British baseball

British baseball, or Welsh baseball (Welsh: Pêl Fas Gymreig), is a bat-and-ball game played primarily in Wales, but also with a strong history in Merseyside, England. It is closely related to the game of rounders.

In the tradition of bat-and-ball games, Baseball has roots going back centuries, and there are references to "baseball" and "rounders" from the beginning of the eighteenth century. Baseball emerged as a distinct sport in 1892 when associations in Wales and England renamed the sport in favour of the more traditional rounders.

Wales Vs England Baseball International ball
Baseball used in an international match between Wales and England in 2006

History

Bat-and-ball games in Britain have a long history and a game called “base ball" was attested in 1700 when a vicar in Maidstone decried its playing on a Sunday. Jane Austen also included a passing reference to the game in Northanger Abbey.[1]

Development and Foundation (1880s to 1892)

Professional American baseball teams toured Britain in 1874 and 1889, and had a great effect on similar sports in Britain. In Wales and Merseyside, a strong community game had already developed with skills and plays more in keeping with the American game and the Welsh began to informally adopt the name "baseball" (Pêl Fas), to reflect the American style. By the 1890s, calls were made to follow the success of other working class sports (like Rugby in Wales and Soccer in Merseyside) and adopt a distinct set of rules and bureaucracy.[2]

During the 1892 season rules for the game of "baseball" were agreed and the game was officially codified. This was followed by the 'Liverpool Rounders Association' and the 'South Wales Rounders Association' renaming themselves for "Baseball" and by the end of the season, baseball teams from Liverpool and Lancashire were invited to play matches at Cardiff Arms Park with the express purpose of popularising "the improved version of the old-fashioned game of rounders".[3]

Edwardian boom and first internationals (1892 to 1918)

The growth and popularity of the early game saw the first approach from American baseball to amalgamate the sports but no agreement was reached. As the number of amateur clubs expanded in Cardiff, Newport and Merseyside a Wales-England fixture was proposed to promote the sport further. The inaugural international match was held on 3 August 1908 at the Harlequins Ground in Roath, Cardiff (St Peter's RFC). Wales won the match 122–118 with batsmen and captain Lew Lewis hitting a number of balls 'over the house tops'.

The game in Cardiff had already become a popular summer pursuit among the city's rugby players and the match saw three Cardiff RFC players take the field, including Viv Huzzey, who also represented Wales in rugby union and rugby league. The next international was held in 1914 at Goodison Park, Liverpool. The English won the match in front of 4,000 spectators, but annual internationals would not start until after the war.[4][5]

Cultural impact and women's games (1918 to 1929)

Baseball at the Arms Park
Ticket for a match at Cardiff Arms Park

In 1905 the South Wales and Monmouthshire Baseball Association had just fifteen member clubs, by 1921 the game had become ubiquitous in its heartland cities, with the newly renamed Welsh Baseball Union comprising sixty clubs, all within the Cardiff and Newport areas.[6]

The game continued to gain popularity during the interwar period and was an "integral part of local culture" in Cardiff and Newport. Schoolboy leagues were established, and Cardiff saw the first schoolgirls league. Welsh baseball was notable for its female participation which began during the First World War among the young women working in factories. A women's league was set up in Cardiff in 1922 and in 1926 the first women's international match took place between Wales and England.

The crowd at the 1924 Cardiff Arms Park men's international reached 10,000 spectators for the first time and the 1925 fixture at the Police Athletic Ground, Liverpool, saw a crowd of 12,000. The growth of the international fixture had brought increased scrutiny on the game's arbitration and rules, as such the English Baseball Association and the Welsh Baseball Union formed the International Baseball Board to oversee the internationals in 1927.

Depression, war and the American game (1929 to 1948)

The Great Depression saw further increases in the number of clubs and players, and local club matches would attract thousands of spectators as community sports provided a welcome distraction during a turbulent period. The Cardiff & District League boasted 37 teams by 1929, 19 of which were based in the working class areas of Splott and Grangetown alone.[1]

The 1930s saw American baseball's popularity peak in Britain with professional teams sharing grounds with soccer clubs (10,000 spectators attending the biggest games) and even saw the British team winning the inaugural Baseball World Cup in 1938. The American game was supported by more touring teams from America and Japan; this afforded the native game a chance to test themselves against the more widely appreciated (and better financed) American teams. In one such game on August 27, 1938, the Penylan club side beat the London Americans at Cardiff Arms Park. The contest saw one inning under "Welsh" rules, and three innings under U.S. rules.

