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Journal Articles

  1. Poor Man’s Cricket  – Martin Johnes – Dec 2000
  2. Society and Sports: Baseball, American Style – George Vecsey – Oct 2002
  3. British Baseball – How a Curious Version of the Game Survives in Parts of England and Wales – Andrew Weltch 2008

 It is with our thanks that this article is reproduced with the permission of Martin Johnes. Martin teaches history at Swansea Uni & writes things about the histories of sport, Wales, disasters, politics & motorways. Author of Wales since 1939 (2012). 

International Journal of the History of Sport, vol. 17, no. 4 (December 2000).

‘Poor Man’s Cricket’:
Baseball, Class and Communityin South Wales,
c. 1880-1950 
MARTIN JOHNES

[Baseball] promises annually a thrill-packed season – fast and skillful ball play in and around the diamond, and a range of strokes at the batters’ plate that gives mighty arms the bloom of wrist-work and the eagle eye the fullest scope for bewildering and routing even the most cunningly placed field-trap.2

 While American sporting enthusiasts may recognise their national game in the above description, it actually refers to a hybrid sport that is popular in Liverpool and South Wales. A game called baseball in Britain can be traced back into the eighteenth century, even gaining a passing mention in Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey. However, it was not until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that, thanks to the efforts of touring American teams, a modern version of baseball emerged in England.3

Those tours also helped the evolution of rounders in the west of Britain into a sport that was renamed baseball but structurally still more akin to its original title. It is upon this sport of English, British or Welsh baseball (as it was variously known) that this article focuses. The sporting images of Wales have been dominated by international sports such as rugby, boxing and soccer. Yet the reality is far more diverse: a whole host of sports and games from quoits to handball were played and watched across the nation and, in parts of south-east Wales, baseball was the summer game.4

This article explores the sport’s history in south Wales before 1950. It attempts to develop our understanding of non-commercial sports within working-class communities, the agencies that influence and direct them and the way in which modern games evolve.

The Origins of Baseball in South Wales

In the USA there has been much debate over the history of baseball since attempts at the beginning of this century to invent an indisputably American origin for the sport. The process is ambiguous but it seems that American baseball evolved from the traditional British bat-and-ball games taken there by emigrants.5

 Baseball in Britain developed independently from the US sport but it has its origins in similar bat-and-ball games dating back at least into eighteenth century. The first known reference to a game called ‘base ball’ was in 1700 when a vicar in Maidstone decried its playing on a Sunday.6

 In the west of Britain, such ball games appear to have been known as rounders.7

By 1829, a Boy’s Own Book noted that rounders was ‘one of the most favourite sports with bat and ball’ in the west of England.8 In 1862, the Dublin University Magazine declared ‘What schoolboy has not played rounders in hisyouth?’9

 We must be wary of reading too much commonality in such games. Words are not precise or static in their meaning. The generic name of baseball or rounders may be little more than an indicator of shared properties that do not extend far beyond a game played with bat and ball and running between posts. But whatever the individual nature of such games, in line with the general trend of Victorian sport, they were gradually codified, institutionalised and bureaucratised into a more unified and organised sport.

As with most (and arguably all) sports, the exact nature of the process remains extremely unclear. Rules for rounders had been published in 1829 and by 1868, it is said that there were 157 clubs in Merseyside, Scotland, Gloucestershire and South Wales.10 Nothing is known about their nature or composition and there were probably still variations in the rules used. The process of establishing the sport was not smooth. In Liverpool, where the bulk of clubs were concentrated, the establishment of rounders was noted as difficult ‘in the face of generally expressed opinion that it was only a boyish game’. Much of the ‘development and invention’ of the game there was put down to one J. G. Howe who held ‘a very responsible position in commercial life’ and belonged to ‘a class of gentlemen whom Rounders must secure to itself’.11

As with other sports, middle-class patronage seems to have been fundamental to development.

The game’s development owed much to the impetus provided by the professional American baseball teams who toured England in 1874 and 1889 with the hope of establishing the sport there. 12Although neither tour was a great success, the second did lead to semi-professional baseball being established on a small scale in the Midlands in 1890.13 The tours also boosted interest in rounders where associations were formed in Liverpool and Scotland in 1889. A year later, the South Wales Rounders Association was formed by just four clubs, three of whom were based in Cardiff.14 The Times noted in 1889 that ‘It is an age for devising new games, borrowing foreign, and furbishing up old ones. If the ghost of ‘rounders’ is sneaking about anywhere he will aid and abet the efforts of the baseballers to rehabilitate him’15 Rounders was very much an old game being refurbished and rehabilitated. That process had begun before the American tourists arrived but they did aid and abet in its success. So too did the growing sporting culture of the day to which The Times referred. Sports such as soccer and rugby had already developed bureaucracies of clubs and competitions overseen by governing bodies. Having gained in stature and popularity as a consequence, the temptation for other sports to follow suit must have been powerful. The development of individual sports did not happen in a vacuum: success breeds imitation.

Following the US tourists, further tours and exhibition matches were undertaken by British teams in the hope of developing baseball and rounders in other parts of the country. In 1891, a Lancashire combination side toured Gloucestershire and south Wales playing games under the rules of the new National Rounders Association. Matches were played in Cardiff and Caerphilly raising the profile of sport and, consequently, the number of clubs in the South Wales Rounders Association had risen to twelve by 1892.16 Despite the difference in titles and rules, from 1892 rounders and baseball clubs competed together for a national cup under the auspices of the newly formed National Baseball Association (NBA).

Thus a situation had arisen where two titles – rounders and baseball – were being used to describe what was essentially, barring minor rule variations, a similar sport. Consequently in 1892, the amateur Liverpool Rounders Association changed the name of its sport to the more glamorous title used by the touring Americans and became the Liverpool Baseball Association. The South Wales Rounders Association followed suit mid-season, presumably without altering any rules. The change was said to be appropriate with the more skilful style of play emerging.17 However these moves did not bring about a complete uniformity in rules with the US version being played semi-professionally in the Midlands. The NBA lacked influence and resources and baseball clubs still largely competed on a local level. Even the national cup was regionalised in its early stages. This meant that there was no incentive for the Welsh or Liverpool game to switch to the American code. Meanwhile, the missionary work of English teams playing the British version continued. In the summer of 1892, in an effort to popularise the ‘improved version of the old-fashioned game of rounders’, Liverpool and Lancashire teams played matches at the Mecca of Welsh rugby, Cardiff Arms Park.18 Thus, although the evidence of how is extremely fragmentary, by 1893a hybrid form of baseball had evolved in south Wales out of the traditional game of rounders. It still retained many of that game’s features and was not the professional sport the American tourists had hoped for. Nonetheless, their missionary work had stimulated the beginnings of the sport on an organised basis in Britain, albeit with some regional differences.

