2 of 2
2
GOAT
Posted: 09 February 2017 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4515
Joined  2007-01-29

Also Peter Morris’s But Didn’t We Have Fun?: An Informal History of Baseball’s Pioneer Era, 1843-1870, which I wrote about here (with a tip of the hat to “David Block’s magisterial Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game”).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 February 2017 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  299
Joined  2007-06-14
Dr. Techie - 07 February 2017 06:51 AM

I presume it’s pronounced as an initialism rather than an acronym, but I can’t help thinking of Charlie Brown’s pitcher’s mound meditations on being “the hero or the goat”.

I’d never heard it spoken until I listened to this:

Discussion of Geno Auriemma

For those to whom women’s college basketball is a mystery, it rhymes with coat.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 February 2017 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3024
Joined  2007-01-30

Some great books there that go straight on my wish list! And thank you, cuchuflete, for confirming the pronunciation.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 February 2017 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
Moderator
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  344
Joined  2007-02-13
cuchuflete - 08 February 2017 10:46 AM

Seems baseball is another American vice with British roots.

Oh, absolutely!  The earliest references to baseball are English, including a newspaper report of Frederick, Prince of Wales playing.  The most famous example is in the description of Catherine Morland, Jane Austen’s heroine in Northanger Abbey:  “...Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country...”

The origin of the name “rounders” is obscure.  It first appeared in (going from memory) the 1820s and gradually replaced the name “baseball.” The game had been carried to America under the older name.  It began its rise in cultural prominence in the 1850s.  There are items in English newspapers of the “What they are doing in New York” variety which discuss how baseball is all the rage, and explain that this is what Americans call rounders.  On closer examination the old English usage of “baseball” was still alive, and survived several decades later than that, but only as a deeply obscure provincialism. 

As a side bit of weirdness, there was a baseball world tour in early 1889, going from America to Australia, through the Suez Canal, and working its way to Britain.  At that point there were competitive communities of English rounders clubs as working class sport.  One of these communities, centered on Liverpool and north Wales, changed its name (but not its playing rules) to “baseball” in response to the American tour.  It is still played and so named. You will sometimes see references to “British baseball,” typically with some garbled nonsense about its being a hybrid of rounders and baseball.  Several version of modern rounders have been influenced by American baseball, but that came later.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 February 2017 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6324
Joined  2007-01-03

The Big List

Profile
 
 
Posted: 13 February 2017 03:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3986
Joined  2007-02-26

Right on cue, a play on words from CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/13/sport/lindsey-vonn-roger-federer-st-moritz/index.html

Profile
 
 
Posted: 14 February 2017 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
Moderator
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  344
Joined  2007-02-13
Dave Wilton - 13 February 2017 12:40 PM

The Big List

Since you mention it, I have some issues with that entry.

(1) It strains to find an element of truth in the Abner Doubleday story.  Abner Graves vaguely remembered an incident from his childhood, when as a young boy he was taught baseball by an older boy.  Many decades later he was primed by the Mills Commission to interpret this recollection as being baseball’s origin.  The Mills Commission was formed specifically to investigate the game’s origin.  It’s primary research technique was to solicit reminiscences of old-timers, thereby implying that it believed the game to have been invented within living memory.  Hence Graves being primed to remember the incident as an origin story.  He was also primed to identify the older boy as Abner Doubleday, the Civil War general, by the mere fact of Doubleday’s fame.  That it turns out that the local Cooperstown boy was the other Abner Doubleday doesn’t matter here, as it is entirely likely that Graves didn’t know this.  So Abner Doubleday, the Civil War general, shared a name with a guy who was recalled (though with no good reason to believe the recollection) as having played baseball.  To characterize this as an element of truth is a stretch.

(2) Alexander Cartwright, unlike Doubleday, actually did play baseball.  There is not a scrap of contemporary or near-contemporary evidence that he had anything to do with the rules.  He was a member of the Knickerbocker Club from 1845 to 1849, when he headed west as part of the California gold rush.  There is no reliable (i.e. not forged) evidence of any involvement with baseball after he left New York.  The one notable story about him and baseball is recorded in an 1866 book by Charles Peverelly.  The book includes a fairly lengthy narrative history of the Knickerbocker Club.  No original members were still active--the oldest active member had joined in 1850--but it is reasonable to understand Peverelly to be recording oral tradition within the club.  The account has a group of men playing baseball informally since 1842.  Cartwright is credited with having suggested they organize as a club.  They formed a committee to recruit members.  This is often played nowadays as Cartwright single-handedly creating the club through Herculean effort in the face of massive indifference.  There is nothing in Peverelly to suggest this.  The idea seems rather to have been taken up pretty enthusiastically.  The key with respect to the rules is that they formed a committee to draft the rules.  It comprised William Wheaton and William Tucker.  There is some weak evidence for Duncan Curry, the first President of the club, as an ex officio member of the rules committee.  Cartwright has no connection to it, and was not an officer in the club’s first year.

The various exaggerated claims about Cartwright’s involvement all came about in the early 20th century.  William Rankin, a New York sportswriter, had a garbled recollection of an interview he had in 1877 with Duncan Curry.  We know it is garbled because Rankin had published earlier versions.  But during the Mills Commission he reacted strongly against the Doubleday story, adapted his memory of the 1877 interview to fit his needs, and presented his improved and implausibly detailed version with expressions of great confidence.  People bought it.  Then a few years later Cartwright’s grandson Bruce Cartwright got in the game, promoting his grandfather’s claim (which Alexander had never made), up to and including forging additions to Alexander’s wagon train diary. 