The decade also saw further moves to establish American baseball on Merseyside. The moves met with a mixed reception among players of the British game with some apprehensive the move would end the older game in England. Although British baseball would survive, the American league had a detrimental effect throughout the decade, with players, crowds and backers leaving the sport for a professional career in a game gaining support throughout England. An American league was also established in Cardiff in 1939, but the professional American game ended with the outbreak of war, never to regain its former popularity.[7]

Post War zenith (1948 to 1970)

Although internationals ceased during wartime, sides would stage successful games with the crews of American warships using either American or Welsh rules. Home victories emboldened the local's belief in the ability of the Welsh players. This pride and belief was evident when the annual internationals resumed in 1948 at Cardiff's Castle Grounds, with a record 16,000 spectators in attendance and Welsh legend Ted Peterson leading Wales to victory. This increasing popularity of the game saw it develop a distinct community appeal. In addition to the now established clubs, churches, stores, factories, and bars would form teams, and the game became the heart of social activities for many, especially in Cardiff. The sport was also enjoying popularity In England, with a number of Exhibition games played in London and teams established in Bristol and Coventry.

The 1950s and 1960s saw more dominance for the Welsh game. Welsh legend Paddy Hennessey made his international debut in the 1957 win over England. He would go on to be widely recognised as a great of the game, and the fastest bowler of the era. The 1964 International saw Hennessey (as captain) demolish his rivals' batting line up for a record six runs in 30 balls and just nine minutes in front of a crowd of 6,000 at the Maindy Stadium. This record is notable as it would not be surpassed for 50 years, when Wales international Matthew Hopkins managed the same feat for the loss of just one run in the 2014 fixture at Whiteheads Ground, Newport. The record remains one of the longest standing in global sports.[8]

Decline in popularity (1970 to 2000)

The last decades of the century were characterised by a continued decline in spectators and participants, although the international fixture continued to draw interest. BBC Wales broadcast highlights of the international game throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, but the late 1980s and 1990s saw the game treated as a curiosity with radio and TV features the limit of its national exposure. The prospect of watching Wales' star rugby players play the game also ended in 1995 with the introduction of professional contracts ceasing their unsanctioned participation in other sports.[9]

Modern era

EBU Team facing Wales in 2006
The English (EBA) team
WBU Team facing England in 2006
The Welsh (WBU) team

Men's representative teams from England and Wales still meet annually for the international match and the three division men's league, knock-out cup and junior matches all continue in Wales, with participation in the women's game growing in recent years. However, by 2006 participation levels in England had slumped considerably to a point where only four clubs remained active – All Saints, Anfield, Breckside and Townsend.[10]

The centenary international was also held in Cardiff in 2008 with Wales winning their tenth victory in a row. As well as the full international, similar internationals are held for 'B' teams and for junior grades. Spectator numbers have steadily declined since the post war years, but the England-Wales match can still draw 1,000–2,000 spectators.

Recent years have seen the Welsh Baseball union working with local councils to reintroduce the sport into high schools. This has seen the sport played beyond its traditional areas (especially the South Wales Valleys), as the game allows for mixed gender participation, is easy to understand, and can be adapted to accommodate a high number of players.

Notable players

Among those who achieved fame through their baseball exploits were Ted Peterson, whose international appearances stretched from the 1930s to 1960s, and Paddy Hennessey, renowned for his fast bowling. The sport's appeal to winter footballers attracted a number of players more notable for their rugby or soccer careers.

Welsh Rugby players Viv Huzzey, Terry Holmes, Mark Ring, David Bishop,and Wigan Rugby League legend and record points scorer Jim Sullivan all played the sport, often during rugby's off season.

Association footballers include Welshmen John Toshack, George Whitcombe, Terry Yorath, Nathan Blake and Phil Dwyer, and Everton and England football star Dixie Dean.

Differences between the British/Welsh and North American games

The sport differs in a number of ways from the internationally known game of North American baseball.

  • Delivery of the ball – The ball is thrown underarm, similar to softball. As in cricket the delivery is known as bowling. In North American baseball it is delivered overhand, sidearm, or underarm and is called pitching.
  • Number of players – There are 11 players in a team with no substitutions allowed. North American baseball uses nine players on a team (not counting a "designated hitter"); while substitutions are allowed, a player who leaves the game may not re-enter it.
  • Number of innings – (Note that British baseball uses the cricket terminology of "innings" as both singular and plural, while baseball uses "inning" for the singular.) In British baseball, each team has two innings. An innings ends when all 11 players are either dismissed or stranded on base. A regulation game of North American baseball consists of nine innings, and each team's half of an inning ends when three outs (dismissals) are recorded.
  • Posts/Bases – Where North American baseball has bases the British version has 'posts' (sometimes referred to as bases). These are designated by poles rather than bags.
  • Bat – the bat has a flat striking surface, where in North American baseball it is entirely round.
  • Scoring system – In British baseball a player scores a run for every base he/she reaches after hitting the ball. He or she will not subsequently score when moving around the bases on another player's hit. The equivalent of a home run scores four runs. As in cricket a bonus run can be awarded for excessively-wide deliveries. In North American baseball, a player scores a run only on a successful circuit of all four bases, whether on his own or another player's hit, or by other means such as a walk or stolen base.
  • Uniform – Players wear colourful jerseys and shorts with Welsh teams often wearing rugby kits and English teams wearing soccer uniforms.
  • Field of play – The British game has no foul area, a ball can be legally hit (and scored off of) in any direction, where in North American baseball it has to be hit in the zone bounded by the lines to first base and third base.

Despite these similarities with cricket, the game is much more like North American baseball in style and operates on a near identical, but smaller, diamond. There are also many similarities to rounders, which is often considered a transitional game between cricket and baseball. The basic concepts of British baseball cross-blend the basic concepts of cricket and the more standard versions of rounders.

In popular culture

The sport is the subject of a song, "The Baseball Song", by The Hennessys, from their album Cardiff After Dark.

Notes

  1. ^ a b Martin, Johnes (December 2000). "'Poor Man's Cricket': Baseball, Class and Communityin South Wales, c. 1880-1950". International Journal of the History of Sport. 17 (4).
  2. ^ Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
  3. ^ Ivor Beynon & Bob Evans (1962). The Inside Story of Baseball. Cardiff. p. 4.
  4. ^ "How Huzzey proved a dual sport big hitter for Wales". South Wales Echo. walesonline.co.uk. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  5. ^ Lowry, Phillip J. (2010). Baseball's Longest Games: A Comprehensive Worldwide Record Book. McFarland. p. 99. ISBN 9780786442638.
  6. ^ Vaughan Jones, Tecwyn (26 April 1906). "Pêl Fas Gymreig" (in Welsh). Y Faner. p. 15.
  7. ^ Weltch, Andrew (2008). British Baseball How a Curious Version of the Game Survives in Parts of England and Wales (PDF).
  8. ^ Clifford, Richard (31 August 2014). "Welsh baseball legend Paddy Hennessey's 50-year record is broken - casting a light on a once-proud part of South Wales culture". Mirror Group.
  9. ^ Weltch, Andrew (2008). British Baseball How a Curious Version of the Game Survives in Parts of England and Wales (PDF).
  10. ^ Blanche, Phil (5 July 2010). "Baseball: Is baseball struggling to get past first base?". South Wales Echo. Walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2012.

References

  • Martin Johnes, 'Baseball, class and community in south Wales, c.1880–1950', International Journal of the History of Sport, 17,4 (2000), 153–66.
  • John Arlott, ed. (1975). The Oxford Companion to Sports and Games. Oxford University Press
  • Andrew Hignell and Gwyn Prescott, eds (2007). Cardiff Sporting Greats. Stadia

External links

British Baseball

Club websites

Video

Baseball in the United Kingdom

Baseball, a major national sport in the United States, is a minor sport in the United Kingdom with about 3,000 participants. The sport is governed by the British Baseball Federation, which runs a multi-tier national league. The national team has taken part in international competitions. There are also independent regional leagues, and about 20 universities field teams. The sole purpose-built facility in the UK is at Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire. There is also a youth baseball academy.

Although early varieties of baseball may have originated in England in the 18th century, the modern baseball code started to be played in Britain in 1890, when the National Baseball League of Great Britain and Ireland was established. Professional baseball was especially popular in Britain during the 1930s. Occasional exhibition matches between American teams have been staged in Britain over the years.

British Baseball Federation

The British Baseball Federation (BBF) is the national governing body of baseball within the United Kingdom, founded in 1890.

BBF is a federated member of both the Confederation of European Baseball and the International Baseball Federation. BBF is the joint owner (with the British Softball Federation) of BaseballSoftballUK (BSUK), a sports development agency.

The voting members of BBF are the affiliated baseball clubs, life members and the umpires, scorers and coaches associations. The BBF holds an annual general meeting each spring at which the voting members elect an executive board of 11 officials to oversee the body and the sport. All participants (players, coaches, managers, umpires, scorers, etc.) with affiliated clubs and the associations are members of the BBF.

