Sanford and Son. The Office. Baseball. Three things the Americans stole off Britain. But perhaps baseball is the worst offender. Because the Americans know that ‘The Office’ was based on a British show. They know that ‘Sanford and Son’ was based on the British black comedy ‘Steptoe and Son’, the greatest television comedy ever produced. But how many know that baseball was a British creation? It’s often labelled as ‘America’s sport’, but the truth behind that claim is a far murkier one that it initially seems…
The 14th century. Four centuries before America was even founded. In Britain, ‘stoolball’ is all the rage, in which a batter stood before a stool and, with a bat, hit a ball thrown by a pitcher. If the ball hit the stool, the batter was out. A book written at the time even claimed the preferred ball in this game was a ‘base ball’. Sound familiar?
From this evolved the game of ‘rounders’. In the game, one must strike a ball with a wooden, plastic or metal bat. The player must then run around four bases on a field. After two innings, the batting team switch with the fielding team. Rounders (or ‘points’) are scored when the batting team completes one circuit of all four bases without being knocked out. After four innings, the team with the most rounders wins. This doesn’t just sound like baseball. It IS baseball. Yet it was first played in 16th century Britain, two centuries before the founding of America.
The only real differences between rounders and baseball are minor. Some versions of rounders play with baseball sized bats with no gloves. In other versions, the bat is smaller and swung one handed. Also, the batter only gets one attempt to hit the ball. After that, they must run, regardless of whether or not they even hit the ball.
Most baseball fans think American Abner Doubleday invented baseball entirely from scratch in 1839, in the 19th century. Remember, rounders came about in the 16th. But Doubleday never claimed to have invented baseball. The only person who said he did was Abner Graves, who spent the final years of his life in an asylum for the insane, not to mention the fact that he was only five in 1839. In fact, the American town where baseball is said to have been invented was 150 miles away from where Doubleday was in 1839.
So how did rounders, that most British of games, become baseball? It’s simple, really. The Americans wanted an American sport. A symbol of Americana. A game to unite the people. Not some strange foreign sport, but one of their own. It was an admirable dream for such a young country. And yes, it has become America’s sport, but it didn’t start life that way. It was stolen, an almost direct copy of the British game ‘rounders’. And all the Americans did was tack on some tacky ‘American dream’ soppy back-story. One enriched with a fresh all American pride and hope. Something that is very, very wrong and shouldn’t have happened. Britain wouldn’t have had a problem with Americans using their own version of rounders, but their egos got in the way and we ended up with a frightful mess. America ended up with its own sport. But not the way most Americans think they did.
So does this make baseball completely pointless? At the beginning, yes. Obviously. But considering what it became, I don’t think it’s pointless any more…
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the title on the top of this post if you are on the ‘Archives’ page. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other two blogs:
The Indelible Life of Me
New Post Every Saturday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post
Hark Around the Words
New Posts Every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post