Das Base Ball (circa 1894)


I happened on this German definition of baseball in an early Brockhaus encyclopedia. Here’s a translation:

Base Ball (Eng., pronounced behs’ bahl), English and American national game, that for the most part resembles the German Ballspiel (which see). It is played with a hard, leather-covered ball and a wooden bat by two parties (clubs) of nine persons each. In the United States there exist two national societies for this game, which hold annual assemblies, at which game rules are set in order and controversies are settled.

The description seems rather obtuse, even for the era. Calling the game “English and American” is particularly odd. I didn’t look up the entry for Ballspiel, but have never encountered anything to indicate grounds for comparison of baseball with a German game. Was the writer a little too eager to imply a German provenance? My modern Duden has nothing to say about Ballspiel except Spiel mit einem Ball, which is generic enough to include football, basketball; you name it.

As I read this, I sensed a chasm of mutual incomprehension between the English-speaking world and the pushy young German Empire, only 23 years old at the time — this in spite of the number of immigrants still speaking and reading German in the U.S. I’m sure this is too much to extrapolate from one little passage from the Brockhaus.

Anyway, it seemed worth sharing, at least as a note on the history of baseball.

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