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Pastime Lost

The Humble, Original, and Now Completely Forgotten Game of English Baseball

David Block

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 04/2019
Pages: 320
Subject: Sports and Recreation
eBook ISBN: 9781496214140


Long before baseball became America's national pastime, English citizens of all ages, genders, and classes of society were playing a game called baseball. It had the same basic elements as modern American baseball, such as pitching and striking the ball, running bases, and fielding, but was played with a soft ball on a smaller playing field and, instead of a bat, the ball was typically struck by the palm of the hand. There is no doubt, however, that this simpler English version of baseball was the original form of the pastime and was the immediate forerunner of its better-known American offspring. Strictly a social game, English baseball was played for nearly two hundred years before fading away at the beginning of the twentieth century. Despite its longevity and its important role in baseball's evolution, however, today it has been completely forgotten. In Pastime Lost David Block unearths baseball's buried history and brings it back to life, illustrating how English baseball was embraced by all sectors of English society and exploring some of the personalities, such as Jane Austen and King George III, who played the game in their childhoods. While rigorously documenting his sources, Block also brings a light touch to his story, inviting us to follow him on some of the adventures that led to his most important discoveries.  Purchase the audio edition.


David Block is a baseball historian and antiquarian. His book Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game (Nebraska, 2005) was the recipient of the 2006 SABR Seymour Medal and the 2006 North American Society for Sport History Book Award, was named to the New York Times Reading List of sports books (2005), and was designated an Outstanding Academic Title of 2005 by the American Library Association.   


"Pastime lost, and regained! There is now joy in Nerdville, for David Block has unearthed the true ancestor of America's national pastime—happily named Baseball and not Rounders. If you believe, as I do, that all great institutions are most interesting in their murky beginnings, you must read this awesome, indispensable book."—John Thorn, official historian of Major League Baseball

"David Block jolts our apple-pie and hot-dog psyches by revealing baseball's English origins. With a whimsical touch, he takes us through musty newspaper clips, the Royal archives, eighteenth-century letters, and the occasional pub and castle. Bringing the characters of the game's past alive, his joyous work is a gift to anyone who loves baseball."—Selena Roberts, the best-selling author of A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez