Rounders batter image
10 May 2004
As is the case with hockey, debate also rages around the origins of baseball. Some feel the game's roots are clearly in Great Britain, baseball evolving from their game of "Rounders".
Others firmly contend that the sport is a purely American creation, springing from the mind of Abner Doubleday in the 1830s. There are even some who say that a game that anyone would recognize as baseball was played in a field in Beachville Ontario one year before "Doubleday was supposed to have invented the game. . .". Perhaps the origins are not important: "baseball belongs to no nation. It is a basic play activity. . . . Baseball is a territory of renewed youth, remembered joy, and comradeship played on city streets and in pastures off rural concessions." (Cheering for the Home Team: The Story of Baseball in Canada by William Humber). Be it of Canadian, American or European origin, baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world today.
Baseball arrived in New Brunswick in the 1870s, although it is likely that it, or a version of it, was played here before this date. By 1888 the widespread popularity of the game allowed for the creation of a New Brunswick baseball league. Some games drew crowds of 1,500 to 5,000 enthusiastic fans. The games of these early days, while recognizable as baseball, would seem quite odd to a modern spectator. Equipment, if any, was crude.
Gloves were flat leather mittens with narrow webbing and padded palms that required players to square their body to the ball. Players fielded with two hands. Batting helmets were not worn and hitting gloves were unknown.
The catcher's equipment, if any, was probably modified from another sport, like cricket or hockey. Uniforms, if any, were usually hand-me-downs, often holey and grimy, oddly coloured, ill-fitting and made of wool. Pitchers threw underhand (overhand throwing not permitted until 1884), and the ball was thrown where the batter called for it (high between the waist and shoulders) or low (between the waist and the knee). By 1887, batters were no longer allowed to call for the high or low pitch but were entitled to 4 strikes and 5 balls with every turn at bat.
Old time baseball memories CHSJ TV
Girls' Baseball Team, Bocabec, Charlotte County, NB
Baseball is among the earliest documented sports played in St. Stephen. In the 1870s a team from the St. Croix Valley issued challenges to teams in Saint John and Fredericton. The August 24th, 1882 edition of the St. Croix Courier reports a ball game between St. Stephen and a team from Princeton, Maine. "There is a pictorial record of a girls' baseball team in the 1890s in Bocabec, about 20 miles outside of St. Stephen. There were several recreational men's clubs playing ball at the turn of the century. In 1913 a St. Stephen-Calais entry in the four-team Class D New Brunswick and Maine League drew boisterous crowds from throughout the valley." (Even the Babe. . . by Robert Ashe)
Milltown Juniors Baseball Team