baseball's historic demographics

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Bob

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Nov 23, 2019, 10:53:13 AM11/23/19
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I was wondering a lot about the milieu in which baseball and football grew up in America, so it occurs to me to ask:

In about 1850, give or take a decade, what percentage of Americans (all sexes and races) do you think would have played baseball at least once by their 11th birthday? How about football (counting anything they might have called football or could be oonsidered some type of football by us, even if the ball was a stuffed burlap rag)? How about cricket?

Bob in Andover NJ

Howard

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Nov 23, 2019, 1:40:13 PM11/23/19
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I don't know about girls, but for boys a wild guess is if you included all
kinds of forms would be 50%. I never played organized football or baseball,
but by eleven I'd played pickup versions of both at least a few times every
year, and I would say the number of boys I knew and went to school with who
had played some kind of pickup game was 80-90%.

I'd adjust down due to a lot of families living on isolated farms with not
enough kids for a team, for immigrants, and a lot of child labor. I'd
adjust back up for kids having a lot of time not getting sucked up by long
school days and electronics. And then I'd adjust back down just to be
conservative.

It wouldn't surprise me if the number was higher, though. I played a bunch
of variations on both games adjusting for how many kids were around and how
serious they wanted to be, and that includes playing in pretty small spaces
sometimes.

Bob

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Nov 23, 2019, 3:32:28 PM11/23/19
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What makes you confident enough about your knowledge of the middle of the 19th Century to write this? What I'm trying to get an idea of is how widespread these games were.

bil...@shaw.ca

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Nov 23, 2019, 5:09:57 PM11/23/19
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Confident? Look at his words: "a wild guess" and "It wouldn't surprise me".

Why respond so aggressively? He's just trying to answer your
rather difficult question. If I were him I'd have waited for
Richard Herschberger to wander by; he actually knows some of
this stuff. But there's no need to dump on Howard. He's trying.

bill

snide...@gmail.com

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Nov 24, 2019, 1:04:47 AM11/24/19
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Richard Hershberger has posted on these topics
(as well as early rule changes),
so you might call up his messages from the archives.
And buy his book.

Probably more on baseball and cricket than on football,
which seems to not have been a phenom until about the 1880s
(and was a college game then, not grade school).

Various local rules of kick ball probably were happening
in various places, but American football seems much later than baseball.

/dps

Bob

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Nov 24, 2019, 1:43:55 PM11/24/19
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I didn't think I was dumping. This is just how I ask questions.

Bob

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Nov 24, 2019, 1:48:18 PM11/24/19
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It WAS much later in terms of the "football" we know, and it wasn't a SPECTATOR draw until then. But people (probably mostly children, but that's just a guess based on general principles) had been playing various kinds of football since colonial times. I just don't know how MANY would've played.

Bob in Andover

Howard

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Nov 24, 2019, 2:14:00 PM11/24/19
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bil...@shaw.ca wrote in
news:680ffd6e-3457-48c9...@googlegroups.com:
Thanks. I think the challenge is that there is no way you'll get any
more than a rough estimate. Statistical records on kids on almost
anything beyond births, deaths and census data until well into the 20th
Century are about as scarce as evidence on blacks, women, or poor
people. Things like bats and balls are rarely going to survive. You may
get occasional references to games in literature or newspaper articles,
but nothing systematic or reliable. I remember looking into health
issues of 19th Century kids once, and found that if records existed,
doctor diagnoses of diseases were so confused that they didn't mean
much.

It's known that bat and ball games and football games were widespread,
but figuring out how many kids played by age 11 is going to be really
rough. You might pick up clues here and there about smaller
subpopulations -- maybe a particular religious sect had a strong
prohibition against sports, maybe a particular Catholic order taught
baseball in all of its orphanages -- but beyond that, it's just a
guessing game.

peterjc...@gmail.com

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Nov 25, 2019, 3:34:06 PM11/25/19
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"Bite me............oh, this is just how I answer questions"

Bob

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Nov 25, 2019, 10:03:22 PM11/25/19
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I'm not hoping to get DIRECT statistics, but only clues to infer the prevalence of things.

For instance, one might see a passage in contemporary non-fiction or fiction that implies that a certain practice was common, either because of what it says
or because of what it DOESN'T say. Or one might see a passage that suggests a practice was exotic.

For instance, if one figure says to another in fiction, "He spoke of a game called base ball that he had played as a child," and the speaker of that line
was not a foreigner, then one could infer that the author would anticipate readers as possibly having heard of the game but understanding it as a rarity.
On the other hand, if there are many casual mentions in fiction or non-fiction, one may infer that contemporary readers would have been familiar with whatever's being referred to.

> It's known that bat and ball games and football games were widespread,
> but figuring out how many kids played by age 11 is going to be really
> rough.

