Giaimo: The surprising Massachusetts origins of nearly every American sport

From Cara Giaimo at Atlas Obscura on August 26, 2016, with mention of SABR member John Thorn:

In 2004, a historian named John Thorn sent the librarians of Pittsfield, Massachusetts on a strange quest. Deep in the archives, they flipped through reams of 18th century bylaws, newsletters, and meeting transcripts. They were looking for any mention of baseball—decades before it was thought to have existed, in a state far from where it was supposedly born.

After 10 days, the chasers caught their wild goose. On a yellowing piece of paper from 1791, in the middle of a host of council minutes, they found this admonition: “for the Preservation of the Windows in the New Meeting House, no Person or Inhabitant… shall be permitted to play at any Game called Wicket, Cricket, [or] Baseball.”

For generations, the honor of being “Baseball’s Hometown” had hopped around between New York and New Jersey—from Cooperstown, New York, the scene of the sport’s most famous, if likely mythical, origin story, to Hoboken, New Jersey, site of the first organized matchup, and then to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where “the manly and athletic game” was played in 1823.

Pittsfield welcomed its new title with glee. But this steal wasn’t just a feather in the town’s ball cap. It was yet another score for Western Massachusetts—a humble region that, improbably or not, has managed to come up with a disproportionate chunk of America’s favorite sports.

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Originally published: August 26, 2016. Last Updated: August 26, 2016.