Gray: New findings upturn beliefs on baseball’s intro to Britain

From SABR member Joe Gray at Project COBB on June 17, 2013, with mention of SABR members David Block and Bruce Allardice:

Going all the way back to the late 19th Century, histories of American baseball in Britain (or at least the more accurate ones) have observed that the sport was first played on the country’s soil in the summer of 1874 during the tour of two leading teams from the United States: the Boston Red Stockings and Philadelphia Athletics. The tour’s opening game was played at Liverpool Cricket Club in Edge Hill, placing an important early marker for the game’s history in Merseyside, where later so many teams would enjoy success.

A more interesting question concerned when baseball first established a domestic footing. Writing in 2010 for the book What About the Villa?, after extensive research into baseball in 1889 and 1890, I noted that there were two domestic teams claiming to be the first established in Britain: Birmingham Amateur Base Ball Club and Derby Base Ball Club. I concluded that perhaps the clubs deserved joint credit, “Derby for being the first British group to assemble to play baseball of their own volition; and Birmingham for being the first to go a step further and form themselves into an official club.”

Then, in late 2011, following an upload of new material to the British Library’s online searchable database of 19th Century British newspapers, I began running my searches again. I was stunned to find that domestic baseball had been played in Leicester in 1876, fully 13 years before teams were being founded in Derby and Birmingham. At an almost identical time that I was reading through these newly emerged cuttings, the discovery was also being made by a researcher on the other side of the Atlantic: San Francisco resident David Block. More can be read about this joint finding in its announcement on BaseballGB here.

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Originally published: June 17, 2013. Last Updated: June 17, 2013.