Monday, May 19, 2014

A Game of Rounders

From October of 1888 until May of 1889 Albert Goodwill Spalding led two teams of American baseball stars on a celebrated tour around the world to promote the game and provide new markets for Spalding's own line of sporting goods. The teams featured several notable players including future hall of famers Cap Anson and John Montgomery Ward as well as future National League President and Governor of Pennsylvania John Tener. The teams visited many sites around the globe including New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Italy, France, and England.

While in England the team engaged in a friendly game of "rounders" with a contingency of local players. Rounders, a bat and ball game popular in England at the time,  has many similarities with baseball and has long been regarded as one of the early influences in the development of our national pastime. One man who did not necessarily see it that way was Albert Goodwill Spalding. Spalding vehemently defended baseball as a purely American invention. He played a big part in legitimizing the story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, NY, a story which is regarded as myth by modern historians and many of Spalding's contemporaries as well. As the article below from the March 24, 1889 Pittsburgh Dispatch shows, Spalding surely did not make these claims out of a lack of familiarity with the game of rounders. In fact, he represented the team of Americans as the "bowler" (pitcher) and apparently made a respectable showing of it at that.

Below is a transcript of the article and description of the game as it appeared in the March 24, 1889 Pittsburgh Dispatch:

Our American Boys Give the English Players a Tussle at

Liverpool, March 23.
The American teams retired at Lancaster last night and awoke in Liverpool at an early hour this morning. The train did not attract as much attention as at other places, and no demonstration was made of any kind. The weather was cloudy and threatened rain, but notwithstanding this between 7,000 and 8,000 people gathered at the Police Athletic Grounds and gave the boys a hearty welcome. The programme for the afternoon was lengthy and diversified, including, besides a game between the American teams, a game of rounders between a picked English eleven and eleven ball players, and afterward a baseball match - England against America.

The baseball game between the Chicagos and All-Americas was well played, and resulted in a tie at the close of the fifth inning, when game was called on account of the sports to follow. Each side scored two runs. Baldwin and Crane were the pitchers, and did effective work. Only one hit was made off Baldwin and four off Crane, two of them being three-baggers and one two-bagger. The veteran George Wright played shortstop for the All-Americans, but he did not show up at the bat and infield with the skill which once made him famous. He struck out in his two chances at the bat, and fumbled grounders in a way that showed he was sorely out of practice. He had two chances, and made one error. The spectators were appreciative of the game, and applauded all the good catches and long hits. They seemed to derive undoubted amusement at base stealing.

While preparations were being made for rounders rain began to fall heavily, but the people remained in their places, despite the fact that few were armed with umbrellas. The rounder team was made up of a picked eleven from the Crescen, Union, Cranmer, Crown and Derby clubs. The American eleven was Spalding, Anson, Hanlon, Pfeffer, Manning, Tener, Earle, Wood, Wright, Hagerty and Brown. The American team had the first inning and scored six runs and their second made eight. The English eleven scored 16 in their first and then game was called. The most interesting feature of the game was that it gave the Americans opportunity of seeing the game from which their own is said to have originated. They resemble each other in many points, but so far as skill is concerned any comparison with the American game is absurd. Rounders is childish, and brings out no strong qualities in batting, fielding or running.

The bowling of Spalding, who was once the American champion, was highly admired, and the Englishmen admitted that the fielding of the Americans was perfect, and that if they understood the game they would probably be able to cope successfully.

At the close of rounders and English team played the Americans at baseball. They showed utter deficiency in their ability to judge and catch flies, field grounders or bat. Baldwin was the American pitcher. The English were able to hit only one ball safely in three innings, eight striking out. Frank Sugg, the champion cricketer of Lancashire, pitched for the English side. The Americans batter him all over and ran bases with impunity, trifling at will with their opponents. They made 16 runs in the first inning and 2 in the second, and then quit, with a score of 18 nothing.

As the baseball players left the ground they were heartily cheered, and also on the streets on their way to the depot. They left to-night at 9 o'clock, reaching Fleetwood at 11, where they will take a steamer for Bellfast. They will doubtless be generously entertained in Ireland, as many invitations have already been received.

Rules and Diagrams of the English Old-Time Game.

Rounders, as now played, originated in Liverpool many years ago. There are seven fixed positions in the game, the balance of the 11 having roving commissions, as there are no foul lines. The bat is paddle-shaped. The pitcher can make a run of two or three yards in delivering the ball. Two "bad" balls delivered to a batter counts one for the batting team. If a batter strikes at a ball and misses it he is out.

Here are some other rules of the game: The number of innings and time of draw is arranged by the respective captains before commending a match, and when a team is 30 runs behind it is compulsory for it to "follow on."

When there is but one batsman at the striking base, he must strike at one of six good balls or be "out;" and the innings shall only be terminated by the batsman, being caught out, or the "touching base" being struck with the ball by a fielder while the batsman is running the bases. When there is only one man left on the batting side he shall be entitled to claim a rest of five minutes after running the bases before being called upon to take his place at the striking base.

When a club has made a winning score it shall have the option of terminating the same. An umpire is appointed by the competing clubs, and should there be two decided upon they shall act together, one giving his attention entirely to the bases, while the other attends solely to the bowling.

Source: Chronicling America

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