New Protoball website launched, studying origins of baseball

By Larry McCray

A new version of the Protoball website is now accessible at

A couple of personal distractions have kept me from rebuilding and updating the site in recent years, but I now plan to spend more time on it, and to try to add new features that should interest researchers and writers on early ballplaying.

As you may recall, the site was generously hosted on the Retrosheet Project website for many years. I especially want to think Retrosheet leaders Dave Smith and Tom Ruane for their help and encouragement over that period. Our basic idea for the site was a totally unproven premise in the beginning, and they have been gracious and helpful friends in getting us launched.

Our general view is that a website like ours may help the origins community by putting a range of relevant data where it can be easily found, and, more important, corrected, as fresh information from digitized sources comes to light. David Block estimates that early writers on origins had only a small fraction of the data that we now have, so we need a way to test their early iconjectures against our new stock of facts.

If you haven’t visited Protoball recently, take a look at what wiki-type software can do for a clunky old Word-oriented facility. Amazing.

What’s new: There is a much better site-search capacity and ease of navigation. That’s thanks to our developer, Dave Anderson.

What’s old:

  • An 1150-item origins chronology at, with about 30 “subtopic chronologies” for different locations, different games, etc.
  • The Protoball Games Tabulation (version 1.0), built by Craig Waff, with data on almost 1700 games played through 1860, at
  • A list of active researchers, and a big old bibliography of published sources.
  • A “Glossary” of over 200 baserunning games, some of which preceded base ball (the Massachusetts game, Philadelphia town ball) and some of which were later derived from base ball (softball, stickball, kickball, Finnish baseball).

What’s coming, we think, is a comprehensive database on the spread of base ball, including club data, players and maps.

If you have comments, questions, advice, or corrections, let me know at

P.S. A reminder: SABR is looking to fill the position of Chair of the SABR Origins Research Committee. If you want more details, contact me and/or SABR Director Leslie Heaphy.

Originally published: November 29, 2012. Last Updated: November 29, 2012.