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This old English lawyer guy is the father of baseball?

Big League Stew

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Hold the Cracker Jack, folks: A report out of England says that a 1755 reference to baseball has been uncovered in the diary of this old coot to the right. If what he's talking about was actually similar to the game we love today, that would be the earliest known mention of the sport by about 50 years.

Big deal, right? Well, if you think that William Bray was a Tory hanging with Colonials in the American country side when he first played America's pastime, you'd be wrong.

He was in England when he said he first played "Base Ball" and the first "modern game" in the United States — played by Alexander Cartwright and Co. in Hoboken, N.J. — was still almost 100 years away.

From the Associated Press:

Julian Pooley, the manager of the Surrey History Centre, said Thursday he has authenticated a reference to baseball in a diary by English lawyer William Bray dating back to 1755 — about 50 years before what was previously believed to have been the first known reference to what became the American pastime.

"I know his handwriting very well," Pooley told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, adding he believed the game wasn't very common at the time. "He printed it to show it was new to him. He doesn't mention baseball again. It was something that seemed special."

Bray wrote that he played the game with both men and women on the day after Easter, a traditional holiday in England.

I know. I haven't been this confused with our fine neighbors across the pond ever since I found out that God Save The Queen and My Country 'Tis of Thee were actually the same song only with different lyrics.

Baseball, the great American sport, is an actual product of England and not just our inevitable and vast improvement over their silly sports of cricket and rounders?

Honestly, I think I would have rather heard this morning that Abraham Lincoln was actually French. First the British take away Madonna and now this.

For more info, here's a scanning of Bray's diary passage:

And here's a translation of what all those scribbles actually say:

"Easter Monday 31 March 1755

"Went to Stoke Ch. This morning. After Dinner Went to Miss Jeale's to play at Base Ball with her, the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford & H. Parsons & Jelly. Drank Tea and stayed till 8."

While I'm sure we'll be able to argue this until more concrete evidence surfaces — for all we know their "Base Ball" could have more closely resembled frisbee golf — it now appears that the first baseball game in recorded history involved ladies named "Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst and Miss Molly Flutter."

Great names for an old lady's cats.

Not such great names for the forerunners of my favorite sport.

(Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go pray they don't find a yellow goal post buried somewhere in Essex.)

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