US baseball in the Midlands failed to catch on,19 but the British version survived in south-east Wales and Liverpool into the twentieth century. Whereas in the Midlands, baseball was concentrated around a handful of professional teams attached to dominant football clubs, in south Wales and Liverpool it enjoyed a strong self-supporting local infrastructure of amateur clubs. The game here continued to resemble rounders rather than the US version. The bats used were flat and originally customised cricket bats before local manufacturers started taking advantage of the potential market. Unlike in the USA, gloves were rarely used and the methods of bowling, scoring and layout of the pitch were also different to the American version. Baseball in south Wales and Liverpool remained close enough to rounders that one lady, who had played the former at school and the latter in later life, could remember no significant rule variations.20 There were minor differences however between Liverpool and south Wales in the rules and practices of baseball. Notably, in Liverpool, one-handed batting was still the norm. Such differences proved to be problematical in the representative matches that took place between the two regions under the self-important title of internationals. The first ‘international’ between Wales and England was in 1908a and had to be preceded by compromises over the number of umpires and rules governing movement of the batsman’s feet. Subsequently it was normal for the annual international to be played under the rules of the association hosting the match until the International Baseball Board of England and Wales was formed in 1927 to standardise rules in the two regions.

The ‘favour of the masses’

From its shaky start, the game slowly became established in certain districts of Cardiff and Newport as the predominant summer sport. Local league competitions were formed at the turn of the century giving the game an attractive and competitive edge with medals and trophies to play for .21By 1906, it was noted that, amid a ‘great revival in the game’, there were clubs in every district of Cardiff but one, and even there efforts were afloat.22 The sport was said to be ‘slowly integratiating itself into the favour of the masses’.23 This growth in the game’s popularity continued after the end of the Great War. In 1905, there had been fifteen clubs in the South Wales and Monmouthshire Baseball Association. A year later, the figure had risen to thirty-six and, by 1921, there were sixty clubs and 1,400 registered players in the newly renamed Welsh Baseball Union, although all were based in Cardiff and Newport.24 Such figures were small compared to soccer (20,000 registered players in Cardiff and district in 192325) but, by the early 1920s, baseball was the chosen summer sport of an increasing number in areas of south-east Wales. As with the growth of other sports, baseball seemed to have an almost ‘self-generating power’.26

Integral to baseball’s development was the support of rugby and soccer clubs. One newspaper noted:

Football clubs have in recent years begun to realise the value of baseball as a means of keeping fit and in Cardiff and Newport especially the majority of players of the winter game take part in baseball in the summer months.27

The adoption of baseball in the summer by many existing amateur football clubs enabled the sport to expand quickly and bypass some of the organisational difficulties (finding players, pitches and the like) that other new sports faced. Although most senior rugby and soccer clubs did not set up their own teams, many of their players played the game for local baseball clubs. The chance to see the heroes of Welsh rugby and soccer added greatly to the attraction of baseball for spectators. It also helped ensure that these players remained part of the local communities.28 Professional footballers may have been heroes but baseball contributed to their identity as local and working men rather than the dislocated superstars of the modern and post-maximum wage era. Their presence also helped ensure press attention for baseball. The feats of football stars in other sports intrigued an inter-war press increasingly interested in portraying sporting heroes outside their normal spheres of activity. The resultant attention could only raise baseball’s profile and popularity.

As with any sport, baseball’s future was dependent on winning the interest of children and thus its introduction into schools was an important development. Children had long played crude bat-and-ball games in the street or playground of their own accord and baseball’s introduction, by interested teachers, as a formal activity was a logical development in the growing trend for organised school sports. A baseball league for Cardiff schools was set up in 1922 – although it initially only featured five schools – and a year later, a similar competition was formed in Newport. As in the senior game, it was the introduction of a league shield and knockout cup that gave the schoolboy game the prestige and excitement it needed to establish itself, and the 1920s witnessed a steady growth. A lack of funds meant that plans for a representative match against the Liverpool Schoolboys’ League did not reach fruition until 1939 when, as with the senior game, it took place under the guise of an international match. After the Second World War, the schoolboy game continued to grow in line with the wider encouragement of physical education in schools. In 1951, the place of the sport in the education system was enhanced with the beginning of official schoolgirl baseball in south Wales.29

 Baseball was far more than just a participatory game and it is this that marks it out from the multitude of other amateur sports that existed in working-class communities. While pub games such as darts and more leisurely pursuits such as bowls could boast a significant number of players, baseball at all levels was watched by large crowds. For its most glamorous matches baseball could attract attendances comparable with professional sport. Ten-thousand watched the international against England at Cardiff Arms Park in 1924, while in 1948, a record 16,000 watched the same fixture, when, with few alternative entertainments in the post-war austerity, spectator sport in general was enjoying a peak in popularity.30 Even important club matches in public parks could attract crowds of several thousand in the inter-war years. These crowds reached a peak during the heights of the depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The free entertainment watching baseball offered made it an attractive pastime for the unemployed and others wishing to save their pennies.31

Yet despite its growth in popularity, the geographic spread of baseball was very limited. In 1921, all the rather misleading titled Welsh Baseball Union’s (WBU) sixty members were based in Cardiff and Newport and, even here, the game was increasingly confined to working-class districts. Of the 37 teams in the Cardiff & District League in 1929, as many as 19 were based in the working-class areas of Splott and Grangetown.32 Of the remainder, only three were based in the suburbs with the other clubs scattered around other working-class dominated districts of the city. In Newport and Liverpool too, the game was largely limited to working-class areas. Thus baseball’s growth was very much in terms of numbers rather than geography and it remained a localised game concentrated in certain areas. For prestige, Liverpool versus Cardiff-and-Newport may have been called an ‘England versus Wales international’ but in reality baseball was far from a national sport.

Baseball’s strength in working-class areas of Cardiff and Newport may have been connected to the relative weakness of cricket there. Cricket developed significantly in Cardiff in the 1870s and 1880s, thus slightly predating the establishment of organised rounders.33 The large space, specialist kit and considerable length of time required to play cricket meant that it did not easily establish itself in densely populated, working-class areas and there was no obvious patronage from above in such districts. Although there were a number of cricket sides based upon religious institutions in areas such as Splott and Grangetown, the game failed to develop to the extent it did in other, more prosperous, districts with plenty of open space for wickets to be pitched. Thus it may have been cricket’s weakness that allowed older traditions of rounders to survive longer in these working-class districts and it was on these traditions that baseball’s subsequent popularity was based.