My question implied a much greater specificity than I meant to. Seems I have trouble getting the tone of a question across as well as the kind of answer I seek.

You might pick up clues here and there about smaller
> subpopulations -- maybe a particular religious sect had a strong
> prohibition against sports, maybe a particular Catholic order taught
> baseball in all of its orphanages

That's an idea, yes.

Bob in Andover

Howard

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Nov 26, 2019, 2:33:22 PM11/26/19
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If you want an anecdotal sense about the popularity of baseball in the
1850s, a good place to start is the newspaper index at

https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

It's not the easiest interface, it's only a small sample of the
newspapers from the period, and the OCR isn't the greatest, but there is
still a lot to look through.

If you set the date to end by 1860 and search for "baseball" "base
ball" "foot ball" and other variations, you start to get a picture.
Papers in Wheeling WV, NYC, Dowagiac MI, New Orleans, and other places
all write about baseball and football.

You will obviously start getting into trouble about specifics quickly --
the exact rules these specific games at these specific times and places
will get sketchy. NFL style football obviously didn't exist back then,
so you have to be very loose with football. As you know, NFL style
football today is radically different from NFL football in 1920, which
was very different from its ancestors in the 1800s..

Trying to figure out how many kids played will get even sketchier -- you
basically have to assume that just as kids today cobble together pickup
versions of formal adult sports, they were going to do it back then.

Maybe of interest is the Weekly American of Washington DC 2/20/1858 has
a story of a court case brought against four boys, ages 8 to 12, for
violating an ordinance against kicking foot balls in the streets. There
is no sense if it involved a game, if they played something like soccer
or rugby, or were just trying to rile up the people in that house.
However, it suggests that at a minimum football games of some type were
widespread enough to inspire an ordinance against them.

Bob

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Nov 27, 2019, 11:05:59 AM11/27/19
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On Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 2:33:22 PM UTC-5, Howard wrote:

> If you want an anecdotal sense about the popularity of baseball in the
> 1850s, a good place to start is the newspaper index at
>
> https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Looks like a great resource, thanks.

> You will obviously start getting into trouble about specifics quickly --
> the exact rules these specific games at these specific times and places
> will get sketchy. NFL style football obviously didn't exist back then,
> so you have to be very loose with football.

That's immaterial to me at this point. It matters only that they call it "football" or "foot ball".

> Trying to figure out how many kids played will get even sketchier -- you
> basically have to assume that just as kids today cobble together pickup
> versions of formal adult sports, they were going to do it back then.

I'm wondering how frequent that was versus the reverse: adults continuing to play, or taking up, what had been children's games.
I think this cultural flow may have gone back and forth a few times.

> Maybe of interest is the Weekly American of Washington DC 2/20/1858 has
> a story of a court case brought against four boys, ages 8 to 12, for
> violating an ordinance against kicking foot balls in the streets. There
> is no sense if it involved a game, if they played something like soccer
> or rugby, or were just trying to rile up the people in that house.
> However, it suggests that at a minimum football games of some type were
> widespread enough to inspire an ordinance against them.

VERY interesting, thanks!

There are some people who'd have you believe that (notwithstanding the Oneida club) in North America in the middle of the 19th Century, football arose de novo
on college campuses, while I'm pretty sure it was a widespread cultural phenomenon. What I don't know is whether it extended continuously back to the
British Isles much earlier, though my supposition is that it did, rather than either arising in North America independently or having been a recent import
from England based on the codified school versions. In particular I think "New York ball" and the "Boston game" of football (not the similarly-called versions
of baseball) were in the folk football tradition rather than derived from then-recently-codified English school and club games.

People's understanding of folk football from the British Isles is distorted by the accounts of "mob football", which I don't believe to have been typical of
the sorts of football games either children or adults would've played more commonly. It's understandable that these huge, violent undertakings at
infrequent intervals would be widely recorded, but the "folk" exist even when they don't constitute a "mob", and the ordinary pastime of football wasn't news and so was unremarkable to history.

Bob in Andover

Richard Hershberger

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Nov 27, 2019, 11:31:59 AM11/27/19
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Premodern vs. modern sports: Modern sports are organized and codified. Premodern sports are informal and local. Premodern baseball in 1850 was widespread throughout Anglophone North America, either under that or some other name (the most common names being "base ball," "town ball," and "round ball.") It was a common schoolyard game for boys. Girls seem not to have played premodern baseball in America. (England is a different story.)

So what percentage of boys played baseball? This is impossible to quantify. Did you play all the schoolyard games current when you were a boy? We have to settle for characterizing it as "commonly played."

