It's been reasonably well established that Abner Doubleday did not, in fact, invent baseball at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. There are earlier references to the game, to begin with -- this one notes that,
The July 13, 1825 edition of the "Delhi (N.Y.) Gazette" (on microfilm) has a notice listing the names of nine men challenging any group in Delaware County to a game of baseball at the home of Edward B. Chace for $1 per game. (The notice came from Hamden, New Jersey.)
Now, via the North Adams Transcript (circulation -- around 8,500), comes news of a 1791 ordnance in Pittsfield, Mass., banning the playing of certain games near the town hall:
WILLIAMSTOWN -- Before the newest birthplace of baseball could be verified, Kate Duffy had quite a bit of work to do.
Duffy, a department head of analytical services at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, spent about two weeks backtracking through time in order to authenticate a 1791 Pittsfield bylaw that banned playing baseball near its meeting house....
The mention of America's pastime in the bylaw makes it the first known document recognizing the sport in the country.
Previously, the earliest known mention of baseball was in two newspapers that stated the game was played in Manhattan, New York in 1832, according to the Associated Press. ...
And this bylaw -- aimed at preventing broken windows in the meeting house -- forbid anyone to play several games, including baseball, within 80 yards of the building, did just that.Handwriting, the materials used in the paper, and other authenticators were all used to help determine exactly where the document belonged in history. And all signs pointed to 1791, Duffy said.
The paper's watermark linked the type of paper to that which was produced by Taylor Clement Jr. in Kent, England from 1774 to 1791. Taylor Clement Sr. also produced paper with the same watermark but he made paper from 1741 to 1762, according to the analytical report on the document written by Duffy.
Fascinating to think they may have been playing baseball during Washington's first term. Meanwhile, my team, the Phillies, has slowly crawled its way back to respectability...Posted by Ideofact at May 15, 2004 10:21 PM