Thursday 16 October 2008 | Baseball feed | All feeds

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Major League Baseball told: Your sport is British, not American

Where did baseball's original first pitch take place? American fans may be shocked to find out that Britain is laying claim to inventing their treasured national game.

 
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William Bray: Major League Baseball told: Your sport is British, not American
Stepping up to the plate: William Bray (1736-1832) played baseball in Surrey in 1755 and made the first known recording of the game Photo: Surrey History Centre
Major League Baseball told: Your sport is British, not American
Proof: William Bray's diary reported baseball game in 1755 Photo: Surrey History Centre

Historians in Surrey have documentary proof that the game was being played in the UK before America.

A diary entry which talks about a game played in Guildford, Surrey in 1755 has been verified as authentic by the Surrey History Centre.

The handwritten entry was discovered in the diary of lawyer William Bray and documents a game with friends on Easter Monday of that year when he was still a teenager. It reads: "Went to Stoke church this morn.- After dinner, went to Miss Jeale's to play at base ball with her the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford and H. Parsons. Drank tea and stayed til 8."

Surrey County Council have written to Major League Baseball, the governing body of the sport in the US, to inform them of the find.

They say the MLB has accepted that the diary, found in a shed near Guildford by local historian Tricia St John Barry, contains the earliest known manuscript reference to baseball in the world.

It had been thought that the game which is one of America's biggest and most popular sports began in the 1790s.

Julian Pooley, the manager of Surrey History Centre, was able to verify that the document was genuine because he is an expert on Bray and is responsible for a vast array of diaries written by the solicitor and local historian between 1756 and 1832.

He has worked closely with MLB on the production of a documentary film tracing the origins of the game called Base Ball Discovered.

The Centre has been in regular contact with the makers to supply background information on and images of Bray as well as copies of manuscripts.

Helyn Clack, executive member for Safer and Stronger Communities at Surrey County Council, said: "Baseball is an integral part of American life and this news about a national obsession in the US, where homegrown sports have traditionally dominated, will reverberate far and wide.

"It is a game steeped in history and now Surrey County Council's History Centre and an inquisitive local historian have provided the earliest manuscript proof that the game the Americans gave to the world came from England."

A digital copy of the manuscript that refers to baseball is due to go on display at Surrey History Centre in Woking along with documents containing some of the earliest references to cricket.

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