Baseball Comes Home – finding it’s 1755 roots

On Easter Monday 1755, the 18th century English diarist William Bray recorded playing “Base Ball”, somewhere near Guildford, with a group of friends — the earliest known manuscript reference to the sport.

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The Guildford Mavericks challenge the 1755s to a match

On Sunday 19th June 2011, a historic re-enactment of this baseball match took place at the Surrey Sports Park, alongside 2400 competitors at the Surrey Youth Games.

At 12 noon, a team dressed in fine 1755 costumes provided by Surrey Heritage took on a team from the Guildford Mavericks, dressed in modern baseball kit. The 1755 team included 6 gentlemen and 3 ladies; the gentlemen found the breeches rather tight at the knees for serious running, but managed well in waistcoat, jacket, neck stock, wig and tricorn hat. The ladies looked beautiful in their flowery frocks and pretty straw bonnets, they were effective players too.

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A 1755er takes to the pitch

Surrey Heritage displayed a section of “Our Sporting Life” exhibition, a celebration of the county’s involvement in the Cultural Olympiad as part of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The exhibition included information on the diary entry of William Bray, which is the earliest known manuscript reference to a baseball match in the United Kingdom.

In 2007, a previously unknown William Bray diary, covering 1754-1755, was found in a garden shed. It is a fascinating document for many reasons. It was written by Bray when he was just 18 or 19, articled a solicitor in Guildford, travelling all over Surrey and also popping up to London to see David Garrick in the latest plays. On Easter Monday 1755 he recorded playing Base Ball, somewhere near Guildford, with a group of friends, all of who would be in their teens. He wrote:

‘Went to Stoke Ch. 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 & H Parsons & Jelly. Drank Tea & stayed till 8’

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The 1755ers and the Guildford Maverisks with Handa Bray

Read more about the diary entry.

William Bray’s direct descendent Handa Bray was at Surrey Sports Park on Sunday to throw the first pitch and present a certificate to the Guildford Mavericks to celebrate their help in re-creating this historic match.

The Mavericks managed to get hold of something that looked like an old baseball bat, and they used this and a safety ball for the game, since the diamond was undersized and no one wanted to break the bat!

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Handa Bray and Tony Oliva
(The Youth Baseball Association UK)

The baseball re-enactment was kindly played by the Guildford Mavericks who are involved with The Youth Baseball Association UK which aims to involve young people in sport, for enjoyment, for fitness and to help them feel good about themselves; it not just for the sporting heroes, but also for the ‘ordinary Joe’.

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