Skip to content

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:

Latest Posts
  1. The Royals: A history of (no) power

    Apr 21, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT

    stevebalboni

    You probably know this, but the Kansas City Royals single season home run record is 36, and Steve Balboni set it almost 30 years ago.

  2. Carlos Gonzalez will try to play through knee tendinitis

    Apr 21, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    Carlos Gonzalez Getty Getty Images

    Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez exited Sunday’s game in the sixth inning with knee tendinitis, bending over at the waist in obvious pain after running out a ground ball.

  3. Watch Jim “Hot Dog” Thome ruin baseball with his bat flip

    Apr 21, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT

    Jim Thome Getty Images

    Someone needs to explain to 1995 Jim Thome that this is NOT how baseball is meant to be played.

  4. Albert Pujols will be the eighth player ever with 500 homers by age 34

    Apr 21, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    Albert Pujols Reuters

    Not that there was any doubt about Albert Pujols reaching 500 career homers by the end of the season, but his strong start for the Angels with a league-leading six bombs puts him just two long balls shy of the magic number.

  5. Terry Francona held a team meeting to tell the Indians “I care about them”

    Apr 21, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Terry Francona AP

    Three weeks into the season and Cleveland manager Terry Francona has already called his first team meeting.

  6. In which I agree with Jon Morosi 100% about bat flips and on-field flair

    Apr 21, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

    carlos gomez getty Getty Images

    Lighten-up, baseball. It’s a fun game. Let’s let people actually have fun out there.

  7. Boswell: “Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player”

    Apr 21, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Bryce Harper Getty Getty Images

    That’s patently ridiculous, of course. But that’s the kind of nonsense you get when you start attacking guys for their alleged lack of hustle.

  8. And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

    Apr 21, 2014, 6:39 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 8.43.32 PM Getty Images

    The Unwritten Rules strike again. Plus, I wish you all a happy Spring Thanksgiving.

  9. J.J. Hardy: Orioles’ lack of action on contract extension “just makes me curious”

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles

    J.J. Hardy thought extension talks with the Orioles would have already been underway, but the club has been silent on the matter.

  10. Ryan Howard missed hitting for the cycle due to a questionable scoring decision

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Ryan Howard Ryan Howard

    Ryan Howard is one of the more unlikely candidates to hit for the cycle, but he was one friendly scorer away from the achievement on Sunday against the Rockies.

  11. Play of the Day: Ian Kinsler scores after the Angels commit three errors on the same play

    Apr 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT

    Ian Kinsler, Hank Conger Ian Kinsler, Hank Conger

    You’ll be seeing this play at the end of the season when the season’s wackiest plays are reviewed.

  12. Dexter Fowler has been getting help from Barry Bonds

    Apr 20, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT

    Oh, nothing, just Dexter Fowler being coached by arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history.

  13. Ryan Braun victimized Jason Grilli for the second game in a row

    Apr 20, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

    Ryan Braun likes hitting in the state of Pennsylvania.

  14. Jeff Francoeur made a relief appearance for the El Paso Chihuahuas

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT

    Jeff Francoeur AP

    Jeff Francoeur is known for his arm, but who knew he’d be useful as a pitcher?

  15. Boston Marathon heroes remembered with pregame ceremony at Fenway Park

    Apr 20, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    David Ortiz Getty Getty Images

    The Red Sox and Orioles teamed up for a touching tribute at Fenway Park on Sunday.

  16. Bobby Abreu is expected to join the Mets on Monday

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT

    Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day Getty Images

    40-year-old Bobby Abreu is expected to join the Mets on Monday.

  17. Chipper Jones chimed in on the Carlos Gomez incident

    Apr 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Chipper Jones is not a fan of Carlos Gomez.

  18. Clayton Kershaw throws three simulated innings, rehab assignment could be next

    Apr 20, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

    clayton kershaw getty Getty Images

    Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a 51-pitch, three-inning simulated game on Sunday in Los Angeles and could soon be cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment.

Featured video

This was 'the perfect baseball game'
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Springer (3997)
  2. I. Davis (3095)
  3. C. Kimbrel (2909)
  4. B. Harper (2843)
  5. M. Cuddyer (2814)
  1. M. Machado (2775)
  2. C. Granderson (2555)
  3. J. Chavez (2480)
  4. J. Reyes (2384)
  5. K. Calhoun (2293)