Letter to NYT on "Baseball"

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Tue May 25 19:01:50 UTC 2004

See below for letter to the editor by me, published in N.Y. Times on

The New York Times
May 23, 2004 Sunday
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section 8; Column 5; Sports Desk; Pg. 11
LENGTH: 166 words
HEADLINE: Origin of Baseball


To the Sports Editor:

Re ''Now Pittsfield Stakes Claim to Baseball's Origins'' (May 12): The
quest to find the origin of baseball is worthy of the coverage that The
Times has given it.

But John Thorn's discovery of a 1791 Pittsfield, Mass., bylaw mentioning an
undescribed game called baseball is by no means the earliest such reference.

A search on Gale's database Eighteenth Century Collections Online, which
features a comprehensive collection of scanned books from the 1700's,
retrieves a 1760 English children's book, ''A Little Pretty Pocket-Book,''
using the word base-ball. The book contains a poem titled ''Base-Ball,''
part of which reads: ''The Ball once struck off/Away flies the Boy/To the
next destin'd Post/And then Home with Joy.'' An accompanying illustration
shows the game, complete with pitcher and bases.

The source for Gale's text is a copy, the only one in the world, in the
British Library.

New Haven

The writer is editor of the Yale Dictionary of Quotations.

[NOTE: The N.Y. Times, in its typical "we-know-better-than-you-so-we'll-change-
style, inserted the words "part of" in the letter.  In fact, the quoted
material is the entire poem.]

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

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