Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Baseball's Archeologist

  • Please log in to reply
2 replies to this topic

#1 John Bonnes

John Bonnes


  • Administrators
  • 5,701 posts

Posted 18 September 2013 - 08:44 PM

Grantland's Bryan Curtis profiles baseball historian David Block, who is rewriting our understanding of the origins of baseball. How?

As he scoured eBay in the late '90s — back before anyone knew what their junk was worth — it was Block's brainstorm to bypass books about baseball. He was looking for books that mentioned baseball, books historians might have missed. "I always liked to go where no one else was looking," Block said.

And so we come up with all kinds of references that show that some game called "base-ball" was so common in the mid 1700s that there was no need to explain it. Eveyone played it. Including....well.....

But that afternoon, he left the room and came back with a copy of his newest find: a 264-year-old English newspaper called the Whitehall Evening-Post. The paper has news of inmates attempting a jailbreak from Newgate Prison, and of a chestnut mare that disappeared from a local forest. On Page 3, there is a small item. It reads:

On Tuesday last his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Lord Middlesex, played at Base-Ball, at Walton in Surry; and notwithstanding the Weather was extreme bad, they continued playing for several Hours.

The date of the game was September 12, 1749. That's 90 years earlier than, and 3,500 miles away from, baseball's alleged conception in Cooperstown, New York. The "Base-Ball" player is the heir to the British throne. Block is rewriting the prehistory of the game. He is exposing a century's worth of lies. He has come up with a shocking answer to the riddle of baseball's parentage.

Baseball archaeologist David Block - Grantland

#2 PseudoSABR


    Twins News Team

  • Twins News Team
  • 3,687 posts

Posted 19 September 2013 - 01:52 AM

This kind of scholarship is interesting, though, I'm not sure how revealing. While Block's materialist approach seems earnest, we can't really draw legitimate conclusions from esoteric mentions of keywords, especially, when found within documents of the distant past. For my part, the author of the Grantland article, Bryan Curtis, overstates and dramatizes the significance of Block's scholarship.

That said, there is an underlying truth the article expresses, baseball did not simply emerge from the ether nor was it born of any one man's genius. The origin story of baseball, like most origin stories, we can agree, is mostly myth. What's unfortunate is that there likely is no documentation that will give light to a meaningful clarification of the true origins of baseball. Perhaps, in part, that adds to the abstract, romantic quality that makes baseball glow.

Edited by PseudoSABR, 19 September 2013 - 02:16 AM.

#3 Thrylos


    They Finally fired ’em. Play Ball!

  • Members
  • 8,793 posts
  • LocationLehigh Valley, PA, USA
  • Twitter: thrylos98

Posted 19 September 2013 - 03:56 PM

Great read. Thanks for the link. Got to love an article that mentions baseball and Blavatsky in the same paragraph :)
Blogging Twins since 2007 at The Tenth Inning Stretch
twitter: @thrylos98