As for modern, organized baseball, this was just barely a thing in 1850. The total number of active players probably was in the two digits--low three at the most. Around the middle of the 1850s it entered a rapid expansion phase in New York City, with the number of clubs doubling from one year to the next for about five years, and starting to spread to other cities. Then the war came, and people had other things to think about. The expansion renewed immediately after the war. By 1870 or so there were organized clubs throughout Anglophone North America. In some places they were wildly popular. I once did a rough survey of clubs in Frederick, Maryland c. 1870 and estimated that somewhere between five and ten percent of the total population (men and women, adult and children, black and white) were members of a baseball club. The membership surveyed was entirely white males aged, oh, let's say ten years or more.

Football is trickier. Premodern football was certainly known in America, but it is not clear how common it was. There are more logistical issues than with baseball, balancing having enough people to play against space to play it. Another challenge was that early football was hard to distinguish from a riot, attracting unwanted official attention. The upshot is that there is a reason football was associated with high schools and colleges. They brought together a bunch of boys with energy to burn off, and had room to play the game.

Richard R. Hershberger

Howard

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Nov 27, 2019, 3:27:18 PM11/27/19
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Bob <rob...@bestweb.net> wrote

> People's understanding of folk football from the British Isles is
> distorted by the accounts of "mob football", which I don't believe to
> have been typical of the sorts of football games either children or
> adults would've played more commonly. It's understandable that these
> huge, violent undertakings at infrequent intervals would be widely
> recorded, but the "folk" exist even when they don't constitute a
> "mob", and the ordinary pastime of football wasn't news and so was
> unremarkable to history.

My wild guess is that keepaway style games involving throwing a ball around
will constantly be invented and reinvented. Likewise variations on king of
the mountain style games where one person has the ball and tries to get
around everyone else trying to stop them. After that, the transition to
something resembling football isn't that big of a jump.

There's a great scene in Don DeLillo's End Game where two teams playing
pickup football in the snow gradually eliminate rules, first banning
passing, then any kind of trap blocking or end runs, and eventually
handoffs, to the point where it was just a QB running off a snap into
whatever hole the offensive line could push into the defense. I wouldn't be
surprised if that kind of football has been reinvented multiple times.

Bob

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Nov 28, 2019, 9:03:22 AM11/28/19
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On Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at 3:27:18 PM UTC-5, Howard wrote:

> There's a great scene in Don DeLillo's End Game where two teams playing
> pickup football in the snow gradually eliminate rules, first banning
> passing, then any kind of trap blocking or end runs, and eventually
> handoffs, to the point where it was just a QB running off a snap into
> whatever hole the offensive line could push into the defense.

I think you mean adding rules.

Bob

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Nov 28, 2019, 9:46:10 AM11/28/19
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I knew Richard would come thru. On Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at 11:31:59 AM UTC-5, Richard Hershberger wrote:

> So what percentage of boys played baseball? This is impossible to quantify. Did you play all the schoolyard games current when you were a boy? We have to settle for characterizing it as "commonly played."

That's good enough for me, thanks. When something's culturally distributed, it hardly matters whether it's by the 10% or the 90%. It just matters that it wasn't something exotic for the .01%, or something de rigeur that every able-bodied male was required to do.

> By 1870 or so there were organized [baseball] clubs throughout Anglophone North America.

Do you write "Anglophone" because that's just what you know of? Or was there a cultural barrier that retarded baseball's spread among French-, German-,
Spanish-, or Indian-language-speaking populations? I could understand its not being taken up by, say, the Amish or even Mennonites generally.

> Football is trickier. Premodern football was certainly known in America, but it is not clear how common it was. There are more logistical issues than with baseball, balancing having enough people to play against space to play it.

I really doubt that to have been a serious problem, because those are very variable parameters that are easier adjusted for the football family of games than the baseball family.
If you're used to playing baseball type game with a certain number of bases, that pretty well establishes a narrow range for number of players,
while in football one can easily alter boundaries and the sizes of goals to suit the number of players or vice versa.

> Another challenge was that early football was hard to distinguish from a riot, attracting unwanted official attention.

I think you're seeing the distortion to history imposed by attention. Of course those incidents would be more likely to be recorded than the ordinary kind.
That's why I'd be more interested in casual, passing (heh) mentions of football than in "news" about it.

Bob in Andover

Bob

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Nov 28, 2019, 9:57:40 AM11/28/19
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On Saturday, November 23, 2019 at 10:53:13 AM UTC-5, Bob wrote:
> I was wondering a lot about the milieu in which baseball and football grew up in America, so it occurs to me to ask:
>
> In about 1850, give or take a decade, what percentage of Americans (all sexes and races) do you think would have played baseball at least once by their 11th birthday? How about football (counting anything they might have called football or could be oonsidered some type of football by us, even if the ball was a stuffed burlap rag)? How about cricket?

