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Baseball Mercury 28

Edition 29 contains an article in Typescript which in parts is difficult to read. Read it here or click the Header above to read the whole Issue.

THE E.B.A. GAME (2).

Following-up the item written on this topic last year. At the time when the name “English Baseball” was introduced, Liverpool was the major centre with 20 plus teams, Gloucester had 12 teams, and South Wales was stated to have 8 teams. Whether at this date 1892, the game was being played in Scotland, I do not know. The game, formerly described as “The new rounders”” or sometimes as “Modern Rounders”, was certainly played in Scotland in 1090.

Why the game developed so rapidly in South Wales compared to the other centres is difficult to understand. It not only developed as far as numbers were concerned, but also in the style of play. For example, there was notany close contact between the game in Liverpool and South Wales until the first international match was played. This was on August Monday, 1908, in Cardiff. The England team in that game still retained traces of the rounders style of pre-1890. Some of the players still batted single-handed, considering that the bat which evolved following the rule changes made at the end of 1889 was possibly twice the length and weight of the earlier rounders bat, single-handed batting seems to be extremely difficult.

For whatever the reason, Cardiff seems to have pioneered several aspects, once the basic rule changes had been made by authorities in Liverpool. Cardiff pioneered schoolboys’ baseball, women’s baseball, and schoolgirls/baseball.

The use of the mask used by the catcher in the American game was introduced into the English game in the mid-1920’s. However, as a boy in Cardiff, I had never seen a mask used until I attended the Wales v. England game at the Cardiff Arms Park rugby ground in 1938. The English backstop was using a mask in that game. Until recently I believed that this was due to influence from the National Baseball Association which had introduced the American code to Liverpool in 1934. I have since discovered that masks were being used earlier, probably more frequently in the game in Liverpool than in South Wales.

The Cardiff Schoolboys’ Baseball League was founded in 1922, it grew slowly but steadily; it has since been renamed the South Glamorgan Schoolboys’ Baseball League and has today more than 100 teams in competition. The Liverpool Schoolboys’ Baseball League was founded in 1924. Women’s baseball was being played as early as the 1920’s in Cardiff. Schoolgirls’ baseball was introduced in Cardiff in the early post World War II period, and has since been introduced in Newport, and Liverpool.

As far as present numbers go in South Wales, there are 100 plus teams in the South Glamorgan Schoolboys’ League; 55 teams in the South Glamorgan Schoolgirls’ League. The Gwent Schoolboys’ League has 50 plus teams; there is also a Gwent Schoolgirls’ League. The Mid-Glamorgan Schoolboys’ League is a fairly recent development, and has 12 teams at present.

The Welsh National Baseball League was formed by fusing a number of leagues, it had 68 teams playing in 1981. The Cardiff Women’s Baseball League had 32 teams in membership in 1981. So that the number of teams playing under the auspices of the Welsh Baseball Union is 317 plus.

I do not know how many teams are at present playing in England; in  the 1930’s there were seasons when possibly 100 teams were playing in England, mainly in Liverpool, but there were schoolboys’ leagues in Warrington, and probably in Chester, and Manchester. A recent development is the formation of a Schoolgirls’ Baseball League in the Liverpool area. I have a seen a reference to the game having died out in Gloucester  during World War I.

As for international matches at the senior men’s level. Up to the outbreak of World War II, 22 games were played in the series. Of these games, England won 8 (6 home, 2 away), and Wales 14 (9 home, 5 away). Since World War II, 34 games have been played. England have won 7 (6 home, 1 away), Wales have won 26 (15 home, 11 away). The highest sequence of Welsh victories is 11, from 1958 to 1968. England’s highest winning sequence is 5, from 1935 to 1939. One game was abandoned due to rain.

The game enjoyed greatest public interest in the 1920’s and 30’s; since the advent of television spectator interest has declined dramatically. The highest attendance recorded at an international match is16,000 this was at Cardiff in 1948.

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