named after an 1870s club.  He continues to collect data on the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Had you assumed that stoolball is now only to be found in very old English love poems?  Wrong.  John and Kay and their colleagues are actively looking after Stoolball England even as you read this.  In 2008, Sport England, the funding body for British sport, officially “recognised” stoolball as a national game, but (unlike rounders) it is not as yet supported with public funds.  In August, the Angmering club, from the south coast of England, won the Sussex League Championship, scoring 293 runs to outmatch the 106 runs managed by Horsted Keynes from central Sussex.

Contemporary interest in stoolball has been expressed in Roujan in southern France, where a club from Kent has been hosted during the last two Easter holidays; in Augusta, Maine, where re-enactment games have been played; in India, where ten states have joined the Indian Stoolball Federation; in Pakistan, where another Stoolball Federation has formed; in Japan, where stoolball broadcasts may be relayed on TV in the coming year; and in Thailand, where schools have shown interest.  John and Kay are also working with Beth Hise on including stoolball in the 2010 exhibition on early ballplay at Lord’s.

Bill Ryczek contributed an article to the Special Protoball Issue Of Base Ball this May:

"1854 -- William Van Cott Writes a Letter to the Sporting Press."  Base Ball. 5(1):   111 - 113. 


Bill is putting together a narrative history of baseball from 1845 to the Civil War.  Look for it to hit the shelves in 2009.

Bill Ryczek has 4 essays on early ballplaying posted at the National Pastime Museum site at http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/author/william-ryczek/historians-corner.  Included are an account of the Excelsiors’ 1860 tour of New York State and an account of the evolution of pitching from the 1850s onward.  Access requires you to register for the site, which took just 3 or 4 hours in our recent experience. 

Bill made enormous contributions in bringing to print Base Ball Founders this spring. This solid new reference work contains about 40 essays on th4e earliest base ball clubs in the New York metropolitan area, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts.  


Bob Schaefer contributed an essay to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this spring:

"1858 -- The Changes Wrought by the Great Base Ball Match of 1858."  Base Ball. 5(1):   122 - 126. 

Andrew notes that his new biography of Henry Chadwick, The Father of Baseball, is scheduled for early 2008.  To order this $29.95 McFarland offering, or for more details, go to http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/ and search “Schiff.” 

John identifies his continuing primary interest as baseball (and base ball) in Philadelphia, not the easiest choice for someone living far from the local sources at Temple University and the Free Library of Philadelphia.  His Base Ball in Philadelphia (McFarland, 2007) is out, with contributions from our colleagues Altherr, Casway, Helander, Hershberger, Thorn, and Marshall Wright, but John still longs to know such things as “did the Olympic Club there really, as Robert Smith wrote in 1993, play on a diamond-shaped field? What was Smith's source for that assertion? And who were the original Olympics . . . a bunch of local rope-makers?”  He admits to having thoughts about doing a more extensive book on Philadelphia’s hardball origins, once Georgia and the people at Clayton State University let go of him.

 Mark Schoenberg is a new Digger.  We are looking for this street-wise New Yorker to curate Protoball’s prospective Schoenberg’s Stickball Collection.

Dan and associates are collecting information for a prospective documentary on the meaning of baseball for localities.  They have interviewed Priscilla Astifan about events in early Rochester.

Debbie Shattuck’s initial NDPost offering on the distaff side of ballplaying appears in the June 2013 issue of the Next Destin'd Post.  She is working to publish her forthcoming thesis on women baseball pioneers with the University of Illinois Press, with a target date of 2015.

Debbie Shattuck is at work on her book-length dissertation, Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers.  She has upcoming talks on women and early base ball in Cleveland, in Madison County, New York, and in St. Louis this year.

Deb Shattuck’s Online Talk about Women and Base Ball

Deb Shattuck’s thesis work on the history of women’s base ball continues, and you can see a lot of it at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVdQvArqScs.. This 80-minute talk includes much new information on female play prior to 1870, some of it altogether new to Protoball. Deb writes: "my talk was a compilation of the work done by those before me (David Block, Dorothy Mills, John Thorn, and the many contributors to the Protoball and 19cBB group) who have generously shared their research findings with me and other researchers. When I finally finish my book (later this year, fingers crossed) I hope to make my research available to as wide an audience as possible. I will begin by filling in the blanks on the Protoball site; after that I hope to work with SABR and the Women in BB Committee to create a searchable database of every female player and team we can find."