My Google Ngram search for American English books from 1800 thru 1880 on this gave a surprising result:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=football%2Cfoot+ball%2Cbaseball%2Cbase+ball&year_start=1800&year_end=1880&corpus=17&smoothing=5&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cfootball%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cfoot%20ball%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cbaseball%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cbase%20ball%3B%2Cc0

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 2, 2019, 3:07:03 PM12/2/19
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If you are interested in English folk football, the book you should read is "Football: The First Hundred Years" by Adrian Harvey. You can pick up a used copy for about twenty bucks. Be aware that there is a political element here. Leftie football historians emphasize folk football as the direct ancestor of modern football, with the public school old boys muscling in and taking charge. Rightie football historians emphasize the public school game, with the older folk tradition perhaps helping to spread the public school game to the masses, but not otherwise directly relevant. Harvey is a leftie. You can check out Tony Collins's "How Football Began" for a more conservative, but not whack-job, take.

As for American folk football, there is no reason to doubt that it was an import brought over with the colonists. It settled into the universities much as it had in the English public schools. Dig around a bit in newspaper databases and you can find it played outside the schools.

Richard R. Hershberger

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 2, 2019, 3:23:37 PM12/2/19
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On Thursday, November 28, 2019 at 9:46:10 AM UTC-5, Bob wrote:
> I knew Richard would come thru. On Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at 11:31:59 AM UTC-5, Richard Hershberger wrote:
>
> > So what percentage of boys played baseball? This is impossible to quantify. Did you play all the schoolyard games current when you were a boy? We have to settle for characterizing it as "commonly played."
>
> That's good enough for me, thanks. When something's culturally distributed, it hardly matters whether it's by the 10% or the 90%. It just matters that it wasn't something exotic for the .01%, or something de rigeur that every able-bodied male was required to do.
>
> > By 1870 or so there were organized [baseball] clubs throughout Anglophone North America.
>
> Do you write "Anglophone" because that's just what you know of? Or was there a cultural barrier that retarded baseball's spread among French-, German-,
> Spanish-, or Indian-language-speaking populations? I could understand its not being taken up by, say, the Amish or even Mennonites generally.

I use "Anglophone" to mean the United States and the non-French parts of Canada. I have never made an extensive study of when baseball spread to Quebec or to the various non-English language enclaves in the US. The closest thing to studying this is I have looked for baseball coverage in the German-language press. I find limited coverage by the 1870s. My guess is that second generation immigrants took the game up pretty readily, but they also spoke English (though not necessarily exclusively). This was a hot issue within the American Lutheran church, with the kids wanting to worship in English while the older generation insisted on German, the language of God and the prophets. Google on "First English Lutheran Church" and you will find several of them. The name tells the story.
>
> > Football is trickier. Premodern football was certainly known in America, but it is not clear how common it was. There are more logistical issues than with baseball, balancing having enough people to play against space to play it.
>
> I really doubt that to have been a serious problem, because those are very variable parameters that are easier adjusted for the football family of games than the baseball family.
> If you're used to playing baseball type game with a certain number of bases, that pretty well establishes a narrow range for number of players,
> while in football one can easily alter boundaries and the sizes of goals to suit the number of players or vice versa.
>
> > Another challenge was that early football was hard to distinguish from a riot, attracting unwanted official attention.
>
> I think you're seeing the distortion to history imposed by attention. Of course those incidents would be more likely to be recorded than the ordinary kind.
> That's why I'd be more interested in casual, passing (heh) mentions of football than in "news" about it.

OK, I was being flippant. But I do think it was less widespread, or perhaps spread more thinly, than premodern baseball. When Muscular Christianity hit America in the 1850s there was a surge of a wide variety of sports, with baseball being the biggest winner. There were a few football clubs, but they were very few, local, and short-lived. Fast forward a decade or two and football starts to stir, provoking how-to articles in newspapers of a sort that had never been necessary for baseball. This suggests that it was less a normal part of the American boyhood experience than was baseball.

Richard R. Hershberger

Howard

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Dec 2, 2019, 4:38:15 PM12/2/19
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Richard Hershberger <rrh...@gmail.com> wrote

> If you are interested in English folk football, the book you should
> read is "Football: The First Hundred Years" by Adrian Harvey. You
> can pick up a used copy for about twenty bucks. Be aware that there
> is a political element here. Leftie football historians emphasize
> folk football as the direct ancestor of modern football, with the
> public school old boys muscling in and taking charge. Rightie
> football historians emphasize the public school game, with the older
> folk tradition perhaps helping to spread the public school game to the
> masses, but not otherwise directly relevant. Harvey is a leftie. You
> can check out Tony Collins's "How Football Began" for a more
> conservative, but not whack-job, take.
>
> As for American folk football, there is no reason to doubt that it was
> an import brought over with the colonists. It settled into the
> universities much as it had in the English public schools. Dig around
> a bit in newspaper databases and you can find it played outside the
> schools.

