View Full Version : The Origins of Baseball

05-11-2004, 04:28 PM
Pittsfield historians stake claim to baseball's beginning

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Officials and historians in this western Massachusetts city released a 213-year-old document Tuesday that they believe is the earliest written reference to baseball.

The evidence comes in a 1791 bylaw that aims to protect the windows in Pittsfield's new meeting house by prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building.

That bylaw would have been produced well before Abner Doubleday is said to have written the rules for the game in 1839.

Historian John Thorn was doing research on the origins of baseball when he found a reference to the bylaw in an 1869 book on Pittsfield's history.

He shared his find with former major-leaguer and area resident Jim Bouton, who told city officials about the ordinance.

A librarian found the actual document in a vault at the Berkshire Athenaeum library. Its age was authenticated by researchers at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.

"It's clear that not only was baseball played here in 1791, but it was rampant," Thorn said. "It was rampant enough to have an ordinance against it."

The long-accepted story of baseball's origins centers around Cooperstown, N.Y., where Doubleday is said to have come up with the rules for the modern game.

That legend long legitimized the Baseball Hall of Fame's presence in Cooperstown, although later evidence pointed to the first real game being played in Hoboken, N.J., in 1846.

In 2001, a librarian at New York University came across two newspaper articles published April 25, 1823, that show an organized form of a game called "base ball" was being played in Manhattan.

The Pittsfield group hopes their find puts to rest the debate about the game's origins.

"Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," Mayor James Ruberto said.

But experts say it might be impossible to say exactly where and when baseball was created because it evolved from earlier games, such as cricket and rounders, another English game played with a bat and ball.

"There's no way of pinpointing where the game was first played," said Jeff Idelson, a spokesman for the Hall of Fame. "Baseball wasn't really born anywhere."

Still, Idelson said if the Pittsfield group's document is authentic, it would be "incredibly monumental."

Pittsfield might be a sensible home for the sport. Some historians have documented "the Massachusetts game" as a precursor to modern baseball, where runners were thrown out if they were hit by a ball.

Bouton, whose decade-long career as a pitcher included stints with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, lives in nearby Egremont and is helping to restore Pittsfield's Wahconah Park, the former home of several minor-league teams. He hopes the discovery helps bring attention to the project.

"We thought this was a lucky stroke," said Bouton, whose 1970 book Ball Four offered a scandalous look behind the scenes of professional baseball. "I'm sure Pittsfield will live off this for a while."

For now, the document will be kept in a vault until city officials figure out how to properly display it. A copy will be hung at Wahconah Park, one of the nation's oldest ballparks.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

05-11-2004, 06:37 PM
A pretty good take on the intentional walk from Bob Young's column in the Arizona Republic.

Whatever you may think of Barry Bonds, there is nothing in baseball that matches the electricity when he comes to the plate.

So why do opposing managers and pitchers keep pulling the plug? We don't go to the park or tune in on television to watch Bonds walk to first. We pay to see him hit away.

Imagine in 1941 if pitchers had approached Joe DiMaggio the same way during his 56-game hitting streak.

Actually, one did.

"I think there was one pitcher, John Babich (of the Philadelphia Athletics), that DiMaggio got upset with," said Joe Garagiola Sr., the Hall of Fame broadcaster. "He was intent on walking him and not giving him anything to hit. Joe had to widen his strike zone to do it."

That was the 40th game of DiMaggio's remarkable streak. After Babich threw three outside fastballs in the fourth inning, DiMaggio went out and got the fourth outside pitch and knocked it through the box.

He later told Sports Illustrated, "He was out to stop me even if it meant walking me every time up."

Late in the streak, pitchers had opportunities to walk him - even with first base open. They pitched to him.

Fans want the same from today's pitchers against Bonds, who is creeping up on Hank Aaron's all-time home run mark of 755.

San Francisco, which is four games below .500, draws an average of 39,528 on the road, second only to the Yankees (39,536).

Why? To see Bonds hit.

Already, he has walked 50 times in 29 games. Cincinnati manager Dave Miley called for an intentional walk when Bonds led off the 10th inning Sunday, despite the fact that Bonds hadn't had a hit in his past 14 at-bats. Bonds scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly.

"If I was working the game (behind the plate), unless my team was out of it or way ahead, he wouldn't get a pitch from me," Garagiola said.

"I don't care if he's 0 for 15. That just means he's about to be 1 for 16 at my expense."

Garagiola understands that fans are disappointed, but it still comes down to managers being paid to win games.

"It's got to be frustrating for Bonds, too," he said. "It can't be much fun for him. It's only fun twice a month when the paycheck arrives. But the game means something, too.

"If you pitch to him, you're just going to turn your catcher into a maitre d' - Table for four Mr. Bonds?' - when he crosses home plate."

05-11-2004, 06:38 PM
Damn, I ment to make my Bonds post its own thread. Haste makes waste.

05-11-2004, 08:05 PM
LOL Crackem. I read that post twice trying to figure out what it had to do with the origins of baseball (but I never thought to read your next post like a dumbass). Good stuff man. I appreciate the response . . .