There are organised youth leagues at 10 to 13 (Bronco) and 14 to 16 (Pony) age ranges. Additionally, British Baseball supports the Play Ball programme run by BaseballSoftballUK which introduces children from 8 to 12 to bat and ball games, usually through school or a local Play Ball scheme. There are also GB national teams for youth players (Cadets under 16s, and Juniors under 19s), as well as an off-season British Baseball Academy for youth players and coaches. For adults, there are a number of leagues and divisions, split by ability and geographical location. These range from the highly competitive to the recreational.In 2008 there were 38 clubs, with 67 league teams, as members of the BBF. There are also a number of non-league clubs and teams affiliated to British Baseball. British Baseball also oversees the national team of Great Britain.

British Softball Federation

The British Softball Federation (BSF) is the national governing body of softball within the United Kingdom, organising fastpitch and slowpitch leagues and national tournaments and registering players.

BSF is a federated member of both the European Softball Federation and the International Softball Federation. BSF is the joint owner (with the British Baseball Federation) of BaseballSoftballUK (BSUK), a sports development agency.

Softball umpires are registered and organised via the associated British Association Of Softball Umpires (BASU), their official body in the UK.

UK Softball follow the International Softball Federation rules.

In 2007 the BSF founded a Hall of Fame.

Cardiff Arms Park

Cardiff Arms Park (Welsh: Parc yr Arfau Caerdydd), also known as The Arms Park and the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park for sponsorship reasons from September 2014, is situated in the centre of Cardiff, Wales. It is primarily known as a rugby union stadium, but it also has a bowling green. The Arms Park was host to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958, and hosted four games in the 1991 Rugby World Cup, including the third-place play-off. The Arms Park also hosted the inaugural Heineken Cup Final of 1995–96 and the following year in 1996–97.

The history of the rugby ground begins with the first stands appearing for spectators in the ground in 1881–1882. Originally the Arms Park had a cricket ground to the north and a rugby union stadium to the south. By 1969, the cricket ground had been demolished to make way for the present day rugby ground to the north and a second rugby stadium to the south, called the National Stadium. The National Stadium, which was used by Wales national rugby union team, was officially opened on 7 April 1984, however in 1997 it was demolished to make way for the Millennium Stadium in 1999, which hosted the 1999 Rugby World Cup and became the national stadium of Wales. The rugby ground has remained the home of the semi-professional Cardiff RFC yet the professional Cardiff Blues regional rugby union team moved to the Cardiff City Stadium in 2009, but returned three years later.

The site is owned by Cardiff Athletic Club and has been host to many sports, apart from rugby union and cricket; they include athletics, association football, greyhound racing, tennis, British baseball and boxing. The site also has a bowling green to the north of the rugby ground, which is used by Cardiff Athletic Bowls Club, which is the bowls section of the Cardiff Athletic Club. The National Stadium also hosted many music concerts including Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones and U2.

English Baseball Association

The English Baseball Association (EBA) was founded in 1892 and is the governing body of British baseball in England.

It is based in Liverpool and is a member of the International Baseball Board.

Great Britain national baseball team

The Great Britain national baseball team is the national men's baseball team of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is governed by the British Baseball Federation, and is also a member nation of the Confederation of European Baseball.

Great Britain competed in the qualifying round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, where it was defeated in the finals by Team Israel.

Jim Sullivan (rugby league)

Jim Sullivan (2 December 1903 – 14 September 1977) was a Welsh rugby league footballer, and coach. Sullivan joined Wigan in June 1921 after starting his career as a rugby union player. A a right-footed toe-end style (rather than round the corner style) goal-kicking fullback, he scored 4,883 points in a career that spanned 25 years with Wigan, and still holds several records with the club today.

He made a combined total of 60 appearances at representative level with England, Wales, Great Britain and Other Nationalities, and his 26 appearances with Wales was still a record for many years after his death. He also represented Wales in British baseball.

London Mets

The London Meteorites, better known as the London Mets, are a British baseball team who play in the southern section of the BBF National League.

Mark Ring

Mark Gerarde Ring (born 15 October 1962) played rugby union for Cardiff RFC, Pontypool RFC and Wales between 1982 and 1996. He was regarded as among the most gifted players of his generation but his career was hampered by serious injury.

Origins of baseball

The question of the origins of baseball has been the subject of debate and controversy for more than a century. Baseball and the other modern bat, ball, and running games, cricket and rounders, were developed from folk games in early Britain and Continental Europe (such as France and Germany). Early forms of baseball had a number of names, including "base ball", "goal ball", "round ball", "fetch-catch", "stool ball", and, simply, "base". In at least one version of the game, teams pitched to themselves, runners went around the bases in the opposite direction of today's game, and players could be put out by being hit with the ball. Just as now, in some versions a batter was called out after three strikes.

