The earliest known baseball game to be commemorated. In England.

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If you’ve ever been to the United Kingdom, you’ve almost certainly seen buildings and parks and stuff with blue plaques on them. They’re historical markers which say things like “Lord Nigel-Hogg-Snootbury lived here, 1858-1869” or “Musician Ian Dexys, singer for the band The High Numbers, overdosed in this flat in 1970.” Stuff like that. They’re put up by a body called English Heritage, which manages all the old buildings and monuments and stuff in the country. You may be familiar with some of its portfolio.

I’ve made a lot of friends in the world of British baseball recently, which I suppose is what landed me on the press release list for the latest blue plaque being unveiled. The subject: the first ever baseball game. And no, it’s not in Cooperstown, New York or the Elysian Fields in Hoboken. It’s in, of all places, Surrey:

Baseball, surely, is American? No, sorry, it’s English!

The first documented game was played in 1749 in Ashley Park, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey on the estate belonging to the wife of Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex, who also played in the match. Another of the players was his friend, Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of George II . . . To celebrate this historical occasion exactly 270 years on, Walton Cricket Club in Ashley Park will be honoured with a Blue Plaque. The Blue Plaque unveiling will be a part of an all-day event on July 7,2019 hoping to attract 2,000 – 3,000 visitors. This will be the first time that baseball has been played on this pitch for 270 years! The wording on the plaque will read: “The Prince of Wales played in the world’s first recorded game of baseball on 12th September 1749 here in Ashley Park.”

This may ring a bell to longtime readers, as I wrote about this about six years ago when an author and researcher named David Block discovered a reference to the 1749 game in the Whitehall Evening Post. It read thusly:

“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.”

Block has uncovered many other references to baseball in 18th and 19th century England. In some ways the game described in the sources he has found was similar to the baseball we know: pitching, hitting, running bases, and batters being put out somehow. In others it was much different. The bases were much closer together, the pitcher stood much closer, the batter didn’t, in fact, have a bat, but swatted at the ball with his palm, and the ball itself was soft enough for this to be accomplished without pain. Whether one wants to call that game “baseball” is probably a subjective decision.

It’d have to be, wouldn’t it? That’s because, as we have written in this space many times, baseball was never really invented as much as it evolved from a number of British sports such as roundersbat and trap, and stool ball. Cricket, too, obviously, arose along with baseball and these other sports in some fashion and all of them share certain elements. They’re cousins, a couple of which left home and became big and famous and a couple of which stayed in school seemingly forever or never left home and just hangs out at the pub all the time. I mean that literally: rounders is generally thought of as a school kids’ game and bat and trap is played in pub leagues, mostly in Kent.

Deciding which game, when, was the first “baseball” game is kind of up to you, I suppose. Though I’d argue that what they’re commemorating in Surrey in July is just as valid if not more so than the complete fabrication that resulted in Abner Doubleday and Cooperstown getting credit for it for so many years.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.