Local News

Before Baseball, Town Ball Was Popular Pastime

Posted April 6, 2004

— Town ball was popular in the 1800s. Back then, there was no baseball. In fact, many parts of baseball grew out of town ball.

The ball consists of a hand-stitched leather ball. If you bat the ball and it is caught on first bounce, you are out. If it tips off the bat and rolls behind you, you run. There are no foul balls. The runner runs clockwise, tagging five tobacco sticks instead of three bases. Plus, a person scores tallys instead of runs.

Some fourth-graders said town ball is very similar to the nation's pastime.

"It was really fun. It was kind of complicated though because I've never really run the other way before," fourth-grader Taylor Siegel said.

"It was awesome," fourth-grader Nick Derobertis said.

"Well, I think it's one the upswing, you might say. There are a number of historical groups around the country -- reenactment groups that actually have a town ball-type league," said Dale Coats, of the Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum.

Ten years after the Civil War, town ball's popularity began to fade, and baseball took its place.


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