Do these historians allow for any possibility of games arising
independently rather than trying to use an evolutionary model of
ancestors and descendents?

I'm thinking of the example of Mayan ballgames, which involved striking
a ball through a hoop for points, and James Naismith's invention, which
most likely was not connected at all. It seems entirely possible to me
that similar variations on football and bat/ball games could arise
independently, especially in days when game rules were much more
informal and populations were a lot more isolated.

I see a lot of attempts in popular history to force an evolutionary
model on things -- cooking and music, for example -- where it's just not
a good model. I'd think that might be true for sports too, although I
don't really know.

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 3, 2019, 9:43:55 AM12/3/19
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I think Occam's Razor kicks in here. We know that a game called "football" was played in England since the Middle Ages, and we know something about how it was played. We also know that some Englishmen emigrated to America as colonists. We further know that a game called "football" was played in colonial America. Finally, when we start to get some details about how the colonists' game was played, it looks an awful lot like the "football" played in England. We would have to work pretty hard to come up with a narrative for the colonists forgetting the English game, then reinventing it a few years later.

Yes, there is this notion that any human activity can only be invented once. We see this a lot in anthropology of a century or so back. It is absurd to try to connect the Mayan game with modern basketball (even before observing that Naismith's original game did not use hoops, but actual bushel baskets--hence the name). But trying to disconnect colonial American football from English football seems to be straining in the other direction.

Richard R. Hershberger

Howard

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Dec 3, 2019, 6:42:16 PM12/3/19
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Richard Hershberger <rrh...@gmail.com> wrote

> Yes, there is this notion that any human activity can only be invented
> once. We see this a lot in anthropology of a century or so back. It
> is absurd to try to connect the Mayan game with modern basketball
> (even before observing that Naismith's original game did not use
> hoops, but actual bushel baskets--hence the name). But trying to
> disconnect colonial American football from English football seems to
> be straining in the other direction.

That's fair, and I don't know enough about the history of the game to say
there are any other roots. I'd wonder whether there might not be relatives
brought over by French, Germans, or Africans, for example, or if there might
be stick-free versions of lacrosse played by American Indians that looked
something like football.

Which of course wouldn't override the fact that English culture dominated the
US, and any version of football that was formalized and given rules would
almost certainly conform to English concepts. But it's interesting to try to
get at the edge influences in cultural phenomena and not just the canon.

Bob

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Dec 3, 2019, 10:29:38 PM12/3/19
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I'm familiar with Collins's work and point of view, but I hadn't realized how political along the lines of class the contentions were. I'd noticed more divisions regarding pride of place and of institution, such as between those who assume rugby football began at Rugby School and those who think it came to Rugby from Wales. (I'm not only not convinced of either contention, but also don't think those are the only possibilities.) And recently I've learned about the contention over the native influence in the origin of Australian football.

What I find hilarious is how many take seriously the contention by that Aussie clergyman whose name I keep forgetting that the WORD/PHRASE "football/foot ball" doesn't refer to the play of the ball BY foot, but playing a game ON foot -- which is so manifestly ridiculous that it seems like sheer contrariness that motivates its advocates.

Bob in Andover

Bob

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Dec 3, 2019, 10:38:06 PM12/3/19
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On Monday, December 2, 2019 at 4:38:15 PM UTC-5, Howard wrote:
Sure, they COULD, but that's about as relevant as the etymologic coincidences that supply 2 independent origins for a word. Although rarely one pathway may "reinforce" the other, in general I think we're right to assume one of the pathways is how it came about and the other coincidental, although we may not be able to tell which is which. Like the god Typhon and the Chinese tai fung, it doesn't seem likely BOTH were involved in the derivation of "typhoon".

> I see a lot of attempts in popular history to force an evolutionary
> model on things -- cooking and music, for example -- where it's just not
> a good model. I'd think that might be true for sports too, although I
> don't really know.

We have plenty of examples of evolutionary models that are undoubtedly correct, so it seems to be a good assumption a similar mechanism is operating in cases where we don't know.

Bob in Andover

Bob

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Dec 3, 2019, 10:57:00 PM12/3/19
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On Monday, December 2, 2019 at 3:23:37 PM UTC-5, Richard Hershberger wrote:

> I do think [football in North America] was less widespread, or perhaps spread more thinly, than premodern baseball.

I'm sure that's true, if for no other reason than the relative difficulty of producing the required balls. The oldest known specimen of a football was about
grapefruit sized. Early balls were stuffed; later inflated bladders became available, but had the consistency of balloons. For a small hard (or hard-ish)
ball like a baseball there were various alternatives.

Bob in Andover

Rick B.

