Thorn: England’s danger, the 1874 baseball tour

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on October 20, 2016:

In his comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, William Shakespeare famously suggested, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late,” yet, when it came to the sport of baseball, his fellow countrymen failed to agree. The first overseas excursion of baseball, in 1874, quite emphatically confirmed that America’s “national pastime” was not ready for an “inter” prefix, as the touring clubs were met with a polite but unambiguous collective shrug of British shoulders. Adrian Anson–in 1874 too young to be called Cap and nicknamed instead “Baby”–recalled in his memoir:

“The impression that base-ball made upon the lovers of sport in England can be best illustrated by the following quotations taken from the columns of the London Field, then, as now, one of the leading sporting papers of that country:


“’Base-ball is a scientific game, more difficult than many who are in the habit of judging hastily from the outward semblance can possibly imagine. It is in fact the cricket of the American continent, considerably altered since its first origin, as has been cricket, by the yearly recourse to the improvements necessitated by the experience of each season. In the cricket field there is at times a wearisome monotony that is entirely unknown to baseball. …

“This, coming at that time from a paper of the Field’s high standing was praise, indeed, but the fact remains that the game itself, in spite of all the efforts made to introduce it, has never become popular in England, for the reason perhaps that it possesses too many elements of dash and danger and requires too much of an effort to play it.

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Originally published: October 20, 2016. Last Updated: October 20, 2016.