Research Needs

You can add to our growing database on the spread of base ball. See if you can find the earliest game and earliest club in your town - or a town you love - and if we don't already have that data, send it to us at baseballmemorylab@mlb.com.

When was the first local game played by modern rules?

Our current list of "first games" includes hundreds of claims as to when the modern game originated locally.

Local sources are not always clear about the form of base ball that they report. Newspaper editors, for example, may not have been aware whether a particular game followed New York rules or not. Generally, a game may be counted as a modern game -- that is, it is "the New York game" -- if the size of the teams (9 players), the number of innings played (9 innings, starting in 1857), the names of the 9 defensive positions, and the absence of obsolete rules -- like the "plugging" of runners to put them out and using overhand deliveries to the batter -- help identify it as such.

If you're unsure, list a game as "likely," "unknown," or "doubtful," say why, and we'll hope for more decisive later evidence.

Feel free to report on two or more early games, if you find them. If the first game was played by visitors to the area, we would ideally like to determine when local players followed suit. If you come upon an intramural game, it would be desirable to see if an interclub game came along later. But we are not, in this project, trying to compile all games -- just the earliest ones.

Some details that it would, ideally, be useful to know include:

  • What were the ages, backgrounds, occupations, social standing, or local origins of the participants?
  • What individual or group organized the game, and why?
  • What rules or practices were noted as novel in the source document?
  • What was the nature and degree of local interest in the new game?

In very many cases, admittedly, few of these details can be found, even with lots of digging.

Note: we leave to contributors the matter of defining "local." It could be a city or town, region of a state, or section of a city or town. We'll just tabulate what we receive in all subclasses.

When was the first base ball club formed locally?

Our initial data set includes about well over 1000 clubs now thought to be the first, or among the first, that formed in their locality. Often, but not always, a local team formed and then played the first known local game. Again, however, an announcement of a new club may or may not indicate whether the club intended to use modern baseball rules.

Some details that it would be, ideally, useful to know include:

  • Was the base ball club formed in some pre-existing organization?
  • What is known about the chief organizers of the club? About the other players?
  • What is known about the later fate of the club?