The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, April 04, 2006
A piece just posted on Books & Culture on David Block's book Baseball before we Knew itmentions a variation of the game the author calls "Mill Creek Baseball":

Imagine a ball game that we can easily visualize in contrast to baseball. It has three bases and a home plate. There are three players on a side, with a steady pitcher. He also covers the plate on some plays, since there is no catcher and no bunting. There are no walks or stealing. Batters may strike out, but the pitcher does not try to strike them out, but rather to have the batter put the ball into play. If two players are on base, the batter needs not only to get a hit but also to hit sufficiently well to score the lead runner, who is otherwise out. That is, there are no "ghost runners." If there is another player under the age of seven or so, he becomes a steady batter, with a place in each lineup; he cannot strike out, and the ghost runner issue becomes nugatory.

Takes me back to countless days of stickball in my neighborhood playground - the ideal sport for a hot August afternoon...

There is also a facinating take on the origin of baseball:

More important, for Block, is his challenge to the alternative accounts that have arisen since scholarship debunked the Cooperstown fable. A legion of historians has told us that in the 18th century the English played various ball games. One of these was "rounders," a game so called because the players went "round" some bases. Baseball, these historians have informed us, derives from rounders. The American game has its roots in an earlier English game that colonists transformed after they migrated to the New World.

Block argues that this story too is wrong. What really happened is that in the 1700s the English (and the French and Germans) did play a variety of games that involved upwards of two players and that used bats, balls, and bases in many different ways. One dominant set of games used bases (Block calls this set English base-ball). Both baseball and rounders came from English base-ball, but rounders developed only in England, and indeed developed later than baseball, which had an independent growth in the United States. Although the national pastime had its origins in England, rounders is not its mother but only a younger brother.