The British are asking, in that inimitably polite British manner, if they can have credit for the Great American Pastime. After all, as we Janeites already know, the first mention of “base ball” in a novel occurs in the first chapter of Northanger Abbey, written between 1798 and 1803 and published posthumously in 1817:
Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books — or at least books of information — for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.
Now, with the wrap-up of the World Series (won by the Philadelphia Phillies, the World [Expletive Deleted] Champions–and how do we know the Phillies are the World [Expletive Deleted] Champions? BECAUSE CHASE UTLEY SAID SO!), author Julian Norridge is making a case for the British invention of baseball in his book, Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please? (article charmingly illustrated by a photo of Brad Lidge of the Philadelphia Phillies, the World [Expletive Deleted] Champions). He uses the mention of baseball in NA as well as references to baseball in a young man’s diary from 1755 to make his case.
He argues in his book that the reference indicates British people were familiar with the sport prior to its supposed invention much later in the United States.
“There’s no doubt it was being played in Britain in the late 18th century, and equally no doubt that it traveled to America,” he writes.
It should also be pointed out that Mrs. Tilney, Catherine Morland as was, totally picked the NL East this year. Not that we’re, you know, rubbing it in or anything. 😉
Thanks to Alert Janeites Lisa and Zoe for sending the CNN link.