‘The Artizans’ Game’

In 1906 a baseball correspondent wrote in the local press:

 Now that baseball has become so popular in South Wales with all classes it is to be hoped that it will remain the artizans’ game. The majority of players belong to the artizan class – fellows who toil hard all week and like to spend their Saturday afternoons playing this grand old American pastime in the summer, and football in the winter.34

The boom of 1906 never fulfilled its potential and the game not only remained predominantly an artisan sport, but also witnessed a gradual retreat in middle class patronage. In being an artizans’ game, baseball was hardly unique yet other such sports (notably soccer and rugby) could also boast significant middle-class involvement, particularly through the ownership of senior clubs. Even the organisation of junior soccer and rugby involved a prominent middle class presence and patronage. Such sports operated on a much wider scale than baseball: they enjoyed a high public profile and, in many ways, were part of civic life. Thus, unsurprisingly perhaps, they attracted players, administrators and referees from the middle classes.

In contrast, baseball was an inward looking sport under the control of the workers. Of the 33 referees registered with the WBU in 1929, it has only been possible to trace seven but all of whom had skilled working-class jobs, except one who was a clerk. Of the club secretaries that could be traced a similar working-class background emerges including un- and semi-skilled workers.35 Most clubs were named after neighbourhoods or districts. Oral evidence suggests that even clubs associated in name with religious institutions, public houses or workplaces were usually run independently by their players. As in football, such institutions were social centres for networks of friends who happened to play baseball. They were not generally the providers and organisers of the sport itself.36 In 1892, Newport Baseball Club had been able to boast an MP and aristocrat as patrons. However, as the Welsh game increased in popularity, it lost the symbolic patronage of local eminent figures. While the Cardiff and district soccer leagues continued to boast MPs and Peers as honorary patrons, baseball’s equivalents lived in the same working-class districts of Cardiff as the game was played. Thus, although the evidence is sketchy, it does point to a sport very much run by the working class who played it and sustained by the neighbourhood and other networks of social life.

There were exceptions in this picture but they were men associated with the working-class districts of Cardiff where baseball was strong. The Edwardian secretary of the South Wales and Monmouthshire Baseball Association was a hotel owner and prominent member of the Grangetown Conservative Party. Yet by the inter-war period even he was no longer involved in baseball. Instead, he devoted his energies to professional football, becoming chairman of Cardiff City FC and the Football Association of Wales. His move away from baseball was typical of men of his class between the wars but other exceptions existed. Splott University Settlement was an atypical club in its institutional associations and it enjoyed a proud tradition, reputation and status. It also had a local businessman as its secretary in the 1930s who was described by one of the club’s players as ‘pompous’ and ‘posh’. Similar sentiments were expressed about the rest of the committee. They were ‘aloof’, did not socialise with the players but were nonetheless very much in charge of the club.37 The secretary did not live in Splott but he did own a large local store in the area. There were few other middle class figures of his stature in Splott and such men in baseball clubs were exceptions. There were only three clubs in Cardiff who enjoyed any kind of long-term status and reputation. The other teams were transient and short-lived: run by, and dependent on, local men and boys who drifted in and out of the sport. Baseball was thus largely a game in the hands of the workers with its clubs generally starved of the security that external patronage could provide.

Despite its working-class identity, baseball was not free from the kind of paternal language and respectable ethoses that often accompanied middle-class patronage of sport. Many club secretaries expected players to behave, look smart and not swear38. In 1923, the honorary secretary of the WBU wrote in the programme of an exhibition match:

Baseball … combines all other forms of athletic exercises – running, jumping, throwing, and adds to them “Batting,” one of the greatest of manly delights. It affords an unlimited opportunity for the boy to give vent to his youthful energies. It brings him into the open air and provides action for his muscles, lungs and brains. Baseball stimulates the player’s mind and serves to fill the vacancy when leisure time would have no occupation to divert him from the many pitfalls that present themselves. For that reason Baseball is greatly favoured as being of immense value in shaping the lives of young men. It teaches quick-thinking, self control, a regard for the rights of others, and the ability to look after one’s own interests.39

Such sentiment would not have been out of place in the sermon of a nineteenth-century muscular Christian. Given the propaganda context in which the words were written, they can not be taken too seriously as evidence for the motivation of working-class sport; indeed they may have even been trying to appeal to potential middle class patrons. Nonetheless, such rhetoric does further suggest that the ethics of respectable workers and the middle classes were not always far removed. Baseball may have been a working-class game but much of the middle class would have approved of its virtues.

Baseball, like other aspects of working-class recreation, was not completely autonomous: it was reliant on outside agents and vulnerable to external pressures. It may have been run on a voluntary rather than commercial basis, but money was still a constant problem. Expenditure was kept to a minimum but clubs had to pay for league fees, equipment and kit. Clubs generated income through collections at matches and fund-raising events such as dances and raffles but the sums raised were rarely enough to overcome the need for members to pay subs and supply their own kit. In 1906 a rule was introduced that players could only change clubs if they had fully paid their subscriptions. This was to combat the trend of switching teams to avoid outstanding dues.40 Thus participation in baseball was subject to wider economic pressures and during the inter-war depression there were unemployed men unable to afford participation in organised baseball or other sports.41 Working-class sport may have been unable to escape the confines of the wider economic context but it also demonstrated communities trying to pull together where possible. As one player remembered, for example, the subs of the poorest members of his club were often quietly forgotten about.42

The most pressing obstacle any sport faced was securing space on which to play. For a working-class sport in a cramped urban environment, this was often a significant problem. Like amateur rugby and soccer, baseball was largely reliant on the provision of space in local public parks. However demand outstripped supply and some prospective clubs were unable to secure a playing field. The demand that the game was placing upon the public parks of Cardiff caused other sports to complain to local councillors in 1927 that they were not being given a fair share of space. As a result many applications from baseball clubs to use the parks had to be turned down.43 Clubs lucky enough to secure private grounds charged spectators between 1d and 3d entry. This guaranteed the teams financial security and often overcame the need for subscriptions. Yet although the number of private grounds was increasing, in 1938, 29 of the 40 Cardiff men’s teams were still reliant on public parks.

As a result of its dependence on public parks, baseball was subject to the regulations of the local corporation and thus unable to function entirely as it liked. In the early post-war years, this caused problems in Cardiff when the local council decided to enforce a bye-law which forbade collections on public parks. Clubs were unable to continue their old practice of passing a hat around the watching crowd and were thus saddled with new financial problems.44 The working class may have been able to organise their own recreation but, as long as they wanted to use large open spaces, their material condition meant they could not operate independently from those in power.

