McMurray: Crackerjack lineup of baseball memorabilia drives home game’s essence

From SABR member John McMurray at Smithsonian Magazine on July 17, 2018:

Baseball’s fidelity to its past easily outdistances that of any other sport. Not only are today’s players still compared to Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson, stars of the early 20th century, but baseball’s structure and rules are largely the same as they were more than a century ago.

That connection is made especially vivid through the rediscovered 1857 “Laws of Base Ball,” a 14-page document, dubbed the sport’s Magna Carta, and making its first appearance in a major exhibition, at the Library of Congress. The revered artifact is on loan from Hayden Trubitt, a lifelong fan of the sport, who bought it at auction in April 2016 for $3.26 million, after taking out a $1 million mortgage on his home to do so.

Baseball historians were aware that an 1857 convention of New York-area clubs, initiated by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, had standardized the rules of play. What they did not know for more than a century was that the document with its proposed and finalized rules had survived.

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Originally published: July 20, 2018. Last Updated: July 20, 2018.