Thursday, 11 September 2008
The vexed question of the origins of baseball has been further agitated by the discovery of a reference to the game in a diary of 1755 by a citizen of Guildford, the agreeable county town of Surrey. Guildford also has one of the oldest written references to cricket being played, in 1598. Both games, in their early forms, seem to have been for both sexes - see the telling reference in Northanger Abbey. But of course, like many another innocent pastime, they had to be taken over by the men, systematised with fabulously complicated rules, and given a multi-level competitive structure. Cricket became - in the Test match form of the game - a wonder of the (uncomprehending) world that far transcends mere sport. Baseball survives on this side of the Atlantic as a playground game for both sexes, rounders. In America it was pumped full of testosterone and self-importance and became the modern baseball game - basically rounders, but with the ball thrown so violently as to be all but unhittable, and with lots of burly men dashing around showing off. I can't help but feel that we Brits got the better of the deal. Baseball, when all's said and done, is not cricket.