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Baseball's Beginnings in Canada

Did "America's Pasttime" actually being in Canada? Read on about the history of baseball in Canada in some of the information below.


Was the first baseball game played in Canada and not Cooperstown, New York?

Good question, and one the folks in the southern Ontario community of Beachville have been asking for some time. Some fans may not know it, but the first recorded game of baseball took place in Canada, a year before Abner Doubleday supposedly "invented" the game in Cooperstown, New York.

Beachville, about 40 kilometres east of London, Ontario, boasts of itself as the home of baseball in Canada because it was here on June 4, 1838 that a game of baseball, or at least a form of the game as we now know it, took place in front of several spectators.

The basis of this claim lies with a lengthy letter published May 5, 1886 in the Philadelphia-based Sporting Life magazine. The letter, entitled "A Game of Long-ago Which Closely Resembled Our Present National Game," was written by Dr. Adam Ford of Denver, Colorado, who had grown up in Beachville.

What sets Ford's letter apart from other reminiscences of early ball games is details on the date, the way the game was played, and the names of players who participated. Most historians agree baseball flourished before 1840 and that Doubleday's claim of invention is pure bunk, but there seems to be little evidence on specific dates and places of the games.

Although Ford's original letter is in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, officials there have never formally recognized the validity of his claim for Beachville.

Research of county records and tombstones in the area indicate most of the players would have been boys and men 15 to 24 at the time of the game, again making his recollections believable, say the researchers.

It's Ford's letter, which also includes a diagram of a five-sided playing field, that sets down for the first time the specifics of a game. There were distinguishing features to Ford's game: there was territory to show where fair and foul balls were, or "fair hit" and "no hit" as he called them. And the number of men on each side had to be equal before a game could be played, usually between seven and 12 players per team.

In 1988, a stamp was issued recognizing 150 years of the sport in Canada. As well, a match was held that year between a team in Beachville and one from Cooperstown, playing by the rules outlined by Ford.


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Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt