From SABR member David Block via John Thorn’s “Our Game” blog at MLB.com on July 22:
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.
It was one of the most satisfying moments of my hunt for the roots of baseball, and one of the most unexpected. In 2001, while searching for other pastimes within an old German book on games and sports, I came across seven pages describing a game called das englische Base-ball.1 Written by the physical education pioneer J. C. F. Gutsmuths, the 1796 book offers the earliest known detailed explanation for how baseball was played.
In my own book, published in 2005, I cited Gutsmuths’ description while making my case that the 18th century game of English baseball was the immediate forerunner of American baseball.2 At the time, I interpreted Gutsmuths’ use of the term English baseball as an indication that he was describing the same form of baseball that occasionally appeared by name in English works of the 18th and 19th centuries. Because Gutsmuths described a bat as being part of the game, I extrapolated that English baseball was generally played with a bat, even though that fact had not been detailed elsewhere.
Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/07/22/das-englische-base-ball-in-1796/
Originally published: July 25, 2011. Last Updated: July 25, 2011.