Material problems were not the only disadvantages that baseball faced. The game’s failure to fulfil the expansive promise of the Edwardian period suggests wider social and cultural barriers. It has been suggested that the failure of baseball to establish itself in the more prosperous parts of Cardiff and Newport may owe something to its reputation as ‘poor man’s cricket’.45 This derogatory label, which was also known in Liverpool, is derived from baseball’s concentration in working-class districts. Martin Daunton has argued that Edwardian Splott and Grangetown, where baseball was later concentrated, were physically distinct districts with definable characters.46 As class-consciousness developed in the inter-war period and the process of suburbanisation continued, such inner-city districts must have become identified more clearly with the working class who lived there. This was probably especially true of Splott which was dominated by a steelworks, had little middle class housing and was isolated from the centre of the city by the path of a major railway. Baseball itself may also have contributed to the identity of these areas. Given the pride with which former players speak of the baseball abilities of Splott and Grangetown, the sport gave the districts something unique to stand them apart from other parts of Cardiff.

Any disdain for baseball or the districts where it was popular was unlikely to be overt or explicitly use the language of class. Nonetheless, such considerations may have influenced people’s perceptions of the sport and the localities that supported it. For example, a player from the prosperous seaside town of Penarth remembered her team having a low opinion of Grangetown because there was ‘a lot of poor people’ living there. Similarly, a female player from Splott said that the competitive edge in matches against teams from Penarth was added to by the difference in the two areas’ status.47 Like football, baseball was part of consciousness of class rather than a political class consciousness.48 Thus in this light, the suggestion that baseball’s development was restricted because of the game’s working class associations becomes plausible. In contrast, cricket had a more affluent reputation and was able to marginalise baseball in the suburbs of Cardiff, Newport and Liverpool.

Splott and Grangetown were also areas where Catholicism and the Irish were prominent and this may have reverberated negatively on baseball’s prospects elsewhere. Although of the teams associated with religious institutions in the Cardiff and District League, Roman Catholics were not disproportionately represented, baseball was popularly thought of as having a significant number of Catholic players.49 The Irish in Cardiff were a group conscious of their distinctiveness and concentrated in residential pockets.50 Although, by the twentieth century, they were largely integrated into wider Welsh society, occasional discord did persist.51 Gaffney, for example, has shown how Irish Catholics were largely excluded from community processes of commemorating the First World War in Wales.52 Inter-war Splott witnessed considerable rivalry between Catholic and Protestant schools fed by religion, sport and children’s taunts.53 Such tensions were not only visible in the rivalry between local baseball teams in Splott but also can not have helped the game’s cause outside such areas. Thus while baseball was played in the shadow of the Splott steelworks, it was cricket that was fashionable in the leafy suburbs. Baseball was a sport shaped by the often indistinct cleavages of class and ethnicity that permeated urban life.

Spreading the Word

There were sporadic attempts to develop the game outside Cardiff and Newport with exhibition matches being played in the industrial valleys, Swansea and other towns across south Wales. Although this led to new clubs and competitions being set up, they always proved to be short-lived. The standard of play was too poor and the press coverage insufficient to attract the attention baseball needed if it were to survive elsewhere. Soccer was able to spread quickly in Edwardian south Wales because it was an established sport in England. It had heroes to imitate and aspire to and outside professional clubs with a commercial interest in seeing the sport grow.54 Baseball in south Wales enjoyed none of these benefits. The game was amateur with authorities who lacked the resources or motivation to see its geographical base expand. Even the press coverage in Cardiff and Newport was muted and unexciting: often little more than lists of scores that were meaningless to someone from outside the baseball fraternity. Match reports were not the tales of glory that might stir the blood of prospective players. With cricket already established outside Cardiff and Newport, baseball found difficulty in securing both playing space and players. It was the question of space that administrators generally blamed for baseball’s failure in the South Wales valleys.55 The sport required an area larger than a football pitch and the existing playing fields in the valleys, often cut out of hillsides, were simply too small for baseball. Even soccer and rugby experienced severe difficulties in securing inadequate space in the valleys and, as a 1921 Ministry of Health report noted, only a ‘very small proportion’ of the area’s male population played any outdoor sports.56 In such a context, baseball’s prospects outside its heartland were unsurprisingly poor.

The narrow confines of baseball did have repercussions on the game. The administrators were undoubtedly dedicated to the sport but there were doubts over the fairness of the selection of the national side while press comment hinted at a somewhat insular and conservative attitude.57 Consequently debate arose, even during the Edwardian boom, on the merits of converting to the American code of play. Yet the reaction of the Welsh baseball authorities was normally one of disdain. They felt their game was more skilful and entertaining than the US version. In 1906, one ‘prominent’ south Wales official who dared to admit that a settlement with ‘proper’ baseball would be a ‘good thing’ chose to remain anonymous in making his comments. Such sentiments were obviously not a popular line to take in Welsh baseball circles. Approaches from the British [American] Baseball Association for an amalgamation were turned down and the ‘hybrid’ Welsh and Liverpool games remained isolated.58

By the inter-war period, the debate was further fuelled by the development of the US game into a lucrative and prosperous enterprise. In 1929, a newspaper reporter suggested that the Cardiff game adopt the US rules in an effort to boost the game’s popularity and give the region’s best players an opportunity to compete against the highly paid stars of the USA. He felt that many could easily hold their own against the American stars and go on to earn similar spectacular wages. In the climate of mass unemployment that south Wales was experiencing, tales of weekly wages in excess of a hundred pounds must have sounded very tempting. The reporter saw the growth of greyhound racing and speedway in Wales as a possible avenue through which to develop baseball. The two sports were run on a commercial basis, and thus open to new ideas, and possessed large stadiums that could be utilised.59

Such ideas received a mixed reception amongst baseball enthusiasts in South Wales. Gone was the arrogant dismissiveness given to similar suggestions in 1906.Instead problems were acknowledged but culprits found. The refusal of the Cardiff Athletic [rugby] Club to patronise the game, Cardiff Corporation’s ban on park collections, the lack of baseball pitches and slow bowling were all blamed for the game’s woes in the inter-war and early post-war years. The oft-mooted idea of outlawing the batsmen from playing strokes behind him (thus allowing a smaller playing area) was officially discussed but not taken up. Yet the game’s administrators retained their optimistic view that baseball could develop to attract crowds as large as football.60 The Welsh game may not have had to compete with the anti-American sentiment and accusations of ‘glorified rounders’ that the sport in England had to put up with,61 but there was still a pride that Wales had its own code of baseball. Victories over the crews of visiting American warships, at both the Welsh and US versions, were pointed to as evidence of the Welsh game’s strength, while ideas such as commentaries and microphones for referees were experimented with in 1950 to make the sport more attractive.62 The game was not oblivious to the need for change but essentially its pride in its unique identity was too strong to adopt the US rules.

