1791 Baseball in Pittsfield, Mass.

SABR member John Thorn’s discovery of a 213-year-old document believed to be the earliest written reference to baseball has got people talking.

In an announcement that has been widely reported in the media, Pittsfield, Massachusetts city officials released an authenticated document revealing that a 1791 bylaw was created there to protect the windows of a new meeting house by prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building.

According to Thorn, who is also part of SABR’s SABR member John Thorn’s discovery of a 213-year-old document believed to be the earliest written reference to baseball has got people talking.

In an announcement that has been widely reported in the media, Pittsfield, Massachusetts city officials released an authenticated document revealing that a 1791 bylaw was created there to protect the windows of a new meeting house by prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building.

According to Thorn, who is also part of SABR’s
Nineteenth-Century Research Committee, this document makes it clear to him that not only was baseball played in 1791 Pittsfield, it was rampant enough to have an ordinance against it.

Thorn, with the assistance of Ball Four author Jim Bouton and others were able to uncover this document.  They hope this effort will stress the importance of preserving Pittsfield’s rich baseball legacy that includes 
Waconah Park. Efforts made by Bouton and others to preserve this legacy are illustrated in Bouton’s latest literary work: Foul Ball: My Life and Hard Times Trying to Save an Old Ballpark.  

In a discussion on SABR-L, SABR



Originally published: May 15, 2004. Last Updated: May 15, 2004.

© SABR. All Rights Reserved