5 Bat-and-ball Games That Predate Baseball


Take Me Out to the Stoolball Game

Players admire a collection of stoolball bats from around the world.
Players admire a collection of stoolball bats from around the world.
A. Hudson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The rather unappealingly named stoolball is cited as precursor to both the modern baseball game and cricket. The game has been cited as being played from at least the 14th century, but it still manages to be more progressive than baseball: the game was played by both men and women. ("Playing stoolball" was even used by Shakespeare in "The Two Noble Kinsmen" as a sexual euphemism.)

The game is simple but requires some props that make it pretty fun. First, set a Home stool (yup, an actual stool, but a chair will do). About thirty feet (9 yards) away, put another stool, called the Base. The batter stands about six feet in front of the Home stool. The pitcher stands near the Base, and throws underhand, attempting to hit the Home stool. The batter makes a valiant attempt to hit the ball away from the stool with a bat.

If the batter hits the ball, he or she can run to the Base, around it, and back Home. Meanwhile, the pitcher is trying to field the ball and throw it at the stool. If the batter reaches Home before the pitcher can hit the stool, a run is scored. Whoever has the most runs wins. As we'll see on the next page, this bat-and-ball game is also suspiciously similar to a contemporary activity still popular today.