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Dec 4, 2019, 7:51:36 AM12/4/19
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Bob <rob...@bestweb.net> wrote in
news:66155aa0-7f17-4031...@googlegroups.com:

> What I find hilarious is how many take seriously the contention by that
> Aussie clergyman whose name I keep forgetting that the WORD/PHRASE
> "football/foot ball" doesn't refer to the play of the ball BY foot, but
> playing a game ON foot -- which is so manifestly ridiculous that it
> seems like sheer contrariness that motivates its advocates.
>

What's the alternative? Assball?

HVS

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Dec 4, 2019, 8:53:27 AM12/4/19
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On 4 Dec 2019 12:51:34 GMT, "Rick B." <deep...@sprynet.com.aq>
wrote:
I wonder how he accounts for handball.

Cheers, Harvey

Bob

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Dec 4, 2019, 1:44:40 PM12/4/19
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Supposedly it was to distinguish ball games where the players moved around on foot from those where the players were on horseback or stayed more or less stationary.
One of the advocates of this idea points out a game from the British isles of considerable antiquity that was called "football" and forbade kicking the ball.

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 4, 2019, 3:13:35 PM12/4/19
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Rugby: Certainly, rugby in the sense of the Rugby Union rules of 1871 were a direct adaptation of the game as played at Rugby School (for which we also have the rules). This isn't in question. The question is where did the Rugby School game come from?

The Old Rugbeians of the 1890s had a strong opinion on that question. They held that the football played at Rugby around 1820 or so was the kicking game and that running with the football was introduced gradually over the next couple of decades (or rather, the idea was introduced, then the circumstances under which the ball could be carried gradually expanded). They produced a report laying out the evidence, basically correspondence from old timers. This report tends to get dismissed because it includes the William Webb Ellis story. The thing is, the Ellis story as presented in the report is far more nuanced than the popular version, it is expressly presented as a tentative conclusion, and it is incidental to the main point of the report. It serves as the vehicle by which running with the ball was introduced, but it isn't really the point. The story got dumbed down virtually overnight, and it is the dumbed down version that rightly gets dismissed. But the actual report is worth taking seriously.

So where does Wales, or any of the other candidates, enter in? It is well documented that premodern football had versions that emphasized kicking the ball, and other versions that emphasized carrying it. The various public schools tended to favor the kicking version. I don't have an explanation for why this is, but neither am I convinced an explanation is necessary. In any case, this is the starting point for the Rugby School claim, and I think the evidence they present is pretty good. This does not mean, however, that the Rugby School gradual adoption of the carrying game occurred in a vacuum. The pupils came to the school from locales with their own football traditions, some of which included carrying the ball. It is reasonable to speculate that this smoothed the way for the transition at Rugby School. These external traditions certainly smoothed the way for Rugby Union's early popularity, often in places and/or among classes only lightly influenced by Rugby School. Claims about rugby "actually" originating in [fill in the blank] rather than Rugby School is more nonsense than sense, but there is a kernel of truth that can be used to modify the claim to something sensible.

Richard R. Hershberger

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 4, 2019, 3:16:06 PM12/4/19
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Animal bladder inside a leather cover was the early solution, giving the ball substance and durability. Then later on rubber, followed by vulcanized rubber, became available, replacing the bladder.

Richard R. Hershberger

Mark Brader

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Dec 4, 2019, 4:03:19 PM12/4/19
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"Bob":
>>> What I find hilarious is how many take seriously the contention by that
>>> Aussie clergyman whose name I keep forgetting that the WORD/PHRASE
>>> "football/foot ball" doesn't refer to the play of the ball BY foot, but
>>> playing a game ON foot...

> One of the advocates of this idea points out a game from the British
> isles of considerable antiquity that was called "football" and forbade
> kicking the ball.

If this is true, I'd say it's evidence *for* "football" involving
kicking. We are, after all, speaking of a place where "the New
<something>" is likely to be the oldest of the <something>s, and
where "public school" is a type of private school.
--
Mark Brader, Toronto | "What Europe needs is a fresh, unused mind."
m...@vex.net | -- Foreign Correspondent

My text in this article is in the public domain.

Howard

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Dec 4, 2019, 4:05:41 PM12/4/19
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Richard Hershberger <rrh...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 10:57:00 PM UTC-5, Bob wrote:

>> On Monday, December 2, 2019 at 3:23:37 PM UTC-5, Richard Hershberger
>>
>> > I do think [football in North America] was less widespread, or
>> > perhaps spread more thinly, than premodern baseball.
>>
>> I'm sure that's true, if for no other reason than the relative
>> difficulty of producing the required balls. The oldest known
>> specimen of a football was about grapefruit sized. Early balls were
>> stuffed; later inflated bladders became available, but had the
>> consistency of balloons. For a small hard (or hard-ish) ball like a
>> baseball there were various alternatives.
>
> Animal bladder inside a leather cover was the early solution, giving
> the ball substance and durability. Then later on rubber, followed by
> vulcanized rubber, became available, replacing the bladder.