In 1933, after encouragement from Sir John Moores of the Littlewoods Pools Company, there were significant moves to establish American baseball in the north of England. The baseball played in Merseyside and south Wales involved scoring runs for each base reached rather than just the complete circuit the US version rewarded. This meant that matches were high scoring and draws rare. Consequently the version was deemed unsuitable for summer pools and it was this that lay behind the patronage of American baseball by Moores.63 Littlewoods pools were based in Liverpool and it was here that propaganda began with attempts to persuade the local baseball league to switch to the American code. The moves met with a mixed reception. There was some apprehension over the possible loss of a native game but others welcomed the replacement of the slow British under-arm bowling with the faster US pitching.64

Although, British baseball continued in Liverpool on a diminished level, a professional league was eventually set up with financial backing. It featured teams from across northern England and attracted large crowds.65

Encouraged by this development, there were renewed moves in 1939 to establish the American code in south Wales. Exhibition games were played featuring English sides and a league consisting of four teams was set up in Cardiff. Although the threat was small scale, and artificially boosted by the inclusion of RAF players, the Welsh authorities reacted harshly issuing a veiled threat that playing the American code constituted a breech of WBU rules. In response, the press renewed its criticismof the poor organisation of the Welsh game while, against the background of heightening international tensions, the secretary of the new American league accused the WBU of a ‘dictatorship policy’. In its determination to hamper to the American code, the Union responded by improving the organisation of fixtures and considering a restructuring of its competitions.66 External developments were again affecting Welsh baseball but its authorities were resolute not to let their unique game and own personal position be undermined. Ultimately, the outbreak of war not only prevented a possible split in Welsh baseball but also killed the professional American league in England. Nonetheless the episode is a clear indication of how external commercial pressures were already beginning to hesitantly push popular culture towards a uniformity more commonly associated with late twentieth century globalisation.

Playing the Game

Participating in sport has been interpreted as offering escape from the constraints of daily life and a sense of belonging to wider communities.67 The personal sense of achievement and importance that sport could offer should also not be underestimated. In particular, in times of economic hardship, it offered the unemployed a rare opportunity to feel ‘somebody’.68 The evidence from baseball clearly illustrates how important the social side of sport was. A former glassworker from Cardiff remembered the game and the social contact it brought with great fondness: ‘I really enjoyed playing baseball. The comradeship and the getting together in the night times practising like and then on Saturday afternoons playing … It used to be great fun.’ After a match he and other players would go with their girlfriends (who had watched the game) to the cinema and make a night of it. What particularly appealed to him was the way playing baseball (and soccer) enabled him to make many friends across Cardiff. Baseball was an integral part of his social network and calendar. Similarly, a lady who had moved to Cardiff’s Grangetown from a nearby seaside town, got to know people there through baseball. The sport helped her settle in her new home. A former shop-worker remembered her club as one ‘big, happy family’, adding that baseball was her social life. Many clubs were based upon existing social networks such as groups of school friends but sport provided a means of keeping such contacts alive. It was for these social reasons, as well as keeping fit, that so many soccer clubs took up baseball in the summer. The networks they provided were too important to let lie outside the football season. Such social contacts helped cement sport’s place in working-class communities. Playing was undoubtedly fun but it was the sense of belonging and the friendships that built up around the sport that made it integral to the lives of many. Once players grew older and drifted away from the game, the friendships and clubs often died too. Some former players continued to watch the game and thus maintained old contacts but many moved onto new phases in their lives. 69

Welsh baseball was notable for its female participation. Like soccer, woman’s baseball began in earnest during the First World War amongst young women working in factories. However, whereas the middle-class soccer authorities actively discouraged the women’s game after the armistice, females playing baseball faced no such concerted opposition. A women’s league was set up in Cardiff in 1922 featuring teams representing factories, chapels, churches and districts in the same working-class are as of the city where the game was deeply popular with men. In 1926, the first women’s international match took place between Wales and England.

Like the male game, women’s baseball was an important part of the community and shaped by its values. Women’s games were watched by friends, family, husbands and boyfriends without any resentment or tension. The male players provided the young women with coaches, heroes and husbands. Social networks were not as demarcated by gender as has been made out by some historians.70 Nor were the women any less competitive than the men, with a strong premium placed upon winning. Playing for the game’s sake was not an ethic common with either gender in working-class communities.

However, female players still faced the same material problems that women did in other sports. It was not marriage or social pressure that ended their involvement but the lack of time motherhood brought. One interviewee had to force herself to become uninterested in the baseball because she missed playing so much.71 Other women continued to take an active interest and were prominent in spectating crowds but baseball is a testimony to the recreational disadvantages that working-class mothers endured, even in a sphere where females were openly welcome.

Conclusion

Thus baseball in south-east Wales offers an insight into, not only sport’s place in working-class communities, but also the problems of a sport marginalised in terms of middle-class involvement and spatial distribution. It was not Welsh baseball’s refusal to adopt the US rules that condemned it to isolation in Cardiff and Newport(the profile and finances of the professional American game in England were never strong enough to warrant the Welsh game switching codes) but the fact that the sport was confined by the wider realities of economics and power. Without space for new grounds and money or time to sustain a propaganda campaign, baseball in South Wales could never establish itself outside its narrow base; there were limits to the self-generating power of sport.

Yet by surviving there and in Liverpool, baseball illustrates how the movement towards a national and commercialised popular culture was not fully encompassing. The impact of class and gender upon cultural preferences has been well noted,72 but region, and even neighbourhood, also exerted a strong influence. For reasons of local pride and a lack of external influences, regional pastimes could and did survive. As Richard Holt has argued of sport, and Gareth Stedman Jones of wider life, working-class culture was relatively autonomous.73 As baseball illustrates, that relative autonomy also ensured that working-class culture enjoyed a regional diversity.

