Pilgrim Stoolball and the Profusion of American Safe-Haven Ballgames

From SABR members Brian Turner and Larry McCray at MLBlogs.com on June 24:

On Christmas Day, 1621, the game of stoolball was played at Plymouth Plantation. The “better informed” Plymouth Pilgrims regarded Christmas not as a holiday but as just another day of work. Newcomers could mark Christmas according to their “consciences,” but when Bradford discovered that stoolball had broken out, he promptly confiscated the “implements.” In England, for centuries, stoolball had thrown the sexes together, often at Easter, with open flirtation and further personal liberties a predictable result. Such revels were not to be tolerated at Plymouth.

From evidence in hand, English stoolball as played in Pilgrim times bore slender resemblance to what would emerge in about 240 years as America’s national pastime. Stoolball certainly involved fielding (including, probably, the use of the fly rule), throwing, and innings; much less certain is the use of pitching, hitting, or baserunning. And the game never enjoyed the popularity here that it had in England; in fact, very few subsequent U.S. references to stoolball play have been found.

Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/06/24/pilgrim-stoolball-and-the-profusion-of-american-safe-haven-ballgames/

Originally published: June 30, 2011. Last Updated: June 30, 2011.