England

Baseball: Prince of Wales played 'first' game in Surrey

  • 10 June 2013
  • From the section England
Baseball
The reference to the Prince of Wales and the Earl of Middlesex playing baseball was found in a copy of the Whitehall Evening Post from 1749

The first recorded game of baseball took place in Surrey in 1749, a specialist in the game's history says.

Author David Block has discovered the reference in the Whitehall Evening Post, dated 19 September 1749.

The Prince of Wales and the Earl of Middlesex played the game on what is now Ashley Park, Walton on Thames.

The previous earliest known mention of baseball was in William Bray's diary which referred to a game played in 1755 in Guildford.

The Whitehall Evening Post item reads: "On Tuesday last, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Lord Middlesex, played at Bass-Ball, at Walton in Surry; notwithstanding the weather was extreme bad, they continued playing several hours."

Strike with the hand

The Earl of Middlesex, Charles Sackville, was an ally of Frederick, the Prince of Wales and before inheriting his title had served as an MP for Kent, East Grinstead and Sussex.

Julian Pooley, from the Surrey History Centre, said the discovery of the early reference to baseball in Surrey was "particularly exciting".

However, English baseball played in the 18th and 19th centuries was very different to the modern game popular in the US.

Mr Block said: "The ball was much softer than today's and instead of a bat, the palm of the batter's hand was used to strike the ball."

Baseball was mentioned in A Little Pretty Pocket-book, which was first published in 1744, however the earliest surviving copy is a 1760 edition.

Early references to baseball being played in the United States include "playing at base" at an army camp at Valley Forge in 1778.

By the 1820s the Rochester Baseball Club (New York) had about 50 members.

The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was founded in 1871.

American poet Walk Whitman described baseball as "our game, that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game".

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