Slight Antedating of Modern Sense of "Baseball"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat May 17 04:46:38 UTC 2014

On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 11:13 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 10:46 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 9:30 PM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>>> baseball (OED, 1.b., 1845 [23 Oct.])
>>> 1845 _Brooklyn Daily Eagle_ 21 Oct. 2/3 (  A GREAT MATCH AT
>>> BASE BALL. -- This afternoon, at 2 o'clock, the New York Bass Ball Club play
>>> a match at ball with the Brooklyn Club at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken.  The
>>> interest attached to this match will attract large numbers from this and the
>>> neighboring city.
>> There was an item the same day in the New York Herald:
>> 1845 _N.Y. Herald_ 21 Oct. 2/4 The New York Base Ball Club will play a
>> match of base ball against the Brooklyn Club, to-morrow afternoon, at
>> 2 o'clock, at the Elysian Fields, Hoboken.
>> visible here:
>> The date there is confusing, suggesting there was a game on 10/22. But
>> there were only games on 10/21 and 10/24, according to this:
> The Herald reports that the two teams were originally scheduled to meet on 10/6:
> 1845 _N.Y. Herald_ 6 Oct. 2/4 Sporting Events. A Base Ball match
> between eight players of Brooklyn and eight of New York, was announced
> to take place in Brooklyn to-day, and also a shooting match among the
> members of the Anglo-American Club of this city. It is not believed,
> however, that either of the events will "come off," in consequence of
> some mal-arrangement or misunderstanding among the several parties.
> 1845 _N.Y. Herald_ 7 Oct. 3/3 A True Prophecy. We stated yesterday
> that the proposed Base Ball match between eight players of New York
> against eight players of Brooklyn, would turn out to be a failure; and
> so it was, for the New Yorkers did not make their appearance on the
> ground, and the supper provided by their order was necessarily
> untouched.

I see now that this is all well-worn ground among early baseball
historians (and Barry Popik informs some of us off-list that he found
all of these cites some years ago). A good summary of contemporary
evidence for the 1845 games can be found here:

The game that was intended to be played on 10/6 evidently occurred on
10/10, as reported by the New York Morning News and the True Sun on

For our purposes, it's significant that the reports from early October
(10/6 and 10/7 in the Herald, and the other two papers on 10/13) only
feature the attributive usage "base ball match" -- these slightly
antedate OED's C1a (1st cite 10/22/1845). The two 10/21 cites given
above (from the Eagle and the Herald) are the earliest with "base
ball" used non-attributively (OED 1b).


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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