Deb’s talk, "Bloomer Girls," was delivered on July 19 at the Yachats Academy of Arts and Sciences on the Oregon Coast. Her forthcoming PhD dissertation at the U of Iowa covers women base ball pioneers.

On July 19, Deb Shattuck presented “Bloomer Girls:  Women Baseball Pioneers” at the Triple Play Baseball Festival at Yachats on the Oregon Coast. The presentation is based on her forthcoming dissertation at the U of Iowa.  The festival was the work of former MLB pitcher -- and geneticist -- Dave Baldwin.

“I can read all about variant games in books and on the net, but I find I don’t really understand them until I play them,” reports Brian Sheehy.  Brian teaches “Sports of the Past” to upperclassmen at North Andover High School, north of Boston.  Among the safe-haven games the students have studied (and played) are Knickerbocker rules base ball, the Massachusetts game, wicket, cricket, stoolball, and rounders.  He is thinking about trying the ancient Russian game of lapta, and perhaps Irish rounders, in the spring.

An April conference in Newbury MA on early base ball is being organized by Digger Brian Sheehy.  Players from the expanding number of VBB clubs in eastern New England will comprise a good share of conference attendees.

Brian Sheehy is planning a meeting in mid-April for VBB players to discuss themes in the evolution of base ball in the pre-professional era.  For details on the Newbury MA mini-conference, contact Brian at historyball@yahoo.com.

“Not Likely to Flourish,” appearing in Base Ball,volume 6, number 2 (Fall 2012), pp. 22 ff, is [[Bob Tholkes’]]  survey of the New York game for the 1862 base ball season.  The season began with the sadly mistaken conjecture that the Civil War would end soon enough to save the ballplaying season.  Still, 1862 saw William Cammeyer’s historic opening of the enclosed ballfield at the Union Grounds, the June visit of Philadelphia clubs to New Jersey, Brooklyn and games with three NYC clubs at Elysian Fields, and the October death of Excelsior Club great Jim Creighton.

Bob Tholkes to Address Local SABR Chapters

Bob Tholkes will be a presenter at the November meetings of the SABR chapters in Pittsburgh and Providence. The Pittsburgh meeting is focusing on baseball statistics, and Bob will discuss the birth of base ball stats. Last year, Bob made presentations at the Chicago and San Antonio-Austin SABR chapters.

Bob published “’We Hope They Will Not be Disappoint,’” A Survey of the New York Rules Base Ball Season of 1861,” in Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game, volume 5, number 2 (Fall 2011), pp 5- 12.

Bob has founded and is editing Origins, the monthly e-newsletter of the SABR Committee on the Origins of Baseball.  Bob also edits The Base Ball Player’s Chronicle, the Vintage Base Ball Association’s three-times-a-year newsletter.

Bob Tholkes contributed an essay to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this spring:

"1860 -- The 'Sunday Mercury' Summarizes the 1860 Season."  Base Ball. 5(1):   136 - 138.

George recently re-discovered the elusive 1859 NY Tribune article that challenges the superiority of the New York Game to the Massachusetts Game. George continues to examine all aspects of life in New York City from the 1790s to 1860, including all varieties of sports.

George Thompson contributed two essays to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this May: 


Conceived and edited by John, the new McFarland offering Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game will be appearing soon.  The inaugural issue will have several substantial articles on pre-1870 ballplaying, including Joanne Hulbert’s work on Fast Day in Massachusetts, Angus McFarland’s work on San Francisco’s first team, Fred Ivor-Campbell’s take on the 1857 Convention, and John’s reflections on that surprising find of bafeball in 1791 Pittsfield MA.

MLB Official Historian John Thorn has been in contact with cricket/wicket scholar Jay Patel in connection with Patel’s forthcoming book.  He notes that a good fraction of his time these days goes to “facilitation” – putting the right people together for special projects.  He also works with auction houses and experts on early base ball images to help identify their finds.  And – all of this seems not to have lessened the number or quality of his frequent contributions to SABR’s 19CCB list-serve.