Where baseball was played in south Wales, it was an integral part of the local popular culture. For many men and women it was the highlight of the week; their recreation and social life rolled into one. For the working-class districts where such people lived, baseball contributed to a sense of community. It was a source of pride: something to stand their neighbourhood apart. To the historian, baseball is an illustration of the integral place of voluntary sport in such working-class communities and the local diversity that still existed within a wider evolving national and commercial popular culture. Baseball in south Wales may never have remotely approached the popularity and glamour of the US game but, to those involved, it had all its attractions.

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  1.      Acknowledgements are due to Bill Barrett, Daniel Bloyce, John Day and Chris Williams for their helpin locating sources; Andrew Hignell for his thoughts on the relationship between cricket and baseball; and the former players who kindly shared with me their memories of the game, adding life and meaning to the bones of the written sources.
  2.      Liverpool Echo, 8 July 1939.
  3.      See Daniel J. Bloyce, ‘‘Glorified Rounders’? The origins of baseball and the subsequent attempts to export the sport to England’, Unpublished paper presented at the British Society of Sports History Annual Conference, April 1997 & ‘Just Not Cricket’: Baseball in England, 1874-1900’, International  Journal of the History of Sport , vol. 14, no. 2, August 1997.
  4.      For a survey of the different sports in south Wales see Gareth Williams, 1905 and all that: Essays on Rugby Football, Sport and Welsh Society (Llandysul, 1991), ch. 6.
  5.      For a summary of the ‘invention’ debate over baseball’s origins see Bloyce, ‘Glorified Rounders’. For a wider view of the origins of the sport in America see the material held at www.mhoerch.demon.co.uk/sabr2.html.
  6.      Cited at www.mhoerch.demon.co.uk/sabr2.html.
  7.      See Henry Chadwick, ‘The Ancient History of Base Ball’, 1867. Reproduced in Dean A. Sullivan(ed.), Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (London, 1995).
  8.      William Clarke, The Boy’s Own Book London, 3rd edn., 1829).
  9.      Dublin University Magazine, I, 642, 1862. Quoted in Oxford English Dictionary under rounders.
  10. The rules of rounders were set out in Clarke’s Boy’s Own Book . Ivor Beynon & Bob Evans, Inside Story of Baseball (Cardiff, 1962), p. 3, cites the number of clubs but gives no source and makes factual errors elsewhere.
  11. Rounders Reporter and the Liverpool Athletic News, no. 2, 13 May 1885.
  12. See Bloyce, ‘Just Not Cricket’.
  13. For a personalised collection of press cuttings and stories about the establishment of baseball in the Middlesborough area in the 1890s see Bernard J. Day, Lost for a Hundred Years (Middlesborough,1996).
  14. South Wales Daily News, 28 July, 18 August 1890
  15. The Times, 18 March 1889.
  16. South Wales Daily News, 12 July, 2 August 1892. Although, the foundations of the sport were insecure with four members failing to field teams for that year’s annual challenge shield.
  17. Beynon & Evans, Inside Story, p. 4
  18. Western Mail, 4 August 1908; Bloyce, ‘Just Not Cricket’, pp. 208-211; South Wales Daily News, 2August 1892.
  19. Bloyce, ‘Just Not Cricket’, p. 212.
  20. Interview between author and Mrs D. H. (b. 1908), 2 July 1998.
  21. Baseball/rounders was dependent on middle-class patrons for the supply of trophies. See, for example, Western Mail , 1 September 1890. The attraction of trophies and medals in a materially deprived culture should not be underestimated. Former players interviewed proudly showed the author freshly-polished medal collections won in their youth. Photographs of Welsh baseball’s Dewar Shield show it to be over four feet tall: a glamorous trophy indeed!
  22. South Wales Graphic, 7 June, 23 August 1906.
  23. Western Mail, 4 August 1908.
  24. South Wales Graphic, 26 April 1906; Tecwyn Vaughan Jones, ‘Pêl Fas Gymreig’, Y Faner, 10 June1983, p. 15.
  25. South Wales Echo, 18 June 1923.
  26. Richard Holt, Sport and the British: A Modern History (Oxford, 1990), p. 153.
  27. Western Mail, 7 August 1922.
  28. For a discussion of professional footballers as traditional/located heroes see Chas Critcher, ‘FootballSince the War’, in John Clarke, Chas Critcher & Richard Johnson (eds.), Working Class Culture: Studies in History and Theory (London, 1979), pp. 162-168.
  29. E. J. Thomas, The History of Physical Education in Wales up to 1970, University of Manchester,M.Ed. thesis, 1979, pp. 396-7.
  30. Western Mail, 28 July 1924, 5 November 1996.
  31. Similarly, watching crowds at amateur soccer in the public parks of south Wales reached a peak during the depression. See Martin Johnes, That Other Game: A Social History of Soccer in SouthWales, c.1906-39 , University of Wales, Cardiff, Ph.D. thesis, 1998, ch. 2. Another parallel with amateur soccer was the occasional incident of crowd disorder at baseball matches. For example, police had to be called to quell a ‘melee’ involving players and supporters during a baseball game in a Cardiff park in 1932. South Wales Echo, 23 July 1932.
  32. Calculated from information in Cardiff & District (Saturday) Baseball League, Official Handbook  ,1929.
  33. Andrew Hignell, A ‘Favourit’ Game: Cricket in South Wales before 1914 (Cardiff, 1992), ch. 10.
  34. South Wales Graphic, 17 May 1906.
  35. Names and addresses taken from Cardiff & District (Saturday) Baseball League Official Handbook,1929 & occupations from Western Mail Cardiff Directory, 1929. The failure to trace officials and referees in statistically significant numbers is probably evidence in itself of the working class status of many such men.
  36. For an examination of the character of junior soccer clubs in south Wales see Johnes, That Other Game, ch. 2.
  37. Mrs I. W. interview.
  38. Interviews with former players, July 1998.
  39. Programme for A Grand Baseball Match held at Blaenavon Recreation Ground, 7 August 1923.
  40. South Wales Graphic, 19 July 1906.
  41. Telephone interview between Bill Barrett (former baseball administrator) and author, 18 June 1998.Baseball was not of course unknown amongst the unemployed and a survey conducted in the 1930snoted its popularity in Cardiff and Newport. A. J. Lush, The Young Adult in South Wales (Cardiff,1941), p. 77.
  42. Interview between author and Mr. I. H. (b. 1906), 2 July 1998.
  43. Cardiff Times, 9 August 1947.
  44. See the complaints in unaccredited clipping in WBU archive dated 18 June 1950.
  45. Jones, ‘Pêl Fas Gymreig’, p. 15.
  46. Martin J. Daunton, Coal Metropolis: Cardiff, 1870-14 (Leicester, 1977), p. 142. Rather contradictorily, he also suggests that such districts were little more than geographic expressions.
  47. Mrs D. H. interview; Interview between author and Mrs. I. T. (b. 1918), 6 July 1998.
  48. Dave Russell, Football and the English: A Social History of Association Football in England, 1863-1995 (Preston, 1997), p. 72.
  49. Series of interviews with former players conducted by author in Cardiff, July 1998.
  50. Daunton, Coal Metropolis, pp. 144-145.
  51. Paul O’Leary, Immigration and Integration: The Irish in Wales(Cardiff, 2000).
  52. Angela Gaffney, Aftermath: Remembering the Great War in Wales (Cardiff, 1998), ch. 6.
  53. Anne Eyles, In the Shadow of the Steelworks: Reminiscences of a Splott Childhood in the 1930s (Cardiff, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 60.
  54. Johnes, That Other Game, ch. 1.
  55. For example, see Beynon and Evans, Inside Story, p. 9.
  56. Ministry of Health, Report of the South Wales Regional Survey Committee (London, 1921), p. 59.
  57. For example, see South Wales Echo, 13 June 1929
  58. See South Wales Graphic, 31 May-12 July 1906.
  59. South Wales Echo, 13 June 1929.
  60. Cardiff Times, 9 August 1947.
  61. See Bloyce, ‘Just not cricket’, pp. 213-5.
  62. For example, see South Wales Echo, 10 July 1950.
  63. Ivor Beynon, in Wyn Williams (ed.), Sport in Wales (Denbeigh, 1958), p. 79.
  64. For example, see Liverpool Echo, 20-29 July 1933.
  65. See Ian Smyth, ‘The Development of Baseball in Northern England, 1935-39’, International Journal of the History of Sport , vol. 10, no. 2, August 1993.
  66. South Wales Echo, 12, 19, 23, 25 May 1939.
  67. For example, see Holt, Sport and the British, pp. 153-4.
  68. See Eyles, Shadow of the Steelworks, p. 60.
  69. Interviews with former players, July 1998.
  70. For example, Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, England 1918-1951 (Oxford, 1998), pp. 179,518.
  71. Mrs I. W. interview.
  72. McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, pp. 527-8.
  73. Holt, Sport and the British; Gareth Stedman Jones, Languages of Class (Cambridge, 1983), ch. 4

