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A reference to baseball found … from 1749

Jun 14, 2013, 5:39 PM EDT

Frederick Prince of Wales

Longtime readers of my stuff — back to the Shysterball days — will recall my fascination with the early roots of baseball. The really early roots. Games like roundersbat and trap, and stool ball. The games which, over time, meshed together in important ways to form what we now know of as baseball.  It’s a fascinating history, featured in a great documentary, which reveals that baseball wasn’t truly invented. Rather, it evolved like many other bat and ball games, from some primordial common ancestor, probably in England.

Those who study all of this have spent a lot of time trying to find the earliest recorded reference to baseball. Before today that earliest reference was thought to be from the 1755 personal journal of an English nobleman named William Bray. Yes, Bill Bray. Yes, an actual ancestor of the major league relief pitcher Bill Bray. That was pretty cool.  This news from the BBC, however, is cooler. UPDATE: way, way more information here at the SABR site.

The first recorded game of baseball took place in Surrey in 1749, a specialist in the game’s history says. Author David Block has discovered the reference in the Whitehall Evening Post, dated 19 September 1749 … The Whitehall Evening Post item reads: “On Tuesday last, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Lord Middlesex, played at Bass-Ball, at Walton in Surry; notwithstanding the weather was extreme bad, they continued playing several hours.”

They continued playing, I presume, because it was Ye Olde Getaway Day and the schedule didn’t have The Prince of Wales and Lord Middlesex meeting again for the rest of the season. This is what happens when you don’t like to schedule Ye Olde Doubleheaders because clubs are trying to horde as many pounds as possible.  Either way, you’d think with people as important as royalty playing games that those cheapos at Walton in Surrey would get a retractable roof.

UPDATE: More from David Brock, describing his discovery:

  1. skerney - Jun 14, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    Afterwards TJ Simers callled The Prince of Wales a “Smiler” and Lord Middlesex inspired a string concerto called “One Honourable Lord, Five Tools in b minor”

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 14, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    Insert your Phillies joke here

    • historiophiliac - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:20 PM

      Why, did Svelte William Penn ground out to a Powhatan 6-4-3 to end the 9th?

      • heyblueyoustink - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:30 PM

        To get to the other side?

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jun 14, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        It was by Divine Providence that William Penn crucified himself on a cross of the double play, to show Powhatan that by His will, all men can be saved; to show Powhatan that this Holy Experiment – that this “New” England – can create a society that all men, be they Savage or Baptized in His name, are equal.

        Plus Billy just could not lay off the curve

  3. blacksables - Jun 14, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Lies and propaganda by the ‘bloody British’ in a poor attempt to reclaim the colonies.

    Never, I say, never.

  4. dolphindubs - Jun 14, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    What?!?! Baseball’s earliest roots are with the British?! That’s so weak….

  5. Jonny 5 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    So son, instead of bases they used fish.
    -THE END-

  6. DJ MC - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    Miller Lite presents Professional Bassball!

    • slclions - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:24 PM

      You, Sir, win the internet. Bravo…slow clapping begins

    • jlovenotjlo - Jun 14, 2013 at 7:13 PM

      That was amazing. Not only did the runner at the end get thrown out at the plate, he got repeatedly smacked by the fish. Also, the fish’s face when he’s midair off the bat.

  7. denny65 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    So, *that’s* what the Revolution was all about, those upstart Yanks calling for, nay demanding, the use of the designated hitter. Traditionalists, those Brits, who to this day refuse to acknowledge Sabermetrics; go figure.

    • DJ MC - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:16 PM

      There’s a reason the sun eventually set on the Empire.

      • fraudguy - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:47 PM

        Actually, it hasn’t, yet.

      • DJ MC - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:56 PM

        Fraudguy, you are technically correct; the best kind of correct!

        Interesting read, and I love the whole story of Pitcairn Island.

  8. rbj1 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    At least it doesn’t have any French ancestry.

  9. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    stool ball.

    Seriously? How much longer am I going to have to put up with this shit? My patience is nearing the end of it’s run. Let’s cut the crap, ok?
    -George Brettt

    • badintent - Jun 15, 2013 at 2:33 AM

      Funny. Love George . Running out to the umpires when Billy Martin tarred and feather his bat.Damn Brit Twits were behind it.

  10. ltzep75 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    From the Sabr article:

    “The ball was much softer than today’s; and instead of a bat, the palm of the batter’s hand was used to strike the ball.”

    Who knew Arod was a baseball historian?

  11. dondada10 - Jun 14, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    “…notwithstanding the weather was extreme bad, they continued playing several hours.”

    These guys made Ty Cobb look like a wuss.

  12. tfbuckfutter - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    It’s too bad the records aren’t more detailed.

    I’d be interested to hear about the early days of Jose Contreras and Livan Hernandez’ careers.

    • tuberippin - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      I would too, but I don’t know that we have any reliable records of baseball being played in the 17th century.

      • tfbuckfutter - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:18 PM

        I believe there are cave drawings that show Miguel Tejada hitting a rock with a stick.

      • badintent - Jun 15, 2013 at 2:35 AM

        I believe there are Giants Statues on East Island that Jose Cancesco jacked up with roids in the ass.

  13. raysfan1 - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    Yes, those British royals were clearly penny-pinchers. After all, the Colliseum in Rome had a retractable awning.

    Meanwhile, Bud Selig still believes in the Abner Doubleday myth.

    • DJ MC - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      He just wants to support the small-market (Cooperstown) fighting the good fight against the large-market (NYC).

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:19 PM

      And thanks to the rapid sketching talents of the Baroness Poppycock, they had somewhat instant replay.

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