John Thorn contributed three essays to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball this May.  Larry McCray served as Guest Editor for the issue.


John's take on the pre-Knickerbocker era appeared in “The Magnolia, the Knickerbocker, and the Age of Flash” in the fall 2008 issue of Base Ball.  Just when we’ve all gotten comfortable with the idea that some nice young professional men played the key role in establishing base ball as the US game in 1845, here comes John to show us that an earlier club, one with close connections to taverns, to decidedly ungenteel personages, and to political strongmen.  His note:  “It must have rankled the ballplaying Knickerbockers that they had to share . . . their game with a bunch of ruffians.”

 Brian Turner co-wrote a contribution to the "Special Protoball Issue" of Base Ball this Spring:

The article surveys base ball's the many predecessor games before the New York game was established.

Brian Turner reports that his recent research has remained focused on bat-ball and bat-and-ball, but has also focused on settlement patterns in western Massachusetts,  to tease out whether that tells us something about why ball games were apparently named one thing (bat-ball) in one town (Northampton) in 1791 and another thing in other towns (such as the names ball games were known by Pittsfield). 

Craig has compiled an initial table of known “base ball” games – including those played by New York and Massachusetts rules and town ball games in Philadelphia and Cincinnati – played in the 1845 to 1860 period.  The table includes about 1000 games, about three times the number to be found in Peverelly (1866) and in Wright [2000], and incorporates generous samplings of text from newspaper accounts for many of them.  See his Games Tabulation, which has links to lists for the greater New York area and 18 other regions.  For each game Craig supplies the date, location, source, and any significant game account excerpts.

In the process of amassing the mega-table, Craig has found newspaper accounts of three early triple plays and what may be the first “over-the-fence” home run.  Craig is now researching the 1860 tours of the Brooklyn Excelsiors and is preparing essays on the Atlantic, Star, and Enterprise teams of Brooklyn for the Pioneer Project.

Trained in the history of science, Craig is focusing for now on early ball in New York and Brooklyn, and on games played on ice skates in the mid-1800s.  He has been using the online databases of the New York Times and Brooklyn Daily Eagle to not only track the development of interest in astronomy in New York City and Brooklyn in the late 19th century, but also to collect systematically, for the PROTOBALL archives, copies of all baseball-related articles that appeared in these newspapers up to 1860.  During that search he discovered what may be the first recorded triple play (occurring on 16 April 1859).  He is also researching the winter baseball games played with skates on ice from 1860 to 1887.

Craig Waff contributed two essays to the Special Protoball Issue of Base Ball the spring:

John Zinn is working on a manuscript telling the early history of base ball in New Jersey. He has examined 47 newspapers’ coverage of base ball club activities from 1855 to 1860, a period when only five NJ cities had daily papers.  John has made major contributions to the SABR “Spread of Base Ball” project and to MLB’s Thorn Committee on Origins, which has stimulated new digging on the early spread of the game.

John reports that both Newark and Jersey City grew clubs that were mentioned at least once during this six-year span.   The most active base ball counties in the state were Hudson County (which includes both Jersey City and Hoboken) and Essex County, the two counties closest to Hoboken's famous Elysian Fields.

John Zinn Digs into Early New Jersey Ballplaying

John Zinn’s objective is to understand how the New York game came to New Jersey and then developed and expanded throughout the entire state. He has been examining close to 50 contemporary newspapers that survive as well as national publications. In the pre-war period (1855-1860) there were organized base ball clubs in only about a third of New Jersey’s 21 counties. He plans to look at other information such as the reach of the railroad to try to understand why the game did and didn’t reach the different parts of the state. He is now shifting to the 1861-1870 period.

John wrote the New Jersey section Baseball Founders. He is on the planning committee for the November 2014 SABR symposium on 19th century base ball in the greater New York area, including New Jersey.

John Zinn has discovered an 1855 New Jersey game played among African American clubs, which is four years earlier than we had previously known for African American play of modern base ball.  We are in contact with SABR’s Negro Leagues Committee to see if John’s find now stands as the first ever.  Its PBall entry is at http://protoball.org/1855.36.

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