As promised, I have several pictures of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s exhibit about the English origins of Baseball and Cricket. This exhibit was an unexpected treat for me. I truly thought that my extended-family road-trip to the Baseball-Hall-of-Fame was going to be one of those experiences where I had to live vicariously though husband’s enthusiasm (as, to be fair, he had to live through mine on our road-trip to Green Gables in PEI). Anyway, here are the basics.
Stoolball & Trapball
The unappealingly-named Stoolball is often cited as the ancestor to both Base-ball/Rounders (and thus modern baseball) and Cricket. It dates back to the mid 1400’s. It was customarily played at Easter by both men and women and, oddly enough, was thought to be related to fertility.
Also dating to the 1400’s is a game called trapball. In trapball, the batter places a ball into a mechanized trap, releases a lever with their foot and hits the ball. According to the exhibit it’s still played in a few English pubs today. To the left is a pic of John Chandos Reade 1785-1868 (Later 7th Baron of Barton) showing a bat and ball and a trap shoe. An extant mechanized trap shoe is in the other pic. Apologies for the blur.
Base-ball, Later known as Rounders
It’s widely believed that what we Americans call baseball developed from a game called rounders. Confusingly, in the Georgian period rounders was not called rounders, but was referred to as “base-ball”. The name Rounders, according to the exhibit, did not appear until 1828.
The first description of English “base-ball” appeared in 1744 within the breathtakingly-named “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusment of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly” by John Newberry. To the right is a not-so-clear picture of some of the pages from a 1760 version of the book. The Handkerchief below is a mid 18th century companion to the book. (How cool is that?)
References to Cricket as an adult game date back to 17th Century Kent, Surrey and Sussex. In 1629, a cutate censured for unseemly play pointed to the high repute of his fellow players. In fact, many of the early references to the game involve censure for play on a Sunday.
Cricket was well-established by the 18th Century. The painting to the right dates from 1744 and shows a Cricket match being played in Mary-le-bone fields, London, which is now Regent’s Park.
Also fun is this “line up” on the right from a 1781 game. The game appears to be the result of a bet between the Duke of Dorset and Sir Horace Mann!
At last, we come to the final picture and my absolute favorite part of the exhibit: the oldest Cricket Uniform in existence! This uniform belonged to the petite (by today’s standards) Henry Daw of Christchurch and dates to 1821. The trousers are narrow at the heel and have no padding. (ouch!) I made the pic large so that you can marvel, as I did, over the wee-tiny cloth-covered buttons.
So there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recreation of the exhibit.