Everything about baseball is old


Here are two fun historical items for you to chew on while we wait for some baseball this afternoon.

First, from the great John Thorn, some research into baseball’s origins. If you follow John’s work you know that he has found some amazing things while looking for the earliest references to baseball in literature, journals and news reports. The latest: a reference from 1796 — 1796! — in a German book referring to “das englische Base-ball,” or “English Base-Ball.” From the 1796 text:

One plays the game with two teams, of which one is serving the ball and the other batting…. Likewise the process is as in the German ball game: hitting, running, etc.

Thorn argues that the “English base ball” game was not, as he and many others once believed, just another name for rounders. Rather, it’s a different name for a base and ball game that did not involve a bat. Which suggests that there was a German one like that too, of course. And all of which adds more color and data to what is now well-accepted: baseball as we know it was not “invented,” it simply evolved from a primordial soup of several different bat, ball and base games.

A second article, pointed out to me by Thorn, but written by Sarah Bond over at Forbes, is a look at fan superstitions and curses. But not from modern sports: from ancient Roman times. Specifically, about how fans were staunch partisans of certain chariot racing teams, differentiated by their team colors, and how fans would place curses on the opponents of their favorite teams. She likens it to that construction worker who once placed the Red Sox jersey in the cement when Yankee Stadium was being built.  I’ve argued over and over again that sports and sports rooting are, on a very basic, exercises in tribalism. This does nothing to sway my view on that.

Some fun stuff.