Phil Dwyer

Philip Joseph Dwyer (born 28 October 1953) is a Welsh former professional footballer who played for Cardiff City, Rochdale and the Wales national team. He began his career with his hometown club Cardiff City, making his debut in 1972. He made over 500 appearances in all competitions for the club, becoming the club's all-time Football League appearance record holder, during a 13-year spell. He also gained ten caps for Wales.

South London Pirates

The South London Pirates, known until 2012 as the Croydon Pirates, is a British baseball club based in South London. They have two diamonds based in Roundshaw playing fields in South Croydon, the main one being "Dave Ward 1". The Pirates are hosts to the London Tournament every year and on occasions The National Finals.

The first team known as P1 competes in the NBL League, which is the top flight of British baseball. The second team known as P3 competes in the AA South Division which is two leagues under NBL.

In 2004 and 2005 Croydon Pirates I were National Champions and were runners up in 2006.

In 2005 Croydon Pirates II were Premier Division Champions, extraordinarily winning 9 of their last 10 games to win the title.

In 2007 Croydon Pirates I again won the National League, earning the right to compete in the Final 4 tournament on the weekend of 1–2 September 2007, along with The London Mets, Menwith Hill Patriots and Liverpool Trojans. Croydon and the Mets won their semi-finals to advanced to the final, where the Pirates were defeated 2–0 in a best of 3 series.

In 2008, Croydon Pirates III won the British Baseball A-Division, finishing the season with a record of 10 wins and 2 losses. They were subsequently promoted to the AA-Division in 2009. In 2011, Pirates I were defeated at the Play-off stage.

In 2012 the club changed its name to the South London Pirates, and dropped from 3 teams down to 2. South London Pirates I (P1) play in the British NBL League; while South London Pirates III (P3) play in the AA South Division. They continue to host the London tournament on their home diamond, Dave Ward Field. They have a second diamond, Dave Ward 2, as well as setting up other temporary diamonds around Roundshaw playing fields. The tournament is normally held around mid July.

Sport in Wales

Sport in Wales plays a prominent role in Welsh culture. The most popular sports in Wales are association football and rugby union. Like the other countries of the United Kingdom, Wales enjoys independent representation in major world sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup and in the Rugby World Cup, but competes as the England and Wales cricket team and as Great Britain in many other competitions, including the Olympics.

The Millennium Stadium is the largest stadium in Wales. Located in Cardiff, it is the home of the Wales national rugby union team with a capacity of 74,505. It was the temporary location for English football and rugby league finals during the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium.

The Cardiff City Stadium is currently the home of the Wales national football team.

Sport Wales is responsible for sport in Wales.

In 2008/09, Cardiff had the highest percentage (61%) of residents who regularly participated in sport and active recreation out of all 22 local authorities in Wales, whereas Rhondda Cynon Taf had the lowest (24%).

Ted Peterson

Ted Peterson MBE (6 May 1916 – 19 December 2005) was a baseball (British/Welsh) player, whose unparalleled achievements in the sport earned him the title ‘Mr Baseball’.A formidable bowler, his international appearances for Wales stretched from the 1930s to the 1960s, and when his playing days were over, he devoted his energies to administration.

Terry Holmes

Terence David "Terry" Holmes (born 10 March 1957, Cardiff) is a Welsh former rugby union, and professional rugby league footballer who won 25 caps for Wales as a scrum-half, and later played rugby league for Bradford Northern.

Holmes was a highly physical player and being taller and heavier than most scrum halves of the time, he was known for his frequent close range tries especially following pick up from the back of the scrum and the break down. Holmes was a member of the first round of players to be inducted into the Cardiff RFC Hall of Fame.

Viv Huzzey

Viv Huzzey (24 July 1876 – 29 August 1929) was a Welsh rugby union wing who played club rugby for Cardiff, and won five caps for Wales. Huzzey was also an international British baseball player.

Welsh Baseball Union

The Welsh Baseball Union (WBU) (founded 1892) is the national governing body of British baseball in Wales.It is a member of the International Baseball Board. The WBU organises the men's and youth league and cup competitions, as well as selecting and managing the Wales international teams at adult and youth level.The Welsh Baseball Union is based in Cardiff.

Welsh Ladies Baseball Union

The Welsh Ladies Baseball Union (WLBU) is the governing body of women's British baseball in Wales. It was formed in 2006 when the WLBU decided to break away from the men's WBU (formed 1892).The WLBU headquarters are at the Grangetown Catholic Club, Grangetown, Cardiff.

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