Millions of people grew up playing soccer with balls made of bundles of
rags. They're still used a lot in developing nations, and I assume they
would have been common in the US before the 20th century. .

Bob

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Dec 4, 2019, 5:55:23 PM12/4/19
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Then I think we're about in agreement.

Too many people when they conceive these processes look for some act of creation or invention, when in the great majority of cases developments are more diffuse, but there are certain factors that make it SEEM in retrospect as if there were certain focuses of invention. The schools are over-emphasized in this regard for two connected reasons.

In a time before the railroads, schools like Rugby were unusual in bringing together from afar a lot of children, who are by nature playful. Where they came from, people tended to be local and stay local. They had games that they played with each other locally, and rarely wrote down rules because, due to their familiarity, they didn't need to. So they didn't leave much of a record of the details.

So they were strangers thrust together who brought in different ideas of how games were to be played. Not only that, but they were always moving up and out. They needed to hammer out details, and they had to have some way of passing them on to the new arrivals. Faculty might help in some cases (I heard some allegation about faculty from Wales being influential in development of rugby football), but they were mostly on their own, and chances were better that they might write these things down and so leave a record.

The fact that a cohort would arrive in a kind of bolus according to the calendar to me also suggests a greater chance to produce change than would've occurred in the games in the towns. But it's not like anyone said, "Let's make a new ball game! With hookers and blackjack!", or even like they were more inventive here than there. More like committee work, sometimes explicitly so.

When it came to rugby football, Rugby School gave it a written record, and a name and identity that could be pointed to, and that's about all that can be said with any confidence.

Bob in Andover

Bob

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Dec 4, 2019, 5:59:57 PM12/4/19
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Except, when they started, animal bladders and rubber bladders were UNcovered and balloonlike. Like beach balls and rehab balls, but less even and more fragile.

Bob

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Dec 5, 2019, 8:18:25 AM12/5/19
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I'll give an example of something that "just happened" and left its mark on rugby football forever. Many have wondered where the odd shape of the ball
came from -- what design intention they had in mind. The answer: none!

Some are familiar with the letter that's been preserved from somebody at Rugby School to Gilbert's, praising the durability of the latter's ball that they used.
What few realize is that that was the ONLY reason they adopted that ball. Gilbert's was near Rugby and had started offering leather-cased balls in a
small number of styles. The students found that particular one to be durable and kept ordering it. So Gilbert's then made a lot of them, and that endorsement
for durability became known, and this became sought after as that football they play with at Rugby, hence its popularity in the area. It happened to be prolate.
So a lot of people in the vicinity, and later beyond, wound up playing with a prolate football. Gilbert's ball, then, appears to have been:
(1) possibly the most significant nailed-down personal influence on how rugby football developed;
(2) at least a large measure of the game's association with Rugby; and
(3) the reason rugby came to be played with a prolate football rather than some other shape, although it had also been played with a spheric ball.

This would not be the only time an equipment maker influenced the development of a game.

Bob in Andover

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 5, 2019, 10:36:53 AM12/5/19
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Not a specific maker, but an example of equipment influencing the development of a game is the baseball glove. Catchers started wearing pairs of gloves in the 1870s, cutting off the fingers so they could better throw the ball. Manufacturers started making purpose-designed gloves, still matched pairs, with some padding in the palms and serious thought put into the seams, which bit into the flesh. Then around 1884 some unsung genius realized that the left-hand glove (for a right-handed thrower) could be a full glove, and heavier. This rapidly grew into a full padded pillow mitt, while catchers gradually abandoned the right-hand glove entirely. It also wasn't long before infielders, and then outfielders, started wearing mitts and gloves on their left hands. There was some talk in the early 1890s of outlawing them for anyone other than catchers, or perhaps catchers and first basemen, but the end result in 1895 was merely to regulate their size and construction.

Up to that point this development was entirely outside the scope of the rules. It also had a huge effect on the game. One can speculate how the game would be different if only catchers and first basemen could wear hand protection. Small ball strategies would work a heck of a lot better, for one.

The influence goes beyond baseball. Toss a ball at any strapping American lad. He will instinctively catch it one-handed, with his non-dominant hand. This seems normal due to baseball gloves, but it actually is really weird. Toss a ball at a strapping English lad and he will catch it two-handed, as it is done in cricket.

I offer to any budding detective novelists this idea for our hero to suss out the true origin of the suspect.

Richard R. Hershberger

Bob

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Dec 5, 2019, 2:46:17 PM12/5/19
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On Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 10:36:53 AM UTC-5, Richard Hershberger wrote:

> Not a specific maker,

Well, now, wait a minute....

