Baseball's origins

Sporting Vernacular
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The Independent Online

Baseball's origins are shrouded in 19th century mythology, a slightly ridiculous story having been concocted, at the behest of the sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding, about the game's invention by Abner Doubleday in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York.

Baseball's origins are shrouded in 19th century mythology, a slightly ridiculous story having been concocted, at the behest of the sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding, about the game's invention by Abner Doubleday in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York.

Just ask Jane Austen, is the the riposte to that little canard. Not only had the game existed long before Doubleday's time in the form of games like rounders, old cat, one-old-cat, barn ball and town, it actually existed in name as well. In Northanger Abbey in 1815, Austen wrote: "It was not very wonderful that Catherine... should prefer cricket [and] base ball ... to books." That was in 1815, decades before the Americans began to think of the game as their invention.

The word "base" has two distinct strands: one is from the Latin medieval bassus - "short", "low". The other, from which the game appears to be derived, from the Greek básis, which originally meant "step". The semantic progression was "stepping" to "that on which one steps", or "pedestal". Which of the two teams in the World Series, Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees, steps up on the metaphorical pedestal, will be determined this week.

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