So Cartwright, unlike Doubleday, did play a role in baseball history, but not the role he is typically assigned.  How big a role depends on whether or not you can convince yourself that the idea of forming a baseball was a radical idea that only a genius could come up with.  To convince yourself of this you have to be willing to overlook the presence of earlier baseball clubs, including in New York City.  I know people who are up to the task of convincing themselves, but I am not made of stern enough stuff to manage it myself.  (In the unlikely event that anyone is interested in the gory details, I published an article on the subject a couple of years ago in Baseball Research Journal.)

(3) Rounders.  This is the best of the three.  I would quibble about characterizing it as a “distant cousin” of baseball.  In their pre-modern forms, baseball and rounders were one and the same game, or more accurately, family of closely related games.  There were regional variations, but there are always regional variations.  That is the nature of pre-modern games.  There were regional variations in how baseball was played in different parts of America.  Eventually both were standardized independently of one another, so different forms were codified.  Baseball subsequently underwent rapid evolution through the second half of the 19th century, making the games more different from one another than they had been at the start of the process.  Then in the 20th century baseball influenced rounders, so the games grew somewhat closer together.  I would go with “siblings” rather than “distant cousins,” but as I say, this is a quibble.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 February 2017 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6324
Joined  2007-01-03

Thanks. I’ve put the entry on the short list for updating.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 February 2017 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
Moderator
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  344
Joined  2007-02-13
Dave Wilton - 15 February 2017 04:41 AM

Thanks. I’ve put the entry on the short list for updating.

From a linguistic perspective, the most interesting part is the various names the game went by.  There are four important ones:  “base ball,” “town ball,” “round ball,” and “rounders.” “Base ball” is the oldest, with those 18th century English citations. 

“Rounders” is either a regional variant name that displaced the older name in England, or a different version of the game that had a different name, and which displaced the older version, name and all.  This latter interpretation is what David Block now favors (by “now” I mean you won’t find it in his book).  I am skeptical.  He and I have had a running cordial debate for some years now.  He believes that the original version of “base ball” did not include a bat.  The ball was struck with the hand.  “Rounders” was a later development by including the bat.  So the two versions were slightly different games that coexisted for some decades.  The first problem with this is that you have to disregard the description in Gutsmuth, which calls the game “baseball” and includes a bat.  Yes, Gutsmuth was writing in Germany, and who knows how he got his information, which very well might have been garbled.  Second, the term “rounders” was unknown in America (contra what one often finds in bad modern sources).  The earliest American sources refer to the game either generically (e.g. ‘game of ball’) or call it “base ball.” At the same time, there is no evidence for any American version of the game that does not include a bat, and in any case American baseball is recorded long before the first recorded citation for “rounders.” We can get creative and construct an explanation for this that doesn’t include English baseball with a bat, but it requires more creativity than I am willing to stomach.  Third, going back to England, we can find references to both ‘base ball” and to “rounders” in newspaper accounts of picnics and the like, but virtually never together.  A picnic might include baseball, or it might include rounders, but not both (exclusing references to American baseball).  This makes perfect sense if these were regional terms for the same game.  It makes less sense if they were widely accepted names for two different, albeit closely related, games.  We need to also suppose that these two games had little or no regional overlap, since if they did we would expect to find them played at the same event.  At the same time, David has some pretty good evidence of 19th century English “base ball” not including a bat.  I think that early on both the batless and the batted versions were called “base ball” but then the word “rounders” was applied to the batted version, which in turn eventually displaced the batless version.

Moving on the “town ball” and “round ball,” these were regional dialectal terms that arose in America.  “Town ball” was the standard name for the game in most of Pennsylvania, the Ohio valley, and the South.  “Town ball” and “base ball” were both found on the Upper Mississippi.  “Round ball” was a New England name for the game, but it coexisted with “base ball.” “Base ball” was the standard name for the game in New York state and the Great Lakes, and coexisted with the others in the above mentioned regions.

In the decade or so that I have been publishing on early baseball, I think this understanding of the early vocabulary of “base ball” and “town ball” and “round ball” is the most important finding.  It isn’t what most other people find most interesting.  Eyes tend to glaze over, even among those interested in the early game.  But it is essential to making sense of pre-modern game in America.  A great deal of nonsense has resulted from writers misinterpreting this vocabulary.

If you are interested in this sort of stuff, I can give you material on the game of “wicket,” an American pre-modern version of cricket that was played into the 20th century before being thoroughly forgotten.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 February 2017 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6324
Joined  2007-01-03

A great deal of nonsense has resulted from writers misinterpreting this vocabulary.

A major offender is Ken Burns, who completely messes up the early names for the game. One you didn’t mention was base, which was a different game entirely, but that Burns consistently confused with baseball. (Burns also gets the origin of jazz completely wrong. He’s just not good at etymology.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 15 February 2017 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
Moderator
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  344
Joined  2007-02-13

In fairness to Burns, that was over twenty years ago.  A lot of its material on the early game reflected the best understanding of the time, but hasn’t held up well in light of subsequent research.  I don’t blame Burns for not doing original research.  I am much less tolerant of later writers who don’t bother to keep up, yet nonetheless feel compelled to write on the subject.  For all that baseball has libraries of books written about it, the state of baseball historiography is a disgrace.  Even books by top-tier academic presses often are utter crap.  Trust me:  you don’t want to get me started.

As for “base,” this is a little more complicated.  The unrelated game you are thinking of is “prisoner’s base.” This was a widespread game along the lines of tag, with some sort of safe haven or havens.  It was often abbreviated as “base.” But so was baseball.  Sometimes a reference to a game of “base” has enough detail to make a stab at which game it refers to, but a bare reference to a game of “base” without any additional detail is ambiguous.

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 2
2