Note added by Kevin O’Brien

  1.      The first Wales v England baseball match took place at the Harlequins playing field, Roath Cardiff, now St. Peter’s RFC

Although this article is predominantly about the American form of the game, reference is made within the article, by Mr Vecsey, to the American game originating in Britain.
 
Kevin O’Brien

Society and Sports: Baseball, American Style

http://www.smsd.tv/pipermail/yankees-legacy/2002-October/003419.html -accessed 7th October 2012.

By GEORGE VECSEY
(George Vecsey is a longtime sports columnist for the New York Times, and a widely published magazine writer. He is also the author of numerous books.) 

Suyoshi Shinjo is a curious blend of modesty and flair — a Japanese baseball player with his own Web site, who wears flashy clothing and prefers the color red, including his thick shock of hair. He also prefers to be called by one name, Shinjo, as if he were a Brazilian soccer star (Ronaldo) or an American pop idol (Madonna).

In the past, Japanese players did not market themselves so blatantly. Rather, they spent much of their career living in barracks, practicing incessantly, bowing deeply to their teachers, and remaining the chattels of their Japanese teams as long as they were useful.

But now, like so many other industries and traditions around the world, Japanese baseball is being affected by American money.

In late October, Shinjo made a piece of baseball history, becoming the first Japanese player to appear in the American championships, grandiosely titled the World Series.

One hundred years old, the World Series is becoming more worldly, with the games televised to 224 countries in over a dozen languages. As a columnist covering the recent World Series in California, I could practice my few words of Japanese on my bilingual Japanese colleagues (they would smile and congratulate my efforts) and I could practice my mediocre Spanish on my Latin colleagues (they would play along with me, very graciously).

Unless you happened to know that this pitcher escaped from Cuba or that pitcher was from Venezuela, you might not feel you were at an international event. However, Shinjo’s appearance in the World Series was front-page news back home. He was surrounded by over 40 Japanese journalists and several camera crew after news came out that he would start in the first game.

“I am honored, of course,” he told me through an interpreter the Giants provide for him. “But I cannot say too much because I did not play regularly for the Giants this year. Next year I hope to help them more.”

This was the modesty one might expect from a salaryman in a large Japanese organization. Shinjo knew enough to place himself as one small member of the San Francisco team. But with free agency available to them in their late twenties, Japanese players are more assertive than they used to be. If the money is right, they will go to America, for the challenge.

The bat Shinjo used was promptly given to the Baseball Hall of Fame in bucolic Cooperstown, New York, where, allegedly, a soldier named Abner Doubleday invented the sport in 1839.

Never mind that Jane Austen was referring to “base-ball” before Doubleday’s dubious creation. The sport undoubtedly traveled from the British Isles — quite apart from cricket; a form of baseball is still played in Wales and Merseyside, England — to the United States. It soon became popular in Latin America through the incursions of American military and business interests, and it moved across the ocean to Japan and elsewhere.

Harry Wu, the Chinese-American activist against Chinese labor camps, grew up playing baseball in Shanghai, a legacy of the American colony there. In northeast China, baseball is a legacy of the Japanese occupation in the Thirties.

Baseball once was carried by steamboat but now it is carried by satellite television and the internet. The links that sent Shinjo from being a pretty good Japanese player to a marginal American player are powered by the great maw of cable television, which emits 24 hours a day of the world’s most popular sport, football/soccer, but always needs more games, more events.

This past World Series was won by the Anaheim Angels, currently owned by the American multinational, Disney, which is trying to sell the team. The San Francisco Giants are owned by Peter Magowan, who made his money in Safeway, the huge grocery chain.

According to Major League Baseball, foreign-born players now constitute 26 per cent of major-league players. At the recent World Series, 11 of the 50 players were foreign-born, coming from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and Japan, as well as Puerto Rico, the American territory. The highest total of foreign players in the World Series was 15, in 1995. By contrast, the first half the century never saw more than two foreign-born players in any single World Series, and they were almost always children of European immigrants who had taken up the game in the U.S.

Nowadays, people arrive from Panama, South Korea, Nicaragua, Australia and Curacao as full-fledged professionals. Americans and other players also serve apprenticeships in leagues in Taiwan and elsewhere.

