Polish Workers Play Ball at Jamestown in 1609

MLB’s Official Historian, John Thorn, introduces an article from fellow SABR member David Block that was published in the most recent issue of Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game:

“Soon after the new year [we] initiated a ball game played with a bat…. We rolled rags to make balls…. Our game even attracted the savages who sat around the field, delighted with this Polish sport.”1

At the Jamestown Colony in Virginia in the year 1609, a handful of Polish craftsmen took a break from their work to engage in a bat and ball game called pilka palantowa, or “bat ball.”2 Among the spectators (according to one of the Polish players who wrote about it later in a memoir), were “the savages,” “who sat around the field, delighted with this Polish sport.”3 One wonders whether the Indians were truly enjoying the ball game, or sharing smiles over their secret plans to launch attacks against this settlement of intruders. Whatever the case, this first recorded instance of Europeans importing a bat and ball pastime into the New World did not become an immediate trendsetter. The Poles would soon pack up their tools and ballplaying equipment and return to Europe; it would fall to later generations of immigrants to implant the seeds of bat and ball play that would evolve into modern American baseball.


Read the full article here: http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2011/06/19/polish-workers-play-ball

Originally published: June 20, 2011. Last Updated: June 20, 2011.