> but an example of equipment influencing the development of a game is the baseball glove. Catchers started wearing pairs of gloves in the 1870s, cutting
> off the fingers so they could better throw the ball. Manufacturers started making purpose-designed gloves, still matched pairs, with some padding in the
> palms and serious thought put into the seams, which bit into the flesh. Then around 1884 some unsung genius realized

So that means this COULD be credited to a specific person. We just don't know who it was, but maybe some day we will.

> that the left-hand glove (for a right-handed thrower) could be a full glove, and heavier. This rapidly grew into a full padded pillow mitt, while catchers
> gradually abandoned the right-hand glove entirely. It also wasn't long before infielders, and then outfielders, started wearing mitts and gloves on their left
> hands. There was some talk in the early 1890s of outlawing them for anyone other than catchers, or perhaps catchers and first basemen, but the end result
> in 1895 was merely to regulate their size and construction.

> Up to that point this development was entirely outside the scope of the rules. It also had a huge effect on the game. One can speculate how the game would be
> different if only catchers and first basemen could wear hand protection. Small ball strategies would work a heck of a lot better, for one.

> The influence goes beyond baseball. Toss a ball at any strapping American lad. He will instinctively catch it one-handed, with his non-dominant hand.
> This seems normal due to baseball gloves, but it actually is really weird. Toss a ball at a strapping English lad and he will catch it two-handed, as it is done in cricket.

> I offer to any budding detective novelists this idea for our hero to suss out the true origin of the suspect.

Good one! I was thinking about the development of balls for baseball and for table tennis. It was only recently that I learned Parker Brothers does not have
a defensible trademark on Ping Pong, but that the term was in common use as a synonym for table tennis in India.

What stick out for me are "odd" measurements for layouts of play fields. I haven't investigated, but the fact that so many of the distances in use in the
field markings for hurling and Gaelic football are integer multiples of 7 yards suggests some traditional Irish unit of length measure. The one I'd really like
to know about, though, is the 18'6" for the width of the goals in rugby (and by derivation American and Canadian) football. Like, did they use some fence post
holes and later find them to be that far apart? But there IS a story about the 23'4" wide goals used for decades in NCAA and then Federation football; they
recently reverted to 18'6".

David Nelson records that the rules committee decided to widen the goals to 24' -- a nice round measurement equaling 8 yards and the width of soccer goals --
and then after adjourning, reconvened in a semi-kosher way to alter that to 23'4". But it's John Waldorf who explains, if he may be believed, that the
revision was made necessary by someone outside the committee who wondered what they'd be using for lumber, when standard 2" X 4" boards came 24' long. What
that implies is that they needed to be nailed or screwed together with overlap, the crossbar going fully across the width of each 4" wide upright. While that
is indeed how rugby goals were traditionally built, I've seen plenty of American and rugby football goals where the ends of the crossbar were simply flush to the
inner faces of the uprights, and that was commonly done at the time of the proposed change as well. And that's how soccer goals were constructed of 4" X
4" lumber until very recently too.

So this is a mystery whose "solution" leaves something to be desired. Let alone how the twenty-FIVE foot wide goals for Epler's Six Man Football were built!

Bob in Andover

Richard Hershberger

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Dec 6, 2019, 10:30:37 AM12/6/19
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On Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 2:46:17 PM UTC-5, Bob wrote:
> On Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 10:36:53 AM UTC-5, Richard Hershberger wrote:
>
> > Not a specific maker,
>
> Well, now, wait a minute....
>
> > but an example of equipment influencing the development of a game is the baseball glove. Catchers started wearing pairs of gloves in the 1870s, cutting
> > off the fingers so they could better throw the ball. Manufacturers started making purpose-designed gloves, still matched pairs, with some padding in the
> > palms and serious thought put into the seams, which bit into the flesh. Then around 1884 some unsung genius realized
>
> So that means this COULD be credited to a specific person. We just don't know who it was, but maybe some day we will.

I suppose so, at least in principle. On the other hand (as it were) this is the sort of idea that is bound to come up eventually. If it hadn't been the one guy, it would have been another. Once the idea entered the wild it spread very quickly, with several manufacturers jumping in.

Richard R. Hershberger

Howard

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Dec 6, 2019, 12:06:55 PM12/6/19
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Richard Hershberger <rrh...@gmail.com> wrote

> Up to that point this development was entirely outside the scope of
> the rules. It also had a huge effect on the game. One can speculate
> how the game would be different if only catchers and first basemen
> could wear hand protection. Small ball strategies would work a heck
> of a lot better, for one.

Without everyone having gloves, I'm sure the ball would have to be a lot
softer and deader. With a standard hardball instead of a softer ball,
nobody would try to stop line drives or even a lot of hard one bouncers,
catchers wouldn't throw out very many base stealers, and you wouldn't see
any hard throws to second or third. You really can't get to the modern
hardball without gloves.
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