The first Japanese player to come to the U.S. was Masanori Murakami, a left-handed pitcher who was sent over to the U.S. for indoctrination in American baseball methods. He played briefly for the San Francisco Giants at the end of 1964 and all of 1965, but ultimately returned to Japan and had a long career as pitcher and broadcaster. He is very proud to have been the advance man to the United States.

In 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Hideo Nomo, who arrived with the impact of a rock star. As Japanese players gained freedom from outmoded lifetime contracts, they begin to look to the U.S.

In the 2001 season, the Seattle Mariners, operated by Nintendo money, bought Ichiro Suzuki, an outfielder. He was such an immediate star with his speed and bat skills and Zen-like aura that Americans realized some Japanese regular players could win games, fill stadiums, sell the sponsors’ goods — and draw viewers on cable networks in the U.S. and overseas.

There is no end in sight. The New York Yankees have begun their own network, called YES, which demands high payments from local cable operators to show Yankee games. The Yankees have already forged a tenuous relationship with Manchester United, the great British soccer organization, to ultimately show each other’s games on television.

Do not, however, go to Yankee Stadium and try to purchase a Manchester United jersey. That would only invite the most sarcastic Bronx cheer — nyah, nyah, nyah. The whole deal is about cable.

Now there are rumors of a link between the Yankees and the Tokyo Giants, who are owned by the huge newspaper chain Yomiuri Shimbun, which is so massive an organization that it has its own orchestra. The Giants are a national institution, and recently won their 20th Japan Series title, but even proud Yomiuri may be affected by Yankee dollars and Yankee power.

Late in the season, the Yankees sent over an assistant general manager, Jean Afterman, presumably to inquire about the great outfielder, Hideki Matsui, age twenty-eight. Known in Japan as Godzilla, Matsui is large by Japanese standards, at six feet, one inch tall, and weighing 209 pounds, and is known for mashing long home runs in clutch situations.

Matsui has some leeway in his contract after the 2002 season but few expected him to force his freedom. Instead, the Tokyo Giants were expected to engineer a lend-lease agreement for two or more seasons, to allow Matsui to play right field for the Yankees. In return they might accept the Yankees’ Raul Mondesi, who was exposed in the recent American playoffs as being slightly below the demanding levels of the Yankees.

There is some concern that the Japanese leagues would be struck a death blow once knowledgeable Japanese fans saw their best players leaving for the U.S. in return for second-rate American products. However, Japan has suffered more serious blows to its pride as the economy went downhill in the past decade. Accepting a Mondesi for a Matsui would be the least of it.

The good side is the national pride of seeing Japanese players excel in the United States, as some pitchers and Ichiro have already done.

“We got spoiled by Ichiro,” said Hideki Okuda, who has been living in Los Angeles for 12 years to write for Yeah, a Japanese sports magazine. “We cannot be too excited by Shinjo’s participation.”

Every player becomes a cottage industry for Japanese journalists. Shoko Mizutsugi came to New York in 2001 as a free-lance writer to cover Shinjo’s debut with the Mets for Japan’s Daily Sports. When Shinjo was traded to the Giants in 2002, in effect, Mizutsugi was traded, too.

“It’s all right, I have my apartment in Japan so I don’t have too many belongings here,” she said with a laugh.

She wrote the Shinjo saga almost every day, getting one day off a week. When Shinjo played, it was big news back home. When he did not play, she still had to keep an eye on him.

“He’s very friendly. He’s an honest person,” she said, “but I want to go back to New York.”

If Matsui comes to the Bronx, look for a rush of Japanese journalists. They know they have a market in baseball fans back home, where the high-school tournament is as big as American college basketball’s Final Four.

Japanese fans are so worldly that they know when to shift gears from Japanese to American-style rooting. We noticed this in 2000, when the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs opened their regular season with two games in the Tokyo Dome.

At the time, the Mets were managed by Bobby Valentine, who had managed in Chiba one season, and loves the country and speaks the language quite well. Valentine was applauded warmly – until he ordered a strategic walk with first base open to Sammy Sosa, the popular Cub slugger.

The fans booed Valentine, something they would never do to a manager in their own league. Because they travel to the U.S. and otherwise follow American ways, the Japanese knew that American fans would boo in that situation. Because it was “American Night,” so to speak, they behaved as Americans. Valentine loved the trans-cultural behavior.

This fall, Americans were sending over an all-star squad from Major League baseball to play seven games against Japanese all-stars plus one game against the Tokyo Giants in the Tokyo Dome. There was one huge difference from past tours, however: this time the Major League all-stars would include Tomo Ohka, the Japanese pitcher with the Montreal Expos, and Ichiro of Seattle.

In the past, George Steinbrenner, the heavy-handed owner of the Yankees, had refused to let his players join the Japanese tour because he did not want them getting hurt in the off-season. This year, Steinbrenner sent two of his best players, Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams — a clear sign of respect for Japanese baseball. When George Steinbrenner begins to symbolically bow at the waist to anybody or any institution, you can be sure there is something in it for him. In this case, it may have been a right fielder. There is no turning back.

The strange thing is that baseball is in jeopardy with the International Olympic Committee. The new Eurocentric leadership may actually drop men’s baseball and women’s softball as official medal events to make room for golf and rugby that appeal more to Europeans.

There is some animosity between the I.O.C. and Major League Baseball because of the lack of Olympic-style testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. But the I.O.C. seems to be ignoring baseball’s huge links between east and west, as personified by new faces like Shinjo.

Will there ever be a true World Series between east and west? Not in the short run, given the long distances and long regular seasons. However, there could be a soccer-style Baseball World Cup, every four years, with countries using only their own citizens. Fidel Castro just might stick around long enough to see Cuba play the U.S. in the World Cup. Unless Japan beat one of them first.

(George Vecsey is a longtime sports columnist for the New York Times, and a widely published magazine writer. He is also the author of numerous books.)

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British Baseball

How a Curious Version of the Game Survives
in Parts of England and Wales
Andrew Weltch

Read the full Article – Here

Pulished in US journal The National Pastime, produced by SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research) in 2008. 

The journal is distributed to SABR’s 7,000 members, mainly in the US, who include some of the world’s most senior academics in the fields of sports studies and social history. It is also sold through the University of Nebraska press.

Nicholas Francovich, SABR’s publications director, who commissioned the article, said:

“In a few thousand lucid, entertaining words, Andrew Weltch introduces to a readership of otherwise knowledgeable baseball fans, largely American, baseball as they never quite knew it before.

“Students of the game will enjoy reading this deft account of the idiosyncrasies and unique history of British baseball as it has been played in Wales and parts of northern England for more than a century, and they will learn from it.”

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