The Baseball Diaries

While staying with Ginger’s girlfriend’s aunt’s friend…we were told a story of sporting history.

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It's older than America

Apparently, a few years back, American research teams had peppered the BBC with requests to find out about the source of baseball, which is a hugely popular sport in the US, but is a poor cousin to rounders and softball in the UK. So it goes.

The researchers knew that Jane Austen had made the previously oldest reference to baseball. So they were here in Britain seeking an earlier indication of their sport’s historic validity. They put out their appeal and waited for responses.

Meanwhile, in a village near Lodsworth, an amateur historian named Trisha had stopped a friend of hers from burning a box of old books. They had sat in an attic unread for many years, and Trisha thought it a shame to see Fahrenheit 451 be reached with these particular scripts.

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The Historian at work...

So she rescued them, read them, and transcribed them. Amongst the various tomes, was a slim volume of diaries by a fellow named William Bray. In this book were detailed all his daily doings, his food purchases and acquaintances, his leisure and work.

William Bray, it turned out,  was a famous diarist, who kept meticulous detailed records of his daily life, from which much British history is reconstructed.

This particular diary was unknown before its attic rescue. Another 7 volumes existed in a local museum, but this one was thought long lost.

Amongst Bray’s daily jottings was a reference to going to play baseball:

“After dinner, went to Miss Jeale’s to play at Base Ball with her the three Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford and H. Parsons. Drank tea and stayed ’til eight.”

So Trisha rung up the Americans, and said: “Oh, i’ve got a reference to your baseball game from 35 years before Jane Austen.”

And almost before she had hung up the phone, the baseballers were knocking at her door with their TV vans and interviewers.

So the story goes. From a small cottage in Sussex was discovered the old roots of those fanatical ball-hitting people across the Atlantic.

Something new every day…

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Coll and Trish, by the mighty oak

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and some nice willows from their lane...

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